Lingering doubts over Syria gas attack evidence

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Associated Press

Posted on September 8, 2013 at 4:03 AM

BEIRUT (AP) — The U.S. government insists it has the intelligence to prove Syrian government forces carried out a chemical weapons attack last month in a rebel-held suburb of Damascus, but so far it has not made public any concrete evidence.

The Obama administration says its assessment is based mainly on satellite and signal intelligence. But multiple requests to view the satellite imagery have been denied, as has a request by The Associated Press to see a transcript of communications allegedly ordering Syrian military personnel to prepare for a chemical weapons attack by readying gas masks.

Open-source evidence does provide clues about the attack, including videos of the rockets that analysts believe were likely used. U.S. officials yesterday released a compilation of videos showing victims, including children, exhibiting what appear to be symptoms of nerve gas poisoning.

Some experts say the size of the strike and the amount of toxic chemicals that appear to have been delivered make it doubtful that the rebels could have carried it out, a scenario that the Assad government and its ally Russia have aggressively pushed. But what's missing from the public record is direct proof, rather than circumstantial evidence, tying the attack to the regime.

%@AP Links

003-v-29-(Mark Lavie (lah-VEE'), AP Middle East correspondent)--Just days before Congress debates the possibility of an attack on Syria, the Obama administration hasn't made any evidence public. More from AP Middle East Correspondent Mark Lavie. (8 Sep 2013)

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004-c-13-(Mark Lavie (lah-VEE'), AP Middle East correspondent)-"getting turned down"-AP Middle East Correspondent Mark Lavie reports the administration is refusing to release its evidence of a chemical attack in Syria. (8 Sep 2013)

<<CUT *004 (09/08/13)££ 00:13 "getting turned down"

005-c-12-(Mark Lavie (lah-VEE'), AP Middle East correspondent)-"it always gets"-AP Middle East Correspondent Mark Lavie reports the administration is keeping its evidence of a chemical attack in Syria secret. (8 Sep 2013)

<<CUT *005 (09/08/13)££ 00:12 "it always gets"

APPHOTO BEI505: FILE- This Aug. 21, 2013, file image provided by Shaam News Network, which has been authenticated based on its contents and other AP reporting, purports to show bodies of victims of an attack on Ghouta, Syria. The U.S. government insists it has the intelligence to prove a connection between the government of President Bashar Assad to the alleged chemical weapons attack last month that killed hundreds of people in Syria_but in the absence of such evidence, Damascus and its ally Russia have aggressively pushed another scenario: that rebels carried out the Aug. 21 chemical attack. (AP Photo/Shaam News Network, File) (3 Sep 2013)

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APPHOTO BEI504: FILE - This Aug. 21, 2013, citizen journalism image provided by the Media Office Of Douma City which has been authenticated based on its contents and other AP reporting, shows a Syrian man mourning over a dead body after an alleged poisonous gas attack fired by regime forces, according to activists, in Douma town, Damascus, Syria. The U.S. government insists it has the intelligence to prove a connection between the government of President Bashar Assad to the alleged chemical weapons attack last month that killed hundreds of people in Syria_but in the absence of such evidence, Damascus and its ally Russia have aggressively pushed another scenario: that rebels carried out the Aug. 21 chemical attack. (AP Photo/Media Office Of Douma City, File) (3 Sep 2013)

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APPHOTO BEI502: In this Aug. 29, 2013, citizen journalism image provided by the Local Comity of Arbeen which has been authenticated based on its contents and other AP reporting, members of the UN investigation team take samples from the ground in the Damascus countryside of Zamalka, Syria. The U.S. government insists it has the intelligence to prove a connection between the government of President Bashar Assad to the alleged chemical weapons attack last month that killed hundreds of people in Syria_but in the absence of such evidence, Damascus and its ally Russia have aggressively pushed another scenario: that rebels carried out the Aug. 21 chemical attack. (AP Photo/Local Comity of Arbeen) (3 Sep 2013)

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APPHOTO BEI503: In this Aug. 28, 2013, citizen journalism image provided by the United Media Office of Arbeen which has been authenticated based on its contents and other AP reporting, members of the UN investigation team take samples from sand near a part of a missile that is likely to be one of the chemical rockets according to activists, in the Damascus countryside of Ain Terma, Syria. The U.S. government insists it has the intelligence to prove a connection between the government of President Bashar Assad to the alleged chemical weapons attack last month that killed hundreds of people in Syria_but in the absence of such evidence, Damascus and its ally Russia have aggressively pushed another scenario: that rebels carried out the Aug. 21 chemical attack. (AP Photo/United Media Office of Arbeen) (3 Sep 2013)

<<APPHOTO BEI503 (09/03/13)££

APPHOTO BEI501: In this Aug. 29, 2013 citizen journalism image provided by the Local Comity of Arbeen which has been authenticated based on its contents and other AP reporting, a member of a UN investigation team takes samples from the ground in the Damascus countryside of Zamalka, Syria. The U.S. government insists it has the intelligence to prove a connection between the government of President Bashar Assad to the alleged chemical weapons attack last month that killed hundreds of people in Syria_but in the absence of such evidence, Damascus and its ally Russia have aggressively pushed another scenario: that rebels carried out the Aug. 21 chemical attack. (AP Photo/Local Comity of Arbeen) (3 Sep 2013)

<<APPHOTO BEI501 (09/03/13)££

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