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Though crucial details have yet to be resolved, the Bush administration has decided to release the documents.

4:20 PM, Mar 13, 2006 • By STEPHEN F. HAYES
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"It is the release of captured digital media, more than paper documents, that will likely provide the most comprehensive view on what was going on in Iraq; the state of any WMD programs as well as the true nature of what was on the mind of Saddam's trusted class," says Tanji.

"Even if an order had come down to delete any sensitive data, only the most security conscious bother to go through the time and trouble of erasing digital data in a fashion that would defeat forensic recovery. With the U.S. Army rapidly approaching, the probability that scientists and officers took the appropriate steps to destroy incriminating data drops precipitously. That U.S. military and intelligence forces were able to obtain so much digital media from Iraqi citizens or the few government facilities that were not looted further supports this theory."

Tanji adds: "Interviews and interrogations of former regime leaders can produce meaningful results, but even under the best circumstances, long after the fact, human memory is fallible. A more accurate depiction of pre-war Iraq was put down on paper and in computer files at the time."

No one can say with any certainty what will come from the document release. Intelligence officials with knowledge of the exploitation process estimate that less than 4 percent of the overall document collection has been fully exploited. It's reasonable to assume that documents in the collection will provide support to both supporters of the war in Iraq and critics. Summaries of the exploited materials, listed in a U.S. government database known as HARMONY, suggest that the new material will at least complicate the overly simplified conventional wisdom that the former Iraqi regime posed no real threat.

Stephen F. Hayes is a senior writer at The Weekly Standard