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Cutting Through the Fog (Did 9/11 commission really say there was no Saddam/al Qaeda connection)
The Weekly Standard ^ | June 23, 2004 | Stephen F. Hayes

Posted on 06/23/2004 11:31:27 AM PDT by RWR8189

Did the 9/11 commission staff statement really say that there was no connection between Saddam and al Qaeda?

LAST WEDNESDAY, the September 11 commission issued a staff "statement" that further complicated an already confusing issue: the nature of the relationship between the former Iraqi regime and al Qaeda.

On the one hand, the statement confirmed several contacts between Iraqi intelligence and al Qaeda terrorists, including a face-to-face meeting between a senior Iraqi intelligence official and Osama bin Laden in 1994. Then, calling into question its own findings, the statement reported that two al Qaeda terrorists denied the existence of any ties whatsoever. Finally, in very sloppy language, the statement seemed to conclude that there had been "no collaborative relationship" between Iraq and al Qaeda. The media took that nuanced and self-contradictory analysis--which, by the way, constituted only one paragraph in a 12-page report--and found certainty where none existed. "Panel Finds No Qaeda-Iraq Tie," blared a four-column headline in the New York Times. An editorial flatly declared that the commission had "refuted" any connection.

Nonsense. The staff statement was a model of muddle, but this much is clear: There is nothing in it that reliably or categorically "refutes" a connection between Iraq and al Qaeda. What's more, in the days since its release, members of the 9/11 commission--including co-chairmen Lee Hamilton and Tom Kean--have appeared eager to distance themselves from the statement issued by their staff.

"Members do not get involved in staff reports," Kean cautioned, promising more on the subject in the commission's final report.

So was there or wasn't there a "collaborative relationship" between Iraq and al Qaeda?

CIA Director George Tenet certainly believes so. "Credible reporting states that al Qaeda leaders sought contacts in Iraq who could help them acquire WMD capabilities," he wrote to the Senate Intelligence Committee on Oct. 7, 2002. "The reporting also stated that Iraq had provided training to al Qaeda members in the areas of poisons and gases and making conventional bombs." When Tenet testified before the Senate Armed Services Committee on Feb. 12, 2003, he said that although his agency could not show "command and control" between al Qaeda and the Iraqi regime--something the Bush administration never claimed--it could demonstrate "contacts, training and safe haven."

Top Clinton administration officials also suggested a "collaborative" relationship. On Aug. 7, 1998, al Qaeda terrorists bombed U.S. embassies in Tanzania and Kenya, killing 257 people--including 12 Americans. The Clinton administration struck back 13 days later, hitting a pharmaceutical plant, an al Qaeda-linked facility in Sudan. On Aug. 24, 1998, a "senior intelligence official" made available by the White House told reporters that U.S. intelligence had found "strong ties between the plant and Iraq." Among that evidence: telephone intercepts between top officials at the plant and the head of Iraq's chemical weapons program. In all, six top Clinton administration officials argued that Iraq had provided the chemical weapon know-how to the plant demolished in response to the al Qaeda attacks.

TODAY, top Clinton officials are still not backing down from these claims. William Cohen, former secretary of Defense, defended the strikes as recently as March 23, 2004, in testimony before the September 11 commission. Cohen said an executive from the Sudanese plant had "traveled to Baghdad to meet with the father of [Iraq's] VX [nerve gas] program."

Other recent intelligence, including communications intercepts and interviews with Iraqi intelligence detainees, indicates that Iraq provided funding and weapons to Ansar al Islam, an al Qaeda affiliate in northern Iraq.

These connections seem pretty compelling--Tenet's testimony, the intelligence surrounding the 1998 Sudan strikes and the Iraqi support for Ansar al Islam. But the September 11 commission's staff statement didn't deal with any of them.

The September 11 commission cannot be expected to write the definitive history of the relationship between Iraq and al Qaeda. But having contributed greatly to the confusion with one paragraph in Staff Statement 15, the commissioners owe it to the American people to give it a thorough and sober examination in their final report.

Stephen F. Hayes is a staff writer at The Weekly Standard and author of The Connection: How al Qaeda's Collaboration With Saddam Hussein Has Endangered America, (HarperCollins).


TOPICS: Editorial; Foreign Affairs; Government; News/Current Events; Politics/Elections; War on Terror
KEYWORDS: 911commission; alqaeda; alqaedaandiraq; hayes; iraq; stephenfhayes; stephenhayes; theconnection; weekylstandard

1 posted on 06/23/2004 11:31:32 AM PDT by RWR8189
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To: RWR8189
The offending paragraph was deliberately leaked to the media before it was publicly released.

The agenda was clear but in their zealotry to attack our president as the enemy, they proved that they are biased, partisan, and NOT to be trusted with the security of our country.

Any who doubted the honor of the members of the committee no longer have any doubt that they are nothing more than partisan hacks and in the case of the Chairman Kean, he wanted nothing more than to pander to the victim families from NJ is some misguided attempt to further his son's gubernatorial hopes.

2 posted on 06/23/2004 11:44:32 AM PDT by OldFriend (IF YOU CAN READ THIS, THANK A TEACHER.......AND SINCE IT'S IN ENGLISH, THANK A SOLDIER)
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To: RWR8189

It's very clear that the commission is a very partisan group looking to unseat the president. However, someone correct me if I'm wrong here - the owner of the pharmaceutical plant successfully sued the U.S. and won for wrongful damages claiming the evidence against the plant was false - i.e. - the samples the CIA took of the soil to justify the attack was in error.


3 posted on 06/23/2004 12:03:06 PM PDT by M. Peach (eschew obfuscation)
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To: M. Peach
However, someone correct me if I'm wrong here - the owner of the pharmaceutical plant successfully sued the U.S. and won for wrongful damages claiming the evidence against the plant was false - i.e. - the samples the CIA took of the soil to justify the attack was in error.

Not exactly.

If I recall correctly, the man’s lawyer convinced him to settle with the government for money but with no admission of wrong doing on the part of the Clinton Administration.

The taxpayer’s paid the bill, the man got a bunch of money (as did his lawyer, of course), and the whole episode was dropped by everybody with no satisfactory answers demanded by anybody, including the media and the owner of the factory.

BTW, the owner of the factory had a very famous lawyer – Vernon Jordan.

They don't call him "Mister Fixit" for nothing.

4 posted on 06/23/2004 12:08:26 PM PDT by dead (I've got my eye out for Mullah Omar.)
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To: M. Peach

Every news story starts with an apology that the topic is very complex and, as a unstated corollary of that, we should all sit back, not try to understand it but allow the geniuses to explain everything to us. In fact the issue is quite clear and understandable if anyone has an IQ above 100 and is literate.


5 posted on 06/23/2004 12:11:22 PM PDT by AZFolks
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To: OldFriend

I wouldn't discount a Gorelick involvement in the release of the statement. She is only there to protect the Clintons and that involves making Bush look bad.


6 posted on 06/23/2004 3:40:57 PM PDT by The Final Harvest (President Bush: a core set of principles from which he will not deviate)
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To: CyberAnt
Tom Kean is only there to pander to the families who are beginning to act like that other 'family' that runs New Jersey.

The rest of the republicans are in over their heads and not prepared to believe they are being undermined at every turn.

Kerrey is a complete psycho!

7 posted on 06/23/2004 3:47:36 PM PDT by OldFriend (IF YOU CAN READ THIS, THANK A TEACHER.......AND SINCE IT'S IN ENGLISH, THANK A SOLDIER)
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