Newsweek: Both CIA and DIA Doubted Saddam-Al Qaeda Cooperation Claims Months Before War
Newsweek reports this afternoon that both the CIA and Rummy’s DIA had doubts about the claims made by an Al Qaeda detainee that Saddam was providing chemical weapons training to Al Qaeda, and that these doubts by the CIA were communicated to the Administration weeks before Bush gave the infamous 2003 SOTU, and weeks before Colin Powell used the discredited information in his February 2005 UN speech.
A CIA document shows the agency in January 2003 raised questions about an Al Qaeda detainee’s claims that Saddam Hussein’s government provided chemical and biological weapons training to terrorists—weeks before President George W. Bush and other top officials flatly used those same claims to make their case for war against Iraq.
The CIA document, recently provided to Congress and obtained by NEWSWEEK, fills in some of the blanks in the mysterious case of Ibn al-Shaykh al-Libi, a captured Al Qaeda commander whose claims about poison-gas training for the Qaeda group by Saddam’s government formed the basis for some of the most dramatic arguments used by senior administration officials in the run up to the invasion of Iraq.
The new CIA document states the agency “recalled and reissued” all its intelligence reporting about al-Libi’s “recanted” claims about chemical and biological warfare training by Saddam’s regime in February 2004—an important retreat on pre-Iraq war intelligence that has never been publicly acknowledged by the White House. The withdrawal also was not mentioned in last year’s public report by the presidential inquiry commission headed by Judge Laurence Silberman and former Sen. Charles Robb which reviewed alleged Iraq intelligence failures.
So the presidential inquiry report is now garbage as well? We now know that both the CIA and DIA had reservations about the claims that Saddam was training Al Qaeda on chemical weapons, yet those reservations never made their way to Colin Powell, who got his information for the UN speech from, where else, Dick Cheney’s office. So are we to believe that both Rummy and George Tenet withheld these concerns from the White House?
Then there’s this from the Newsweek story:
Levin did, however, release other material last weekend that he received through his membership on the Senate Armed Services Committee. This included declassified portions of a four-page February 2002 DIA Defense Intelligence Terrorism Summary (DITSUM) that strongly questioned al-Libi’s credibility. The report stated it was “likely” al-Libi was “intentionally misleading” his debriefers and might be describing scenarios “that he knows will retain their interest.” A DIA official confirmed to NEWSWEEK that the DITSUM report—which also questioned whether the “intensely secular” Iraqi regime would provide such assistance to an Islamic fundamentalist regime “it cannot control”—was circulated at the time throughout the U.S. intelligence community and that a copy would have been sent to the National Security Council.So the NSC, you know, the place that Condi and Stephen Hadley headed, knew about the DIA doubts at least a half-year before Bush used these claims in speeches prior to the war resolution, and almost a year before the 2003 SOTU, and of course more than a year before the March 18, 2003 letter to Congress justifying the war. So how likely is it now that both Rummy and Tenet didn’t tell the White House about the doubts from their respective agencies?
For his part today, Hadley started the White House pushback effort when he trotted out the tired and failing rationale that the whole intelligence community thought that Saddam had WMDs and was a threat to the United States. Since we now know that at least the IAEA, Powell’s State Department, the CIA, and now the DIA thought that some or all of these claims were suspect when Bush made them, perhaps it is time for the media and Democrats to remind Hadley that he himself would be responsible for misinforming decision makers in Congress about Saddam’s capabilities, and that he is the last person in the world to try and put this horrendous decision off onto others.