Evidence the left wants to deny about al Qaeda and Iraq
The failure to exploit the documents seized in Iraq has been a major disappointment. The CIA and other government agencies have done little in looking at these documents and Congress eventually forced many of them to be made public so others could look at them. What should be clear is that there was a working relationship where both Iraq and al Qaeda felt there was mutual benefit. One those ares was in making war against the US through covert means. The Democrats deny this area of cooperation in order to delegitimize the war in Iraq. This is dishonesty that will not reflect well on them when the history of this time is written, but it has given their true believers some delusions to hang their hat own.
On Aug. 15, 2002, I presented my part of a composite Pentagon briefing on al-Qaeda and Iraq to George Tenet, then CIA director. In his recent book, "At the Center of the Storm," Tenet wrote that I said in opening remarks that "there is no more debate," "no further analysis is required" and "it is an open-and-shut case."
I never said those things. In fact, I said the covert nature of the relationship between Iraq and al-Qaeda made it difficult to know its full extent; al-Qaeda's security precautions and Iraq's need to cloak its activities with terrorist networks precluded a full appreciation of their relationship. Tenet also got the title of the briefing wrong. It was "Assessing the Relationship Between Iraq and al-Qa'ida," not "Iraq and al-Qa'ida -- Making the Case."
That day I summarized a body of mostly CIA reporting (dating from 1990 to 2002), from a variety of sources, that reflected a pattern of Iraqi support for al-Qaeda, including high-level contacts between Iraqi senior officials and al-Qaeda, training in bomb making, Iraqi offers of safe haven, and a nonaggression agreement to cooperate on unspecified areas. My position was that analysts were not addressing these reports since much of the material did not surface in finished, disseminated publications.
Tenet claimed that the body of reporting did not prove an "operational" relationship existed. I never said it did. The use of the caveat "operational" became a convenient -- albeit transparent -- way to discount the credibility of the 1990s reporting and the relationship as I had described it. In his book Tenet maintained that there was no evidence of Iraq's having "authority, direction, and control of al-Qa'ida operations." I don't recall anyone inside or outside the intelligence community ever making that claim.
It's notable that on Oct. 7, 2002, Tenet sent a letter to the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence stating that "our understanding of the relationship between Iraq and al-Qa'ida is evolving." He wrote:
· "We have solid reporting of senior level contacts between Iraq and al-Qa'ida going back a decade" and of "the presence in Iraq of al-Qa'ida members, including some that have been in Baghdad."
· "Credible information indicates that Iraq and al-Qa'ida have discussed safe haven and reciprocal nonaggression" and that "al-Qa'ida leaders sought contacts in Iraq who could help them acquire WMD capabilities. The reporting also stated that Iraq has provided training to al-Qa'ida members in the areas of poisons and gases and making conventional bombs."
· "Iraq's increasing support to extremist Palestinians, coupled with growing indications of a relationship with al-Qa'ida, suggest that Baghdad's links to terrorists will increase, even absent US military action."
More reliable information probably will come from seized Iraqi documents -- especially those of the Iraqi Intelligence Service (IIS), which was the conduit for al-Qaeda contacts. One IIS document dated March 28, 1992, cited Osama bin Laden as having a good relationship with the IIS bureau in Syria. Another says that the IIS director met with bin Laden in Sudan in 1995. James Woolsey, a former director of central intelligence, has written that captured documents indicated a participant in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing (Abdul Rahman Yasin) was living in Iraq and receiving a monthly stipend.