9/11 The Accusation

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Ex-cop, Egyptian, and an aviation radio make an unfortunate 9/11 footnote

In fact, the FBI had evidence that Atta was in Florida at the time, taking aircraft flight training; and the Iraqi officer in question, Ahmed Khalil Ibrahim Samir al Ani , has been captured and maintains he has never met Atta. The repeated accusation by Vice President Cheney that Iraq harbored Abdul Rahman Yasin , one of the perpetrators of the World Trade Center bombing, conflicts with Iraq's offer to the FBI of extradition for Yasin in return for a statement clearing Iraq from any role in the attack. In June , an unnamed US intelligence official told 60 Minutes that Iraq had attached "extreme conditions" to the handing over of Yasin.

According to the official, the Iraqis wanted the U. Former National Security Council counterterrorism directors Daniel Benjamin and Steven Simon summarized the problem with the Bush Administration's view in the eyes of the intelligence community: "The administration pressed its case for war most emphatically by arguing that U. The argument had the obvious virtue of playing to the public's desire to see the war on terrorism prosecuted aggressively and conclusively. Yet, scant proof of these links was presented.

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The record showed a small number of contacts between jihadists and Iraqi officials. This was treated as the tip of an unseen iceberg of cooperation, even though it fell far short of anything that resembled significant cooperation in the eyes of the counterterrorism community—as it always had. No persuasive proof was given of money, weaponry, or training being provided.

Lawrence B. Wilkerson , has since revealed that "as the administration authorized harsh interrogation in April and May —well before the Justice Department had rendered any legal opinion—its principal priority for intelligence was not aimed at pre-empting another terrorist attack on the U.

Just prior to Saddam's invasion of Kuwait, Saddam turned to religion perhaps to bolster his government for example, adding the words " God is Great " in Arabic to the flag , and referring to God in his speeches. After Saddam lost the Gulf War and facing widespread rebellions from the Shia majority , he identified more closely with Islam by hosting international conferences and broadcasting Islamic sermons on national radio.

Some sources allege that several meetings between top Iraqi operatives and bin Laden took place, but these claims have been disputed by many other sources, including most of the original intelligence agencies that investigated these sources in the first place. Many in the intelligence community are skeptical about whether such meetings, if they took place at all, ever resulted in any meaningful relationship. Many of the claims of actual collaboration seem to have originated with people associated with the Iraqi National Congress whose credibility has been impeached and who have been accused of manipulating the evidence in order to lure the United States into war on false pretenses.

In addition, many of the raw intelligence reports came to the awareness of the public through the leaking of a memo sent from Undersecretary of Defense for Policy Douglas J. Feith to the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, [57] the conclusions of which have been disputed by intelligence agencies including the CIA. Feith's view of the relationship between Saddam and Osama differed from the official view of the intelligence community.


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The memo was subsequently leaked to the media. The Pentagon issued a statement cautioning that the memo was "a classified annex containing a list and description of the requested reports, so that the committee could obtain the reports from the relevant members of the intelligence community The classified annex was not an analysis of the substantive issue of the relationship between Iraq and al Qaeda, and it drew no conclusions.

Patrick Lang told the Washington Post that the Weekly Standard article which published Feith's memo "is a listing of a mass of unconfirmed reports, many of which themselves indicate that the two groups continued to try to establish some sort of relationship. If they had such a productive relationship, why did they have to keep trying? Some have suggested that an understanding was reached between Iraq and al-Qaeda, namely that al-Qaeda would not act against Saddam in exchange for Iraqi support, primarily in the form of training.

No evidence of such an understanding has ever been produced. Some reports claim that Mohamed Atta met with an Iraqi intelligence operative in Prague, but intelligence officials have concluded that no such meeting took place. A training camp in Salman Pak , south of Baghdad, was said by a number of defectors to have been used to train international terrorists assumed to be al-Qaeda members in hijacking techniques using a real airplane as a prop. The defectors were inconsistent about a number of details.

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The camp has been examined by U. Marines, and intelligence analysts do not believe it was used by al-Qaeda. Some of these analysts believe it was actually used for counterterrorism training, while others believe it was used to train foreign fighters overtly aligned with Iraq. There have been no credible reports since the war that Iraq trained al-Qa'ida operatives at Salman Pak to conduct or support transnational terrorist operations. In November , a month after the September 11th attacks , Mubarak al-Duri was contacted by Sudanese intelligence services who informed him that the FBI had sent Jack Cloonan and several other agents, to speak with a number of people known to have ties to Bin Laden.

They were asked whether there was any possible connection between Saddam Hussein and al-Qaeda , and laughed stating that Bin Laden hated the dictator who he believed was a "Scotch-drinking, woman-chasing apostate. Much of the evidence of alleged links between Iraq and al-Qaeda is based on speculation about meetings that may have taken place between Iraqi officials and al-Qaeda members.

The idea that a meeting could have happened has been taken as evidence of substantial collaboration. As terrorism analyst Evan Kohlman points out, "While there have been a number of promising intelligence leads hinting at possible meetings between al-Qaeda members and elements of the former Baghdad regime, nothing has been yet shown demonstrating that these potential contacts were historically any more significant than the same level of communication maintained between Osama bin Laden and ruling elements in a number of Iraq's Persian Gulf neighbors, including Saudi Arabia, Iran, Yemen, Qatar, and Kuwait.

Security Council on the issue of Iraq. Powell acknowledged in January that the speech presented no hard evidence of collaboration between Saddam and al-Qaeda; he told reporters at a State Department press conference that "I have not seen smoking gun, concrete evidence about the connection, but I do believe the connections existed. He told Barbara Walters in an interview that he considered the speech a "blot" on his record and that he feels "terrible" about assertions that he made in the speech that turned out to be false.

He said, "There were some people in the intelligence community who knew at that time that some of these sources were not good, and shouldn't be relied upon, and they didn't speak up.

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    The major claims set forth in Powell's speech—that Jordanian terrorist Abu Musab Al-Zarqawi constitutes a link between Saddam Hussein and al-Qaeda, and that Saddam's government provided training and assistance to al-Qaeda terrorists in Baghdad—have since been disputed by the intelligence community and terrorism experts. A former Israeli intelligence official described the meeting between Zarqawi and bin Laden as "loathing at first sight.

    According to the New York Times , al-Libi provided some accurate intelligence on al Qaeda and made some statements about Iraq and al Qaeda while in American custody, but it wasn't until being after he was handed over to Egypt that he made more specific assertions about Iraq training al Qaeda members in biological and chemical weapons.

    A DIA report issued in February expressed skepticism about al-Libi's claims due to this, noting that he may have been subjected to harsh treatment while in Egyptian custody. In February , the CIA reissued the debriefing reports from al-Libi to note that he had recanted information. A government official told the New York Times that al Libi's claims of harsh treatment had not been corroborated and the CIA has refused to comment specifically on al-Libi's case as much of the information remains classified; however, current and former government officials agreed to discuss the case on condition of anonymity.

    Several official investigations by U. Every single investigation has resulted in the conclusion that the data examined did not provide compelling evidence of a cooperative relationship between the two entities. After the attack on the World Trade Center in , there were several investigations of possible collaboration between Saddam Hussein and the terrorists who attacked the building. In , Daniel Benjamin , who headed the National Security Council's counterterrorism division, led an exercise aimed at a critical analysis of the CIA's contention that Iraq and al Qaeda would not team up.

    In that part of the America-hating universe, contacts happen. But that's still a long way from suggesting that they were really working together. Ten days after the September 11 attacks , President Bush receives a classified President's Daily Brief that had been prepared at his request indicating that the U. According to the National Journal , "Much of the contents of the PDB were later incorporated, albeit in a slightly different form, into a lengthier CIA analysis examining not only Al Qaeda's contacts with Iraq, but also Iraq's support for international terrorism.

    All of them concluded that all known evidence suggested that such a meeting was unlikely at best.


    The January CIA report Iraqi Support for Terrorism noted that "the most reliable reporting to date casts doubt on this possibility" that such a meeting occurred. Director of Central Intelligence George Tenet released "the most complete public assessment by the agency on the issue" in a statement to the Senate Armed Services Committee in July , stating that the CIA was "increasingly skeptical" any such meeting took place. We looked at it from every conceivable angle.

    We peeled open the source, examined the chain of acquisition. We looked at photographs. We looked at timetables. We looked at who was where and when. It is wrong to say that we didn't look at it. In fact, we looked at it with extraordinary care and intensity and fidelity. Mueller III noted that the FBI's investigation "ran down literally hundreds of thousands of leads and checked every record we could get our hands on, from flight reservations to car rentals to bank accounts. By April , all four pilots had completed most of their training, and the muscle hijackers were about to begin entering the United States.

    The available evidence does not support the original Czech report of an Atta-Ani meeting. In February , the U.

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    The DIA report suggested that al-Libi had been "intentionally misleading" his interrogators. The DIA report also cast significant doubt on the possibility of a Saddam Hussein-al-Qaeda conspiracy: "Saddam's regime is intensely secular and is wary of Islamic revolutionary movements. Moreover, Baghdad is unlikely to provide assistance to a group it cannot control. In October , a British Intelligence investigation of possible links between Iraq and al-Qaeda and the possibility of Iraqi WMD attacks issued a report concluding: "al Qaeda has shown interest in gaining chemical and biological expertise from Iraq, but we do not know whether any such training was provided.

    We have no intelligence of current cooperation between Iraq and al Qaeda and do not believe that al Qaeda plans to conduct terrorist attacks under Iraqi direction. The report concludes that "In contrast to the patron-client pattern between Iraq and its Palestinian surrogates, the relationship between Iraq and al-Qaida appears to more closely resemble that of two independent actors trying to exploit each other—their mutual suspicion suborned by al-Qaida's interest in Iraqi assistance, and Baghdad's interest in al-Qaida's anti-U.

    The Intelligence Community has no credible information that Baghdad had foreknowledge of the 11 September attacks or any other al-Qaida strike. At the end of the effort, we had gone back ten years in the files and had reviewed nearly twenty thousand documents that amounted to well over fifty thousand pages of materials. There was no information that remotely supported the analysis that claimed there was a strong working relationship between Iraq and al Qaeda.

    I was embarrassed because this reality invalidated the analysis I had presented on the subject in my book. According to the SSCI report, " Iraqi Support for Terrorism contained the following summary judgments regarding Iraq's provision of training to al-Qaida: Regarding the Iraq-al-Qa'ida relationship, reporting from sources of varying reliability points to The most disturbing aspect of the relationship is the dozen or so reports of varying reliability mentioning the involvement of Iraq or Iraqi nationals in al-Qa'ida's efforts to obtain CBW training.

    See above. The next day, President Bush gave a brief talk at the Roosevelt Room in the White House with Powell by his side and stated the following: "One of the greatest dangers we face is that weapons of mass destruction might be passed to terrorists who would not hesitate to use those weapons. Iraq has bomb-making and document forgery experts to work with Al Qaeda. Iraq has also provided Al Qaeda with chemical and biological weapons training. Davis also stated that President Bush's remarks were "based on what was put forward to him as the views of the intelligence community" and that those views came from "an aggregation" of sources.

    Larry Wilkerson, who served as Powell's chief of staff and oversaw the vetting of Powell's speech, responded to an e-mail from Newsweek Wednesday stating that he was unaware of the DIA doubts about al-Libi at the time the speech was being prepared. In January , British intelligence completed a classified report on Iraq that concluded that "there are no current links between the Iraqi regime and the al-Qaeda network. According to BBC, the report "says al-Qaeda leader Osama Bin Laden views Iraq's ruling Ba'ath party as running contrary to his religion, calling it an 'apostate regime'.

    Certainly we have some evidence of links between al-Qaeda and various people in Iraq What we don't know, and the prime minister and I have made it very clear, is the extent of those links What we also know, however, is that the Iraqi regime have been up to their necks in the pursuit of terrorism generally. In February , Israeli intelligence sources told the Associated Press that no link has been conclusively established between Saddam and Al Qaeda.

    A senior Israeli security source told the AP that Israel has not yet found evidence of an Iraqi-Palestinian-Al Qaeda triangle, and that several investigations into possible Al Qaeda ties to Palestinian militias have so far not yielded substantial results. Ganor said Al Qaeda has put out feelers to Palestinian groups, but ties are at a very preliminary stage. In October , Douglas J. Feith , undersecretary of defense for policy and head of the controversial Office of Special Plans , sent a memo to Congress that included "a classified annex containing a list and description of the requested reports, so that the committee could obtain the reports from the relevant members of the intelligence community.

    Patrick Lang , former head of the Middle East section of Defense Intelligence Agency, called the Feith memo "a listing of a mass of unconfirmed reports, many of which themselves indicate that the two groups continued to try to establish some sort of relationship. In January , Carnegie Endowment for International Peace scholars Joseph Cirincione , Jessica Tuchman Mathews , and George Perkovich publish their study WMD in Iraq: Evidence and Implications , which looked into Saddam's relationship with al-Qaeda and concluded that "although there have been periodic meetings between Iraqi and Al Qaeda agents, and visits by Al Qaeda agents to Baghdad, the most intensive searching over the last two years has produced no solid evidence of a cooperative relationship between Saddam's government and Al Qaeda.

    Freedom of Information Act request. The report addressed specific allegations of contacts between al-Qaeda and members of Saddam Hussein's government and concluded that there was no evidence that such contacts developed into a collaborative operational relationship, and that they did not cooperate to commit terrorist attacks against the United States.

    The report includes the following information:. Bin Ladin was also willing to explore possibilities for cooperation with Iraq, even though Iraq's dictator, Saddam Hussein, had never had an Islamist agenda—save for his opportunistic pose as a defender of the faithful against "Crusaders" during the Gulf War of Moreover, Bin Ladin had in fact been sponsoring anti-Saddam Islamists in Iraqi Kurdistan, and sought to attract them into his Islamic army.

    To protect his own ties with Iraq, Turabi reportedly brokered an agreement that Bin Ladin would stop supporting activities against Saddam. Bin Ladin apparently honored this pledge, at least for a time, although he continued to aid a group of Islamist extremists operating in part of Iraq Kurdistan outside of Baghdad's control. In , with Bin Ladin's help they re-formed into an organization called Ansar al Islam.

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    With the Sudanese regime acting as intermediary, Bin Ladin himself met with a senior Iraqi intelligence officer in Khartoum in late or early Bin Ladin is said to have asked for space to establish training camps, as well as assistance in procuring weapons, but there is no evidence that Iraq responded to this request. As described below, the ensuing years saw additional efforts to establish connections. There is also evidence that around this time Bin Ladin sent out a number of feelers to the Iraqi regime, offering some cooperation.

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    None are reported to have received a significant response. According to one report, Saddam Hussein's efforts at this time to rebuild relations with the Saudis and other Middle Eastern regimes led him to stay clear of Bin Ladin. In mid, the situation reversed; it was Iraq that reportedly took the initiative.

    Sources reported that one, or perhaps both, of these meetings was apparently arranged through Bin Ladin's Egyptian deputy, Zawahiri, who had ties of his own to the Iraqis. In , Iraq was under intensifying U. Similar meetings between Iraqi officials and Bin Ladin or his aides may have occurred in during a period of some reported strains with the Taliban. The case, handled by a military tribunal, seemed as far from conclusion as ever. The prosecution is seeking the death penalty, which the defense bitterly opposes. Ellen Judd, 66, a Canadian anthropology professor at the University of Manitoba, attended the hearing and watched Mohammed and his four co-defendants through a triple-layered glass partition.

    She had chosen to visit him that morning.

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