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[casi] Official 9/11 Report: No Iraq Link to al-Qaida

It is now official, government record that the Bush Administration lied
about TWO justifications for the Iraq war. How many other claims were
lies? Will the media make a big deal out of this, as they belatedly did
with uranium/Niger scandal?

9/11 report: No Iraq link to al-Qaida

By Shaun Waterman
UPI Homeland and National Security Editor

WASHINGTON, July 23 (UPI) -- The report of the joint congressional
inquiry into the suicide hijackings on Sept. 11, 2001, to be published
Thursday, reveals U.S. intelligence had no evidence that the Iraqi
regime of Saddam Hussein was involved in the attacks, or that it had
supported al-Qaida, United Press International has learned.

"The report shows there is no link between Iraq and al-Qaida," said a
government official who has seen the report.

Former Democratic Georgia Sen. Max Cleland, who was a member of the
joint congressional committee that produced the report, confirmed the
official's statement.

Asked whether he believed the report will reveal that there was no
connection between al-Qaida and Iraq, Cleland replied: "I do ... There's
no connection, and that's been confirmed by some of (al-Qaida leader
Osama) bin Laden's terrorist followers."

The revelation is likely to embarrass the Bush administration, which
made links between Saddam's support for bin Laden -- and the attendant
possibility that Iraq might supply al-Qaida with weapons of mass
destruction -- a major plank of its case for war.

"The administration sold the connection (between Iraq and al-Qaida) to
scare the pants off the American people and justify the war," said
Cleland. "What you've seen here is the manipulation of intelligence for
political ends."

The inquiry, by members of both the House and Senate intelligence
committees, was launched in February last year amid growing concerns
that failures by U.S. intelligence had allowed the 19 al-Qaida
terrorists to enter the United States, hijack four airliners, and kill
almost 3,000 people.

Although the committee completed its work at the end of last year,
publication of the report has been delayed by interminable wrangles
between the committees and the administration over which parts of it
could be declassified.

Cleland accused the administration of deliberately delaying the report's
release to avoid having its case for war undercut.

"The reason this report was delayed for so long -- deliberately opposed
at first, then slow-walked after it was created -- is that the
administration wanted to get the war in Iraq in and over ... before (it)
came out," he said.

"Had this report come out in January like it should have done, we would
have known these things before the war in Iraq, which would not have
suited the administration."

The case that administration officials made that al-Qaida was linked to
Iraq was based on four planks.

Firstly, the man suspected of being the ringleader of the Sept. 11
hijackers, Mohammed Atta, was supposed to have met with an Iraqi
intelligence official in Prague, the capital of the Czech Republic, in
April 2001. But Czech intelligence - the original source of the report -
later recanted, and U.S. intelligence officials now believe that Atta
was in the United States at the time of the supposed meeting.

The Iraqi official, Ahmed Khalil Ibrahim Samir al-Ani is now in U.S.

Secondly, U.S. officials said Iraq was harboring an alleged al-Qaida
terrorist named Abu Mussab al-Zakawi.

But the government official who has seen the report poured scorn on the
evidence behind this claim.

"Because someone makes a telephone call from a country, does not mean
that the government of that country is complicit in that," he told UPI.

"When we found out there was an al-Qaida cell operating in Germany, we
didn't say 'we have to invade Germany, because the German government
supports al-Qaida.' ... There was no evidence to indicate that the Iraqi
government knew about or was complicit in Zakawi's activities."

Newsweek magazine has also reported that German intelligence agencies -
having interrogated one of Zakawi's associates - believed that Zakawi
was not even an al-Qaida member, but headed a rival Islamic terror

Thirdly, defectors provided to U.S. intelligence by the then-exiled
opposition group, the Iraqi National Congress, said that Islamic
terrorists had been training to hijack airliners using a disused plane
fuselage at a camp in Salman Pak in Iraq.

"My understanding was that there was an alternate explanation for that,"
said the government official, suggesting that that they were doing
counter terrorism training there. "I'm not saying that was the
explanation, but there were other ways of looking at it."

Fourthly, officials have cited a series of meetings in the 1980's and
1990's between Iraqi officials and al-Qaida members, especially in

Former CIA counter-terrorism analyst Judith Yaphe has questioned the
significance of this data, "Every terrorist group and state sponsor was
represented in Sudan (at that time)," she said recently, "How could they
not meet in Khartoum, a small city offering many opportunities for
terrorist tête-à-têtes."

The government official added that the significance of such meetings was
unclear: "Intelligence officials, including ours, meet with bad guys all
around the world every day. That's their job. Maybe to get information
from them, maybe to try and recruit them.

"There are a series of alternative explanations for why two people like
that might meet, and that's what we don't know."

He went on to suggest that the conclusions drawn from the information
about the Sudan meetings was indicative of a wider-ranging problem with
the administration's attitude to intelligence on the alleged Iraq
al-Qaida link.

"They take a fact that you could draw several different conclusions
from, and in every case they draw the conclusion that supports the
policy, without any particular evidence that would meet the normal bar
that analytic tradecraft would require for you to make that conclusion,"
he concluded.

Copyright © 2001-2003 United Press International

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