WASHINGTON – U.S. intelligence services unanimously agreed last fall that “no specific intelligence information” tied Iraq to U.S. terrorist attacks, including the 1993 World Trade Center bombing.
Their findings were presented to the president Oct. 2 in a still-secret report on Iraq. The summary, or “key judgments” section, of the 90-page National Intelligence Estimate was declassified Friday. WorldNetDaily obtained a copy from the National Security Council. (The report is different from the unclassified 25-page white paper the CIA made public on its website last October.)
Page 4 of the report states: “… [W]e have no specific intelligence information that Saddam’s regime has directed attacks against U.S. territory.”
The statement would appear to undercut a popular theory among Iraq hawks that Baghdad conspired with al-Qaida operatives to try to blow up New York’s Twin Towers in 1993, and possibly sponsored the repeat attack on them in 2001.
Since the Sept. 11 attacks, Iraq hard-liners – including Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz and former CIA Director James Woolsey – have openly embraced the theory, first published in the book “The War Against America: Saddam Hussein and the World Trade Center Attacks.”
In fact, Woolsey wrote the foreword to the book, authored by Laurie Mylroie, an adjunct fellow at the Washington-based American Enterprise Institute, or AEI. Woolsey, who has argued for starting “World War IV” in the Middle East, called the book “brilliant and brave.”
Wolfowitz, a leading “neoconservative,” said it “argues powerfully that the shadowy mastermind of the 1993 World Trade Center bombing … was in fact an agent of Iraqi intelligence.”
Mylroie, pronounced “MIL-roy,” insists there is a wealth of evidence tying Iraq to the first World Trade Center attack, much of it gathered by the New York office of the FBI during the investigation of bombing mastermind Ramzi Yousef.
Problem is, she argues, “the CIA didn’t want to look at it.”
She says the FBI, because of the “centralization of power” and “habits of the bureaucracy,” was restricted from sharing the evidence with the White House and Pentagon. Mylroie explains that up until the Sept. 11 attacks, evidence gathered from terrorism cases was treated strictly as criminal data, not intelligence.
When informed that the FBI helps prepare the NIE reports, she said, “Well, then the FBI has a problem, because they have the evidence” tying Hussein’s regime to recent terrorist attacks on U.S. soil.
She concedes that the Defense Intelligence Agency, at the request of aides to Wolfowitz, tried to prove her claims and came up short.
“Yeah, DIA was given a copy of my book, and they couldn’t make the connection,” Mylroie said in a phone interview.
But that’s because they were still treating it as a criminal matter, she counters, admitting there was no smoking bomb proving Hussein’s role in the 1993 case.
The intelligence used to determine a foreign threat and the need for force, on the other hand, is often based on circumstantial evidence and analysis, she says. “They can say there’s no intelligence, but they ignored it,” Mylroie said.
She says she was disappointed that President Bush did not cite any of the specific information she gathered in her book in making the case against Hussein. He only stated, obliquely, that there are ties between Iraq and al-Qaida going back for over a decade, she complained.
“Bush is getting bad intelligence in my view,” she said.
Critics argue that if Hussein was behind the 1993 bombing, and there was any evidence to support it, the Bush administration would have showcased it.
In fact, the U.S. has never acknowledged Hussein had anything to do with the 1993 bombing.
Mylroie’s evidence is based mostly on passport, airline and phone records presented by prosecutors at Yousef’s trial.
She posits that Yousef, an al-Qaida operative, was really an Iraqi intelligence agent who assumed the identity of Ramzi Yousef.
Prosecutors didn’t make that leap. Yousef came to New York from Pakistan on a false Iraqi passport in 1992, claiming political asylum. He told immigration authorities he was a victim of the Gulf War who’d been beaten by Hussein’s thugs because they thought he’d worked for the Kuwaiti resistance.
Yousef presented himself as an Iraqi, but his bombing co-conspirators testified they doubted his story, finding his accent Pakistani. Investigators confirmed
he was the son of a Pakistani mother and Palestinian father.
After the bombing, he fled back to Pakistan. A couple of years later, after a stint in the Philippines, he was captured in Pakistan. His uncle, Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, is the jailed al-Qaida leader who planned the Sept. 11 attacks. A Pakistani national born in Kuwait, Mohammed also was captured in Pakistan.
Mylroie allows that Yousef obviously is not Iraqi, but she traces him to Baluchistan, a lawless area that borders Pakistan, Afghanistan and Iran. She maintains that Hussein’s intelligence agency was known to recruit spies from that region, even though it’s a hotbed of hard-line Islamic fundamentalists, many of whom don’t respect Hussein’s secular regime.
Skeptics say suggesting Yousef was an Iraqi agent because he’s ethnic-Baluch is a stretch.
“Her theory is wacky,” said retired U.S. Army Lt. Col. Stephen Franke, an Arabic translator who last decade conducted weapons inspections in Iraq for UNSCOM.
A former FBI counterterrorism agent says it would not have hurt if the U.S. intelligence community had paid more attention to the connections she established.
“I don’t think al-Qaida and the Iraqi Intelligence Service are a natural alliance, as such,” he said. “But given recent history, the connections are probably there and exist to some extent in the U.S. due to the long-standing infrastructure of terrorist support that exists here.”
The ex-agent, who wished to go unnamed, added: “Unfortunately, I have a tendency to put more faith in Mylorie’s assessments than I do in our own intelligence community over that time period.”
Mylroie also argues Hussein may have been behind the African embassy bombings in 1998 – and even the bombing of the federal building in Oklahoma City in 1995.
“Al-Qaida is a front for the Iraqi Intelligence Services,” she asserted.
Asked about growing doubts over the alleged al-Qaida link and Iraqi threat, she insists the war was still necessary.
“This is a war that had to be fought, because the threat was so extreme,” Mylroie said. “Iraq had biological weapons and sponsored terrorism.”
She says the main critics of the war are Democrats – “the draft-dodging crew of the ’70s” – who ignored the Iraqi threat last decade.
“Democrats refused to address the threat. Now they’re trying to undermine the rationale for it,” she said. “They don’t want the Iraqi angle coming out, because they failed to address it – and 3,000 Americans died.”
Hard time getting published
Mylroie lists Clare Wolfowitz, wife of the No. 2 Pentagon official, among her friends in her book’s Acknowledgments. She also gives a nod to John Bolton, one of the State Department’s biggest Iraq hawks, and Lewis “Scooter” Libby, top aide to Vice President Dick Cheney, whose wife also is an AEI scholar.
The conservative think tank is a hotbed of Iraq hawks known as “neocons.” They include Irving Kristol, father of Weekly Standard editor Bill Kristol, Richard Perle and Michael Ledeen.
Mylroie’s book was first published in 2000 by AEI Press.
“She had a hard time getting it published. People didn’t believe her. People complained how she was harping on about Iraq being involved in all these things,” said AEI spokeswoman Veronique Rodman. “But after Sept. 11, a lot more people believed her.”
Then Regan Books, an imprint of Harper Collins Publishers, released the book in paperback. Harper Collins is owned by Rupert Murdoch, who also owns the Fox News Channel, which booked Mylroie as an Iraq expert during the build-up to the war.
In 1990, Mylroie co-authored with Judith Miller another Iraq book called “Saddam Hussein and the Crisis in the Gulf.”
Miller is the New York Times reporter who broke, with another reporter, the blockbuster story last September that Hussein was trying to import aluminum tubing to restart a nuclear weapons program. The claim, which she attributed to unnamed Bush administration “hard-liners” and Iraqi defectors, was touted by Cheney and National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice the day it appeared.
But it’s now under serious dispute.
Miller, who is close to Defense Undersecretary Douglas Feith, another noted neocon, also broke the now widely discredited story that two trailers found in Iraq were disguised mobile bioweapons labs.
It was recently revealed that the source of several of Miller’s Iraq stories was Ahmed Chalabi – an Iraqi defector favored by the administration to replace Hussein, and one with whom Miller has had a 10-year relationship.
U.S. intelligence officials tell WorldNetDaily the vast majority of the information Chalabi has provided on Hussein’s regime has proved to be unreliable or false. The CIA and FBI no longer rely on him as a source, they say.
However, officials say he remained a key source of intelligence for a temporary shop Feith and others set up at the Pentagon before the war called the Office of Special Plans. They say Chalabi’s information made it to the White House through that special office.
At the time Mylroie teamed up with Miller on her first book, she was a fellow at the Bradley Foundation, which is tied to AEI and Bill Kristol’s Project for a New American Century, which led the Iraq war charge.
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