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Saddam Hussein on Iraqi TV prior to the war
A new Senate report that concludes there was no connection between Saddam Hussein and al-Qaida apparently relegates to insignificant documentation that the federal government released earlier this year drawing that very conclusion.
The Senate Intelligence Committee has disclosed an October 2005 CIA conclusion that the Iraqi dictator did not have a “relationship, harbor or turn a blind eye toward” Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, an al-Qaida operative, or any of his associates.
In fact, Saddam rejected approaches from al-Qaida and feared Islamic extremists as a danger to his regime, the committee determined.
But as WND reported earlier this year, pre-war documents posted online by the Pentagon included a letter from a member of Saddam’s intelligence apparatus indicating al-Qaida and the Taliban had a relationship with the regime prior to the 9/11 attacks.
A letter by the member of Saddam’s Al Mukabarat to a superior, dated Sept. 15, 2001, reported a pre-9/11 conversation between an Iraqi intelligence source and a Taliban Afghani consul.
That information had been released on the orders of National Intelligence Director John Negroponte, and the letter was reviewed by an independent Middle East analyst whose conclusion was that it appeared genuine.
The letter indicated Osama bin Laden and the Taliban in Afghanistan were in contact with Iraq – noting a specific visit to Baghdad – and said the U.S. had proof Saddam’s regime and al-Qaida were cooperating to hit a target in the U.S.
The documents also suggested the possibility that the U.S. could strike Iraq and Afghanistan if an attack on the U.S. proved to be tied to bin Laden and the Taliban.
Democrats on the Senate committee told the Associated Press that the administration’s belief there was a connection was based partly on intelligence the White House knew was flawed.
President Bush numerous times, and as lately as last month, noted the possibilities of “a world in which you had Saddam Hussein” with access to weapons of mass destruction and a connection with al-Qaida.
A committee member, Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., told reporters that CIA chief George Tenet admitted that policymakers wanted him to be consistent with the president’s message, despite doubts expressed by his own agents.
However, the earlier documents, including one dated Aug. 17, 2002, identified the al-Qaida member as Ahmed Fadil Nizal Al Khalaylah, the real name of Zarqawi, and includes a series of photos. Zarqawi was killed in a U.S. airstrike last summer.
Laura Mansfield, the independent Middle East analyst, said the document provided “startling” evidence at the very least Saddam Hussein’s government knew al-Qaida was active in Iraq.
The government, in releasing the documents, did caution that it had not determined the accuracy of what it was releasing.
Both Republicans and Democrats charged the other side was trying using the release of more information for its political purposes.
The Gateway Pundit Blog republished much of the documentation, noting that Saddam Hussein’s government was aware not just of the presence of al-Qaida terrorists in Iraq, but also that the Anbar province was being used as a launch point for those headed to Afghanistan to fight the U.S.