CIA Learned in '02 That Bin Laden Had No Iraq Ties, Report Says

CIA Learned in '02 That Bin Laden Had No Iraq Ties, Report Says
September 15th, 2006  
Team Infidel

Topic: CIA Learned in '02 That Bin Laden Had No Iraq Ties, Report Says

CIA Learned in '02 That Bin Laden Had No Iraq Ties, Report Says
Media: Washington Post
Byline: Walter Pincus
Date: September 15, 2006

The CIA learned in late September 2002 from a high-level member of Saddam
Hussein's inner circle that Iraq had no past or present contact with Osama
bin Laden and that the Iraqi leader considered bin Laden an enemy of the
Baghdad regime, according to a recent Senate Intelligence Committee report.

Although President Bush and other senior administration officials were at
that time regularly linking Hussein to al-Qaeda, the CIA's highly sensitive
intelligence supporting the contrary view was apparently not passed on to
the White House or senior Bush policymakers.

Sen. Pat Roberts (R-Kan.) and two GOP colleagues on the committee disclosed
this information for the first time in the panel's report on Iraq released
last week. They wrote in the "additional views" section of the report that
the Cabinet-level Iraqi official "said that Iraq has no past, current, or
anticipated future contact with Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda" and that the
official "added that bin Laden was in fact a longtime enemy of Iraq."

On Sept. 25, 2002, just days after the CIA received the source's
information, President Bush told reporters: "Al-Qaeda hides. Saddam doesn't,
but the danger is, is that they work in concert. The danger is, is that
al-Qaeda becomes an extension of Saddam's madness and his hatred and his
capacity to extend weapons of mass destruction around the world. . . . [Y]ou
can't distinguish between al-Qaeda and Saddam when you talk about the war on

According to the three Republicans, the CIA said it did not disseminate the
intelligence about the lack of a Hussein-bin Laden connection because "it
did not provide anything new."

But other information obtained at the same time from the same source that
paralleled what administration officials were saying was immediately passed
on to "alert" the president and other senior policymakers, the three
Republicans said. A "highly restricted intelligence report" conveyed the
source's claim that although Iraq had no nuclear weapon, Hussein was
covertly developing one and had stockpiled chemical weapons, according to
the committee members.

CIA spokesman Paul Gimigliano said he could not provide additional
information about the situation beyond what is in the Senate report, but he
added that "the agency's decisions to disseminate intelligence are not
guided by political considerations."

Committee staff members would not expand on the report's language other than
to say the Hussein-bin Laden material was maintained within the CIA at a
high level with limited access.

Former senior CIA officials said it was unclear what happened to the
Hussein-bin Laden information, although two former aides to then-CIA
Director George J. Tenet said they could not remember if they received the
original information. "Nothing was withheld from the White House," one
former aide said, although there was "a lot of debate inside the agency
about the Saddam-al-Qaeda relationship" because it was the focus of repeated
questions from administration officials, including Vice President Cheney and
his then-chief of staff, I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby.

The high-level Iraqi official, who was not identified in the Senate report,
was Naji Sabri, then foreign minister. A senior CIA officer, after months of
trying, was able to question him through a trusted agency intermediary when
Sabri was in New York City around Sept. 19, 2002.

According to former intelligence officials, the CIA case officer filed two
separate reports describing his questioning of Sabri. One, involving the
Iraq weapons program, would go to analysts interested in that subject, the
officer believed; the second, about Hussein and bin Laden, would go to the
CIA counterterrorism center. The officer, however, passed his material on to
senior agency officials in New York and was not aware of how it was
eventually distributed.

Sabri's role as an intelligence source for the CIA has already been publicly
reported. New details, including a payment of $200,000 to the intermediary
and a secret signal system to assure the CIA officer that Sabri was
cooperating, are contained in the recently released book "Hubris," by
Michael Isikoff of Newsweek and David Corn, Washington correspondent for the
magazine the Nation.

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