On Iraq, Al Qaeda/terrorism ties (more evidence).

January 10th, 2006  
Italian Guy

Topic: On Iraq, Al Qaeda/terrorism ties (more evidence).

I had to shorten the article, so you should go check out the whole piece.

Saddam's Terror Training Camps
What the documents captured from the former Iraqi regime reveal--and why they should all be made public.
by Stephen F. Hayes
01/16/2006, Volume 011, Issue 17

THE FORMER IRAQI REGIME OF Saddam Hussein trained thousands of radical Islamic terrorists from the region at camps in Iraq over the four years immediately preceding the U.S. invasion, according to documents and photographs recovered by the U.S. military in postwar Iraq. The existence and character of these documents has been confirmed to THE WEEKLY STANDARD by eleven U.S. government officials.
The secret training took place primarily at three camps--in Samarra, Ramadi, and Salman Pak--and was directed by elite Iraqi military units. Interviews by U.S. government interrogators with Iraqi regime officials and military leaders corroborate the documentary evidence. Many of the fighters were drawn from terrorist groups in northern Africa with close ties to al Qaeda, chief among them Algeria's GSPC and the Sudanese Islamic Army. Some 2,000 terrorists were trained at these Iraqi camps each year from 1999 to 2002, putting the total number at or above 8,000. Intelligence officials believe that some of these terrorists returned to Iraq and are responsible for attacks against Americans and Iraqis. According to three officials with knowledge of the intelligence on Iraqi training camps, White House and National Security Council officials were briefed on these findings in May 2005; senior Defense Department officials subsequently received the same briefing.
The photographs and documents on Iraqi training camps come from a collection of some 2 million "exploitable items" captured in postwar Iraq and Afghanistan. They include handwritten notes, typed documents, audiotapes, videotapes, compact discs, floppy discs, and computer hard drives. Taken together, this collection could give U.S.
intelligence officials and policymakers an inside look at the activities of the former Iraqi regime in the months and years before the Iraq war.
The discovery of the information on jihadist training camps in Iraq would seem to have two major consequences: It exposes the flawed assumptions of the experts and U.S. intelligence officials who told us for years that a secularist like Saddam Hussein would never work with Islamic radicals, any more than such jihadists would work with an infidel like the Iraqi dictator. It also reminds us that valuable information remains buried in the mountain of documents recovered in Afghanistan and Iraq over the past four years.
Nearly three years after the U.S. invasion of Iraq, only 50,000 of these 2 million "exploitable items" have been thoroughly examined. That's 2.5 percent. Despite the hard work of the individuals assigned to the "DOCEX" project, the process is not moving quickly enough, says Michael Tanji, a former Defense Intelligence Agency official who helped lead the document exploitation effort for 18 months. "At this rate," he says, "if we continue to approach DOCEX in a linear fashion, our great-grandchildren will still be sorting through this stuff."
Most of the 50,000 translated documents relate directly to weapons of mass destruction programs and scientists, since David Kay and his Iraq Survey Group--who were among the first to analyze the finds--considered those items top priority. "At first, if it wasn't WMD, it wasn't translated. It wasn't exploited," says a former military intelligence officer who worked on the documents in Iraq. [...]

Barodi comes from Hama, the town that was leveled in 1982 by the armed forces of secular Syrian dictator Hafez Assad because it was home to radical Islamic terrorists who had agitated against his regime. The massacre took tens of thousands of lives, but some of the extremists got away.
Many of the most radical Muslim Brotherhood refugees from Hama were welcomed next door--and trained--in Saddam Hussein's Iraq. Spanish investigators believe that Ghasoub Ghalyoun, the man they have accused of conducting surveillance for the 9/11 attacks, who also has roots in the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood, was trained in an Iraqi terrorist camp in the early 1980s. Ghalyoun mentions this Iraqi training in a 2001 letter to the head of Syrian intelligence, in which he seeks reentry to Syria despite his long affiliation with the Muslim Brotherhood.
Reaching out to Islamic radicals was, in fact, one of the first moves Saddam Hussein made upon taking power in 1979. That he did not do it for ideological reasons is unimportant. As Barodi noted at last week's hearing, "He used us and we used him."
Throughout the 1980s, including the eight years of the Iran-Iraq war, Saddam cast himself as a holy warrior in his public rhetoric to counter the claims from Iran that he was an infidel. This posturing continued during and after the first Gulf war in 1990-91. Saddam famously ordered "Allahu Akbar" (God is Great) added to the Iraqi flag. Internally, he launched "The Faith Campaign," which according to leading Saddam Hussein scholar Amatzia Baram included the imposition of sharia (Islamic law). According to Baram, "The Iraqi president initiated laws forbidding the public consumption of alcohol and introduced enhanced compulsory study of the Koran at all educational levels, including Baath Party branches."
Hussein Kamel, Saddam's son-in-law who defected to Jordan in 1995, explained these changes in an interview with Rolf Ekeus, then head of the U.N. weapons inspection program. "The government of Iraq is instigating fundamentalism in the country," he said, adding, "Every party member has to pass a religious exam. They even stopped party meetings for prayers."
And throughout the decade, the Iraqi regime sponsored "Popular Islamic Conferences" at the al Rashid Hotel that drew the most radical Islamists from throughout the region to Baghdad. Newsweek's Christopher Dickey, who covered one of those meetings in 1993, would later write: "Islamic radicals from all over the Middle East, Africa and Asia converged on Baghdad to show their solidarity with Iraq in the face of American aggression." One speaker praised "the mujahed Saddam Hussein, who is leading this nation against the nonbelievers." Another speaker said, "Everyone has a task to do, which is to go against the American state." Dickey continued:
Every time I hear diplomats and politicians, whether in Washington or the capitals of Europe, declare that Saddam Hussein is a "secular Baathist ideologue" who has nothing do with Islamists or with terrorist calls to jihad, I think of that afternoon and I wonder what they're talking about. If that was not a fledgling Qaeda itself at the Rashid convention, it sure was Saddam's version of it.
In the face of such evidence, Carl Levin and other critics of the Iraq war trumpet deeply flawed four-year-old DIA analyses. Shouldn't the senator instead use his influence to push for the release of Iraqi documents that will help establish what, exactly, the Iraqi regime was doing in the years before the U.S. invasion?

Stephen F. Hayes is a senior writer at The Weekly Standard.

January 11th, 2006  
This won't be widely distributed...
January 11th, 2006  
Italian Guy
Originally Posted by bulldogg
This won't be widely distributed...
I kinda have this feeling too. Stephen Hayes has written a really interesting nook called "The Connection". Also here, here and here.
January 13th, 2006  
I may have to get that book.

Of the negative reviews there were only two:

This is an insanely sloppy book for a guy who, on television at least, appears to be intelligent, if stunningly biased. It is a true example of the dangers of putting your insane thoughts into print.

In hindsight, Hayes makes a case so weak that it is stunning the book was ever released, but I suppose at the time it came out, he was counting on people to lap up the Bush propaganda without much question.

But since then, Bush has managed to have what is arguably the most failed second term of any modern president. As of this writing, Bush's reputation has been tarnished by an embarassing social security overhaul attempt, an inhuman response to the Katrina tragedy, the indictment of one top White House aide, and escalating violence in Iraq. Three in five people believe Bush intentionally lied the country into war, his approval rating is at 35%, and people are starting to ask tough questions about why the congress was only given access to the intelligence which supported the case for war.

As the house of cards crumbles, Hayes' claims are even more of a joke, buoyed by nothing resembling facts, but rather highly debateable arguments cobbled together from questionable facts and sources. With people getting serious about finding answers to these questions, a book like this could no longer even be published. It is an insult to anyone, on either side of the aisle, who seeks truth.
The person above would (in my opinion) have been more credible if they had not inserted their political opinions.


this book is, to be charitable, factually inaccurate more often than not, mildly sensationalist, and profoundly lacking in expository reasoning skills.

this book is an unillustrated espionage comic.

i do applaud the author for his generosity in brevity, thus sparing me any serious loss of productive time while also accomodating his target audience attention span.
This person makes no clear points other than he disliked the book or the subject matter. When he uses the phrase (above in bold) one wonders if he has even read the book. From the positive reviews I read Mr Hayes did a good job on his research.

I for one have not read the book, but I think it just hit my "books to read" list if the Oiriginal Post is any indication of his writing and research.

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/006...lance&n=283155 (reviews)
(Sorry if this is off of your intended topic)
January 13th, 2006  
Italian Guy
Oh no, it totally is on-topic. Thanks.
January 15th, 2006  
'Long after everyone else has given it up, Thomas Joscelyn and The Weekly Standard continue to hold a cadaver's grip on the notion that there was a serious relationship between Saddam Hussein's regime and al Qaeda. So let's review the bidding: Michael Scheuer has written that he changed his mind on the issue and concluded that there was no such relationship. Richard Clarke, whom Joscelyn cites as an advocate of the belief in an Iraqi-jihadist alliance, clearly also revised his views after 1998-1999, perhaps in part because of the intelligence review his staff conducted. The 9/11 Commission, the most authoritative source on the issue, came to the conclusion that there was no collaborative relationship between Baghdad and al Qaeda.

The Bush administration has given up making this argument in the face of an overwhelming amount of analysis, and the obvious failure to find any incriminating material during the exploitation of the Iraqi intelligence service files. (Indeed, the source that they relied on for many of their allegations, Ibn al Shaykh al Libi, was believed to be a fabricator by the Defense Intelligence Agency even before top administration officials began citing him.) In my new book The Next Attack: The Failure of the War on Terror and a Strategy for Getting it Right, written with Steven Simon, we cite former senior military officers and senior intelligence officials in the Pentagon and the CIA who could find no evidence of serious cooperation. To quote the headline of Stephen Hayes's original article that presented the "intelligence" on the bin Laden-Saddam relationship: "Case Closed."

On the specific issue of Iraqi involvement in the al Shifa plant, which bin Laden had invested in and which Joscelyn cites as evidence of my tortuous logic, there are three points to be made: First, I have acknowledged repeatedly that this is the closest the two parties came, and I practically invited administration supporters to take this on board in the sidebar to my original Slate article about Hayes's piece about the "Feith Annex." Second, Joscelyn seems to find it inconceivable that the Iraqis would not know about the bin Laden investment in the al Shifa plant if the United States did. Well, Joscelyn does not know much about the incompetents

who worked for Saddam's intelligence service. Third, even if the Iraqis did know about al Qaeda's involvement, it is likely that they expected the Sudanese to keep bin Laden under control and away from the chemical weapons much as they had kept him away from nuclear materials earlier in the decade. As you may recall, bin Laden was swindled by a former Sudanese government minister who sold him radioactive junk, portraying it as fissile material that the Saudi believed would be the core of a nuclear weapon. The government of Hassan al-Turabi milked bin Laden at every opportunity.

At this point, the only possible explanations for refusing to give up the idea of a bin Laden-Saddam alliance are dogmatism and embarrassment.

--Daniel Benjamin
wasn't room for everything... check below
January 15th, 2006  
'CASE CLOSED blared the headline in a Weekly Standard cover story last Saturday that purported to have unearthed the U.S. government’s “secret evidence of cooperation” between Saddam and bin Laden. Fred Barnes, the magazine’s executive editor, touted the magazine’s scoop the next day in a roundtable chat on “Fox News Sunday.” (Both the Standard and Fox News Channel are owned by the conservative media baron Rupert Murdoch.) “These are hard facts, and I’d like to see you refute any one of them,” he told a skeptical Juan Williams of National Public Radio.

In fact, the tangled tale of the memo suggests that the case of whether there has been Iraqi-Al Qaeda complicity is far from closed. The Oct. 27, 2003, memo, prepared by Deputy Secretary of Defense Douglas Feith’s office, was written in response to detailed questions from the Senate Intelligence Committee about the basis for intelligence pushed by Feith and other senior Pentagon officials during the run-up to the Iraq war.

With a few, inconclusive exceptions, the memo doesn’t actually contain much “new” intelligence at all. Instead, it mostly recycles shards of old, raw data that were first assembled last year by a tiny team of floating Pentagon analysts (led by a Pennsylvania State University professor and U.S. Navy analyst Christopher Carney) whom Feith asked to find evidence of an Iraqi-Al Qaeda “connection” in order to better justify a U.S. invasion.

Within the U.S. intelligence establishment, the predominant view—then as now—is that the Feith-Carney case was murky at best. Culling through intelligence files, the Feith team indeed found multiple “reports” of alleged meetings between Iraqi officials and Al Qaeda operatives dating back to the early 1990s when Osama first set up shop in Sudan. But many of these reports were old, uncorroborated and came from sources of unknown if not dubious credibility, U.S. intelligence officials say. (Not unlike, as it has turned out, much of the “reporting” on Iraq’s ever-elusive weapons of mass destruction.) Moreover, other reports—some of which came foreign intelligence services and Iraqi defectors—were selectively presented by the Feith team and are, as one U.S. official told NEWSWEEK, “contradicted by other things.”

Consider one of the seemingly more compelling reports cited in the memo: that Farouk Hijazi, the former chief of Iraqi intelligence and then ambassador to Turkey, flew to Afghanistan in late 1998 to meet with bin Laden. As Stephen Hayes, author of The Weekly Standard piece dutifully notes, accounts of this purported Saddam overture to Osama made its way into the mainstream press at the time—including NEWSWEEK. A Feb. 6, 1999, story in the British newspaper The Guardian contended the purpose of Hijazi’s visit was to offer a presumably besieged bin Laden asylum in Iraq.

But, as Vince Cannistraro, a former CIA counterterrorism official, says, the Feith-Carney memo omits the rest of the story: that bin Laden actually rejected the Hijazi overture, concluding he did not want to be “exploited” by a regime that he has consistently viewed as “secular” and fundamentally antithetical to his vision of a strict Islamic state.

There is, moreover, compelling reason to believe bin Laden clung to this view as late as this year when Bush administration officials were making no secret of their plans to invade Iraq and topple Saddam. In a Feb. 11, 2003, audiotape released by Al-Jazeera, a voice believed to be bin Laden called on Arabs to rise up and strike at the U.S. invaders—a declaration that contributed to a Bush administration decision to ratchet up the country’s threat level at the time. But, less well publicized, bin Laden emphasized in the same tape his interest was in defending the Iraqi people, not an “infidel” like Saddam.

The socialists and their rulers [had] lost their legitimacy a long time ago and the socialists are infidels regardless of where they are, whether in Baghdad or in Aden,” the bin Laden tape proclaimed. (The CIA later concluded the voice on the tape was “almost certainly” Osama.) Overlooked in The Weekly Standard hype, the Pentagon memo itself concedes that much of the more recent reporting about Iraqi-Al Qaeda ties is “conflicting.” It quotes one Iraq intelligence officer in U.S. custody, Khalil Ibrahim Abdallah, as saying that “the last contact” between Iraqi intelligence and Al Qaeda was in July 1999 and that it was actually Saddam, not bin Laden, who cut off the contacts. While Hayes’s story insists “the bulk of the reporting ... contradicts this claim,” the actual examples cited in the memo to buttress this point are less than persuasive.

The memo invokes the by-now hoary claim—first reported by Czech intelligence-that Mohammed Atta met with an Iraqi intelligence agent in Prague in April 2001. But it concedes that the FBI and CIA “cannot confirm” that such a meeting actually took place. In fact, the Iraqi agent in question, Ahmed Khalil Ibrahim Samir al-Ani, has been in U.S. custody for months and, according to U.S. intelligence sources, denies ever meeting Atta—a denial that officials tend to believe given that they have not unearthed a scintilla of evidence that Atta was even in Prague at the time of the alleged rendezvous.

The memo also cites the claims of one senior Al Qaeda operative in U.S. custody, Ibn Al-Shaykh al-Libi, who reported to his interrogators that he was “told by an Al Qaeda associate” (who is unidentified) that two Al Qaeda operatives were sent to Iraq in December 2000 for training in the use of chemical and biological weapons. (Both national-security adviser Condoleezza Rice and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld later relied on al-Libi’s claims to make the same allegation.) But U.S. intelligence officials note that al-Libi’s claims are hearsay (he professed no firsthand knowledge) and that his credibility, like that of many captured Al Qaeda detainees, is sometimes spotty.

In any event, the Pentagon memo pointedly omits any reference to the interrogations of a host of other high-level Al Qaeda and Iraqi detainees—including such notables as Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, Ramzi bin al-Shibh, Abu Zubaydah, and Hijazi himself. All of them have reportedly dismissed the idea that Al Qaeda and Saddam had any working relationship. Can there be any doubt that if any of these captives had confirmed such a relationship that Bush administration officials would have found a way to get the word out?

None of this means, of course, that all accounts of Iraqi-Al Qaeda connections should be completely dismissed. The memo, for example, makes brief reference to the intriguing case of Ahmad Hikmat Shakir, a Malaysia-based Iraqi national who, purportedly through the aid of an Iraq embassy employee, landed a job at the Kuala Lumpur airport and then served as greeter and driver for two of the September 11 hijackers, Khalid Almihdhar and Nawaf Alhazmi. The two men flew to the city for a crucial Al Qaeda planning session in January 2000. FBI documents obtained by NEWSWEEK more than a year ago show that U.S. law enforcement had a great deal of interest in interrogating Shakir in the months following September 11. After being picked up, first by Qatari intelligence and later by Jordanians, he was twice released—without the FBI ever getting a crack at him. He then flew off to Iraq, where he has never been seen since. U.S. military and intelligence officials are still looking for him to this day, sources say, and for good reason.

But all this is a far cry from solid evidence of ongoing cooperation between Saddam and Osama. The outing of the memo (a still classified document, as it happens) is likely now to become the subject of yet another Justice Department leak investigation. The CIA is expected to begin preparing a “crimes report” identifying the potential damage to national security (most likely pretty minimal). But there can be little doubt about the motive of the leaker: to shore up the Bush administration’s prewar claims and defuse the intelligence committee investigation into allegations of the misuse of intelligence. Unfortunately, for the Pentagon and the Standard, the claims detailed in the memo will do little, if anything, to advance the case
© 2006 Newsweek, Inc.
there u go... from Kurusch on army.com
January 16th, 2006  
Italian Guy
Interesting, thank you Morten.
I noticed the WSJ published this news too:

Saddam's Documents
What they tell us could save American lives today.

Friday, January 13, 2006 12:01 a.m. EST

It is almost an article of religious faith among opponents of the Iraq War that Iraq became a terrorist destination only after the U.S. toppled Saddam Hussein. But what if that's false, and documents from Saddam's own regime show that his government trained thousands of Islamic terrorists at camps inside Iraq before the war?
Sounds like news to us, and that's exactly what is reported this week by Stephen Hayes in The Weekly Standard magazine. Yet the rest of the press has ignored the story, and for that matter the Bush Administration has also been dumb. The explanation for the latter may be that Mr. Hayes also scores the Administration for failing to do more to translate and analyze the trove of documents it's collected from the Saddam era.

Mr. Hayes reports that, from 1999 through 2002, "elite Iraqi military units" trained roughly 8,000 terrorists at three different camps--in Samarra and Ramadi in the Sunni Triangle, as well as at Salman Pak, where American forces in 2003 found the fuselage of an aircraft that might have been used for training. Many of the trainees were drawn from North African terror groups with close ties to al Qaeda, including Algeria's GSPC and the Sudanese Islamic Army. Mr. Hayes writes that he had no fewer than 11 corroborating sources, and yesterday he told us he'd added several more since publication.

All of this is of more than historical interest, since Americans are still dying in Iraq at the hands of an enemy it behooves us to understand. If Saddam did train terrorists in Iraq before the war, then many of them must still be fighting there and the current "insurgency" can hardly be called a popular uprising rooted in Sunni nationalism. Instead, it is a revanchist operation led by Saddam's apparat and those they trained to use terror to achieve their political goals.
This means in turn that much of the Sunni population might be willing to participate in Free Iraq's politics but is intimidated from doing so by these Saddamists. The recent spurt of suicide bombings, aimed at Iraqi civilians and police trainees, looks like an attempt to revive such intimidation after the successful election. These Saddamists can't be coaxed into surrender by political blandishments because their goal isn't to share power but is to dominate Iraq once again. Or if they do play in the political process, it will only be in the Sinn Fein sense of doing so as cover for their real terror strategy.
In any case, it is passing strange that the Bush Administration has been so uninterested in translating, and assessing, the information in the two million documents, audio and videotapes and computer hard drives it has collected in Iraq. Mr. Hayes reports that only 50,000 of these "exploitable items" have been examined so far, and those by a skeleton crew with few resources. Does anyone think, had there been a Nazi insurgency after Hitler fell, that the U.S. wouldn't have scoured everything found in Berlin? Why the dereliction this time?
A benign explanation is that the first Bush priority was searching Saddam's files for WMD, not terror ties. But the WMD work has been done since the Duelfer report was substantially wrapped up well over a year ago. The current threat to U.S. soldiers in Iraq is from terror attacks, not WMD. Anything the U.S. can discover about whether and how Saddam and his coterie planned a guerrilla war before the invasion could be invaluable in defeating this enemy.
In his new memoir about his year in Iraq, L. Paul Bremer reports that in July of 2003 he was told about a captured document from Saddam's intelligence service (dated January 2003) outlining a "strategy of organized resistance" if the regime fell. About the same time, pamphlets began circulating in Baghdad describing the "Party of Return," with vows to kill Iraqis who worked with the Coalition. We also know that documents discovered with Saddam in his rabbit hole in late 2003 included a claim that the insurgents would know they had won when a U.S. Presidential candidate called for withdrawing American troops from Iraq. These are signs of a disciplined political party, not some broad Algerian-like nationalism.

A less benign explanation for the Bush Administration's lethargy is that its officials don't want to challenge the prewar CIA orthodoxy that the "secular" Saddam would never cavort with "religious" al Qaeda. They've seen what happened to others--"Scooter" Libby, Douglas Feith, John Bolton--who dared to question CIA analyses. Mr. Hayes reports that the Pentagon intelligence chief, Stephen Cambone, has been a particular obstacle to energetic document inspection.

But if we've learned nothing else about U.S. intelligence in the last four years, it is that its "consensus" views are often wrong. The 9/11 Commission has confirmed extensive communication between Saddam's regime and al Qaeda over the years, including sanctuary for the current insurgent leader in Iraq, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. We have also learned that in the years leading up to his ouster Saddam had implemented a "faith campaign" to use fundamentalist Islam as a tool of internal control. Especially if U.S. troops are going to remain to help the new Iraq government defeat the terrorists, we should want to know everything we can about them. And the American people should know too. For three years now, opponents of the war in Congress and the bureaucracy have cherry-picked intelligence details and leaked them to influence public opinion. The Bush Administration until recently has been remarkably reluctant to fight back. Telling truths about Saddam that are revealed by his own documents is part of that fight.