A week or two ago, Tom Tomorrow blogged about Ron Suskind’s allegation that the CIA forged a letter supporting the spurious claim that 9/11 terrorist Attar met with Iraqi intelligence. This letter was leaked to a a British newspaper and later cited as evidence in American media (and alluded to by public officials). Apparently the letter forgery was ordered by Douglas Feith (in the Office of Special Plans in the Department of Defense). In his interview with Democracy Now, he says:
And at that point, interestingly, we have a relationship with this man, Habbush, who has been in on this high-risk mission, and we’ve agreed to resettle him. Alright, well, the fact is, we invade Baghdad, Baghdad falls, Habbush gets out to a safe house in Amman, Jordan, as according to plan.
And then, during that spring and summer of 2003, as it becomes clear to all the world what the White House was briefed earlier, that there are no weapons, of course, this Habbush character becomes, let’s just say, radioactive inside of the White House. What are we going to do with Habbush? And as one of the key CIA officials says—and, of course, the White House has denied none of this, and they certainly—you know, they can’t deny any of this—is that everyone was terrified that Habbush would pop up on the screen during that summer of Joe Wilson and Valerie Plame. At that point, we dotted the “I”s and crossed the “T”s on his deal and agreed to pay him $5 million.
AMY GOODMAN: Who agreed?
RON SUSKIND: The White House, the administration. It’s—the United States government pays him $5 million. At this point, even those inside of CIA say it can only be considered hush money, because we didn’t use him for anything. You know, the CIA was saying, “Look, he’s an expert on Iraq. Go talk to him.” But, of course, as the summer progressed, he’s the last person the White House wants to talk to.
But come fall of 2003, they come up with some way he might be useful, and that’s when the genesis of this letter clearly emerges. I have it dated around September, because people involved recall exactly where they were. And the White House orders the CIA to have a letter fabricated from Habbush to Saddam, as you said, backdated July 2001, which solves all of the White House’s political problems. As one person at the CIA said, it was a check-the-box for all of the White House’s yawning political nightmares at that period. At that point, of course, they’re being accused of going to war under false pretenses, an enormous historical charge.
The letter pops up just as planned. The mission is carried through, and everyone sees it, roiling the global news cycles. Tom Brokaw goes on and on on Meet the Press about it. William Safire writes about it in the New York Times. CNN—of course, O’Reilly flaunts it for four days straight.
That is illegal. It is illegal for the CIA to run disinformation campaigns on the United States. It is against CIA statutes and amendments. That’s why we have such a crisis right now—certainly the White House does—because this is the kind of illegality that, frankly, they’ve dodged up to now. At this point, the evidence is clear, and they can’t dodge it.
The radio interview contains a lot of incendiary rambling (including one of his research assistants being detained by federal officials), but his main charges are in his book. The Washington Post and other MSM sources are coming late to the party. Geez, the only way to get a reporter’s ears this day is to have a book to sell. Look at the weasel words in the CIA’s official response to his charge. (My remarks are in parenthesis)
If that were not enough, Suskind also alleges that the United States knew before the start of hostilities with Iraq that Saddam Hussein had no stockpiles of WMD. That, too, is both false and wrong. False because the Intelligence Community assessed (wrongly and falsely)that Saddam Hussein had such weapons. Wrong because it implies the Community chose to ignore information of which it was genuinely convinced (the question of choosing is irrelevant. CIA did ignore lots of information. That’s been well-documented). Nothing could be further from the truth. Nor did CIA pay or resettle Tahir Habbush, Saddam Hussein’s intelligence chief (This simple statement leaves open the possibility that another body may have accomplished this, such as Office of Special Plans) . That conclusion comes from a review of our files and checks with our officers. Indeed, our government considers Habbush to be a wanted man (irrelevant; just because parts of the government considers this does not disprove the thesis that CIA may have collaborated with him in some way).
What the CIA statement does not address:
- Was Mr. Habbush paid $5 million?
- Did CIA know at the time that the document was false, and did they attempt to correct the record publicly?
- What is the relationship between Office of Special Plans and CIA (i.e, was the CIA called upon to do their dirty work)?
- Suskind’s on-the-record CIA sources say they saw and heard about this request to produce forge documents. That is the smoking gun, not that the CIA actually did the job.
Phillip Giraldi, a conservative blogger/reporter adds:
The Suskind account states that two senior CIA officers Robert Richer and John Maguire supervised the preparation of the document under direct orders coming from Director George Tenet. Not so, says my source. Tenet is for once telling the truth when he states that he would not have undermined himself by preparing such a document while at the same time insisting publicly that there was no connection between Saddam and al-Qaeda. Richer and Maguire have both denied that they were involved with the forgery and it should also be noted that preparation of such a document to mislead the media is illegal and they could have wound up in jail.
My source also notes that Dick Cheney, who was behind the forgery, hated and mistrusted the Agency and would not have used it for such a sensitive assignment. Instead, he went to Doug Feith’s Office of Special Plans and asked them to do the job. The Pentagon has its own false documents center, primarily used to produce fake papers for Delta Force and other special ops officers traveling under cover as businessmen. It was Feith’s office that produced the letter and then surfaced it to the media in Iraq. Unlike the Agency, the Pentagon had no restrictions on it regarding the production of false information to mislead the public. Indeed, one might argue that Doug Feith’s office specialized in such activity.
The question seems to be not whether the US government performed this action, but which governing body did it. Stay tuned for more.