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August 05, 2008
George Tenet And White House Admit Iraq's Intelligence Chief Told Them Iraq Had No WMD
NPR asked George Tenet and the White House for comment, and, remarkably enough, they both essentially admitted this was true.
SUSKIND: What we now know from this investigation is that a secret mission was conducted in which a British manager, intelligence agent, met with the head of Iraqi intelligence in a secret location in Amman, Jordan. And what the Iraqi intelligence chief told the British—and essentially the Americans, because we're all in this together—is that there were no WMD in Iraq. And what that meant is that we knew everything that became so obvious by the summer after the invasion. And the president made a decision essentially to ignore that intelligence...
NPR: We have called key players in Ron Suskind's account...George Tenet says the Iraqi failed to persuade, and a White House spokesman adds that any information the Iraqi may have provided was, quote, "immaterial."
Further corroboration appears in a November, 2003 New York Times story by James Risen. Risen's article is about last-minute attempts by Iraq to avert war, using a Lebanese-American intermediary named Imad Hage who knew Richard Perle:
A week [after February, 2003 meetings in Beirut with the Iraqi Intelligence Service's chief of foreign operations], Mr. Hage said, he agreed to hold further meetings in Baghdad. When he arrived, he was driven to a large, well-guarded compound, where he was met by a gray-haired man in a military uniform. It was Tahir Jalil Habbush, the director of the Iraqi Intelligence Service, who is No. 16 on the United States list of most wanted Iraqi leaders. Mr. Hage said Mr. Habbush asked him if it was true that he knew Mr. Perle. "Have you met him?"
Mr. Hage said Mr. Habbush began to vent his frustration over what the Americans really wanted. He said that to demonstrate the Iraqis' willingness to help fight terrorism, Mr. Habbush offered to hand over Abdul Rahman Yasin, who has been indicted in United States in connection with the 1993 World Trade Center bombing. Mr. Yasin fled to Iraq after the bombing, and the United States put up a $25 million reward for his capture.
Mr. Hage said Mr. Habbush offered to turn him over to Mr. Hage, but Mr. Hage said he would pass on the message that Mr. Yasin was available.
Mr. Hage said Mr. Habbush also insisted that Iraq had no weapons of mass destruction and added, "Let your friends send in people and we will open everything to them."
Mr. Hage said he asked Mr. Habbush, "Why don't you tell this to the Bush administration?" He said Mr. Habbush replied cryptically, "We have talks with people."
Mr. Hage said he later learned that one contact was in Rome between the C.I.A. and representatives of the Iraqi intelligence service. American officials confirm that the meeting took place, but say that the Iraqi representative was not a current intelligence official and that the meeting was not productive.
In addition, there was an attempt to set up a meeting in Morocco between Mr. Habbush and United States officials, but it never took place, according to American officials.
This can be added onto the pile:
• The CIA sent thirty relatives of Iraqi scientists to Iraq to ask them what WMD Iraq had, and they uniformly reported it had nothing.
• Iraq's foreign minister Nouri Sabri secretly told the US in 2002 that Iraq had no active WMD programs.
• Alan Foley, the head of the CIA's Weapons Intelligence Non-Proliferation and Arms Control Center, told an acquaintance just before the war that he expected we would find "Not much, if anything."
UPDATE: The White House actually refers to the Risen reporting in its statement on Suskind's book:
This is a rehash of very old reporting -- reports of this particular contact were reported on extensively in 2003.
—Jonathan SchwarzPosted at August 5, 2008 11:22 AM