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Report: Hussein rejected al-Qaida

A Senate committee finds that, contrary to what President Bush has said, Saddam Hussein repulsed overtures from al-Qaida

By TIMES WIRES
Published September 9, 2006


WASHINGTON - A Senate Intelligence Committee report says there is no evidence that former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein had prewar ties to al-Qaida, and says Hussein told U.S. officials he never cooperated with Osama bin Laden, the terror group's leader.

The 356-page report, sure to intensify the debate over terrorism and the Iraq war, contains dozens of pages of findings about the former Iraqi dictator and the terrorists who plotted and carried out the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. The findings, released Friday, indicate that Hussein's government rejected overtures from al-Qaida - a conclusion that contradicts statements President Bush has made regarding the war in Iraq.

The report is based largely on documents recovered from Iraqi facilities in the aftermath of the U.S. invasion in March 2003, as well as interrogations of Hussein and other Iraqi officials captured by coalition forces.

"Postwar findings indicate that Saddam Hussein was distrustful of al-Qaida and viewed Islamic extremists as a threat to his regime, refusing all requests from al-Qaida to provide material or operational support," states the report of the committee, which is chaired by Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kansas.

The committee's report also faults intelligence-gathering in the lead-up to the 2003 invasion.

The report discloses that a CIA assessment before the war indicated that Hussein's government "did not have a relationship, harbor or turn a blind eye toward" al-Qaida operative Abu Musab al-Zarqawi or his associates.

Bush and his top aides have said Zarqawi's presence in Iraq before the war points to a connection between al-Qaida and Hussein. As recently as Aug. 21, Bush said people should "imagine a world in which you had Saddam Hussein" with the capacity to make weapons of mass destruction and "who had relations with Zarqawi."

Democrats said the report shows that the administration continues to use faulty intelligence to justify the war in Iraq.

"The administration's repeated allegations of a past, present and future relationship between al-Qaida and Iraq exploited the deep sense of insecurity among Americans in the immediate aftermath of the Sept. 11 attacks," said the committee's ranking Democrat, John Rockefeller of West Virginia.

Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., a member of the committee, said, "The report is a devastating indictment of the Bush-Cheney administration's unrelenting, misleading and deceptive attempts to convince the American people that Saddam Hussein was linked with al-Qaida."

Republicans countered that the report compared prewar intelligence with post-invasion findings on Iraq's weapons and on terrorist groups, and that it broke little ground. They also accused Democrats of distorting the report's findings for political purposes.

Sen. Kit Bond, R-Mo., a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, said a previous report by the same committee had already made clear that U.S. intelligence agencies were guilty of "massive failures" before the war. "To make a giant leap in logic to claim that the Bush administration intentionally misled the nation or manipulated intelligence is simply not warranted," Bond said.

Roberts, the committee chairman, said in a statement that Democrats' criticism was "a misuse of the Intelligence Committee by careful cherry-picking through the intelligence and the facts in a political attempt to rewrite history."

A second part of the Senate committee's report concluded that false information from the Iraqi National Congress, an anti-Hussein group led by then-exile Ahmed Chalabi, was used to support key U.S. intelligence assessments on Iraq.

It said that U.S. intelligence agents put out numerous red flags about the reliability of INC sources but that the intelligence community made a "serious error" and used a source who concocted a story that Iraq was building mobile biological weapons laboratories.

Information from the Associated Press, New York Times, Los Angeles Times and Cox News Service was used in this report.

[Last modified September 9, 2006, 01:33:24]


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