Suskind: White House ordered fake letter linking Iraq to 9/11
Author: Only White House reaction is 'calling me names'
A blockbuster new book from investigative journalist Ron Suskind adds another revelation to the growing canon demonstrating the lengths to which President Bush and members of his administration lied, misled and deceived the American people to pursue its invasion of Iraq.
Bush allegedly ordered the CIA to forge a handwritten letter from the head of Iraq's intelligence service to Saddam Hussein that purported to link the Iraqi dictator to the ringleader of the hijackers who toppled the Twin Towers on 9/11, according to news accounts of Suskind's new book, The Way of the World: A Story of Truth and Hope in an Age of Extremism. Such use of an intelligence service to influence domestic political debate could be an impeachable offense, Suskind writes.
Politico's Mike Allen reports:
According to Suskind, the administration had been in contact with the director of the Iraqi intelligence service in the last years of Hussein’s regime, Tahir Jalil Habbush al-Tikriti.
“The White House had concocted a fake letter from Habbush to Saddam, backdated to July 1, 2001,” Suskind writes. “It said that 9/11 ringleader Mohammad Atta had actually trained for his mission in Iraq – thus showing, finally, that there was an operational link between Saddam and al Qaeda, something the Vice President’s Office had been pressing CIA to prove since 9/11 as a justification to invade Iraq. There is no link.” [...]
The author claims that such an operation, part of “false pretenses” for war, would apparently constitute illegal White House use of the CIA to influence a domestic audience, an arguably impeachable offense.
The faked letter was first reported as genuine by the conservative London Sunday Telegraph in December 2003. Right-wing commentators and Bush defenders harped on that disclosure as evidence of Saddam Hussein's involvement in the 9/11 attacks. According to Suskind's book, the CIA had been protecting Habbush in the early months of the invasion; the agency persuaded the Iraqi intelligence chief to write the letter in his own handwriting and paid him $5 million.
CBS White House correspondent Bill Plante reported Tuesday that Suskind's sources had seen a draft of the letter written on White House stationary.
Suskind outlined his findings further in a Huffington Post diary Tuesday:
The Iraq Intelligence Chief, Tahir Jalil Habbush -- a man still carrying with $1 million reward for capture, the Jack of Diamonds in Bush's famous deck of wanted men -- has been America's secret source on Iraq. Starting in January of 2003, with Blair and Bush watching, his secret reports began to flow to officials on both sides of the Atlantic, saying that there were no WMD and that Hussein was acting so odd because of fear that the Iranians would find out he was a toothless tiger). The U.S. deep-sixed the intelligence report in February, "resettled" Habbush to a safe house in Jordan during the invasion and then paid him $5 million in what could only be considered hush money.
In the fall of 2003, after the world learned there were no WMD -- as Habbush had foretold -- the White House ordered the CIA to carry out a deception. The mission: create a handwritten letter, dated July, 2001, from Habbush to Saddam saying that Atta trained in Iraq before the attacks and the Saddam was buying yellow cake for Niger with help from a "small team from the al Qaeda organization."
The mission was carried out, the letter was created, popped up in Baghdad, and roiled the global newcycles in December, 2003 (conning even venerable journalists with Tom Brokaw). The mission is a statutory violation of the charter of CIA, and amendments added in 1991, prohibiting CIA from conduction disinformation campaigns on U.S. soil.
The Way of the World is Suskind's third book on the inner workings of the Bush administration, joining The One Percent Doctrine, which outlined the often extreme anti-terror policies advanced by the likes of Vice President Dick Cheney, and The Price of Loyalty, which painted a picture of the early day's of Bush's presidency with the help of ousted former Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill.
Predictably, the White House is unhappy with Suskind's latest offering and the Bush administration is relying on its trademark push-back of insulting the messenger. White House spokesman Tony Fratto insulted Suskind, who won a Pulitzer Prize for his work with the Wall Street Journal, as a practitioner of "gutter journalism," and called the allegations "absurd."
Such a reaction is merely aimed at downplaying the impact of Suskind's explosive revelations, the author says.
"So, here we go again: the administration full attack mode, calling me names, George Tenet is claiming he doesn't remember any such thing -- just like he couldn't remember "slam dunk" -- and reporters are scratching their heads," Suskind writes at Huffington Post. "Everything in the book is on the record. Many sources. And so, we watch and wait...."
Suskind appeared Tuesday on NBC's Today Show for interviews about the latest book.
This video is from NBC's Today Show, broadcast August 5, 2008.
This video is from CBS' Early Show, broadcast August 5, 2008.