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Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Paper Chase

Stephen F. Hayes of the Weekly Standard filed a request from the Defense Intelligence Agency for numerous (mostly unclassified) documents whose titles suggest evidence of a relationship between Saddam Hussein and Osama bib Laden -and he's getting the runaround. One of the documents in question had already been released to the press once before:

One of the documents, "Iraqi Efforts to Cooperate with Saudi Opposition Groups and Individuals," had been provided to the New York Times last summer. Thom Shanker, one of the Times's best reporters, wrote a story based on the document, which was an internal Iraqi Intelligence memo. The Iraqi document revealed that a Sudanese government official met with Uday Hussein and the director of the Iraqi Intelligence Service in 1994 and reported that bin Laden was willing to meet in Sudan. Bin Laden, according to the Iraqi document, was then "approached by our side" after "presidential approval" for the liaison was given. The former head of Iraqi Intelligence Directorate 4 met with bin Laden on February 19, 1995. The document further states that bin Laden "had some reservations about being labeled an Iraqi operative"--a comment that suggests the possibility had been discussed. (According to another Iraqi Intelligence document, authenticated by the DIA and first reported on 60 Minutes, the regime considered bin Laden an "Iraqi Intelligence asset" as early as 1992, though it's unclear that bin Laden shared this view.)

According to a report in the Times, bin Laden requested that Iraq's state-run television network broadcast anti-Saudi propaganda; the document indicates that the Iraqis agreed to do this. The al Qaeda leader also proposed "joint operations against foreign forces" in Saudi Arabia. There is no Iraqi response provided in the documents. When bin Laden left Sudan for Afghanistan in May 1996, the Iraqis sought "other channels through which to handle the relationship, in light of his current location." The IIS memo directs that "cooperation between the two organizations should be allowed to develop freely through discussion and agreement."

Memo to the DIA: what part of "unclassified" don't you understand?

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