Pentagon report debunks prewar Iraq-Al Qaeda connection
Declassified document cites lack of 'evidence of a long-term relationship,' although No. 3 Defense staffer called contact 'mature and symbiotic.'
A declassified report by the Pentagon's acting Inspector General Thomas F. Gimble provides new insight into the circumstances behind former Pentagon official Douglas Feith's pre-Iraq war assessment of an Iraq-Al Qaeda connection — an assessment that was contrary to US intelligence agency findings, and helped bolster the Bush administration's case for the Iraq war.Skip to next paragraph
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The report, which was made public in summary form in February, was released in full on Thursday by Sen. Carl Levin, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee. In a statement accompanying the 121-page report, Senator Levin said: "It is important for the public to see why the Pentagon's Inspector General concluded that Secretary Feith's office 'developed, produced and then disseminated alternative intelligence assessments on the Iraq and al-Qaeda relationship,' which included 'conclusions that were inconsistent with the consensus of the Intelligence Community.' "
The Feith office alternative intelligence assessments concluded that Iraq and al Qaeda were cooperating and had a "mature, symbiotic" relationship, a view that was not supported by the available intelligence, and was contrary to the consensus view of the Intelligence Community. These alternative assessments were used by the Administration to support its public arguments in its case for war. As the DOD IG report confirms, the Intelligence Community never found an operational relationship between Iraq and al-Qaeda; the report specifically states that," the CIA and DIA disavowed any 'mature, symbiotic' relationship between Iraq and al-Qaida."
The Los Angeles Times reports that in excerpts of the report released in February, Mr. Gimble called Feith's alternative intelligence "improper," but that it wasn't illegal or unauthorized because then-Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz assigned the work. The Times also reports that a prewar memo from Mr. Wolfowitz to Feith requesting that an Al Qaeda-Iraq connection be identified was among the newly released documents.
"We don't seem to be making much progress pulling together intelligence on links between Iraq and Al Qaeda," Wolfowitz wrote in the Jan. 22, 2002, memo to Douglas J. Feith, the department's No. 3 official.
Using Pentagon jargon for the secretary of Defense, Donald H. Rumsfeld, he added: "We owe SecDef some analysis of this subject. Please give me a recommendation on how best to proceed. Appreciate the short turn-around."
The Times reports that the memo "marked the beginnings of what would become a controversial yearlong Pentagon project" to convince White House officials of a link between Iraq and Al Qaeda, a connection "that was hotly disputed by U.S. intelligence agencies at the time and has been discredited in the years since."