Dick Cheney- Corporate Criminal

U.S. INTELLIGENCE ON IRAQ: He just won't let it goBy
Of the Post-Dispatch
Post-Dispatch columnist Eric Mink

Vice President Dick Cheney's claims that Saddam Hussein and al-Qaida worked together are getting bizarre.
Late last week, yet another august body - this time the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence - issued yet another massive report again confirming that the U.S. intelligence establishment got just about everything wrong when it came to Saddam Hussein's nonexistent biological, chemical and nuclear weapons.
But buried deep in the Senate report - little noticed and even less remarked upon - is something important that the committee credits the intelligence community for getting right. And it puts the torch to whatever flimsy tissue of credibility the Bush administration had left:
With respect to contacts between Iraq and al-Qaida during the 1990s, the committee found that the CIA "reasonably assessed . . . that these contacts did not add up to an established formal relationship." With respect to al-Qaida attacks against the United States, the committee found that the CIA came to a reasonable and objective conclusion that "to date there was no evidence proving Iraqi complicity or assistance."
And with respect to who knew what when, the committee determined that the above CIA judgments "were widely disseminated, though an early version of a key CIA assessment was disseminated only to a limited list of cabinet members and some subcabinet officials in the Administration," the report said.
In other words, Bush and his top officials knew very early on - earlier than Congress and the public - that there was very little justification for claims of any meaningful relationship between Iraq and al-Qaida.
They made the claims anyway - too many times to count - and they've continued to make them.
Indeed last month, the Bush administration unleashed its principal attack dog, Vice President Dick Cheney, when new staff reports for the independent 9/11 commission said essentially the same thing the intelligence committee said last week. The commission report said that contacts between Iraq and al-Qaida during the 1990s "do not appear to have resulted in a collaborative relationship." And it said there was "no credible evidence that Iraq and al-Qaida cooperated on attacks against the United States."
Cheney launched an offensive against the report, couching it as dissatisfaction with what he called "outrageous" press coverage that sowed confusion.
But it was Cheney who spread misinformation in his key interview at the time, a June 17 exchange with correspondent Gloria Borger on CNBC's "Capital Report": Borger asked Cheney about the claim - debunked by the commission report - that 9/11 hijacker Mohamed Atta met with an Iraqi intelligence official in Prague in April 2001. "You have said in the past," Borger pointed out, "that it was 'pretty well confirmed.' " "No, I never said that," Cheney snapped back. "I never said that. Absolutely not." Yes, he did. On Dec. 9, 2001, Cheney appeared on NBC's "Meet the Press" and told host Tim Russert, "It's been pretty well confirmed that he (Atta) did go to Prague and he did meet with a senior official of the Iraqi intelligence service." Borger pursued the issue of the Prague meeting. "This report says it didn't happen," she said to Cheney. "No," Cheney replied. "This report says they haven't found any evidence."
Borger was right. "Staff Statement No. 16," released June 16, says that after examining all available evidence, "we do not believe that such a meeting occurred." Cheney also insisted that the commission's staff report discussed Iraq and al-Qaida only in the context of the 2001 attacks on New York and Washington and "did not address the broader question of a relationship between Iraq and al-Qaida in other areas, in other ways."
Cheney was wrong. "Staff Statement No. 15," also released June 16, is a detailed review of the history of al-Qaida, including its relationships with various countries - separate and distinct from the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. It found evidence that al-Qaida had definite relationships over time with Sudan and Afghanistan but not with Saddam's Iraq.
Cheney then reversed himself: He acknowledged that the report concluded there was no broad relationship between Iraq and al-Qaida but said he disagreed with that judgment. "Do you know some things that the commission does not know?" Borger asked. "Probably," Cheney replied.
The next day, the chairman and vice chairman of the commission - Republican Tom Kean and Democrat Lee Hamilton, respectively - asked that Cheney provide the commission with that additional information. He provided nothing.
After waiting nearly three weeks, Kean and Hamilton issued a restrained put-down: "The 9/11 commission believes," said a one-sentence statement dated July 6, "it has access to the same information the vice president has seen regarding contacts between al-Qaida and Iraq prior to the 9/11 attacks."
Over the past two and a half years, no one in the Bush administration has been more strident than Cheney in citing a meaningful relationship between al-Qaida and Saddam's Iraq as a justification for going to war, particularly as the WMD rationale evaporated.
The limited-in-scope Senate Intelligence Committee report - on top of last month's 9/11 commission staff reports - now renders those claims meaningless. Given the intelligence committee's additional finding that the administration has long known that the assertions were flimsy at best, it's impossible to say whether Cheney and the administration have continued to proclaim them out of desperation, deception or self-delusion. But there's certainly no longer any reason to pay attention to them.

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