FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
November 6, 2005
Contact: Press Office
Levin Says Newly Declassified Information Indicates Bush Administration's Use of Pre-War Intelligence Was Misleading
WASHINGTON -- Senator Carl Levin (D-MI) said today that newly declassified information indicates the Bush Administration's use of pre-war intelligence was misleading.
Specifically, newly declassified information from the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) from February 2002 shows that, at the same time the Administration was making its case for attacking Iraq, the DIA did not trust or believe the source of the Administration's repeated assertions that Iraq had provided al-Qaeda with chemical and biological weapons training. Additional newly declassified information from the DIA also undermines the Administration's broader claim that there were strong links between Saddam Hussein and al-Qaeda.
No Chemical and Biological Weapons Training
The Administration made repeated assertions that Iraq had provided al-Qaeda with chemical and biological weapons training. For example, President Bush said in a speech in Cincinnati on October 7, 2002, "We've learned that Iraq has trained al-Qaeda members in bomb-making and poisons and deadly gases." In February 2003, the President said, "Iraq has provided al-Qaeda with chemical and biological weapons training."
Those assertions were based on the claims of a detainee, Ibn al-Shaykh al-Libi, a long-time jihadist and senior military trainer for al-Qaeda in Afghanistan. However, as revealed by this newly declassified information, the DIA did not believe al-Libi's claims at the time the Administration was making its assertions. Specifically, the DIA concluded the following in February 2002, which has never previously been publicly disclosed:
"This is the first report from Ibn al-Shaykh in which he claims Iraq assisted al-Qaida's CBRN [Chemical, Biological, Radiological or Nuclear] efforts. However, he lacks specific details on the Iraqis involved, the CBRN materials associated with the assistance, and the location where training occurred. It is possible he does not know any further details; it is more likely this individual is intentionally misleading the debriefers (emphasis added). Ibn al-Shaykh has been undergoing debriefs for several weeks and may be describing scenarios to the debriefers that he knows will retain their interest."
"This newly declassified information provides additional, dramatic evidence that the Administration's pre-war statements were deceptive," Levin said. "The underlying DIA intelligence simply did not support the Administration's repeated assertions that Iraq had provided chemical and biological weapons training to al-Qaeda. More than a year before Secretary Powell included that charge in his presentation to the United Nations, the DIA had said it believed the detainee's claims were bogus. The Administration's use of this intelligence was disingenuous and misleading."
The CIA also had reservations about the source. The CIA's unclassified statement at the time was that the reporting was "credible," a statement the Administration used repeatedly. However, what was selectively omitted was the CIA's view at the time that the source was not in a position to know whether any training had taken place.
According to press reporting, al-Libi recanted his claims in January 2004.
The recent DIA declassification demonstrates a critical fact: at the very time the Administration was making these unqualified assertions, the DIA believed it was "more likely this individual is intentionally misleading the debriefers" and the CIA believed he was not in a position to know.
No Close Relationship between Saddam Hussein and al-Qaeda
The Administration's claim that Iraq had provided al-Qaeda with chemical and biological weapons training was part of its larger effort to assert a relationship between Saddam Hussein and al-Qaeda. For example, President Bush said on September 25, 2002, "You can't distinguish between al-Qaeda and Saddam when you talk about the war on terror."
The DIA, however, had concluded otherwise. The Administration omitted in its public statements the DIA's pre-war conclusion about the likelihood of links between Saddam Hussein and al-Qaeda. In February 2002, the DIA stated the following, which has remained classified until now:
"Saddam's regime is intensely secular and is wary of Islamic revolutionary movements. Moreover, Baghdad is unlikely to provide assistance to a group it cannot control."
"That DIA finding is stunningly different from repeated Administration claims of a close relationship between Saddam and al-Qaeda," Levin said. "Just imagine the impact if that DIA conclusion had been disclosed at the time. It surely could have made a difference in the congressional vote authorizing the war."