Iraq, 9/11 Still Linked By Cheney
By Dana Priest and Glenn Kessler
Washington Post Staff Writers
Monday, September 29, 2003; Page A01
In making the case for war against Iraq, Vice President Cheney has continued to suggest that an Iraqi intelligence agent met with a Sept. 11, 2001, hijacker five months before the attacks, even as the story was falling apart under scrutiny by the FBI, CIA and the foreign government that first made the allegation.
The alleged meeting in Prague between hijacker Mohamed Atta and Iraqi Ahmed Khalil Ibrahim Samir al-Ani was the single thread the administration has pointed to that might tie Iraq to the attacks. But as the Czech government distanced itself from its initial assertion and American investigators determined Atta was probably in the United States at the time of the meeting, other administration officials dropped the incident from their public statements about Iraq.
Not Cheney, who was the administration's most vociferous advocate for going to war with Iraq. He brought up the connection between Atta and al-Ani again two weeks ago in an appearance on NBC's "Meet the Press" in which he also suggested links between Iraq and the Sept. 11 attacks.
heney's staff also waged a campaign to include the allegation in Secretary of State Colin L. Powell's speech to the United Nations in February in which he made the administration's case for war against Iraq. Cheney's chief of staff, I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, pressed Powell's speechwriters to include the Atta claim and other suspected links between Iraq and terrorism, according to senior and mid-level administration officials involved in crafting the speech.
When State Department and CIA officials complained about Libby's proposed language and suggested cutting large sections, Cheney's associates fought back. "Every piece offered . . . they fought tooth and nail to keep it in," said one official involved in putting together the speech.
Cheney's office declined to comment. Mary Matalin, a former senior aide to Cheney who still provides the vice president with advice, said Cheney's job is to focus on "the big picture." His appearance on "Meet the Press" on Sept. 14, she said, was intended to "remind people that Iraq is part of a bigger war that will require patience and sacrifice."
Cheney does not fully vet his speeches or public statements with the CIA or the wider intelligence community for accuracy, according to several administration officials, but usually gives the CIA a list of possible points or facts that might be used in a speech or appearance.
Matalin said Cheney "doesn't base his opinion on one piece of data," but has access to information that cannot be declassified because it would harm national security or compromise sources. "His job is to connect the dots in a way to prevent the worst possible case from happening," she said, but in public "he has to tiptoe through landmines of what's sayable and not sayable."-/
Wow. He still keeps at it. What is he, crazy?
posted by Steve @ 1:05:00 AM