In Newsweek today there's another nice piece of debunkery by Hosenball and Isikoff. Today, the latest phony 'finding' about Mohamed Atta's ties to Saddam, first published by Con Coughlin in The Telegraph and then picked, with willful credulity, by a host of conservative columnists, including Bill Safire.
As Coughlin, providing no clear word on the provenance of the document, reported on Sunday ...
The first paragraph states that "Mohammed Atta, an Egyptian national, came with Abu Ammer (an Arabic nom de guerre - his real identity is unknown) and we hosted him in Abu Nidal's house at al-Dora under our direct supervision.
"We arranged a work program for him for three days with a team dedicated to working with him... .He displayed extraordinary effort and showed a firm commitment to lead the team which will be responsible for attacking the targets that we have agreed to destroy."
The next day Safire picked up the story in his column thusly ...
Example: Dr. Ayad Allawi, an Iraqi leader long considered reliable by intelligence agencies, told Britain's Daily Telegraph last week that a memo has been found from Saddam's secret police chief to the dictator dated July 1, 2001, reporting that the veteran terrorist Abu Nidal had been training one Mohamed Atta in Baghdad. Nobody disputes that a few months after Atta's 9/11 suicide mission, Nidal was permanently silenced by Saddam's police, the only "suicide" to be found with four bullets in his head.
(We will, hopefully, at a later point get to the small <$Ad$>kernel of dishonesty with his readers that Safire perpetrates in his description of Alawi. But that's for another day.)
Now, Hosenball and Isikoff, run down a series of pretty solid reasons why this 'document' is almost certainly bogus.
First, are intrinsic problems with the make-up of the document itself and the lack of any clear explanation of where it came from. Then there's the always handy detail that it's pretty clear Atta was in the US at the time, not Baghdad.
(In fairness, you probably have to cut the forger some slack since electricity is still spotty in Baghdad. And he probably couldn't get online to check his work with the Atta timeline.)
And then there's the real kicker, the one that should have tipped any sentient mammal to the fraudulent nature of the document, and the detail I think Safire intentionally left out because it would have made clear that he was peddling phony information.
Let's go back to Coughlin to hear the other scoop
in this handwritten note written by the former head of Iraqi intelligence...
The second item contains a report of how Iraqi intelligence, helped by "a small team from the Al Qaeda organization," arranged for an unspecified shipment from Niger to reach Baghdad by way of Libya and Syria.
Iraqi officials believe this is a reference to the controversial shipments of uranium ore Iraq acquired from Niger to aid Saddam in his efforts to develop an atom bomb, although there is no explicit reference in the document to this.
Wow, that's really quite a find, isn't it? And all in one document.
So let me see if I can summarize how this document read ...
Atta showed up for his terrorist training here in Baghdad last week. I think he'll help with the catastrophic attack we're planning. Also, the al Qaida dudes came through with the shipment from Niger we were waiting for. And, by the way, remember that Joe Wilson guy? What a moron!
That about covers it, doesn't it?
Take a few moments this morning and consider for yourself whether there's any way Safire really
could have been taken in by this new report about Atta, or whether he just used it for the sake of its convenience ...