Buried deep in the new Senate intel report is evidence that yet another pre-war Bush administration claim about Iraq had been discredited within the intelligence community, months before the president used the claim publicly as an argument for war.
In October 2002, a few weeks before Congress voted to authorize the Iraq invasion, Bush told a crowd in Cincinnati: "We've learned that Iraq has trained al Qaeda members in bomb-making and poisons and deadly gasses."
Problem is, it wasn't true. More importantly, a lot of people at the CIA and the Defense Intelligence Agency knew it probably wasn't true. That's one of the interesting revelations inside the Senate's recent 171-page Phase II report
on whether White House statements were backed up by prewar intelligence.
Once again, it's important to make the distinction between good-faith flaws in prewar intelligence and evidence that the public was misled by a bogus case for war. (A lot of people have tried hard to make that a very hazy distinction in recent years)
noted, the Senate report reveals that: "The intelligence reports on chemical and biological weapons training came primarily from the interrogation of al Qaeda detainee Ibn al-Shaykh al-Libi."
But al-Libi had been widely discredited months before the president made that remark -- by both the CIA as well as the Defense Intelligence Agency.
From page 65 and 66 of Senate report
A February 22, 2002 DIA Defense Intelligence Terrorism Summary noted that Ibn al-Shaykh [al-Libi] "lacks specific details on the Iraq's involvement, the [Chemical Biological Radiological and Nuclear Weapons] materials associated with the assistance and the location where the training occurred. It is possible he does not know any further details; it is more likely this individual is intentionally misleading the debriefers. Ibn al-Shaykh has been undergoing debriefs for several weeks and may be describing scenarios to debriefers that he knows will retain their interest. 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.
DIA reiterated some of these points in additional reports. On August 7, 2002, the CIA reported on al-Libi's credibility. The Summary of the report stated that questions persist about [al-Libi's] forthrightness and truthfulness" and later elaborating "in some instances, however, he seems to have fabricated information. Perhaps in an attempt to exaggerate his own importance, Ibn al-Shaykh claims to be a member of al-AQa'ida's Shura Council, a claim not corroborated by other intelligence reporting.
Intel officials long ago stopped trying to defend al-Libi as a source. He recanted in January 2004, leading the CIA to order all prior intelligence suggesting Iraq trained al Qaeda personnel in chemical and biological warfare "recalled and re-issued
" in February 2004.
But the fact the intelligence community knew al-Libi was unreliable from early to mid-2002 casts many official statements in a new light. For example, al-Libi has been reported as a primary source
for Colin Powell's claim that al-Qaeda received chemical or biological weapons training from Iraq when he addressed the United Nations in early 2003. Powell did not use his name, but referred
to al-Libi as a "senior Al Qaeda terrorist" who ran a training camp in Afghanistan.
(U.S. forces captured al-Libi in Afghanistan in 2001 and flew him to Egypt, where he provided the false Iraq-al-Qaeda link while undergoing harsh interrogation
Also, we know that Bush's speech was vetted because that was the same speech on Oct. 7, 2002, that CIA director George Tenet personally called the president
about and urged him not to make mention of Iraq's alleged effort to obtain uranium from Niger
because intelligence sources did not support that claim.