On December 14, 2003, London’s Sunday Telegraph ran a story about the discovery by Iraqis working under Paul Bremer’s Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) of a memo in two parts dated July 1, 2001 written by Iraq’s head of intelligence Tahir Jalil Habbush al-Tikriti to Saddam Hussein. The first part describes how the operational leader of the 9/11 attacks Mohammed Atta spent 3 days in the summer of 2001 training in Baghdad with the Palestinian terrorist leader Abu Nidal. The second reports on a “Niger Shipment”, an apparent reference to uranium, and its transport to Iraq through Libya and Syria. The authenticity of the memo was vouched for by Iyad Allawi, an American ally who became Interim Prime Minister the following year. As subsequent events have shown the memo was a forgery.
An August 4, 2008 article in the Politico on a soon to be published book by Ron Suskind “The Way of the World” alleges that the White House ordered the CIA to create the memo to link Saddam Hussein to al Qaeda and the 9/11 attacks and so justify Bush’s invasion of Iraq. The order was transmitted by the DCI George Tenet to Robert Richer, then deputy director of clandestine operations, and Robert Maquire, then head of the Iraq Operations Group. All involved issued non-denail denials. The problem was that Suskind had Richer on tape and released a transcript of their discussion of the memo:
Rob: To characterize it right, I would say, right: it came to us, George had a raised eyebrow, and basically we passed it on–it was to–and passed this on into the organization. You know, it was: ‘Okay, we gotta do this, but make it go away.’ … It was: ‘This is unbelievable. This is just like all the other garbage we get about … I mean Mohammad Atta and links to al Qaeda. ‘ Rob,’ you know, ‘do something with this.’ I think it was more like that than: ‘Get this done.’ […]
Rob: What I remember is George saying, ‘we got this from’–basically, from what George said was ‘downtown.’
Ron: Which is the White House?
It is illegal to use the CIA to deceive the American people. But with this Administration what is one more criminal offense? Who will hold them to account? Besides they lie to us for our own good because just like Colonel Jessep in A Few Good Men they feel that we can’t handle the truth.