Ron Suskind has a new book coming out that reveals, among other things, that the White House authorized the CIA to backdate a forged memo from the head of Iraqi intelligence to Saddam Hussein that purported to show that lead-hijacker Mohammed Atta was trained in Iraq in the summer of 2001. The memo was created by the CIA and leaked to Con Coughlin of the UK Telegraph, who dutifully wrote it up on December 14, 2003, the same day that Saddam Hussein was ‘pulled from a spiderhole’ near Tikrit.
Steven D and I have known for many years that Con Coughlin, Executive Foreign Editor of the UK Telegraph, is an American intelligence asset. As recently as January 2007, Steven nailed Coughlin in his article: Oh My God! North Korea is Helping Iran Get Nukes!. [Aside: please take the time to scroll down to Steven’s section on Con Coughlin’s Track Record]. As early as June 2005 I wrote an article about William Safire’s incestuous relationship with the UK Telegraph and the Office of the Vice-President: William Safire Worked for Military Intelligence.
I also have a theory that Safire’s mission was to promulgate fabricated intelligence into the mainstream media, while attacking anyone in the CIA or the State Department that questioned the legitimacy of that intelligence.
My research on this is incomplete, and this impression is largely an intuitive one that developed over time. I began noticing that outrageous claims about Iraq were being published in certain British news outlets and then ignored by the American media. A few days would pass, and then Safire would use the British articles as sources for his columns. Then FOX News would report on what Safire had written. It appeared to be a disinformation loop.
The Booman Tribune community even did a project using Lexis-Nexis to find examples of Safire’s disinformation between 9/11 and the start of the Iraq War that was sourced through the UK Telegraph and The Australian (special h/t to wanderindiana). My big piece that foreshadowed Ron Suskind’s revelations ran on July 8, 2006. It was entitled Psy-Ops in the Global War on Terror and it detailed the exact same December 14, 2003 article by Con Coughlin that we now know was authorized on “creamy White House stationery.” This story is even worse than the write-up that The Politico gave it this morning (and, apparently, than even Suskind reported). Why? I’ll quote from my July 8, 2006 piece:
It’s December 14, 2003, the day Paul Bremer announced Saddam’s capture to the world. Despite the euphoria surrounding the nabbing of the Butcher of Baghdad, the White House has a few niggling problems. David Kay is about a month away from telling Congress, “we were all wrong” about Saddam having weapons of mass destruction. John Ashcroft is two weeks away from assigning Patrick Fitzgerald to investigate the outing of Valerie Plame in the Niger document scandal. And, on top of these problems, investigators pouring over Iraqi intelligence documents have found no evidence of a working relationship between Iraq and al-Qaeda.
No WMD, no link to al-Qaeda, no flowers and chocolate, and a deadly insurgency are putting Bush’s re-election prospects in danger. Enter Ayad Allawi, a former CIA agent. He suddenly discovers a document that kills two birds with one stone. News of the document breaks in the then Conrad Black owned UK Telegraph. Somewhat astonishingly, the document simultaneously provides proof that lead-hijacker Mohammed Atta visited Iraq in 2001 and received training and that Iraq had actually received uranium from Africa.
That’s right. The memo actually attempted to prove both that Atta had trained in Iraq and that Iraqi had not only sought, but actually received uranium from Niger. And it was vouched for by none other than Dr. Ayad Allawi.
Although Iraqi officials refused to disclose how and where they had obtained the document, Dr Ayad Allawi, a member of Iraq’s ruling seven-man Presidential Committee, said the document was genuine.
“We are uncovering evidence all the time of Saddam’s involvement with al-Qaeda,” he said. “But this is the most compelling piece of evidence that we have found so far. It shows that not only did Saddam have contacts with al-Qaeda, he had contact with those responsible for the September 11 attacks.”
Here’s an interesting factoid from Allawi’s Wiki: (emphasis added)
In December 2003, he flew to CIA headquarters in Langley together with fellow [Iraqi National Accord] INA official Nouri Badran to discuss detailed plans for setting up a domestic secret service. The agency was to be headed by Badran, a former Ba’athist who served Saddam as an ambassador until 1990, and, controversially, recruit many agents of Saddam’s Mukhabarat.
Allawi went on to serve as Iraq’s Interim Prime Minister from June 2004 until the January 2005 elections.
In February 2007, I wrote:
The U.K. Daily Telegraph has emerged, in the Bush years, as one of the least reliable papers in the Western world. They routinely publish unsourced or poorly sourced rumors or even rank propaganda. Today, they seem to be breaking some kind of big story, but it is much more likely that this is more of a psychological campaign that is aimed at the Iranian leadership.
…It looks like we need to start reading the British papers each morning before we read our own. They are getting all the scoops and propaganda now.
In August 2007, I wrote:
The idea that a document might exist that simultaneously proved an Iraq connection to 9/11 and that Niger diverted uranium to Saddam…coming in December 2003 (right before Patrick Fitzgerald was appointed to investigate l’affaire Plame) was rightly regarded with extreme skepticism in the American press. Only Dick Cheney’s personal stenographer, William Safire, was dishonest enough to give it credence…
…Michael Isikoff and Mark Hosenball quickly debunked the memo and it is largely forgotten. But Cheney did not forget, and Allawi got a promotion to his interim Prime Minister position. He quickly worked to set up an internal security service that relied heavily on former Ba’athists and made himself immensely unpopular among both Sunni and Shi’a by approving the American attacks on both Najaf and Falluja.
So, as you might suspect, I am hardly surprised to learn that Suskind has unearthed proof that the Dec. 14, 2003 was a forgery. What’s surprising is that he managed to obtain a copy (or at least a description) of a White House memo authorizing the forgery.
A new book by the author Ron Suskind claims that the White House ordered the CIA to forge a back-dated, handwritten letter from the head of Iraqi intelligence to Saddam Hussein.
Suskind writes in “The Way of the World,” to be published Tuesday, that the alleged forgery – adamantly denied by the White House – was designed to portray a false link between Hussein’s regime and al Qaeda as a justification for the Iraq war…
…Suskind writes in his new book that the order to create the letter was written on “creamy White House stationery.” The book suggests that the letter was subsequently created by the CIA and delivered to Iraq, but does not say how.
It’s now obvious that the CIA passed the forgery on to Ayad Allawi’s Iraqi National Accord (INA), who then leaked it to Con Coughlin. Coughlin was then interviewed on Meet the Press the same day that his article appeared (transcript here). The big story of the day was the capture of Saddam Hussein and Tom Brokaw basically co-hosted the show with Tim Russert. Here’s Brokaw taking time out from the Capture of Saddam to ask Coughlin about his article in the UK Telegraph:
Brokaw: And tell us about the article that you have today in the Sunday Telegraph about Mohamed Atta and any connections that he may have had to the Iraqi regime of Saddam Hussein.
Coughlin: Well, this is an intriguing story, Tom. I mean, basically, when I was in Baghdad, I picked up a document that was given to me by a senior member of the Iraqi interim government [ed note: Ayad Allawi]. It’s an intelligence document written by the then-head of Iraqi intelligence, Habush to Saddam. It’s dated the 1st of July, 2001, and it’s basically a memo saying that Mohamed Atta has successfully completed a training course at the house of Abu Nidal, the infamous Palestinian terrorist, who, of course, was killed by Saddam a couple of months later. Now, this is the first really concrete proof that al-Qaeda was working with Saddam. I saw your interview with James Woolsey earlier and he was talking about the article in The Weekly Standard. And there is a lot of detail there. But this is a document, and I’ve had it authenticated. This is the handwriting of the head of Iraqi intelligence, Habush, is one of the few people still at large who is in the pack of cards. And it basically says that Atta was in Baghdad being trained under Saddam’s guidance prior to the 9/11 attack. It’s a very explosive development, Tom.
Brokaw: Thank you very much, Con Coughlin in London this morning. His article is in The London Sunday Telegraph. You can access it on the Internet, of course. [ed note: not anymore, you can’t] Now, back to my colleague, the moderator of Meet the Press, Tim Russert. Tim.
Here at Booman Tribune we’ve been on this phenomenon of the Office of the Vice-President using British papers to backloop disinformation into the American press since the very beginning of the site. As I wrote in July 2006:
There are many more examples of the administration hyping the threat of terrorism, or hyping the significance of the arrest of ‘terrorists’. Abu Zabaydah is now decribed as a schizophrenic rather than a mastermind of al-qaeda. The much touted Lackawanna terror group turned out to be a bunch of dumb kids. Jose Padilla was never charged with any of the original crimes ascribed to him. The list can go on and on.
The bottom line is that conservatives have bought this propaganda hook, line, and sinker, and never seem to notice or care that they have been duped. Duped on Pat Tillman, duped on Jessica Lynch, duped on Saddam’s spiderhole.
I don’t mean to make people cynical. But cynicism is required when the government and media continue to pass off propaganda about the threats, the connections, and the successes of the so-called global war on terrorism.
And, yes, the deliberate seeding of disinformation into the domestic press is a crime and an impeachable offense. There’s a reason that the British (and Australian) press was used as a cut-out. Some lawyer (David Addington) told Dick Cheney he could avoid prosecution that way.