Research: Newspapers Ignore Reports on Cheney Office's Push for Al Qaeda-Iraq link

For Immediate Release

Contact: 

Brandon Hersh (202) 471-3205
bhersh@mediamatters.org

Research: Newspapers Ignore Reports on Cheney Office's Push for Al Qaeda-Iraq link

WASHINGTON - Despite covering questions regarding
what House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) knew about the Bush administration's
interrogation policies, none of five major newspapers -- The New
York Times
, The Washington
Post
, the Los Angeles Times,
The Wall Street Journal, and
USA Today -- has reported on a May 13 Daily Beast article reporting that Vice President Dick Cheney's
office "suggested waterboarding an Iraqi prisoner, a former intelligence
official for Saddam Hussein, who was suspected to have knowledge of a Saddam-al
Qaeda connection." On the May 17 edition of ABC's This Week, Cheney's daughter Liz, a former State
Department official, was
specifically asked
twice
about the report and dodged both questions.

Moreover, those same newspapers have
yet to report on a May 15 McClatchy Newspapers article by Jonathan S. Landay highlighting comments made
by Dick Cheney in 2004 that detainees at Guantánamo Bay,
Cuba, provided
information confirming Iraq's involvement in giving chemical
and biological weapons
training to Al
Qaeda.

In the Daily Beast article, former
NBC News investigative producer Robert Windrem reported: "Two U.S. intelligence officers confirm
that Vice President Cheney's office suggested waterboarding an Iraqi prisoner
... who was suspected to have knowledge of a Saddam-al Qaeda connection." As
Media Matters for America noted, MSNBC hosts covered Windrem's
report at least twice on May 14, and at one point hosted Windrem to discuss it.
From Windrem's report:

At the end of April 2003, not long
after the fall of Baghdad,
U.S. forces
captured an Iraqi who Bush White House officials suspected might provide
information of a relationship between al Qaeda and Saddam Hussein's regime.
Muhammed Khudayr al-Dulaymi was the head of the M-14 section of Mukhabarat, one
of Saddam's secret police organizations. His responsibilities included chemical
weapons and contacts with terrorist groups.

"To those who wanted or suspected a
relationship, he would have been a guy who would know, so [White House
officials] had particular interest," Charles Duelfer, head of the Iraqi Survey
Group and the man in charge of interrogations of Iraqi officials, told me. So
much so that the officials, according to Duelfer, inquired how the interrogation
was proceeding.

In his new book, Hide and Seek: The Search for
Truth in Iraq
, and in an interview with The Daily
Beast, Duelfer says he heard from "some in Washington at very senior levels (not
in the CIA)," who thought Khudayr's interrogation had been "too gentle" and
suggested another route, one that they believed has proven effective elsewhere.
"They asked if enhanced measures, such as waterboarding, should be used,"
Duelfer writes. "The executive authorities addressing those measures made clear
that such techniques could legally be applied only to terrorism cases, and our
debriefings were not as yet terrorism-related. The debriefings were just
debriefings, even for this creature."

Duelfer will not disclose who in
Washington had
proposed the use of waterboarding, saying only: "The language I can use is what
has been cleared." In fact, two senior U.S. intelligence officials at the
time tell The Daily Beast that the suggestion to waterboard came from the Office
of Vice President Cheney. Cheney, of course, has vehemently defended
waterboarding and other harsh techniques, insisting they elicited valuable
intelligence and saved lives. He has also asked that several memoranda be
declassified to prove his case. (The Daily Beast placed a call to Cheney's
office and will post a response if we get one.)

Without admitting where the
suggestion came from, Duelfer revealed that he considered it reprehensible and
understood the rationale as political -- and ultimately counterproductive to the
overall mission of the Iraq Survey Group, which was assigned the mission of
finding Saddam Hussein's WMD after the invasion.

In the McClatchy article, Landay wrote that "Cheney,
defending the invasion of Iraq, asserted in 2004 that detainees
interrogated at the Guantanamo
Bay prison camp had revealed that
Iraq had trained al Qaida operatives
in chemical and biological warfare, an assertion that wasn't true." According to
Landay, Cheney asserted in an interview with The Rocky Mountain News, "We know for example from
interrogating detainees in Guantanamo that al Qaida sent individuals to Baghdad
to be trained in C.W. and B.W. technology, chemical and biological weapons
technology." Cheney biographer Stephen Hayes reported on the interview,
including those comments, in a January 13, 2004, Weekly Standard article (retrieved from the Nexis
database). Landay reported: "No evidence of such training or of any
operational links between Iraq and al Qaida has ever been
found, according to several official inquiries." From Landay's article:

The Rocky Mountain News asked Cheney
in a Jan. 9, 2004, interview if he stood by his claims that Saddam's regime had
maintained a "relationship" with al Qaida, raising the danger that
Iraq might give the group
chemical, biological or nuclear weapons to attack the U.S.

"Absolutely. Absolutely," Cheney
replied.

A Cheney spokeswoman said a response
to an e-mail requesting clarification of the former vice president's remarks
would be forthcoming next week.

"The (al Qaida-Iraq) links go back,"
he said. "We know for example from interrogating detainees in Guantanamo that al
Qaida sent individuals to Baghdad to be trained in C.W. and B.W. technology,
chemical and biological weapons technology. These are all matters that are there
for anybody who wants to look at it."

No evidence of such training or of
any operational links between Iraq and al Qaida has ever been
found, according to several official inquiries.

It's not apparent which Guantanamo detainees
Cheney was referring to in the interview.

One al Qaida detainee, Ibn al Sheikh
al Libi, claimed that terrorist operatives were sent to Iraq for chemical and biological weapons
training, but he was in CIA custody, not at Guantanamo.

Moreover, he recanted his
assertions, some of them allegedly made under torture while he was being
interrogated in Egypt.

"No postwar information has been
found that indicates CBW training occurred, and the detainee who provided the
key prewar reporting about this training recanted his claims after the war," a
September 2006 Senate Intelligence Committee report said.

Indeed, according to the Senate
Select Committee on Intelligence's September 2006 report on postwar findings about
Iraq's weapons of mass destruction program, al-Libi, who was "the source of
reports on al-Qa'ida's efforts to obtain CBW [chemical and biological weapons] training, recanted the information he
provided." The report found that al-Libi recanted in January 2004, claiming he
had "fabricated information since his capture. ... Al-Libi claimed that to the best of his
knowledge al-Qa'ida never sent any individuals into Iraq for any
kind of support in chemical or biological weapons, as he had claimed
previously." The report concluded: "The other reports of
possible al-Qa'ida CBW training from Iraq were never considered credible
by the Intelligence Community. No other information has been uncovered in
Iraq or from detainees that confirms
this reporting." According to the
report, as early as 2002, the Defense Intelligence Agency had expressed
skepticism
about al-Libi's claims, at one point stating
that while his story was "possible," "it is more likely this individual is
intentionally misleading the debriefers."

Media
Matters
searched the Nexis database for
The New York Times, The Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, and USA Today since May 12 for the following
terms:

  • Cheney AND (waterboard! or water
    board! or detain! or torture! or interrog! or tactic) AND (Iraq! or Saddam
    or Hussein)
  • Cheney AND (Guantanamo or detain! or
    prison! or terror!) AND (Iraq! or Saddam or
    Hussein)
  • Cheney AND (Daily Beast or
    Windrem)
  • Cheney AND (McClatchy or Rocky
    Mountain News)

Media
Matters
searched the Factiva database for
The Wall Street Journal since May
12 for the following terms:

  • Cheney AND (waterboard* or water
    board* or detain* or torture* or interrog* or tactic) AND (Iraq* or Saddam
    or Hussein)
  • Cheney AND (Guantanamo or detain* or prison* or terror*) AND
    (Iraq* or Saddam or
    Hussein)
  • Cheney AND (Daily Beast or
    Windrem)
  • Cheney AND (McClatchy or Rocky
    Mountain News)
###

Media Matters for America is a Web-based, not-for-profit, 501(c)(3) progressive research and information center dedicated to comprehensively monitoring, analyzing, and correcting conservative misinformation in the U.S. media.

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