Thursday Jan. 30, 2003; 11:24 a.m. EST
WABC Radio’s Steve Malzberg:
The CIA is blocking critical intelligence that links Saddam Hussein to the 9/11 attacks, a former top terrorism advisor to President Clinton is contending, and by doing so, she says, the agency is weakening President Bush’s case for war against Iraq.
Asked about Salman Pak, the terrorist training camp near Baghdad where, according to a number of Iraqi defectors, al Qaeda terrorists have practiced for years hijacking American airliners using the same methods employed on 9/11, Clinton Iraqi expert Laurie Mylroie told WABC Radio’s Steve Malzberg:
“There’s a huge debate within the (Bush) administration. The Defense Department wants to bring out information like that. The CIA, which is responsible for dealing with terrorism, accommodated Clinton’s desire not to hear about Iraq and terrorism, does not want that information to come out. It acts as Saddam’s lawyer.”
Mylroie served as President Clinton’s top advisor on Iraq during the 1992 campaign, and she has lectured on Middle Eastern terrorism and its origins at the Naval War College and Harvard University. Mylroie is also author of the book, “The War Against America,” which details Baghdad’s role in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing.
Just minutes before Bush’s State of the Union address Tuesday night, Mylroie told Malzberg, “For any official statement to be made by the government, there is an interagency review process and the CIA blocks (the Salman Pak) information. Their response is to say, the defectors are not reliable – because they oppose Saddam you can’t believe them.”
What about satellite photos backing up accounts from Salman Pak defectors who describe a Boeing 707 parked on the ground, which they say serves as a classroom for Saddam’s hijack trainees?
According to Mylroie, the CIA offers the bizarre alibi that the plane “could have been used by the Iraqis for counter-hijacking.”
The Clinton terrorism expert says the White House is partly to blame for not forcing U.S. intelligence services to be more forthright about the information they have on Salman Pak, complaining, “Bush has failed to discipline the bureaucracy. And they have put their careers above Bush’s career.”
Asked to detail the precise role of Iraq in al Qaeda operations directed against the U.S., Mylroie told WABC, “Al Qaeda acts as a front for Iraqi intelligence. Al Qaeda provides the ideology, the foot soldiers and the cover. And Iraqi intelligence provides the direction, training and expertise.”
Commenting on reports that the White House would use the State of the Union address to reinforce the argument that Saddam has been working with al Qaeda for years, Mylroie noted, “I’m glad (President Bush) is going to talk about Iraq and al Qaeda. (But) I have some concern that because powerful individuals and institutions are even now unwilling to acknowledge their error, the case is going to be a lot weaker than it could be.”