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Monday, April 28, 2003
The private sector does it again
Who needs the CIA when you have the Daily Telegraph? They do it again, finding documents which show links between Al Qaeda and Iraq:
Papers found yesterday in the bombed headquarters of the Mukhabarat, Iraq's intelligence service, reveal that an al-Qa'eda envoy was invited clandestinely to Baghdad in March 1998.

The documents show that the purpose of the meeting was to establish a relationship between Baghdad and al-Qa'eda based on their mutual hatred of America and Saudi Arabia. The meeting apparently went so well that it was extended by a week and ended with arrangements being discussed for bin Laden to visit Baghdad.
I'm sure there are a myriad of reasons why these documents won't count, as far as anti-war people are concerned. I'm not creative enough to come up with them all, but "they're forgeries planted by the U.S." is probably number one on that list. I also anticipate the strawman rebuttal of "This doesn't prove that Iraq was responsible for 9/11," which of course isn't the accusation being made.

Now, I won't complain that the CIA et al. weren't able to uncover such information before the war -- indeed, it was unreasonable to expect them to do so. Intelligence is necessarily a game of circumstantial evidence, rumor and hearsay. Discovering hard evidence, convincing to skeptics (who aren't cleared to see the raw information) is nearly impossible. There are no "smoking guns" in ordinary intelligence work. This post-war situation, which provides an opportunity to actually examine foreign government documents, is unique.

What I am concerned about, however, is why the Telegraph is finding these documents now. What on earth are our intelligence agencies doing? How can these documents be lying untouched in government buildings? Why haven't they been collected? I don't expect them to be analyzed instantaneously, of course -- but why haven't the buildings been secured, so that reporters can't rummage through them at will? Criticisms of the Bush administration for not maintaining civil order in Iraq as of the day Baghdad fell sounded like sour grapes -- the people who thought the war would be harder felt the need to attack Bush for something, just to prove that Bush's plans hadn't been perfect. But now it has been several weeks since the war ended, enough time to get American forces into position and to send in teams of agents to begin sifting through the rubble of the regime, and...? Where are they?

We're not talking about clay pots or vases of mere historical importance; we're talking about documents key to administering the new Iraq, documents key to understanding the nature of the (recent) Iraqi threat, and possibly key to understanding recent or current terrorist threats. These papers provide information crucial for uncovering weapons, arresting upper-level members of Saddam's regime, constructing a Baath-free government in Iraq, and possibly capturing terrorists. And yet they're just lying around. Can anybody explain why?

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