By Walter Pincus
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, March 17, 2006
Responding to pressure from Congress, Director of National Intelligence John D. Negroponte yesterday released the first handful of Iraqi documents out of more than 2 million captured during the invasion of Iraq.
The nine documents were posted on a military Web site. The remaining documents, which are in Arabic and are not translated, "will be regularly uploaded as they are cleared for public release," according to a statement from Negroponte's office.
The documents, stored in about 50,000 boxes at a U.S. facility in Doha, Qatar, were seized from various Iraqi agencies by U.S. and coalition forces during the 2003 invasion and have been reviewed by officials for useful intelligence.
Rep. Peter Hoekstra (R-Mich.) chairman of the House intelligence committee, had pushed Negroponte to release the documents in hopes that readers would closely peruse them for information about prewar Iraq. "Whether Saddam Hussein destroyed Iraq's weapons of mass destruction or hid or transferred them, the most important thing is that we discover the truth of what was happening in the country prior to the war," he said.
Hoekstra said the idea is to "unleash the power of the Internet, unleash the power of the blogosphere" to help find out what is in the documents, which he described as "the crumbs that were left" by Hussein's policy of destroying records.
In releasing the material, intelligence officials added an unusual warning: "The U.S. government has made no determination regarding the authenticity of the documents, validity or factual accuracy of the information contained therein."
Several pages of one document indicate that Iraqi intelligence officials in August 2002 were searching for members of the al-Qaeda organization who were reported to be in Iraq. One document indicates that al-Qaeda had Iraqi supporters. Several photos are attached, including one that appears to be of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the Jordanian terrorist leader now operating in Iraq. Underneath the picture in the Iraqi document is Zarqawi's real name, Ahmed Fadeel Nazzal al-Khalayleh.
In an October 2002 speech, President Bush first referred to Zarqawi, though not by name, as an associate of Osama bin Laden's who was in Baghdad, which indicated a link between Saddam Hussein and al-Qaeda.
The English-language synopsis supplied by Negroponte's office for the Iraqi document says the presence of the terrorist group was "later confirmed."
Another of the released documents, from November 2001, sought more information about rumors that Islamic fighters were responding to the post-Sept. 11 U.S. attack on al-Qaeda in Afghanistan. "Chatter among the population that there is a group of Iraqi and Saudi volunteers estimated at 3000 men have traveled unofficially (illegally) to Afghanistan and joined the Mujahedeen to fight with them and help them in thwarting the imperialist American Zionist attack." The Iraqi intelligence official wanted to see if there was more information available on that subject.
The Iraqi documents, which will eventually include papers from the 1991 Persian Gulf War, can be found at http://fmso.leavenworth.army.mil/products-docex.htm , a Web site run by the U.S. Army Foreign Military Studies Office.
Staff writers Nora Boustany and Charles Babington contributed to this report.