A White House Forgery Scandal?

By Dan Froomkin
Special to washingtonpost.com
Tuesday, August 5, 2008; 12:05 PM

Investigative reporter Ron Suskind's new book charges that the White House, seeking to justify its invasion of Iraq, ordered the CIA in late 2003 to forge evidence of a link between Iraq and al Qaeda.

Suskind, a Pulitzer-winning reporter and relentless chronicler of this administration's secrets, depicts a White House with a simpleminded bully in the Oval Office taking direction from a paranoid vice president -- and caps off his latest expose with what he acknowledges sounds a lot like an impeachable offense.

Mike Allen writes for Politico: "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. . . .

"The letter's existence has been reported before, and it had been written about as if it were genuine. It was passed in Baghdad to a reporter for The (London) Sunday Telegraph who wrote about it on the front page of Dec. 14, 2003, under the headline, Terrorist behind September 11 strike 'was trained by Saddam.'

"The Telegraph story by Con Coughlin (which, coincidentally, ran the day Hussein was captured in his 'spider hole') was touted in the U.S. media by supporters of the war, and he was interviewed on NBC's ' Meet the Press.'"

A recurring figure in Suskind's book is the head of Hussein's intelligence service, Tahir Jalil Habbush al-Tikriti.

More from Politico's synopsis: "'The White House had concocted a fake letter from Habbush to Saddam, backdated to July 1, 2001,' Suskind writes. 'It said that 9/11 ringleader Mohammad Atta had actually trained for his mission in Iraq -- thus showing, finally, that there was an operational link between Saddam and al Qaeda, something the Vice President's Office had been pressing CIA to prove since 9/11 as a justification to invade Iraq. There is no link.' . . .

"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.

"The author claims that such an operation, part of 'false pretenses' for war, would apparently constitute illegal White House use of the CIA to influence a domestic audience, an arguably impeachable offense."

And the White House response?

"The White House flatly denied Suskind's account. Tony Fratto, deputy White House press secretary, told Politico: 'The allegation that the White House directed anyone to forge a document from Habbush to Saddam is just absurd.'

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