The commission investigating the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks has been told "a very prominent member" of al Qaeda served as an officer in Saddam Hussein's militia, a panel member said yesterday.
Republican commissioner John Lehman told NBC's "Meet the Press" that the new intelligence, if proved true, buttresses claims by the Bush administration of ties between Iraq and the militant network believed responsible for the attacks on the United States.
"We are now in the process of getting this latest intelligence," Lehman said.
Commission Chairman Thomas H. Kean urged the administration to make any such information available to the panel quickly. "Obviously, if there is any information [that] has to do with the subject of the report, we need it, and we need it pretty fast," Kean said on ABC's "This Week" program. "We'll ask for it and see."
He said the final report would be modified to take any new intelligence into account.
Lehman said the information, contained in "captured documents," was obtained after the commission report was written that stated there was no evidence of a "collaborative relationship" between Iraq and al Qaeda. "Some of these documents indicate that [there was] at least one officer of Saddam's Fedayeen, a lieutenant colonel, who was a very prominent member of al Qaeda," Lehman said. "That still has to be confirmed, but the vice president was right when he said that he may have things that we don't yet have," said Lehman, a former Navy secretary.
Vice President Cheney and President Bush repeated their assertions that Iraq had ties to al Qaeda after the commission report issued last week found no evidence that Iraq collaborated with al Qaeda.
Lehman said there was no evidence Hussein was involved in the Sept. 11 attacks on the United States. But he said the recent information about the Fedayeen officer "demonstrates the difficulty that we've had in this commission."