Thursday, June 5, 2003

A two-person Pentagon intelligence team conducted an analysis that found al Qaeda terrorists are not bound by ideology and will cooperate with state sponsors of terrorism.

The finding was disclosed at a briefing by Douglas J. Feith, the undersecretary of defense for policy, to dispel what he said were erroneous news reports that the Pentagon sought to skew intelligence to fit policy.

The team began working shortly after the September 11 terrorist attacks and reviewed intelligence from the CIA and other agencies to help draw up a national strategy for the war on terrorism, Mr. Feith said at the Pentagon.

“It looked at these interrelationships among terrorist organizations and their state sponsors,” he said. “Its main conclusion was that groups and states were willing to cooperate across philosophical, ideological lines.”

Mr. Feith said the group succeeded in highlighting “a number of interesting connections” showing that “Sunni and Shi’a groups cooperated, or religious-based groups cooperated with secular groups or states.”

“And so it showed that we cannot simply assume that the only cooperation that existed in the world among terrorist groups and their sponsors was on some kind of pure ideological or philosophical lines,” he said.

Mr. Feith said such connections are not unprecedented. He noted that the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany collaborated during the early years of World War II.

The group also found links between the regime of Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein and the al Qaeda network, and provided the information to Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld and CIA Director George J. Tenet.

The Iraq-al Qaeda connection was an “incidental” finding of the group. “The main thing that the team produced was it helped educate a lot of people about the fact that there was more cooperation and interconnection among these terrorist organizations and state sponsors across ideological lines than many people had appreciated before,” Mr. Feith said.

The unit was headed by Abraham Shulsky, an intelligence specialist who — like Mr. Tenet — gained intelligence experience as a staff member in Congress. Its existence was first disclosed in The Washington Times on Jan. 14.

On questions about intelligence on Iraq’s weapons programs, Mr. Feith said the Bush administration’s major case against Saddam was presented by Secretary of State Colin L. Powell at the United Nations on Feb. 5.

“And these judgments were based on … intelligence reports and intelligence analysis that not only went back years but predated this administration,” Mr. Feith said.

“From our perspective, it’s pretty clear that the intelligence community’s judgments concerning Iraqi weapons of mass destruction did not undergo a major change between the Clinton and Bush administrations,” he said.

On a related issue, Mr. Feith disputed a report in the London Financial Times that claimed Mr. Rumsfeld was working within the administration to oust the Islamic fundamentalist regime in Iran.

“It is true that the United States government wants Iran to turn over all al Qaeda members currently in Iran and to comply with its obligations under the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty,” he said. “But as for the future of the Iranian government, that’s a matter to be decided by the Iranian people.”

Mr. Feith denied a report by investigative reporter Seymour Hersh that the special unit became a “conduit” to the intelligence community for defector reports from the Iraqi National Congress, an anti-Saddam opposition group.

Copyright © 2022 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

Please read our comment policy before commenting.

Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide