Military and intelligence agency supporters of Iraqi political leader Ahmed Chalabi, who is accused of leaking U.S. secrets to Iran, say data provided by his Iraqi National Congress network identified current leaders of the Iraq insurgency and helped forestall attacks on U.S. troops.
Both before and after the Iraq invasion, Mr. Chalabi and the INC provided valuable intelligence to U.S. forces that saved lives, according to U.S. intelligence officials familiar with classified reports on the group.
Mr. Chalabi has come under fire from critics who say an intelligence intercept showed that he revealed a key secret to Iran: U.S. intelligence had broken Iranian codes and was reading Iranian intelligence communications.
U.S. intelligence officials who back Mr. Chalabi say the former member of the Iraqi Governing Council has become the target of a smear campaign to prevent him from becoming a leader in the new Iraqi government.
Gen. Richard B. Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said in House testimony last month that Mr. Chalabi and his network of informants in Iraq provided valuable information to the U.S. military.
“I do know that the people in the Iraqi National Congress have provided very good intelligence to our forces in Iraq that have prevented our soldiers from dying,” he said.
The U.S. intelligence officials disclosed new details about Mr. Chalabi’s assistance to counteract what they said were distortions about him and the INC. The officials discussed the data on the condition of anonymity.
A U.S. military intelligence official, who was one of the sources for Gen. Myers’ recent defense of Mr. Chalabi, said the Iraqi National Congress’ support to the U.S. military included help with “hundreds” of debriefings of Iraqis, and thousands of pages of documents obtained by the INC.
One key intelligence break was the INC’s help in identifying the names of eight aides to Saddam Hussein found on papers in the possession of the ousted dictator when he was captured in December. The eight Iraqis are believed to be leading the insurgency.
“In the final analysis,” the military official said, “the INC has been directly responsible for saving the lives of numerous soldiers as a result of early warning and surveillance of the enemy.”
INC intelligence gave the military information about planned attacks on U.S. forces. The information allowed troops to carry out pre-emptive attacks, the official said.
Mr. Chalabi and the INC were until recently on the payroll of the Defense Intelligence Agency’s Directorate for Human Intelligence. The payments, about $340,000 a month, were halted because of legal issues raised with the creation of an interim government.
The end of the payments was not related to a recent Iraqi police raid on Mr. Chalabi’s headquarters in Baghdad, officials said. That raid grew out of complaints by a disgruntled Iraqi Finance Ministry official who is now in jail.
The DIA relationship with Mr. Chalabi’s INC is continuing through the new Iraqi Defense Ministry, officials said.
The intelligence officials defended Mr. Chalabi against charges that he was the main source for inaccurate information about mobile weapons labs.
But according to the officials, Mr. Chalabi’s INC was one of six sources regarding the trucks. It was later determined that the trucks may not have been related to biological or chemical weapons.
Two U.S. intelligence assessments of Mr. Chalabi’s provision of documents and defectors also concluded that hundreds of documents provided by the INC before the Iraq conflict contained valuable intelligence.
As for pre-war defectors, the INC’s record was mixed. Of the five INC defectors presented to U.S. intelligence agencies, three were deemed “credible” and two “not credible.”
After the March 2003 invasion, the INC vastly increased the amount of intelligence provided to the United States because its networks had succeeded in working throughout the country among the Iraqi population, officials said.