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Libby questioned on forged letter linking Saddam to 9/11

House Judiciary Chairman John Conyers (D-MI) issued letters of inquiry Wednesday to Vice President Cheney’s former chief of staff, I. Lewis Libby, regarding a forged letter linking Saddam Hussein to the 9/11 attacks.

The Michigan Democrat also sent letters to senior former Bush intelligence officials, including Robert Richer, former CIA Deputy Director of Clandestine Operations, who claimed that Cheney’s office pushed the CIA to develop a phony letter to aid their argument for a preemptive strike on Iraq. The letters were copied to RAW STORY.

“I have become very concerned with the possibility that this Administration may have violated federal law by using the resources of our intelligence agencies to influence domestic policy processes or opinion,” Conyers wrote Libby, who was convicted of obstruction of justice in the outing of CIA agent Valerie Plame. “The law specifically provides that “[n]o covert action may be conducted which is intended to influence United States political processes, public opinion, policies, or media.”

Conyers’ letters come in the wake of claims by author Ron Suskind, who quotes Richer in his most recent book as saying a forged letter linking Saddam Hussein to the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks was ordered on White House stationery.

“What I remember is George [Tenet] saying, ‘we got this from’–basically, from what George said was ‘downtown,'” Richer says in a transcript Suskind released. “He may have hinted–just by the way he said it, it would have–cause almost all that stuff came from one place only: Scooter Libby and the shop around the vice president.”

Richer contests the account. In an unusual move, the White House issued a denial in Richer’s name when the details of the book were released earlier this month.

In it, Richer declared, “I never received direction from George Tenet or anyone else in my chain of command to fabricate a document … as outlined in Mr. Suskind’s book.”

Suskind, however, says he has a tape of their conversation, which took place earlier this year. His prior accounts of internal Administration machinations have stood up under scrutiny. Conyers asked that Richer “set up a time” to discuss allegations surrounding the false letter.

“According to recent allegations in your capacity as the former CIA Deputy Director of Clandestine Operations and Chief of the Near East Division, you were tasked by former CIA Director George Tenet to create the false letter and may even have seen the White House stationery on which the false letter assignment was reportedly written,” Conyers wrote Richer Wednesday. “Given your reported direct knowledge of these events, I am requesting that you contact Judiciary Committee staff as soon as possible to set up a time to discuss your involvement and knowledge of the allegedly false letter.”

Full transcripts of the letters follow. Conyers also wrote John Hannah, Assistant to the Vice President for National Security Affairs.

Book asserts White House ordered forged letter

Suskind’s book, The Way of The World, asserts that senior Bush officials ordered the CIA to forge a document “proving” that Saddam Hussein had been trying to manufacture nuclear weapons and was collaborating with al Qaeda. The alleged result was a faked memorandum from then chief of Saddam’s intelligence service Tahir Jalil Habbush dated July 1, 2001, and written to Hussein.

The bogus memo claimed that 9/11 hijacker Mohammed Atta had received training in Baghdad but also discussed the arrival of a “shipment” from Niger, which the Administration claimed had supplied Iraq with yellowcake uranium — based on yet another forged document whose source remains uncertain.

The memo subsequently was treated as fact by the British Sunday Telegraph, and cited by William Safire in his New York Times column, providing fodder for Bush’s efforts to take the US to war.

It is likely the Vice President’s Office will refer to Richer’s denial on the matter and claim that discussions between the Vice President’s staff and the Vice President are protected. Libby, who was convicted of four counts of obstruction of justice and perjury, was sentenced to 30 months in prison but had his sentence commuted by President Bush in July 2007.

Letter to Rob Richer, former CIA Deputy Director of Clandestine Operations

Mr. Rob Richer
c/o Cofer Black
Total Intelligence Solutions
1650 Tysons Boulevard, Suite 800
McLean, Virginia 22102

Dear Mr. Richer:

I am writing to follow up on recent serious allegations regarding the creation of a false letter from Tahir Jalil Habbush, Saddam Hussein’s former Chief of Intelligence, to Saddam Hussein. The letter, which was allegedly backdated to July 1, 2001, attempted to establish an operational link between al Qaeda and Saddam Hussein in the period before the 9/11 attacks by specifically stating that 9/11 ringleader Mohammed Atta had received training in Iraq. At the time of the alleged decision in 2003 to concoct the false letter, the Vice President’s Office had been reportedly pressuring the CIA to prove this connection as a justification to invade Iraq. The letter also falsely noted that Iraq had received a “shipment” (presumably uranium) from Niger with the assistance of al Qaeda.

Upon careful review of the allegations concerning this matter, I have become very concerned with the possibility that this Administration may have violated federal law by using the resources of our intelligence agencies to influence domestic policy processes or opinion. The law specifically provides that “[n]o covert action may be conducted which is intended to influence United States political processes, public opinion, policies, or media.”

According to recent allegations, in your capacity as the former CIA Deputy Director of Clandestine Operations and Chief of the Near East Division, you were tasked by former CIA Director George Tenet to create the false letter and may even have seen the White House stationery on which the false letter assignment was reportedly written. Given your reported direct knowledge of these events, I am requesting that you contact Judiciary Committee staff as soon as possible to set up a time to discuss your involvement and knowledge of the allegedly false letter. Please direct your response and any questions to the Judiciary Committee office, 2138 Rayburn House Office Building, Washington, DC 20515 (tel: XXXXXXXXXX, fax: XXXXXXXXXX). Thank you very much for your cooperation in this matter.

Sincerely,

John Conyers, Jr.
Chairman

Letter to I. Lewis Libby, former chief of staff to Vice President Dick Cheney

ONE HUNDRED TENTH CONGRESS
Congress of the United States
House of Representatives
COMMITTEE ON THE JUDICIARY
2138 Rayburn House Office Building
Washington, DC 20515-6216
(202) XXXXXXXX

http://www.house.gov/judiciary

August 20, 2008

Mr. Lewis I. Libby
The Hudson Institute
Sixth Floor
1015 15th Street, NW
Washington, D.C. 20005

Dear Mr. Libby:

I am writing to follow up on recent serious allegations regarding the creation of a false letter from Tahir Jalil Habbush, Saddam Hussein’s former Chief of Intelligence, to Saddam Hussein. The letter, which was allegedly backdated to July 1, 2001, attempted to establish an operational link between al Qaeda and Saddam Hussein in the period before the 9/11 attacks by specifically stating that 9/11 ringleader Mohammed Atta had received training in Iraq. At the time of the alleged decision in 2003 to concoct the false letter, the Vice President’s Office had been reportedly pressuring the CIA to prove this connection as a justification to invade Iraq. The letter also falsely noted that Iraq had received a “shipment” (presumably uranium) from Niger with the assistance of al Qaeda.

Upon careful review of the allegations concerning this matter, I have become very concerned with the possibility that this Administration may have violated federal law by using the resources of our intelligence agencies to influence domestic policy processes or opinion. The law specifically provides that “[n]o covert action may be conducted which is intended to influence United States political processes, public opinion, policies, or media.”

According to recent allegations, the Vice President’s Office was involved in directing CIA officials to draft the false letter. As the former Chief of Staff to the Vice President, you may have direct knowledge of these events. I am requesting that you contact Judiciary Committee staff as soon as possible to set up a time to discuss your involvement and knowledge of the allegedly false letter. Please direct your response and any questions to the Judiciary Committee office, 2138 Rayburn House Office Building, Washington, DC 20515 (tel: XXXXXXXXXX, fax: XXXXXXXXXX). Thank you very much for your cooperation in this matter.

Sincerely,

John Conyers, Jr.
Chairman

Letter to John Hannah, Assistant to the Vice President for National Security Affairs

ONE HUNDRED TENTH CONGRESS
Congress of the United States
House of Representatives
COMMITTEE ON THE JUDICIARY
2138 Rayburn House Office Building
Washington, DC 20515-6216
(202)XXXXXXXX

http://www.house.gov/judiciary

August 20, 2008

Mr. John Hannah
Assistant to the Vice President for National Security Affairs
Eisenhower Executive Complex
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue
Washington, D.C. 20500

Dear Mr. Hannah:

I am writing to follow up on recent serious allegations regarding the creation of a false letter from Tahir Jalil Habbush, Saddam Hussein’s former Chief of Intelligence, to Saddam Hussein. The letter, which was allegedly backdated to July 1, 2001, attempted to establish an operational link between al Qaeda and Saddam Hussein in the period before the 9/11 attacks by specifically stating that 9/11 ringleader Mohammed Atta had received training in Iraq. At the time of the alleged decision in 2003 to concoct the false letter, the Vice President’s Office had been reportedly pressuring the CIA to prove this connection as a justification to invade Iraq. The letter also falsely noted that Iraq had received a “shipment” (presumably uranium) from Niger with the assistance of al Qaeda.

Upon careful review of the allegations concerning this matter, I have become very concerned with the possibility that this Administration may have violated federal law by using the resources of our intelligence agencies to influence domestic policy processes or opinion. The law specifically provides that “[n]o covert action may be conducted which is intended to influence United States political processes, public opinion, policies, or media.”

According to recent allegations, the Vice President’s Office was involved in directing CIA officials to draft the false letter. As Assistant to the Vice President for National Security Affairs, you may have direct knowledge of these events. I am requesting that you contact Judiciary Committee staff as soon as possible to set up a time to discuss your involvement and knowledge of the allegedly false letter. Please direct your response and any questions to the Judiciary Committee office, 2138 Rayburn House Office Building, Washington, DC 20515 (tel: 202-XXXXXXX fax: 202-XXXXXXXX). Thank you very much for your cooperation in this matter.

Sincerely,

John Conyers, Jr.
Chairman

###

PDF copies of the letters are also available at the links below:

To Rob Richer

To former CIA Director George Tenet

To John Maguire, Director of Congressional Affairs

To A. B. Krongard

To I. Lewis Libby

To John Hannah, Assistant to the Vice President for National Security Affairs

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