Tuesday, April 18, 2006
Saddam and Osama: the New Revelations
FP: Recently the government has decided to release millions of documents captured in Iraq and Afghanistan. Why are these documents being released now and why are they important?
Joscelyn: For the past several years, American forces have been collecting documents and other pieces of media from the fallen regimes in Iraq and Afghanistan. Many of the Iraqi documents were authored by Saddam’s intelligence apparatus, the Mukhabarat (Iraqi Intelligence Service), while many of the documents captured in Afghanistan were authored by al Qaeda operatives or the Taliban. Despite the potentially significant intelligence value of these documents, the U.S. government has been rather lackadaisical in getting the documents translated and analyzed. To date, less than 5% of the documents have been reviewed. So, out of a total of 2 million documents, only about 100,000 documents (give or take) have been reviewed.
This woeful state of affairs came to the attention of Stephen Hayes of The Weekly Standard last year. Since then he has published numerous articles on what is known about the documents and called for their release. The Wall Street Journal’s editorial board, bloggers and others have joined in calling for the release of the documents as well. Congressman Peter Hoekstra, who is the chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, and Senator Rick Santorum have carried the ball from there. Each has been pushing for the release of the documents. Finally, in February, President Bush told his staff to release the documents.
Since then, a small collection of documents has been released via the web. Why release these documents to the public now? Well, if the government isn’t going to take the time to look through them, then why not give researchers, the media, bloggers and the public a chance to review them?
FP: Do we have any idea what is in the Iraqi Intelligence documents regarding Saddam's ties to al Qaeda and global terrorism?
Joscelyn: Yes, we do. But first, a caveat. Since so few of the documents have been reviewed, it is difficult to say what the complete picture of Saddam’s activities will look like. We also know that a large number of documents and other pieces of media were destroyed as U.S. forces entered the country. Furthermore, the majority of the documents have not been authenticated. Great care should be exercised in analyzing these documents and we should always be wary of forgeries.
However, the Iraqi intelligence documents that have been authenticated by the U.S. intelligence community offer a startling view of Saddam’s ties to global terrorism, including al Qaeda.