"Weapons of Mass Deception"


Pentagon ignored its info, CIA says

Sunday, Jun 06, 2004,Page 7

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Ahmad Chalabi, the leader of the Iraqi National Congress (INC), came under further pressure from Washington on Friday when it was reported the US intercepted an Iranian intelligence cable nine years ago which discussed a meeting with him in northern Iraq.

Chalabi, who was supported by the Pentagon during the Iraq invasion, has been accused by US intelligence officials of passing secrets to Tehran this year.

Former intelligence officials have pointed to the intercept as evidence the INC leader had longstanding ties to Iranian intelligence. They say the CIA informed the Pentagon of its suspicions but was ignored.

In the 1995 incident Chalabi is reported to have met Iranian agents in northern Iraq and let them see a forged document falsely suggesting the US was pursuing a plan to assassinate Saddam Hussein.

The story was first told by Robert Baer in his 2001 book, See No Evil: the True Story of a Ground Soldier in the CIA's War on Terrorism. Baer was the CIA case officer assigned to work with Chalabi in northern Iraq in the mid-1990s.

"I told Feith and Perle this, but it did not make any difference. They're like Jesuits. They believed and they didn't check around."

Robert Baer, former CIA officer
According to his account, Chalabi put the document, printed on US national security council stationery, on his desk during a meeting with Iranian intelligence agents and left it there when he left the room to take a telephone call, knowing the Iranians would read it.

But Baer did not explain in the book how US intelligence had found out about the forged document. On Friday the Washington Post said Iranian agents in Iraq had sent an encrypted message about the meeting to Tehran which was intercepted and decoded by the US. Baer said he could neither confirm nor deny that part of the story.

Chalabi fell from grace with his American backers last month, after being accused by US officials of passing secrets to Iranian intelligence six weeks ago, informing Tehran that its internal codes had been cracked by the US national security agency. He has rejected the charge as a CIA smear.

The assassination of foreign leaders in peacetime is prohibited by US law and presidential orders and the 1995 incident triggered an FBI investigation.

Baer and his team in northern Iraq were questioned about their role in forging the document but were eventually cleared of involvement. Baer said the document was forged by the INC, in the hope of attracting Iran's support for his fight against Saddam.

Baer said that before George Bush won the 2000 election he had told Douglas Feith and Richard Perle, two prominent INC backers, about Chalabi's unreliability and his ties to Iran.

"I told Feith and Perle this, but it did not make any difference," he said. "They're like Jesuits. They believed and they didn't check around."

Vincent Cannistraro, a former chief of operations at the CIA's counterterrorism unit, said George Tenet, the agency's chief who resigned on Thursday, had arranged for the Pentagon to be informed about Chalabi in 2002 but the CIA had been "blown off" by the Pentagon.

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Milton Frihetsson, 14:31


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