You are herecontent / Chalabi Returns to Scene of the Crime
Chalabi Returns to Scene of the Crime
By American Progress Action Fund
Ahmed Chalabi, the "guileful politician" whom the White House used to mislead the nation into the Iraq war, "resurfaces in Washington this week, at an embarrassing moment for the Bush administration." He is due to meet Condoleezza Rice at the State Department tomorrow and Treasury Secretary John Snow today. During the course of his stay, Chalabi is also expected to see National Security Advisor Stephen Hadley, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, and "possibly the vice-president, Dick Cheney." Chalabi returns to Washington with a sordid history. He is currently under investigation by the FBI for passing U.S. intelligence secrets to Iran and is widely viewed as having provided much of the misleading and false intelligence in the lead-up to the Iraq war. On Wednesday, Chalabi will deliver an address at the American Enterprise Institute (AEI). "I understand why Ahmed Chalabi wants to see Condoleezza Rice, it is not entirely clear to me why Condoleezza Rice wants to see Ahmed Chalabi," said Danielle Pletka, an AEI scholar with close ties to the administration. (Others at AEI are still defending Chalabi.) By now, it is evident to most that the Bush administration made a mistake in trusting Chalabi before the Iraq war; it appears the administration is ready and willing to make the same mistake again. Here's a look at the rap sheet on Chalabi.
COLLUDING WITH IRAN: The FBI has claimed it is continuing to investigate "whether former Iraqi exile Ahmad Chalabi obtained sensitive U.S. information about Iran's intelligence program and then passed it on to Iranian authorities." The Wall Street Journal, however, reported yesterday that "more than 17 months after then-National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice publicly promised a full criminal inquiry, the Federal Bureau of Investigation hasn't interviewed Mr. Chalabi himself or many current and former U.S. government officials thought likely to have information related to the matter." In early 2004, U.S. officials (early speculation centered on Larry Franklin and Douglas Feith) reportedly leaked intelligence to Chalabi, including the fact that the U.S. had broken a "crucial Iranian code." Chalabi, in turn, passed that information to the Iranian Ministry of Intelligence and Security. "U.S. intelligence agencies intercepted a cable from the station chief back home to Iran, detailing what the chief claimed was a conversation with Mr. Chalabi about the broken code." The leak threatened U.S. efforts to monitor any Iranian steps to develop nuclear weapons. Chalabi continues to maintain a close friendship with Iran, and met with the Iranian president just prior to visiting the United States.
CHALABI STOVEPIPED FALSE INTEL ABOUT IRAQ: "Before the war, [Chalabi] and his Iraqi National Congress (INC) organisation supplied information, used by the Bush administration to justify the war, about Baghdad's alleged weapons of mass destruction (WMD) and assured officials that US occupying forces would be greeted as liberators." The Pentagon paid the INC approximately $335,000 a month (and $39 million over the past five years) to gather intelligence to bolster the case for war. In fact, Chalabi attended a planning meeting at the Pentagon in the immediate days following 9/11 to begin planting the rationale for the Iraq war. A former Middle Eastern station chief said that Chalabi's information should have been treated with "suspicion" because the organization "had a track record of manipulating information because it has an agenda." Nevertheless, Chalabi's reports, composed primarily of accounts from non-credible Iraqi defectors, flowed "from the Pentagon directly to the Vice-President's office, and then on to the President, with little prior evaluation by intelligence professionals."
CHALABI GAMED THE SYSTEM: Chalabi presented Iraqi defectors who could supposedly confirm the existence of a WMD program in Iraq. The defectors proved of little value to the Bush administration because it was believed they had "invented or exaggerated their credentials as people with direct knowledge of the Iraqi government and its suspected unconventional weapons program." Chalabi also provided a single source -- famously nicknamed "Curveball" (an alleged brother of one of Chalabi's aides) -- who claimed to be able to substantiate Iraq's possession of a fleet of mobile germ weapons factories. Despite widespread concern about the credibility of "Curveball," the information was still passed on and used at the highest levels of the Bush administration. A U.S. official said of Chalabi's efforts, "It's safe to say he tried to game the system." Chalabi also told the Bush administration that Iraqis "would greet U.S. troops as liberators...and that postwar Iraq would be friendlier than it's been so far." Now, Chalabi returns "as a secular Shia leader who could offer Washington a way out of the morass into which he helped lead it two and a half years ago."
CHALABI SHRUGGED OFF THE PRE-WAR 'ERRORS': Responding to charges that he manipulated intelligence to lead the United States into war, Chalabi told a London paper, "We are heroes in error." According to a report in the New York Sun, "the quote caught the attention of the president, and soon after, the national security council - then under the leadership of Ms. Rice - drafted a directive to government agencies to launch a campaign to discredit him." It is unclear how an invitation to meet with at least three administration secretaries and the vice president helps "discredit" Chalabi, the current sitting oil minister and deputy prime minister of Iraq. In fact, Chalabi's trip to the United States ahead of Iraq's December elections is a political maneuver by a man seeking the prime minister's post.
CHALABI VISIT UNDERSCORES IMPORTANCE OF PHASE II: Chalabi's visit and continuing influence underscore the importance of the Senate Intelligence Committee's pre-war review. One of the five areas that Phase II of the committee's report will investigate is "the use of intelligence provided by the Iraqi National Congress." The Washington Post reports the panel will "examine how information provided by Iraqi defectors and exiles, including Ahmed Chalabi, were incorporated into intelligence analyses." It is important that the committee have the ability to "interview key government officials and exercise subpoena power" so as to resolve questions about how intelligence may have been misused before the war.