ABC News' Jonathan Karl Reports: The Bush Administration apparently does not want a U.S. military study that found no direct connection between Saddam Hussein and al Qaeda to get any attention. This morning, the Pentagon cancelled plans to send out a press release announcing the report's release and will no longer make the report available online. The report was to be posted on the Joint Forces Command website this afternoon, followed by a background briefing with the authors. No more. The report will be made available only to those who ask for it, and it will be sent via U.S. mail from Joint Forces Command in Norfolk, Virginia. It won't be emailed to reporters and it won't be posted online.
Asked why the report would not be posted online and could not be emailed, the spokesman for Joint Forces Command said: "We're making the report available to anyone who wishes to have it, and we'll send it out via CD in the mail." Another Pentagon official said initial press reports on the study made it "too politically sensitive." ABC News obtained the comprehensive military study of Saddam Hussein's links to terrorism on Tuesday. Read the report's executive summary HERE.
The study, which was due to be released Wednesday, found no "smoking gun" or any evidence of a direct connection between Saddam's Iraq and the al Qaeda terrorist organization. The report is based on the analysis of some 600,000 official Iraqi documents seized by US forces after the invasion. It is also based on thousands of hours of interrogations of former top officials in Saddam's government who are now in U.S. custody. Others have reached the same conclusion, but no previous study has had access to so much information. Further, this is the first official acknowledgement from the U.S. military that there is no evidence Saddam had ties to Al Qaeda. The study does, however, show that Saddam Hussein did much to support terrorism in the Middle East and used terrorism "as a routine tool of state power." Saddam's government, for example, had a program for the "development, construction, certification and training for car bombs and suicide vests in 1999 and 2000." The U.S. military is still dealing with the fall-out from this particular program. The report says Saddam's bureaucrats carefully recorded the regime's connections to Palestinian terrorists groups and its financial support for the families of suicide bombers. The primary target, however, of Saddam's terror activities was not the United States, and not Israel. "The predominant targets of Iraqi state terror operations were Iraqi citizens, both inside and outside of Iraq." Saddam's primary aim was self preservation and the elimination of potential internal threats to his power.
Bush administration officials have made numerous attempts to link Saddam Hussein and the Al Qaeda terror group in their justification for waging war against Iraq.
"What I want to bring to your attention today is the potentially much more sinister nexus between Iraq and the Al Qaida terrorist network," former U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell told the United Nations February 5, 2003.
On June 18, 2004 the Washington Post quoted President George W. Bush as saying: "The reason I keep insisting that there was a relationship between Iraq and Saddam and al Qaeda: because there was a relationship between Iraq and al Qaeda," Bush said.
"This administration never said that the 9/11 attacks were orchestrated between Saddam and al Qaeda," The Washington Post quoted Bush as saying. "We did say there were numerous contacts between Saddam Hussein and al Qaeda."
"We know he's out trying once again to produce nuclear weapons and we know that he has a long-standing relationship with various terrorist groups, including the al-Qaeda organization," Vice President Dick Cheney said on NBC's Meet The Press March 16, 2003.
"But the cost is far less than it will be if we get hit, for example, with a weapon that Saddam Hussein might provide to al-Qaeda, the cost to the United States of what happened on 9/11 with billions and billions of dollars and 3,000 lives. And the cost will be much greater in a future attack if the terrorists have access to the kinds of capabilities that Saddam Hussein has developed," Cheney said.
''There is no question but that there have been interactions between the Iraqi government, Iraqi officials and Al Qaeda operatives. They have occurred over a span of some 8 or 10 years to our knowledge. There are currently Al Qaeda in Iraq,'' former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said in a interview with Infinity CBS Radio, Nov. 14, 2002.