White House Denies Author's Accusations of Document Forgery

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The Bush administration joined former top CIA officials in denouncing a new book's assertion that White House officials ordered the forgery of Iraqi documents to suggest a link between Iraqi President Saddam Hussein and the lead hijacker in the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

The claim was made by Pulitzer Prize-winning author Ron Suskind, whose book "The Way of the World" also contends that the White House obtained compelling evidence in early 2003 that Iraq possessed no significant stocks of nuclear or biological weapons but decided to invade the country anyway.

Suskind, who has written two previous investigative books that contained criticism of Bush administration policies, described the alleged forgery as a deliberate "misusing of an arm of government, the kind of thing generally taken up in impeachment proceedings." White House condemnations of the book were equally dramatic, with officials blasting it as "gutter journalism." In separate statements, several former and current CIA officials disputed portions of the account, including two named by Suskind as key sources.

"The notion that the White House directed anyone to forge a letter . . . is absurd," said White House deputy press secretary Tony Fratto.

The book's most contentious claims involve Tahir Jalil Habbush, the former head of intelligence in Saddam Hussein's government in the years before the U.S.-led invasion in March 2003. As the deadline for war neared, U.S. and British intelligence officials arranged a series of secret meetings with Habbush in early 2003 and confronted him regarding their concerns about Iraqi weapons of mass destruction .

In those private meetings, Habbush explained why U.N. weapons inspectors had been unable to find evidence of active Iraqi WMD programs: There were none. According to Suskind, Habbush said Saddam Hussein had ended Iraq's nuclear weapons work after the first Persian Gulf war in 1991, and halted biological weapons research in 1996...

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