Dick Cheney Wants Declassification of Some U.S. Intelligence in Defense of Iraq-Qaeda Connection

Roundup: Talking About History

Stephen F. Hayes, in the Weekly Standard (June 24 2004):

VICE PRESIDENT DICK CHENEY said yesterday that suggestions the former Iraqi regime did not have a relationship with al Qaeda are"not accurate," and said he would like to see the U.S. government declassify some of the intelligence that supports Bush administration claims about an Iraq-al Qaeda connection.

"I think we should declassify as much as we can," Cheney said in a wide-ranging, 45 minute interview in the vice president's residence at the Naval Observatory in Washington. Cheney said the desire to make public some of the intelligence about Iraq and al Qaeda must be balanced against the need to protect sources and methods."There is always the temptation to respond to the pressures of the moment by putting as much stuff out there as possible. But you don't want to do so in a way that is damaging to our capacity to collect information in the future." The call for declassification of material relating to the Iraq-al Qaeda connection has come from a variety of sources, including this magazine and the New York Times editorial page.

Cheney's comments come as some Democrats have stepped up their criticism of the Bush administration and its case for war in Iraq. House Democrats filed to the floor of that chamber in recent days to denounce the administration for misleading Americans on Iraq. Numerous top Democrats-including party chairman Terry McAuliffe and Senate majority leader Tom Daschle-attended the U.S. premiere of Michael Moore's Fahrenheit 9/11, a film that accuses the Bush administration of lying to take the nation to war. Former Vice President Al Gore is set to give a speech today at Georgetown University's Law Center focusing on the Iraq-al Qaeda relationship and accusing the Bush administration of using"dishonesty as an essential part of their policy process."

While Cheney was less aggressive in his comments on the Iraq-al Qaeda relationship yesterday than he was in his criticism of news accounts last week about the September 11 Commission staff statements, he did not back down from his central argument: it is"not accurate" to suggest that there was no relationship between Iraq and al Qaeda.

"I think it is important to the public that there be a dialogue to make sure to make a distinction" between potential Iraqi involvement in the 9/11 attacks and a more general Iraq-al Qaeda connection, Cheney said."On the question of whether or not there was Iraqi participation and support for what al Qaeda did in attacking the United States on 9/11," he continued,"we've never been able to prove that, we've been unable to confirm it. The second proposition is between Iraq and al Qaeda and Iraqi intelligence services over a longer period of time and there [we] have said yes there was, and we have been able to confirm that...."

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