Skip to comments.NATIONAL COMMISSION ON TERRORIST ATTACKS UPON THE U.S. [LAURIE MYLROIE TESTIFIES]
Posted on 07/16/2003 12:32:17 PM PDT by Wallaby
Not for commercial use. Solely to be fairly used for the educational purposes of research and open discussion.
"A senior administration official told me in specific that the question of the identities of the terrorist masterminds could not be pursued because of bureaucratic obstructionism."
As we all know, the United States has designated a number of states, including Iraq, Iran and Syria, as state sponsors of terrorism. The difficulties in assessing the attitudes and policies of these states toward al Qaeda are the tasks of our next panel. Addressing these very complex subjects will be two noted experts on Saddam Hussein's Iraq, Dr. Laurie Mylroie, author of "Study of Revenge: Saddam Hussein's Unfinished War Against America," and Dr. Judith Yaphe, Middle East Project Director at the Institution for National Strategic Studies of the National Defense University. Dr. Murhaf Jouejati, scholar-in-residence at the Middle East Institute, will consider Syria. Mark -- make sure I get this right -- Gasiorowski --
MR. GASIOROWSKI: Yes.
MR. KEAN: -- professor of political science at Louisiana State University will tackle the equally complex job of assessing Iranian attitudes toward al Qaeda. Ms. Mylroie.
MS. MYLROIE: Thank you very much for the invitation to address you this morning.
A major policy and intelligence failure occurred in the 1990s, namely the emergence of a serious misunderstanding about the nature of major terrorist attacks on the United States. Prior to the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center, it was assumed that all major attacks against the United States were state-sponsored. The Trade Center bombing is said to mark the start of a new kind of terrorism that does not involve states, and that is simply not true.
And what I'm going to say to you is going to be different than you heard earlier this morning, and that's because the information on which I am basing these evaluations is the evidence from the trials rather than the intelligence. And because terrorism throughout the '90s was treated as a law enforcement issue, that evidence, I would suggest, is more important, more relevant, and more reliable in understanding the terrorist threat.
I'll speak briefly about three plots -- the '93 Trade Center bombing, the '95 plot to bomb a dozen U.S. airplanes in the Philippines, and 9/11. My focus will be on the masterminds -- individuals like Ramzi Yousef and Khalid Sheikh Mohammad. My point will be we do not know who these people. Their identities are all based on documents in Kuwait that pre-date its liberation in 1991, and those documents are not reliable because Iraqi intelligence was there for seven months. Indeed, there is substantial reason to believe that these masterminds are Iraqi intelligence agents.
Now, the '93 bombing of the Trade Center is supposed to be the start of a new, state-less terrorism, but New York FBI, the lead investigative agency, its director, Jim Fox, believed that Iraq was behind the bomb. Why? It was huge. It was meant to topple one tower on to the other, and it left a crate six stories deep in the basement floors. Fox's background was counter-intelligence, and he believed that the individuals he was arresting immediately after the bombing, like the 26-year-old Palestinian Mohammad Salama (ph), who was detained as he returned to the Ryder rental agency for his deposit on the van that carried the bomb. These individuals alone could not have carried out such an attack.
There were also Iraqis all around the fringe of the plot. One of them, Abdul Rahman Yasin, came from Baghdad before the bombing, returned afterwards. He's still an indicted fugitive. Also, see Salana's (ph) many phone calls to Iraq at a crucial early stage of the plot, which are part of my testimony. That's government exhibit 824, a page from Salana's (ph) phone bill, evidence from his trial.
But the key point is the identity of the mastermind, Ramzi Yousef, without whom that bomb could not have been built. He entered the United States on an Iraqi passport in the name of Ramzi Yousef, and fled the night of the Trade Center bombing on a Pakistani passport in the name of Abdel Bassad Karim (ph). There really was an individual Abdel Bassad, born and raised in Kuwait. He graduated high school, then went to study in Britain. Got his degree in June of '89, and returned to Kuwait. And apparently he was still there a year later when Iraq invaded. Yousef obtained the passport on which he fled New York by going to the Pakistani consulate with Xerox copies of the 1984 and 1988 passports of Abdel Bassad Karim saying he was Karim, he had lost his passport, and he needed a new one to get home. The consulate didn't like the documentation, but nonetheless gave him a temporary passport, and that's the passport on which Yousef fled. The copies of Karim's passport that Yousef presented to the consulate were also evidence in the trial. If you look at government exhibits 739 C and B, you will see the first two pages of those passports. You can look at the signatures and you'll see that they're radically different.
Also, a Pakistani address has spaces for a permanent address in Pakistan and a present address in Pakistan. The present address in those passports is blank because the family lived in Kuwait. But the permanent address has changed. The permanent address is, in a Pakistani passport, the family's place of origin. By definition, it doesn't change. But in the 1984 passport, it says Karachi; the '88 passport, Baluchistan. The signature is different. The permanent addresses are different. Those documents went through a scanner.
And similar problem exists with Karim's file in Kuwait. As a routine matter, Kuwait's interior ministry maintained a resident alien file on Karim. Information was taken out. There should have been front -- Xerox copies of the front pages of passports with the signature, the picture, et cetera. The Kuwaitis recognized that that was missing because of Iraq's occupation. What they didn't realize was that the whole file was corrupted. Information was added. There was a notation that Abdul Basit Karim and his family left Kuwait on August 26th, 1990, traveling from Kuwait to Iraq, crossing to Iran at Salancha (ph) on the way to Pakistani Baluchistan where they live now. But no one gives his whole itinerary when he crosses a border. That information doesn't belong in the file. Moreover, on that day there was an Iraqi army of occupation -- no Kuwaiti government. The Iraqis put that information into Abdul Basit Karim's file.
Finally, Yousef's fingerprints are in that file. But everyone's fingerprints are unique, so that can mean only one of two things: Yousef's real identity is Abdul Basit Karim, or someone switched the fingerprint file.
I met with Karim's teachers in Britain for a whole variety of reasons, including that Yousef is tall and Abdul Basit Karim was medium to short -- two different heights. Karim's teachers believe, as do I, that their student is not the bomber, that the student died in Kuwait, and that Ramzi Yousef assumed his identity.
And if Yousef is not Karim, that means a file in Kuwait was tampered with, including switching the fingerprint cards for the evident purpose of creating a false identity for a terrorist.
You're all aware of the practices of Soviet-style intelligence agencies. Agents not attached to an embassy are called illegals, and it's standard practice to develop false identities or legends for illegals. Reasonably, only Iraq could have tampered with Karim's file in Kuwait, including fingerprint cards, while it occupied Kuwait. Iraqi intelligence created a legend for an illegal, and that's the significance of Karim's file.
Now, in '95, Yousef was involved in a plot to bomb a dozen U.S. airplanes in the Philippines. Arrested with him was an individual known as Abdul Hakim Murad. Murad is supposed to be Yousef's childhood friend from Kuwait. And, like Yousef, Murad is also Baluch. Khalid Sheik Mohammed was indicted for that plot too. Mohammed escaped and went on to head al Qaeda's military committee after al Qaeda moved to Afghanistan, and he masterminded the 9/11 attacks. Mohammed is supposed to be Yousef's maternal uncle, but his identity like that of Yousef and Murad is based on what he himself has told other people, and documents in Kuwait that predate Kuwait's liberation from Iraq. Neither are reliable. We don't necessarily know who Mohammad is.
Now, U.S. authorities understand the three other, quote, "relatives" of Yousef -- two older brothers and a younger cousin -- there is a chart on the back of my written statement -- they are also key al Qaeda figures. The brothers, and perhaps the cousin, were also born and raised in Kuwait and their identities too rests on Kuwaiti doctrine. Notably, these people are all Baluch, Sunni Muslim people living in eastern Iran and western Pakistan. Iraqi intelligence has long-standing ties with the Baluch. It used them against Iran.
Prior to the Trade Center bombing, no Baluch was involved in terrorism against the United States. Yes, there's nothing to do with them. And no Baluch organization is on the State Department's terrorism list. Why should Baluch attach the United States, except for the link to Iraqi intelligence?
It's essentially the claim now that the core of the murderous terrorist attacks from the Trade Center bombing to 9/11, at that core is a particularly talented and murderous Baluch family. Yousef, his friends, his uncle, two brothers and a cousin. Yet there is another explanation. This is not a family. Rather they are Baluch illegals given legends by Iraqi intelligence on the basis of documents in Kuwait.
Recently I asked an Israeli retired from the number two position in military intelligence which made more sense, a murderous family or illegals with legends. He replied, It's obvious. It's obvious that these are illegals with legends.
There's a major lapse in the investigation to take these identities at face value. That question must be pursued, and there are suggestions about doing that in my written statement. The odds are high that these people are not whom they claim to be. And demonstrating that would constitute a clear link between Iraq and the 9/11 attack, as reasonably only Iraq could have created these legends while it occupied Kuwait. That would also demonstrate that there is no new kind of terrorism that does not involve states. This terrorism was part of a war that did not end with the 1991 cease-fire but continues to this day. Thank you.
MR. KEAN: Dr. Yaphe.
MS. YAPHE: Thank you very much inviting me. I want to thank the committee very much for inviting me to testify. And for purposes of full disclosure -- you may know this already, but let me state it for the record -- I worked for more than 20 years for the Central Intelligence Agency as a senior analyst on Iraq, Iran, the Persian Gulf. I continue to follow this in my career now, where I am at National Defense University. The comments and analysis that I am offering are my own. They don't represent the Agency, they don't represent the Department of Defense or the university. And I say that for pretty obvious reasons.
My testimony focuses on the role and actions of Iraq as a state sponsor of terrorism under the control of Saddam Hussein. Iraq under Saddam was a major state sponsor of international terrorism. They almost wrote the book, and I've read the books that have been written. Iraq under Saddam was an active sponsor of terrorist groups, providing safe haven, training, arms, logistical support -- requiring in exchange that the groups carry out operations ordered by Baghdad for Saddam's objectives. Terrorist groups were not permitted to have offices, recruitment or training facilities or freely use Iraqi territory under the regime's control without explicit permission from Saddam. To mix a metaphor, if you took Iraq's shilling you did Iraq's bidding -- or Saddam's bidding, more directly.
Saddam used foreign terrorist groups and terrorism as instruments of foreign policy. Groups hosted by Saddam were denied protection. If he wanted to improve relations with a neighboring country and encourage to attack the same countries when Saddam wanted to pressure them. If they refused Saddam's requests, they were exiled.
Now, conventional wisdom casts Saddam as a terrorist, a primary consumer of the terrorist tactics and methods, and an enemy of the United States. And that is all true. Conventional wisdom describes Iraq under Saddam as a primary state sponsor of international terrorism, and that is all true. If the mathematics is correct and the conventional conclusion must be that Saddam and Iraq are responsible for acts of terrorism against the United States, going back to the 1993 Trade Towers attack to perhaps 9/11.
Furthermore, this argument would say Saddam and al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden cooperated in planning and conducting operations on U.S. targets. These assessments are incorrect in my personal view and in my professional judgment as a scholar and intelligence officer on Iraq.
Simply put, Saddam Hussein supported extremist groups that would respond to his orders and work against his enemy. This unfortunately does not make him the primary suspect or the eminence gris for al Qaeda's attacks on the United States. Now, there are a couple of truths to keep in mind. He used terrorism to intimidate Iraqis at home and abroad, and he did that, as we all know, very well. We know by the way we have an unsolved murder in McLean of an Iraqi businessman. That was almost certainly an act of an Iraqi intelligence officer, and a very good one. Now, could there have been an al Qaeda connection? Oh, let me before I do that let me some other truths. The reasons to do that, to support Iraq's revolutionary credentials and ensure his own role as a great Arab leader, intimidate rival leaders and governments, he gave safe haven and training to a wide range of groups, the Abu Nidal group, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine, a Hawari group. He created the Arab Liberation Front as a personal surrogate in the war, which he used recently to pledged $25,000 to every martyr in the intifada against Israel.
Abu Nidal is one of the primary evidences. He urged Abu Nidal to attack Hafez al Asad, his primary rival for Arab leadership and Ba'athist leadership. He also encouraged attacks -- we've heard a lot about the Muslim Brotherhood this morning. They were also a group he liked. He used the Syrian faction, but only against Syria. Other than that, Saddam was not interested in religious-based Islamic extremists, because he knew he was their next target after they finished their primary target. And I would argue that spreads itself to al Qaeda, which Saddam certainly was aware had him on their list after he got the Americans out of Saudi Arabia, after the ruling families in the Gulf were liberated, Saddam would have been next on his list of undesirables to be replaced.
And you know what's interesting, because we have seen Sabri Banna, Abu Nidal, in and out of Iraq for several years. When he refused to cooperate with Baghdad on attacks against Syria, he was told to leave. He came back again later when he was found to be useful. He died last summer, almost a year ago, of four gunshot wounds to the head. The Iraqis describe this as suicide. I don't think so. I would imagine that Saddam decided to remove the evidence of his links to one of the most notorious of international terrorists at a time when the United States was increasing pressure on him to reveal weapons of mass destruction and accusing him of sponsoring al Qaeda. What could be more convenient?
Abu Abbas. Remember Abu Abbas, the Achille Lauro? He also lived for many years, and still did up until the war, in Iraq, and threatened targets during the intifada, just a year ago, from Iraq. Saddam again helped many others. But to show how this was a policy, beside the Palestinians, they are targeting the Israeli Jewish, Western and moderate Arab targets. In the 1980s he sheltered the anti-Turkish PKK, the Kurdish Workers Party.
When he wanted to pressure Turkey he let them go loose against the Turks. When he wanted to be nice to Turkey, he let them cross the border in hot pursuit to eliminate the PKK. He sheltered the Mujaheddin-e Khalq, the Iranian anti-regime group which helped him in his fight against us. He supported their attacks against Iran when it was to his benefit, and on occasion he would threaten to close them down when he wanted to get closer to Tehran for whatever reasons.
Now, Saddam security services and surrogates were successful in certain areas, especially internal, especially defectors, especially businessmen abroad were kind of sloppy. But the security services showed little success in planning or ordering operations against foreign targets. Palestinian dependents refused to launched operations against us in the prelude up to the Gulf War in late 1990, early 1991. They failed to get their own agents abroad to conduct attacks on the eve of that war. They were all arrested as they got off the plane. Very sloppy trade craft. And their attempt to assassinate President George Herbert Walker Bush I think was another example of incompetence on their part.
Now, the al Qaeda connection, to move swiftly along, Did Iraq need al Qaeda? Probably Saddam might have liked a group like that, but I don't think he would have needed them. I've said given the reasons why I thought -- and it is in my testimony -- I think he saw him as a threat, Osama as a threat, rather than as a potential partner. Do Osama and al Qaeda need Iraq? I would disagree with my colleague. I don't think they did. I think the groups were and remain global in scope, decompartmented in design and membership, in organizational infrastructure and operational planning. Many of the leaders are well educated -- you had that all this morning in earlier testimony. They operate on a need-to-know principle. It's not one just restricted to the intelligence community, the Soviets. The Muslim Brotherhood used it. The Muslim Brotherhood was effective. You've heard a lot about them. I would simply point out that they never needed state support, state sponsorship, to conduct their activities.
So we have questionable assumptions. I find troubling the use of circumstantial evidence and a corresponding lack of credible evidence. To jump to conclusions on Iraqi support for al Qaeda, I will look for credible, reliable records, open sources from the community, or clandestine. I worked on terrorism, in the Counterterrorism Center for three years. I know the kind of information you get. Nice people, heroes of their country, do not give you information. They are not patriots, they are not untarnished sources. They are people who do this stuff, people who do terrorism that you have to deal with. And you have to use your skills -- especially hard to sort out truth from fiction, who has a grudge, who is trying to convince you of something for their purposes. I don't think that guilt by circumstance should trouble anyone. I think it should trouble us. I think the chain of evidence is not good. And I would also say that because a person or an agency or a government does not agree with one's assumptions, it does not mean they are mistaken, stupid or deliberately obstructive. It means we have a trouble in gathering intelligence and gathering proper evidence, and we need to be careful.
Let me go quickly to just a few other points that I wanted to make in my few minutes remaining. It's not -- the unwillingness of Saddam and Osama to consider cooperation is not because they had different sects -- one's Sunni, one's Shi'a -- or different ideologies. Saddam was no ideologue. I think the point again was I think it was more of a danger to Saddam. It was a risk he didn't need to take. And I don't think that the evidence -- now, I do want to point just briefly, because we have had a very interesting turn of events just this morning announced, and that was the arrest of one of the al Qaeda -- excuse me, the Iraqi intelligence officer in Prague who was supposed to have met with Mohammad Atta. Now, evidence about those meetings I think we have an excellent opportunity to find out if they took place. We also have in our control the Iraqi intelligence officer, the senior operative who was also an ambassador in Turkey, Tunisia and Jordan, who allegedly went to Kabul and met with Osama both then and in Sudan in 1994, and that's Farouk Hijazi. And I don't see we've seen any evidence of his interrogation either, but we have them in custody.
My point would be simply this -- and maybe it's not so simple -- that I would expect an intelligence agent to have contact with any organization -- I don't care if it would be al Qaeda, the Soviets or any one who was willing to operate against the United States. I'd be disappointed. They wouldn't be doing their jobs. His purpose would have been to assess intent, operational capability and recruitment potential. It would not have been sufficient for both to just simply hate the United States. Saddam always demanded total loyalty from and control over any group he supported. And I don't think al Qaeda would have agreed to any of that kind of subordination or control. So I think that complicity -- we need to talk.
Now, this will bring me to my conclusion. I know my time is up. I have three simple -- three recommendations. First, I think you have to all recognize the limits as well as the strengths of intelligence. It's not a science. I think it 's an art. I especially think when you deal on Iraq and when you deal on these issues of terrorist infrastructures, networks and support, you have to do a lot of homework, you have to read a lot, and you have to I think -- it's not all going to be a smoking gun and looking for clear evidence. That's the science -- it would be nice if it were that science. So I would say that, again, recognize the limits what can and cannot be given you. And also I think one has to read carefully. Always check reliability statements and do not just accept what is not vetted or because someone says it's true it must be true, it sounds like it 's true. Again, I think we all have to remember that the sources on any of this are not the best you'd like.
My final plea would simply be intelligence does not make policy. Policy should not shape intelligence. I think one has to look very carefully. If anything, the metaphor of the onion and the Middle East is true: the more layers you peel away, the more complicated the story gets. Thank you very much.
MR. KEAN: Thank you very much. Dr. Jouejati.
MR. JOUEJATI: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I am truly very honored to be here today. I have but a few remarks, and I will approach Syria and terrorism not from the micro level but rather from a macro level.
President Bush we know stated that you are with us or you are with the terrorists. Ms. Condoleezza Rice stated there are no good terrorists and bad terrorists: terrorists are terrorists. I think the realities in the Middle East are bit more complex than this.
According to the State Department definition of terrorism, "terrorism" means premeditated, politically motivated violence perpetrated against noncombatant targets by subnational groups or clandestine agents usually intended to influence an audience. If that definition is correct, then groups such as the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, the PFLPGC, Hamas and the PIJ are all terrorist organizations. And it so happens that Syria has hosted these terrorist organizations, and therefore Syria is a state sponsor of terrorism.
Syria has supported these groups in order to advance its objectives, its realpolitik objectives. It has also supported these groups for the furtherance of the larger Arab objectives, which is the liberation of territories occupied by Israel. And it has used at least some of these groups in order to cut down -- this is at least in the recent past -- Yasser Arafat to size in order to deny him the autonomy of movement that he has always sought.
Syria of course doesn't see things this way. Syria sees these groups as national resistance freedom fighters; that their struggle is a legitimate one which is to liberate their occupied territories. Moreover, Syria denies supporting these groups but claims that it hosts them by way of them having press offices in Syria. And at any rate these organizations are the representatives of the some 500,000 Palestinian refugees that are in Syria.
But in reality what is the nature of the assistance of Syria to these groups? I have never in my young career, my 20 years of research on Syria, have never found any evidence that Syria finances them, as Israelis would argue. Nor have I seen any evidence that would buttress the Syrian argument. In fact, I think Syria allows these groups, specifically the PFLPGC, to operate businesses inside Syria, the profits of which return back to the PFLPGC, in order to sustain its cause and its operations.
There are no training camps, to my knowledge, of Hizbollah in Syria. There are no military bases of Hizbollah. There are no offices of Hizbollah in Syria. And Syria claims that it provides Hizbollah only with moral, political support.
That is difficult to believe, especially that it is a known fact that arms that leave Iran to Hizbollah transit through Syrian territory. And so Syria, in this particular instance, has at least some influence with Hizbollah by closing the routes at will.
Having said that, Syria does not report any political group, any terrorist group, outside the Middle East. Syria is wholly concerned and its foreign policy is centered on the Arab-Israeli conflict. But given that support, given that logistical support that Syria provides these organizations, some in the administration have voiced their concern about Syria and even have talked of punishing Syria for that support.
Where there's difficulty, however, is that simultaneously Syria has been perhaps one of the closest partners of the United States in the war against al Qaeda. Syria saved Canadian and American lives. Syrian security services apparently have tipped off the Canadian and American authorities of an impending attack against Canadian and American government institutions.
Syria again saved American lives in that it tipped off the CIA of an impending operation against the administrative unit of the 5th Fleet in the Bahrain. This information is in the public record. Syria, by providing information on Mohammed el Atta, on Marwan al- Shehhi, on Derka Zenli (ph), the financial conduit to al Qaeda, by providing this information to the CIA, has enabled the CIA to break up cells in Europe.
Syria cooperates with the CIA on al Qaeda because it has itself been a target; in fact, the first target of Islamic militant fundamentalism. Syria was nearly at a civil war at the end of the '70s and the early '80s when the Muslim Brotherhood wanted to unseat the Hafez el-Assad regime and to destabilize Syria. And so Syria has been a target and does not want this brand of radical Islamic fundamentalism to gain any foothold in the Middle East, and especially not in Syria.
MR. BEN-VENISTE: And you have also suggested that Khalid Sheikh Mohammad was also an Iraqi operative, is that correct?
MS. MYLROIE: I believe he is, yes.
But Syria has done a lot against al Qaeda with the United States, in cooperation with the United States, and clearly Syria should be rewarded for fighting terrorism. The problem is, if we go back to what President Bush and Mrs. Condoleezza Rice says, the problem is, how do we punish Syria for harboring terrorism and reward Syria at the same time for fighting terrorism?
Obviously the two are mutually exclusive. And this should tell us something that might be wrong with our own definition. Terrorism in the Middle East did not emerge in a vacuum. Terrorism is a product of military occupation, specifically Israel's occupation of Arab territories.
How do we change Syria's behavior? Well, we can threaten Syria with political and economic sanctions. Historically that pressure has made Syria go in the other direction. When the U.S. and Israel struck a strategic alliance in the 1980s, Syria embraced the Soviet Union, or rather vice-versa. When there was the Turkish-Israeli alliance in the mid-1990s, Syria, who had been the foremost enemy of Iraq, opened up to Iraq. Pressure now, I fear, would throw Syria further into Iran's arms.
We can threaten Syria militarily. We might get Damascus' attention that way. And we did. And as a result, Syria did apparently, allegedly, reportedly close the offices of the PFLPGC and of Hamas and the PIJ. My question is, how long will this be before their leaders return to Syria and open offices elsewhere?
Rather -- and I have here only one suggestion, if I may, with humility -- rather than simply punishing Syria or simply rewarding Syria, I think the U.S. should show both sticks and carrots; sticks by maintaining the U.S. assertive tone vis-a-vis Damascus, and carrots by showing U.S. resolve in ending the Arab-Israeli conflict peacefully and in accordance with U.N. land-for-peace resolutions.
This the U.S. can do by, one, including Syria and Lebanon in the road map, and this immediately, and two, by leaning on both sides to the conflict -- and this includes Israel -- to abide by the U.N. land- for-peace resolutions. Once there is peace, Syria is on record as wanting to normalize diplomatic and other relations with Israel, and also disbanding any anti-Israel groups.
MR. KEAN: Dr. Gasiorowski.
MR. GASIOROWSKI: I'd like to thank the committee for inviting me to testify here. I was asked to talk about Iran's motives in supporting terrorism, and so I will begin with a brief overview of what Iran does along these lines these days and then talk about what Iran's motives are and what the decision-making process is that leads Iran to support terrorism or not in given cases. And then finally I'll conclude by saying a few things about the prospects for change in Iran's behavior along these lines.
So, first of all, Iranian support for terrorism. Of course, thinking back to the 1980s, especially the early 1980s, Iran was doing a great deal in the way of supporting terrorism, most importantly, supporting Hizbollah against the United States acting against its neighbors in the Persian Gulf, the Saudis and others; and in the late '80s and early '90s, assassinating Iranian exiles in Europe. And Iran deservedly has a very bad name for these activities.
Iran has changed a certain amount in the past 10 years in this regard. Most importantly, they are no longer assassinating Iranian exiles in Europe. This ended in around 1996. And also they have stopped the behavior that they were pursuing in the '80s and the early '90s supporting subversive groups in the Persian Gulf, in Saudi Arabia, in Bahrain and Kuwait.
So there have been important changes in recent years in Iran's behavior. That being said, Iran clearly does still support important terrorist groups today. We can distinguish three categories, and there's possibly a fourth that Iran may be involved in.
First of all, the groups that Iran is most closely connected with and most strongly supports are groups in the region that share their Shiite revolutionary ideology or that share ethnic connections with Iran. Of these, of course, the most important is Hizbollah in Lebanon, which has been closely connected with Iran since its founding in the early 1980s, and it is just simply blood brothers of the Iranian revolutionaries.
Also, a very similar type of group in Iraq, the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iran, SCIRI, also was founded very much with Iranian help in the early 1980s.
The third group that Iran has very close long-standing ties with is the Northern Alliance in Afghanistan, most of whose members are ethnically Persian or at least related or are Shiites. They are now our friends in Afghanistan and we helped them or they helped us overthrow the Taliban.
So these are the main groups that Iran is involved with; I mean to say the groups that Iran is most closely involved with. Each of these has changed quite substantially in recent years. SCIRI in Iraq is now behaving itself pretty well, at least by comparison with Sunny groups in Iraq. The Northern Alliance, as I said, has been working with us; worked with us against the Taliban and is now, most of its members, at least, cooperating with the government of Afghanistan; indeed, populating the government of Afghanistan.
Even Hizbollah in Lebanon, which has a great deal of blood, including American blood, on its hands, has changed quite a bit in recent years. Especially since the Israeli withdrawal from Lebanon in 2000, it has engaged in little or no activities that could be called terrorism, though certainly it remains a substantial threat along those lines. So those are the groups that Iran is most strongly connected with.
Secondly, the Palestinian Islamist groups -- here we're talking about Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad -- these are Sunni groups.
These are groups that are rather far from areas of immediate concern for Iran. Nonetheless, Iran clearly supports these groups, perhaps less closely than the first category that I mentioned, but there's no question that Iran is involved with these groups as well. And they are, of course, today very actively involved in targeting Israel interests in the region.
Third, Iran has been evidently involved with Palestinian secular non-Islamist groups. The main evidence for this, as we all know, is the Karine A, which was a ship that about a year and a half ago that was intercepted by Israelis delivering weapons from Iran to the Palestinians. Certainly Iran is less close to these secularist groups, but there's no question that it has had this involvement.
Finally, there's the question of Iran's connections with al Qaeda. The United States government has repeatedly charged in the last couple of years that al Qaeda members are taking refuge in Iran, and indeed the Iranian government has acknowledged this.
However, there's never been any clear, definitive evidence that the Iranian government is supporting them. It might be rogue elements of the Iranian security forces or it may simply be that these groups are there without any connection with the Iranian government. This is just simply not clear.
Secondly, Iran's motives in supporting terrorism. There are basically three. Historically, most important has been Iran's Shiite revolutionary ideology. Throughout the '80s and early '90s, when Iran was very deeply involved in this sort of activity, it was largely for the purposes of spreading its revolution.
However, during the course of the 1990s, the revolutionary fervor dissipated quite substantially in Iran. Today there's only a relatively small group of hardliners, mostly located in the Revolutionary Guards, who still care about exporting the revolution. And so this is now not really a major issue anymore other than the fact that the Iranian government has to sometimes respond to the interests of these hardliners.
And in any case, the ideological motive in Iranian foreign policy really only applies to the first of the groups that I've talked about who share Iran's Shiite revolutionary ideology, not really to the others. And specifically, al Qaeda does not at all share Iran's revolutionary ideology. And this is really the main reason that people are skeptical of connections between the Iranian government and al Qaeda.
Al Qaeda and its affiliates in Afghanistan and Pakistan are strongly anti-Shiites. They are Sunny wahabis. Wahabis are very, very anti-Shi'a for various reasons. Al Qaeda and its affiliates have been involved in a lot of anti-Shiite attacks in the region. Probably something like 100 or so Shiites have been killed in Pakistan, Iran and Afghanistan in the last five or 10 years.
And indeed, Iran, partly for that reason, has supported anti- Taliban forces. Iran was by far the main supporter of the Northern Alliance before U.S. forces came along in late 2001 and began to work with them. Indeed, Iran almost went to war with the Taliban; massed 270,000 troops on Afghanistan's border in 1998. So Iran and Qaeda and its affiliates have a long history of very bad relations.
For this reason, it's pretty doubtful that the Iranian government has been involved with al Qaeda, though, of course, anything is possible in the Middle East, and I certainly wouldn't bet my retirement money that there is no connection there.
There's a third possibility. It may be rogue elements of the Iranian security forces that have been involved with al Qaeda. I don't really know, and I don't even think that anybody in the U.S. intelligence community really knows.
The second reason Iran supports terrorism, and I think more important these days than the first, than the ideological reason, is the tactical uses that terrorism provides for Iran. Terrorism can be a useful weapon for Iran. I'll just give two very prominent examples.
First of all, Hizbollah. Although Hizbollah has largely or entirely stopped its terrorist activities in recent years, it remains a very potent threat, very well-armed, very well-equipped, very capable of doing all kinds of bad things. And Iran is largely responsible for giving it these capabilities over the years. And clearly there's a very close working relationship.
Many people believe Iran has nurtured this continuing capability for terrorism on the part of Hizbollah to serve as a form of deterrence against the Israelis, and perhaps to some extent against the United States. In other words, if Israel directly attacks Iran, Iran might turn Hizbollah loose on Israel. So that's a good example of how terrorism can be tactically useful for Iran.
Much the same in a rather different way is true of Iran's continuing relations with groups in Afghanistan and with certain groups among Shiites in Iraq. Clearly these groups give Iran a fair amount of influence in those respective countries and enable Iran to do various things.
So the second motive for supporting terrorism, then, is that it can be tactically useful. To a country that is not militarily very powerful, can't really stand up to countries like the United States and Israel, terrorism gives it a way of doing so.
The third influence on Iran's support for terrorism are foreign policy constraints. And this is a negative influence. Increasingly in the last 10 years, Iran has wanted better relations with the West for economic and diplomatic reasons, and Iran has long realized that its support for terrorism is a major obstacle to that.
And it's indeed for this reason that Iran gave up some of the more drastic things that it was doing in the early 1990s -- the assassinations in Europe, subversive activities in the Persian Gulf Arab countries. It gave up these things, it seems clear, largely because it wanted better relations with the EU countries and with the GCC countries.
Similarly, in the last year or so, Iran has extradited an unknown number of al Qaeda members, also evidently for diplomatic reasons, to defuse criticism from the United States.
Very quickly, what is Iran's decision-making on these matters? It seems that decisions on whether or not to support terrorism are largely made at the very top levels. Of course, this excludes this question of al Qaeda, which may be supported by rogue elements of the security forces. But generally speaking, I think the very top leaders in Iran are responsible for these decisions, and specifically supreme leader Khamenei.
That being said, I think that these decisions are the result of a pragmatic weighing of the pros and cons of engaging in any given terrorist activity for Iran. And again, I would cite as evidence Iran's decision to give up the assassinations in Europe, to give up subversion in Saudi Arabia and other GCC countries. Clearly this was a weighing by Iran of the pros and cons, and Iran decided to stop doing it. This suggests Iran is relatively pragmatic in its support for terrorism.
So, then, finally, what are the prospects for change? I think there are two main things that we can look to that might lead Iran to further reduce its involvement in terrorism; first of all, a positive outcome in the domestic power struggle that has been raging for a long time in Iran. I think if the reformist faction led by President Khatami were to come to power, which doesn't seem very likely these days, we would see a substantial change and Iran would really move toward fully normalizing its relations with the U.S. and with the West.
Secondly, I think the other major prospect for change is that I think there is a fair amount that the United States could do to offer Iran both positive and negative incentives to stop its further support for terrorism. I'll leave it to the State Department to decide what to do along those lines, but I would say certainly both carrots and sticks would be appropriate here.
Thank you very much.
MR. KEAN: Thank you, sir. Commissioner Lehman.
MR. LEHMAN: Yes. First I would like to join my colleague and friend, Tim Roemer, in commending the chairman and vice chairman for what's been achieved.
While it's good that some of our commissioners continue to look at the empty part of the glass on what's been achieved, I think the updates from our task forces yesterday leave no doubt that our chairman and vice chairman have succeeded in getting access to more sensitive information, important information, and information essential for us to do our job than any commission in history.
We have the broadest mandate in history, and I think we have obtained access greater than any commission in history. There's still more to be done, but there 's certainly no doubt in my mind that not only are we succeeding in doing the job that Congress gave us but that we will succeed very effectively in producing what the country expects of us. So thank you.
I would like to also commend the previous panel in setting, I think, the right insight for the way we look at this issue, particularly the subject of your panel, that what we face here is not a clash of civilizations, but, in fact, an Islamic civil war and one in which we must take sides and we must force our friends also to take sides; that the phenomenon is one of jihadism. It has many manifestations, the most well-organized and recently effective of which was al Qaeda, but that is not the only one. And if we succeed in continuing to dismantle and destroy it, that is not going to solve our problem.
So as we look at state sponsorship of terrorism, I think we ought to question -- and I'd like to get the views of each of the panelists on what has come to be the rubric, really, set by the State Department's annual report on terrorism as much too narrowly defined.
We note, for instance, that in each of your testimony that each of the state sponsors of terrorism that you have addressed have their own particular interest in why they are doing it. And some support some groups; others support other groups. And then, of course, there is one of the biggest issues in its absence from the list is the Saudi role in this Islamic civil war.
There seems to be little doubt that much of the funding for many of these terrorist groups, whether you say it's entirely unintentional or some intention, has flowed from Saudi sources. The 300-some schools and mosques supported by the Saudis around the world preach a kind of wahabi fanaticism that is certainly fertile ground for recruiting of terrorists. Yet this doesn't fit into our rubric of what state sponsorship is.
And when I hear people describe how benign the Syrians currently are and the Iranians currently are and I think back to how effectively both of their governments cooperated in putting together that attack on our Marines in Beirut and the fact that most of the principals who carried out that attack, an attack for which we never retaliated and, as far as I know, have no plans to retaliate against, are still operating, still training in (bailback ?), and still training new generations of jihadists.
And so it seems to me our definitions need refining. I mean, many would point out that the European community allows Hizbollah and Hamas openly to raise money legally throughout Europe. Is this -- should this fit into the rubric of state sponsorship of terrorism?
So I would like each of you to address how we should change the way the U.S. government looks at state sponsorship, because it creates, each with their delicatessen of special interests, an environment throughout the Muslim world in which terrorist groups can flourish, can train; some do well here, some do well there. But it is a swamp that clearly we are not addressing effectively in the rubric that we now apply in our government policies.
Ms. Mylroie, would you --
MS. MYLROIE: Yeah, I appreciate your comments. I appreciate your point, say, about wahabi money and how negative -- the negative impact on the region in promoting anti-Americanism. And there was a recent story in the New York Times how Indonesia, which is this kind of mild kind of Islam and elements are getting Saudi money as well; it's a very negative impact.
But, with all due respect, I think that that is one issue; it's an important issue. And there is another issue. What was the structure of authority, organization, which allowed 19 people on September 11th to kill 3,000 Americans in less than two hours? And they're not the same question, because it really can be shown, if the commission would pursue this line of inquiry even a little bit, that these people lack the capabilities to do that on their own.
Al Qaeda was a front for Iraqi intelligence in much the same way that Hizbollah is a front for the Iranians and the Syrians. And the administration repeatedly speaks, senior administration officials, about the nexus between terrorist states and terrorist groups; talks about terrorism using weapons of mass destruction, including biological weapons.
They describe that as the greatest threat to the United States. And that threat can become more evident if we do not properly, carefully organize and recognize these structures of authority, because a terrorist group allows a terrorist state, say, to inflict mass casualties on this country with an anthrax attack or a botulinum attack; so I think two different issues.
MR. LEHMAN: Ms. Yaphe?
MS. YAPHE: Well, Dr. Mylroie's answer leaves me kind of breathless because I think she's doing exactly what troubles me the most about leaping to great conclusions, that Iraq -- that al Qaeda was a front for Iraqi intelligence. I'm sorry, I need evidence. If I'm -- if there is evidence, if we can get some material that says this, fine, but I don't see it now.
What I -- the question among many of the questions, why would Saddam Hussein have given to a group like al Qaeda that he couldn't control, that has no -- and that did pose a threat, an existential threat to him, why would he give them those weapons of mass destruction -- botulinum, chemicals, radioactive whatevers -- when he -- he didn't want to admit he had them himself? Now, to give them to a group that fingerprints would have been easy to trace back, I would think, I don't see why he would do it. I don't think he sent them to Syria. I think he learned a great lesson in 1990 when he sent his aircraft off to Iran, never to be seen again. These are not things you share or give away, especially if you can't get them back, you can't control, and they won't do you greater danger.
I do think, though, looking ahead, as part of your question -- which is, I think, a good one -- is that is there are future threat here? Because it's one thing to say about the past, Saddam could or couldn't, did or didn't, but the question becomes what use will terrorists be able to make of the new Iraq, especially an Iraq that is -- which law and order is not clearly or fully established and may not be for quite a while, in which you have elements running around, whether they are Ba'athist loyalists or disgruntled army officers who are no longer employed, whatever the reason, Iraq is going to be a dangerous country -- dangerous for us and for a lot of others.
And leaving those elements aside and getting back to your question, even under Saddam there was indications of outside support going to help internally based Iraqi Islamists -- whether they were Sunni or Shi'a. I think Saddam certainly believed that the Saudis were helping to spread wahabism, especially among the Sunni Arab center. Iran has been involved in sheltering Iraqi Shi'a dissidents, refugees, and those groups of with which it has a clear contact. But more than that -- I'm not so worried about what Iran might do or might think they could do -- I think we vastly overestimate and I think the Iranians do too, the influence they will have on the new Iraq -- but the point is that Iraq had within its own structures the Shi'a community. And the Shi'a community is a very complicated thing, but I'm thinking now of the mosques and the religious community where there were, in effect, shadow governments, networks that we saw as soon the regime, the old regime was gone, could come out and could do things from getting the streets cleaned, imposing local law and order, setting up local authorities, getting the schools opened, the hospitals, taking over city hall.
Now, what could that mean for the future? They have a capability to attract and to influence believers in Iraq and how they go could be very important. If they will say "do not interfere with, we do not support acts of terrorism or opposition," or if they say "we will sanction opposition," if they sanction opposition to the occupying force, which is what they see us as and what we are, then we will see a growth of operations, be they military based, terrorists, whatever, there will be an increase.
But much of that can be resolved and will be inside Iraq. I don't see, you know, a foreign hand in that per se.
The one remaining question will be the allegation that Saddam supported and allowed al Qaeda camps in northern Iraq, which was in Kurdish territory that was outside of Saddam's control. I have more of that in my testimony, but I think my point is that looking ahead, yes, there will be Islamist extremists in Iraq -- maybe encouraged by the outside, but probably with a lot of their own support, energy and money to come from inside, and what we need to do is to think of a way to disarm this as a weapon and find a way to bring this, absorb this into a system in which Iraqi Shi'as, be they of an extremist mind or a moderate mind, whether they're secular or religious, see more to gain by having a stake in society than by trying to just, you know, blow us up and get us out of there.
MR. LEHMAN: Before we go to Mr. Jouejati, I'd like to just ask a short follow-up. There have been many press reports of the recovery of materials in Afghanistan and in Baghdad that indicate that al Qaeda received technical training in weapons of mass destruction, and received not only training but some ability to manufacture some of them. If -- have you seen such evidence that the Iraqis are involved in this? And if not Iraqi intelligence, who?
MS. YAPHE: No, I've seen the press reports just as you have. And frankly, I wouldn't be surprised if the Iraqis did provide some kind of training. That would be a perfectly normal thing -- train them, see if you can suborn them, see if you can take them over -- but that wouldn't mean that they trusted them or that they did operational planning. I think you have to be careful to sort out what you try to do to wins hearts and minds of these groups to work for you and your objectives and where you draw the line. But again, I, as I say, that's almost what you expect to be part of the trade craft and the mission of the intelligence of these groups, and being in contact with or trying to win over and find out a lot about to penetrate these organizations. And we know that the Iraqis were highly successful in penetrating organizations that were opposed to them, the dissidents abroad, other terrorist groups -- why wouldn't they have tried that with al Qaeda? I mean, what did they have to lose.
MR. LEHMAN: Mr. Jouejati?
MR. JOUEJATI: Thank you very much. I always envy Dr. Yaphe for being so articulate, and it always happens that I am right after you to speak. (Laughter.)
Again, I will, if I may use generalities and the macro approach, there are two components that are interlinked. The Middle East needs peace, and the Middle East needs democracy. Hizbollah would not exist had it not been for Israel's invasion of Lebanon in 1982. Hamas would not see the light of day, nor would it have states sponsoring it if there was no Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza. There will always be the crazies out there who want to destroy Israel, but they will be marginalized if there is peace in the Middle East. And we know the contours of the political solution to the crisis in the Middle East.
The Middle East needs democracy. In the 1960s, both the 1950s and the 1960s, and even in the 1970s, the states that are secular are viewed by the people as having failed. And you would talk to many people on the streets -- whether in Syria or in Jordan or in Egypt -- and they will tell you "Well, we have tried socialism and it has failed and failed miserably. We've tried capitalism and that too has failed. What we need to try now is something, an ideology that is rooted in our territory, and that is Islam." And this Islam becomes even more radical in the absence of democracy because people are not empowered. And so they give up -- they give themselves up to the divine, the divine is going to save them.
Militantism, radicalism in Islam increases when it is combined with the socioeconomic factor. In Syria specifically, if there was the rise of the Muslim brotherhood, it is because of the socioeconomic conditions. And it is because -- and I have done my research -- the 50 top leaders of the Muslim brotherhood in Syria are the grandchildren of the 50 largest landholders of Syria in the 1950s. And these properties were nationalized by the socialist government of the Ba'ath and the grandchildren -- again the socioeconomic factor is very important in this -- took up arms against a regime that they cannot change through the vote.
And so again, if we only address one of the two components, we're not going to get anywhere. We need to have peace in the Middle East, and we need to have democracy in the Middle East.
When the United States appears to be the ally and supporter of undemocratic regimes in the Middle East, this sends the wrong signal to the people, and therefore part of the enmity and the resentment against the United States.
MR. LEHMAN: Mr. Gasiorowski.
MR. GASIOROWSKI: I agree with the thrust of your question, that state sponsorship is a very problematic concept, and indeed the whole, you know, meaning of the word "terrorism" -- exactly who is a terrorist, what are terrorist acts? I wouldn't throw them out altogether, but certainly they're problematic.
The Middle East is an area that is, you know, composed of infinite shades of gray -- no black and no white, really. And so more than anything else what's needed is subtlety in looking at the region and working with the region, and using these terms. And I don't say that, you know, with a lot of criticism. I think that most of the people certainly that I have interacted with in the State Department and elsewhere in the U.S. government have that kind of subtlety. I wouldn't quite say that for the people at the very top, but that's another matter.
With respect to state sponsorship, I think, you know, we certainly do need to go after state sponsorship. These countries that are being discussed in this panel have done a lot of very bad things, certainly all three of them, especially Iran, no question about it. And so we certainly need to use sticks -- military force, covert means, are an essential part of solving this problem in the region.
However, we also need to address the underlying causes. I mean, it's no surprise that it's the United States that is being attacked, not Ireland, or the Dutch, you know, or the Italians. It's us who is being attacked because we are the ones with the big footprint in the region. We are the ones very close to Israel, which has caused so much misery for Palestinians. We are the ones now occupying Iraq. We are the ones closely supporting governments in places like Egypt and Saudi Arabia that are very unpopular.
"We went to war because senior administration officials believe Iraq was involved in 9/11. But as we did that and they tried to articulate it, they heard, and it would come out in the form of disgruntled individuals within the bureaucracies, including the CIA, leaking to the press 'there is no evidence,' this cry always, what the Wall Street Journal called an echo chamber, 'there is no evidence.'
But, I think ultimately, most importantly, we need to change the overall U.S. posture in the region, push for a more even-handed approach by the United States, certainly push for an end to the Israeli-Palestinian problem, you know, an equitable solution to that problem, and a gradual reduction of the U.S. posture in the region, which is simply, you know, causing problems, and simply aggravating people in the region.
MR. LEHMAN: Thank you. One last question to both Ms. Mylroie and Dr. Yaphe. What about Salman Pak? It's been so much in the news. Was this a training facility for hijackers?
MS. MYLROIE: Well, that is what two Iraqi defectors said soon after 9/11. The -- one of them even drew a picture of the area and said here's an airplane parked right here, which was -- which Iraqi intelligence used to train non-Iraqi Arab militants to take over airplanes. Satellite photos corroborated that fellow 's account. When the marines overran Salman Pak they captured non-Iraqi Arab militants. They interrogated them. They said, "These people told us, you know, it looks like they're being trained for, what they told us they're being trained in terrorism." So, yes, Salman Pak was, was a terrorist training camp.
I'd like to add one more point, though.
What you're seeing here in this exchange, which is somewhat unfortunate, between me and my colleague, is I think kind of the microcosm of what happened as the United States went to war. We went to war because senior administration officials believe Iraq was involved in 9/11. But as we did that and they tried to articulate it, they heard, and it would come out in the form of disgruntled individuals within the bureaucracies, including the CIA, leaking to the press "there is no evidence," this cry always, what the Wall Street Journal called an echo chamber, "there is no evidence."
I did, in 10 minutes -- I thought it was kind of nifty to do it in 10 minutes -- talk about three major terrorist attacks against the United States, and gave -- highlighted some very specific evidence, mainly, you know, the question of who are these people. So again, what you're seeing here is the bigger fight that has gone on, you know, in the national media.
MS. YAPHE: Well, I'll take exception to that. I don't think that that's necessarily the case. It is true, we do see things differently, and that's -- that happens among people to tend to look at things from a different perspective.
But let me go back, first, Laurie is absolutely right about Salman Pak. That 's been known as a terrorist training camp for many years. Palestinian extremists, terrorists of many kinds that the Iraqis supported went through their training courses there. I think the question is the sightings by one or two -- there were two defectors who claimed that extremists were -- Islamists were being trained there, and I think they made the conclusion they had to be al Qaeda -- or somebody, I don't remember who did -- but they based that on the fact that they prayed a lot and wore beards. Again, maybe they were Islamists, maybe not. To answer your question, yes, that has been a long-known training center, having to do with probably all kinds of terrorist acts, including, yes there was an aircraft there. I think initially some people identified that as a Boeing aircraft. It's not. To the best of my knowledge, that's a Soviet -- and old Soviet Antonov that's been there for many, many years. So, were they training to take over an American aircraft? They probably were just training on techniques to do whatever terrorists train to do, but yes, that has been known.
I'll let it go at that.
MR. LEHMAN: Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman.
MR. KEAN: Mr. Ben-Veniste, and then Commissioner Thompson.
MR. BEN-VENISTE: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I would like to echo the comments of my fellow commissioners and friends, Tim Roemer and John Lehman, in commending our chair and vice chair for their delivery yesterday of our first interim report on the issue of compliance with our document and other requests made to the executive branch. I don't know that I would use the pugilistic analogy of Tim Roemer -- that's not my way, as many of you would know -- (laughter) -- I prefer John Lehman's analogy to the glass being half full. And I can assure those who are watching our activities that our staff has pretty much gulped down that glass and is thirsty for more.
You all should also know that the interim report was the product of a unanimous, bipartisan, and very collegial effort on the part of all members of this commission, analyzing what we have requested to date and what we have received. And I must say I am gratified in reading what the spokespersons from the executive have said as reported in the newspapers today, with respect to a pledge of cooperation. Particularly, I would hope that the procedures which the White House has put in place for our review of certain of the materials with which we have disagreed and which we view as necessarily impeding our ability to utilizing the information will be rethought and that we will have a constructive resolution of that issue.
The information that we are receiving and expect to receive in the very, very near future will allow us to be more informed than we may be at the present moment with respect to what our intelligence services have discovered with respect to matters which have been discussed here today during this panel. And so I'm hopeful that the words that the White House spokespeople have provided to the media will be matched by deeds, and that we will move quickly to assimilate that information.
Let me direct my questioning to Dr. Mylroie. You start your prepared remarks with the observation that the reasons that we went to war in Iraq were not as well understood as they might be. And I think many observers would agree with that statement. You go on, however, to suggest that a justification for our invasion of Iraq was the role of Iraqi intelligence operatives in actions directed against United States civilians.
Is it fair to say that your provocative theory that Iraqi intelligence, directed by Saddam Hussein presumably, had a hand in both the 1993 and September 11, 2001 attacks against the World Trade Center and our Pentagon is something which you have promoted over a period of time in your written work and in other appearances?
MS. MYLROIE: Yes, I --
MR. BEN-VENISTE: Is it also fair to say that the principle reason underpinning your conclusion that the Iraqis were behind these two terrorist attacks is that Ramzi Yousef was an intelligence agent of the Iraqi intelligence service?
MS. MYLROIE: That is among the reasons, yes.
MR. BEN-VENISTE: And you have also suggested that Khalid Sheikh Mohammad was also an Iraqi operative, is that correct?
MS. MYLROIE: I believe he is, yes.
MR. BEN-VENISTE: Now, clearly, in the various organs for publicizing this theory on television and in books and articles, you have made your theory known to officials of the U.S. government at various levels, is that correct?
MS. MYLROIE: Yes.
MR. BEN-VENISTE: And of course in the very short time which is allotted here today, and on the basis only of what's in the public record and what we've been able to read and look at on the basis of your published statements and your presentation in written and oral form today, it would be impossible to go through these details and form a penetrating examination of your hypothesis. But I want to make a couple of observations. It's fair to say at the least that your theory has not been accepted by other scholars in your field, such as Dr. Yaphe, is that correct?
MS. MYLROIE: I'd say that. I think, and I have a book forthcoming on this dealing with the scholars in my field that even if one looked only at the question of Iraq's weapons as it became known after Hussein Kemal defected, and particularly the biological weapons, that 95 percent of the scholars in my field behaved in a way that one cannot support. And I pushed one of them very hard -- it was November '98.
MR. BEN-VENISTE: So your answer is that it is correct that scholars, at least 95 percent of them, have not supported your hypothesis?
MS. MYLROIE: In my forthcoming book, "Bush Versus the Beltway," I deal with the scholars. I don't think their opinions --
MR. BEN-VENISTE: You don't have that copy to hold up right now?
MS. MYLROIE: No, it will be out the end of the month. I don't think that constitutes any significant criticism whatsoever, given how they dealt with this.
MR. BEN-VENISTE: And you attribute a CIA motive by the intelligence community for rejecting your theories of Iraqi sponsorship for these two horrific attacks on the United States and its civilian population to CIA and other intelligence agencies, justifying their prior mistakes. Is that fair to say?
MS. MYLROIE: Say when they concluded that there was no state sponsorship, they did not have the evidence from the FBI investigation, because of grand jury secrecy laws prevailing then. And they had no basis for making that claim.
MR. BEN-VENISTE: Now, is it fair to suggest that the current administration would not be reluctant to embrace your theory as a further justification for the invasion of Iraq, if evidence obtained since 9/11 -- debriefings of captured al Qaeda members, et cetera, which we will have access to, and have already begun receiving access to -- supported the notion of Iraqi sponsorship for either attack --
MS. MYLROIE: Senior --
MR. BEN-VENISTE: -- '93 or 2001?
MS. MYLROIE: A senior administration official told me in specific that the question of the identities of the terrorist masterminds could not be pursued because of bureaucratic obstructionism.
MR. BEN-VENISTE: And who was that?
MS. MYLROIE: I wouldn't want to mention the person's name publicly, but a senior and well informed person. I have been working with him on the question of Khalid Sheik Mohammed. He said, "We're sorry, we just can't do it because of the bureaucratic obstructionism regarding the question of Ramzi Yousef's identity." So I went ahead and put it in the public record.
MR. BEN-VENISTE: Now, the public record -- and I'll make reference to a June 22nd, 2003, newspaper article published by the Washington Post under the byline of Walter Pincus, who is one of the most respected journalists analyzing the intelligence community in our country, reported that there was significant doubt cast on this very al Qaeda-Iraqi connection. It references a National Intelligence Estimate from the fall of 2002 -- still classified, but this is a report which now is in the press. And of course the National Intelligence Estimate reflects the combined consensus of the U.S. intelligence community. And that report suggested that the National Intelligence Estimate concluded that while there had been some contact in the early '90s -- I think something which Dr. Yaphe has also concluded -- while Osama bin Laden was living in Sudan, those early contacts had not led to any known continuing high-level relationship between Iraqi intelligence and al Qaeda. And, as I say, we are in the process of obtaining information from debriefings and other sources which could conceivably throw more light on it. But your reluctance to mention even the name of someone who we could ask about this doesn't help us terribly much.
MS. MYLROIE: I can ask that person if he will give me permission to do so.
MR. BEN-VENISTE: Okay, well we would appreciate it.
Now, your suggestion that Khalid Sheik Mohammed was an Iraqi intelligence operative would seem to be something which we would be in a position -- we as a government -- would be in a position to investigate very carefully, since he is no longer in circulation, and reports are that he has been interrogated and is providing information. So are you aware of any information based on the interrogation of Khalid Sheik Mohammed to suggest that he has acknowledged some Iraqi hand in his terrorist activities?
MS. MYLROIE: I can only cite to you what the friend, retired from Israeli intelligence, number two position, a lot of experience, said, "It's obviously that these are not legends."
MS. YAPHE: That is not evidence.
MS. MYLROIE: Evidence is something that --
MR. BEN-VENISTE: Let's not -- I think you've answered my question that in fact to your knowledge -- I am not suggesting it doesn't exist somewhere, or might not somehow develop. But to this point with respect to the significant information that has been provided already by Sheik Mohammed, there is no corroboration for your theory. And presumably that would be something that would be of interest for the administration to put forward, given the other events that occupy the front page of the newspaper on a daily basis. In fact, today's Washington Post, as Dr. Yaphe has pointed out, suggests that we are able to investigate still another of the early allegations relating to Iraqi intelligence and a potential al Qaeda connection, and that is the arrest in Iraq of a high-level Iraqi intelligence operative named Ahmed Khalid Ibraham Samir al-Ani (ph) -- is that correct, Dr. Yaphe?
MS. YAPHE: Yes.
MR. BEN-VENISTE: This is a man who supposedly met with 9/11 terrorists and murderer Mohammad Atta, supposedly in Prague, in the spring of 1991.
MS. YAPHE: Two thousand and one.
MR. BEN-VENISTE: Two thousand and one, I'm sorry, 2001, just months before the 9/11 disaster. This is a report that was first sponsored by Czech officials, and subsequently they have pulled back substantially from their original suggestion that this Iraqi intelligence operative met with an individual who they identified initially as Mohammad Atta. Again, do you subscribe to the notion that in fact Mohammad Atta met with Mr. al-Ani (ph) in Prague in the spring of 2001?
MS. MYLROIE: I think it's an open question. I don't have the information that allows me to make a clear judgment one way or another.
MR. BEN-VENISTE: So presumably on an ongoing basis, with our interactive relationship now with the FBI and the intelligence community, we will be able certainly by the time we are able to give our report, throw significant light on that issue, if it hasn't already been made public before.
There are a number of questions I would ask with respect to the hypothesis that you have put forward which basically it seems to me relies on the notion that the passports utilized by Yousef, principally his passport was somehow doctored up during the period of time that Kuwait was occupied or controlled by Iraqi intelligence operatives. But let me ask you whether you have any evidence or even a suggestion that there are other examples of the use of Iraqi documents for use in terrorism that originated from this brief period of time that Iraq was or Iraqi intelligence controlled certain aspects of the Kuwaiti infrastructure.
MS. MYLROIE: There was a document found in Iraq recently in which the palace, Saddam Hussein's office, sends out a memo to all the Iraqi intelligence offices -- this is April 2002 -- saying that they are to prepare the documents that they have that were taken from Kuwait archives -- they are to remove any notes that they have made in the margin, but prepared these documents because Iraq will return them in October -- except those documents that were used for intelligence purposes. So that does establish that Iraq went carefully through the Kuwaiti archives, and there were at least some documents that were used for intelligence purposes.
MR. BEN-VENISTE: But is there any suggestion, Dr. Mylroie, that aside from the one example you have focused on, any other documents from that period of time carried by, utilized by, or any way used by terrorists which we have come into contact with and have been able to interrogate?
MS. MYLROIE: Well, Ramzi Yousef came into the United States on an Iraqi passport which to all appearances his travels begin in Baghdad.
MR. BEN-VENISTE: But that's the same example that you've used before, and my question --
MS. MYLROIE: No, I referred to the Pakistani passport on which he fled. This is a different passport. You can talk about Abdul Rahman Yasin, who came from Baghdad before the Trade Center bombing, returned to Baghdad afterwards, stopping in Amman at the Iraqi embassy there before going on to Baghdad, where he was for a decade. Lesley Stahl interviewed him last year there.
MR. BEN-VENISTE: These are the same individuals that you suggest are in the same operation, correct?
MS. MYLROIE: Yeah.
MR. BEN-VENISTE: Okay. So my question goes to put that aside is there any other evidence of use of those documents during that period of time in which Iraqi intelligence controlled Kuwait to suggest that this was a pervasive use or misuse of those documents?
MS. MYLROIE: Only the people that I name in that chart, Ramzi Yousef, Abdul Hakim Murad, Khalid Sheik Mohammed, Abdul Monum (ph) -- supposed to be --
MR. BEN-VENISTE: The same individuals that we're talking about --
MS. MYLROIE: And Ali, Abdel Aziz Ali. Yes, they are legends created by Iraqi intelligence while lit occupied Kuwait.
MR. BEN-VENISTE: Mr. Chairman, I simply don't want to monopolize all the time in running this to the ground, but you can understand we don't have the freedom to spend a lot of time in exploring in detail these allegations, but we will certainly look for any indication that would support the suggestion of an Iraqi sponsorship for either of the World Trade Center disasters as we go forward with our work. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
MR. KEAN: Commissioner Thompson.
MR. THOMPSON: I'd like to ask the panel to assess the same question: Do you think that America's military, diplomatic and intelligence bureaucracy is as capable today dealing with both cultural enemies -- that is to say non-state sponsored, non-state terrorists -- as well as Islamic states whom we've never confronted before in our history to any great extent, in the same way that we've dealt with other countries in earlier and what seemed to be simpler times, like our engagement with the Soviet Union during the Cold War or engagement with China, both of which engagements has led in a change of relationships where we now look at both of those countries as either friendly or neutral, as the case may be? Do our institutions today have the capacity to deal with all of these Middle Eastern states, all of these Islamic groups? And, if they don't, what do we do about that? Because one of our mandates is to advise the American people on how we can protect ourselves in the future. And it troubles me that this is a different kind of enemy or a different kind of confrontation than the American public and maybe even the American government is used to. Dr. Mylroie?
MS. MYLROIE: No, I agree with you, I don't think we have the capabilities. I think part of the problem has to do with building up regional expertise, and that was never really a high priority regarding the Middle East, as it was compared to the Soviet Union and China. One of the things I think that's flawed about my field of study is you can't become secretary of State based on being a Middle East expert, or National Security Council advisor, but you could be a China or Russia expert. So the best and the brightest don't go into the field, and I very much include myself. If I had higher ambitions for myself, I would not have chosen to be a Middle East expert.
And the thing is regarding the Middle East for the most part it's not important to the United States except the Arab-Israeli issue, except that every 10 years there is a war there. So every 10 years you have got a lot of resources poured into the study of the region, but people forget about it, and you know you end up with a -- not enough people who really know what they are talking about to deal with the issue. So on a general level I think there needs to be much more resources put into the training of individuals to handle Middle East issues, language training, and that has to be a sustained effort, and independent of Arab-Israeli issues which really take most of the attention most of the time.
MS. YAPHE: Yes, I would agree with what Laurie says. I think she's absolutely right. Which means -- this is the way I got my education, which was by federal government money, national defense, foreign language and the education act which paid me to get a Ph.D. looking at, what, at exotic cultures, studying exotic languages, the Middle East, for which I have I think paid back in a sense all my work has been government work. But you know I thank the federal government and those grants for enabling me to -- well, I won't say become a smart person, but to gather my skills on what I think is the most fascinating area. When I started doing Iraq, nobody looked at it. There were only two or three people -- who cared? -- the 1970s, anyway. Who would have thought this would have become such a growth industry to guarantee full employment through retirement? And I think -- and we need to do a lot more of that.
I want to answer your question by saying something which I found deeply disturbing, and it goes back to my experience. I don't want to be seen as an apologist for the agency, or for our efforts on counterterrorism or anything else. I often get in trouble. I don't share the administration's views, but again I think that's -- the issue here is -- again, what I found so deeply disturbing, the lack of cooperation. When I started doing counterterrorism in the mid-1980s, Bill Casey had just set up the Counterterrorism Center to be a proactive, and I couldn't believe the fights. But it was understandable -- turf fights. This is my asset, this is my territory, this is my issue, not yours. And I thought -- not just within the CIA, but within the community at large -- and I had hoped after several years that we had gotten past that. And I was so disturbed with the information coming out from your committee and the work it's doing, and the investigations into what did we know and what didn't we tell anybody -- you know, across town -- is appalling. And I would hope that if nothing else, this has come at a very, very high cost -- but have we learned our -- we should have learned the lesson. I hope you get access to the full range of publications, especially on this issue of Iraq and terrorism, because I think it will show you how difficult it is to analyze all of the full range of information and come to different conclusions. Estimates are very valuable, if they are allowed to express at the same time not just consensus but what could be wrong with this document. You know, what could go wrong, where could we be wrong, or what could happen to change our judgments. Estimates don't always do that. It is the voice of the committee. The more consensus you want the less you are going to get of the real feel for the certainties and questions over the issues, and that's what you need to know.
I would just simply point out one more thing. Working on the Middle East, but working especially on Iraq, and I think it's true of several of the other countries, but I think Iraq especially, it's been a denied area. We have had diplomatic representation for very few of the past 30 years. It's a society where everybody watched everybody else and reported. You had spies in the neighborhood, spies in your club, spies next-door, maybe in the apartment, who would tell on who you saw, who you talked to, what you did. It was not at culture that encouraged contact. Certainly diplomats could use the normal cocktail party route to gather information that was so easy and so conventionally used. Iraq was not German after World War II. It was not Italy after World War II. It was not Moscow. You know, I wouldn't say the problems were less. They were serious. They were frightening. I read John LeCarre all the time. It's my bible. It's a cultural thing one acquires, I guess.
But my point is, these were groups. And I think you heard that this morning from the first panel. Recruitment was done by who you knew. They don't have recruitment agents that go out like the CIA does, "Come and work here; here's our posters, you know, and here are the benefits you'll get." Recruitment is who you know. It's done initially through mosques, and everyone knows everyone else. You're fully vetted. It's a compartment. You don't know who's in the other cell.
How do you break into that? And I will say this. I don't think it's talking out of school, but I think this issue was looked at for a long time, going back to when I was in counterterrorism.
How do we go about penetrating these organizations? And how do you go about (seeding?) people; you know, the language of the legend and the mole and all this other -- you know, these technical terms, if you will.
The point is, to do that in a society where everything is known, everything is closely held, and everyone knows everyone, is virtually impossible to do with the same kind of brilliant success we clearly had in Europe after World War II.
MR. THOMPSON: Let me interrupt you just there, because my second question was going to be -- and I'll just pop it on you now -- Dr. Sageman said on the first panel this morning that what we have to do is take this pool of people who might have gone in for training with the jihad but didn't join the jihad for some reason but now we're maybe unfairly prosecuting them because they've provided assistance to those who did engage in terrorism, and we should solicit them, train them and double them back into the cells of the terrorists. How realistic is that?
MS. YAPHE: It's like a movie, I think. I don't think it's that easily done. I had trouble with a bunch of things I heard earlier this morning, and I think that's one of the things that I find very troubling. That is not an easy thing to do. Doubling -- you know, again -- (inaudible) -- that worked in Europe. And I don't want to talk out of school. I'm not a professional in all of this. But different methods, different times, different problems, different strategies are needed.
There's a lot of talk today also about root causes. You won't solve the problem. You won't stop recruitments. You won't end the attractiveness of Islamic extremism by giving everybody a job, solving everyone's economic woes. You're still going to have this problem persisting.
Our getting out of Saudi Arabia -- we're simply moving someplace else in the neighborhood, but that's not going to solve our problems as being a target of these extremists, nor will it solve the Al Sayoud's (ph) problem of still being a target. It simply moves things around. But the primary -- you see, the problem will still remain because it has so much to do with a basic and fundamental view of society, of yourself, your esteem, and what will it take to restore us to greatness.
MR. THOMPSON: Dr. Jouejati?
MR. JOUEJATI: Thank you. It's not only about understanding these organizations or penetrating them better and so on. It's not only our knowledge about the Arab-Israeli issue or lack of knowledge about the Arab-Israeli issue. It's the whole political culture that is very complex. And I think there needs to be a greater harmony, a more harmonious relationship between academia and the bureaucratic capability that you talk about.
In academia, for example -- and here, if I may refer to Syria -- in academia, they will tell you that Syria is embedded both in the institution of sovereignty -- it's a state -- and it's embedded in the institution of Arab nationalism. And by virtue of the history and Syria's involvement in the Arab national movement, more legitimacy comes to it from what it does in the Arab arena than how a state would otherwise behave.
And so that would -- from an academic level, that would explain a lot about, say, Syria's ties to Hizbollah and why it's not as simple as telling Damascus, "Stop your ties with Hizbollah." It would be political suicide in Damascus, and Mr. Bashar Assad is not about to commit political suicide.
So what bureaucrats say usually is confined to their perceptions of reality. And these perceptions do not always conform to the reality. And so there should be, I think, a greater marriage between academia and between the bureaucratic capabilities.
Dr. Michael Barnett of the University of Wisconsin has made absolutely wonderful studies. I don't know how many people in the State Department read them or try to read them or try to understand Syria or Egypt through them.
MR. THOMPSON: Mr. Gasiorowski.
MR. GASIOROWSKI: I've interacted a fair amount with U.S. government experts on Iran in recent years, and my general impression is that they have a pretty good understanding of Iran, even though they can't go there, haven't been able to go there since 1980. So I don't think that the fundamental problem lies in the capability of the experts in the U.S. government to understand at least Iran.
I can't speak for how this applies to other countries. And indeed, I certainly don't think that academics have any better idea. And having spent an awful lot of time in Iran in the last 10 years, I don't think that people in Iran have a better idea of what's going on in that country than people do in the State Department and other agencies of the U.S. government, quite frankly.
I don't think the problem really lies in the capabilities of, you know, the State Department and the intelligence agencies in the U.S. government. I think they're pretty good. Of course, there's always room for improvement. Hiring more people from the region, you know, first-generation Iranians or Syrians or Iraqis, can always help, no doubt.
I think really the problem is at higher levels in general. It's how top U.S. policymakers have used the information they get from the experts or fail to use the information they get from the experts. That's where I would focus most of the blame.
MR. THOMPSON: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
MR. KEAN: Any further questions? If not, I'd like to thank you all very, very much. We appreciate your work. We're going to reconvene at -- at five minutes past 2:00, we will reconvene for our third panel.
What would you do without YOUR favorite thread ? Please Contribute
She also likes FR.
Bin Laden might have dispised the Baath Party but he would work with anyone who would help destroy the West.
Disclaimer: Opinions posted on Free Republic are those of the individual posters and do not necessarily represent the opinion of Free Republic or its management. All materials posted herein are protected by copyright law and the exemption for fair use of copyrighted works.