Scott Hennan from WDAY in North Dakota sat in for Sean Hannity and as soon as I heard he was going to have Stephen Hayes on I set my recorder. It’s a 15 minute interview and I have been so kind to transcribe it.
Scott – This hour another New Years resolution of mine is to do more to get the story out of connections of collaboration between Saddam Hussein and Al-Qaeda because you know there is no question in my mind that the heroes of the United States Armed Forces and their Commander In Chief George W. Bush have done the exact right thing by bringing down the regime of Saddam Hussein.
Removing that safe haven for terrorists, standing up the first ever constitutional democracy in the Arab world and certainly in the post-9/11 world in which we live could we really allow a bad actor like Saddam Hussein exist causing unrest in the, you know, volatile Middle East. Invading his neighbors and filling mass graves. I saw a story the other day about another mass grave found, you know, the guy was shooting at our planes and certainly had a undisputed quest for weapons of mass destruction but unfortunately not everybody in this country believes that Iraq and bringing down Saddam Hussein was the right thing to do for the United States. Even with that resume I just described for you.
So I’m baffled why more is not being done by the White House and this Administration to tell more of the story about Saddam Husseins connections to Al-Qaeda and to reveal what we have discovered in some two million items that have been captured in Iraq. Did you know about this? There is 700 translators in Doha cutter, and they’ve analyzed already 50,000 of those two million that reveals some tantalizing details of Saddam’s terror and weapons of mass destruction related activities.
Now, with more on this story I’m pleased to be joined today on the Sean Hannity show by the great Stephen Hayes, he’s been called Americas most broadly published expert on Saddam Hussein’s terrorist credentials, his book on the subject is a must read entitled “The Connection, How Al-Qaeda’s Collaboration With Saddam Hussein Has Endangered America”. Welcome to the Sean Hannity show Stephen Hayes, Stephen how are ya?
Stephen – Hey Scott, good to be with you.
Scott – Good to have you back, happy holidays to you.
Stephen – Likewise.
Scott – Listen, tell us a little about this program of the US Government that has discovered as I said two million of what I believe is called exploitable items from the former Iraqi regime, we’re talking hand written documents, we’re talking video and audio tapes folks, photographs, satellite images, computer hard drives and the like. What is this all about Stephen?
Stephen – Well basically it’s the goods, I mean this is the detritus of the former Iraqi regime and ah we’ve had a project that has been operating in Doha cutter but also in Baghdad and in suburban Washington DC that is designed to exploit, which is to say, analyze, translate these documents, these items so that there useful to us and to our intelligence community and understanding better what exactly Saddam Hussein’s regime was up to in the days and the years before the war.
Scott – Now I first learned about this from your reporting in the Weekly Standard which has been tremendous on this subject and if I’m not mistaken it was early in 2005 that you first reported the existence and the fact that there were translators combing through this and everything else and some of this is not even classified and yet you’ve not been able to get it’s release.
Stephen – Yeah, most of it is not classified, I think that’s one of most important aspects of this entire project that I’ve undertaken and certainly there have been others, both members of Congress and the media, Peter Hoekstra who is the Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee has been particularly aggressive in trying to root this information out, get it into some sort of a usable form and put it our for the American public and the world to digest but that’s really a key point, of these two million documents and we’re talking about some six million pages worth of information, the vast majority of that information is not classified. This is information that was produced either by, for instance a local Baath party in Baghdad or in Mosul or in Ramadi or it was produced by the Iraqi Intelligence headquarters. Some of it came from embassies in a variety of places throughout the world where 50%, usually 50% plus of Iraqi embassies were staffed by Iraqi intelligence service employees. So really this is the mother lode, this is one way to find out definitively without speculation without guessing what the regime was doing before the war.
Scott – Why haven?t you been able to get a hold of these?
Stephen – It?s a complicated question, as simple as it sounds. I don’t know if I have the answer to it, I think the unclassified documents, in my view there is no excuse for them not having put those out already. Some of these documents have incredibly provocative titles, one of them is “Secret meeting between Taliban representative and Iraqi government, November 2000”. I don’t know what is in that document, I don’t know what it says, I don’t know what we can learn from it but certainly is something that should be released for people to come to their own conclusions about it.
Scott – It tells me a lot. It tells me 10 months before 9/11 you got some kind of a document indicating Saddam Hussein’s henchmen meet secretly with Taliban and Al-Qaeda agents regarding a quote decision to operate right? We know that much at least.
Stephen – Right. Exactly. And that is certainly suggested you know, I can see, I can certainly understand the reason that intelligence personnel and the agencies would want to be cautious about putting that out and why to a certain extent why the Bush Administration would be cautious about putting that out if there were alternative explanations that one could come up with that document, since we used that one lets use that one as the example. If there were alternative reasons for them to be meeting or if there are mitigating circumstances that would help us better understand the actual contents of the documents I can understand the caution but really at the end of the day it’s a matter of whether we want both American citizens who overwhelmingly supported the war and members of Congress who voted for the war and the world who largely opposed the war to understand what the regime was up to. It seems silly to me that we’re debating CIA assessments from February 2002 when we could be looking at documents that tell us actually what was going on. And we could know what the regime was up to as opposed to speculating about it in hindsight.
Scott – Now you have officially put forward all the red tape if you will, the things necessary to formally request these documents that has been turned down if my math is right twice right?
Stephen – That’s right, and what originally happened was I got a list of these documents and titles and I didn’t have anything more then the titles and as I said I didn’t know what the documents said, I didn’t pretend to know what the documents said, I think I found these titles interesting and provocative. So I went to the Pentagon and I gave them this list and said here are 40 document titles and I know the US Government has them in it’s possession, I would like to see them. They’re unclassified, please give them to me. And I was told at that point that I would have to file a freedom of information request, I did so, my request was passed from agency to agency, I basically got the run around. And then I happened to get my hands on a sort of a expanded list and one of the things they had told me in denying my initial request was that this would take forever to find these documents, this was a needle in a haystack process and it was very difficult. So in my subsequent request, the second request that you spoke of, I included the actual document numbers as they are listed in a US intelligence database known as Harmon. So I gave them the document numbers in order to make it as easy as possible for them to search for these documents and hopefully provide them to me. And your right, that request was denied again and I’ve been told I need to go back through the freedom of information request act process which as I’m sure many of your listeners know often takes years in order to get these documents.
Scott – It’s just very frustrating because these titles raise a lot of questions and beg for more investigation into what?s behind them. We talked about one of these titles about this secret meeting 10 months before 9/11, give me some other examples of documents that you?re seeking, what we know about them anyway.
Stephen – Well, there any number of documents, one of them has to do with, a document that?s titled “Iraqi intelligence service request to move persons, prisoners, and the VIP’s to private residences.” and the date of that document is December of 2002 so 3 months, more or less, before the US attack began. There’s another one that’s called “Intelligence coded memo by two Iraqi intelligence officers containing info on various topics, weapons, boat, Palestinian?s training in Iraq, etc.” and then the short description that I got for that particular document which is dated March of 2002 says “Lists Palestinian?s trained in Iraq.” which if true certainly, we knew that Saddam was supporting Palestinian Islamic Jihad and a variety of other Islamist groups but if we have actual rosters of these people, that could be helpful in a very actionable both whether we’re talking about in the Middle East or we’re talking about in Israel or we’re talking about people who might be fighting in Iraq today. It would certainly be helpful to know who they were, where they were trained, what their background was, etc.
Scott – Some of your recent reporting suggested that the program that is going through these documents, again we have titles for about 50,000 but there are some two million documents out there, you got about 700 translators that are combing through these in three different shifts in these different locations around the world, Baghdad, Doha cutter, and outside of Washington DC and am I to understand from some your recent reporting there is a danger that this program is going to be shut down?
Stephen – Well there was a directive that the Defense Intelligence Agency issued in March of 2005 in which this program was set to be phased out which was to say the DIA said well were not getting much new information, were not getting new documents from the theater, from Iraq, so we probably don’t need this exploitation program anymore. Now there was a big fight at the Pentagon and in the intelligence community about whether it was wise to shut this down without having gone through some two million of these exploitable items. And I think there was some alarm on the part of people in both of those areas as well as on Capitol Hill that this problem, I mean this process, that could yield so many results, and it could cut both ways, look, not all of it supports the Administrations case. The people I’ve spoken with who are familiar with the contents of this material says that it largely does and it provides very important context, but I’m sure there will be items in this take that cut the other direction. I think that?s fine too, it’s just important to have it all out. And I think there are people on Capitol Hill and elsewhere as I say who are very interested in making sure that happens so I believe this plan to shelve this or shut this down has been largely circumvented. That is not likely to happen and it’s in part because there has been so much attention paid to this by people like Pete Hoakstra, Dana Rohabacher in the House has also been very active, Senator Roberts who is the Republican on the Senate Intelligence Committee has also been very interested, Rick Santorium and others have been pressing for the release of these documents.
Scott – Absolutely, it’s so essential that we know what?s in these documents to get a chance for them to see the light of day.
Scott – Melissa in Spots vale Virginia has a question for Stephen, Melissa go ahead.
Melissa – Yes, I wanted to ask what, if I could get a source I could point to on the internet say for the evidence of weapons of mass destruction, what we found, because I argue a lot with liberals on this so I can tell them that Hannity said such and such, but they wont believe me.
Scott – Well, get the book, get Stephens book, any suggestions for the caller other then buying your book Stephen?
Stephen – Well, I actually think the report that Charles Duelfer put out who the man who took over the Iraq Survey Group from David Kay and spent I believe a year and half in Iraq. He issued a report that was more then 1000 pages, I believe it’s available at CIA.gov, the Duelfer report, and certainly he says we did not find stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction as we had anticipated before the war but the evidence of Saddam’s programs and his intent I think is fairly clear for all to see and he lays them out in some detail. It’s sort of a mystery why more people in Washington DC haven?t read the Duelfer report.
Scott – Dennis in Middletown New Jersey go ahead quickly your next
Dennis – Steve, I was wondering could you tell me who is holding up the getting the documents, can you identify, was it the CIA, was it the State Department, who is holding it up?
Stephen – Well for awhile it was the Pentagon although they seem to in the last couple of days have changed their course on this now, especially with Secretary Rumsfeld pushing them, favor releasing these documents and are looking for ways to do it as soon as possible, so that?s been quite a good development. I’m worried about the CIA and I’m worried about the DIA because plainly if these documents show for example as I believe they do and the people I’ve been talking to suggest that they do show that Saddam was a strong supporter of Trans Regional Terrorists then the CIA and the DIA have quite a bit of egg on their face because they have been skeptical of Saddam’s involvement in terrorism for much of the 1990’s.
Scott – You were with the Vice President in Afghanistan, is he going to be helpful in this?
Stephen – I think he is, I mean I haven?t had any assurances from them specifically but Its certainly would be something I would suspect he would favor.
End of interview.
I just finished transcribing the interview and am going to go watch some of my 24 box set to relax a bit. I will have more comment later. There is some very important stuff in this interview. These documents could very well be the smoking gun that will finally show to the world the many connections Saddam had to terrorism.
I highlighted an important point Stephen makes, we should all be worried about what the CIA and DIA will do just based on the last few years. The ongoing coup against our President by rogue agents inside the CIA has proven this is an agency that should not be trusted. If they succeed in hiding these documents from public view then that will be a pretty large feather in their cap.