A top Democratic senator released formerly classified documents that he said undercut top U.S. officials' pre-Iraq war claims of a link between Saddam Hussein's regime and the Al-Qaeda group.
"These documents are additional compelling evidence that the Intelligence Community did not believe there was a cooperative relationship between Iraq and Al-Qaeda, despite public comments by the highest ranking officials in our government to the contrary," said Senator Carl Levin.
The declassified documents undermine George Bush's administration claims that Iraq was involved in training Al-Qaeda members and the likelihood of a meeting between Mohammed Atta and an Iraqi intelligence officer in Prague in April 2001, Levin said in a statement.
In October 2002 President Bush said: "We've learned that Iraq has trained al-Qaeda members in bomb-making and poisons and deadly gasses."
But a June 2002 CIA report, titled " Iraq and al-Qa'ida: Interpreting a Murky Relationship," said "the level and extent of this is assistance is not clear. "
The report added that there were "many critical gaps" in the knowledge of Iraq-Al-Qaeda links due to "limited reporting" and the "questionable reliability of many of our sources," according to excerpts cited by Levin.
The October 2002 National Intelligence Estimate on Iraq's weapons programs said much of the information on Iraqi training and support for Al-Qaeda was "second-hand" or from sources of "varying reliability."
While a January 2003 CIA report indicates some of the reports of training were purely based on "hearsay" while others were "simple declarative accusations of Iraqi-Al-Qaeda complicity with no substantiating detail or other information that might help us corroborate them."
In December 2001, Vice President Dick Cheney had emphatically declared that Atta's meeting with an Iraqi intelligence officer in Prague was "pretty well confirmed."
But, according to Levin, a June 2002 CIA report says: "Reporting is contradictory on…Mohammed Atta's alleged trip to Prague and meeting with an Iraqi intelligence officer, and we have not verified his travels."
And a January 2003 CIA report says "the most reliable reporting to date casts doubt on this possibility."
Levin requested the documents' declassification in April 2004 as part of his minority inquiry within the Senate Armed Services Committee into Iraq intelligence failures.