The Blog

The Al Qaeda Connection, cont.

More reason to suspect that bin Laden and Saddam may have been in league.

5:45 PM, Jul 11, 2003 • By STEPHEN F. HAYES
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Meanwhile, the Bush administration's claims that al Qaeda was cooperating with the "infidel" (read: secular) Saddam Hussein while he was still in office are now also gaining support, and from a surprising source. Hamid Mir, bin Laden's "official biographer" and an analyst for al Jazeera, spent two weeks filming in Iraq during the war. Unlike most reporters, Mir wandered the country freely and was not embedded with U.S. troops. He reports that he has "personal knowledge" that one of Saddam's intelligence operatives, Farooq Hijazi, tried to contact bin Laden in Afghanistan as early as 1998. At that time, bin Laden was publicly still quite critical of the Iraqi leader, but he had become far more circumspect by November 2001, when Mir interviewed him for the third time.

Hijazi has acknowledged meeting with al Qaeda representatives, perhaps with bin Laden himself, even before the outreach in 1998. According to news reports and interviews with intelligence officials, Hijazi met with al Qaeda leaders in Sudan in 1994.

Former Navy Secretary John Lehman, a member of the congressional commission investigating the September 11 attacks, added to the intrigue this week when he flatly declared, "there is evidence" of Iraq-al Qaeda links. Lehman has access to classified intelligence as a member of the commission, intelligence that has convinced him the links may have been even greater than the public pronouncements of the Bush administration might suggest. "There is no doubt in my mind that [Iraq] trained them in how to prepare and deliver anthrax and to use terror weapons."

Stephen F. Hayes is a staff writer at The Weekly Standard.