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Something New . . .

Condoleezza Rice sees significance in the Saddam documents.

11:00 PM, Mar 26, 2006 • By STEPHEN F. HAYES
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SECRETARY OF STATE CONDOLEEZZA RICE on Sunday contradicted claims from the Office of the Director of National Intelligence that documents captured in postwar Iraq and now being posted on the Internet will not contain anything new or significant.

"We're going to find some important and surprising things in these documents," Rice said in an appearance on NBC's Meet the Press.

Rice also addressed revelations, important but not surprising, that former Russian ambassador to Iraq, Vladimir Teterenko, passed the U.S. war plan to Iraq shortly before the war began. The charges, based largely on two Iraqi documents captured in postwar Iraq, came in a report issued by the Joint Forces Command in Norfolk, Virginia, and released by the Pentagon late last week. Rice said she is not in a position to confirm or deny the claims but vowed to take "a hard look at the reports" of Russian betrayal.

The revelations about the Russians will be the subject of discussions this week between Bush administration officials and their Russian counterparts. "We will certainly raise it with the Russians," Rice said.

The Russian government has already denied the charges. "Similar, baseless accusations concerning Russia's intelligence have been made more than once," Russian Foreign Intelligence Service spokesman Boris Labusov said. "We don't consider it necessary to comment on such fabrications."

But Labusov has not always found such allegations baseless. In 2003 Labusov confirmed reports, based on captured Iraqi documents, that the Russian Foreign Intelligence Service was training Iraqi Intelligence operatives as late as September 2002. This is how the San Francisco Chronicle, which broke the story on April 13, 2003, reported the findings:

A Moscow-based organization was training Iraqi intelligence agents as recently as last September--at the same time Russia was resisting the Bush administration's push for a tough stand against Saddam Hussein's regime, Iraqi documents discovered by The Chronicle show.

The documents found Thursday and Friday in a Baghdad office of the Mukhabarat, the Iraqi secret police, indicate that at least five agents graduated Sept. 15 from a two-week course in surveillance and eavesdropping techniques, according to certificates issued to the Iraqi agents by the "Special Training Center" in Moscow.

The "Moscow-based organization," it turns out, was the SVR, Russia's Foreign Intelligence Service:

Russian intelligence officials have confirmed that Iraqi spies received training in specialized counterintelligence techniques in Moscow last fall--training that appears to violate the United Nations resolution barring military and security assistance to Iraq.

A spokesman for the Russian Foreign Intelligence Service (SVR), Boris Labusov, acknowledged that Iraqi secret police agents had been trained by his agency but said the training was for nonmilitary purposes, such as fighting crime and terrorism.

Said Labusov: "The SVR does not refuse cooperation with secret services of different countries in the areas of counter-terrorism and war, fighting drug traffic and investigating the illegal trade of weapons."

The Chronicle article continues:

However, it seems likely that the Iraqi agents who were trained at the Moscow center were using their skills for other purposes. Found in the same Mukhabarat office with their personnel files and graduation certificates were a host of other documents, including orders for wiretaps and for break-ins at such sites as the Iranian Embassy, the five-star al-Mansour Hotel and private doctors' offices.

Rice on Sunday missed an opportunity to highlight two other significant revelations from captured Iraqi documents. The "Iraqi Perspectives Project" study, which ignited the public discussion of Russia and Iraq, also reveals that beginning in 1998 Saddam Hussein's intelligence services began training "non-Iraqi Arab volunteers" at camps in Iraq.