The White House ordered the CIA in 2003 to forge a letter from the head of Iraqi intelligence to Saddam Hussein in an attempt to portray a false link between Iraq and al-Qaeda. The fake letter was backdated July 1, 2001, and it stated that 9/11 ringleader Mohammad Atta was trained for his mission in Iraq. Those are the claims of the explosive new book, The Way of the World, by journalist Ron Suskind. He reports the Bush administration then used the forged letter to show there was an operational link between Saddam Hussein and al-Qaeda, something the Vice President’s Office had been pressing the CIA to prove since 9/11 as a justification to invade Iraq. On NBC’s The Today Show, Suskind said then-CIA Director George Tenet received orders directly from the White House to forge the letter.
Ron Suskind: "Well, the CIA folks involved in the book and others talk about George coming back — Tenet — coming back from the White House with the assignment on White House stationary and turning to the CIA operatives, who are professionals, saying, 'You may not like this, but here is our next mission.' And they carried it through, step by step, all the way to the finish. Ultimately, people even talked about it after the fact. It was a dark day for the CIA. It was the kind of thing where they said, 'Look, this is not our charge. We're not here to carry forward a political mandate,’ which is clearly what this was, to solve a political problem in America. And it was a cause of great grievance inside of the agency."
According to Ron Suskind, the CIA’s forged letter was passed on to Con Coughlin, a reporter from the London Sunday Telegraph, who wrote a front-page article titled "Terrorist Behind September 11 Strike Was Trained by Saddam." The story was published on Dec. 14, 2003, the same day Saddam Hussein was captured. Coughlin’s article was picked up in the US media, and he was interviewed on NBC’s Meet the Press. Suskind reports the CIA forgery was likely produced in violation of statutes that bar the agency from conducting covert operations intended to influence US public opinion or the media. The White House described Suskind’s report as absurd and accused Suskind of engaging in "gutter journalism."
In campaign news, Senator Barack Obama visited Lansing, Michigan, Monday, where he unveiled a new energy plan.
Sen. Barack Obama: "If I am president, I will immediately direct the full resources of the federal government and the full energy of the private sector, working with state and local governments, to achieve a single, overarching goal: in ten years, we will eliminate the need for oil from the entire Middle East and Venezuela."
Obama called on the government to tap the nation’s Strategic Petroleum Reserve and sell 70 million barrels of oil from its stockpiles in an attempt to lower gas prices. The Illinois senator also proposed investing $150 billion over the next decade in clean energy and renewable sources, a move he said would create five million jobs. During his speech, Obama admitted he is no longer opposed to expanding offshore oil drilling if it is part of a broader energy plan.
Sen. Barack Obama: "Like all compromises, this one has its drawbacks. It does include a limited amount of new offshore drilling, and while I still don’t believe that’s a particularly meaningful short-term or long-term solution, what I’ve said is I’m willing to consider it if it’s necessary to actually pass a comprehensive plan."
Meanwhile, Senator John McCain continues to slam Obama’s energy policies. The McCain campaign has begun distributing tire gauges to mock Obama’s call for drivers to save gas by keeping their tires inflated. McCain also called for Congress to come back into session to pass an energy bill.
Sen. John McCain: "I call on Senator Obama to call on Congress to come back into town and come back to work, come off their recess, come off their vacation, and address this energy challenge to America and don’t leave until we do, Republican and Democrat joining together. And a very vital part of that is nuclear power, and another vital part of that is offshore drilling. We have to drill here and drill now."
Ever since John McCain made a call to expand offshore drilling, oil and gas companies have poured money into his campaign. Over the past two months, the Arizona senator has received at least $1.2 million in contributions in Texas alone from oil- and gas-related donors. That is nearly more money than McCain raised from the oil and gas sectors over the past two decades. The website Talking Points Memo reports that ten senior executives of the oil company Hess and members of the Hess family each gave over $28,000 to the joint RNC-McCain fundraising committee, just days after McCain reversed himself in favor of offshore drilling.
In Denver, officials have announced a so-called protest zone will be created outside Invesco Field, where Senator Obama will deliver his nomination acceptance speech. The protest zone will be a fenced-in section of the stadium parking lot. It will be located up to 400 feet away from where delegates will be dropped off.
Meanwhile, the New York Times reports, the Secret Service will be flying surveillance aircraft over Denver during the convention. The surveillance aircraft will be packed with infrared cameras and other electronics.
Former Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle said he is very skeptical of the government’s anthrax investigation. Daschle was an intended recipient of one of the anthrax-laced letters in 2001. FBI officials said they are considering closing the investigation following the apparent suicide of Army researcher Bruce Ivins, who had become the prime suspect. Tom Daschle appeared on CNN on Monday.
Tom Daschle: "I’m not satisfied, in part because I think they haven’t been as forthcoming, not only with me, but with the American people, about the status of this investigation. I also haven’t seen the evidence, and I think that, given their checkered past and the difficulty that they had in getting to this point, the bungling of the Hatfill part of the investigation, leads me to be very skeptical."
As President Bush arrives in South Korea today, protests are scheduled to condemn US beef imports and US-Korean trade policy. Street protests have been occurring in Korea since April, when South Korean President Lee Myung-bak lifted a ban on US beef imports. A coalition of activist groups said in a statement, "We oppose the visit by Bush who sells US beef with its risk of mad cow disease that threatens the health and lives of the public." President Bush is stopping in South Korea on his way to China, where he will become the first US president to ever attend an Olympics game on foreign soil.
The Independent of London reports a leading candidate to be Israel’s next prime minister once called for Israeli troops to kill seventy Palestinians a day when he was head of the military during the Second Intifada. In May 2001, Shaul Mofaz reportedly gave a briefing to senior West Bank army commanders and said he wanted ten slain Palestinians a day in each of the seven territorial brigade areas. Mofaz recently emerged as the chief rival to Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni to take over the Kadima party following Ehud Olmert’s resignation.
The Pentagon has opened a new intelligence unit called the Defense Counterintelligence and Human Intelligence Center. It will be overseen by the Defense Intelligence Agency. The new unit replaces the Counterintelligence Field Activity office, which came under criticism after its role in domestic intelligence gathering was revealed.
Texas is preparing to execute a Mexican national tonight, despite a recent order by the World Court to halt the execution. On Monday, the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles unanimously voted against a reprieve for José Medellín, who was convicted of raping and murdering a teenage girl. Last month, the International Court of Justice said Medellin and some fifty other Mexicans on death row should have new hearings in US courts to determine whether a 1963 treaty was violated during their arrests. Medellin’s attorneys contend he was denied the protections of the Vienna Convention, which calls for people arrested to have access to their home country’s consular officials.
Public Citizen reports a bureaucratic oversight has allowed twenty-four oil companies to avoid more than $1.3 billion in royalties for the privilege of extracting oil and natural gas from US territory in the Gulf of Mexico. Public Citizen estimates the oil companies will eventually stand so save $60 billion in royalty revenue over the life of the leases.
The FBI is investigating a pair of fires in Santa Cruz, California that targeted two university biologists. Investigators said the devices used in the firebombings are similar to some used in the past by animal rights activists. No one was injured in the attacks, but one professor, David Feldheim, had to flee his home with his wife and children. Some animal rights activists have publicly criticized Feldheim for using mice in lab research on brain formation.
And independent presidential candidate Ralph Nader has secured a spot on the California state ballot in November. Over the weekend, Nader won the nomination for the California Peace and Freedom Party.