Accuracy in Media

On NBC’s Meet the Press on September 14, Vice President Dick Cheney publicly acknowledged evidence of an Iraqi link to the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center. The acknowledgment should have been big news. If Iraq had participated in an actual attack on U.S. soil, is it so unreasonable to suggest that it may have played a role in other attacks, such as 9/11?

Author Laurie Mylroie, who has written extensively on the matter, notes that while this was the first time that a top White House official had acknowledged such evidence, the New York FBI had also come to believe that Iraq was involved. On the show, Cheney went into evidence of an Iraqi connection to al Qaeda, noting that, “?there was a relationship between Iraq and al-Qaeda that stretched back through most of the decade of the ’90s, that it involved training, for example, on BW [biological warfare] and CW [chemical warfare], [and] that al-Qaeda sent personnel to Baghdad to get trained on the systems that are involved. The Iraqis providing bomb-making expertise and advice to the al-Qaeda organization.”

Then he went on to say that, “We know, for example, in connection with the original World Trade Center bombing in ’93 that one of the bombers was Iraqi, returned to Iraq after the attack of ’93. And we’ve learned subsequent to that, since we went into Baghdad and got into the intelligence files, that this individual probably also received financing from the Iraqi government as well as safe haven.” This individual was Abdul Rahman Yasin, who was indicted in August 1993, and is the sole remaining fugitive from that attack.

John Diamond of USA Today on September 19 followed up, noting that, “Military, intelligence and law enforcement officials reported finding a large cache of Arabic-language documents in Tikrit, Saddam’s political stronghold. A U.S. intelligence official who spoke on condition of anonymity said translators and analysts are busy ‘separating the gems from the junk.’ The official said some of the analysts have concluded that the documents show that Saddam’s government provided monthly payments and a home for Yasin.”

Diamond referred to the FBI’s handling of this case, noting that the bureau had questioned and released Yasin in New York shortly after the bombing in 1993. “After Yasin had fled to Iraq,” he said, “the FBI said it found evidence that he helped make the bomb, which killed six people and injured 1,000. Yasin is still at large.” He is now on the FBI’s most- wanted list of terrorist fugitives and the reward for his capture is $25 million.

The press could perform a public service by reminding Cheney that this is the same FBI that has ignored an al Qaeda or Iraq connection to the anthrax letters that killed five people, while fruitlessly pursuing Dr. Steven Hatfill as a “person of interest” for over a year. This case is getting as embarrassing as the FBI letting one of the World Trade Center bombers flee to Baghdad. Cheney should ask Attorney General John Ashcroft to investigate whether the anthrax killers were Muslim extremists that the FBI ignored or released after 9/11.

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