When the Bush White House couldn't find a smoking gun to link Saddam Hussein to the 9/11 attacks, they simply invented one, or so says Ron Suskind in his new book, The Way of the World: A Story of Truth and Hope in an Age of Extremism. The book, released today, claims that the White House conjured up rumors that Mohammad Atta met with Iraq's intelligence services prior to September 11—one of the "facts" that Dick Cheney has repeatedly cited to justify the Iraq invasion.
From the CBS News:
This letter, in the handwriting of Tahir Jalil Habbush al-Tikriti, is dated July, 2001. It says that Iraqis hosted Mohammed Atta, one of the 9/11 hijackers, who, "displayed extraordinary effort and showed a firm commitment to lead the team which will be responsible for attacking the targets that we have agreed to destroy."
The letter goes on to suggest that Iraq was importing uranium from Niger for a nuclear program.
The book alleges that Habbush, Saddam's intelligence chief, was in CIA protective custody after the 2003 invasion, that the White House ordered CIA officials to have Habbush write and backdate the letter, and paid him $5 million. The author quotes two former CIA officials who claim to have seen a draft of the letter on White House stationery.
Listen to an NPR interview with Suskind here.
The White House and the CIA deny claims that they faked the letter. According to a White House spokesman, "Ron Suskind makes a living from gutter journalism. He is about selling books and making wild allegations that no one can verify, including the numerous bipartisan commissions that have reported on pre-war intelligence."