In his new book, The Way of the World: A Story of Truth And Hope In An Age of Extremism, author Ron Suskind alleges that the Bush administration knew Iraq had no weapons of mass destruction and eventually fabricated intelligence assets to support its case for war. Both the White House and the CIA deny his claims.
Suskind, a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, tells Steve Inskeep that a secret mission was conducted, in which a British intelligence agent met with the head of Iraqi intelligence in a secret location in Jordan, and that the Iraqi conveyed that there were no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.
"What that meant is that we knew everything that became so obvious by the summer after the invasion, and the president made a decision essentially to ignore that intelligence," Suskind says.
He says once the final report went to President Bush, Condoleezza Rice and others, the U.S. cut off communications with the Iraqi intelligence chief and then moved forward. An agreement was made to resettle the Iraqi and pay him $5 million.
Then, in the fall of 2003, the White House decided that a letter should be fabricated, dated July 2001, from the Iraqi to Saddam Hussein establishing a link to the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the U.S. "And the letter should as well say that Saddam Hussein has been actively buying yellowcake uranium from Niger with the help of al-Qaida," Suskind says.
He says that sources at the CIA remember seeing the order for that letter on "creamy White House stationery" and that the letter could only have come from the "highest reaches of the White House. ... It would have to come from the very top."
In disputing Suskind's claims, former CIA Director George Tenet said the White House never gave an order to plant false evidence and his agency resisted efforts to find bogus links between Iraq and al-Qaida. A White House spokesman, meanwhile, called the claims another one of those "bizarre conspiracy theories that Ron Suskind likes to dwell in."