Newspapers Ignore Reports on Cheney Office’s Push for Al Qaeda-Iraq Link

Also see: "Torture Was Used to Try to Link Saddam with 9/11"

Media Matters
May 18, 2009

SUMMARY: None of five major national newspapers has reported on a Daily Beast article reporting that Vice President Dick Cheney's office "suggested waterboarding an Iraqi prisoner, a former intelligence official for Saddam Hussein, who was suspected to have knowledge of a Saddam-al Qaeda connection."

Despite covering questions regarding what House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) knew about the Bush administration's interrogation policies, none of five major newspapers -- The New York Times, The Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times, The Wall Street Journal, and USA Today -- has reported on a May 13 Daily Beast article reporting that Vice President Dick Cheney's office "suggested waterboarding an Iraqi prisoner, a former intelligence official for Saddam Hussein, who was suspected to have knowledge of a Saddam-al Qaeda connection." On the May 17 edition of ABC's This Week, Cheney's daughter Liz, a former State Department official, was specifically asked twice about the report and dodged both questions.

Moreover, those same newspapers have yet to report on a May 15 McClatchy Newspapers article by Jonathan S. Landay highlighting comments made by Dick Cheney in 2004 that detainees at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, provided information confirming Iraq's involvement in giving chemical and biological weapons training to Al Qaeda.

In the Daily Beast article, former NBC News investigative producer Robert Windrem reported: "Two U.S. intelligence officers confirm that Vice President Cheney's office suggested waterboarding an Iraqi prisoner ... who was suspected to have knowledge of a Saddam-al Qaeda connection." As Media Matters for America noted, MSNBC hosts covered Windrem's report at least twice on May 14, and at one point hosted Windrem to discuss it. From Windrem's report:

At the end of April 2003, not long after the fall of Baghdad, U.S. forces captured an Iraqi who Bush White House officials suspected might provide information of a relationship between al Qaeda and Saddam Hussein's regime. Muhammed Khudayr al-Dulaymi was the head of the M-14 section of Mukhabarat, one of Saddam's secret police organizations. His responsibilities included chemical weapons and contacts with terrorist groups.

"To those who wanted or suspected a relationship, he would have been a guy who would know, so [White House officials] had particular interest," Charles Duelfer, head of the Iraqi Survey Group and the man in charge of interrogations of Iraqi officials, told me. So much so that the officials, according to Duelfer, inquired how the interrogation was proceeding.

In his new book, Hide and Seek: The Search for Truth in Iraq, and in an interview with The Daily Beast, Duelfer says he heard from "some in Washington at very senior levels (not in the CIA)," who thought Khudayr's interrogation had been "too gentle" and suggested another route, one that they believed has proven effective elsewhere. "They asked if enhanced measures, such as waterboarding, should be used," Duelfer writes. "The executive authorities addressing those measures made clear that such techniques could legally be applied only to terrorism cases, and our debriefings were not as yet terrorism-related. The debriefings were just debriefings, even for this creature."

Duelfer will not disclose who in Washington had proposed the use of waterboarding, saying only: "The language I can use is what has been cleared." In fact, two senior U.S. intelligence officials at the time tell The Daily Beast that the suggestion to waterboard came from the Office of Vice President Cheney. Cheney, of course, has vehemently defended waterboarding and other harsh techniques, insisting they elicited valuable intelligence and saved lives. He has also asked that several memoranda be declassified to prove his case. (The Daily Beast placed a call to Cheney's office and will post a response if we get one.)

Without admitting where the suggestion came from, Duelfer revealed that he considered it reprehensible and understood the rationale as political -- and ultimately counterproductive to the overall mission of the Iraq Survey Group, which was assigned the mission of finding Saddam Hussein's WMD after the invasion. ...

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http://mediamatters.org/columns/200905180032