Former CIA Director James Woolsey says Iraq likely was involved in the attacks of September 11 and that the United States will probably confront President Saddam Hussein as part of its ongoing campaign against terrorism.
"There are too many things, too many examples of stolen identities, of cleverly-crafted documentation, of coordination across continents and between states ... to stray very far from the conclusion that a state, and a very well-run intelligence service is involved here," he told the national convention of the American Jewish Congress on Monday.
He also pointed to the perceived long-term planning and subsequent use of "refined" anthrax as evidence of state support in the attacks, noting to reporters later that the Iraqi intelligence service has been meeting with Islamic extremist terrorists, including some in al-Qa'ida, and that Saddam has spent years trying to cultivate these ties.
While saying there is not yet enough evidence to convict Saddam for the attacks, he said there are "enough indications that we should be highly suspicious, be very alert and should look under that rock as hard as we possibly can."
An exiled Iraqi opposition group that wants to increase its intelligence activities inside Iraq said on Monday that it had held meetings with the ex-CIA chief and State Department officials.
Iraqi National Congress officials met with Woolsey in London several weeks ago, group spokesman Sharif Ali Bin Al Hussein said in Washington.
Al Hussein, who sits on the INC leadership council, said he was not at the meeting and did not know what had been discussed. The Italian newspaper La Repubblica reported Saturday that the two sides talked about alleged links between the Iraqi government and the attacks.
US officials have blamed the attacks the World Trade Center and Pentagon on Osama bin Laden and al-Qa'ida, saying they have no hard evidence of an Iraqi role.
Woolsey said he visited the British capital and met with the US ambassador shortly after the attacks. He denied meeting with the INC in London, but said he has met with them on numerous occasions and that his law firm represents them.
While declining to comment on reports that he has been asked by US Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz to look into whether Iraq played a role in the attacks, Woolsey acknowledged that he is currently serving on two government panels, one for the Navy and one for the CIA.
"They all have asked me for provide advice from time to time. I go looking for it if I don't have it," he said. Wolfowitz has called for fighting a "broad, sustained" campaign that includes strikes on Iraq.
The INC, an umbrella organization of Iraqi opposition groups seeking to oust Saddam, wants the United States to fund its activities inside Iraq, including intelligence gathering, Al Hussein said.
The INC claims Iraqi defectors say the government directly sponsors and trains terrorists. The United States has named Iraq among the nations that sponsor terrorism.
The Bush administration recently boosted the intelligence community's covert operations with more than $1 billion of new funding. The INC, which received $6 million from the administration in June, wants an estimated $22 million annually from the United States.
Al Hussein said he and other members met with State Department officials in recent days to discuss additional funding.
There was no immediate State Department comment to al Hussein's claims.
Woolsey said a state is probably involved in supply of anthrax through the mail because of the multiple attacks and use of finely grained powder. He said Iraq is the prime suspect based on its history of robust biological and chemical weapons programs.
"Creating this form of anthrax isn't easy. ... You need a sophisticated individual, sophisticated equipment or both," he said.Reuse content