WASHINGTON – Al Qaeda is not just in northern parts of Iraq outside of Saddam Hussein's control, but is actually operating in Baghdad, the deputy secretary of state told a Senate panel Thursday.
Offering a startling and cryptic preview of some of the intelligence information the Bush administration is expected to provide to the U.N. Security Council next week, Richard Armitage cited a specific case of Al Qaeda's recent activities originating from the Iraqi capital.
"It's clear that Al Qaeda is harbored to some extent in Iraq, that there is a presence in Iraq. There are other indications of a recent assassination of our diplomat in Amman, Mr. Foley, that was apparently orchestrated by an Al Qaeda member who is a resident in Baghdad," Armitage told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
Secretary of State Colin Powell earlier this week ordered an investigation into the death of Laurence Foley, a U.S. Agency for International Development official who was shot to death in October as he was preparing to leave his home at the U.S. Embassy in Amman, Jordan.
Jordanian authorities in December arrested two men for the crime. They were suspected of being members of the Al Qaeda terror network.
Sources say captured Al Qaeda operatives being held at Guantanamo Bay have told U.S. officials Saddam's regime has had repeated contacts with Al Qaeda in recent years, and that both before and after the Sept. 11 attacks, Al Qaeda sought biological and chemical weapons materials from Iraq.
Armitage also said that despite a U.N. presence in Iraq, Saddam continues to smuggle materials into Iraq for weapons of mass destruction.
"Even with the inspectors, their illegal procurement is continuing today," said Armitage.
"They are buying in all of the aspects, chemical, biological, nuclear, they are developing long-range missiles," said Assistant Secretary of State John Wolf.
Sources told Fox News the United States also has "irrefutable evidence" Saddam continues to use his mobile laboratories to hide his weapons of mass destruction.
Lawmakers at Thursday's hearing complained the U.N. Security Council was possibly going to be briefed on important U.S. intelligence before they are.
"I want to know specifically and factually what we know, and I think my constituents do and I think my colleagues do, and before you go tell the whole world about it, I think we have a right to know what's going on here," said Sen. Christopher Dodd, D-Conn.
Dodd said he backs the president's position on Iraq, as did the committee's ranking member Sen. Joe Biden, D-Del., who offered the administration one of the strongest expressions of support but nonetheless chastised the administration for calling potential military action "pre-emptive."
Clearly, Biden said, Saddam is violating the original Gulf War cease-fire agreement.
"When you talk about this, do not further confuse the devil out of the rest of the world and make us sound like a bunch of cowboys that we are going to be out there pre-emptively imposing our view. This is an enforcement of a binding international legal commitment that a man made to save his skin and stay in power," Biden said.
To prove that Saddam is still trying to save and hide his weapons, sources say that government officials are still debating whether to release satellite pictures, among the irrefutable evidence.
Sources said they have "before and after" shots that show that before the inspections resumed in Iraq there were suspected mobile biological and chemical labs and equipment in several locations, but since the inspectors returned two months ago, the labs and equipment have been systematically disappearing, proving that Saddam continues to hide his weapons and dupe the United Nations.
Fox News' Carl Cameron contributed to this report.