Transcript: Ahmad Chalabi on 'Fox News Sunday'

Published May 23, 2004

| FoxNews.com

The following is a transcribed excerpt from 'Fox News Sunday,' May 23, 2004. 

CHRIS WALLACE, FOX NEWS: In January, Ahmed Chalabi, a key member of the Iraqi Governing Council, had a featured seat in the first lady's box at the president's State of the Union speech. But this week, Iraqi police, backed by U.S. soldiers, raided Chalabi's home and office, looking for evidence of alleged crimes.

We're going to talk now with the man at the center of the storm, who joins us from Baghdad.

Dr. Chalabi, welcome. Good to have you back with us.

I think it's fair to say that the charge...

AHMED CHALABI, MEMBER, IRAQI GOVERNING COUNCIL: Thank you.

WALLACE: ... that is most disturbing to Americans is that you allegedly passed U.S. secrets on to the Iranians and also may have passed Iranian disinformation on to the U.S.

Question, when was the last time that you or one of your agents had any contact with Iranian intelligence?

CHALABI: I met with Iranian officials about a month and a half ago.

WALLACE: And have you ever passed intelligence either from the U.S...

CHALABI: And we meet people from the Iranian Embassy in Baghdad regularly, as do all members of the Governing Council.

As to the charges you've mentioned, I have never passed any classified information to Iran or have done anything — participated in any scheme of Iranian intelligence against the United States. This charge is false. I have never received a U.S. classified document. And I have never seen — had a U.S. classified briefing.

These charges are being put out by George Tenet. Let him come to Congress. I will come to Congress, and I will lay everything on the table. Let Congress decide. It is time to have church (ph) hearings about that again now.

WALLACE: Dr. Chalabi, are you willing...

CHALABI: Yes, go ahead.

WALLACE: ... to testify under oath before Congress to let Congress see all of your files and talk to any INC operative, including the head of intelligence, Mr. Habib, if they're able to find him?

CHALABI: Yes, absolutely. I am ready to come to Congress, lay all my files, lay all of the facts. We have nothing secret from the U.S. Congress. They were responsible for the liberation of Iraq. They passed that Iraq Liberation Act.

Also any INC official they care to talk to, and I will volunteer Aras Habib to come to Congress and also testify under oath in the United States Congress and let them decide about our role in the past 12 years of confrontation with Saddam and the role of the CIA and also of George Tenet in that process. Let them find out the truth.

Let Senator Kerry, who voted for the war, don't you want to find the truth, Senator Kerry? Let Senator Lieberman, let Senator McCain, let Senator Lott, all of the senators that are friends of the Iraqi people, I'm ready to come in front of them all and tell them about what happened in detail.

WALLACE: This gentleman that we're talking about, Aras Habib, is the intelligence chief for your organization, the Iraqi National Congress. But Mr. Habib is now a fugitive. If he is innocent, why is he running from authorities?

CHALABI: No one is above the law. But, in Iraq, there is no justice. There is Abu Ghraib prison.

Mr. Habib will take legal advice and will estimate what he does. My advice is to obey the law when there is Iraqi law and there is a guarantee of defendant safety. We don't want anybody to be subjected to Abu Ghraib.

Aras Habib is a patriot. He was responsible for the program with the Pentagon. Which is it? General Myers said in Congress that this program saved American lives and it was excellent. And he said the information from the INC was good. Is that the case? Is that the truth? Or is what George Tenet says the truth, that Aras is an Iranian agent? I would like Congress to resolve this issue.

WALLACE: Dr. Chalabi, how close were you to Vice President Cheney and Defense Secretary Rumsfeld, how much did they rely on you, in the run-up to the war?

CHALABI: I met Mr. Rumsfeld less than four times, I believe. No substantial meeting took place between me and Secretary Rumsfeld before the war. And I met the vice president, I believe, twice.

And, again, there was a general discussion. There was no exchange of intelligence. There was a political discussion on Iraq and on the region of a general nature. No information was passed. Nothing was said of any classified nature.

WALLACE: Why would the CIA director, George Tenet, why would he be spreading lies about you?

CHALABI: Because we were right and George Tenet was wrong. He tried to do a coup in Iraq. He failed. We said that these coups will fail, and they did fail. Saddam buked (ph) them several times. In 1996, over 100 officers were executed because of the failure of the CIA to recognize the difficulties they we were in, despite the fact that we warned them. I, myself, warned Director Deutch, at the time, directly, in March, in Washington, in 1996.

WALLACE: But, you know, Dr. Chalabi, it isn't just these allegations, whether they came from George Tenet or not. There are a number of allegations against members of the INC within Iraq. Let's go through some of them, if we can, sir.

A man you picked for the finance ministry, Sabah Nouri (ph), has been arrested after officials found a $22 million shortfall when the country switched to a new currency. A Baghdad doctor says he was kidnapped by INC members, who stole money in his car. And INC members are accused of extorting money from ex-Baathists from the old regime, in exchange for not turning them in.

Dr. Chalabi, this sounds like "The Sopranos." It sounds like you're running an organized crime operation.

CHALABI: These allegations are ridiculous. Sabah Nouri (ph) was appointed as an office manager in the finance ministry. They are responsible for his activities, and they did complain about him. He is not an INC member or an INC employee.

As for the allegations about kidnapping, these are manufactured. And I believe, in a normal Iraqi court, not in a martial court established under occupation, those charges will be defended successfully. There is no — these are charges, and, please, I believe that in the United States people are innocent until proven guilty.

(CROSSTALK)

WALLACE: But, Dr. Chalabi, 12 years ago, you were convicted in Jordan of embezzling money from a bank that you owned. Why is it that, over the years, across international borders, you are accused again and again of being a crook, of being a con man?

CHALABI: In Jordan, martial law was used against me, and the bank that I owned, as you said, was liquidated, and money was squandered and lost, not by me. This was done at the behest of a conspiracy between the Jordanian government and Saddam. They could not bring the case in a civil suit, they brought it in a military court.

I want to sue Jordan in the United States to recover my good name and the good name of my family. And the truth will come out. This has been used again by my enemies to continue to do this against me.

We are now in liberated Iraq, and we are staying here, and we will defend ourselves and establish a democratic government in Iraq.

WALLACE: Finally, sir, what do you believe that President Bush should do to get the handover of power to the Iraqis, the political handover and the military situation under control?

CHALABI: I believe that President Bush should take responsibility for his policies in Iraq. He is still the most popular politician, bar none, in Iraq. And I believe that he should invite the leaders of Iraq to Camp David to iron out a government that will be representative and effective, to take Iraq into sovereignty, complete sovereignty, and also to elections. Elections will resolve all these issues.

WALLACE: Dr. Chalabi, thank you. Thanks for talking with us.

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