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Hannity

Secret Al Qaeda Papers?

This is a partial transcript from "Hannity & Colmes," December 28, 2005, that has been edited for clarity.

MIKE GALLAGHER, GUEST CO-HOST: The Department of Defense has denied repeated requests from The Weekly Standard magazine to release unclassified documents recovered in post-war Iraq. The documents may offer new details about Saddam Hussein and his regime in the years before the war. The Weekly Standard's Stephen Hayes has been leading the charge to get the documents. And he joins us now live.

Good evening, Stephen. Nice to have you with us.

STEPHEN HAYES, THE WEEKLY STANDARD: Hey, Mike. How are you?

GALLAGHER: I'm doing great. You know, you've been criticized a lot for your determined efforts to try to get these documents released. You maintain that these documents would establish a link and, in fact, would show that Saddam Hussein supported Al Qaeda. Why in the world wouldn't the Bush administration want those documents to be revealed, too?

HAYES: Well, and why would anybody criticize an effort to expose the world to documents that Saddam Hussein's regime created, that could tell us exactly what the regime was up to in the days and years leading up to the Iraq War in March of 203? It's like arguing against motherhood or something. It just doesn't make any sense.

GALLAGHER: So why wouldn't the Bush administration be first in line to say, "Heck, yes, we're going to give Stephen the documents so we can continue to make our case that this war is justified"?

HAYES: Well, I think two reasons. One was bureaucratic ineptitude. I don't think people had any sense, people at the senior levels of the Bush administration, really had a sense of what it was that was potentially in these documents.

You'll remember, you know, in March of 2003, April of 2003, we saw numerous stories about how documents were systematically destroyed. And I think there was this sense that there wasn't an urgency about exploiting these documents and releasing them to the public because perhaps all of the valuable information had been destroyed. Now, that turns out not to have been the case, at least from the people that I've spoken with who are familiar with the substance of the documents.

And I think the second reason is, sadly, the Bush administration was unwilling to have a fight with the CIA and other intelligence agencies about the contents of these documents. If Saddam was supporting trans-regional terrorists in a significant way, something that the CIA and the DIA had been skeptical about for more than a decade, do they want to have this fight on the front pages of The New York Times and The Washington Post?

ALAN COLMES, CO-HOST: Hey, Stephen, it's Alan Colmes.

HAYES: And the answer for a long time was no.

COLMES: You know, there are some great questions about the authenticity of lots of these documents. You yourself have acknowledged that in The Weekly Standard. So we don't know whether these documents are accurate.

You know the administration, if it could prove links between Al Qaeda and Saddam Hussein, they'd get it out there in a second if they knew they had the proof.

HAYES: Yes, actually, I disagree with your premise, as somebody who's been reporting on Iraq and Al Qaeda for quite some time. The administration seems not that eager to put out its best information...

COLMES: Well, then what are they covering up? Why wouldn't they want something out which buttressed the argument they've been trying to make about this war that they've been unable to prove?

HAYES: Well, as I say, I think, for a long time, it was this reluctance to engage in a front-page, you know, back-and-forth with the intelligence agencies. When you have the Bush administration on the one hand making arguments, you have unnamed intelligence officials on the other hand, "The Washington Post" and "The New York Times" tend to give credence to...

COLMES: Well, they've already said...

HAYES: ... these intelligence, unnamed intelligence officials.

COLMES: Bush has said the intelligence was flawed. He's already acknowledged that. The 9/11 commission said no operational link. There may have been contact between Saddam Hussein and Usama bin Laden or representatives of each. That may have happened. But no operational link has ever been proven. The 9/11 commission showed that to be true.

HAYES: Well, let me ask you, Alan. I mean how credible is the 9/11 commission's conclusion when they haven't seen some six million pages of documents that were created by the Iraqi regime?

COLMES: Well, how...

HAYES: Not very, in my view.

COLMES: You talk about documents that haven't been released. You talk about documents that some maybe forged or may not be accurate. You're talking about a situation where — between, I think — what years was it — '98 and '04, 26 Arabic or Farsi translators were fired simply because they were gay, didn't even have — and that's whey they fired them. They didn't even have enough translators to even know what's in these documents.

HAYES: Well, I don't disagree with you. Let's talk about what we actually know. The Defense Intelligence Agency has authenticated a document from 1992 in which the Iraqi intelligence service lists Usama bin Laden as an Iraqi intelligence asset.

Now, what does that tell us? Certainly nothing conclusive. But it seems to me that our intelligence community and journalists, certainly, should want to know more about why the Iraqi intelligence service considered bin Laden...

COLMES: Well, let's talk about that CIA assessment. Carl Levin, for example, as you yourself have pointed out, has released two short excerpts from that February of 2002 assessment by the DIA raising questions about the credibility of Al Qaeda senior officials who claimed that Iraq trained Al Qaeda in chemical and biological warfare. And you know that that's subject to dispute.

HAYES: Well, sure, some of this stuff is subject to dispute. My question is a very simple one. Why are we debating what the DIA said in 2002 when we could be debating what the Iraqi regime tells us from their own internal documents going back decades?

COLMES: Big if.

HAYES: It doesn't make any sense.

GALLAGHER: It seems to me, Stephen Hayes, you're doing just what a good journalist is supposed to do, keep fighting the fight. We'll see what happens. Maybe you'll be vindicated one day. Appreciate you joining us tonight.

HAYES: Thanks.

GALLAGHER: Thank you.

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