Further, Cheney argued that new evidence found in Iraq proved more ties between Hussein and Osama bin Laden’s al Qaeda organization, and he argued that Iraq was the “geographic base” for the perpetrators of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. “If we’re successful in Iraq . . . then we will have struck a major blow right at the heart of the base, if you will, the geographic base of the terrorists who had us under assault now for many years, but most especially on 9/11,” he said in an hour-long interview on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”
Cheney also seemed to broaden the intelligence on other alleged al Qaeda connections with Hussein, saying, “The Iraqi government or the Iraqi intelligence service had a relationship with al Qaeda that stretched back through most of the decade of the ’90s.” Up to now, administration officials and CIA documents have said there had been eight meetings, primarily in the early 1990s, when bin Laden was in Sudan.
Cheney was less forthcoming when asked about Saudi Arabia’s ties to al Qaeda and the Sept. 11 hijackers. “I don’t want to speculate,” he said, adding that Sept. 11 is “over with now, it’s done, it’s history and we can put it behind us.” (Emphasis added.)
Much more here. Thanks to alert reader A.C.M. for the catch.
Update: a reader suggests that Cheney is being quoted out of context by the Post, and I think he may be right, but it’s still clear from the transcript that Cheney is evasive on the topic:
MR. RUSSERT: We could establish a direct link between the hijackers of September 11 and Saudi Arabia.
VICE PRES. CHENEY: We know that many of the attackers were Saudi. There was also an Egyptian in the bunch. It doesn’t mean those governments had anything to do with that attack. That’s a different proposition than saying the Iraqi government and the Iraqi intelligent service has a relationship with al-Qaeda that developed throughout the decade of the ’90s. That was clearly official policy.
MR. RUSSERT: There are reports that the investigation Congress did does show a link between the Saudi government and the hijackers but that it will not be released to the public.
VICE PRES. CHENEY: I don’t know want to speculate on that, Tim, partly because I was involved in reviewing those pages. It was the judgment of our senior intelligence officials, both CIA and FBI that that material needed to remain classified. At some point, we may be able to declassify it, but there are ongoing investigations that might be affected by that release, and for that reason, we kept it classified. The committee knows what’s in there. They helped to prepare it. So it hasn’t been kept secret from the Congress, but from the standpoint of our ongoing investigations, we needed to do that.
One of the things this points out that’s important for us to understand so there’s this great temptation to look at these events as discreet events. We got hit on 9/11. So we can go and investigate it. It’s over with now.
It’s done. It’s history and put it behind us.
From our perspective, trying to deal with this continuing campaign of terror, if you will, the war on terror that we’re engaged in, this is a continuing enterprise. The people that were involved in some of those activities before 9/11 are still out there. We learn more and more as we capture people, detain people, get access to records and so forth that this is a continuing enterprise and, therefore, we do need to be careful when we look at things like 9/11, the commission report from 9/11, not to jeopardize our capacity to deal with this threat going forward in the interest of putting that information that’s interesting that relates to the period of time before that. These are continuing requirements on our part, and we have to be sensitive to that.
Clear as mud…
One more afterthought: this is how it works, of course. Cheney dissembles, the Post writer notes the fact, but sloppily, and thereafter anyone who tries to point out that Cheney dissembled is “refuted” by people who point to the sloppy reporting and ignore the underlying truth.