Five years after the launch of the Iraq war, a detailed Pentagon report finds "no smoking gun" to link former dictator Saddam Hussein to al Qaeda.
A detailed Pentagon study confirms there was no direct link between Iraqi ex-leader Saddam Hussein and the Al Qaeda network, debunking a claim President George W. Bush's administration used to justify invading Iraq.
The US administration on Thursday tried to bury the release of the study, limiting distribution of the report and making it available only at individual request and by mail -- instead of posting it on the Internet or handing it out to reporters.
Coming five years after the start of the war in Iraq, the study of 600,000 official Iraqi documents and thousands of hours of interrogations of former Saddam Hussein colleagues "found no smoking gun (i.e. direct connection) between Saddam's Iraq and Al Qaeda," said the study, quoted in US media.
Other reports by the blue-ribbon September 11 commission and the Pentagon's inspector general in 2007 reached the same conclusion but none had access to as much information.
"The Iraqi Perspective Project review of captured Iraqi documents uncovered strong evidence that links the regime of Saddam Hussein to regional and global terrorism" and "state terrorism became a routine tool of State power" but "the predominant target of Iraqi state terror operations were Iraqi citizens," said a summary of the Pentagon study to which ABC News provided a link on its website Wednesday.
ABC reported the study initially was to be posted on the US military's website accompanied by a background briefing with the study's authors. But the Pentagon scrapped those plans and took the unusual step of offering only to send the report by mail to those who ask for it.
Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney and top aides have insisted there were links between Saddam and Al-Qaeda, citing the alleged ties as a rationale for going to war in Iraq.
"The reason I keep insisting that there was a relationship between Iraq and Saddam and al-Qaeda is because there was a relationship between Iraq and al-Qaeda," he told reporters in June 2004.
Date created : 2008-03-14