Today on Tony Snow’s radio show, Vice President Cheney praised a Weekly Standard piece by Stephen Hayes that uses second-hand descriptions of unreleased Pentagon documents to argue that Hussein had extensive ties to terrorists:
SNOW: The Weekly Standard over the weekend published a long piece by Steve Hayes, who talked about emerging evidence of longstanding ties between Saddam Hussein and al Qaeda. You’ve heard it said many times there’s no linkage between al Qaeda and Saddam Hussein. You’ve heard Democrats beat you and the President about the head and shoulders with this. Were there links to — between Saddam Hussein and al Qaeda?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, I think Steve Hayes has done an effective job in his article of laying out a lot of those connections.
Actually, Hayes doesn’t even claim the documents demonstrate a connection between Hussein and al Qaeda. Rather, according to Hayes, the documents show that Hussein provided training for some non-al Qaeda terrorist groups in Northern Africa which have some “ties to al Qaeda.”
If the documents are so beneficial for the administration’s case for war, why haven’t they been released yet? This is where it gets fishy. The Defense Department says it won’t release the documents because, if it did, the documents would create bad press for the administration:
The main worry, says DiRita, is that the mainstream press might cherry-pick documents and mischaracterize their meaning. “There is always the concern that people would be chasing a lot of information good or bad, and when the Times or the Post splashes a headline about some sensational-sounding document that would seem to ‘prove’ that sanctions were working, or that Saddam was just a misunderstood patriot, or some other nonsense, we’d spend a lot of time chasing around after it.”
It seems more than likely that the documents aren’t beneficial and the only way they can get some good press out of them is to characterize them to a right-wing flak like Steven Hayes.
Cheney has gone down this route before. The last time he singled out a Stephen Hayes article, the piece drew an official rebuke from the Department of Defense for disclosing classified materials and misinterpreting raw intelligence.