Caplis misled on 9-11 Commission report

On his July 10 broadcast, Dan Caplis of 630 KHOW-AM made numerous dubious and misleading statements about the report released by the 9-11 Commission in 2004. Caplis described the report as “Democrat-leaning,” despite the fact that the commission comprised an equal number of Democrats and Republicans. He further claimed the report showed that “Iraq was inviting Al Qaeda ... to set up operations in Iraq”; Colorado Media Matters found no such conclusion, and a Senate Intelligence Committee report contradicts Caplis' assertion.

Discussing the 2004 9-11 Commission report on his July 10 broadcast, Dan Caplis of 630 KHOW-AM misled about its findings, claiming the report showed that “Iraq was inviting Al Qaeda, inviting bin Laden to set up operations in Iraq.” Colorado Media Matters found no such conclusion in the report, and a subsequent Senate Intelligence Committee report contradicted Caplis' assertion. The 9-11 Commission report found no “collaborative operational relationship” between Al Qaeda and Iraq, and the 2006 Senate report similarly concluded that Saddam Hussein was “distrustful” of Al Qaeda. The Senate report further noted intelligence indicating that an Al Qaeda operative traveled to Iraq in 1998 and 2002 to request a meeting with Saddam, but was refused in both cases. Furthermore, Caplis made the unsubstantiated assertion that the bipartisan report was “Democrat-leaning,” even though the commission included an equal number of Democrats and Republicans.

From the July 10 broadcast of 630 KHOW-AM's The Caplis & Silverman Show:

CAPLIS: Have you ever read the 9-11 Commission report, by the way?

CALLER: I -- no. No, I haven't.

CAPLIS: I, I would strongly recommend it, just as an insight into -- and that's a left-leaning, generally speaking, Democrat-leaning report. But even the 9-11 Commission report makes it clear how Al Qaeda raises money. And, and you know what? Nerve gas doesn't cost a lot of money.

As stated clearly in its preface, the 9-11 Commission report was the result of “Ten Commissioners -- five Republicans and five Democrats chosen by elected leaders from our nation's capital at a time of great partisan division” coming together “to present this report without dissent.” Furthermore, contrary to Caplis' suggestion that the report is “Democrat-leaning,” the findings presented in the report were unanimously approved by the commission's five Democrats and five Republicans:

  • Thomas H. Kean (chairman) -- Republican, former governor of New Jersey
  • Lee H. Hamilton (vice chairman) -- Democrat, former U.S. representative from the 9th District of Indiana
  • Richard Ben-Veniste -- Democrat, attorney, former chief of the Watergate Task Force of the Watergate Special Prosecutor's Office
  • Fred F. Fielding -- Republican, attorney and former White House counsel
  • Jamie S. Gorelick -- Democrat, former deputy attorney general in the Clinton administration
  • Slade Gorton -- Republican, former U.S. senator from Washington
  • Bob Kerrey -- Democrat, president of the New School University and former U.S. senator from Nebraska
  • John F. Lehman -- Republican, former secretary of the Navy
  • Timothy J. Roemer -- Democrat, former U.S. representative from the 3rd District of Indiana
  • James R. Thompson -- Republican, former governor of Illinois

Later in the broadcast, after telling co-host Craig Silverman to "[r]ead the 9-11 report," Caplis claimed that according to the 9-11 Commission's findings, “Iraq was inviting Al Qaeda, inviting bin Laden to set up operations in Iraq.” Caplis later referred to his claim as a “specific, absolute fact[] from the 9-11 report.” While the report does state that “meetings between Iraqi officials and Bin Ladin or his aides may have occurred in 1999” and that "[a]ccording to the reporting, Iraqi officials offered Bin Ladin a safe haven in Iraq," the 9-11 Commission ultimately found no “collaborative operational relationship” between Iraq and al Qaeda. According to page 66 of the report:

There is also evidence that around this time [1997] Bin Ladin sent out a number of feelers to the Iraqi regime, offering some cooperation. None are reported to have received a significant response. According to one report, Saddam Hussein's efforts at this time to rebuild relations with the Saudis and other Middle Eastern regimes led him to stay clear of Bin Ladin.

In mid-1998, the situation reversed; it was Iraq that reportedly took the initiative. In March 1998, after Bin Ladin's public fatwa against the United States, two al Qaeda members reportedly went to Iraq to meet with Iraqi intelligence. In July, an Iraqi delegation traveled to Afghanistan to meet first with the Taliban and then with Bin Ladin. Sources reported that one, or perhaps both, of these meetings was apparently arranged through Bin Ladin's Egyptian deputy, Zawahiri, who had ties of his own to the Iraqis. In 1998, Iraq was under intensifying U.S. pressure, which culminated in a series of large air attacks in December.

Similar meetings between Iraqi officials and Bin Ladin or his aides may have occurred in 1999 during a period of some reported strains with the Taliban. According to the reporting, Iraqi officials offered Bin Ladin a safe haven in Iraq. Bin Ladin declined, apparently judging that his circumstances in Afghanistan remained more favorable than the Iraqi alternative. The reports describe friendly contacts and indicate some common themes in both sides' hatred of the United States. But to date we have seen no evidence that these or the earlier contacts ever developed into a collaborative operational relationship. Nor have we seen evidence indicating that Iraq cooperated with al Qaeda in developing or carrying out any attacks against the United States. [emphasis added]

As The Washington Post reported on June 17, 2004, “The Sept. 11 commission reported yesterday that it has found no 'collaborative relationship' between Iraq and al Qaeda, challenging one of the Bush administration's main justifications for the war in Iraq.” The Post further reported that “the report of the commission's staff, based on its access to all relevant classified information, said that there had been contacts between Iraq and al Qaeda but no cooperation”:

In yesterday's hearing of the panel, formally known as the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States, a senior FBI official and a senior CIA analyst concurred with the finding.

The staff report said that bin Laden “explored possible cooperation with Iraq” while in Sudan through 1996, but that “Iraq apparently never responded” to a bin Laden request for help in 1994. The commission cited reports of contacts between Iraq and al Qaeda after bin Laden went to Afghanistan in 1996, adding, “but they do not appear to have resulted in a collaborative relationship. Two senior bin Laden associates have adamantly denied that any ties existed between al Qaeda and Iraq. We have no credible evidence that Iraq and al Qaeda cooperated on attacks against the United States.”

While the 9-11 Commission report indicated that Iraqi officials may have offered bin Laden “safe haven in Iraq” and that bin Laden “declined,” subsequent intelligence reports have pointed out repeated instances when Saddam refused to provide support to Al Qaeda. For example, the September 8, 2006, Senate Intelligence Committee report noted that "[p]ostwar findings indicate that Saddam Hussein was distrustful of al-Qa'ida and viewed Islamic extremists as a threat to his regime, refusing all requests from al-Qa'ida to provide material or operational support." Like the 9-11 Commission, the Senate committee noted that there were instances “in which al-Qa'ida communicated with representatives of Saddam's regime,” including a meeting between an Iraqi intelligence officer and bin Laden in 1995, in which the officer reportedly rebuffed the Al Qaeda leader's request for support. Moreover, the committee also noted intelligence indicating that an Al Qaeda operative traveled to Iraq in 1998 and 2002 to request a meeting with Saddam, but was refused in both cases. According to the report's conclusions :

Debriefings of key leaders of the former Iraqi regime indicate that Saddam distrusted Islamic radicals in general, and al-Qa'ida in particular. Postwar findings indicate that bin Ladin attempted to exploit the former Iraqi regime by making requests for operational and material assistance, while Saddam Hussein refused all such requests. Saddam thought al-Qa'ida was an effective organization and reportedly expressed some willingness to broadcast anti-Saudi speeches at the request of al-Qa'ida, but there is no evidence he did. Debriefings also indicate that Saddam issued a general order that Iraq should not deal with al-Qa'ida. No postwar information suggests that the Iraqi regime attempted to facilitate a relationship with bin Ladin.

Furthermore, contrary to Caplis' claim that “Iraq was inviting Al Qaeda, inviting bin Laden to set up operations in Iraq,” the Senate report further concluded:

Postwar findings have identified only one meeting between representatives of al-Qa'ida and Saddam Hussein's regime reported in prewar intelligence assessments. Postwar findings have identified two occasions, not reported prior to the war, in which Saddam Hussein rebuffed meeting requests from an al-Qa'ida operative. The Intelligence Community has not found any other evidence of meetings between al-Qa'ida and Iraq. Postwar information indicates there were three instances in which al-Qa'ida communicated with representatives of Saddam's regime, one of which had been identified by the Intelligence Community prior to the war. All of the contacts were initiated by al-Qa'ida. [emphasis in original]

In a September 9, 2006, article about the Senate report, the Post reported, “A declassified report released yesterday by the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence revealed that U.S. intelligence analysts were strongly disputing the alleged links between Saddam Hussein and al-Qaeda while senior Bush administration officials were publicly asserting those links to justify invading Iraq.” The Post continued:

Far from aligning himself with al-Qaeda and Jordanian terrorist Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, Hussein repeatedly rebuffed al-Qaeda's overtures and tried to capture Zarqawi, the report said. Tariq Aziz, the detained former deputy prime minister, has told the FBI that Hussein “only expressed negative sentiments about [Osama] bin Laden.”

From the July 10 broadcast of 630 KHOW-AM's The Caplis & Silverman Show:

SILVERMAN: The bottom line is this was a war that we shouldn't have entered; that's why we're on our heels throughout. Cheney and Bush led us into a war that we should have never fought.

CAPLIS: You know what, brother? And, and that rearview-mirror approach to life -- you're more interested in the political blame game than you are protecting this country. We need to deal with the cards we're dealt. And you want to live in this fantasy land of, “oh, everything would have been fine with Saddam in power.” Read the 9-11 report. Read about how Iraq was inviting Al Qaeda, inviting bin Laden to set up operations in Iraq. Read about how Iraqi agents were suspected by -- of, of working, of working in Afghanistan with Al Qaeda to put together nerve gas. I mean, that's a, a fantasy world to think that everything would be fine with Saddam Hussein still there.

SILVERMAN: Yeah, Mohamed Atta met with Saddam's agent in Prague.


SILVERMAN: Yeah, I heard Dick Cheney say it on Meet the Press. Yeah, I understand that connection. It must be true if Dick Cheney said it. Look, we entered this war under wrong circumstances; we need to kind of be humble about it. And what I'm saying is, start listening to voices other than Bush and Cheney. They've led us down a road that's been a dead-end with a lot of bad forks in the road. Let's start dealing with it responsibly and not keep following these guys who have gotten us into this mess.

CAPLIS: OK. I offered you two specific, absolute facts from the 9-11 report. You responded with that old Mohamed Atta saw which I have never used as an argument, nor has the president. And, and, and you just want to deny these realities. Saddam Hussein in power in Iraq right now would pose a grave threat to us. Do we have a real problem on our hands right now? Of course we do. But the “humble” right now is the code word for surrender, and that's not going to make us any safer.

SILVERMAN: “Nor has the president”? Wasn't it his vice president who went on Meet the Press to sell this war and said Atta met with the agent in Prague? Is Dick Cheney disconnected with George W. Bush? I thought they worked as a team.

CAPLIS: Listen, the 9-11 Commission report repeatedly cites the fact that bin Laden was being invited into Iraq by Saddam Hussein. Deal with that reality, please. Hey, back after the break. Lines are jammed.