- WASHINGTON -- Iran will be
accused of having closer ties to al-Qa'eda than Iraq and of giving safe
passage to many of the September 11 hijackers before the attacks in a report
by the commission investigating the atrocities.
- Critics are likely to seize on the report to question
why the Bush administration focused on the tenuous links between Saddam
Hussein and al-Qa'eda when there were more obviously suspicious ties with
- The bipartisan body's findings offer new evidence of
a relationship between al-Qa'eda and Iran, but one official, John McLaughlin,
the CIA's acting director, told Fox News: "We have no evidence that
there is some sort of official connection between Iran and 9/11."
- The report, due for release on Thursday after a 20-month
investigation, trenchantly criticises the anti-terrorism record of the
Bush administration before the atrocities, but spreads the blame. It condemns
Congress for poor oversight of counter-terrorism efforts, and is thought
to include a briefing paper to Mr Bush's predecessor, Bill Clinton, warning
of possible al-Qa'eda hijacking plots.
- The most explosive leaks indicated that the commission
received intelligence that Teheran ordered border guards not to stamp the
passports of Saudi members of al-Qa'eda as they crossed Iran after training
- A senior official told Time magazine that evidence suggested
between eight and 10 of the 14 "muscle" hijackers - those who
took control of the four planes hijacked for September 11 and subdued passengers
and crew - passed through Iran between October 2000 and February 2001.
- This is seen as proof of Iran's supportive approach to
terrorism rather than complicity in the plot. Most of the hijackers knew
nothing about it until the last minute.
- The official quoted by Time said the report would note
that Iranian officials approached al-Qa'eda's leaders after the USS Cole
was bombed in Aden in 1998 and proposed working together to plot and carry
out attacks against America, but Osama bin Laden turned them down. The
Iran allegations came mainly from electronic intelligence intercepts at
the National Security Agency and interrogation of al-Qa'eda detainees.
- The commission's main recommendations are an overhaul
of US intelligence structures, a new cabinet post to oversee the CIA, FBI
and other agencies, and a new counter-terrorism body.
- © Copyright of Telegraph Group Limited 2004. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/main.jhtml?xml=/news/2004/07/19