Echoing a distortion by his FOX News Channel colleague Bill O'Reilly, FOX News general assignment reporter Major Garrett reported as news that former Vice President Al Gore had "mischaracterized the 9-11 Commission's conclusion about Iraq's ties to the 9-11 attacks" in a June 24 speech at the Georgetown University Law Center. In fact, it's Garrett who distorted the commission's findings.
From the June 24 edition of FOX News Channel's Special Report with Brit Hume:
GARRETT: Gore also mischaracterized the 9-11 Commission's conclusion about Iraq's ties or links to the 9-11 attacks. GORE: Well, when the bipartisan 9-11 Commission issued its report last week finding no credible evidence of an Iraq-Al Qaeda connection, it should not have caught the White House off guard. GARRETT: The commission only said there was no evidence Iraq played a role in 9-11. It reported several ties between Al Qaeda and Iraq before 9-11, but found no proof of cooperation. But it did not disagree ties that the president and Vice President Cheney have pointed to did in fact, exist.
As Media Matters for America has previously noted, contrary to Garrett's claim, the 9-11 Commission's recently released "Staff Statement 15" does not address the September 11 plot at all, let alone the question of Iraq's involvement in it. Rather, the report "focus[es] on al Qaeda's history and evolution," tracing the origins and maturation of Al Qaeda through the 1980s and 1990s. The commission's statement that "contacts between Iraq and al Qaeda ... do not appear to have resulted in a collaborative relationship" and that "[w]e have no credible evidence that Iraq and al Qaeda cooperated on attacks on the United States" is based on an examination of the development of Al Qaeda's funding sources, recruiting networks, and training camps, as well as the assistance of state sponsors like Sudan during this period.
It is also based on a review of all attacks against U.S. interests prior to September 11 for which there is evidence of Al Qaeda involvement: the shooting down in 1993 of two U.S. Black Hawk helicopters in Somalia; a 1995 car bomb in Riyadh; the 1996 bombing of Khobar Towers in Dharan, Saudi Arabia; the 1998 embassy bombings in Nairobi, Kenya and Dar es Salaam, Tanzania; and the 2000 suicide bombing of the U.S.S. Cole in Aden, Yemen. Again, contrary to Garrett's claim, not only did the commission not limit its findings to the September 11 plot, it did not address that attack at all in reaching its conclusion that there was "no credible" evidence of collaboration between Iraq and Al Qaeda.
What the commission said in "Staff Statement 15" was that Iraq did not collaborate with Al Qaeda in any of Al Qaeda's attacks against the United States, nor did Iraq provide Al Qaeda with training, funding, or any other assistance worthy of note. Here's the relevant passage from the statement:
There have been reports that contacts between Iraq and al Qaeda also occurred after Bin Laden has returned to Afghanistan [in 1996], 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 on the United States.