On the April 30 edition of ABC's Good Morning America, co-anchor Chris Cuomo did not challenge White House Press Secretary Tony Snow's claim that "there's been no attempt to try to link Saddam Hussein to September 11." As Media Matters for America has repeatedly noted (here, here, and here), President Bush and other administration officials have frequently claimed a connection between Saddam and the September 11 attacks, including the specific assertion of such a link in a letter to Congress at the start of the war.
In discussing former CIA director George Tenet's April 29 interview on CBS' 60 Minutes -- in which Tenet claimed that prior to the 2003 invasion of Iraq, "We could never verify that there was any Iraqi authority, direction and control, complicity with al-Qaeda for 9-11 or any operational act against America" -- Snow told Cuomo: "The fact is the president made it clear before the State of the Union in 2002 that there was no link between Saddam Hussein and September 11." He added:
SNOW: So I'm afraid what's happened there is that George Tenet may have been referring to something that has been misreported or at least twisted by people who may have had political motives in recent years, but there's been no attempt to try to link Saddam Hussein to September 11.
In fact, Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney have frequently tried to link September 11 to Saddam's Iraqi regime:
- Bush linked Iraq to September 11 in a March 21, 2003, letter to the speaker of the House of Representatives and president pro tempore of the Senate, as Media Matters previously noted. In the letter, Bush stated that "the use of armed force against Iraq is consistent with the United States and other countries continuing to take the necessary actions against international terrorists and terrorist organizations, including those nations, organizations, or persons who planned, authorized, committed, or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001."
- In an October 7, 2002, speech, Bush stated:
BUSH: We know that Iraq and Al Qaeda have had high-level contacts that go back a decade. Some Al Qaeda leaders who fled Afghanistan went to Iraq. These include one very senior Al Qaeda leader who received medical treatment in Baghdad this year, and who has been associated with planning for chemical and biological attacks. We've learned that Iraq has trained Al Qaeda members in bomb-making and poisons and deadly gases. And we know that after September the 11th, Saddam Hussein's regime gleefully celebrated the terrorist attacks on America.
- Cheney has repeatedly linked Iraq and the September 11 attacks. On the December 9, 2001, edition of NBC's Meet the Press, host Tim Russert asked Cheney if he "still believe[s] there is no evidence that Iraq was involved in September 11?" The vice president responded that it was "pretty well confirmed" that an Iraqi intelligence officer met with September 11 hijacker Mohamed Atta shortly before the attacks. On the September 14, 2003, edition of Meet the Press, Cheney repeated his claim that Iraq and 9-11 are linked, saying: "If we're successful in Iraq ... we will have struck a major blow right at the heart of the base, if you will, the geographic base of the terrorists who have had us under assault now for many years, but most especially on 9-11."
From the April 30 edition of ABC's Good Morning America:
TENET [video clip]: We could never verify that there was any Iraqi authority, direction and control, complicity with Al Qaeda for 9-11 or any operational act against America, period.
CUOMO: Well, there it is from the former CIA chief. Is he right, Tony? Is it time for the administration to come clean?
SNOW: Well, wait a minute, Chris. The president's been saying exactly that all along, so I don't know what the headline is. As a matter of fact, I can remember right after September 11 sitting here when I was a journalist -- some of your colleagues -- I believe Charlie Gibson may have been there at the time as well. The fact is the president made it clear before the State of the Union in 2002 that there was no link between Saddam Hussein and September 11. So I'm afraid what's happened there is that George Tenet may have been referring to something that has been misreported or at least twisted by people who may have had political motives in recent years, but there's been no attempt to try to link Saddam Hussein to September 11. So, yeah.
CUOMO: The implication is that the administration went to war for reasons that wound up not being genuine, according to Mr. Tenet. Now what we have is an atmosphere of pretty predominant distrust with the American people involved with respect to the war. As you know, over 60 percent of Americans believe the administration's information about the war is not accurate. Over half want a timetable for troops being returned. And now you've got the president getting a war funding bill. They say he's going to veto it. Is he out of touch, Tony?