Connection: How al Qaeda's Collaboration with Saddam Hussein Has Endangered America

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In the wake of 9/11 no one knew when the next attack would come, or where it would come from. America's enemies seemed gathered on all sides, and for several nerve-racking months, we lived in fear that the perpetrators might be plotting another action or, worse, that our most dangerous enemies — al Qaeda and Saddam Hussein's murderous regime in Iraq — could be banding together against us.

The Bush administration and CIA director George Tenet warned against complacency and ...

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Overview

In the wake of 9/11 no one knew when the next attack would come, or where it would come from. America's enemies seemed gathered on all sides, and for several nerve-racking months, we lived in fear that the perpetrators might be plotting another action or, worse, that our most dangerous enemies — al Qaeda and Saddam Hussein's murderous regime in Iraq — could be banding together against us.

The Bush administration and CIA director George Tenet warned against complacency and pointed to growing indications that al Qaeda and Iraq were in league. But their case was undercut by unnamed intelligence officials, skeptical politicians, and a compliant media. So America relaxed. A comforting consensus settled in: Osama bin Laden was an impassioned fundamentalist, Saddam a secular autocrat. The two would never, could never, work together. ABC News reported that there was no connection between them, and the New York Times said so too, and pretty soon just about everyone agreed.

Just about everyone was wrong.

In The Connection, Stephen Hayes draws on CIA debriefings, top-secret memos from our national intelligence agencies, and interviews with Iraqi military leaders and Washington insiders to demonstrate that Saddam and bin Laden not only could work together, they did — a curious relationship that stretches back more than a decade and may include collaboration on terrorist acts, chemical-weapons training, and sheltering some of the world's most wanted radicals.

Stephen Hayes's bombshell Weekly Standard piece on this topic was cited by Vice President Cheney as the "best source of information" about the Saddam-al Qaeda connections. Now Hayes delves even deeper, exposing the inner workings of America's deadliest opponents and providing a clear-eyed corrective to reams of underreported, politicized, and just plain wrong information.

The Connection is both a gripping snapshot of the War on Terror and a case study in how bureaucratic assumptions and media arrogance can put us all at risk.

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Editorial Reviews

Matthew A. Levitt
In The Connection, Hayes argues that Hussein's ties to al Qaeda presented just such a pressing threat -- and, moreover, that this threat was not an interruption of but a critical component of the war on terror. This argument is not just "the most controversial casus belli," as Hayes acknowledges in his introduction -- it is also, in view of the failure to uncover significant evidence of WMDs and the rapidly spreading jihadist resistance in U.S.-occupied Iraq, the strongest remaining link in the chain of evidence for those who supported the war most vocally.
The Washington Post
Publishers Weekly
Weekly Standard reporter Hayes marshals a wealth of evidence that, in contrast with the tenuous connections that have so far made news, point to ties between Saddam Hussein's regime and al-Qaeda. Most intriguingly, Hayes finds links between Iraq and the 1993 World Trade Center bombers, one of whom apparently received shelter and financial support from Iraq after the attack. Hayes also gets confirmation by Czech officials of the alleged Prague meeting between September 11 hijacker Mohammed Atta and an Iraqi intelligence agent. Elsewhere, Hayes points to Iraqi intelligence documents that mention a "good relationship" with bin Laden. Other sources note an alleged agreement for Iraq to assist al-Qaeda in making chemical and biological weapons. Relying both on "open sources" like news articles, transcripts from the 1998 embassy bombing trials, as well as anonymous intelligence reports and informants, Hayes allows that some of these stories may prove unreliable. But he contends that the number, consistency and varied provenance of reports of high-level contacts between al-Qaeda and Iraq throughout the past decade allows one to "connect the dots" into a clear pattern of collaboration. Despite the frustrating absence of source notes and no knowledge of what cooperative efforts ever came of these contacts, most readers will conclude from this volume that the Saddam-al-Queda thread has some play left in it. Agent, Eric Simonoff for Janklow & Nesbit. (June) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780060746735
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 6/1/2004
  • Edition description: First Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 224
  • Product dimensions: 5.36 (w) x 8.42 (h) x 0.68 (d)

Meet the Author

Stephen F. Hayes is a senior writer for the Weekly Standard and the author of the New York Times bestseller The Connection: How al Qaeda's Collaboration with Saddam Hussein Has Endangered America. He has been a commentator on many television and radio broadcasts, including the Today show, Meet the Press, the Diane Rehm Show, Fox News Sunday, the O'Reilly Factor, and CNN's Late Edition. His writing has appeared in the Los Angeles Times, the Philadelphia Inquirer, the Wall Street Journal, The National Review, and the New York Post. He lives on the Chesapeake Bay with his wife and two children.

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Read an Excerpt

The Connection

How Al Qaeda's Collaboration with Saddam Hussein Has Endangered America
By Hayes, Stephen F.

HarperCollins Publishers

ISBN: 0060746734

Chapter One

Case Open:
Who is Ahmed Hikmat Shakir?

In August 2000, Ahmed Hikmat Shakir, a thirty-seven-year-old Iraqi, quietly began his job as a "greeter" at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport in Malaysia. The job, a common one in Southeast Asia and the Middle East, normally involves little more than welcoming visiting dignitaries and making certain that they move smoothly through the laborious entry process.

But Shakir was not a typical greeter. Although he was nominally employed by Malaysian Airlines, he had told associates he had been hired by a contact in the Iraqi embassy. More important, it was his embassy contact, not his employer, who told him when to report and when to take days off. So when the Iraqi embassy contact instructed him to report to work on January 5, 2000, Shakir dutifully obliged. His assignment that day would later make him the subject of an international manhunt and a suspect in the worst single act of terrorism on American soil.

The events of that day and those that followed provide the government's strongest suggestion that Saddam and al Qaeda may have worked together on September 11. The evidence is far from conclusive, but it cannot be dismissed. Those events are also an unfortunate example of the difficulty of maintaining effective liaison relationships between American and foreign intelligence services, and of how, even in the months following the worst intelligence failure in American history, dangerous terrorists were allowed to walk away from their cramped holding cells as free men.

In late December 1999, the Central Intelligence Agency, the National Security Agency, and the State Department all received intelligence about a meeting of al Qaeda–associated terrorists to take place in Malaysia in early January of the next year. The NSA had intercepted communications from individuals tied to the 1998 al Qaeda attacks on U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania. Although the information was incomplete, the intercepts picked up three first names: Khalid, Nawaf, and Salem.

The CIA, on high alert for potential attacks on millennium celebrations, immediately sent word to operatives around the world to track the would-be terrorists. On December 31, 1999, CIA officials in Pakistan cabled to headquarters that they "were following the situation." Nawaf was in Pakistan and Khalid was in Yemen. The CIA determined that they planned to meet in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, arriving on January 4, 2000, and established an operation -- to be conducted jointly with Malaysian intelligence -- to monitor the comings and goings of the men. CIA officials assumed the meeting was called to plan attacks in Southeast Asia.

That same day, the CIA obtained a photocopy of the passport belonging to one of the suspected participants, Khalid al Mihdhar. Although al Mihdhar, a Saudi citizen, was known to have connections to al Qaeda and the Yemeni mujahideen, he was not yet on any terrorist watch lists on April 7, 1999, when the U.S. consulate in Jidda, Saudi Arabia, had given him a oneyear visa granting him multiple-entry privilege to the United States.

The intelligence on Nawaf al Hazmi, at that point known only by his first name, was sketchier. The CIA determined that he was scheduled to leave Karachi, Pakistan, for Malaysia on January 4, 2000. In fact, he had departed two days earlier.

On January 5, 2000, officials at CIA headquarters in Langley, Virginia, sent a dispatch to operatives around the world that "we need to continue the effort to identify these travelers and their activities ... to determine if there is any true threat posed." Information about the meeting was included in the al Qaeda–related intelligence given to the most senior officials in the U.S. government. On at least two occasions, the director of the CIA's al Qaeda unit gave briefings to his superiors about the meeting.

Khalid al Mihdhar, a thin, dark-haired man with a slightly crooked face, arrived at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport on January 5. The airport is an architectural wonder -- a glass-enclosed tribute to modernity that attracts even tourists who arrive elsewhere in the Malaysian capital. The marble floors are buffed constantly, producing a surface so shiny, it's possible to catch a glimpse of yourself simply by looking down. Round white beams shoot like three-dimensional spiderwebs from the floor to the unfinished ceiling, and Western stores such as the Tie Rack line the halls of the main terminal.

Ahmed Hikmat Shakir, the Iraqi greeter, met al Mihdhar shortly after he deplaned and escorted him through the bureaucratic entry procedures. Malaysian authorities photographed the arrival.

When they had finished the paperwork, Shakir walked al Mihdhar to a waiting car, much as any facilitator would. But then, rather than bidding his VIP good-bye and returning to work, Shakir jumped in the car and accompanied al Mihdhar to a condominium owned by Yazid Sufaat, an American-educated al Qaeda associate, where he was once again photographed by Malaysian intelligence. The Kuala Lumpur condo would serve as the site of a three-day meeting that the CIA later concluded was the main planning session for the October 12, 2000, bombing of the USS Cole and for the attacks of September 11, 2001. It is not yet known whether Shakir took an active part in the meeting, but he was certainly in fast company. The FBI believes as many as nine top al Qaeda terrorists attended the meeting, including Ramzi bin al Shibh, who later boasted to a journalist of his role as "coordinator of the Holy Tuesday operation" -- the September 11 attacks.

The meeting ended on January 8, 2000, when three of the participants -- Khalid al Mihdhar, Nawaf al Hazmi, and Khallad bin Attash -- left Kuala Lumpur for Bangkok, Thailand. Of the three, the CIA was still able to identify only al Mihdhar by his full name. CIA officials in Kuala Lumpur notified their counterparts in Thailand and asked them to pick up the surveillance, and the agency's Langley, Virginia, headquarters sent an urgent cable the next day with the same instructions. These messages came too late; the al Qaeda suspects had disappeared into the busy streets of Bangkok ...

Continues...

Excerpted from The Connection by Hayes, Stephen F. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Table of Contents

Preface ix
Introduction xv
Chapter 1 Case Open: Who is Ahmed Hikmat Shakir? 1
Chapter 2 A Skeptical Press 10
Chapter 3 Saddam Finds Religion 32
Chapter 4 Saddam and Osama Strike Back 45
Chapter 5 A Home for Terror 62
Chapter 6 "The Father and Grandfather of Terrorists" 78
Chapter 7 Clinton's "Cloud of Fear" 94
Chapter 8 The Connection Makes the Papers 117
Chapter 9 What Happened in Prague? 128
Chapter 10 Act Globally 153
Chapter 11 Ansar Al Islam 158
Chapter 12 See No Evil 177
Epilogue 187
Acknowledgments 193
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First Chapter

The Connection
How al Qaeda's Collaboration with Saddam Hussein Has Endangered America

Chapter One

Case Open:
Who is Ahmed Hikmat Shakir?

In August 2000, Ahmed Hikmat Shakir, a thirty-seven-year-old Iraqi, quietly began his job as a "greeter" at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport in Malaysia. The job, a common one in Southeast Asia and the Middle East, normally involves little more than welcoming visiting dignitaries and making certain that they move smoothly through the laborious entry process.

But Shakir was not a typical greeter. Although he was nominally employed by Malaysian Airlines, he had told associates he had been hired by a contact in the Iraqi embassy. More important, it was his embassy contact, not his employer, who told him when to report and when to take days off. So when the Iraqi embassy contact instructed him to report to work on January 5, 2000, Shakir dutifully obliged. His assignment that day would later make him the subject of an international manhunt and a suspect in the worst single act of terrorism on American soil.

The events of that day and those that followed provide the government's strongest suggestion that Saddam and al Qaeda may have worked together on September 11. The evidence is far from conclusive, but it cannot be dismissed. Those events are also an unfortunate example of the difficulty of maintaining effective liaison relationships between American and foreign intelligence services, and of how, even in the months following the worst intelligence failure in American history, dangerous terrorists were allowed to walk away from their cramped holding cells as free men.

In late December 1999, the Central Intelligence Agency, the National Security Agency, and the State Department all received intelligence about a meeting of al Qaeda–associated terrorists to take place in Malaysia in early January of the next year. The NSA had intercepted communications from individuals tied to the 1998 al Qaeda attacks on U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania. Although the information was incomplete, the intercepts picked up three first names: Khalid, Nawaf, and Salem.

The CIA, on high alert for potential attacks on millennium celebrations, immediately sent word to operatives around the world to track the would-be terrorists. On December 31, 1999, CIA officials in Pakistan cabled to headquarters that they "were following the situation." Nawaf was in Pakistan and Khalid was in Yemen. The CIA determined that they planned to meet in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, arriving on January 4, 2000, and established an operation -- to be conducted jointly with Malaysian intelligence -- to monitor the comings and goings of the men. CIA officials assumed the meeting was called to plan attacks in Southeast Asia.

That same day, the CIA obtained a photocopy of the passport belonging to one of the suspected participants, Khalid al Mihdhar. Although al Mihdhar, a Saudi citizen, was known to have connections to al Qaeda and the Yemeni mujahideen, he was not yet on any terrorist watch lists on April 7, 1999, when the U.S. consulate in Jidda, Saudi Arabia, had given him a oneyear visa granting him multiple-entry privilege to the United States.

The intelligence on Nawaf al Hazmi, at that point known only by his first name, was sketchier. The CIA determined that he was scheduled to leave Karachi, Pakistan, for Malaysia on January 4, 2000. In fact, he had departed two days earlier.

On January 5, 2000, officials at CIA headquarters in Langley, Virginia, sent a dispatch to operatives around the world that "we need to continue the effort to identify these travelers and their activities ... to determine if there is any true threat posed." Information about the meeting was included in the al Qaeda–related intelligence given to the most senior officials in the U.S. government. On at least two occasions, the director of the CIA's al Qaeda unit gave briefings to his superiors about the meeting.

Khalid al Mihdhar, a thin, dark-haired man with a slightly crooked face, arrived at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport on January 5. The airport is an architectural wonder -- a glass-enclosed tribute to modernity that attracts even tourists who arrive elsewhere in the Malaysian capital. The marble floors are buffed constantly, producing a surface so shiny, it's possible to catch a glimpse of yourself simply by looking down. Round white beams shoot like three-dimensional spiderwebs from the floor to the unfinished ceiling, and Western stores such as the Tie Rack line the halls of the main terminal.

Ahmed Hikmat Shakir, the Iraqi greeter, met al Mihdhar shortly after he deplaned and escorted him through the bureaucratic entry procedures. Malaysian authorities photographed the arrival.

When they had finished the paperwork, Shakir walked al Mihdhar to a waiting car, much as any facilitator would. But then, rather than bidding his VIP good-bye and returning to work, Shakir jumped in the car and accompanied al Mihdhar to a condominium owned by Yazid Sufaat, an American-educated al Qaeda associate, where he was once again photographed by Malaysian intelligence. The Kuala Lumpur condo would serve as the site of a three-day meeting that the CIA later concluded was the main planning session for the October 12, 2000, bombing of the USS Cole and for the attacks of September 11, 2001. It is not yet known whether Shakir took an active part in the meeting, but he was certainly in fast company. The FBI believes as many as nine top al Qaeda terrorists attended the meeting, including Ramzi bin al Shibh, who later boasted to a journalist of his role as "coordinator of the Holy Tuesday operation" -- the September 11 attacks.

The meeting ended on January 8, 2000, when three of the participants -- Khalid al Mihdhar, Nawaf al Hazmi, and Khallad bin Attash -- left Kuala Lumpur for Bangkok, Thailand. Of the three, the CIA was still able to identify only al Mihdhar by his full name. CIA officials in Kuala Lumpur notified their counterparts in Thailand and asked them to pick up the surveillance, and the agency's Langley, Virginia, headquarters sent an urgent cable the next day with the same instructions. These messages came too late; the al Qaeda suspects had disappeared into the busy streets of Bangkok ...

The Connection
How al Qaeda's Collaboration with Saddam Hussein Has Endangered America
. Copyright © by Stephen Hayes. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.
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Customer Reviews

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Sort by: Showing all of 11 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted December 13, 2005

    The DOD, 9/11 Commission, and Senate Committee on Pre-War Intelligence ALL refuted Hayes's Findings...

    The Department of Defense categorically denied that they ever corroberrated any of the assertions in Mr. Hayes's book. You may view this Official DOD statement by going to their website and pull up their Press Release dated 15 NOV 2003. In addition, neither the 9/11 Commission, nor the Senate Intelligence Committee (both led by Republicans) could confirm that there was any proof linking Iraq to AQ in either the 9/11 Plot, OR ANY OTHER OPERATION. And as if all that were not enough, the former head of the CIA's Bin Laden Unit stated publically that Iraq and AQ WERE NOT WORKING TOGETHER. Let's put this myth to rest...There was NO ' Connection '

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 22, 2004

    What about Saudi Arabia?

    I am still waiting to read a book about the connection between Al Qaeda and Saudi Arabia. That book will be a lot longer, but it probably won't come out unless we decide to invade Saudi Arabia. Or, what about a book on the connection between Al Qaeda and the United States and how we helped Osama learn how to murder innocent people when he was fighting the Soviets?

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 26, 2004

    amazing imagination

    This is one of the most far out and entertaining novels i've read in years!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 31, 2004

    Illegal war?

    Hayes makes an overwhelming case in this book. As you read this book you may ask yourself over and over like I did 'Why did the Bush administration succomb to policy critics who, along with the media, have made it taboo to suggest Iraq-Al/Queda connections.'. Watch for yourself and see how often people on TV and in the papers respond to claims of the connection by saying 'They had nothing to do with 9/11'. The two are separate issues. He does not say they were involved in 9/11. He does say that Iraq was assisting with Al-Queda and before long we would have paid a high price. That's why this book is so great. I did not find Hayes to be outwardly partisan. I did not find him to make outrageous claims. But rather he builds his case slowly to where the reader has to acknowledge there was a connection. Bottom line, Saddam and Al Queda were in league based on a common hate of the US. Taking him out was the right thing to do. I never say this but people sould read this book.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 28, 2004

    Finally! Balanced Report on Why Iraq

    The author succeeds where the New York Times, Washington Post and others have failed, he has provided a balanced presentation of facts on a now highly politicized subject. Just imagine, had equivalent 9/11 terrorist principal information existed pre-9/11, Democrats and Republicans would have declared a 'connection or collaboration' and demanded pre-emtive action. The alternative, wait for a 'Smoking Gun' (another 9/11) event to demonstrate the true reality of the threat. Bottom line, congratulations to Stephen. He had the strength of purpose and moral conviction to take todays less traveled media road by presenting the truth, pros and cons included.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 22, 2004

    Great Read

    I was unsure at first about this book, assuming it was a partisan political book, but after reading it shows exactly what it says on the title. Hayes shows the evidence and proves the points with the evidence, and releases a dangerous and real connection between al-Queda and Saddam. This book is surely not what I thought it was.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 24, 2004

    Very Interesting Good Read

    I was extremely impressed with Hayes in this title. He provided many interesting pieces of evidence that the press just happens to leave out of the news. A true detailed investigation that changed my mind on the Connection and convinced me our President is doing the right thing. I am a converted Bush voter.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 19, 2004

    welcome to the truth

    The book presents a factual account of what was and is actually going on. It is a little hard to read at first because of the many difficult pronouncing names. After the first chapter, it reads like a fictional spy novel but with real names, places, and events.Should be read to clarify the media's misinformation. If I had not supported President Bush before, I certainly would do so now. The book is non-political but presents the facts clearly to the average citizen.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 17, 2004

    Tenuous Connection at Best

    This is a somewhat interesting read though the author really stretches to make the connection between Iraq and Al-Qaeda. It is almost like he is trying to find anything to make this connection to make this war in Iraq worth it. The only issue I have is that this book will not change any minds. There is no 'AHA' or 'GOTCHA.' The people who supported this war still will and the people that were against will still be against it. Also, to me it is not shocking that two groups, Saddam's government and Al-Qaeda, who showed untold hatred for American might have some connection. Still he doesn't show that this connection ever grew to anymore than a few conversations at lower levels of both organizations. This books just goes to show that in this day and age any moron can get published.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 17, 2009

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted March 28, 2014

    No text was provided for this review.

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