Head of the Iraqi National Congress and controversy magnet Ahmed Chalabi appeared in an Iraqi court on May 12. The hearing was at his own request, and was in response to a complaint made by the Iraqi National Intelligence Agency against him, claiming he had defamed the reputation of the INIA months ago, when he stated that its funding sources should be made public. Chalabi spoke of “international” backing and of the agency’s leader, General Mohammed Abdullah Shahwani, as a long-time CIA operative.
It is not disputed that the CIA hand-picked Shahwani to lead the organization when it was formed after the 2003 invasion of Iraq, nor that its funding came from the United States, at least at the time. Still, it is not a matter of official record in Iraq. Chalabi has his own well-known history working with American intelligence, and in the interview below, uses some such contact to back up his claims about Shahwani (including what sounded like an insinuation that Shahwani might have been a double agent for the Muhabarat, the feared Saddam-era secret police, while on the CIA's payroll - although Chalabi expressly denies having made any such accusation).
Chalabi’s continued forcing of the issue is interesting to note, as is Shahwani’s reaction to it. Here is Chalabi’s account of what happened.
At the beginning, when I questioned their source of funding, they became upset about that, and tried to make a criminal case of it. The Iraqi legal authority said there is no basis for this – it’s a civil case. They also objected when I said that the American influence in Iraqi Intelligence was preponderant and that there was some influence on the entire staff, and that this was not healthy for the United States, nor for Iraq. What we need is an intelligence service which is competent.
So, they made this civil case, and there was a lot of back and forth between our lawyers. I found it necessary that I appear in person, so I requested to go.
So, I went to the court, and gave my evidence, which was built around four issues, which were supported by, basically, public documents.
The first was an interview given by the head of the intelligence service, General Shahwani, to al-Sabah Newspaper on the 28th of March, 2006. In response to the question “Do you have any financial backing from the government of Iraq?, he basically said, “I have not signed anything because there is no budget, and we need money.” So, where was he getting the money?
The next piece of evidence was from the Iraqi budget of 2009, which was the sum of money assigned to the intelligence service – over 100 million dollars. It was reported there that the staff of the intelligence service is 5,594 employees, with details of the different levels of positions. And this is, again, a public which discusses the Iraqi budget.
The third piece of evidence was that I requested the court to, if possible, get the transcripts of the statements of some accused people who were senior members of the Muhabarat (secret police under Saddam Hussein). If they could get it, it would shed some light on relevant issues. I was told of these, but I wanted to see if they could get it. They did not.
The fourth thing introduced into evidence was the book by George Tenet (At the Center of the Storm: My Years at the CIA 2007) in which he says that General Shahwani was introduced to the CIA in 1991, and he became key in forming networks for the agency in Iraq. It goes on to say that, unfortunately, some of the networks were exposed, and Shahwani’s three son’s were tortured and executed. Of course, there are over 35 other officers who were tortured and executed. It’s a lot of people. The issue was never investigated, but there is a great deal of evidence about this in the files of the previous intelligence service – about how information was gathered, about how double agents were used by the Muhabarat against the CIA, everything.
Tenet adds, later on, that they (the CIA) decided to form the Iraqi intelligence service, and General Shahwani was chosen to head it. He says, “We”. I also had a piece of evidence on that from my own meetings with the chief of station at the CIA. In March of 2004, he came to visit me, and said, “We are forming the Iraqi intelligence service, and we have chosen Shahwani to head it,” so I am personally familiar with that.
So, this is the evidence I gave to the court, and I also added that it is not slander or anything to be concerned about that Iraqi security agencies receive funding or assistance from the United States, because the Army and the police have received aid in excess of eight billion dollars. This is well known and public, and nobody takes them to task for it.
Why is there concern that there is any kind of implied funding? We need this service. It is the forefront in the battle against terrorism, against infiltrations, against suicide bombings. However, it is important that it is also in accordance with the democratic principals that we are working with, and that it should comply with its charter.
My question is this: Is there something behind the secrecy? Is there some concern that operant things were done which would be in violation of Iraqi law and US law? I don’t know, but it is legitimate to ask.
In light of the charges of so-called “enhanced interrogation techniques” – did they happen in Iraq, too? We should know.
It is very strange that there is this fantastic, this phantasmagoric reaction to a simple inquiry. I think it would be worthwhile to look into this.