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Catfish and Cod
Saturday, July 12, 2003
Is Anybody Home?

The King of the Blogs dropped a bombshell into the Blogosphere yesterday with supposed proof of the connection between America's Public Enemies #1 and #2, Osama bin Laden and Saddam Hussein. It's a interesting read. The most interesting point I found about it was the attached article, describing three sentences printed at the head of the list containing the damning connection:

''This is a list of the henchmen of the regime. Our hands will reach them sooner or later. Woe unto them.''

The Tennessean can't make heads or tails of that:

Since the list was published in a newspaper run by Saddam Hussein's son, it was not clear why this passage would have been allowed to appear.

Answer: it wouldn't have. But then, neither would the list have been approved. Why else were the papers being confiscated two hours after they hit the newsstands?

Here's the very sad story, as it appears to me: Some Iraqi patriot working in the office of the Babylon Daily Political Newspaper realized that Uday signed off on stories appearing in his newspaper without really reading them. He slipped this into the stack, sweet-talked Uday into thinking it was a good idea, got his signature, and sent it on to the layout people. The layout people would have thought the list of regime personnel a bit odd, and the wording even more so; but no one questions Uday's signature. And so the list was published, with the derogatory line at the top.

Those three sentences were a blare-out signal to all dissidents and Western intelligence agents: Here's the list! A fellow rebel hands it to you! Save it and use it! Of course, the Mukhabarat could read that signal as well as any of their competitors, which is why they started confiscating papers immediately. Then they shut down the paper until they found the offending worker and saw to it that no further slip-ups would ever enter the minds of the newspaper personnel.

What happened to that heroic office worker, who pulled one on the Butcher of Baghdad right under his son's nose? He was almost certainly killed, and his bones lie in one of the many, many graveyards created by the Ba'athists. God (or Allah) rest his soul.

Because of his sacrifice, though, we have been given an incredibly valuable piece of intelligence. That is, if we can corroborate it. I suspect we can: the Administration has been saying for many months now that they strongly believed a Saddam/Osama connection existed, but they couldn't prove it. Was this newspaper the intelligence they based the assertion on, or do they have something more? Can we expect revelations anytime in the future? Does this help our cause?

Mum's the word, apparently:

Officials at the U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency and the CIA were asked by Gannett News Service for comment yesterday on the list.

Both agencies said they were aware of the list but declined to comment on its status or authenticity.

''There are innumerable lists,'' said one official at the Defense Intelligence Agency, who declined to be identified for publication. ''So you have to ask what does it mean to be on this list? It takes time to sort through all this. People give names all over the place.''

Thanks, guys. I think. Look: it would be nice if you would tell us, at the very least, if this helps the cause any. It's incredibly frustrating that we spend billions of dollars every year on Government intelligence gathering, then have to become intelligence experts ourselves because we can't even tell if you just learned of this list recently or had it soon after publication. Nothing to violate protocol and give away agent-specific information, mind you; just let us know if it played into, say, the State of the Union Address.

Since we seem to be on that topic anyway...