In his new book, "The Way of the World," author Ron Suskind makes a rather stunning claim: The White House, Suskind says, ordered the CIA to forge a letter that provides evidence of a link between al-Qaida and Saddam Hussein's Iraq.
One of Suskind's sources, Robert Richer, the CIA's former deputy director of clandestine operations, has now denied that he told the author this. So on Friday, Suskind released a partial transcript of one of his interviews with Richer.
In the transcript, Richer describes how he learned of the order, saying:
It came to us, George [Tenet, the former head of the CIA] had a raised eyebrow, and basically we passed it on ... into the organization. You know, it was: "Okay, we gotta do this, but make it go away" ... As I remember it -- and, again, it's still vague, so I'll be very straight with you on this -- is it wasn't that important. It was: "This is unbelievable. This is just like all the other garbage we get about ... I mean Mohammad Atta and links to al Qaeda. "Rob," you know, "do something with this." I think it was more like that than: "Get this done."
The transcript also shows Richer discussing the possible source of the order:
What I remember is George saying, "we got this from" -- basically, from what George said was "downtown ..."
But now -- he may have hinted -- just by the way he said it, it would have -- cause almost all that stuff came from one place only: Scooter Libby and the shop around the vice president ...
But he didn't say that specifically. I would naturally -- I would probably stand on my, basically, my reputation and say it came from the vice president.
For more on the forgery allegation, check out Joe Conason's column in Salon today.