July 20, 2004 | Broadcast

Lou Dobbs Tonight

Former CIA Director James Woolsey says he is not surprised that Iran may have helped al Qaeda terrorists. James Woolsey has just finished giving testimony to the Senate Intelligence Committee, in fact, within just the past hour. He talked there about the need for a massive overhaul on our intelligence agencies. He joins us now from Washington, D.C.

Jim, good to have you here.


DOBBS: The — let’s go first to the issue of the role of Saddam Hussein, Iraq, Iran and the September 11 terrorists. Is there, in the September 11 commission, anything revelatory, determinant that we should focus upon?

WOOLSEY: Well, we don’t know yet, but I think what’s interesting is that they are finding connections between Iran and al Qaeda, in terms of these passages permitted without stamping passports and perhaps others.

The Senate committee, which I was just testifying before, found some interesting connections not really reported by the staff report of the 9/11 commission. The Senate committee found some interesting connections between Iraq and al Qaeda. The most disturbing, they said, was a dozen or so reports of training on chemical and bacteriological weapons.

But they said the relationship was not one in which Iraq wanted to actually help al Qaeda tactically, but rather one of mutual exploitation between the two. One wanted training. The other would like to see the attacks on the United States. So they may not have been operationally involved working together on individual operations, but they found a lot of connections, and I think we’re going to find more and more with Iran and al Qaeda as well.

These two dictatorships of the Middle East both saw the world, I think, as a situation in which the enemy of my enemy is my temporary friend, and, although they may not have had sponsorship or operational relationships with al Qaeda, I imagine each of them was helping it out in some rather substantial ways, and I think we’ll learn more and more as time goes on.

DOBBS: So, while you’re not suggesting there was a direct causal relationship between Saddam Hussein and the terrorists who carried out September 11 attacks against this country, there certainly was a mutuality of interests that is not in any way dismissed by any of the findings of either the Senate Intelligence Committee, or, to our knowledge, the September 11 commission?

WOOLSEY: I think that’s right, the two big question marks still on Iraq and al Qaeda and operations.

One is Ahmed Hikmat Shakir, who was an Iraqi who was in the meeting in Malaysia in January of 2000 with some of the terrorists who brought off 9/11. Generally, it’s regarded as probably a planning meeting for 9/11. Recent information from Iraq has suggested that he may have been a member of Saddam’s Fedayeen under the command of Uday, Saddam’s son. That still remains to be completely spelled out.

And then, of course, you’ve got from Mr. Yasin, one of the two main terrorists of ’93 in attacking the World Trade Center who went back to Iraq, lived there, was paid by the Iraqi government after the fact. So we don’t have either Yasin or Shakir in custody. Stay tuned on those, I think.

DOBBS: Yes. And we don’t have Osama bin Laden in custody either and a number of other people within al Qaeda that we would like to have.

Let’s turn to the issue of Iran. Two years ago — more than two- and-a-half years ago now — just about two-and-a-half ago, President Bush in the State of the Union message referred to North Korea, to Iran and Iraq as the axis of evil.

This administration has backed off considerably from that kind of hyperbolic language, if you will, bellicose language, and yet we continue to hear mounting evidence of an important nature with Iran, whether it is the building of nuclear weapons programs, whether it is their support of insurgents and complicity with insurgents in Iraq, or whether it be their support of al Qaeda broadly and specifically in support of al Qaeda on September 11.

Why is there this reserve in dealing with this issue publicly, directly and forthrightly by the administration?

WOOLSEY: Well, the president may have stretched on axis a little bit because there probably wasn’t any sort of axis-like agreement between these three, but evil, it seems to me, was right on then and it’s right on now.

The Iranian people, the women, the young people — and half the country’s 19 or younger — and even a number of the clerics are really very hostile to these crazy theocratic mullahs like Khomeini who control things in Tehran, and the Iranian government is working on nuclear weapons. I think there’s no reasonable dispute about that. And, certainly, they support Hezbollah strongly, a major terrorist organization.

So, you know, I don’t think it would be wise for us to use military force against Iran. We’d drive all these wonderful women and students into the arms of these crazy mullahs. Buy I think we want to be not only distant from them, but use whatever levers we and other countries can to weaken these rulers, these theocratic rulers in Tehran, and let the Iranian people run their own government.

DOBBS: And speaking of running our own government, I would like your comment, your thoughts on Sandy Berger, whom you know, as the former national security adviser, walking away with documents from the National Archive, classified documents, now under investigation, an investigation the Justice Department says it’s taking seriously. Your thoughts on both that and the timing of the revelation that such an investigation is underway?

WOOLSEY: Well, it has to be looked into thoroughly and carefully. But I’ve known Sandy Berger for 20 years, and I find it hard to believe that he would maliciously or intentionally do something like this.

My — you know, I had a security violation once when I was ambassador 15 years ago in Moscow. I had a classified document, and I was working on it in one part of the embassy, and I put it with some other papers and left it in the wrong part of the embassy, and I got a security violation.

Almost anybody who’s worked on things like this has done something like this from time to time. I think we ought to withhold judgment until Sandy’s story is out.

DOBBS: Jim Woolsey, thanks for being here to share your judgment about that issue and a host of others. Thanks.

WOOLSEY: Good to be with you.