Render Unto Caesar—As ranking minority member of the Senate Finance Committee, Chuck Grassley (R-IA) has requested the financial records of six multimillion-dollar evangelical ministries, none of whose pastors earn even half the salary the Rev. John Hagee does. Three of the ministries have provided some financial information, while the other three have refused to comply with the senator’s investigation of abuse of the non-profit tax exemption for churches.
Grassley has no subpoena power—unless he can persuade the majority to vote to issue subpoenas. On March 12, the committee sent out follow-up letters giving the ministers a March 31 deadline. The letters were signed by Grassley and committee chair Max Baucus of Montana, suggesting that subpoenas will be issued if the ministers fail to comply. “The allegations involve governing boards that aren’t independent and allow generous salaries and housing allowances and amenities such as private jets and Rolls-Royces,” Grassley said. Hagee is not a subject of the investigation, which focuses exclusively on finances and not theology.
Dick Cheney and the Truth—The Iraqi Perspectives Project report “Saddam and Terrorism” is a classified intelligence document that is full of information and insight into state terrorism as practiced by Saddam Hussein. Even the process by which the report was released, in March, is instructive. Because the report, based on an analysis of 600,000 captured documents, contradicts the Bush administration’s official justification for going to war in Iraq, it cannot be posted on the Defense Department website and will not be e-mailed. Someone decided to discourage distribution because the report finds no connection between Saddam Hussein and Al Qaeda’s 9/11 attacks.
That is stated in the second paragraph of the executive summary: “This study found no smoking gun (i.e., direct connection) between Saddam’s Iraq and Al Qaeda.” There might have been some overlap between Hussein, who was a pan-Arab leader, and Osama bin Laden, who was a pan-Islamic leader. Any overlap was coincidental. But don’t tell Dick Cheney that. While visiting Iraq, Cheney stuck with his story, reiterating one of the 935 false statements the Center for Public Integrity found the administration used to justify the Iraq War.
Responding to a reporter, Cheney said: “Well, this is no operational link. But there was, as I recall from looking at it, extensive links with Egyptian Islamic Jihad. Egyptian Islamic Jihad was the organization headed by Zawahiri, and he merged EIJ with Al Qaeda when he became the deputy director of Al Qaeda, Osama bin Laden’s number two. Now, was that a link between Iraq and Al Qaeda? Seems to me pretty clear that there was.” The vice president is lying or confused. All connections between bin Laden and Saddam Hussein have been debunked, first by a report done by the bipartisan 9/11 Commission and now by a report on Iraq and terrorism that the administration refuses to disseminate.
Too bad the report is so hard to find. The unclassified version is filled with insight and analysis backed by hard facts. It includes detailed descriptions of failed and successful terrorist attacks. It describes, for example, a botched assassination attempt of two Swedish journalists by an Iraqi intelligence operative who leaked details of his assignment, and who was ordered to cut back to one, rather than two, sticks of dynamite. The journalists’ car was destroyed, they survived, and their would-be assassin was sent to Abu Ghraib. Even more ominous is a note from Uday Hussein to his father, describing the successful bombing of a U.N. truck carrying four U.S. citizens. And a 1991 directive from Saddam himself, describing a plan to “send to Washington . . . a person with an explosive belt around him.” There are accounts of weapons caches in Iraqi embassies, terrorist cells in London, and attacks on U.S. targets outside the United States. No link, however, between Saddam Hussein and bin Laden.
Tale of the Tapes—Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington is closing in on the missing e-mails. It sued the Executive Office of the President with regard to them last year. [See the Washington Spectator, Jan. 1, 2008.] Magistrate Judge John Facciola gave the White House a March 21 deadline to justify why it was failing to preserve forensic backup copies of e-mails erased and “not properly archived” between March and October of 2003. A White House official testified on January 13 that “substantially all e-mails should be contained on back-up computer tapes.”