Richer Response

On August 8, 2008 Ron Suskind posted on his website what he claimed to be a transcript of a taped interview with  former CIA official Rob Richer in which (he says) Richer discussed the forged Habbush Letter.  Not exactly.

August 8, 2008

 

Statement from Rob Richer


I stand by my earlier statement:"I never received direction from George Tenet or anyone else in my chain of command to fabricate a document from Habbush as outlined in Mr. Suskind's book."  For the record, no one outside my chain of command directed me to do so either.


Mr. Suskind has now released an edited transcript of an apparent conversation between us that he alleges supports one of the central themes in his book.It does not.


As to the substance of the edited transcripts presented by Mr. Suskind: I had many discussions with senior Agency leadership regarding what I saw as the fixation, by some parts of the Administration, on a purported Al-Qa'ida and Saddam link.I also had internal discussions during the fall of 2003 regarding the possibility of using Habbush in some way to minimize the impact of the growing Iraqi insurgency.  Many of the questions from "downtown" did raise eyebrows and on more than one occasion I was directed to do things which we considered a waste of time.  

 

It is important to note, however, in the transcript just released, I make no mention of having received an order to fabricate the letter as claimed by Mr. Suskind in his book.I do speak to discussions regarding using Habbush, which were frequent during that period, but what I was talking about was the possibility of using him to tamp down the insurgency – not to influence western public opinion. 

I note from the edited transcripts posted by Mr. Suskind that I stated: "this was a non-event.”  The fabrication of a letter as claimed by Mr. Suskind would have been much more than a "non-event." I also say that the project “died a natural death.”  An order such as the one outlined by Mr. Suskind would have been a huge event – and in my opinion illegal.  An order to fabricate such a document would have been rejected out of hand and it is improbable to believe anyone would write such a request.   In the edited transcript I am vague on the circumstances of whatever the issue was regarding Habbush.  I would have had much clearer recollections of an issue or order of the sensational magnitude outlined by Mr. Suskind.

During my time as a senior officer, I saw many documents from various offices of the White House regarding many topics.  They were, in fact, on white paper.   I was asked to respond to documents regarding the potential use of Habbush upon his defection and during the difficult fall of 2003 when we were wrestling with a developing Iraqi insurgency and ways to combat it.   I was also involved in many queries from elements of the Administration trying to document an Al-Qa'ida and Saddam government link; proof of which was never found.  Many of such queries did originate from the staff of the Office of the Vice President.None of this, however, substantiates Mr. Suskind’s explosive allegation.


For the record, I am not a government contractor and left my last professional position with Total Intelligence Solutions in February 2008.  Thus, contrary to Mr. Suskind's comments, I've been under no pressure to change my position on what is in the book.

 

On his website today Mr. Suskind says Rob Richer received a copy of The Way of the World on Monday night, August 4, the day before publication. On Tuesday, he said he had read key portions of the book and was comfortable with what they contained. Once again he misleads.When I heard that his book was coming out and some of what he was asserting I called him and demanded a copy.He had his assistant deliver one to me at 9 PM on August 4.After reading the book, far from being comfortable, I told Mr. Suskind that many of the things he wrote about what I did and said were wrong.


I notice that Sir Richard Dearlove and Nigel Inkster, former senior British intelligence officials have released statements in the last 24 hours decrying Mr. Suskind’s efforts to manipulate and misrepresent their comments.  My experience has been the same.

 

It is clear that he did record some of our conversations – but at no time did he inform me that he was doing so or seek my permission.I plan to consult counsel about the legality of his action.
 

 

I stand by my earlier statement and my absolute belief that the charges outlined in Mr. Suskind's book regarding Agency involvement in forging documents are not true.


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