http://www.opinionjournal.com/edito...ml?id=110005133 REVIEW & OUTLOOK Saddam's Files New evidence of a link between Iraq and al Qaeda. Thursday, May 27, 2004 12:01 a.m. One thing we've learned about Iraq since the fall of Saddam Hussein is that the former dictator was a diligent record keeper. Coalition forces have found--literally--millions of documents. These papers are still being sorted, translated and absorbed, but they are already turning up new facts about Saddam's links to terrorism. We realize that even raising this subject now is politically incorrect. It is an article of faith among war opponents that there were no links whatsoever--that "secular" Saddam and fundamentalist Islamic terrorists didn't mix. But John Ashcroft's press conference yesterday reminds us that the terror threat remains, and it seems especially irresponsible for journalists not to be open to new evidence. If the CIA was wrong about WMD, couldn't it have also missed Saddam's terror links? One striking bit of new evidence is that the name Ahmed Hikmat Shakir appears on three captured rosters of officers in Saddam Fedayeen, the elite paramilitary group run by Saddam's son Uday and entrusted with doing much of the regime's dirty work. Our government sources, who have seen translations of the documents, say Shakir is listed with the rank of Lieutenant-Colonel. This matters because if Shakir was an officer in the Fedayeen, it would establish a direct link between Iraq and the al Qaeda operatives who planned 9/11. Shakir was present at the January 2000 al Qaeda "summit" in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, at which the 9/11 attacks were planned. The U.S. has never been sure whether he was there on behalf of the Iraqi regime or whether he was an Iraqi Islamicist who hooked up with al Qaeda on his own. It is possible that the Ahmed Hikmat Shakir listed on the Fedayeen rosters is a different man from the Iraqi of the same name with the proven al Qaeda connections. His identity awaits confirmation by al Qaeda operatives in U.S. custody or perhaps by other captured documents. But our sources tell us there is no questioning the authenticity of the three Fedayeen rosters. The chain of control is impeccable. The documents were captured by the U.S. military and have been in U.S. hands ever since. As others have reported, at the time of the summit Shakir was working at the Kuala Lumpur airport, having obtained the job through an Iraqi intelligence agent at the Iraqi embassy. The four-day al Qaeda meeting was attended by Khalid al Midhar and Nawaz al Hamzi, who were at the controls of American Airlines Flight 77 when it crashed into the Pentagon. Also on hand were Ramzi bin al Shibh, the operational planner of the 9/11 attacks, and Tawfiz al Atash, a high-ranking Osama bin Laden lieutenant and mastermind of the USS Cole bombing. Shakir left Malaysia on January 13, four days after the summit concluded. That's not the only connection between Shakir and al Qaeda. The Iraqi next turned up in Qatar, where he was arrested on September 17, 2001, six days after the attacks in the U.S. A search of his pockets and apartment uncovered such information as the phone numbers of the 1993 World Trade Center bombers' safe houses and contacts. Also found was information pertaining to a 1995 al Qaeda plot to blow up a dozen commercial airliners over the Pacific. After a brief detention, our friends the Qataris inexplicably released Shakir, and on October 21 he flew to Amman, Jordan. The Jordanians promptly arrested him, but under pressure from the Iraqis (and Amnesty International, which questioned his detention) and with the acquiescence of the CIA, they let him go after three months. He was last seen heading home to Baghdad. One of the mysteries of postwar Iraq is why the Bush Administration and our $40-billion-a-year intelligence services haven't devoted more resources to probing the links between Saddam's regime and al Qaeda. In his new book, "The Connection," Stephen Hayes of The Weekly Standard puts together all of the many strands of intriguing evidence that the two did do business together. There's no single "smoking gun," but there sure is a lot of smoke. The reason to care goes beyond the prewar justification for toppling Saddam and relates directly to our current security. U.S. officials believe that American civilian Nicholas Berg was beheaded in Iraq recently by Abu Musab al-Zarkawi, who is closely linked to al Qaeda and was given high-level medical treatment and sanctuary by Saddam's government. The Baathists killing U.S. soldiers are clearly working with al Qaeda now; Saddam's files might show us how they linked up in the first place. Copyright © 2004 Dow Jones & Company, Inc. All Rights Reserved.