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Germany Denies Prior Knowledge Of Hussein Baghdad Defense Plan

By Richard Bernstein 
and Judy Dempsey
THE NEW YORK TIMES


BERLIN

The German government on Monday labeled as “false” a report in The New York Times that two agents of the BND, the German intelligence agency, obtained Saddam Hussein’s plan for the defense of Baghdad before the U.S. invasion of Iraq and that the information was passed along to the U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency ahead of the war in early 2003.

“The New York Times allegations are wrong in all their details,” Ulrich Wilhelm, the government spokesman, said at his daily briefing here on Monday morning.

“The claim that the two BND officers had acquired Saddam Hussein’s plan to defend the Iraqi capital and handed it to the USA one month before the war’s outbreak, as is stated in The New York Times, is false,” Wilhelm said.

“The BND, and with it the German government, were unaware of such a plan until now,” he said.

Referring to a portion of the report in The Times that the defense plan was conceived at a meeting on Dec. 18, 2002, between Saddam and his top military commanders, Wilhelm said that the BND was not aware that such a meeting had taken place.

Wilhelm was reacting to a report in The Times and International Herald Tribune on Monday that the German government, which vehemently opposed the U.S. invasion of Iraq, had provided greater assistance to the United States than it had acknowledged. The article in The Times was based on reporting for a forthcoming book on the war.

The article was based largely on a classified study of Iraqi military strategy prepared in 2005 by the Pentagon’s Joint Forces Command and includes a sketch of Baghdad illustrating Saddam’s defense plan. It says the sketch and the information about the plan were provided by a German intelligence liaison officer to the U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency in Qatar in February 2003.

The executive editor of The Times, Bill Keller, in a statement released on Monday, strongly defended the article, noting that the study on which it was based was “explicit and unqualified” on the matter of German involvement.

“It shows a picture of the sketch, the one we reproduced in the paper today,” he said. “The sketch is identified as a plan that was presented at a December 18, 2002, meeting of Saddam and his top commanders. The study states that the sketch was acquired by the U.S. Central Command in February 2003, a month before the war.”

The article was the latest of several in both the U.S. and German press indicating that the German intelligence agency cooperated with the United States in its invasion of Iraq. The reports have kicked up a political storm in Germany, with opposition parties in particular demanding a formal investigation of whether the government deceived the public by publicly proclaiming opposition to the war while privately helping in it.

Last week the Parliamentary Control Commission, which oversees Germany’s intelligence agencies, released a report acknowledging that German intelligence agents did provide some information to the United States before and during the invasion of Iraq.