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Bush praises capture of al Qaeda operative

Intelligence community gets pat on back after WMD criticism

Khalid Sheikh Mohammed
Khalid Shaikh Mohammed was captured in March 2003 and is being held in secret.

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Khalid Shaikh Mohammed
Osama Bin Laden
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Central Intelligence Agency (CIA)

LITTLE ROCK, Arkansas (CNN) -- President Bush praised U.S. intelligence agencies Monday for their role in the capture of a key al Qaeda operative in Iraq.

"Hasan Ghul reported directly to Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, the mastermind of the September 11 attacks," Bush told an audience of health care workers at Baptist Hospital.

"He was part of a network of haters that we're dismantling," Bush said. "Our intelligence officers did a good job.

"Our people are doing great work."

The pat on the back came amid criticism of the U.S. intelligence community from the man who resigned last week as the U.S. chief weapons inspector in Iraq.

David Kay, who stepped down as the CIA special adviser leading the Iraqi Survey Group, gave a series of radio and newspaper interviews this weekend in which he said he saw no evidence that deposed Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein was prepared to use weapons of mass destruction.

"My summary view, based on what I've seen, is we're very unlikely to find large stockpiles of weapons," he said on National Public Radio's "Weekend Edition." "I don't think they exist." (Full story)

Kay told NPR he thinks "the intelligence community owes the president [an explanation] rather than the president owing the American people."

Ghul was captured Thursday in Iraq by friendly foreign forces and was turned over to U.S. intelligence personnel, senior U.S. officials said last week.

A U.S. official said Ghul was a "significant player" and a "longtime facilitator, operator" within al Qaeda.

Ghul arrived in Iraq only recently and was "exploring other operations" inside Iraq, the official said.

Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez, commander of U.S. ground forces in Iraq, said Friday that insurgents are using "al Qaeda-like tactics" to attack U.S. forces in Iraq.

Maj. Gen. Ray Odierno, commander of the 4th Infantry Division, warned Thursday of al Qaeda making contact with former regime elements.

Security is a key concern as the coalition prepares to transfer power to Iraqis.

Mohammed, a chief lieutenant to Osama bin Laden, was captured last March by Pakistani authorities in Rawalpindi and turned over to the CIA, which is holding him at an undisclosed location. (Full story)

U.S. officials have said Mohammed killed Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl, who was taken hostage in Pakistan in early 2002. (Full story)

Officials also have tied him to several terrorist attacks around the world, including a Philippines-based plot to blow up 12 U.S.-bound commercial airliners in 1996, and the bombings in Bali, Indonesia, in 2002 that killed more than 200 people.

Bush was in Little Rock to speak in favor of capping noneconomic damages in malpractice awards in civil lawsuits.

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