That's sure the way it sounded to me. They lead tonight with a piece on Zarqawi, the terrorist who was specifically identified in Colin Powell's Feb. 5, 2003 speech to the UN, (something that's been forgotten lately), and who most people had generally discussed as an "associate" of al Queda, rather than al Queda himself. He is, of course, responsible for most of the worst bombings and attacks in Iraq, the murder of Nick Berg, and the now famous letter to al Queda's leadership. The news hook is that the award offered for Zarqawi's capture is now equal to OBL's.
But in the midst of the piece (more detailed on the show than on the web site, oddly) comes this:
During the 1990s, Zarqawi trained under bin Laden in Afghanistan. After the fall of the Taliban, he fled to northwestern Iraq and worked with poisons for use in potential attacks, officials say.
During the summer of 2002, he underwent nasal surgery at a Baghdad hospital, officials say. They mistakenly originally thought, however, that Zarqawi had his leg amputated due to an injury.
In late 2002, officials say, Zarqawi began establishing sleeper cells in Baghdad and acquiring weapons from Iraqi intelligence officials.
In the context of bolstering the administration's case for war, of course, ABC would never simply include such a statement as if it were fact. But in the context of a piece designed to make a terrorist US forces can't find look as scary as possible, they'll use the quote without question. But there it is -- the latest thinking of US intelligence: before the war he was spending his time establishing sleeper cells, and arming them with weapons he was getting from the then Iraqi government.
Now, meanwhile, I was about to go through a whole elaborate explanation about the different ways different people (even experts) use the term "al Queda" when I see I don't need to, since ABC is itself conceding the distinctions between "associated with" and "member of" for our purposes just don't matter:
Intelligence officials have already tied Zarqawi to dozens of attacks worldwide, including the al Qaeda-linked suicide attacks in Istanbul, last year's bombing of the U.N. headquarters in Baghdad, as well as attacks on the Jordanian Embassy in Baghdad.
So, to review: the latest intelligence says that Zarqawi got ready for this period with help from Saddam's people -- before -- the war. And ABC suddenly became a lot less skeptical of that claim today, either because it helped them get where they wanted to go, or because they have some reason to find this intell pretty damn good. But if it's the latter, they sure as hell weren't going to trumpet the fact that a key administration argument before the war is starting to look pretty good right now.