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Iraq under US Occupation

CIA Operations Concerning Iraq after 2003 Invasion

Project: Iraq Under US Occupation
Open-Content project managed by AJB, KJF, mtuck

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A Kurdish soldier allied with US forces stands on the site where the Sargat training camp used to be. He holds a piece of a US cruise missile that hit the camp.A Kurdish soldier allied with US forces stands on the site where the Sargat training camp used to be. He holds a piece of a US cruise missile that hit the camp. [Source: Scott Peterson / Getty Images]US Special Forces working with local Kurdish forces overrun the small border region of Iraq controlled by the militant group Ansar al-Islam. This is where Secretary of State Colin Powell alleged militant leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi had a ‘poison factory’ near the town of Khurmal where chemical weapons of mass destruction capable of killing thousands were made. Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Richard Myers says, “We think that’s probably where the ricin that was found in London probably came; at least the operatives and maybe some of the formulas came from this site.” Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld comments, “We’re not certain what we’ll find but we should know more in the next three days - three or four days.” [New York Daily News, 3/31/2003] In a 2007 book, CIA Director George Tenet will claim, “Shortly after the invasion of Iraq, al-Zarqawi’s camp in Khurmal was bombed by the US military. We obtained reliable human intelligence reporting and forensic samples confirming that poisons and toxins had been produced at the camp.” [Tenet, 2007, pp. 277-278] He will further claim that the camp “engaged in production and training in the use of low-level poisons such as cyanide. We had intelligence telling us that al-Zarqawi’s men had tested these poisons on animals and, in at least one case, on one of their own associates. They laughed about how well it worked.” [Tenet, 2007, pp. 350] But Tenet’s claims seem wildly overblown compared to other subsequent news reports about what was found at the camp. In late April 2003, the Los Angeles Times will report that, “Documents obtained by the Los Angeles Times, along with interviews with US and Kurdish intelligence operatives, indicate [Ansar al-Islam] was partly funded and armed from abroad; was experimenting with chemicals, including toxic agents and a cyanide-based body lotion; and had international aspirations. But the documents, statements by imprisoned Ansar guerrillas, and visits to the group’s strongholds before and after the war produced no strong evidence of connections to Baghdad and indicated that Ansar was not a sophisticated terrorist organization. The group was a dedicated, but fledgling, al-Qaeda surrogate lacking the capability to muster a serious threat beyond its mountain borders.” A crude chemical laboratory is found in the village of Sargat, but no evidence of any sophisticated equipment is found. “Tests have revealed the presence of hydrogen cyanide and potassium cyanide, poisons normally used to kill rodents and other pests. The group, according to Kurdish officials, had been experimenting on animals with a cyanide-laced cream. Several jars of peach body lotion lay at the site beside chemicals and a few empty wooden birdcages.” While a lot of documentation is found showing intention to create chemical weapons, the actual capability appears to have been quite low. [Los Angeles Times, 4/27/2003] As the Christian Science Monitor will later conclude, the “‘poison factory’ proved primitive; nothing but substances commonly used to kill rodents were found there.” [Christian Science Monitor, 10/16/2003] Journalist Jason Burke will also later comment, “As one of the first journalists to enter the [al-Qaeda] research facilities at the Darunta camp in eastern Afghanistan in 2001, I was struck by how crude they were. The Ansar al-Islam terrorist group’s alleged chemical weapons factory in northern Iraq, which I inspected the day after its capture in 2003, was even more rudimentary.” [Foreign Policy, 5/2004]

Entity Tags: Richard B. Myers, George J. Tenet, Colin Powell, Ansar al-Islam, Donald Rumsfeld, Jason Burke, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, Events Leading to Iraq Invasion

Category Tags: Search for WMDs, CIA in Iraq

While Saddam Hussein is usually well out of harm’s way from US and coalition forces, hiding at various safe houses in Baghdad while American forces fruitlessly attack possible retreats and hiding places he might currently occupy (see March 20, 2003), he does experience one unsettlingly close call. The CIA receives information that Hussein is in a safe house near a restaurant in Baghdad’s Mansour district; a B-1 bomber drops four 2,000-pound bombs on and around the restaurant. The blast kills 18 civilians, according to Human Rights Watch, but, the Joint Forces Command later notes, “Saddam was not in the targeted area at the time of the attack.” However, early this morning, he is in a safe house less than two miles from the route taken by US troops on their second “Thunder Run” into Baghdad. Hussein will hide for two days, then he and his aides force their way into a private Baghdad residence, where they are able to elude capture by US troops searching the neighborhood. He then flees to Ramadi with his two sons and his personal secretary on April 10. He will eventually go to ground near the town of Hit, where he is eventually captured in the so-called “spider hole” (see December 14, 2003). [New York Times, 3/12/2006]

Entity Tags: Saddam Hussein, Human Rights Watch

Category Tags: Military Operations, CIA in Iraq

In 2007, CIA Director George Tenet will write in a book, “Once US forces reached Baghdad (see April 9, 2003), they discovered—stacked where they could easily find them—purported Iraqi intelligence service documents that showed much tighter links between Saddam [Hussein] and [Abu Musab] al-Zarqawi, and Saddam and al-Qaeda.” CIA analysts work with the Secret Service to check the paper and ink, plus to verify the details mentioned in the documents. But “time and again” the documents turn out to be forgeries. “It was obvious that someone was trying to mislead us. But these raw, unevaluated documents that painted a more nefarious picture of Iraq and al-Qaeda continued to show up in the hands of senior [Bush] administration officials without having gone through normal intelligence channels.” [Tenet, 2007, pp. 356] For instance, one forged document found in December 2003 and reported on by the press will purport that 9/11 hijacker Mohamed Atta went to Iraq to be trained by Iraqi intelligence agents (see December 14, 2003). Tenet will not speculate who is behind the forgeries.

Entity Tags: George J. Tenet, Central Intelligence Agency

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, Events Leading to Iraq Invasion

Category Tags: Al-Zarqawi / Al-Qaeda in Iraq, CIA in Iraq

The CIA appoints a chief to its new station in Baghdad, Iraq. The officer, whose name is not known, had previously served at the station before the 1991 Gulf War and ran the CIA’s operations in Iraq from a neighboring country before the recent invasion. He is fluent in Arabic and experienced at setting up and running large intelligence operations. [Los Angeles Times, 2/20/2004] The officer will only remain in his position for a couple of months (see (June 2003)).

Entity Tags: CIA Baghdad Station, Central Intelligence Agency

Category Tags: CIA in Iraq

Analysts working for the CIA, the Defense Intelligence Agency, and other national security agencies compare prewar intelligence on suspected mobile biological weapons factories in Iraq with what has been learned about a recently discovered trailer. They conclude that the only plausible explanation for the trailer’s design is that the trailer was intended to produce biological weapons. [New York Times, 5/21/2003]

Entity Tags: Central Intelligence Agency, Defense Intelligence Agency

Timeline Tags: Events Leading to Iraq Invasion

Category Tags: Search for WMDs, CIA in Iraq

Beginning on May 1, American nuclear physicist David Albright attempts to contact US defense officials to inform them that Mahdi Obeidi—the Iraqi nuclear scientist who once headed Iraq’s gas centrifuge program for uranium enrichment—has valuable information that he wants to share with the United States. But according to Albright, his inquiries are initially “rebuffed.” Finally, on May 7, he finds someone at the CIA who is interested. A little more than three weeks later, US authorities will investigate this lead (see June 2, 2003). [CNN, 6/26/2003; Newsweek, 8/8/2003; Washington Post, 10/26/2003]

Entity Tags: US Department of Defense, David Albright, Central Intelligence Agency, Mahdi Obeidi

Timeline Tags: Events Leading to Iraq Invasion

Category Tags: Search for WMDs, CIA in Iraq

In a CIA-arranged meeting at the Abu Ghraib palace, US officials meet with a former high-ranking Iraqi military officer named Faris Naima. He proposes that the US set up three military divisions in northern, central, and southern Iraq. Soldiers would be stationed in every major town to support the police. Claiming that there is a large number of possible military leaders who are not orthodox Baathists, he says the US should start at the top by forming an Iraqi Ministry of Defense and work their way down, all officers would be mandated to repudiate the Baathist Party. Naima also stresses the importance of paying the salaries of civil servants and declaring a plan for exiting the country so that Iraqis will not begin to view them as occupiers. [Gordon and Trainor, 3/14/2006, pp. 480]

Entity Tags: Faris Naima

Category Tags: Security, CIA in Iraq

The CIA publicly releases a 6-page white paper titled “Iraqi Mobile Biological Warfare Agent Production Plants” concluding that the two trailers discovered in northern Iraq (see April 19, 2003) (see May 9, 2003) were designed to produce biological weapons—directly contradicting the conclusion of a field report filed the previous day by biological weapons experts working in Iraq (see May 27, 2003). The report—the US government’s first formal assessment of the trailers—calls the discovery of the trailers the “strongest evidence to date that Iraq was hiding a biological warfare program.” It is based on a comparison of the trailers to descriptions that had been provided by Iraqi sources prior to the invasion. Though the report claims that there are no other plausible explanations for the trailers’ purpose, it does acknowledge that senior Iraqi officials at the al-Kindi research facility in Mosul, as well as a company that manufactured components for the trailers, say the trailers were built to make hydrogen for artillery weather balloons. The report calls this a “cover story.” [Central Intelligence Agency and Defense Intelligence Agency, 5/28/2003; New York Times, 6/7/2003; Los Angeles Times, 6/21/2003; New York Times, 6/26/2003] Though the report was authored by the CIA, there is a DIA logo printed on the paper to indicate that the DIA backs the report’s conclusions. But most DIA analysts do not. When the CIA was unable to convince DIA analysts to sign the paper, according to book Hubris, they contacted the one DIA analyst who did agree with their position, and got his approval to place the DIA logo on the white paper. “We were tricked,” one DIA analyst later explains. [Isikoff and Corn, 2006, pp. 228] It is later learned that the report was completed before the investigation had run its full course. A week after the report’s release, laboratories in the Middle East and the United States were still analyzing more than 100 samples that had been taken from the trailers. A senior analyst tells the New York Times that the white paper “was a rushed job and looks political.” [New York Times, 6/7/2003] It is also discovered that the two agencies did not consult with other intelligence offices. Normally such reports are not finalized until there is a consensus among the government’s numerous intelligence agencies. “The exclusion of the State Department’s intelligence bureau [INR] and other agencies seemed unusual, several government officials said, because of the high-profile subject,” the New York Times will later report. Moreover, the State Department’s intelligence agency was not even informed that the report was being prepared. [New York Times, 6/26/2003] When INR analysts read the report, they go “ballistic.” INR intelligence chief Carl Ford Jr. will later say of the report’s authors, “It wasn’t just that it was wrong. They lied.” [Isikoff and Corn, 2006, pp. 228]

Entity Tags: Central Intelligence Agency, Bureau of Intelligence and Research, Defense Intelligence Agency, Carl W. Ford, Jr.

Timeline Tags: Events Leading to Iraq Invasion

Category Tags: Search for WMDs, CIA in Iraq

Writing in 2007, CIA analyst Valerie Plame Wilson, who works with the issue of Iraq’s WMD, will recall that many of her colleagues now feel “bewilderment over why we weren’t finding any WMD caches at all.” As more and more evidence accumulates that Iraq never had the wide array of WMD stockpiles that the Bush administration has alleged for so long, she begins to experience “a sinking feeling in my stomach that Saddam [Hussein] had pulled off one of the greatest intelligence deceptions of all time: he had made the world believe he had significant stashes of WMD that he would use, if threatened, when in fact, he had nothing” (see January 28, 2004). [Wilson, 2007, pp. 153-154]

Entity Tags: Valerie Plame Wilson, Bush administration (43), Saddam Hussein, Central Intelligence Agency

Category Tags: Search for WMDs, CIA in Iraq

The chief of the CIA’s station in Baghdad, Iraq, leaves his position. Although the official had only been in the position for a couple of months (see Late April 2003) the departure is planned. [Los Angeles Times, 2/20/2004; Risen, 2006, pp. 141] He subsequently moves to another CIA station in the Middle East. [Los Angeles Times, 2/20/2004]

Entity Tags: Central Intelligence Agency, CIA Baghdad Station

Category Tags: CIA in Iraq

Officials at the CIA station in Baghdad ask agency managers at headquarters for information and training on detainee interrogations, but receive little in response. After the station agrees to interrogate the most important detainees in order to gain information about the growing insurgency, it asks headquarters for training for its officers, so that they can perform the interrogations correctly. It also requests written guidelines in July. However, headquarters does nothing and this refusal to act leads to heated arguments between Baghdad station and headquarters. For example, in one videoconference in the fall the deputy station chief begins yelling at headquarters staffers, demanding that they provide the written guidelines. The response of the agency’s Near East division chief is to tell Baghdad station boss Gerry Meyer (see May 18, 2006) that his deputy is becoming “too strident.” No guidelines will arrive before the Abu Ghraib scandal breaks (see April 28, 2004). Neither does headquarters send a lawyer to the Baghdad station for some time. Initially, the station gets its legal advice on an informal basis from CIA or military lawyers who happen to be passing through Baghdad. No agency lawyer is stationed in Baghdad until January 2004. [Risen, 2006, pp. 144-145]

Entity Tags: CIA Baghdad Station, Gerry Meyer, Near East Division (CIA), Central Intelligence Agency

Category Tags: CIA in Iraq

The CIA appoints a new chief of its station in Baghdad, Iraq. [Risen, 2006, pp. 141-142] According to Harper’s magazine journalist Ken Silverstein, the new chief’s name is Gerry Meyer (see May 18, 2006). He is apparently a highly regarded agency veteran. [Harper's, 5/18/2006] Meyer had previously served as a station chief in a neighboring country. [Los Angeles Times, 2/20/2004] However, he will only last a few months in the job for reasons that are not entirely clear (see (Late December 2003)).

Entity Tags: Gerry Meyer, Central Intelligence Agency, CIA Baghdad Station

Category Tags: CIA in Iraq

Hamish Killip, a British army officer and biological weapons expert working with the CIA-led Iraq Survey Group, inspects the alleged mobile biological weapons labs that were found by US forces in April (see May 9, 2003) and May (see April 19, 2003) and is immediately skeptical. “The equipment was singularly inappropriate,” he later recalls. “We were in hysterics over this. You’d have better luck putting a couple of dust bins on the back of the truck and brewing it in there.” The trailers were clearly built for the purpose of producing hydrogen. [Los Angeles Times, 11/20/2005]

Entity Tags: Hamish Killip

Timeline Tags: Events Leading to Iraq Invasion

Category Tags: Search for WMDs, CIA in Iraq

The CIA’s Baghdad station chief, Gerry Meyer (see May 18, 2006), files an Aardwolf, or time-critical situation report, about the crisis in the area in the immediate aftermath of the bombing of the UN offices in that city (see August 29, 2003). The report says that the UN bombing was part of a strategy by a new and bold insurgency to discredit and isolate the US-led coalition, and warns that insurgents and terrorists have the capability to carry out many more attacks against “soft targets.” The insurgency is increasingly dangerous, threatens to erase early progress made by the US, and could actually overwhelm occupation forces. The report also says that there are two strands of violence, one from foreign fighters and one from Iraqi insurgents. In addition, it predicts that the capture of Saddam Hussein will not end the violence as he appears not to be in control of it. Some in the Bush administration think the report is too negative and L. Paul Bremer, administrator of the Coalition Provisional Authority, attaches a note to it downplaying the worsening conditions in Iraq. [Risen, 2006, pp. 141-142; Wilson, 2007, pp. 157] Meyer will file another such report in November (see November 10, 2003).

Entity Tags: Coalition Provisional Authority, Central Intelligence Agency, L. Paul Bremer, Bush administration (43), CIA Baghdad Station, Gerry Meyer

Category Tags: Military Operations, Security, CIA in Iraq

John Maguire, a CIA official with experience of Iraqi issues, leaves the agency’s headquarters staff to take up a position at the CIA station in Baghdad. The exact position he fills in Baghdad is unknown. [Suskind, 2008, pp. 371-372]

Entity Tags: CIA Baghdad Station, John Maguire, Central Intelligence Agency

Category Tags: CIA in Iraq

On a tour of outlying US military detachments, the chief of the CIA’s station in Baghdad, Iraq, visits Tiger Forward Operating Base, manned by the Third Armored Cavalry and close to the Syrian border. The chief, whose name is apparently Gerry Meyer (see May 18, 2006), talks with an unnamed US commander at the base. The commander tells Meyer that over the last four to six weeks the Iraqi insurgents have been coalescing, and their tactics and methods show greater command, control, and sophistication, making them more deadly. The officer suggests that the rebels are getting ready for something bigger and that a new stage of the conflict in Iraq is about to begin. This coincides with what Meyer already knows about events in the country; while the number of attacks has recently been increasing, support for the US occupation among the locals is eroding. Meyer has already written one high-profile cable to CIA headquarters about the worsening situation (see August 30, 2003), but now decides that the conditions require another such warning (see November 10, 2003). [Risen, 2006, pp. 125-127]

Entity Tags: CIA Baghdad Station, Gerry Meyer, Central Intelligence Agency

Category Tags: CIA in Iraq

The chief of the CIA station in Baghdad sends a high-profile “Aardworf” cable entitled “The Expanding Insurgency in Iraq” warning of the deteriorating situation in the country. The chief, whose name is apparently Gerry Meyer (see May 18, 2006), sent a similar cable in August (see August 30, 2003), but is inspired to write a follow-up by a recent conversation with a US officer (see Early November 2003). According to author James Risen, Meyer believes that the US is “in danger of losing a war that it thought it had already won,” and so writes this “painfully honest account of the worsening situation.” The report states that the insurgency in central and northern Iraq is gaining momentum, and the insurgents are “self-confident and believe they will ultimately succeed in returning to power as they have in the past.” The rebels can sense the American will is “wavering,” and feel very little pressure from the US military. Politically, the insurgents are taking advantage of the fact that the US has not developed a clear message that resonates with the Iraqi people. Therefore, locals see the insurgents as powerful and “largely unchallenged” because of the political drift in Baghdad—current Iraqi political leaders have not been able to govern the country, draft a constitution, or hold an election. The US has therefore lost its best chance to stabilize Iraq, and the Baathists, surprised by the ferocity of the initial onslaught, have now regrouped. The report adds: “By the end of the summer, the continued sense of isolation in the Sunni heartland, the complete dissolution of the army and other institutions of security, rigid de-Baathification, and the lack of economic opportunities or political direction gave these regime elements the confidence they needed to repair their networks and reestablish themselves. The ease with which the insurgents move and exist in Baghdad and the Sunni heartland is bolstering their self-confidence further.” The report also says that there is no way to completely seal Iraq’s borders with its neighbors and prevent foreign jihadis entering the country, that majority Shiite Muslims could join rebel Sunnis, and that this would doom the occupation to failure. Unless the US takes corrective actions, the country’s rebuilding could collapse. [Knight Ridder, 11/11/2003; Risen, 2006, pp. 127-128, 145-147] The report will soon be leaked to the press (see November 11, 2003) and may lead to Meyer’s firing (see (Late December 2003)).

Entity Tags: Central Intelligence Agency, CIA Baghdad Station, Gerry Meyer

Category Tags: CIA in Iraq

A CIA report warning of the growing insurgency in Iraq is leaked to the press. After the report, drafted by CIA Baghdad station chief Gerry Meyer, arrives in Washington on November 10 (see November 10, 2003), an article about it by Jonathan Landay of Knight Ridder newspapers appears the following day. Landay, who knows of the report from “two senior administration officials,” comments that the report’s “bleak tone” contrasts “sharply” with accounts recently offered by President Bush and other officials. He also reveals that the report was drafted by the station chief, although Meyer’s identity is not revealed, and that the report is time-sensitive Aardwolf priority. Landay adds, “The speed of the leak suggested that senior policymakers want to make sure the assessment reaches Bush,” because, “Some senior policymakers have complained of being frustrated in their efforts to provide Bush with analyses of the situation in Iraq that are more somber than the optimistic views of Vice President Dick Cheney, Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld, and other hardliners.” A senior administration official also tells Landay that L. Paul Bremer, head of the US-led Coalition Provisional Authority in Iraq, has essentially endorsed the report. [Knight Ridder, 11/11/2003]

Entity Tags: CIA Baghdad Station, Jonathan Landay, Central Intelligence Agency

Category Tags: CIA in Iraq

David Kay, head of the Iraq Survey Group, returns to Washington and informs CIA director George Tenet that Curveball lied about the mobile biological weapons laboratories and that he believes Iraq had no mobile labs or banned weapons. Shortly thereafter he is assigned to a windowless office without a working telephone. [Los Angeles Times, 11/20/2005]

Entity Tags: David Kay, George J. Tenet

Timeline Tags: Events Leading to Iraq Invasion

Category Tags: Search for WMDs, CIA in Iraq

On a trip home to Washington, the chief of the CIA’s Baghdad station, Gerry Meyer (see May 18, 2006), meets with President Bush to discuss the situation in Iraq. [Risen, 2006, pp. 146-147] Details of the meeting are unknown, but Meyer recently wrote a report saying the situation in the country was deteriorating (see November 10, 2003), so this is probably the main topic of conversation.

Entity Tags: Central Intelligence Agency, CIA Baghdad Station, Gerry Meyer, George W. Bush

Category Tags: CIA in Iraq

The chief of the CIA’s station in Baghdad, Iraq, is removed from his position. [Los Angeles Times, 2/20/2004; New York Times, 2/27/2005] At this time the chief, whose name is apparently Gerry Meyer (see May 18, 2006), is not in Iraq, but reporting to superiors in Washington. He is simply told not to return to his station. [Risen, 2006, pp. 147] However, the reason for the chief’s removal is unclear and three contradictory accounts will be given. The first account, put about by anonymous officials, is that Meyer does not have the management skills to administer the station, one of the largest the CIA has ever had. [New York Times, 2/27/2005; Risen, 2006, pp. 128] One unnamed official will comment, “There was just a belief that it was a huge operation and we needed a very senior, very experienced person to run it.” A second version holds that Meyer is fired for drafting two pessimistic “Aardwolf” reports about the US’s prospects in Iraq (see August 30, 2003 and November 10, 2003). [Los Angeles Times, 2/20/2004] According to a Harper’s magazine post, White House officials ask for “dirt” on Meyer, including his political affiliation. “He was a good guy,” an anonymous CIA official will comment, “well-wired in Baghdad, and he wrote a good report. But any time this administration gets bad news, they say the critics are assholes and defeatists, and off we go down the same path with more pressure on the accelerator.” [Harper's, 5/18/2006] However, a third version will later emerge. In this account, the firing is due to concern over the deaths of two Iraqis questioned by CIA officials shortly before Meyer’s removal. After senior agency officials learn of the deaths of Abed Hamed Mowhoush (see November 26, 2003) and Manadel al-Jamadi (see Between 4:30 a.m. and 5:30 a.m. November 4, 2003), in which CIA personnel were involved, they become unhappy with Meyer and have him removed. [New York Times, 2/27/2005; Risen, 2006, pp. 127-128] This version will apparently be supported by a document released subsequent to a Freedom of Information Act request in 2009. The document is a redacted set of May 2004 talking points to be used by a senior CIA official in a briefing of the House Intelligence Committee. The talking points do not say specifically why Meyer was fired, but do say he committed errors in detainee treatment. This will be confirmed by an anonymous former official, who will say that Meyer “wasn’t paying enough attention to the detainee situation,” as well as the issue of “ghost detainees.” [McClatchy, 8/25/2009] Whatever the reason for his firing, Meyer soon leaves the CIA. [New York Times, 2/27/2005; Harper's, 5/18/2006] According to author James Risen, his departure comes after he faces “piercing questions from CIA officials stemming from a series of inflammatory accusations about his personal behavior, all of which he flatly denied.” Risen will add that Meyer leaves the CIA “in disgust.” Whatever the reason, some CIA officials come to believe that Meyer ran into trouble because of the candid report. “When I read that November aardwolf,” a CIA official who knows Meyer will comment, “I thought that he was committing career suicide.” [Risen, 2006, pp. 127-128]

Entity Tags: Manadel al-Jamadi, Gerry Meyer, Central Intelligence Agency, Abed Hamed Mowhoush, CIA Baghdad Station

Category Tags: CIA in Iraq

Saddam Hussein in US custody.Saddam Hussein in US custody. [Source: US Department of Defense]The FBI sends veteran interrogator George Piro to question captured Iraqi despot Saddam Hussein. Over a period of months, Piro uses a combination of friendliness, warmth, and verbal provocations to tease a wealth of information from Hussein. At no time does Piro or other FBI interrogators use “aggressive” or “harsh” interrogation methods against Hussein. Piro works closely with a team of FBI and CIA analysts to pore over Hussein’s responses. He will later recall his sessions with Hussein for CBS News interviewer Scott Pelley.
'Mr. Saddam' - Piro begins calling the dictator “Mr. Saddam,” as a sign of respect; by the end of their time, they are on a first-name basis with one another. Hussein never finds out that Piro is “just” an FBI agent; he believes that Piro is far more influential than he actually is, and is directly briefing President Bush on their conversations. “He didn’t know I worked for the FBI, he didn’t know I was a field agent,” Piro will recall. Had he found out, “I think initially he would have been angry. He would feel that I was way beneath him, and would not respond well to the interrogation. Or even to me.… I think he thought, and actually on a couple of occasions talked around the issue that I was directly answering to the president.” Piro will recall setting several strategies of deception into motion, including his barking orders at the guards to send them into a panic to obey his instructions. “[I]t was all part of our strategy,” Piro will explain.
Controlling the Dictator - Piro will say that he gained physical control of the setting—a small, windowless room with chairs and a table—merely by placing himself between Hussein and the door. “I purposely put his back against the wall,” Piro will recall. “And then mine against the door, psychologically to tell him that his back was against the wall in the interview room. And that I stood between him and the door, psychologically. Between him whether it’s to go back to his cell, freedom, whatever he was projecting to be outside of that door. I was kind of that psychological barrier between him and the door.” Piro will add, “I basically said that I was gonna be responsible for every aspect of his life, and that if he needed anything I was gonna be the person that he needed to talk to.” Piro controls Hussein’s food and cleaning materials—Piro will describe Hussein as a “clean freak” who uses large numbers of baby wipes to disinfect his cell and his food. Piro allows Hussein pen and paper to write what Piro will describe as inordinate amounts of “terrible” poetry. “We had the guards remove their watches,” Piro will recall. “And the only person that was wearing a watch was me. And it was very evident to him, ‘cause I was wearing the largest wristwatch you could imagine. And it was just the act of him asking for the time—was critical in our plan.” Pelley says, “So you controlled time itself,” and Piro answers, “Yes.”
No Coercive Interrogation Methods - Piro will say that no coercive interrogations, such as sleep deprivation, excessive heat or cold, bombardment with loud music, or waterboarding are ever used. “It’s against FBI policy, first,” Piro will explain. “And wouldn’t have really benefited us with someone like Saddam.… I think Saddam clearly had demonstrated over his legacy that he would not respond to threats, to any type of fear-based approach.” The best methods for use with Hussein are, according to Piro, time and patience.
Using Emotions to Create Vulnerability - Piro uses their time to build a relationship with Hussein based on dependency, trust, and emotion. He alternates between treating Hussein with courtesy and kindness, and provoking him with pictures and video images designed to anger and embarrass the former dictator. He uses pictures of the toppling of Hussein’s statues and news videos documenting his overthrow. “I wanted him to get angry. I wanted him to see those videos and to get angry,” Piro will say. “You want to take him through those various emotions. Happy, angry, sad. When you have someone going through those emotions they’re not able to really control themselves. And they’re more vulnerable during the interview.”
Insult Drove Kuwait Invasion - Piro learns that one of the driving forces behind Hussein’s invasion of Kuwait in 1990 (see August 2, 1990) was personal insult. “What really triggered it for him, according to Saddam, was he had sent his foreign minister to Kuwait to meet with the Emir Al Sabah, the former leader of Kuwait, to try to resolve some of the… issues” between Kuwait and Iraq, Piro will recall. “And the Emir told the foreign minister of Iraq that he would not stop doing what he was doing until he turned every Iraqi woman into a $10 prostitute. And that really sealed it for him, to invade Kuwait. He wanted to punish, he told me, Emir Al Sabah, for saying that.” The 1991 US invasion of Iraq (see January 16, 1991 and After) soured Hussein on then-President George H. W. Bush, a feeling that Hussein transferred to the son. “He didn’t like President [George W.] Bush,” Piro will say. “He would have liked meeting President Reagan. He thought he was a great leader. Honorable man. He liked President Clinton. But he did not like President Bush, the first or the current.”
Small Things, Big Impact - Piro will recall the outsized impact relatively small incidents have on Hussein. One night the FBI flies Hussein to a hospital. He is manacled and blindfolded. Piro will remember: “And once I saw how beautiful Baghdad was in the middle of the night, so I took advantage of it. I allowed him to look out and the lights were on. There was traffic. And it looked like any other major metropolitan city around the world. And for him to see that. And as I mentioned, you know, big Baghdad is moving forward without you. I mean, little things like that didn’t require a lot of suggestion on our part. It made its point.” Piro even uses Hussein’s birthday, a former national holiday, to drive home his point. “In 2004, no one celebrated his birthday on April 28th. So the only one that really knew and cared was us. I’d brought him some cookies, and we, the FBI, celebrated his birthday for him.” Piro gives Hussein packets of flower seeds and allows him to plant his own small garden, which he must tend with his hands because the FBI will not allow him to use tools. Piro will recall that their strolls in Hussein’s tiny garden are often the site of large revelations.
Avoiding Capture - Hussein tells Piro that US forces simply missed him during the first days of the invasion, the “shock and awe” assault. “He said that he was at one of the locations. He said it in a kind of a bragging fashion, that he was there, but that we missed him,” Piro later says. “He told me he changed the way he traveled. He got rid of his normal vehicles. He got rid of the protective detail he traveled with. Really just to change his signature so he would be much harder to identify.” And Hussein denies ever using body doubles or decoys, as US intelligence had long asserted.
WMD - Five months into the sessions, Hussein finally opens up to Piro regarding the subject of Iraq’s WMD programs. Using indirection, Piro begins to tease information out of Hussein. “He told me that most of the WMD had been destroyed by the UN inspectors in the ‘90s. And those that hadn’t been destroyed by the inspectors were unilaterally destroyed by Iraq,” Piro will recall. So why, Pelley will ask, did Hussein “put your nation at risk, why put your own life at risk to maintain this charade?” Piro will respond: “It was very important for him to project that because that was what kept him, in his mind, in power. That capability kept the Iranians away. It kept them from reinvading Iraq.” It is apparent, Piro says, that Hussein did not believe he could survive without the perception that he had WMD. But Piro confirms that Hussein always intended to restart his WMD program someday. “The folks that he needed to reconstitute his program are still there,” Piro will observe. “He wanted to pursue all of WMD. So he wanted to reconstitute his entire WMD program.”
Did Not Believe US Would Invade - From there, Hussein begins to explain why he let the US continue to believe he had such weapons even as troops began massing on his borders. He didn’t believe the US would actually invade, he says. As Piro will recall: “[H]e told me he initially miscalculated President Bush. And President Bush’s intentions. He thought the United States would retaliate with the same type of attack as we did in 1998 under Operation Desert Fox (see December 16-19, 1998). Which was a four-day aerial attack. So you expected that initially.” Hussein says that Iraq would have survived a relatively limited aerial bombardment. “He survived that once,” Piro will recall. “And then he was willing to accept that type of attack. That type of damage.” But he never believed the US would invade until almost the moment of the initial assault.
'The Secret War' - Hussein knew his military could not win in any confrontation with the US. Instead, as Piro will recall: “What he had asked of his military leaders and senior government officials was to give him two weeks. And at that point it would go into what he called the secret war.… Going from a conventional to an unconventional war.” Pelley will remark, “So the insurgency was part of his plan from the very beginning,” to which Piro will say, “Well, he would like to take credit for the insurgency.”
Iraq and al-Qaeda - Hussein confirms that his regime had no dealings with al-Qaeda, as many Bush officials have long believed. Hussein considered Osama bin Laden “a fanatic,” according to Piro. “You can’t really trust fanatics,” Hussein tells the interrogator. And he had no interest in any alliance with al-Qaeda. “He didn’t wanna be seen with bin Laden,” Piro will recall. “And didn’t want to associate with bin Laden.” Hussein viewed bin Laden as a threat to him and his regime.
Independent Confirmation and Praise for Piro's Efforts - Hussein’s claims are later verified by independent interrogations with other high-ranking Hussein regime officials. Piro’s boss, FBI Assistant Director Joe Persichini, will say that Piro’s interrogation is a high mark of the bureau’s recent efforts. “The FBI will be celebrating its 100th anniversary this year and I would have to say that the interview with Saddam Hussein is one of the top accomplishments of our agency in the last 100 years,” Persichini will say, and gives credit to Piro’s language skills. Only about 50 of the 10,000 FBI agents speak Arabic, he will note. Piro will credit his FBI and CIA colleagues for their work in analyzing Hussein’s statements, and their extensive knowledge of Hussein and his regime. “The more you know about your subject, the better of an interview… that you’re gonna conduct,” he will say. “You’ll be able to recognize inconsistencies, deception, things like that. Plus it really establishes your credibility within the interview.”
No Regrets - One thing Hussein never shows during his long interviews, Piro later recalls, is remorse. “No remorse,” Piro will say. “No regret.” [CBS News, 1/27/2008]

Entity Tags: George Herbert Walker Bush, Ronald Reagan, George Piro, George W. Bush, Jaber Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Central Intelligence Agency, Joe Persichini, CBS News, Saddam Hussein, Osama bin Laden, Scott Pelley, Al-Qaeda, William Jefferson (“Bill”) Clinton

Timeline Tags: Torture of US Captives

Category Tags: Military Operations, Political Administration, Hussein's Capture, CIA in Iraq

In early 2004, the head of the CIA station in Kabul, Afghanistan, known only as “Peter,” reports a revival of al-Qaeda and Taliban forces near the border of Pakistan. He proposes a spring intelligence push in the Pakistani tribal regions of South Waziristan and Kunar. Since 2002, al-Qaeda has mainly been regrouping in Waziristan, and many speculate that Osama bin Laden may be hiding there (see August 2002). Peter estimates that 24 field officers and five station officers would be needed for the new push. However, CIA headquarters replies that it does not have the resources to make the surge, presumably due to commitments in Iraq. Peter is rotated out of his post a short time later. [Washington Post, 10/22/2004]

Entity Tags: Al-Qaeda, “Peter”, Central Intelligence Agency, Taliban

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, War in Afghanistan

Category Tags: Security, CIA in Iraq

The CIA appoints a new chief of its large station in Baghdad, Iraq. The officer, whose name is unknown, will serve there for a year (see December 2004). [Harper's, 5/18/2006] A former CIA officer will comment that the station chief previously served in Kosovo and “rose rather meteorically” there. [Los Angeles Times, 2/20/2004]

Entity Tags: Central Intelligence Agency, CIA Baghdad Station

Category Tags: CIA in Iraq

CIA Deputy Director for Operations James Pavitt convenes an accountability board to review the poor performance of the CIA’s personnel in Iraq. It is unclear exactly whose performance the board reviews, when the board is convened, or what conclusions it reaches. However, it may well be convened shortly after the firing of Baghdad station chief Gerry Meyer in late 2003 (see (Late December 2003)), possibly due to the deaths of two detainees. [McClatchy, 8/25/2009]

Entity Tags: Central Intelligence Agency, CIA Baghdad Station, Gerry Meyer, James Pavitt, Directorate of Operations

Category Tags: CIA in Iraq

David Kay quits his job as head of the Iraq Survey Group. [Los Angeles Times, 11/20/2005] He is being replaced by former senior UN weapons inspector Charles Duelfer, who recently said that the chances of Iraq being found to possess chemical or biological weapons is “close to nil.” Kay gives no reason for his resignation, but sources in Washington say he is resigning for both personal reasons and because of his disillusionment with the weapons search. Kay says he does not believe Iraq possesses any major stockpiles of chemical or biological weapons, and he does not believe it has had any such weapons since the 1991 Gulf War. “I don’t think they existed,” he says. “What everyone was talking about is stockpiles produced after the end of the last Gulf War and I don’t think there was a large-scale production program in the 90s. I think we have found probably 85 percent of what we’re going to find.” [BBC, 1/24/2004] He adds: “I think they gradually reduced stockpiles throughout the 1990s. Somewhere in the mid-1990s, the large chemical overhang of existing stockpiles was eliminated.” [New York Times, 1/25/2009] In 2005, Kay will say: “My view was that the best evidence that I had seen was Iraq indeed had weapons of mass destruction. It turns out we were all wrong, and that is most disturbing. If the intelligence community had said there were no weapons there, would the policymakers have decided for other reasons, regime change, human rights, whatever, to go to war? All you can say is we’ll never know, because in fact the system said, apparently, it’s a slam dunk, there are weapons there.” [CNN, 8/18/2005]
Misled by Internal Duplicity of Iraqi Scientists, Failure of Fundamental Intelligence Gathering and Analysis - Kay says that the CIA and other US intelligence agencies were misled by duplicitous Iraqi scientists, who, in the words of New York Times reporter James Risen, “had presented ambitious but fanciful weapons programs to [Saddam] Hussein and had then used the money for other purposes,” and by the agencies’ failure to realize that Iraq had essentially abandoned its WMD programs after the 1991 war; what remained of the Gulf War-era WMD stockpiles was destroyed by US and British air strikes in 1998 (see December 16-19, 1998). According to Kay, Iraqi scientists realized they could go directly to Hussein and present fantastic plans for weapons programs, and receive approval and large amounts of money. Whatever was left of an effective weapons capability was quickly turned into corrupt money-raising schemes by scientists skilled in the arts of lying and surviving in Hussein’s autocratic police state. “The whole thing shifted from directed programs to a corrupted process,” Kay says. “The regime was no longer in control; it was like a death spiral. Saddam was self-directing projects that were not vetted by anyone else. The scientists were able to fake programs.” Kay adds that in his view the errors committed by the intelligence agencies were so grave that he recommends those agencies revamp their intelligence collection and analysis efforts. Analysts have come to him, he says, “almost in tears, saying they felt so badly that we weren’t finding what they had thought we were going to find—I have had analysts apologizing for reaching the conclusions that they did.” The biggest problem US agencies had, Kay says, was their near-total lack of human intelligence sources in Iraq since the UN weapons inspectors were withdrawn in 1998. [New York Times, 1/25/2009]
'Rudimentary' Nuclear Weapons Program - Iraq did try to restart its moribund nuclear weapons program in 2000 and 2001, Kay says, but that plan never got beyond the earliest stages. He calls it “rudimentary at best,” and says it would have taken years to get underway. “There was a restart of the nuclear program,” he notes. “But the surprising thing is that if you compare it to what we now know about Iran and Libya, the Iraqi program was never as advanced.”
No Evidence of Attempt to Purchase Nigerien Uranium - Kay says that his team found no evidence that Iraq ever tried to obtain enriched uranium from Niger, as has frequently been alleged (see Between Late 2000 and September 11, 2001, Late September 2001-Early October 2001, October 15, 2001, December 2001, February 5, 2002, February 12, 2002, October 9, 2002, October 15, 2002, January 2003, February 17, 2003, March 7, 2003, March 8, 2003, and 3:09 p.m. July 11, 2003). “We found nothing on Niger,” he says. [New York Times, 1/25/2009]
Democrats: Proof that Administration 'Exaggerated ... Threat' - Senator John Rockefeller (D-WV), the ranking member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, says of Kay’s resignation: “It increasingly appears that our intelligence was wrong about Iraq’s weapons, and the administration compounded that mistake by exaggerating the nuclear threat and Iraq’s ties to al-Qaeda. As a result, the United States is paying a very heavy price.” Rockefeller’s counterpart in the House of Representatives, Jane Harman (D-CA), says Kay’s comments indicate a massive intelligence failure and cannot be ignored. [BBC, 1/24/2004]
Asked to Delay Resignation until after State of Union Address - In 2005, Kay will reveal that he was asked by CIA Director George Tenet to hold off on his resignation. According to Kay, Tenet told him: “If you resign now, it will appear that we don’t know what we’re doing. That the wheels are coming off.” Kay will say, “I was asked to not go public with my resignation until after the president’s State of the Union address which—this is Washington and in general—I’ve been around long enough so I know in January you don’t try to get bad news out before the president gives his State of the Union address.” Kay does not say exactly when Tenet asked him to delay his resignation. [CNN, 8/18/2005]

Entity Tags: Saddam Hussein, Jane Harman, John D. Rockefeller, Charles Duelfer, David Kay, George J. Tenet, Iraq Survey Group, James Risen

Timeline Tags: Events Leading to Iraq Invasion

Category Tags: Search for WMDs, CIA in Iraq

David Kay tells the Senate Armed Services Committee that the Iraq Survey Group has failed to find any evidence that Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction. “Let me begin by saying, we were almost all wrong,” he says in his opening remarks, before revealing that the inspection teams found no weapons of mass destruction. “I believe that the effort that has been directed to this point has been sufficiently intense that it is highly unlikely that there were large stockpiles of deployed militarized chemical and biological weapons there,” he says. [CNN, 1/28/2003; Guardian, 1/29/2003; US Congress, 1/28/2004 pdf file]
Hussein Deceived Own Generals - Kay says that apparently even Iraq’s own military commanders believed, falsely, that their military possessed chemical or biological weapons that were ready to be deployed. Senator Jeff Sessions (R-AL) asks Kay: “I believe at one point you noted that even [Saddam Hussein’s] own military officers believed that they had [WMD]. In other words, they would think—” Kay interjects, ”—that someone else had them.” Sessions asks for an explanation, and Kay says: “Well, in interviewing the Republican Guard generals and Special Republican Guard generals and asking about their capabilities and having them, the assurance was they didn’t personally have them and hadn’t seen them, but the units on their right or left had them. And as you worked the way around the circle of those defending Baghdad, which is the immediate area of concern, you have got this very strange phenomena of, ‘No, I didn’t have them, I haven’t seen them, but look to my right and left.’ That was an intentional ambiguity.” [CNN, 1/28/2003; Guardian, 1/29/2003; US Congress, 1/28/2004 pdf file; Wilson, 2007, pp. 154-155]
Trying to Have It Both Ways - In 2007, current CIA official Valerie Plame Wilson (see April 2001 and After) will write, “In retrospect, it appears that Saddam Hussein wanted it both ways: to convince certain audiences that Iraq had WMD, while simultaneously working to convince others that it had abandoned all its illegal programs.” In May 2006, Foreign Affairs magazine will note that Iraq’s former Defense Minister, Ali Hassan Majeed (also known as “Chemical Ali”), knew Iraq possessed no WMDs before the US invasion, but also knew that many of his colleagues “never stopped believing that the weapons still existed. Even at the highest echelon of the regime, when it came to WMD there was always some element of doubt about the truth.” The Foreign Affairs article notes that during a meeting of the Revolutionary Command Council some time before the invasion, Hussein was asked if Iraq indeed possessed such weapons. He said Iraq did not, but refused to countenance any attempt to persuade others outside of the council of the truth. The reason for this deception, Hussein said, was that if Israel believed Iraq had such weapons, it would be less likely to attack Iraq. [Wilson, 2007, pp. 154-155] Kay has just resigned as the head of the Iraq Survey Group (see January 23, 2004).

Entity Tags: Valerie Plame Wilson, Senate Armed Services Committee, Jeff Sessions, Saddam Hussein, David Kay, Ali Hassan Majeed, Iraq Survey Group, Iraq Revolutionary Command Council

Timeline Tags: Events Leading to Iraq Invasion

Category Tags: Search for WMDs, CIA in Iraq

David Kay, former head of the Iraq Survey Group, meets with President Bush, Dick Cheney, Condoleezza Rice, and Andrew Card. The day before (see January 28, 2004), Kay had told Congress, “We were almost all wrong” about intelligence on Iraq’s presumed arsenal of illegal weapons. Bush wants to know what went wrong, but shows no anger. “The president accepted it,” Kay later recalls. “There was no sign of disappointment from Bush. He was at peace with his decision to go to war. I don’t think he ever lost ten minutes of sleep over the failure to find WMDs.” [Isikoff and Corn, 2006, pp. 349]

Entity Tags: David Kay, Andrew Card, Condoleezza Rice, Richard (“Dick”) Cheney, George W. Bush

Timeline Tags: Events Leading to Iraq Invasion

Category Tags: Search for WMDs, CIA in Iraq

CIA Director George Tenet says in a speech that while there is “no consensus” among intelligence officials that the two trailers found in Iraq (see April 19, 2003; May 9, 2003) were mobile biological weapons factories, the trailers “could be made to work” as weapons labs. [Central Intelligence Agency, 2/5/2004; Washington Post, 4/12/2006]

Entity Tags: George J. Tenet

Timeline Tags: Events Leading to Iraq Invasion

Category Tags: Search for WMDs, CIA in Iraq

A CIA officer in the Iraq Survey Group (ISG) instructs Rod Barton, a former UN weapons inspector who is contributing to an upcoming ISG report, not to mention the two trailers (see April 19, 2003; May 9, 2003) that the administration previously claimed were biological weapons factories. Since the trailers were discovered in April and May of 2003, experts have concluded that they were actually designed to produce hydrogen for artillery weather balloons. Barton later recalls the officer telling him, “You don’t understand how difficult it is to say anything different.… I don’t care that they are not biological trailers. It’s politically not possible.” [Associated Press, 5/13/2006]

Entity Tags: Rod Barton, Central Intelligence Agency

Timeline Tags: Events Leading to Iraq Invasion

Category Tags: Search for WMDs, CIA in Iraq

Hamish Killip, a British army officer and biological weapons expert, resigns from the CIA-led Iraq Survey Group, in protest of the CIA’s refusal to acknowledge that the alleged mobile biological weapons labs found by US forces in April (see May 9, 2003) and May (see April 19, 2003) of 2003 were in fact designed to produce hydrogen, not biological weapon agents. Two other members of the Iraq Survey Group—Rod Barton, an Australian intelligence officer and another bio-weapons expert—also quit this month for similar reasons. [Age (Melbourne), 3/26/2005; Los Angeles Times, 11/20/2005]

Entity Tags: Rod Barton, Hamish Killip

Timeline Tags: Events Leading to Iraq Invasion

Category Tags: Search for WMDs, CIA in Iraq

A video still of Nick Berg being tormented by his captors in Iraq.A video still of Nick Berg being tormented by his captors in Iraq. [Source: Reuters]A video of US citizen Nick Berg being beheaded in Iraq is made public and causes widespread horror and outrage around the world. Berg had been working in Iraq with private companies installing communications towers. On March 24, 2004, he is taken into custody. Berg’s family is sent e-mails confirming that he is in US custody (however, US officials will later claim they were erroneously notified and he was in Iraqi government custody instead). The official reasons for his arrest are “lack of documentation” and “suspicious activities.” Regardless of who is holding him, it is not disputed that he is visited three times by the FBI while being held. On April 5, the Berg family launches an action against the US military for false imprisonment, and the next day Berg is released. Berg stays in a hotel in Baghdad for the next few days, and tells a hotel guest that he had been held in a jail with US soldiers as guards. His family last hears of him on April 9, when he tells them he is going to try to leave Iraq. Then, nearly a month later on May 8, his headless body is found dumped on a Baghdad roadside. Three days after that, on May 11, the video of his beheading is broadcast. [Sydney Morning Herald, 5/29/2004; National Public Radio, 8/14/2004] The video shows five masked men taunting and then beheading Berg, and one of them claims to be Islamist militant leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. Two days later, a CIA official says, “After the intelligence community conducted a technical analysis of the… video, the CIA assesses with high probability that the speaker on the tape is Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, and that person is shown decapitating American citizen Nicholas Berg.” [BBC, 5/13/2004] However, many doubts about the video and the identity of al-Zarqawi surface:
bullet Berg is seen wearing an orange jumpsuit typically worn by detainees in US custody. At the start of the video, he speaks directly to the camera in a relaxed way. The Sydney Morning Herald will later comment, “It is highly likely that this segment is edited from the interrogation of Berg during his 13 days of custody.”
bullet Then the video cuts to scenes including the five masked men. But their Arabic is heavily accented in Russian, Jordanian, and Egyptian. One says “do it quickly” in Russian. A voice also seems to ask in English, “How will it be done?” Glimpses of their skin look white. [Sydney Morning Herald, 5/29/2004]
bullet The masked man identified as al-Zarqawi does not speak with a Jordanian accent even though al-Zarqawi is Jordanian. CNN staff familiar with al-Zarqawi’s voice claim the voice does not sound like his. [CNN, 5/12/2004; Sydney Morning Herald, 5/29/2004]
bullet Berg is then decapitated, but there is very little blood. Dr John Simpson, executive director for surgical affairs at the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons, says, “I would have thought that all the people in the vicinity would have been covered in blood, in a matter of seconds… if it [the video] was genuine.” Forensic death expert Jon Nordby of the American Board of Medicolegal Death Investigators suggests that the beheading was staged and Berg was already dead. He also suggests that Berg appears to be heavily drugged in earlier parts of the video. [Asia Times, 5/22/2004] The Herald comments, “The scream is wildly out of sync, sounds female, and is obviously dubbed.” [Sydney Morning Herald, 5/29/2004]
bullet Al-Zarqawi is the one shown cutting Berg’s throat with a knife, and uses his right hand to do so. But people who spent time in prison with al-Zarqawi and knew him well claim that he was left handed. [New York Times, 7/13/2004]
bullet The timing of the video also raises suspicions, as it is broadcast just two weeks after the Abu Ghraib prison abuse scandal is exposed, and the shock of the beheadings cause some to claim a moral relativism to justify the US military’s abusive behavior towards detainees. [Sydney Morning Herald, 5/29/2004]
bullet Strangely, Al-Qaeda operative Zacarias Moussaoui somehow used Berg’s e-mail account years before in Oklahoma (see Autumn 1999). US officials call this “a total coincidence.”
bullet The London Times comments that “The CIA’s insistence that al-Zarqawi was responsible appears based on the scantiest of evidence.… Sound experts have speculated that the voice might have been dubbed on.” Further, “There are discrepancies in the times on the video frames.” [London Times, 5/23/2004]
bullet No autopsy is performed on Berg’s body, nor is there any determination of the time of his death. [Sydney Morning Herald, 5/29/2004]
bullet No proper investigation of the circumstances surrounding his death is ever conducted. For instance, the US military will tell Berg’s family that they could find no evidence of Berg’s last days in a Baghdad hotel and that no Westerner stayed in that hotel for weeks. But the Washington Post was able to get a copy of the hotel register with Berg’s name on it, along with the date of his checkout, a list of the things he left in his room, and the exact words he said as he left the hotel. [National Public Radio, 8/14/2004]
It will later be reported that the US military was conducting a propaganda campaign to inflate the importance of al-Zarqawi (see April 10, 2006), but it is unknown if Berg’s death was somehow related to this campaign.

Entity Tags: Nick Berg, Jon Nordby, John Simpson, Central Intelligence Agency, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi

Timeline Tags: Alleged Use of False Flag Attacks, Complete 911 Timeline

Category Tags: Al-Zarqawi / Al-Qaeda in Iraq, CIA in Iraq

Responding to the leaked National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) warning of a possible civil war in Iraq (see September 16, 2004), President Bush dismisses the report, saying the CIA in particular is “just guessing” about conditions in that country. Bush says that the report provides “several scenarios that said, life could be lousy, life could be okay, or life could be better, and they were just guessing as to what the conditions might be like.” Two days later, after senior CIA official Paul Pillar and others lambast Bush for his cavalier dismissal of the report, Bush backs away from his original description, calling it “unfortunate” and saying he should have used the word “estimate” rather than “guess.” The entire imbroglio prompts conservative columnist Robert Novak to write that the White House and the CIA “are at war with each other.” [New York Times, 9/28/2004; Roberts, 2008, pp. 153] Novak also blasts Pillar and other intelligence officials for daring to criticize the Bush administration. [New York Times, 9/28/2004]

Entity Tags: Paul R. Pillar, Central Intelligence Agency, Robert Novak, George W. Bush

Category Tags: Military Operations, Security, CIA in Iraq

The fractious and contentious relationship between the White House and the CIA, never good since planning began for the Iraq war (see January 2003), has boiled over into the public eye in recent days, according to a New York Times report. James Pavitt, the former head of the CIA’s Clandestine Service, says he has never seen anything approaching “the viciousness and vindictiveness” of the relationship between the White House and the CIA. In recent days, numerous classified assessments have been leaked to the press by people sympathetic to the CIA (see September 16, 2004, September 28, 2004, and October 4, 2004), “to the considerable embarrassment of the White House.” The White House, in turn, has called the authors of the assessments “pessimists and naysayers,” and dismissed a recent National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) on Iraq as based on guesswork (see September 21-23, 2004). Some Republican partisans claim that the CIA is waging an “insurgency” or “vendetta” against the White House, an idea that both White House and CIA officials officially reject. “Wars bring things out in people that sometimes other disputes don’t,” says James Woolsey, a neoconservative and former CIA director who is a strong supporter of the administration’s Iraq and terrorism policies. “But even with the passions of war, I think you ought to keep it within channels.” Another former intelligence official is more critical of the agency: “The agency’s role is to tell the administration what it thinks, not to criticize its policies.” CIA defenders say it is important to set the record straight by revealing the agency’s warnings about the possible dire consequences of an Iraq occupation, warnings which the White House either ignored or mocked. “There was nothing in the intelligence that was a casus belli for war,” Pavitt says, noting that while the CIA might have been wrong about Iraq and WMD, it was much closer to the mark in its prewar warnings about the obstacles that an American occupying force would face in postwar Iraq. But, Pavitt, notes, “[t]he agency is not out to undermine this president.” [New York Times, 10/2/2004] Conservative defenders of the administration angrily attack the CIA for “insubordination” and betrayal, leaving liberals and progressives in the unusual position of defending the agency. [Roberts, 2008, pp. 153]

Entity Tags: Central Intelligence Agency, James Woolsey, James Pavitt, Bush administration (43)

Category Tags: Military Operations, Other, Political Administration, CIA in Iraq

Knight Ridder Newspapers reports on a leaked CIA assessment that undercuts the White House claim of links between al-Qaeda and Saddam Hussein. The assessment, requested some months ago by Vice President Cheney, finds no evidence to show that Saddam’s regime ever harbored Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, an independent colleague of Osama bin Laden (see April 2002), and finds no evidence of any “collaborative relationship” between the former Iraqi regime and al-Qaeda (see October 2, 2002). In February 2003, Secretary of State Colin Powell told the United Nations Security Council that al-Zarqawi went to Baghdad for medical treatment and, while there, helped establish a terrorist base in Baghdad (see February 5, 2003). The assessment now shows that claim was incorrect. So was the administration’s claim that al-Zarqawi received safe haven from Hussein. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, who in September 2002 called the evidence of links between Hussein and al-Qaeda “bulletproof” (see September 26, 2002), now says, “To my knowledge, I have not seen any strong, hard evidence that links the two.” Rumsfeld continues, “I just read an intelligence report recently about one person [al-Zarqawi] who’s connected to al-Qaeda who was in and out of Iraq and there’s the most tortured description of why he might have had a relationship and why he might not have had a relationship.” In June 2003, President Bush called al-Zarqawi “the best evidence of connection” between Iraq and al-Qaeda; after the assessments are leaked, Bush insists that al-Zarqawi “was in and out of Baghdad,” apparently continuing to press the idea that Saddam and al-Qaeda were connected. Al-Zarqawi did spend a lot of time in Iraq, but almost always in the northern sections of Iraq where Saddam’s control did not reach. [Knight Ridder, 10/4/2004] The day after the Knight Ridder report, Vice President Cheney will say during a debate with vice-presidential opponent John Edwards (D-NC) that al-Zarqawi was based in Baghdad both before and after the March 2003 invasion, a claim that is demonstrably false (see October 5, 2004).

Entity Tags: Richard (“Dick”) Cheney, George W. Bush, Donald Rumsfeld, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, Bush administration (43), Knight Ridder Newspapers, Saddam Hussein, Al-Qaeda, Osama bin Laden

Category Tags: Military Operations, Other, Security, CIA in Iraq

A 1996 photograph of one of the Al Qaqaa storage bunkers.A 1996 photograph of one of the Al Qaqaa storage bunkers. [Source: New York Times]The US media learns that Iraq’s interim government reports that nearly 380 tons of powerful conventional explosives, used to demolish buildings, make missile warheads, and detonate nuclear weapons, are missing from a former military installation (see October 10, 2004). The facility, Al Qaqaa, was supposed to be under US control but in reality is “a no-man’s land,” in the words of the New York Times, “picked over by looters as recently as” October 24. UN inspectors and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) had monitored the huge cache of explosives for years. The IAEA says that machine tools usable for either nuclear or non-nuclear purposes are also missing. White House and Pentagon inspectors admit that the explosives disappeared some time after the US-led invasion of Iraq. National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice was informed of the missing explosives within the last month; according to the Times, “[i]t is unclear whether President Bush was informed.” US officials began answering questions about the missing explosives after reporters from the Times and CBS’s “60 Minutes” began asking questions. The CIA’s Iraq Survey Group has been asked to investigate the disappearance.
Similar Explosives Used in Other Terrorist Attacks - The immediate concern, according to US officials, is the explosives’ possible use in major bombing attacks against American and/or Iraqi forces. The explosives, mainly HMX and RDX, can be used in bombs strong enough to destroy airplanes or large buildings. The Times notes that the bomb that brought down Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland (see After December 21, 1988) used less than a pound of such explosive. Larger amounts of the same kinds of explosives were used in the November 2003 Riyadh bombings (see May 12, 2003) and a September 1999 bombing of a Moscow apartment complex (see September 9, 1999 and September 13, 1999). The explosives can also be used to trigger a nuclear weapon, the primary reason why it had been, until the invasion, monitored by UN inspectors from the IAEA.
Repeated IAEA Warnings - The IAEA had publicly warned about the danger of the Al Qaqaa explosives before the invasion, and after the overthrow of the Iraqi government, IAEA officials specifically told US officials that they needed to keep the facility locked down (see May 2003). Pentagon spokesman Lawrence Di Rita says that the missing explosives need to be kept in perspective, as US and allied forces “have discovered and destroyed perhaps thousands of tons of ordnance of all types.” Iraq’s Minister of Science and Technology, Dr. Rashad Omar, tells Times and CBS reporters: “Yes, they [the 380 tons of explosives] are missing. We don’t know what happened.” Omar says that after the invasion, Al Qaqaa was the responsibility of the Coalition Provisional Authority, which served as Iraq’s de facto government until June 2004 (see June 28, 2004). “After the collapse of the regime, our liberation, everything was under the coalition forces, under their control,” he says. “So probably they can answer this question, what happened to the materials.” The CPA is defunct; Bush administration officials say they don’t know where the explosives could be. One senior official says that the Qaqaa complex was listed as a “medium priority” site on the CIA’s list of more than 500 sites that needed to be searched and secured during the invasion. “Should we have gone there? Definitely,” says one senior official. Another senior official says that US soldiers gave the Qaqaa facility a cursory inspection during the push towards Baghdad in early April, but “saw no bunkers bearing the IAEA seal.”
Refusal to Allow IAEA Inspections after Occupation - Satellite photos taken in late 2003 showed that two of the ten bunkers containing HMX had exploded, presumably from bombing during the US offensive, but eight remained relatively intact. The Bush administration refused to let the IAEA back into Iraq to inspect and verify the Qaqaa facility or any of the other stockpiles formerly monitored by IAEA officials. By May 2004, the IAEA was warning CPA officials that the facility had probably been looted (see May 2004).
More Unguarded Stockpiles - Iraq is dotted with unguarded stockpiles of explosives, say US military and administration officials. One senior administration official notes, “The only reason this stockpile was under seal is because it was located at Al Qaqaa,” where nuclear work had gone on years ago. [New York Times, 10/25/2004]

Entity Tags: Lawrence Di Rita, New York Times, Condoleezza Rice, Coalition Provisional Authority, CBS News, Rashad Omar, US Department of Defense, International Atomic Energy Agency

Category Tags: Search for WMDs, Security, Post-Invasion Looting, CIA in Iraq

The chief of the CIA’s station in Baghdad, Iraq, leaves his post after the end of his one-year tour (see (January 2004)). According to Harper’s magazine, by the end of his tour he is a “pariah within the system” because he has filed a series of six pessimistic Aardwolf priority reports about the deteriorating situation in Iraq. One anonymous former intelligence official will say that the station chief is “treated like shit” and “farmed out,” although he is not fired. In addition, White House officials allegedly ask for “dirt” on him, including his political affiliation. [Harper's, 5/18/2006] After one of the pessimistic reports in late 2004, an official at the National Security Council even called US Ambassador to Iraq John Negroponte to ask whether the chief is a Democrat or Republican. [Risen, 2006] The station chief will also be investigated over allegations of detainee abuse (see (After January 2005)).

Entity Tags: CIA Baghdad Station, National Security Council, Central Intelligence Agency, John Negroponte

Category Tags: CIA in Iraq

A new chief of the CIA’s Baghdad station is appointed. Possibly due to problems the previous two station chiefs are perceived to have experienced (see (Late December 2003) and December 2004), this new official files only one Aardwolf priority report during his one-year tour. An anonymous official will later say that this report is widely derided within the CIA as “a joke,” because it asserts that the United States is winning the war despite all evidence to the contrary. Harper’s journalist Ken Silverstein will comment, “It was garbage, but garbage that the Bush administration wanted to hear.” At the end of his tour, the station chief will be given what Silverstein calls a “plum assignment.” [Harper's, 5/18/2006]

Entity Tags: CIA Baghdad Station, Central Intelligence Agency

Category Tags: CIA in Iraq

Newsweek reports that the Pentagon is considering a new approach to dealing with the insurgency in Iraq, one defense officials call the “Salvador Option.” During the 1980s, the US, primarily through the CIA, funded and supported paramilitary units, often called “death squads” by the citizenry and various human rights organizations which monitored their activities, in El Salvador and other Central American nations. These death squads carried out numerous assassinations and kidnappings, including the murder of four American nuns in 1980. Many US conservatives consider the Salvadoran operation a success, though many innocent Salvadorans died, some under torture, and the operation fomented the US government policies that became known collective as “Iran-Contra.” Now the Pentagon is debating whether the same tactics should be used in Iraq. “What everyone agrees is that we can’t just go on as we are,” says a senior military official. “We have to find a way to take the offensive against the insurgents. Right now, we are playing defense. And we are losing.” Another military source contends that Iraqis who sympathize with the insurgents need to be targeted: “The Sunni population is paying no price for the support it is giving to the terrorists. From their point of view, it is cost-free. We have to change that equation.” One proposal would “send [US] Special Forces teams to advise, support and possibly train Iraqi squads, most likely hand-picked Kurdish Peshmerga fighters and Shiite militiamen, to target Sunni insurgents and their sympathizers, even across the border into Syria.” Among the proposal’s supporters is Iraqi Prime Minister Iyad Allawi and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. But other Pentagon officials are shy of running any operation that might contravene the Uniform Code of Military Justice, and prefer the CIA to run the proposed operation. And many lawmakers, Pentagon officials, and military experts are wary of expanding the role of US Special Forces operations in such a legally and morally dubious direction. They also worry about the ramifications of using Iraqi Kurds and Shi’ite militia members against Iraqi Sunnis in potential death squads, characterized by investigative reporter Robert Parry as “a prescription for civil war or genocide.” Some speculate that this operation might be one of the reasons John Negroponte was recently named US ambassador to Iraq. Negroponte served as US ambassador to Honduras during the 1980s, and many feel Negroponte was a key figure in the establishment and operations of the Central American death squads. Other Bush officials active in the Central America program include Elliott Abrams, who oversaw Central American policies at the State Department and who is now a Middle East adviser on Bush’s National Security Council staff, and Vice President Dick Cheney, who was a powerful defender of the Central American policies as a member of the House of Representatives. Negroponte denies any involvement in any such program operating in Iraq. [Newsweek, 1/8/2005; Consortium News, 1/11/2005] Christopher Dickey, a Newsweek reporter with personal experience in El Salvador during the time of the death squads, writes that he is “prepared to admit that building friendly democracies sometimes has to be a cold-blooded business in the shadowland of moral grays that is the real world,” but says that the idea of US-formed death squads in Iraq, and the corollary idea of sending US Special Forces teams into Syria and perhaps other Middle Eastern countries is not only potentially a mistake, but one that is little more than “a formalization of what’s already taking place.” Former Defense Intelligence Agency analyst and Middle East specialist Patrick Lang says, “We are, of course, already targeting enemy cadres for elimination whether by capture or death in various places including Afghanistan and Iraq.” So many Special Forces personnel are already involved in such operations, Lang says, that there is an actual shortage of Green Berets to perform their primary task: training regular Iraqi troops. The operation could benefit the US presence in two ways: helping win the hearts and minds of the ordinary citizenry by successfully eliminating insurgents, or just by making the citizenry “more frightened of [the US] than they are of the insurgents.” [Newsweek, 1/11/2005]

Entity Tags: Robert Parry, Patrick Lang, US Department of Defense, Richard (“Dick”) Cheney, Iyad Allawi, Contras, Christopher Dickey, Central Intelligence Agency, John Negroponte, Newsweek, Elliott Abrams, Donald Rumsfeld

Timeline Tags: US Military

Category Tags: Military Operations, CIA in Iraq

The National Intelligence Council, the center for midterm and long-term strategic thinking within the US intelligence community, issues a report concluding, “Iraq has replaced Afghanistan as the training ground for the next generation of ‘professionalized’ terrorists.” [Washington Post, 1/15/2005] In May, the CIA will report that Iraq may prove to be an even more effective training ground for Islamic extremists than Afghanistan was in al-Qaeda’s early days, because it is serving as a real-world laboratory for urban combat. [New York Times, 6/22/2005]

Entity Tags: Central Intelligence Agency, National Intelligence Council

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

Category Tags: Al-Zarqawi / Al-Qaeda in Iraq, CIA in Iraq

A former chief of the CIA’s station in Baghdad, Iraq (see December 2004), reportedly brags about mistreating detainees. Details of the comments, including who they are made to, are unknown. However, they do lead to an investigation, which finds that the former chief’s statements are untrue and that he was exaggerating. [McClatchy, 8/25/2009]

Entity Tags: Central Intelligence Agency, CIA Baghdad Station

Category Tags: CIA in Iraq

US Intelligence officers report that some of the insurgents in Iraq are using recent-model Beretta 02 pistols that have no serial numbers. The numbers have not been removed; the guns came off a production line with no number. “Analysts suggest the lack of serial numbers indicates that the weapons were intended for intelligence operations or terrorist cells with substantial government backing. Analysts speculate that these guns are probably from either Mossad or the CIA. Analysts speculate that agent provocateurs may be using the untraceable weapons even as US authorities use insurgent attacks against civilians as evidence of the illegitimacy of the resistance.” [United Press International, 6/6/2005]

Timeline Tags: Alleged Use of False Flag Attacks

Category Tags: Military Operations, Other, CIA in Iraq

Harper’s journalist Ken Silverstein names a former CIA Baghdad station chief in an online post at the magazine’s website. The chief, whose name is Gerry Meyer according to Silverstein, wrote alarming reports about the beginning of the Iraqi insurgency (see August 30, 2003 and November 10, 2003) and was later forced out of his position in circumstances that are unclear (see (Late December 2003)). [Harper's, 5/18/2006]

Entity Tags: Central Intelligence Agency, Gerry Meyer, CIA Baghdad Station, Ken Silverstein

Category Tags: CIA in Iraq

Al-Qaeda deputy leader Ayman al-Zawahiri also mentioned the death of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi in a video.Al-Qaeda deputy leader Ayman al-Zawahiri also mentioned the death of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi in a video. [Source: As Sahab]A man said to be Osama bin Laden releases an audio message following the death of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, who was said to be head of al-Qaeda’s franchise in Iraq (see June 8, 2006). The voice says that al-Zarqawi, who died following a US air strike, is “one of our greatest knights and one of our best emirs… We were very happy to find in him a symbol and role model for our future generations.” The voice, which the CIA says is bin Laden’s, also asks that al-Zarqawi’s body be returned to Jordan, where he was born. The speaker also says: “We will continue, God willing, to fight you and your allies everywhere, in Iraq, Afghanistan, Somalia and Sudan, until we drain your money and kill your men and send you home defeated, God willing, as we defeated you before, thanks to God, in Somalia.” The message lasts almost 20 minutes and is posted on a website associated with al-Qaeda. [CNN, 6/30/2006] Al-Zarqawi pledged loyalty to bin Laden in 2004 (see October 17, 2004).

Entity Tags: Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, Central Intelligence Agency, Osama bin Laden

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

Category Tags: Al-Zarqawi / Al-Qaeda in Iraq, CIA in Iraq

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