- Al Sharpton, Trayvon Martin’s parents rally against Fla. ‘stand your ground’ law
- Hillary Clinton campaign got illicit funds from D.C. scandal figure
- Obama administration backs off plan to cut prescription-drug program
- Tickets linked to stolen passports purchased by Iranian middleman
- More than 3,500 police planned for Boston Marathon
- Ottawa day care suspends 2-year-old for ‘outside’ cheese sandwich
- Liam Neeson tells NYC mayor to ‘man up’ in horse carriage fight
- Real-life Dr. Doolittle to reveal how to talk to animals
- Climate change could bring back smallpox, researchers say
- Shoe-bomb witness to speak from London at N.Y. trial
Saddam agents on Syria border helped move banned materials
Saddam Hussein periodically removed guards on the Syrian border and replaced them with his own intelligence agents who supervised the movement of banned materials between the two countries, U.S. investigators have discovered.
The recent discovery by the Bush administration’s Iraq Survey Group (ISG) is fueling speculation, but is not proof, that the Iraqi dictator moved prohibited weapons of mass destruction (WMD) into Syria before the March 2003 invasion by a U.S.-led coalition.
Two defense sources told The Washington Times that the ISG has interviewed Iraqis who told of Saddam’s system of dispatching his trusted Iraqi Intelligence Service (IIS) to the border, where they would send border inspectors away.
The shift was followed by the movement of trucks in and out of Syria suspected of carrying materials banned by U.N. sanctions. Once the shipments were made, the agents would leave and the regular border guards would resume their posts.
“If you leave it to border guards, then the border guards could stop the trucks and extract their 10 percent, just like the mob would do,” said a Pentagon official who asked not to be named. “Saddam’s family was controlling the black market, and it was a good opportunity for them to make money.”
Sources said Saddam and his family grew rich from this black market and personally dispatched his dreaded intelligence service to the border to make sure the shipments got through.
The ISG is a 1,400-member team organized by the Pentagon and CIA to hunt for Saddam’s suspected stockpiles of WMD, such as chemical and biological agents. So far, the search has failed to find such stockpiles, which were the main reason for President Bush ordering the invasion of Iraq to remove Saddam.
But there is evidence of unusually heavy truck traffic into Syria in the days before the attack, and with it, speculation that some of the trucks contained the banned weapons.
“Of course, it’s always suspicious,” the Pentagon official said.
The source said the ISG has confirmed the practice of IIS agents going to the border. Investigators also have heard from Iraqi sources that this maneuver was done days before the war at a time of brisk cross-border movements.
That particular part of the disclosures has not been positively confirmed, the officials said, although it dovetails with Saddam’s system of switching guards at a time when contraband was shipped.
The United States spotted the heavy truck traffic via satellite imagery before the war. But spy cameras cannot look through truck canopies, and the ISG has not been able to determine whether any weapons were sent to Syria for hiding.
In an interview in October, retired Lt. Gen. James R. Clapper Jr., who heads the U.S. agency that processes and analyzes satellite imagery, said he thinks that Saddam’s underlings hid banned weapons of mass destruction before the war.
“I think personally that those below the senior leadership saw what was coming, and I think they went to some extraordinary lengths to dispose of the evidence,” said Gen. Clapper, who heads the National Geospatial Intelligence Agency. “I’ll call it an ‘educated hunch.’ ”
He added, “I think probably in the few months running up prior to the onset of combat that I think there was probably an intensive effort to disperse into private homes, move documentation and materials out of the country. I think there are any number of things that they would have done.”
By David Keene
Conference showed that the values Reagan cherished still endure
- FCC targets black conservative in TV station fight
- Kim Jong-un calls for execution of 33 Christians
- Hillary Clinton campaign received funds from Jeffrey Thompson
- Senate Democrats, Republicans spar over restoring unemployment benefits
- Sharyl Attkisson resigns from CBS after months of talks
- U.S. pilot scares off Iranians with 'Top Gun'-worthy stunt: 'You really ought to go home'
- DHS accused of holding U.S. citizen at airport, using emails to pry into her sex life
- Russias Putin nominated for Nobel Peace Prize
- 80 people publicly executed across North Korea for films, Bibles
- Mitch McConnell on beating tea party: 'We are going to crush them'
Pope Francis meets his 'mini-me'
Celebrity deaths in 2014
Winter storm hits states — again