- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 20, 2002

The director of the Defense Intelligence Agency told Congress yesterday his agency is tracking down every possible lead concerning a U.S. pilot lost in combat over Iraq in 1991.
Vice Adm. Thomas Wilson, the DIA director, said Navy Lt. Cmdr. Michael Scott Speicher, who has since been promoted to captain-select, could be a prisoner of Saddam Hussein.
Cmdr. Speicher was lost after his F-18 jet was shot down over Iraq on the first night of the 1991 Persian Gulf war. He was declared killed in action, but new evidence led the Pentagon to reclassify the pilot as missing in action last year.
"Our conclusion is that we don't know for sure what happened to him, but the Iraqis do know, and we certainly do not exclude the possibility that he could be alive and still be held captive," Adm. Wilson said.
"We simply do not know for sure, but continue to pursue with vigor to try to resolve this case," the three-star admiral said.
Sen. Pat Roberts, Kansas Republican, questioned Adm. Wilson and CIA Director George J. Tenet about the case during a hearing before the Senate Armed Services Committee.
U.S. intelligence officials told The Washington Times last week that new intelligence information gathered over the past several months indicates Cmdr. Speicher is being held prisoner in Iraq and has been limited to a few visitors in his cell.
Mr. Roberts said during the hearing that the Pentagon is considering whether to change Cmdr. Speicher's status from missing to prisoner of war.
Recent war movies like "Black Hawk Down," "We Were Soldiers," and "Saving Private Ryan," highlight the idea that "we leave no one behind," Mr. Roberts said, noting "that is what we did with reference to a young man by the name of Michael Scott Speicher."
"I've been saying that … we did leave somebody behind, and mistakes were made; that's probably the nicest way I can put it," Mr. Roberts said.
Mr. Roberts took issue with recent statements by unidentified Pentagon officials who said it is not likely that Cmdr. Speicher is alive and that Saddam would not keep someone prisoner for 11 years.
The senator said that contrary to those claims, the Iraqi leader held an Iranian pilot as a prisoner for 17 years before releasing him.
"To try to determine what is in Saddam's head, I think, is rather foolhardy," Mr. Roberts said.
"I will tell you what's in his head: It's a dark center of evil, representing man's inhumanity against man with self-preservation stuffed in there with all of that."
He compared the Iraqi leader to Stalin and Hitler.
Adm. Wilson said the Pentagon last summer set up a new "cell" within the intelligence service devoted to prisoner-of-war and missing-in-action issues.
"That cell has been up and running since summer and has done enormously good work in preparing for combat operations in Afghanistan and elsewhere, taking all the steps that we can to try to lay the framework so that something like the unresolved case of Cmdr. Speicher doesn't happen again," Adm. Wilson said.


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