- The Washington Times - Wednesday, July 16, 2003

Sen. Bill Nelson has asked the Pentagon for a copy of a classified report on missing Navy Capt. Michael Scott Speicher that casts doubt on the credibility of an Iraqi defector who claimed to have seen the downed pilot alive in 1998.

Mr. Nelson, Florida Democrat, made the request after The Washington Times disclosed the report in yesterday’s editions.

A spokesman for Mr. Nelson said the Pentagon has agreed to provide the report soon.

Stamped secret and dated June 23, the two-page document was prepared for Gen. Richard B. Myers, Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman.

It concluded, “No significant evidence of [Capt. Speichers] status has been discovered.”

The report also said Iraqis who the defector said could corroborate the Speicher sighting all denied the account. One called the defector a “born liar.”

Capt. Speicher’s F-18 was shot down on the first day of Desert Storm in 1991. He is believed to have ejected, but was not returned as a prisoner of war by Baghdad when the war ended in March 1991. The Navy originally listed him as killed in action, but changed his status to missing-captured after the defector made his claim.

Mr. Nelson has taken a keen interest in the case of Capt. Speicher, who grew up in Jacksonville, Fla. He traveled to Iraq earlier this month and received a briefing on the search.

The senator returned to the United Statres saying he was now optimistic that the mystery would be solved based on new evidence.

His spokesman said yesterday that the evidence comes in the form of documents that could lead to new sources who may know of Capt. Speicher’s fate.

The Pentagon report was pessimistic, based on evidence collected by June 23.

It said the defector, the main source for the original Speicher sighting, is a former member of Saddam Hussein’s Special Security Organization, which maintained his hard-line rule in Baghdad. The report quotes his superior at the SSO as saying he is a “born liar.”

The defector, whom the U.S. calls No. 2314, also said several physicians could back his story. “All denied having any knowledge; two have passed a polygraph exam,” the Pentagon report said.

It said investigators are still analyzing the initials “MSS” found on one prison wall.

“[U.S. Central Command] has searched every known location associated with Speicher,” the report states. “Other than at Hakimiyah prison, where U.S. forces found the initials ‘MSS’ carved in a cell wall, no significant evidence of his status has been discovered.”

The CIA plans to administer a new polygraph on the defector, who is said to have passed one conducted by the Pentagon.

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