- The Washington Times - Sunday, July 20, 2003

Captured Saddam Hussein loyalists in Iraq are proving adept at beating lie-detector tests, frustrating attempts to find banned weapons and to learn what happened to Navy Capt. Michael Scott Speicher.

U.S. officials and military officers say trained interrogators in Baghdad have caught Iraqi Ba’ath Party loyalists lying while hooked up to the machine, which showed they were not being deceptive.

Officials attribute the lying to many factors. They say it may have become part of the culture of Saddam’s regime to lie routinely. In other cases, the Iraqi intelligence service and Special Security Organization trained operators how to “beat” the machine. And there is the issue that polygraphs, which measure changes in heartbeat, respiration and perspiration, are simply not accurate.

In one incident, an Iraqi involved in a weapons program was shown two pictures. In one, officials cut his image out of a photo of workers at a weapons factory. He agreed that the cut-out image was of him. They then showed him the full photo, with his image restored. This time, he denied that he was in the photo. The polygraph did not catch him in this blatant lie.

“Polygraphs are being used in the interrogation process with mixed results,” a military officer in Iraq said. “Many of the suspects being interrogated were formerly part of the Ba’ath Party intelligence apparatus, so they would reasonably understand how the device works.”

Asked to comment, a defense official at the Pentagon said, “We do not discuss such matters of intelligence as a matter of policy.”

Interrogation teams include personnel from the CIA, Defense Intelligence Agency and the Army’s Criminal Investigative Command.

A defense official said the coalition holds more than 4,000 people, including 34 of the 55 most-wanted Iraqis.

Since Operation Iraqi Freedom began March 20, the coalition has detained more than 11,000 people. Most are Iraqis. Of those, more than 7,000 were released because they were judged to no longer pose a threat.

As sweeps of Sunni-dense towns produce more detainees, detention centers are swelling. U.S. Central Command completed one of those sweeps, called Operation Soda Mountain, on Friday. All told, soldiers executed 141 raids and captured 611 fighters, including 62 Iraqis identified as regime leaders.

The military officer said, “Right now, we’re detaining suspects at a much higher rate than we can interview. They’re stacking up.”

One polygraph issue came to light in the search for Capt. Speicher, whose F-18 Hornet was shot down on the first day of the Gulf War in 1991. He appears to have ejected. The Navy first said he was killed in action but now classifies him as missing/captured.

A secret Pentagon report obtained by The Washington Times shows that the Defense Intelligence Agency is aggressively using polygraphs to determine the Navy pilot’s fate.

A defector from Saddam’s Special Security Organization said he saw Capt. Speicher alive in 1998. The defector, No. 2314, is said to have passed a polygraph test administered by the Defense Intelligence Agency’s prisoner-of-war and missing-in-action cell.

But when agents question people who the defector said could corroborate his story, the witnesses said he was wrong or lying. His superior at the security organization called the defector a “born liar,” according to the classified report.

“None of the information provided by 2314 has proven accurate,” the report states.

The CIA plans to administer its own polygraph. “Cell has asked CIA to conduct an independent polygraph of 2314,” the report states. The military has conducted polygraphs on a number of witnesses identified by 2314.

The Coalition Provisional Authority in Baghdad is holding 34 of Saddam’s top aides, including his deputy and the public face of the regime, Tariq Aziz. Military sources say virtually all the top aides are denying that Baghdad harbored banned weapons of mass destruction and thus are no help in supporting President Bush’s main rationale for going to war.

Military sources say no torture is being used. The Bush administration has pledged not to use that technique in questioning suspects in the war on terrorism.

But a military officer said intelligence agents are using sleep deprivation and loud music to rattle detainees. Sleep is allowed as a reward for providing information.

The detainees are given food and water, and are not physically abused, the source said.

A defense official at the Pentagon said, “We treat all detainees in a humane manner, in accordance with international law and the Geneva Convention.”

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