- The Washington Times - Monday, June 30, 2003

Fourteen members of an elite squad of Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents have helped locate 43 missiles and a score of valuable goods and artifacts while conducting investigative operations with the U.S. military in Iraq.

In addition to the missiles, the team has helped find $32 million worth of Saddam Hussein’s assets, 1,000 missing Iraqi artifacts and 39,500 manuscripts.

“These ICE agents worked closely with the U.S. military to conduct some of the most important investigations in Iraq after the fall of Saddam Hussein,” said ICE boss Michael J. Garcia. “Their efforts were critical in recovering priceless artifacts missing from the National Museum in Baghdad.”

Mr. Garcia also said the ICE team played a vital role in helping the military track down Saddam’s money, along with his weapons systems and several of his key loyalists. ICE has since deployed a second team of special agents in Iraq to continue “this important work,” he said.

ICE, a bureau within the new Department of Homeland Security responsible for investigating terrorist financing, export enforcement, money-laundering, smuggling, fraud and cyber-crimes, deployed agents to the Middle East before hostilities began in Iraq at the request of the U.S. Central Command.

Embedded with U.S. military units, the ICE team focused its investigations on entities that had illegally provided weapons components and financial support to Iraq. With the fall of the Iraqi regime, Mr. Garcia said ICE’s objectives broadened to include recovering missing Iraqi artifacts.

After reports of looting from Iraqi museums surfaced, Mr. Garcia said the ICE team began an immediate recovery effort with the U.S. military. Agents worked with curators at the National Museum in Baghdad to catalogue missing items and launched a public information campaign to prompt their return with offers of rewards and amnesty.

“As the campaign progressed, ICE developed information on the location of secret vaults where artifacts had been stored before the war. To date, these combined efforts have resulted in the recovery of roughly 1,000 missing Iraqi artifacts and 39,500 manuscripts,” he said.

Among the most significant archaeological recoveries by ICE, Mr. Garcia said, was the fabled “Treasure of Nimrud,” a collection of more than 600 precious items dating back to the Assyrian civilization in 800 B.C. In early June, ICE agents and military officials found collection in wooden crates in a vault under the Central Bank of Baghdad.

The agents also recovered a priceless Iraqi vase from the fifth century B.C. and a statue of an Assyrian king dating back to 900 B.C.

Working with curators in Baghdad, Mr. Garcia said the agents catalogued 45 high-value exhibit items and at least 5,200 other items (such as small wax cylinder seals and oil lamps) that remain missing from the National Museum. He said ICE is sharing information on these items with law enforcement internationally to assist in their recovery.

Mr. Garcia also said:

• The agents, working with the military, played a critical role in tracking down many of Saddam’s assets, developing independent information that directly led to the discovery of $32 million in U.S. currency.

• The agents also worked with the military in tracking the origin of $800 million worth of U.S. currency that was seized by coalition forces in Iraq. The agents continue to work with the military and other federal agencies in tracking down Saddam’s assets.

• The agents developed independent sources of information that resulted in the discovery of 43 missiles in Iraq that could have been used against coalition forces. They also developed several leads on potential illegal shipments of weapons components and dual-use equipment to Iraq from other nations.

• The agents independently developed information on the whereabouts of several wanted senior officials from the Saddam regime, which was passed on to the military. ICE also assisted in debriefing captured senior Iraqi officials for information on Saddam’s weapons system and finances.

• The ICE teams conducted assessments at several Iraqi seaports to identify vulnerabilities and help develop measures to enhance security.

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