Sunday, December 14
TIME Exclusive: Notes from Saddam in Custody
Brian Bennett, TIME.com, Decenber 14, 2003
Saddam is talking, but he isn't cooperative. New details on his capture and his first interrogation
Saddam Hussein was captured on Sunday without a fight. But since then, according to a U.S. intelligence official in Iraq, the fallen dictator has been defiant. “He’s not been very cooperative,” said the official, who read the transcript of the initial interrogation report taken during the first questioning session.
After his capture, Saddam was taken to a holding cell at the Baghdad Airport. He didn’t answer any of the initial questions directly, the official said, and at times seemed less than fully coherent.
The transcript was full of “Saddam rhetoric type stuff,” said the official who paraphrased Saddam’s answers to some of the questions. When asked “How are you?” said the official, Saddam responded, “I am sad because my people are in bondage.” When offered a glass of water by his interrogators, Saddam replied, “If I drink water I will have to go to the bathroom and how can I use the bathroom when my people are in bondage?”
The interrogators also asked Saddam if he knew about the location of Captain Scott Speicher, a U.S. pilot who went missing during the first Gulf War. “No,” replied the former Iraqi president, “we have never kept any prisoners. I have never known what happened.”
Saddam was also asked whether Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction. “No, of course not,” he replied, according to the official, “the U.S. dreamed them up itself to have a reason to go to war with us.” The interrogator continued along this line, said the official, asking: “if you had no weapons of mass destruction then why not let the U.N. inspectors into your facilities?” Saddam’s reply: “We didn’t want them to go into the presidential areas and intrude on our privacy.”
The official is doubtful that the U.S. will get a significant amount of intelligence from Saddam’s interrogations. “I would be surprised if he gave any info,” he said. Other high-ranking regime members, he said, have by and large remained mum. “Tariq Aziz [former deputy prime minister] hasn’t really spoken,” he said, “and Abid Mahmoud [Saddam’s former personal secretary] hasn’t really given any information.”
The raid on the farm in al-Dawr, a village 15 miles from his hometown of Tikrit, initially came up empty, the official said. There was no Saddam Hussein in sight. Then one man on the property, apparently realizing the game was up, pointed out a bricked-in wall inside the basement of a small house on the property. Saddam is in there, he told the special forces operators from Task Force 121, who took down the farm with the aid of soldiers from the 1st Brigade of the Fourth Infantry Division. Saddam was bricked into his hiding place, he added. “They couldn’t get him out at first and had to dig, from either side of the hole,” said the official. The soldiers finally made a large enough passageway to drag him out. When he came out, he looked bedraggled, said the official: “He looked like a homeless man at the bus station.”
Along with the $750,000 in cash, two AK 47 machine guns and pistol found with Saddam, the U.S. intelligence official confirmed that operatives found a briefcase with Saddam that contained a letter from a Baghdad resistance leader. Contained in the message, the official said, were the minutes from a meeting of a number of resistance leaders who came together in the capital. The official said the names found on this piece of paper will be valuable and could lead to the capture of insurgency leaders around the Sunni Triangle.