spying on saddam
a defector's revelations: analysis
Hussein Kamel was Saddam Hussein's son-in-law.  In August  1995 , he and his brother-- who was Saddam  Hussein's other son-in-law--fled Iraq, driving their families across the border to Jordan.   Kamel  had been  the head of the military industrial commission in Iraq and  was chief developer of  Iraq's special weapons program.  He was one of the few trusted confidantes  in Saddam Hussein's inner circle.   But  Kamel had an ongoing competition and  feud with Saddam's oldest son, Uday and feared  for his continued  status, and even safety. What Kamel divulged about  Iraq's weapons programs  was shocking. Kamel described  where the  material  and facilities were, what was built, the existence of an extensive biological weapons program, the existence of a far more extensive nuclear program than was ever known, who was running Iraq's deception operations and, how they worked. Incredibly, however, six months later, Kamel returned to Iraq having become dissatisfied with his situation in Jordan.  Saddam Hussein, his father in law, had asked him back, promising that he and his family would be safe.   Within a few days of  returning , Saddam's  two daughters  were forced  to divorce Kamel and his brother.  Within hours, Kamel, his brother, his father, his sister and her children were all killed.
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SCOTT RITTER A former U.S. Marine intelligence officer, he was lead inspector for UNSCOM's Concealment and Investigations unit. He resigned in late 1998 on the heels of escalating intransigence by Iraq in its dealings with UN inspection teams.

scott ritter[Hussein Kamel's defection] added a definite sense of urgency.... Suddenly, Hussein Kamel defects, and it's out there, laid before the world: Iraq is cheating, Iraq is lying, Iraq has not complied, and not complied in a big way. What are you going to do about it?

Now, all the breaks are off. Ekeus said, 'Go,' and we started running, and almost immediately we ran into a brick wall called the United States Government, because the U.S. Government went, You want to do what? When? How?

And what we were talking about was UNSCOM moving out of the realm of just being an assessor of intelligence, to UNSCOM getting actively involved in the collection of intelligence, and using techniques and methodologies that it normally only associated with national governments, not with international organizations, not with a bunch of guys with blue hats and funny sounding names.

BARTON GELLMAN: A reporter for The Washington Post, he covered UNSCOM from the beginning and, more recently, wrote several in-depth articles on Scott Ritter and UNSCOM's involvement with western intelligence agencies.

Iraq had a big problem on its hands, because it needed a new explanation for [Kamel's revelations]. And the explanation they hit upon was, "We are shocked, shocked, to discover that under our very noses, Kamel all this time has been hiding all kinds of weapons and documentation. We've discovered it on his chicken farm, and here it is. You may have it all."

And they deliver to UNSCOM one million pages of newly-declared documents, which show a lot of biological weapons programs, which show a lot more chemical weapons programs, which show material shortfalls, which show missile stuff, which show nuclear stuff. But -- and it took a long time to do this -- as UNSCOM went through these million pages of documents, and hundreds of crates, they found that there were interesting gaps.

For example, all the biological stuff was described as research. There was nothing on weaponization, that is to say, nothing on taking what you know to be a toxic bug -- anthrax say -- and putting it into a warhead that can be used as a military weapon. That's a big part of the problem. ... So in each case, Iraq kept back something important. Usually the most important thing.

Hussein Kamel's defection tells UNSCOM that not only have they been missing something, but they've been missing a huge, huge amount of what they were supposed to be finding. Way more than they had ever suspected. Their worst nightmare scenario was eclipsed by the documents on this chicken farm, and it meant the beginning of a major new phase of biological, missile, chemical, and nuclear investigations.

RICHARD HAASS: He currently is  director of  Foreign Policy Studies at the Brookings Institution.

The dimensions of [the revelations].... That was surprising. Just like early on after the Gulf War we were shocked at the dimensions of the nuclear program -- we just had no idea of how many different avenues the Iraqis were pursuing to enrich uranium and the like.

So when Hussein Kamel came out with his information, again, it was on a scale that was, quite honestly, larger than people like me thought.

It gave UNSCOM a real lease on life. See, before this defection, there were those who were saying, "There's no reason to do this. You're looking in dry holes," and the rest. And when this came out, people who supported UNSCOM could go, "Look, we told you. More than ever, we now need an intrusive inspection regime. These guys will not fess up voluntarily." So it actually became a very important legitimizing development for UNSCOM.

ROBIN WRIGHT: A former Middle East correspondent for the Sunday Times of London, she now covers global issues for the Los Angeles Times.

Before Hussein Kamel's defection, in August of 1995, you write that Saddam was beating the West in some way, and UNSCOM. How?

robin wrightIn 1995, Saddam Hussein actually appeared to be winning in his strategy of cheat and retreat. He had actually managed to hide so many of his weapons that many of the U.N. weapons inspectors thought that he had turned over most of them, and were prepared to make that kind of recommendation. And it was only on the defection of his son-in-law and cousin [Kamel] that the international community realized how much he really still had. The whole crisis actually might have ended at that point, if it hadn't been for that very ... defection. ...

What was revealed in Kamel's defection?

Kamel's defection led to two important disclosures. One was the information he provided Western intelligence agencies. But, secondly, Saddam Hussein knew that he was about to be caught, and so he took weapons inspectors down to Kamel's chicken farm, and said that they'd only just discovered these containers full of documents about weapons of mass destruction. Of course, feigned his own ignorance, and blamed it all on Kamel.

What changed for Saddam after that?

Well, it became apparent that he had hidden an extraordinary amount of material, and from that point on UNSCOM was, again, a going concern.

The quantity was staggering. It took the U.N. weapons inspectors months and months and months just to go through and translate every -- and create a database for what was in those papers. It revealed that Saddam Hussein had also hidden far more than anyone ever realized he had, to begin with. This really was the critical turning point of the entire eight years in trying to deal with Saddam Hussein. It put the U.N. weapons program back on track.

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