The Iraqi official believed to have recorded Saddam Hussein's execution on a cell phone camera was arrested Wednesday. The recording revealed witnesses taunting the former dictator during his last moments. A reporter discusses the recording's effect in Iraq.
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The first person arrested in this inquiry into Saddam's death we learned today was a guard on suspicion that he took that cell phone video. What can you tell us about where that part of the investigation stands right now?
JOHN BURNS, Baghdad Bureau Chief, New York Times:
Well, the Maliki government has been scrambling since it became apparent to them — I would say about 72 hours too late — that they were in the face of a real public relations disaster, and more than a public relations disaster, a sequence of events that have painted them in an extremely unattractive light.
So, beginning today, they've begun to try and gain and call back what they can. They've told us that they've arrested a guard, not — we're pretty certain, although he's not named here — in one of those baraclavered, bomber-jacket-wearing, rather thuggish-looking executioners that we saw on the platform with Saddam, but probably an interior ministry guard standing at the bottom left, as you faced the gallows of the steps leading up to the gallows.
There's been a little bit of a blame game going on amongst Iraqi officials themselves as to who else took cell phones in there. We know that the official party of 14 that was flown in an American Black Hawk helicopter from the Green Zone to the execution block was thoroughly searched by the Americans, in what turned out to be the last, really, 30 minutes in which they had custody of Saddam and control of the situation.
They were searched again when they got to the execution block. Those officials had their phones, even their keys, taken away from them. But we know that at least two or three other officials of the Maliki government did have cell phones. And the implication is that some of them were keeping a recording.
Indeed, we know from one of the correspondents who dashed back to the heliport in the Green Zone to see the helicopter return with, if you will, the execution party, at sometime around 7:00 in the morning, that when they got off the helicopter, some of them gathered around one of their number and appeared to be watching a cell phone video.