spying on saddam
what UNSCOM Achieved: interview
A former U.S. Marine intelligence officer, he was lead inspector for UNSCOM's Concealment and Investigations until he resigned in late 1998 on the heels of escalating intransigence  by Iraq in its dealings with UN inspection teams. Ritter charges that  UNSCOM's mission was undermined by infiltration from the CIA and lack of support from Washington and the UN Security Council.
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The UN Resolution 687 created an organization that hadn't ever existed before. The Security Council said, 'you have an assignment with the support of the world behind you: dismantle these weapons of mass destruction.' Right away, what do you run into?

scott ritterThe Iraqis opted to play lip-service to compliance. They said that they would accept the provisions of the Security Council Resolution, yet at the same time they accepted it, in April, 1991, there were high-level meetings in which Iraq made strategic plans for concealing the existence of their entire biological weapons program, their entire nuclear weapons program, the bulk of their modern chemical weapons production program, and their entire indigenous missile production capability.

Will you describe the Agricultural Ministry incident in July 1992, and the significance of it.

Well, in order to understand the agricultural ministry you have to actually go back in time, to December, 1991, when the special commission, together with the United States, worked in concert to develop techniques for searching for Iraq's hidden weapons capabilities. And we started what we called the great SCUD hunts, sending large, intrusive teams in, to comb Iraq for missiles, parts of missiles, production capability, and documents, basically trying to replicate on the ballistic missile front the success that the IAEA had on the nuclear front. And we kept running into dry holes, banging our head against the wall, not having great success.

We ran head to head with the bureaucratic self-interests of a number of agencies... who viewed us as competition. ... They were there to kill UNSCOM Why?  Because UNSCOM was on their turf.  It became a turf war. Finally, the summer of 1992 comes around, and we happen to get some very quality intelligence information about the location of an archive of documentation that the Iraqis are using to build the foundation for reconstitution of their weapons programs. Millions of pages of documents. It turns out, the intelligence was absolutely correct. These documents, some were later found at the ... chicken farm when Hussein Kamel defected.

But, at the time, we had a good idea [they] were there, but we didn't know for sure, but it was really quality intelligence. So we ginned up another one of these inspections, got the Americans in, did the intelligence planning, brought in the British, built a team, and sent it in. And the first target we hit, agricultural ministry. Surround it, and the Iraqis say, 'You can't come in.' And we say, Well, you've got to let us in. I mean, we're the United Nations. We've been through this already. There was Resolution, 707--you remember, you tried this with the IEA, there was international crises? We don't want to go down that path again. Now, we want in, let us in. Oh, no. This is a ministry, this is a symbol of our national sovereignty.

And we said,' All right, you want to play that game? We're parking. We're surrounding it. Nobody's going in and out unless they run through our inspectors. 'The Iraqis went,' All right, we'll play that.'

And we said--'OK. Security Council, they're not letting us in.' Nothing. Day goes by--'Excuse me, gentlemen, we're parked out in front of the agriculture ministry. They're not letting us in. We want to do an inspection.' Silence. Nothing.

Now the situation starts to deteriorate, because the Iraqis are looking around and nothing's happening. All right. Let's jack up the pressure. Demonstrations started occurring. First, small demonstrations. Then, as each day goes by, the demonstrations get bigger, and bigger, and bigger, until we literally have thousands of Iraqis storming the agricultural ministry, egging our cars, stoning us, not stoning but throwing rotten vegetables at us, shaking the cars. And the Security Council's doing nothing. Zero.

And, ultimately, we got to a situation where the Iraqi security service brought in somebody who tried to stab an inspector, through a window, and at that point the lives of the inspectors were at risk and we had no other choice than to withdraw the team. The Security Council did nothing. It was fascinating.

And, of course, once we were through with the team the Iraqis were through with the archive. So, weeks later, when Rolf Ekeus, the security council and everybody came up with a compromise solution, and a team reappeared at the agriculture ministry, and were let in; of course they found nothing. They did find some rooms where nothing was there, but we found no documents. A very embarrassing situation, and a frustrating one.

And it pretty much signaled that UNSCOM had to start changing the way it did business, because our ability to mobilize these teams--We proved that we had the operational and technical capability of mobilizing the team on short notice and sending it to targets. The problem was, we were echelons ahead of where the Security Council was, in terms of being prepared to deal with that kind of crisis. So we had to scale our operation back and start approaching the Iraqis from a different angle.

So, the agriculture ministry was a watershed event.

Rolf Ekeus, the executive director of UNSCOM. What did you make of him?

Well, Rolf Ekeus is a brilliant, and I emphasize brilliant, diplomat, and one of the most experienced arms controllers out there. He's Swedish, and he is as enigmatic as any Swede. But he gave birth to a unique organization, and there was no precedent for what was being done. And you can be very critical of Rolf Ekeus, in some of the things he did. I'm not. I think he was masterful in how he allowed UNSCOM to develop as an organization, within the framework of Security Council indifference, Security Council internal struggles between the Russians, the French, the Chinese, the Americans, the British, that maneuvering; keeping UNSCOM alive, and functioning, and improving, in the face of Iraqi obstruction. And allowing the organization to grow as the situation dictated.

And he was insightful, and he had a vision, he knew where he wanted to go, and he managed very effectively. He was a hands-off manager. He had a vision, he trusted his experts; if the experts came to him with a solution to the problem, and you laid it out, you debated it, and if he agreed with it he'd let you run with it. He'd manage it, though. You didn't run wild. He'd say, Excuse me, Come on back here, son, you're little ahead of me right now.

But when you came up with a good idea, no matter how controversial it was, if it was focused on achieving the mission objective of disarming Iraq, within the framework set by the security council, Rolf Ekeus approved it. And he was assiduous in enforcing that UNSCOM, and only UNSCOM, meaning Rolf Ekeus, and only Rolf Ekeus, is in charge. No other country came in and tried to throw their weight around Rolf Ekeus. He'd send them out on their heels, and he did that, on several occasions.

Let me ask you about another person, a Russian--one of the people, the U.N. is bringing in from different countries--Nikita Smidovich.

Nikita Smidovich is a great friend of mine, and a protege of Rolf Ekeus. He and Rolf Ekeus go back, to their time in Vienna, working with disarmament issues there. Nikita is, like Rolf Ekeus, a brilliant man. Nikita and I became a team early on, when Rolf had this hard-charging, wild-eyed marine running around, trying to take on the world. And Rolf said, Great idea, Scott, but a] you're young; b] you're untested in the world of international diplomacy. I'm not challenging your ability to lead troops in combat or operate under pressure. You can do that. But we're talking diplomacy here. We need some finesse that maybe you don't have. You're a little rough around the edges.

So, I'm going to team you up with a guy that I trust implicitly, Nikita Smidovich, and Nikita and I became a team. I came up with ideas, I ran them through the Nikita mill, he ground them down, refined them into something that Rolf Ekeus would accept, checked in on me, making sure we didn't lose what we were trying to accomplish. We'd go to Rolf, Rolf would sign off on it, and Nikita and I would go in the country. He'd be the chief inspector, the diplomatic front, and I'd be his operations officer and deputy. And together, I think we performed near-miracles.

So, here's this pretty unlikely group. The gentlemanly, Swedish diplomat, and you've got a Russian, and you've got a marine, hard-charging, as you say, no shrinking violet. And yet, you guys are working together, and you're effective.

Well, it's not just the three of us. What you've just described is UNSCOM, in a nutshell. UNSCOM was the most unlikely grouping of people you'd ever--we had the mad German rocket scientist, Dr. Norbert Reinecke. Brilliant. Mad. Effective. We had British, quiet British scientists, who were low-keyed but equally brilliant. We had people from The Netherlands, we had people from around the world who were just the tops in their fields, and we brought them together, and we coalesced as a unit. And we were doing the impossible. We were very, very effective at what we did--across the board.

So, in a sense, to expand the word, UNSCOM is a spy inspection agency from the beginning. It's just working for the U.N., it's not working for a particular country.

We're in a situation where on-site inspections and high-altitude photographs aren't doing the job. Iraq is still holding onto the information. What do we do? And Rolf Ekeus had the courage and the fortitude to say, We must expand how we collect information. And we started using different techniques.

Now, these techniques are traditionally associated with espionage and spying, but as long as Rolf Ekeus is in charge the people he picks are working for him, and the activity they're doing is done on behalf of UNSCOM, and only UNSCOM, it is lawful inspection-related activity, not espionage. And Rolf Ekeus everybody knew the difference, and he recruited people he could trust, and he retained control.

So, the issue here is not that you might not have someone from the C.I.A. working on UNSCOM, as part of an inspection team, the point is that he is working for Rolf Ekeus and for UNSCOM, not for the C.I.A.

That's right. Look, when I was brought in, in September of 1991, for one purpose and one purpose only, and that's to help create something called the Information Assessment Unit. That's Ekeus speak for an intelligence capability. Now, when we started, it was primarily an analytical ability. We'd get photographs, we'd store them, collate them, and help look at the photographs and receive other information to help inspectors go to sites in Iraq.

But you don't--what do you do, pick up the phone and call the United Nations photographic interpretation center? Hi, yeah, how many people do you have that are experienced in looking at U-2 photographs? None? Gee, sorry. Because there is no such organization. If you want to look at photographs you have to get people who do it for a living, and they come from governments. Now, who in governments look at photographs from U-2 aircraft for a living? People who work in intelligence organizations, either civilian organizations or military.

So, we recruit those kind of people, bring them in to help us. But they worked for us, they worked for Rolf Ekeus. They didn't take orders from anybody else. When they came in, there was no strings attached.

It's the same thing with other kinds of intelligence: you bring in the people you need to do the job. You don't care where they come from. ...

... So now, when I'm tasked with helping look at U-2 film so that we can gain insights into how Iraq is hiding their weapons of mass destruction, we go to the United States, and we say: What you're providing isn't adequate, we need additional help. Well, what do you need? Well, what I'd like to do is come down and spend a couple of weeks with your photo interpreters, looking over all the film, not just single photographs but all the film, poring over it, and then being able to ask questions to your intelligence analysts, and get responses. Oh, that takes too many people, too much time, we think we're doing an effective job as is, we're not going to help you.

Well, thank you very much. You go to Rolf Ekeus and say, Boss, if you want me to do my job, find these weapons, how Iraq's hiding them, I need to get trained photo interpreters on the job. Now, the Israelis happen to have an entire cadre of highly qualified photo interpreters, and they were more than willing to help us. So, Rolf Ekeus authorized this. We did get permission from the U.S. Government. We said, you know, it's U-2 film, we want to take it in, the U.S. government signed off on it, provided the film that we requested--Every request to go to Israel was done in writing, to the U.S. Government, and they responded back, Here you go, and off we went, to Israel.

Now, some people in the U.S. Government understood why we were doing it and concurred. Others in the U.S. Government were dead set against it, because they started losing control of the process. Information is power, and in this case the United States had lost control of the flow of information to UNSCOM.

This cooperation with Israel. Obviously, that's sensitive. I mean, Israel and the Arab world, that's the pariah, right? So, are we maybe crossing some kind of line here?

We're not crossing any line, in terms of the legalities of what UNSCOM's doing, but it's called being politically aware. We needed Israeli help, and I'll be frank with you: If it weren't for the government of Israel and the assistance it provided the special commission, the information fuel that feeds the inspection process would have run dry by the end of 1995. It was Israel and Israel alone that kept us going, through some very difficult times, and allowed UNSCOM to establish its own independent capability, its own independent credibility with other governments, and get the process flowing, so that by the end of 1997, early 1998, UNSCOM is again back on its feet, running the show, with Israel help but now with the help of other governments.

... It was also absolutely critical that we don't shoot ourselves in the foot. You don't want to advertise the fact that you have this intelligence relationship with the Israelis. And we insisted, with the Americans, that they respect our need for security on this and that the Americans don't leak the fact that we have this Israeli connection. The Israelis were equally insistent. ...

But I'll give this to the Israelis: they had the courage to move forward and do almost everything we asked them to do.

Around 1995, UNSCOM's under a lot of political pressure to declare Iraq free and clear. And, all of a sudden, Hussein Kamel defects. ...[B]asically it calls for a new strategy. There's a lot there that needs to be found. And at that point, you go in with this new philosophy--"shake the tree."

Well, first of all, let's correct sort of a misperception that's out there. UNSCOM was on the case well before the defection of Hussein Kamel. Remember, we first went to Israel in October of 1994, with the shake the tree concepts. We proposed the sharing of U-2 film with Israel in December of 1994, and we actually started the Israeli relationship in July of 1995, a full month before the defection of Hussein Kamel. ...

You guys are up to speed, but when he defects, it adds a sense of urgency.

It adds a definite sense of urgency. Up until that point, what we were proposing was a very controversial regime that Rolf Ekeus I don't believe knew how he was going to explain to the Security Council. Because here we are, he's authorized Scott Ritter to go off and do some pretty controversial things to try and find out how Iraq is hiding their weaponry, but Ekeus has signed off on getting me up to the point where I'm ready to carry out the inspection, but not really authorizing the inspection.

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.

... You described going in with a certain attitude, to basically shake up the Iraqis, to intimidate them, and you talk about an alpha dog. What was the philosophy here?

We didn't go in with an alpha dog attitude initially; we went in saying we were going to do these new inspections. But what we found was that the Iraqis weren't very happy about letting us do these inspections, and they were obstructing us, and not just obstructing but the Iraqis would attempt to intimidate us: When we'd send in a team to carry out these shake the tree type inspections, the Iraqis would respond by threatening us with force, bringing out guns, intimidating us, yelling at us, posturing.

Now, a United Nations type organization, when confronted with the obstruction of a sovereign state, usually defers to the sovereign state, and that's what the Iraqis were hoping, and, indeed, I would say with a number of UNSCOM chief inspectors, that tactic works, and it has worked historically.

Now, when you bring a team together, of inspectors--you know, we have our cadre of experienced personnel in New York, but that's not the team that goes in. There's only a handful of us, and then we bring in other inspectors. We bring in computer specialists, we bring in linguists, we bring in biologists, we bring in rocket scientists, we do bring in some commandos, some military type background people--the whole gamut that we need to make this thing called an inspection team.

But they'd never trained with one another, they never worked with one another, and now I'm getting to send them into a situation, Iraq, where it's going to be confrontational, and the Iraqis will try to intimidate us, to break down the cohesiveness of the team. And it's important that I take these people and not only trained them on the technical job that I want them to do but also on the psychology of the inspection.

And that's where I delivered the posturing which has become known as the alpha dog, and basically what I said is, Look, when we go into Iraq they're going to try to intimidate you. To them, fear is like blood around a shark: they smell fear, they're going to come at you, they're going to come at you hard and they're going to try and make you lose focus on what you want to do. They're going to bring out guns, they're going to yell, they're going to posture.

And I said, It isn't going to work with this team, because there's only going to be one alpha dog in country, and that's me. When the Iraqi come up with their tail up, my tail goes higher, when they growl, I growl louder, when they bark, I jump on them and I kick them to the ground, because I'm in charge, and you work for me. So, when the situation goes to hell in a handbasket, I don't want you running around with fear in your eyes, I want you looking up and looking at me and focused on me. As long as I'm standing there, proud, in charge, in control, you don't have to worry about a thing. Don't worry about anything else that's going around you, because I'm in charge, I'm the alpha dog, and when they situation calms down I'm going to turn you on task, and I want you perform.

And they loved it, they ate it up. The teams always worked, they always worked effectively. Now, there were some UN people that would hear this speech, and panic. This isn't the United Nations. What's going on? But I guarantee you, the bulk of the inspectors, when presented with the concept of the alpha dog and the alpha dog approach, not only liked it but respected it and wanted to be a part of it, because we were the most effective teams that operated in Iraq. Bar none.

You actually used the cameras as a kind of way to get what you wanted done, right?

Well, it's to document obstruction. It's very easy to get into a he said-she said on these things: You did this. No, you did this. No, you did this. And you take that to the Security Council, and you're going to lose. So you want to be able to document Iraqi obstruction. That's the last things Iraqis you wanted to you do, is document the obstruction. So they would put pressure on you not to use cameras, not to record incidents as they were occurring, and so we would try to film an obstruction.

If the Iraqis were obstructing that, we'd have a backup camera filming that obstruction. ... We had cameras backing up cameras. And I called them--These were our fire support systems. We don't have machine guns, we have cameras. And when you go into an inspection site, you have to do a fire support plan: Where are you cameras, your primary, who's backing up the primary, who's backing up that? If this goes down, who takes its place? It's a very military type operation, without the guns.

Without the guns. And they do have guns.


Scary, sometimes?

Well, the vast majority of inspections went off without a hitch, the vast majority. If you lined up the entire gamut of the UNSCOM experience, most inspections are pretty exciting in terms of doing an information hunt, but if you try to transform it into a movie, a Hollywood movie, people would be asleep in their seats, because it's an intellectual game. Every once in a while, though, the stops came off, and things got pretty hot, pretty quick. And when they get hot in Iraq, it means guns, it means loaded guns, and it means guns in the hands of people who aren't afraid to use them, and have a history of using them. And when that happened, it got your attention really, really quick. ...

Rolf Ekeus leaves. You got a new boss--what's Richard Butler like?

Well, he is a completely different sort of character in many ways, similar in others. Richard Butler's a man who has an extensive arms control background, with the Non-Proliferation Treat, etc., with the Australia group. He's respected in his field. He is more abrupt than Rolf Ekeus. He has an air about him that many find attractive, especially people who had to deal with the very diplomatic not double speak, but enigmatic ways of Rolf Ekeus--You suddenly have this Australian comes in who says like he sees it: You're a bastard, you're an idiot, I like this, we'll do that. And to a lot of people that was a breath of fresh air.

But it also put him in situations, sometimes, that could have been avoided. And ultimately, I believe, led to the downfall of UNSCOM. Richard Butler's a man who wanted to do well, tried to do well and on most occasions did well. But he ultimately failed, and he failed, I think he was a victim of his own brusque, abrupt ways.

Did you get along?

Richard Butler and I got along, all the way up to the very end. But one of the saddest things about this whole experience is that somehow our friendship, our relationship has suffered grievously. I think it was inevitable. We're on different sides of the spectrum. It's a deeply personal issue, and it comes off as a personal struggle.

But Richard Butler's a good friend of mine. I had the deepest respect for Richard Butler. I don't agree with everything he did, and I'm certain that he doesn't agree with everything I've done, especially after my resignation. But I can say, as long as I worked with Richard Butler, or for Richard Butler, he and I were joined at the hip, we were on the same team, we were doing the job.

He made some decisions, as executive chairman, that I disagreed with. I believe that some of those decisions that he made showed bad judgment, bad judgment which ultimately resulted in the demise of UNSCOM. But that has no impact on the character of Richard Butler. He was put in one of the most difficult situations imaginable. When Rolf Ekeus punched out, in the summer of 1997, and went off to be the Swedish Ambassador to the United States, here's Richard Butler, who inherited a whirlwind. We're in the middle of a major crisis with Iraq. He's got this thing called Scott Ritter and this sensitive intelligence collection capability that bears no resemblance to what he understands arms control is.

He's got the Iraqis, who are saying, we're clean, Rolf Ekeus was a bad guy, we want to work with you to come up with a solution. He's got the Security Council that has its own expectations, he has Kofi Annan, he has the United States, he has Russia--everybody's pulling at him, and he's got to come in, and he can't make one mistake. He's in a fish bowl. You make one mistake, everybody jumps on you. And I challenge anybody to get into that situation and be perfect.

Richard Butler did the best he could do. He was in a tough situation. He got behind the eight ball early on, from no fault of his own, and he was never able to catch up. And eventually, it overwhelmed him. It would have overwhelmed just about anybody. Unfortunately, when you're the commander at the helm of a ship that goes down, people blame you, and Richard Butler's going to get the lion's share of the blame thrown at him.

But I tell you what; I don't think anybody could have done a better job, in totality. People might have made different decisions at the end, and I believe one of the big differences between Richard Butler and Rolf Ekeus was that Rolf Ekeus was not enamored with the United States. Richard Butler was. Rolf Ekeus took everything the U.S. did with a grain of salt. Richard Butler took the U.S. at face value, and the United States Government, the Clinton Administration, betrayed Richard Butler.

Now, tell me about that. There's a lot I want to talk about here, but Madeleine Albright, at one point, gives a big speech [in March], '97, where she says that we are going to keep economic sanctions, we, the United States. ... [W]hat was wrong with Madeleine Albright, in that speech and that policy?

Well--economic sanctions were put on Iraq because Iraq invaded Kuwait. After the liberation of Kuwait, in 1991, early 1991, economic sanctions were extended, as part of a package to get Iraq to disarm. Economic sanctions would be lifted, especially the provision on oil sales, would be lifted if Iraq complied with its disarmament obligations. The priority and the emphasis should be on disarming Iraq, not on the maintenance of economic sanctions. That's not what it's about. That's a tool. It's about disarmament.

So, when Madeleine Albright comes out, and makes the most ridiculous statement, saying, it doesn't matter if Iraq complies with its disarmament obligations. Regardless, we're going to continue to keep economic sanctions in place, until what? Until Saddam Hussein is removed from power. Well, show me the Security Council resolution that says that's the case. It's the U.S. that started jumping in to operating outside the framework of international law.

And now you have a situation where Iraq says, What are we supposed to do? If we cooperate, it doesn't matter, it doesn't matter. And now they start looking at UNSCOM, now there's an implementor of Security Council policy, but actually, as an organization designed to create confrontation, that gives the United States an excuse to maintain sanctions, we became not just an inconvenience, we became the bad guys. And it's the United States that's to thank for that. Madeleine Albright's mindless policy. And that's the beginning of the end for UNSCOM.

September, 1997. What happened?

UNSCOM 207 inspection, September, 1997. The purpose of the inspection was to carry out investigations into how Iraq was concealing weapons of mass destruction and related activities from UNSCOM. And it followed on the heels of an inspection in June of 1997, in which Iraq was obstructive. The Security Council passed a resolution that said Iraq had to comply or else there would be automatic sanctions imposed on the travel of high-level Iraqi officials.

So, it's a very important inspection; the world's looking at it. So, we're doing this inspection, and we're getting obstructed by the Iraqis. They're just not going to comply. We go to one site, and they delay our entry; go to another site, and they destroy documents; they go to another site, and they say, you can't get in.

But I was frustrated by that, because people were saying, well, that's enough, and I was saying, Well, no, no, we have the end of the inspection to go. We have some very good intelligence that we want to follow up on here. But Richard Butler made a decision that that was it.

Halfway through the inspection, there's another inspection team in country. Contrary to popular belief, UNSCOM did not revolve around Scott Ritter. There was a lot of other activity taking place. And one of these was a biological inspection team, headed by an American biologist, a scientist named Dr. Diane Seaman. And she's one of the--UNSCOM is full of unique characters, and she is one of the unique characters. She is a coldly efficient woman, a warm human being but, man, she is professional as the day is long.

And Diane was doing no-notice monitoring inspection. And normally, a team would show up, and you arrive in the front of the building, and the Iraqis greet you, shake your hand, you go in and you have a cup of tea with the director, you talk about your program, then you go off and you monitor the facility.

Well, Diane said, I'm not going to play that game this time. We're going to show up and we're going to go straight to the back stairs and go upstairs, and see what happens.

Well, what happened was, as she got upstairs she ran into two guys coming downstairs who had briefcases, and they saw her, she saw them, they tried to bar the door and run. She said, No, not in my life time, and she got the door open. Imagine it: These are two burly, Iraqi special security organization personnel, running away from little Diane Seaman. She caught them, she intimidated them, she was the alpha dog, she got them in the room, and got the briefcases from them.

She opened up the briefcases and started rifling through, and the first thing she sees is the letterhead of the Special Security Organization. Now, Diane and I, and other chief inspectors, have been talking about the importance. I've been trying to educate people that if you see something about the S.S.O., that's critical. And she went, Ritter told me about that, this is big. And she starts flapping through, and she sees biological activity staff of the S.S.O. Man. Looked through more: Clostridium perfringens, gases, gangrene, something the Iraqis had weaponized, a prohibited toxin, bio-toxin.

No further questions. Locks it up, hands the briefcases to one of her inspectors, says, Take them down to the car and get out of here. And the guy got out, and as he was going down and getting in the car, the big Iraqi team came up, burst in, said, We want the briefcases. Too late, Diane had already taken them back to the BMVC, where they were studied more.

And I had talked with Diane about this, and one of the sites that we had wanted to inspect was the Al Hyatt building, because we had information that it was the administrative offices of the Special Security Organization and we felt that certain activities, to include the biological activity, were being conducted there, at least staff was headquartered there. And Richard Butler had decided that that was too controversial, too confrontational, and that he was going to scratch that off of this inspection.

I now have documentation which justifies this kind of activity. So, I worked with Diane and we coordinated with Richard Butler, and we confronted the Iraqis at an evening meeting. And I had already told the Iraqis that my inspection was done, I'm going home. Richard Butler said, If the Iraqis don't answer your questions, you're authorized to do a night inspection of the Al Hyatt building.

So, we go in, and we start meeting with the Iraqis, asking questions, and they're not giving us the answer we want. So, after a while I interrupt the meeting, I say, Look, we can do it the easy way, or we can do it the hard way. The easy way is, we ask a question, you answer it to our satisfaction, and we'll confine this discussion to this room, and we'll be done tonight. The hard way is, we ask a question, you don't answer it to our satisfaction, and then we're going to run a night inspection, and I'm telling you, you're not going to like it. And they were like, But you said your inspection was done. I said, You can start it again in a heartbeat, by not cooperating.

Apparently, they might have thought we were bluffing. We asked the question, they didn't give us the answer, we terminated the meeting and went back, got final authority from Richard Butler, and now we assembled an inspection team to go to the heart of the presidential palace area in Baghdad, where Saddam Hussein lives and works. In the middle of that is the Al Hyatt building, where the Special Security Organization had offices.

And we take off in a convoy, a convoy of about 14 vehicles, Diane Seaman, me, the rest of the inspectors, and we move down. Now, in the front of me is a vehicle driven by my operations officer, Chris Cobb Smith, the brilliant Chris Cobb Smith, a former Royal Marine, artillery gunner, courageous man, a brilliant planner, and he's navigating us in. He and I had spent hours looking over U-2 photographs, picking the best route in.

So, he's leading the convoy in, as navigator. And as we approach the turn-off to the Al Hyatt building, we come to an intersection. Now, we had anticipated that there would be a roadblock there, but there wasn't, the road was clear, light was green, so Chris' vehicle starts snaking through. Light turns yellow at that point, so Chris accelerates through, because standard operating procedure is, once a convoy commits through a traffic light, we all go through. Normally, what the Iraqis do is block traffic to get us through. We don't want to have a convoy split, in the city.

So, he accelerates through. As he accelerates, an Iraqi Special Republican Guard, one of the elite troops protecting Saddam Hussein, who's supposed to be manning this roadblock, had apparently been snoozing on the side, wakes up and goes, My God, cars. So, he comes up and he slaps Chris' car, but Chris just kept going. He turns around, and there's my car. Now, I have a French driver that night, a French military officer, whose command of the English language was limited. And I look at the situation. The guy's got a gun. And I said, We might want to stop the car right now. And he keeps going, towards this soldier. The soldier's screaming, shrill voice, panicked. I said, We really might want to stop the car right now, go ahead and stop the car.

He keeps going, straight at the solider. The solider locks and loads his weapon, puts it on fire, gets down into a crouch--I mean, he's ready to fire. You see him bracing, and he's screaming. I turn, and I scream at the top-- Stop the damn car, you son of a bitch. Stops. The guy's screaming, getting ready to shoot, and I'm thinking, That's it, we're dead, when this flash of green comes off of my right shoulder. It was one of the Iraqi minders, the people who escort us, and he jumps between me and the soldier. A spilt-second, I think, we would have all been dead. The solider now has it, and he's screaming at this guy, getting ready to knock him off.

Meanwhile, another guy comes up, a Special Security Organization uniformed officer, pulls his pistol, points it at this Iraqi colonel, then points it at me, he's got it leveled at my head, and he's going back and forth, the soldier's going back and forth, screaming at the top of the voice, and I'm thinking, This is really interesting.

Chris, meanwhile, is zipping on, and three Iraqi vehicles were following him at high speed. So, Chris is moving on fast, and in front of him there's another check point. And you see guys pulling out RPGs, rocket propelled grenades, loading machine guns, getting on their knees, ready to shoot. I grab their radio, and I don't want to make any sudden moves because I've got these two goons, who are very nervous: Chris, you might want to stop the car, these guys have guns.

And Chris had an Australian driver, a military guy, at the wheel, who's a very cool character, and slowly, without screeching the brakes, stopped the car. The Iraqis come in front of him, and we finally get Chris back, and the situation calmed down, somewhat.

Later on, we had more S.S.O. guys come out, and they were not happy about us being here. These were big thugs come out, and they're all waving their pistols around, and a lot of guns in the area, a lot of testosterone and a lot of adrenaline and a lot of energy. And it was a very, very tense situation there for a while. We got it calmed down and we were able to get people focused on the matter at hand, which was, do we--are we going to be allowed to proceed to the Al Hyatt building? The answer, in short, was no.

But it was a tough situation, and it's about the closest, I think, we came to getting a lot of people killed. It was just that close.

[W]as the Clinton Administration doing enough to explain and sell its policy regarding UNSCOM and Iraq to the United States?

The Clinton Administration didn't have a policy on Iraq. What they were doing was reacting to a situation. They were confronted with a situation where we had Iraqi non-compliance. The Iraqis had stopped an inspection team, an inspection team led by me, wouldn't let us do our job. Then they insulted Richard Butler. He came there to try and craft a solution. They insulted Richard Butler. It's black and white non-compliance. Well, the U.S. didn't know what to do. So then they said, Well, we've go to be tough. Well, what does being tough mean? How do you justify going to war with Iraq to the American people? How do you craft it out?

The U.S. wasn't a big supporter of UNSCOM to begin with, at that point in time; we were merely a means of implementing the continuation of sanctions. So, suddenly, you had to fall in love with UNSCOM all over again, and decide that you were willing to go to war for the inspection process. But they didn't really understand the inspection process. I mean, you had the Secretary of Defense doing what I think were extremely tacky demonstrations: holding up a bag of sugar: This is a bag of anthrax. It would kill the entire--Well, thank you very much, Secretary of Defense, but what does that really mean? What does the Iraqi biological weapons capability truly, honestly speaking, what do they have? The answer is, you don't know, do you? No one knows. UNSCOM has an idea, and what they have is seed stock: the ability to reconstitute a biological weapons program. But we've destroyed their biological weapons factories. We have inspectors monitoring the others.

Yeah, there's a handful of Special Security Organization guys, running around with briefcases that have plans and ideas for larger activity. Iraq's not clean, in any sense of the word. But there's not this great factory. Don't hold up a bag and say that's what the threat is. You've oversimplified it, and when you oversimplify, and you come under sharp criticism, you'll fall to pieces.

And that's what happened at Ohio State, they fell to pieces. They couldn't put together a sound policy, one that could be explained to the American people.

Meanwhile, they're saying you're the problem, you're causing these confrontations. It's a Scott Ritter problem. There's pressure put on Butler to remove you, essentially.


And you finally, in August, just quit. Is that why you quit?

Well, look, I quit for reasons that dealt with honor and integrity, not because Madeleine Albright or Sandy Berger or anybody put pressure on me. If that was the case, I would have quit a long time ago. Richard Butler knew that I was doing UNSCOM's work. That's what I stayed on, because I still had the trust and confidence of my boss, Richard Butler.

The problem came on a number of fronts. I talked about the intelligence game, and the fact that UNSCOM was now getting involved in techniques and capabilities that are normally only associated with national governments. In entering this realm, this rarefied air of national level intelligence, we ran head-to-head with the bureaucratic self-interests of a number of agencies and organizations who viewed us as competition. They weren't there to facilitate the work of UNSCOM, they were there to kill UNSCOM. Why? Because UNSCOM was on their turf. It became a turf war.

So, we had this struggle going on, and that bled over into a nasty little incident that developed out of my work with Israel. People started spreading the word that somehow I was an Israeli spy, that I wasn't doing the work of the United States or of UNSCOM, I was doing the bidding of Israel.

And that came to a head in January. In fact, it was the U.S. saying that I was an Israeli spy that prompted the withdrawal of my team from Iraq, in January. It's an amazing piece of information there, but--

You also found out that the F.B.I. started to investigate.

Well, then I came back and said, Well, why did you pull me out? And it became clear the reason why they pulled me out was because there's this F.B.I. investigation, charging me with espionage. So, this is absurd. Everything I've done in Iraq is approved by Richard Butler, is in conformance with the mandate of the Security Council, and, furthermore, has been reported and approved by the United States Government. How dare you investigate me for something you've approved of.

And what happened, I got into a situation, every time I did my job, for Richard Butler and UNSCOM, my file at the F.B.I. got thicker. It was absurd. And one reason why this occurred, of course, is because of this turf battle. They had to destroy me. You destroy me by attacking my credibility, and you go after those operations which you fear the most. Our involvement with Israel gave us a large degree of independence from the United States intelligence community, independence which many in the U.S. intelligence community found threatening.

So, the best way to handle it is to kill the operation, kill the man operating the operation, destroy his credibility, and that ends up with the whole Israel connection falling apart. And that's what I believe they were trying to do.

The other problem was this information that the Israelis gave us was liberating us from the U.S. It was also high quality information. And suddenly, we were being armed with the data we needed to use to go into Iraq to find weapons. But what did this mean? When UNSCOM went in, we were no longer beating the bush, we were going to sites where the Iraqis were going to stop us. There would be confrontation.

And now, the State Department had to be confronted with the reality of, you let Scott Ritter continue to run these inspections, the Iraqis will block him; if the Iraqis block him, what do we do? The answer is, We don't know what we're going to do, we're not prepared for that. The solution: Stop Ritter from doing the inspections.

And all of this came to a head in the January-February-March [1998] time frame, and resulted in some pretty childish antics on the part of Madeleine Albright, in which she personalized the issue and tried to get me removed from doing my job.

Let me jump ahead, to later in the year. There's a lot of talk--we want to back up UNSCOM even if it comes to war, or to bombing. Eventually, for whatever reasons, in December of 1998, Clinton bombs Iraq: Desert Fox. What do you think about Desert Fox.

I think Desert Fox will go down in history as one of the most ill-planned, ill-conceived adventures of the Clinton Administration. What did Desert Fox achieve? What was its goal? What was its purpose? If the United States wanted to back up UNSCOM, there was plenty of legitimate reasons to do so. During the summer of 1998, we tried to launch two inspections which were geared around extremely high quality intelligence on where weapons and weapons components were hidden. These inspections most probably would have resulted in a confrontation, the Iraqis obstructing. That would have been a wonderful trigger for the United States to come in and talk tough and say, we're going to back up the work of UNSCOM.

And I'll tell you what. It might have resulted in UNSCOM inspectors being kicked out of Iraq, but it would not have been the death of UNSCOM, because UNSCOM would have been a fair, impartial implementor of Security Council policy, nothing more, nothing less. The Iraqis could have kicked us out, but all we were doing was our job, and no one could doubt that or criticize us for that. The debate would have been within the Security Council, on how to enforce its resolution.

But the U.S. opted out, said, no, we're going to stop those inspections, we're not for that kind of work. ...

Is UNSCOM dead?

Deader than a door nail. I don't think there's anybody out there right now that thinks that UNSCOM will go back into Iraq configured the way it was in December of 1998.

And who killed UNSCOM?

Well, there's a large number of players involved here. You have Iraq, which was not complying fully with Security Council resolutions. What I mean by fully is they weren't letting UNSCOM complete that last few percentage points to get us up to 100 percent.

So, Iraq is complicit, but that'd been happening for eight years. UNSCOM was alive and well and breathing for seven years. So, you can't say that Iraq killed UNSCOM because Iraq behaved the same way throughout, and UNSCOM still existed.

The Security Council created UNSCOM under Chapter 7 of the United Nations Charter, and that carries with it a promise to enforce its own law, and the Security Council wasn't enforcing its law, and that helped to perpetuate this cycle of cheat-and-retreat confrontation, and then, backing down.

You could say the Security Council killed UNSCOM, but again, that's a process that's been taking place for years, and UNSCOM was still alive, well, breathing, kicking, doing its job.

Now we come down to the final two players. You have an executive chairman who, for whatever reasons, has become enamored with the support of the United States. You have a United States administration, the Clinton Administration, which, as we've seen with Madeleine Albright's unfortunate statements of 1997, have decided to pervert international law and say that it doesn't matter what Iraq does with disarmament, we're going to keep economic sanctions in place.

Now, these sanctions are becoming harder and harder to defend, on two fronts. One, what good are they doing? Are they having an impact on the target, Saddam Hussein? The answer is no. Who suffers under sanctions? Innocent Iraqi people. Thousands of children under the age of five die every month because of these sanctions, and while the American public might be oblivious to this, believe me, the rest of the world is not, and the longer we continue this program of economic sanctions targeted against Iraq, the more isolated the United State becomes.

But Richard Butler had come to a decision that we couldn't carry out certain activities without the support of the United States, that the United States was somehow our No. 1 backer in the Security Council, and he allowed the United States to start calling the shots. An inspection a little too confrontational, Richard? Why don't we pull the plug on it, buddy, and stop it.

Do you have any regrets about some of the comments you've made, that exposed UNSCOM?

The most important issue here is salvaging a failed policy. Now, the U.S. Government has committed itself towards this failed policy, and there's a lot of people whose reputations are at stake there. And if Scott Ritter's going to go out and try and change that failed policy, there's going to be some ruffled feathers.

When I resigned, I put the U.S. Government on notice that I'm going to stick to policy issues, that I have no intention of going out and blowing the cover off of the intelligence operations, that those are truly sensitive and they should not be exposed. But I also said a couple of things. One, if you attack my integrity, I will defend myself. If you attack my patriotism, I will defend myself. If you come after my family, I will counter-attack viciously, I will destroy you. Don't push those buttons, and we've got a good relationship. Stick on policy. I say you're wrong, you say you're right, let's have it out.

What's the first thing that happened? The Pentagon released information talking about an F.B.I. espionage investigation into my relationship with Israel. I didn't bring up the Israeli issue. They did. And by putting it out there, they were calling me a spy. I had to defend myself. I did so factually. Rolf Ekeus may be saddened, he may have a right to be saddened, but I guarantee you, everything I have said is factually correct. I haven't exaggerated anything, I've stuck to the facts. If people don't like the history, I'm sorry.

Let me ask you, then, specifically about the facts, and this is in your book. You describe a C.I.A. agent who you give a fictitious name, Moe Dobbs, and you say that you worked with him for a long time. Tell me a little about that relationship, and then it changes. But you worked with this C.I.A. agent.

I told you, early on, that the United States provided intelligence from the very beginning, to help UNSCOM carry out inspections. I talked about the great SCUD hunt of December 1991. That was intelligence provided by the United States. To support the provision of intelligence and to support operational planning, the United States intelligence community created something called the Operational Planning Cell, at C.I.A. It brought in Department of Defense personnel and C.I.A. personnel. Some of the C.I.A.'s best operational planners come from their covert actions branch, para-military specialists who do a number of things, plot coups, but also know how to operate in hostile territory, "get things done."

Moe Dobbs was such a person, a senior member of this C.I.A. element who worked with UNSCOM to help us carry out inspections, to get intelligence sent to us and help us operationalize this intelligence. I had a very close relationship with this guy, and his team. Very professional. But he also is a C.I.A. employee. Rolf Ekeus knew this. We didn't talk about it, it was just one of those things. You said you asked for this capability, this is what you get.

But being a C.I.A. employee, later on, when U.S. policy changes, he's not responsible to Rolf Ekeus, the way I am. And when the government tasks him to do certain things, he will do it. My job, and Rolf Ekeus's job, was to make sure that they didn't do those things while they were working for UNSCOM, and we did our best. And I'm very careful, in the book, to say I have no direct evidence.

But one of the problems is, is that you have a situation, in June of 1996, where the United States is fomenting a coup against Saddam Hussein, a coup based upon Special Republican Guard units. At the same time, you have an UNSCOM inspection, UNSCOM 150, which is in Iraq, creating a confrontation by inspecting Special Republican Guard sites.

On our team are nine covert operatives from the C.I.A.'s covert activities branch. Now, they're doing the work of UNSCOM, they were part of planning UNSCOM, they provided communications support, logistics support, operational support, the kind of guys you need for these inspections.

But the Iraqis were questioning Rolf Ekeus on the timing of this inspection. Why were you doing it? And Tariq Aziz was very critical of that. And what I was trying to do is put into a perspective some of the Iraqi concerns. It's important to realize that the Iraqis do have legitimate national security interests. No matter how much we hate Saddam Hussein, it's in their national security interest to keep him in power, and when you have the United States government, or any other government, trying to create a coup to throw him out, they're very concerned.

Now, when they met with Rolf Ekeus, they knew that the coup was planned. They had penetrated the coup plotters for months, they knew exactly what was going on, and they probably knew something about our inspection team that we didn't know. They probably had insights that we didn't have. I was confronted with such insights by one Iraqi, who said, You know, you guys are being used to support a coup. Now, I objected vehemently, I said, No, I'm UNSCOM, Rolf Ekeus would never authorize that, I would never be a part of that. We're doing our job. He said, Well, I'm just telling you, we know something. ...

... What was Operation Tea Cup.

Well, Tea Cup, as a name, talks about UNSCOM's ability to carry out the interdiction of Iraqi covert procurement activities, procurement of prohibited materials in violation of Security Council Resolutions. Tea Cup particularly involved a relationship that UNSCOM had with Israel, ... and the deal was that the Israelis would provide specific intelligence tip-offs to UNSCOM, so that UNSCOM could operationalize this information. UNSCOM could use its mandate to go to governments and inform them of some illicit activity taking place, in an effort to interdict it or to monitor it into Iraq.

We ran six Tea Cup Operations, from 1995 to 1998. The Rumanian Operation was, I believe, Tea Cup 5, and what happened was that in September of 1997 we received a specific tip-off from the Israeli government. We went to the British government, asked for assistance. This dealt with Iraqi procurement activity in Romania, specifically the buying of a Rumanian aerospace firm, Aerofina, by the Iraqis and the procurement of guidance and control production equipment and guidance and control devices for ballistic missiles--the activity was prohibited, under Security Council Resolution.

So, you found out, or you got this tip, from the Israelis, that Iraq was trying to get missile parts and missile production through Romania.

From Romania, through Jordan, into Iraq. Correct. And we went to the British. The British were very receptive. The British took me to Romania, I met with the head of the Romania Intelligence Services, and we set up an Operation. Richard Butler was informed every step of the way, and in case he wants me to do it, I can produce a document, signed by Richard Butler, authorizing me to have these contacts. ...

What happened, in this particular case?

... The United States intervened, with the British Government, and said, Stop doing business with Scott Ritter. You can't have an intelligence relationship with an American citizen unless it's controlled by the C.I.A. Well, the Brits said, Stuff it. Ritter's a UN person, and we're dealing with him in his capacity as an UNSCOM official, not an American citizen, and we're going to move forward.

And to make a long story short, the Americans undertook a number of measures which effectively sabotaged this operation. It ended up killed it. We were in a situation where, in the end, we were able to interdict the Iraqi procurement effort. I don't think there'll be anything coming out of Romania to Iraq, any time soon. But we never got to take it the step further.

We interviewed Bart Gellman, The Washington Post. In effect he says, in a particular Operation, that the CIA went in on an UNSCOM operation and put in special antennas so they could monitor military communications within the Iraqis. Does that sound plausible to you, not plausible?

Now we're getting into national security areas for the United States of America. I think that's something that's best left to American officials. What I can say is the following. One on occasion, I uncovered activity taking place in Iraq, under the auspices of UNSCOM, that I viewed as being suspicious. I felt that it was intelligence activity related to the collection of intelligence information and that it was being done on behalf of the United States. And I didn't think that Rolf Ekeus was aware of this and had given his approval.

But I'm also an American, and there's no way that I'm going to blow the lid off of an American intelligence operation. That's the last thing that the patriot does. We have people's lives at stake, etc., national security at stake, things that I may not be cognizant of.

But the Deputy Executive Chairman of UNSCOM, Charles Duelfer, is an American, the senior American. So I went to him with my concerns, and I laid it out, and I said, Charles, this is what I think's happening, what are we going to do about it? Well, his response was, Scott, I can't talk about it, and my advice to you is to stop digging, son, because you're getting into national security areas and if you keep moving you'll have a problem with the F.B.I. It's a law enforcement problem, it's espionage, and you'll lose that game.

And I said, Fine. But I did submit a page and a half memorandum, in writing, detailing my concerns, and I said, I am officially notifying you, as the Deputy Executive Chairman of UNSCOM, that I, an UNSCOM official, have this problem. What you choose to do about it's your own business, but I clean my hands. Maybe that was a cowardly act. If I was truly an UNSCOM official, maybe I should have taken it to Rolf Ekeus. But I'm American, above all else. And I felt I did the most that I could do in that situation.

I'm not confirming or denying anything that Bart Gellman wrote about. I'm just saying that there were situations like that that did occur, that I was aware of, or at least thought I was aware of. I could have been all wrong. Charles could have been telling me, You're heading down the wrong path, there's nothing there, nothing of substance. I don't know.

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