SADDAM’S INTERROGATORS – AND THEIR TECHNIQUES TO MAKE HIM TALK
by Gordon Thomas
Britain’s top interrogators – MI5’s Eliza Manningham-Buller and Richard Dearlove of MI6 – are heading the team of British interrogators who will question Saddam Hussein.
Both are formidable inquisitors who broke Soviet spies and traitors during the Cold War. They will work closely with the US interrogators led by CIA director George Tenet.
Hours after Saddam emerged from his hole, he came under the combined scrutiny of intelligence service psychiatrists, psychologists, behavioural scientists and psychoanalysts. They are known as “the specialists”.
They have prepared a detailed study of how the interrogators can break him.
The specialists studied the video footage of Saddam being medically examined. The search inside his mouth was not only to obtain a DNA swab – but to see if Saddam had a suicide tablet secreted in a back tooth. None was found.
The specialists concluded this was further proof that Saddam was not a suicide risk.
Nevertheless, he was dressed in a one-piece orange suit. It has fibre buttons that would dissolve if he tried to swallow them. The suit cloth is too strong to be torn to form a makeshift noose to hang himself. His feet are encased in soft fibre shoes which cannot be broken.
His cell in a US base in Quatar is constantly monitored by cameras and guards.
His every move is noted and used to assess his ability to withstand the interrogation he will begin to face over Christmas.
In the esoteric language of the specialists, Saddam has not “allowed the loss of his personal boundary to effect his collective ego”.
Saddam is no longer the man on the video: bowed down with despair, suddenly aged beyond his 66 years, a haunted look in his eyes.
The specialists have concluded he then felt “stupid” at being caught. That would explain his “compulsive talking” to his soldier captors. It was to disguise his near paralysing fear at being dragged out of his hole.
“He may well have expected to be shot on the spot”, the specialists have told the interrogators.
But in the past few days, there has been a marked psychological shift in his mentality. His arrogance has returned. His eyes are no longer dull or his lips slack from confinement in his hole. There is a swagger about him.
All this has helped his interrogators to plan how to break him.
The interrogation team are considering secretly flying Saddam to one of the interrogation centres the team has in Kuwait or at the high-security United States air force base at Ramstein, near Frankfurt, Germany.
Each centre is purpose built. It is rocket proof and guarded by elite US Special Forces. It has a medical facility with doctors constantly on duty.
Intelligence sources admit that Saddam could be given truth drugs.
A senior British intelligence officer said: “There is a real urgency to discover everything Saddam knows about weapons of mass destruction and the whereabouts of associates running the suicide bombers in Iraq. Another key answer is what he knows about the whereabouts of Osama bin Laden”.
In the hope of triggering some response, Tariq Aziz, the former deputy Iraqi prime minister, was taken to see Saddam. Aziz is currently in a prison camp outside Baghdad airport. He was flown by helicopter to confront Saddam – and urge him to talk.
Instead Saddam exploded – calling Aziz a traitor.
Truth drugs will be administered intravenously shortly before Saddam’s interrogation begins – probably in the New Year. Drugs were used early on in their captivity on Taliban and Al Qaeda prisoners on Guantanamo Bay to try and discover where bin Laden is hiding.
By the time interrogators get to work on Saddam, his links with the outside world will have been totally severed.
He will have no idea of time or date. There will be no such thing as day or night. The normal patterns of waking and sleeping and meal times will be deliberately disrupted.
There will be no physical torture. But he will receive what one intelligence officer calls “the full coercive treatment”.
But the interrogators do not underestimate their challenge.
The intelligence officer said: “Saddam presents a unique challenge. He is a man who saw himself as morally, spiritually and intellectually superior to the Western world.
“Coercive treatment will include sitting for hours with a hood over his head to increase his isolation. All the time, the questions will be to increase anger in his mind about being betrayed. For someone like Saddam, betrayal will be hard to cope with. Being confronted with Tariq Aziz was part of that. The interrogators will tell Saddam that Aziz is looking out for Number One. Saddam could do the same by revealing what he knows – which is a great deal”, explained the senior intelligence officer in London. He is a trained interrogator.
Interrogators like Eliza Manningham-Buller and Richard Dearlove know that nothing will rattle Saddam more than facts he believed were secret.
“It will assault his sense of importance and he will think more about lying because he could be caught out”, said the intelligence officer.
Members of the team will include Arabic speakers.
“Part of their job will be to see how Saddam answers in his own language. In Arabic certain words can have very different meanings. If he chooses to use one that is not correct, his interrogators will show he knows the right meaning”, said the intelligence officer.
After each interrogation – which could last for many hours, with the questions coming and going – Saddam will be assessed by the specialists.
They will be looking to see how he responded to certain questions. Was he lying? Covering up? Did those eye blinks caught on camera indicate sudden fear? Or was it arrogance or even indifference?
One of Mossad’s top interrogators was Michael Koubi. To even seasoned inquisitors like Manningham-Buller and Dearlove, Koubi is regarded as probably the world’s leading interrogator.
He lives today in Ashkelon, near Israel’s Gaza Strip. He knows exactly how the interrogators and their support team of specialists will be working on Saddam.
“The first thing is to establish their superiority over Saddam. To remove his self of self-control. At every stage, they will be looking for his weak point”, said Koubi
Those weak points will include playing on Saddam’s loss of power and the indifference to his family’s fate.
“The interrogators will lie to him. They will force him to keep eye contact as they press their questions. When he will look away, as he is bound to do, they will continue to stare at him silently. Saddam is not used to this. It will be unnerving for him to experience such treatment”, said Koubi.
>From time to time, the interrogators will ask questions they know Saddam cannot answer. What was going on in Washington and London in the run-up to the Gulf War? Where was he on a certain date? When he cannot answer, he will be accused of covering-up.
“After a while, a question will be slipped in that he can answer. If the interrogators have done their ground work properly, he will be glad to answer it. Then the questions will move to other questions they want him to answer”, said the British intelligence officer.
The interrogators will offer simple inducements. If Saddam answers a series of questions, he will be promised uninterrupted sleep. And possibly a change in his carefully monitored diet.
But always the promises will not be quite kept. And followed by more promises that if he continues to cooperate, they will be fulfilled.
The deadly mind-games will continue until the interrogators and specialists are satisfied that no more can be wrung out of Saddam Hussein.
Then he will be left to his fate. More, he will know by then, he cannot expect.
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Gordon Thomas is a writer on intelligence - his many books include :
Gideon's Spies_The Secret History of Mossad
Robert Maxwell - Israel's Superspy
Seeds of Fire - China and the Story Behind the Attack on America