Exclusive: 3 CIA assets killed in Baghdad
By Richard Sale
UPI Intelligence Correspondent
From the International Desk
Three Iraqis who aided the CIA in the March 20 attempt by the Bush administration to kill Iraqi president Saddam Hussein were executed this week
by Iraqi counterintelligence, U.S. intelligence and administration officials told United Press International.
A supersecret U.S. intelligence operation, working in Baghdad weeks before the war, provided the crucial targeting data for the attack on Saddam and his sons, launched in an effort to pre-empt a full-scale war, these sources said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
President Bush had been scheduled to announce the official start of the war on 1 p.m. EST Friday, March 21, U.S. officials told UPI, but instead announced it at 10:15 p.m. Wednesday, March 19 -- 6:15 a.m. March 20 Baghdad time.
It now appears that Delta and the Special Forces units had help from three Iraqi agents recruited by the CIA some time after June 2000, when the first
CIA paramilitary teams secretly entered Baghdad to do reconnaissance and recruitment.
Sources told UPI Iraqi counterintelligence killed the three, shooting two and cutting out the tongue of a third, who bled to death.
The March 20 operation involved the 31 Special Operations team with 300 men, who moved into the country to join Delta forces and other
clandestine CIA paramilitaries, these sources said.
One long-time former CIA operative said it was the Delta men, already in country, who made the breakthrough for the U.S. attack by infiltrating a key Baghdad telecommunications center and tapping a fiber optic telephone line the size of a human hair.
By logging a flurry of activity and triangulating the intercepts, the U.S. clandestine team was able to locate Saddam and top leaders at Dora Farm, a
well-known Iraqi command and control complex and a legitimate war target, U.S. officials said.
It's now clear that Iraqi dissidents, recruited by the agency, played a key part in the operation by providing "priceless" information, relating to the
phone system and details of Dora Farm, according to one former senior CIA official.
After CIA director George Tenet conveyed the information to the White House, the administration quickly launched strikes by F-17s fighters and
ship-launched cruise missiles which wounded Saddam and is also believed to have killed his son Qusay, 37, who was being groomed as Saddam's successor,
according to half a dozen former and serving U.S. officials. The strike hit at 5:36 a.m. Baghdad time March 20, after Bush's ultimatum to Saddam to leave Iraq or face war had expired.
A senior administration official told UPI that Saddam had suffered two burst ear drums, and "was bleeding from the nose and mouth." This source added that Saddam was so disoriented by concussion damage that he was "in a vegetative state" for hours after the strike.
Another administration official said that Saddam was "definitely alive" after the strike and appeared on Friday, March 21, wearing glasses because of concussive damage to the "capillaries of his retinas."
Aerial photos showed that the three-building compound had suffered severe damage from 2,000-pound bunker buster bombs and some 40 cruise missiles, U.S.
Details of the timing and recruitment of the Iraqi CIA assets remain vague because "we want to protect our tradecraft," one U.S. intelligence official
"The agency has been working for months to hook up with Iraqi dissidents in country," an administration official said.
CIA paramilitary teams, working with Delta Forces are still inside Iraq, attempting to kill 30 top Iraqi leaders, including Saddam's other son, Uday,
39, who commands the Iraqi fedayeen, several U.S. sources said. One administration official confirmed that U.S. intelligence has the names,
addresses and cell phone numbers of the 30 targets.
At least a half a dozen U.S. official interviewed by UPI said that they believe that Saddam is wounded but still alive. "The strategy is to goad him
to appear so that we can kill him," one former senior agency covert operative said.
Saddam appears aware of this. On Tuesday, he did not appear for a scheduled TV address. Instead, a senior Iraqi official read a statement in his name.