wash post: Hussein Was Target of Bombing


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gun-fucious
March 20, 2003, 10:59 PM
Hussein Was Target of Bombing

By Walter Pincus, Bob Woodward and Dana Priest
Washington Post Staff Writers
Thursday, March 20, 2003; 10:00 AM
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A682-2003Mar20.html

U.S. intelligence officials believe Iraqi President Saddam Hussein, possibly accompanied by one or both of his powerful sons, was still inside a compound in southern Baghdad early yesterday when it was struck by a barrage of U.S. bombs and cruise missiles.

But intelligence analysts in Washington and operatives working in the region were not certain whether the Iraqi leader was killed or injured or escaped the attack, according to senior Bush administration officials, who worked yesterday to analyze a videotape of an appearance by Hussein broadcast on Iraqi television within hours of the pre-dawn bombardment.

"The prepondence of the evidence is he was there when the building blew up," said one senior U.S. official with access to sensitive intelligence. The official added that Hussein's sons, Qusay and Uday, may also have been at the compound. "He didn't get out" beforehand, another senior official said of the Iraqi president.

A third administration official said "there is evidence that he [Hussein] was at least injured" because of indications that medical attention was urgently summoned on his behalf. The condition of Hussein's sons, and any others who may have been at the compound, was also unknown, officials said.

While U.S. intelligence monitored Iraqi government communications and movements yesterday to pick up signs of Hussein's fate, the administration's attention was focused on the television appearance by Hussein in which he stated yesterday's date and made reference to "dawn" and an attack by the United States.

Officials said they were not surprised by the broadcast because they had information that the Iraqi leader had recorded several statements earlier in the week in anticipation of a military strike shortly after the expiration of a U.S. deadline for Hussein and his sons to leave the country.

Officials also said they were receiving conflicting analysis of the identity of the man in the broadcast, noting that Hussein has long been reported to use doubles as a precaution against assassination. Technical analysts, who used digital enhancement techniques and triangulation measurements of facial proportions, assessed that the broadcast depicted the real Hussein. But the government also consulted Parisoula Lampsos, who the Defense Department believes has passed a polygraph examination in support of her claim that she was Hussein's mistress in Iraq for many years. Lampsos has previously distinguished Hussein from his doubles in more than a dozen cases, one official said, and this time she said he was not the man in the broadcast.

The wide array of opinions within the government about Hussein's fate -- some officials were privately buoyant that he may have been killed, others feared he may have gotten away -- mirrored an equally diverse set of motivations inside the administration about how the bombing should be portrayed. The attack came in the midst of an intensifying military campaign designed to intimidate the Iraqi government and military and to sow confusion inside Iraq about the fate of the country's senior leadership.

For almost a year the CIA has been operating under a presidential directive authorizing a covert program to topple the Iraqi leader, including authority to use lethal force and a $200 million budget to bring about a change of government.

Last June, CIA Director George J. Tenet told Bush and senior Cabinet members that covert operations to eliminate Hussein had only a small chance of working. Tenet stressed that any attempt to remove the Iraqi leader would have to be accompanied by the threat of military force that would pressure those with direct knowledge of or access to Hussein to consider betraying him.

The decision to attack the compound, which President Bush and his senior advisers reached during a two-hour discussion at the White House Wednesday afternoon, provided an indication that the intelligence agency has succeeded in establishing an alliance with some Iraqis close to Hussein.

Sen. Pat Roberts (R-Kan.), chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, said yesterday that "what we call human intelligence . . . indicated the location of Saddam Hussein and his leadership in a bunker in the suburbs of Baghdad."

Other officials said the CIA had gathered highly-sensitive and reliable electronic and other information, using a wide range of assets -- from humans in some proximity to the compound to image-snapping satellites miles above.

.A knowledgeable official said the underground bunker was part of a secure compound guarded by the Special Security Organization, which is commanded by Hussein's younger son, Qusay, and is principally responsible for the president's safety. While there was no official bomb damage assessment yet, photo analysts said the bunker was severely damaged.

"The bunker was the primary target, but because we couldn't be sure where all the people were, we had to take out some other buildings as well," a senior defense official said.

The information that Hussein was in the compound had been collected over a period of days and was confirmed in the hours prior to the attack. In the White House meeting, Tenet told Bush and other senior leaders that "this is pretty darn good intelligence" that Hussein was in the bunker. As the downsides of the approach were discussed among the president's senior national security advisers, Tenet defended the quality of the information although others at the session described it as "too good to be true," one official said. "There's no doubt it's worth taking a shot," Tenet argued.

One official argued that the intelligence about Hussein's whereabouts "could be a provocation." By planting the information, "the Iraqis could be luring American aircraft into a trap where they could be shot down," the official said, adding it would then be a propaganda victory for Hussein before the war even started.

Another part of the discussion focused on how the mission would be carried out and how it could force an adjustment in the war plan for invading Iraq drawn up by U.S. Central Command, the official said.

Other administration and congressional sources said yesterday that there are other operations under way aimed at Hussein.

Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld yesterday invited other Iraqi leaders to step forward and turn on the Iraqi president. "We continue to feel that there's no need for a broader conflict if the Iraqi leaders act to save themselves and to prevent such further conflict," he told reporters.

White House press secretary Ari Fleischer, who last September said a U.S. invasion could be avoided by "one bullet," said yesterday, "We continue to hope that Saddam will leave Iraq."

Staff writers Thomas E. Ricks and Barton Gellman contributed to this report.

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Blackhawk
March 20, 2003, 11:39 PM
Thanks for posting this article, GF.

We've been speculating about whether or not Saddam got whacked last night on this thread: http://www.thehighroad.org/showthread.php?s=&threadid=14460

Mike Irwin
March 21, 2003, 12:28 AM
Fox was reporting a little bit ago that Saddam may have had a mole in his inner circle who sold out his position to the Americans, and that's why Tomahawk came knocking when Saddam was home...

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