The following is an archived copy of a message sent to a Discussion List run by the Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq.

Views expressed in this archived message are those of the author, not of the Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq.

[Main archive index/search] [List information] [Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq Homepage]

[Date Prev][Date Next][Thread Prev][Thread Next][Date Index][Thread Index]

[casi] The subversion of UNSCOM

Arms inspections will likely remain in the news for some time, so the following
may be helpful.  They summarize allegations that UNSCOM was subverted for U.S.
intelligence purposes, including the dramatic claim (by respected journalist
Seymour Hersh) that information collected via UNSCOM was used to target Saddam
in an assassination attempt during Desert Fox in 1998.

Of course, see also Per's post regarding Rolf Ekeus at

Drew Hamre
Golden Valley, MN USA

=== [1] Excerpt from

"SADDAM’S BEST FRIEND  - How the C.I.A. made it a lot easier for the Iraqi
leader to rearm."
The New Yorker, April 5, 1999

"Once the American technicians were in control [of Iraqi encrypted phone
transmissions], they focussed on Saddam — and not on his missiles and warheads.
They eventually found a pattern in Saddam’s movements, as tracked by intercepts,
which they believed might lead to a successful attempt to eliminate him. Saddam
regularly saw his mistresses in two sites—one a retreat at Auja, near his
ancestral home, Tikrit, and the other at his daughter’s villa in Babil, in
suburban Baghdad. When the American forces attacked Iraq in December, cruise
missiles destroyed both targets."

=== [2]

ACTION ALERT: Spying in Iraq: From Fact to Allegation

September 24, 2002

Nothing makes a newspaper prouder than a juicy foreign-policy scoop. Except, it
seems, when the scoop ends up raising awkward questions about a U.S.
administration's drive for war.

Back in 1999, major papers ran front-page investigative stories revealing that
the CIA had covertly used U.N. weapons inspectors to spy on Iraq for the U.S.'s
own intelligence purposes. "United States officials said today that American
spies had worked undercover on teams of United Nations arms inspectors," the New
York Times reported (1/7/99).  According to the Washington Post (3/2/99), the
U.S. "infiltrated agents and espionage equipment for three years into United
Nations arms control teams in Iraq to eavesdrop on the Iraqi military without
the knowledge of the U.N. agency."  Undercover U.S. agents "carried out an
ambitious spying operation designed to penetrate Iraq's intelligence apparatus
and track the movement of Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein, according to U.S. and
U.N. sources," wrote the Boston Globe (1/6/99).

Each of the three news stories ran on the papers' front pages. At first, U.S.
officials tried to deny them, but as more details emerged, "spokesmen for the
CIA, Pentagon, White House and State Department declined to repeat any
categorical denials" (Washington Post, 3/2/99). By the spring of 1999, the
UNSCOM spying reported by the papers was accepted as fact by other outlets, and
even defended; "Experts say it is naive to believe that the United States and
other governments would not have used the opportunity presented by the U.N.
commission to spy on a country that provoked the Persian Gulf War in 1991 and
that has continued to tangle with U.S. and British forces," USA Today reported

But now that the Bush administration has placed the inspectors at the center of
its rationale for going to war, these same papers have become noticeably queasy
about recalling UNSCOM's past spying. The spy scandal badly damaged the
credibility of the inspections process, especially after reports that data
collected through UNSCOM were later used to pick targets in the December 1998
bombing of Iraq: "National security insiders, blessed with their unprecedented
intelligence bonanza from UNSCOM, convinced themselves that bombing Saddam
Hussein's internal apparatus would drive the Iraqi leader around the bend,"
wrote Washington Post analyst William Arkin (1/17/99).

Suddenly, facts that their own correspondents confirmed three years ago in
interviews with top U.S. officials are being recycled as mere allegations coming
from Saddam Hussein's regime.

The UNSCOM team, explained the New York Times' Barbara Crossette in an August 3
story, was replaced "after Mr. Hussein accused the old commission of being an
American spy operation and refused to deal with it." She gave no hint that
Saddam's "accusation" was reported as fact by her Times colleague, Tim Weiner,
in a front-page story three years earlier.

"As recently as Sunday, Iraqi officials called the inspectors spies and accused
them of deliberately prolonging their work," the Washington Post's Baghdad
correspondent wrote recently in a story casting doubt on the Iraqi regime's
intentions of cooperating (9/8/02). Readers would have no way of knowing that
the Post's Barton Gellman exhaustively detailed the facts of the spying in a
series of 1999 articles.

"Iraq accused some of the inspectors of being spies, because they remained on
their host countries' payrolls while reviewing Iraq's weapons," the Boston
Globe's Elizabeth Neuffer wrote recently, in an oddly garbled rendition of the
charges (9/14/02). She could have boasted that her paper's own Colum Lynch (now
with the Washington Post) was widely credited with first breaking the story of
UNSCOM's spying in a January 6, 1999 front-page expose. But she chose not to.

It's hard to avoid the impression that certain media outlets would rather that
UNSCOM's covert espionage had never been exposed in the first place. The day
after Barton Gellman of the Washington Post first reported the spying charges,
in a story sourced to Kofi Annan's office, his own paper ran a thundering
editorial denouncing Annan's "gutless ploy" ("Back-Stabbing at the U.N.,"
1/7/99) and instructing the U.N. leader that instead of providing the
information to a Washington Post reporter, he and his aides should have "raised
their concerns in private."

Sent via the discussion list of the Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq.
To unsubscribe, visit
To contact the list manager, email
All postings are archived on CASI's website:

[Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq Homepage]