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[casi] The Defector’s Secrets

Exclusive: The Defector’s Secrets

Before his death, a high-ranking defector said Iraq
had not abandoned its WMD ambitions

By John Barry

March 3 issue —  Hussein Kamel, the highest-ranking
Iraqi official ever to defect from Saddam Hussein’s
inner circle, told CIA and British intelligence
officers and U.N. inspectors in the summer of 1995
that after the gulf war, Iraq destroyed all its
chemical and biological weapons stocks and the
missiles to deliver them.

KAMEL WAS SADDAM Hussein’s son-in-law and had direct
knowledge of what he claimed: for 10 years he had run
Iraq’s nuclear, chemical, biological and missile
programs. Kamel told his Western interrogators that he
hoped his revelations would trigger Saddam’s
overthrow. But after six months in exile in Jordan,
Kamel realized the United States would not support his
dream of becoming Iraq’s ruler after Saddam’s demise.
He chose to return to Iraq—where he was promptly

Kamel’s revelations about the destruction of Iraq’s
WMD stocks were hushed up by the U.N. inspectors,
sources say, for two reasons. Saddam did not know how
much Kamel had revealed, and the inspectors hoped to
bluff Saddam into disclosing still more. And Iraq has
never shown the documentation to support Kamel’s
story. Still, the defector’s tale raises questions
about whether the WMD stockpiles attributed to Iraq
still exist.

Kamel said Iraq had not abandoned its WMD ambitions.
The stocks had been destroyed to hide the programs
from the U.N. inspectors, but Iraq had retained the
design and engineering details of these weapons. Kamel
talked of hidden blueprints, computer disks,
microfiches and even missile-warhead molds. “People
who work in MIC [Iraq’s Military Industrial
Commission, which oversaw the country’s WMD programs]
were asked to take documents to their houses,” he
said. Why preserve this technical material? Said
Kamel: “It is the first step to return to production”
after U.N. inspections wind down.

Kamel was interrogated in separate sessions by the
CIA, Britain’s M.I.6 and a trio from the United
Nations, led by the inspection team’s head, Rolf
Ekeus. NEWSWEEK has obtained the notes of Kamel’s U.N.
debrief, and verified that the document is authentic.
NEWSWEEK has also learned that Kamel told the same
story to the CIA and M.I.6. (The CIA did not respond
to a request for comment.)

The notes of the U.N. interrogation—a three-hour
stretch one August evening in 1995— show that Kamel
was a gold mine of information. He had a good memory
and, piece by piece, he laid out the main personnel,
sites and progress of each WMD program. Kamel was a
manager—not a scientist or engineer—and, sources say,
some of his technical assertions were later found to
be faulty. (A military aide who defected with Kamel
was apparently a more reliable source of technical
data. This aide backed Kamel’s assertions about the
destruction of WMD stocks.) But, overall, Kamel’s
information was “almost embarrassing, it was so
extensive,” Ekeus recalled—including the fact that
Ekeus’s own Arabic translator, a Syrian, was,
according to Kamel, an Iraqi agent who had been
reporting to Kamel himself all along.

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