Skip to comments.How Army Sleuths Stalked the Adviser Who Led to Hussein
Posted on 12/19/2003 7:34:36 PM PST by Pokey78
TIKRIT, Iraq, Dec. 19 The most wanted man in Iraq last week besides Saddam Hussein was not on anyone's Top 55 or even Top 200 fugitive list.
He was a balding, paunchy middle-aged veteran of Mr. Hussein's once feared Special Security Organization, a notorious womanizer who was a member of one of the five close-knit families that supplied Mr. Hussein's most trusted lieutenants.
But most important to American forces, he probably knew Mr. Hussein's whereabouts at any given moment. And last Saturday night, after his capture in Baghdad and four hours of grueling interrogation, he led United States Special Operations Forces to Mr. Hussein's hole-in-the-ground hideaway just south of here.
Army officers said today that they had known for months that the informant was an important player in Mr. Hussein's Mafia-like organization. But it was only in the last several weeks that they came to realize just how crucial he really was to Mr. Hussein's survival.
"He would be someone I'd call his right arm," said Maj. Stan Murphy, the intelligence officer for the Fourth Infantry Division's First Brigade, which conducted the raid that captured Mr. Hussein. "In my mind, he was that important. He had real-time information."
Fourth Division commanders and intelligence officers refused to identify their star informant today, citing continuing operations. But interviews with several officers here over the past two days revealed new details about the informant and the detective work done by military intelligence analysts here to identify a complex web of relationships linked to Mr. Hussein.
"The tribal clans here are all based on interpersonal relationships, so what you have to do is build yourself a map of those relationships," said Lt. Col. Todd Megill, the chief intelligence officer for the Fourth Division.
The fruit of this analytical effort, first described Thursday in The Wall Street Journal, is a highly classified, color-coded chart that depicts Mr. Hussein's family and organizational tree. Centered in the chart in a yellow circle like a bull's-eye is Mr. Hussein. Links to other people radiate out, based on familial and functional ties. The names of those killed or captured are written in red.
The chart was started in late June with four names. Today, intelligence analysts are tracking more than 9,000 people, Major Murphy said. About 250 are important enough to earn a place on the chart's wiring diagram that is so mind-numbingly intricate that officers here simply call it the "Mongo Link."
It is the product of a 16-member intelligence team managed by Major Murphy. Analysts working at computer terminals in 12-hour shifts, round-the-clock, seven days a week, update computer databases with the latest information from Iraqi informants, Army patrols, electronic intercepts and other sources.
Given these dynamics, Major Murphy said, the chart is "a living, breathing document" that every day brings into clearer focus the complex family, tribal and functional connections that Mr. Hussein used to stay in power, survive when ousted, and, apparently, help direct the insurgency while at large.
The chart tracks five major extended families whose roots run deep in towns and villages with names like Abu Ajeel, Al Alam, Al Auja and Ad Dwar in a 12-mile-long corridor near Tikrit along the Tigris River.
From all this information, Major Murphy and other officers said, they have pieced together what they believe is the structure that supported Mr. Hussein during his life on the run.
Surrounding Mr. Hussein were five key lieutenants, whom Major Murphy called Mr. Hussein's "enablers." He would not identify them by name, but said they were all from the five families long closely associated with Mr. Hussein and had all served in senior positions in the security services, the military or government ministries.
Each of these five enablers had a specific job, Major Murphy said. One did logistics. One did planning. One did operations. One did financing. The fifth enabler was the informant, who acted as a kind of chief of staff. Only one of the men was on the original 200 most wanted list.
"They knew where he was and they were able to travel to him or meet him somewhere," Major Murphy said.
Each enabler issued orders to tiers of subordinates, who ultimately executed the instructions. There was, for instance, a cell that did nothing but arrange safe houses, food and transportation.
It was through this network that Mr. Hussein directed the insurgency, transmitting instructions through his lieutenants to cell leaders in cities like Samarra, Ramadi and Falluja, Major Murphy said.
"He would give very general guidance like, `Hey, I'd like to see more attacks,' " the major said. "His enablers would then go out to their various tiers below them as many as four to nine levels and give specific guidance, money and maybe weapons. Those tiers would go down their chain to the trigger-pullers."
What elevated the informant to such a lofty position is a bit unclear. He joined the Iraqi security apparatus as a young man, working his way up the rungs of power, perhaps inheriting a role from another trusted family elder. "He proved his worth in Saddam's eyes, and had continued to earn that trust," Major Murphy said.
When the intelligence team began mapping out the diagram, the informant and three other men were charter members. Soldiers conducted raids on the informant's farm twice in July, but he eluded capture and was still not put at the top of the pecking order. "I had him templated at a more local level, not at such a high level," Major Murphy said.
Throughout the summer and early fall, even as the hunt for Mr. Hussein seemed to hit a lull, the intelligence team continued to build its chart, sharpening its focus not only on the informant but on other leaders. By early October, two of the top enablers were seized and the information flow picked up. By early December, "the volume of information about him went through the roof," Major Murphy said.
The First Brigade intensified the hunt for the informant. Between 4 a.m. and 9 a.m. on Dec. 3, soldiers conducted five raids in Tikrit in search of their man. "This individual was the target," said Col. James B. Hickey, the brigade's commander.
The informant still evaded capture, but soldiers seized some of his aides responsible for financing rebel operations. The next night, this time in Samarra, about 25 miles to the south, the soldiers went hunting again. Again, they came up empty, but captured more lieutenants and $1.9 million in American currency.
On Dec. 7, in Baiji, north of Tikrit, soldiers missed the informant again. But on Dec. 12, American forces seized him in Baghdad as part of major roundup of insurgents. It took commanders in Baghdad several hours to realize whom they had nabbed, but the informant was quickly shipped to Tikrit for questioning on Saturday morning. By 8:30 p.m., Mr. Hussein was in custody.
Dogged special forces and brave grunts.....and computer nerds become heroes at last!
This is my computer. There are many like it, but this one is mine. My computer is my best friend. I must master it as I master my life...
Let us hope the electrodes are still attached to his testicles. I want to know how many ballot boxes his people stuffed in Florida, 2000.
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