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The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

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Pinpointing Saddam’s location

Just last week, CBS News anchorman Dan Rather scored a journalistic coup. He managed to penetrate the web of secrecy surrounding Saddam Hussein and secure a televised interview with the dictator. Beside the fact that Rather’s interview was primarily used by Saddam to spout propaganda, it also meant the Iraqi dictator had to be in one place for a period of several hours. His location could possibly be pinpointed by those with an interest in such things, such as U.S. intelligence services. The fact that these services claim that they could not do so is either a dereliction of duty or a major discrepancy in technological capabilities. Maybe learning Saddam’s location is not as important a priority as it should be.
As the leader of a potential enemy of the United States, knowledge of Saddam’s whereabouts is a necessity. In fact, the need for such information has been apparent since 1991, during the Gulf War. But in the past 12 years, such information has proved impossible to find.
In a 1998 Washington Post article, then-CIA Director Robert M. Gates (now the Texas A&M president) said officials in the first Bush administration would light a candle every night during the Gulf War hoping Saddam might be killed by chance. He also said that on the eve of Operation Desert Fox seven years after the Gulf War, the odds were about the same for Saddam’s demise. It is unacceptable that the CIA and other intelligence agencies had no better idea about Saddam’s whereabouts than they did in 1991.
Even today, these agencies still seem to have only a vague idea of his location. At worst, he might be in Europe and they don’t know it. But there are others who seem to know, or at least know how to find out — people such as Dan Rather. According to an article on BBC.com, Rather used former U.S Attorney General Ramsey Clark as a liaison with Saddam. Clark met with the Iraqi leader the Sunday before the interview. So it appears that at least some people with connections to the U.S. government know how to find Saddam.
But there are other reasons for the United States to know Saddam’s location beyond trying to bomb his bunker. The United States has legitimate security and policy reasons for knowing Saddam’s location and should use or develop the means to find such information. Developing the ability to gather such information can also aid in the war against al-Qaida. The primary use of information regarding Saddam’s location would be for military purposes; in the event of a war to eliminate his command facilities, if not bomb his exact location.
Even if the United States does not go to war, such information serves a purpose. If Saddam were to be deposed or exiled, he might try to slip away in secrecy. Knowing Saddam’s whereabouts would be vital to preventing him from escaping prosecution or from causing trouble elsewhere. A secondary use of this intelligence might be to use his location to uncover the positions of others close to him, like leaders of Saddam’s B’aath Party or his son Qusay, who, according to BBC.com, is now in control of the Republican Guards. Preventing their escape, especially in the event of war, would also be important to securing the future of a post-Saddam Iraq.
But the skills necessary to penetrate the “concentric levels of security” that surround Saddam, according to Janes.com, rely heavily on human intelligence, an area in which U.S. intelligence services are at their weakest. According to theatlantic.com, former CIA officer Reuel Gerecht, in an article titled The Counterterrorist Myth, said the CIA has very few operatives from Middle Eastern backgrounds. Without any agents who can even try to get close to a secular dictator such as Saddam, is it any wonder that the United States has no hope of predicting what al-Qaida is doing?
For too long, the United States has let its ability to obtain valuable information from intercepted signals obscure the fact that it has had very poor human intelligence. Against the Soviets, who were a centralized and a vast enemy, this wasn’t so much of a problem. But against smaller or decentralized enemies, such as Iraq and al-Qaida, the lack of people on the ground becomes painfully apparent.
President George W. Bush and Congress are both responsible for this state of affairs, especially after Sept. 11. The United States doesn’t need any more foreign policy surprises like having Saddam pop up in Syria. The time has come for the U.S. intelligence community to realize its shortcomings and correct them.

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