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Exclusive
Defamation Suit By The Iraqi National Intelligence Agency After Funding Comments
By DANIEL W. SMITH 05/24/2009 00:57 AM ET
Photo: Daniel W. Smith

Head of the Iraqi National Congress and controversy magnet Ahmed Chalabi appeared in an Iraqi court on May 12. The hearing was at his own request, and was in response to a complaint made by the Iraqi National Intelligence Agency against him, claiming he had defamed the reputation of the INIA months ago, when he stated that its funding sources should be made public. Chalabi spoke of “international” backing and of the agency’s leader, General Mohammed Abdullah Shahwani, as a long-time CIA operative.

It is not disputed that the CIA hand-picked Shahwani to lead the organization when it was formed after the 2003 invasion of Iraq, nor that its funding came from the United States, at least at the time. Still, it is not a matter of official record in Iraq. Chalabi has his own well-known history working with American intelligence, and in the interview below, uses some such contact to back up his claims about Shahwani (including what sounded like an insinuation that Shahwani might have been a double agent for the Muhabarat, the feared Saddam-era secret police, while on the CIA's payroll - although Chalabi expressly denies having made any such accusation).

Chalabi’s continued forcing of the issue is interesting to note, as is Shahwani’s reaction to it. Here is Chalabi’s account of what happened.

Ahmed Chalabi:
At the beginning, when I questioned their source of funding, they became upset about that, and tried to make a criminal case of it. The Iraqi legal authority said there is no basis for this – it’s a civil case. They also objected when I said that the American influence in Iraqi Intelligence was preponderant and that there was some influence on the entire staff, and that this was not healthy for the United States, nor for Iraq. What we need is an intelligence service which is competent.

So, they made this civil case, and there was a lot of back and forth between our lawyers. I found it necessary that I appear in person, so I requested to go. So, I went to the court, and gave my evidence, which was built around four issues, which were supported by, basically, public documents.

The first was an interview given by the head of the intelligence service, General Shahwani, to al-Sabah Newspaper on the 28th of March, 2006. In response to the question “Do you have any financial backing from the government of Iraq?, he basically said, “I have not signed anything because there is no budget, and we need money.” So, where was he getting the money?

The next piece of evidence was from the Iraqi budget of 2009, which was the sum of money assigned to the intelligence service – over 100 million dollars. It was reported there that the staff of the intelligence service is 5,594 employees, with details of the different levels of positions. And this is, again, a public which discusses the Iraqi budget.

The third piece of evidence was that I requested the court to, if possible, get the transcripts of the statements of some accused people who were senior members of the Muhabarat (secret police under Saddam Hussein). If they could get it, it would shed some light on relevant issues. I was told of these, but I wanted to see if they could get it. They did not.

The fourth thing introduced into evidence was the book by George Tenet (At the Center of the Storm: My Years at the CIA 2007) in which he says that General Shahwani was introduced to the CIA in 1991, and he became key in forming networks for the agency in Iraq. It goes on to say that, unfortunately, some of the networks were exposed, and Shahwani’s three son’s were tortured and executed. Of course, there are over 35 other officers who were tortured and executed. It’s a lot of people. The issue was never investigated, but there is a great deal of evidence about this in the files of the previous intelligence service – about how information was gathered, about how double agents were used by the Muhabarat against the CIA, everything.

Tenet adds, later on, that they (the CIA) decided to form the Iraqi intelligence service, and General Shahwani was chosen to head it. He says, “We”. I also had a piece of evidence on that from my own meetings with the chief of station at the CIA. In March of 2004, he came to visit me, and said, “We are forming the Iraqi intelligence service, and we have chosen Shahwani to head it,” so I am personally familiar with that.

So, this is the evidence I gave to the court, and I also added that it is not slander or anything to be concerned about that Iraqi security agencies receive funding or assistance from the United States, because the Army and the police have received aid in excess of eight billion dollars. This is well known and public, and nobody takes them to task for it.

Why is there concern that there is any kind of implied funding? We need this service. It is the forefront in the battle against terrorism, against infiltrations, against suicide bombings. However, it is important that it is also in accordance with the democratic principals that we are working with, and that it should comply with its charter. My question is this: Is there something behind the secrecy? Is there some concern that operant things were done which would be in violation of Iraqi law and US law? I don’t know, but it is legitimate to ask.

In light of the charges of so-called “enhanced interrogation techniques” – did they happen in Iraq, too? We should know.

It is very strange that there is this fantastic, this phantasmagoric reaction to a simple inquiry. I think it would be worthwhile to look into this.


Exclusive
Intelligence Collected By Sahwa Leads to Joint Sahwa/Iraqi Army Raid
05/01/2009 00:13 AM ET
Google Earth image/Iraqslogger

Early this week in Yousufiya, a once notorious part of the so-called “triangle of death”, south of Baghdad, a joint force of Sahwa and Iraqi Army soldiers conducted an operation in which both large amounts of bomb-making material was seized, as well as a room used for torture and killings. The raid was based on intelligence gathered from the Sahwa forces, and yielded the arrest of three brothers (only the first names are available – Ali, Omar, and Saif), thought to be operatives for al-Qaeda in Iraq.

The basement of a farmhouse in Al-Karagol village was the claimed grisly scene of multiple murders, and it also served as an IED factory. The explosive devices found consisted of an oxygen tank, wrapped with just over 100 pounds of explosives, set up to be detonated by remote control. Over 1000 pounds of explosive material was also found buried below the room.

Daily Column
Al-Maliki Continues to Say That Insurgent Leader Is in Custody, Shows New Photos
By DANIEL W. SMITH 04/29/2009 01:50 AM ET
Today, there are two original stories about Iraq, one each in USA Today and the New York Times. Neither are big scoops, but both speak to issues that are very much in Iraqi news – the recent spate of suicide bombings, their Iranian victims, and the Iraqi government’s claims that it has captured Iraq’s number one insurgent.

From Baghdad
Aamer Madhani and Nadeem Majeed of USA Today write of the effect that two high-profile suicide bombings last week are having on the close and controversial connection between Iraq and Iran. Though the headline makes it sound as though there have been effects on Iraq-Iran relations, there actually haven’t been any official changes other than the Iranian government’s temporary ban on Iranian’s traveling to Iraq, the stated reason being a lack of security in Iraq.

One religious pilgrim that was currently visiting Iraq’s Shi’a shrines – which over 500,000 per year do – was not deterred from planning to go to Baghdad’s Imam Mousa al-Kazim shrine, which was bombed on Friday. Still, Madhani and Majeed write, crowds had thinned at the shrine, and businesses which depend on the religious tourism were suffering. "They want to tear the Shiites of Iraq and Iran apart," said Ridhaei, 64, of Tehran as he stood outside the Baghdad shrine.
Iran's evolving relationship with Iraq is one of the complicated aspects of the 6-year-old war in Iraq.

On one hand, Gen. Ray Odierno, the top U.S. commander in Iraq, and other military officers have accused Iran of being behind some of the most deadly attacks against American forces. But Iran is also one of Iraq's biggest trading partners and once served as the base for many of Iraq's Shiite political leaders in exile during Saddam Hussein's regime, when Sunnis dominated the country.
The New York Times’ Sam Dagher and Atheer Kakan report on the alleged capture of Abu Omar al-Baghdadi, the leader of the al-Qaeda-linked “Islamic State of Iraq”. There has been speculation about whether the government really has him or not. His capture and death have both been reported by the Iraqi government before, and doubt remains. On Tuesday, Iraqi defense officials released the first evidence so far, photos of a man who appears to be al-Baghdadi. US forces still say they cannot confirm his identity, and still seem to question his very existence.

There isn’t much to focus on other than the government statements on the arrest, and the government’s intel on the recent bombings in Baghdad, so Dagher and Kakan do just that, giving a sum-up of what has been said so far. They write that, in a BBC interview, Prime Minister al-Maliki (on an anti-Baathist kick these days) spoke of recent attacks being the result of coordination between al-Qaeda militants and Baathist outlaws, saying, “They agreed that Al Qaeda would carry out the suicide attacks, while the Baathists would do the remote-control bombs.” Afterwards, he was seen to be contradicted by Interior Ministry spokesman Maj. Gen. Abdul-Karim Khalaf.
General Khalaf said that a string of car bombs in Baghdad on April 6 that killed about 40 people were the work of a Qaeda cell that included a police officer in Baghdad and that Baathists were not involved; in a statement shortly after the bombings, Mr. Maliki blamed the Baathists, in conjunction with Al Qaeda. Another Interior Ministry official said the police officer was captured while trying to get a car bomb into the Dora neighborhood of Baghdad on April 9.

Extremist Web sites have denied the arrest, according to the SITE Intelligence Group, which monitors claims and other statements by extremist groups. Reacting to the government’s announcement on Tuesday, a posting on one Internet bulletin board popular with jihadis warned Mr. Baghdadi’s followers to refrain from contacting him so that their communications would not be intercepted.

Washington Post, Christian Science Monitor, Wall Street Journal, no Iraq coverage.

Comments on the US Papers roundup are welcome at ds@iraqslogger.com


Only on Slogger
US Forces Still Not Confirming that Iraqi Forces Have Captured al-Baghdadi
04/27/2009 6:22 PM ET
Maj. Gen. Qassim Atta
Photo: Yousif al-Timimi
Maj. Gen. Qassim Atta

*UPDATE - On Tuesday, a new photo of someone who appears to be al-Baghdadi in custody was released on Tuesday at a press conference held by Atta.

Appearing on government-sponsored Al-Iraqiya satellite television channel on Monday, Defense Ministry spokesman Mohammed al-Askari said that the identity of a man captured by Iraqi forces last week was “confirmed” as Abu Omar al-Baghdadi. He is said to be the leader of the Islamic State of Iraq, a group of insurgent groups within Iraq, among them al-Qaeda in Iraq.

It was unclear what new information made this confirmation any more confirmed than the ones uttered in previous days by security officials and even Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki.

Iraqslogger spoke to Security Spokesman Maj. Gen. Qassim Atta. When asked for details proving al-Baghdadi’s identity, he instead spoke of the mission which allegedly snared the insurgent.bt bt "Al-Qaeda leader Omar al-Baghdadi was swiftly arrested in a successful mission which was based on solid intelligence. Not even one round was shot during the mission that was executed by the Iraqi Army and other Iraqi security forces.” He added, “There was no American army involved in the operation at all.” When again pressed for proof of his identity, Atta said “The investigation is ongoing.”

The United States military has not confirmed al-Baghdadi’s identity, and though usually quick to tout any and all successes of Iraqi security forces, has been quiet.

After the lack of confirmation from the US side was brought up, Atta said, “Well, I’m giving you the Iraqi point of view. We have arrested this man, and we have issued an official statement. We cannot give out more information until the investigation is completed.”

Baghdad Buzz
Theories of Car Bombings, Warnings of More, Connection to Diyala Council?
04/07/2009 6:33 PM ET
Ten Cars
On Tuesday evening, the day after six car bombs went off in Iraq’s capital, government security spokesmen went on television and radio in full force, warning Baghdad residents to keep on the lookout for suspicious vehicles.

Intelligence gathered by Iraqi security forces, they said, made it clear that there were exactly ten cars fit with explosives around the city. A source for the intelligence was not offered. Baghdadians noticing unfamiliar cars parking in their neighborhoods or with strangely acting drivers were urged to call authorities.

All day Tuesday, strict rules were enforced, restricting street side parking. Even where drivers were usually allowed to park and quickly run into stores to buy cigarettes, police and other security forces demanded that cars keep going. On Tuesday, another car bomb went off in Baghdad’s al-Kadhamiya district, and a suicide bomber stuck in Fallujah.

Rumors
Many theories of who was responsible for the attacks were going around the city. Monday was one day before the anniversary of the founding of the Baath Party, three days before the anniversary of the fall of Baghdad in 2003. It is also just as reconciliation efforts between the government and Baathists have gone extremely sour, as hundreds of Iraqi detainees (many thought to be linked to al-Qaeda, the Mahdi Army and others) are being released from US-run prisons, and lastly, in the middle of a crackdown by the government on several Sahwa leaders. Any and all of the groups above are being talked about as the culprits.

Another theory told to Iraqslogger from a source within the Sahwa forces in Diyala province was that Monday’s explosions were connected to a police raid of Diyala’s council building in Baqouba, preventing them from holding the first meeting of the new council. The Sahwa had spoken within their ranks of attacks, and members had possibly warned authorities. It is not known whether such a warning was the cause of the raids, or whether knowledge of the raids could have set the plan for the bombings into motion. It was reported that charges in the arrests made at the council meeting were connected to officials giving support to “armed groups”.

On Tuesday, Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki declared that those loyal to the Baath party were responsible for Monday’s explosions, and said they were working with al-Qaeda in Mesopotamia. Also on Tuesday, a recording of Saddam’s former deputy Izzat Ibrahim al-Douri was played on al-Jazeera, calling for attacks on the government.

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