WASHINGTON – It might take money and hardball interrogation techniques, or perhaps just the offer of a good night's sleep, to get Iraqis in U.S. custody to spill details about Saddam Hussein and his alleged arsenal of vile weapons.
Intelligence analysts say that with the threat of Saddam lifted, most Iraqi soldiers, political leaders, scientists and others being held will figure they have little to lose from telling all.
By talking, the captives might gain freedom, relocation, a new job or leniency in prosecution, the analysts said. There will be less dealmaking, though, with Iraqis suspected of committing war crimes or brutal deeds before or after the war.
"A lot of these individuals are not interested in dying for their cause," said Steven Aftergood of the American Federation of Scientists. "If they provide information, we might provide leniency for criminal activity. We might provide financial rewards. We might provide assistance in relocation.
"So there are deals to be made that could serve the interests of both sides."
In recent days, coalition forces have captured individuals U.S. officials are eager to debrief:
— Samir Abd al-Aziz al-Najim, the Baath Party Regional Command chairman for east Baghdad.
— Two of Saddam's half-brothers, former Interior Minister Watban Ibrahim Hasan, also former head of military intelligence; and Barzan Ibrahim Hasan, former head of Iraq's secret police.
— Muhammad Abbas, known as Abu Abbas, a Palestinian terrorist convicted by an Italian court in his absence for plotting the Achille Lauro cruise-ship hijacking in 1985 in which an American was killed.
— Lt. Gen. Amer al-Saadi, Saddam's alleged point man on weapons, a man U.S. officials believe has a wealth of information on chemical, biological, nuclear and long-range missile efforts.
— Jaffar al-Jaffer, a British-educated physicist dubbed "the father of Iraq's nuclear weapons program" by U.N. inspectors.
— Abd al-Khaliq Abd al-Ghafar, Saddam's higher education and scientific research minister.
In November, the Bush administration offered to protect Iraqi scientists who cooperated with U.N. weapons inspectors. But by the end of their four months in Iraq, inspectors had privately interviewed only 14 of the 500 scientists they had wanted to question.
Intelligence experts said the United States might have to offer these scientists gainful employment in America to stop them from drifting into employment in countries unfriendly to the United States.
CIA and military officials decline to discuss interrogative methods, but say they do not use or condone torture, which is against international law.
U.S. techniques to elicit information from prisoners of war, for example, include gaining the subject's trust, flattering him, disorienting him with a battery of questions and playing on his fears and desires, experts said.
"To convince them that it's in their best interest you offer them deals. There are ways to get the information," said retired Air Force Lt. Col. Rick Francona, who spent 20 years in intelligence, much of the time in the Middle East. "Isolation is probably the easiest to do because after three or four days, you want to talk to somebody."
In 1988, CIA operative Dick Stolz told a Senate panel that the agency counted the following techniques as coercive but falling short of the definition of torture: forcing the subject to stand at attention or sit on an uncomfortable stool for long periods of time, sleep and sound deprivation, isolation and climate changes.
One former CIA official testified that interrogation techniques changed after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
"This is a highly classified area," Cofer Black, former director of the CIA's Counterterrorist Center, told a Senate hearing a year after the attacks. "All I want to say is that there was 'before' 9/11 and 'after' 9/11. After 9/11, the gloves came off."
Among the techniques used to extract information from Al Qaeda members captured in Afghanistan was turning them over to other Arab intelligence services, which use harsher methods than U.S. interrogators are allowed to use, said Vince Cannistraro, a former CIA counterterrorism chief.
With Saddam's regime in rubble, it won't be necessary to be heavy-handed, he said.
"We generally don't use force," Cannistraro said. "They use interrogation techniques like sleep deprivation, but they can't go far beyond that."
Jed Babbin, a deputy undersecretary of defense in the first Bush administration, said many of the Al Qaeda prisoners in Afghanistan, although ideologically committed, are "singing like canaries" under interrogation pressure.
He said he thinks interrogators should be able to use truth serum to extract information from terrorists — although not for Iraqi detainees from the war.
"If we find one of these clowns — I'm talking about the terrorists now — and we have any reason to believe that he has current operational information, we should be shooting him so full of sodium amatol that he thinks he's talking to Allah," said Babbin.