Published December 15, 2003
WASHINGTON – First, find out whether Saddam Hussein knows of any impending guerrilla attacks planned against U.S. troops or Iraqis.
Then ask where Izzat Ibrahim al-Douri (search) and other remaining senior regime officials and insurgent leaders are hiding. Get Saddam to paint a picture of the resistance — if he knows much about it, which some U.S. officials doubt.
Down the road, when his interrogators have perhaps established a rapport with him, or perhaps even broken his will to resist questions, try to answer the many unresolved questions about Iraq's efforts to develop chemical, biological and nuclear weapons and ties to terrorists.
U.S. intelligence and military officials laid out these priorities Sunday for their interrogation of the ousted Iraqi president, believed to be under way already.
During the arrest of Saddam, U.S. troops discovered "descriptive written material of significant value," one U.S. commander in Iraq told The Associated Press on condition of anonymity. He declined to say whether the material related to the anti-coalition resistance.
Although Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez (search), the top U.S. military commander in Iraq, described Saddam as talkative and cooperative, other officials shied away from suggesting that he has provided any useful intelligence in the hours since his capture.
"He has not been cooperative in terms of talking or anything like that," Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said in a TV interview.
Another official, speaking on condition of anonymity, described Saddam's demeanor as sullen, not overtly defiant but sarcastic.
The immediate hope of American officials is that Saddam will have a wealth of knowledge on the guerrilla war being waged against the U.S.-led occupation force and their Iraqi allies, officials said.
It's a race against the clock since his information grows more outdated by the hour, and other regime leaders and cells change locations or take other security precautions to avoid capture.
It is unclear what evidence, if any, troops uncovered of Saddam's possible operational control over the resistance. Officials announced they found no communications equipment, maps or other evidence of a guerrilla command center at Saddam's hiding place.
"Given the location and circumstances of his capture, it makes it clear that Saddam was not managing the insurgency, and that he had very little control or influence," said Sen. Jay Rockefeller (search), D-W.Va., vice chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee. "That is significant and disturbing because it means the insurgents are not fighting for Saddam, they're fighting against the United States."
The troops that caught Saddam found $750,000 in U.S. currency nearby, military officials said. It was unclear whether that money was to be used to finance the resistance.
In the longer term, intelligence officials hope Saddam will put to rest questions about the Bush administration's stated reason going to war — weapons of mass destruction and ties to terrorists.
Thus far, the hunt has not come up with much that would validate the prewar assertions by Bush and the U.S. intelligence community that Saddam had such weapons ready to unleash on short notice.
Perhaps Saddam could point to a hidden stockpile of weapons, if any exist — although none of his followers have. He may say what many of his former underlings have stated: Iraq didn't have any weapons and only low-level research and development programs.
His information may even be inaccurate. Some Iraqi scientists have said Saddam was misled by fearful minions into believing that Iraq's weapons programs were more advanced than they actually were.
The success of the interrogation depends on the skills and methods of the interrogators, who must divine aspects of Saddam's psychology and figure out the best way to keep him talking.
"They're going to use every interrogation method in the book, short of torture," said Vince Cannistraro, a former CIA counterterrorism chief. "What are they going to get from him? He's not going to admit he has done all these horrible things. He's going to say he was firm and fair."
Interrogators might initially appeal to him simply by making him comfortable, Cannistraro said.
"The guy's been hiding out for eight months. He must be completely depressed. Look at the way the guy's living. He was in palaces. Now he's living in a hole."