BAGHDAD, Iraq – The capture of Saddam Hussein (search) is providing intelligence that has led to the arrests of key figures in the anti-U.S. insurgency and a clearer picture of what role the ousted dictator played, a U.S. general told The Associated Press on Monday.
The intelligence gleaned, some of it from Saddam's document-filled briefcase, has also given the U.S. military a far clearer picture of the guerrillas' command-and-control network in Baghdad, and has confirmed the existence of rebel cells whose presence was previously only suspected, Brig. Gen. Mark Hertling (search) of the U.S. Army's 1st Armored Division (search) said in an interview with AP.
The division's intelligence analysts were able to match the intelligence from Saddam against its database of insurgent suspects, Hertling said. As a result, the division was busy making arrests and interrogating prisoners all night Sunday and early Monday.
"Some were things we already knew about and we just needed the intel to go after them. I think we'll get some significant intelligence over the next couple of days," Hertling said. "We've already been able to capture a couple of key individuals here in Baghdad."
The surge in new detail was giving U.S. commanders evidence that Saddam played a moral and financial role in the anti-U.S. insurgency, Hertling said. Saddam had $750,000 when U.S. Army raiders found him Saturday hiding in a hole dug into a farmyard near his hometown of Tikrit, north of Baghdad.
"I'm sure he was giving some guidance to some key figures in this insurgency," Hertling said. "When you take down the mob boss, you don't know how much is going to come of it."
U.S. intelligence and military officials say their first priority is to focus on the resistance and the whereabouts of Izzat Ibrahim al-Douri and other remaining senior regime officials and insurgent leaders.
Since Saddam's capture, U.S. forces have taken into custody an Iraqi general who is not on the American list of 55 most-wanted members of the former regime, according to a senior U.S. defense official. The official did not disclose the general's name.
It is unclear how much knowledge Saddam has of the insurgency. U.S. forces said they found no communications equipment, maps or other evidence of a guerrilla command center at Saddam's hiding place. Also, intelligence officials say they believe he has been too concerned with survival to serve much more than an inspiration to the resistance.
Saddam was being interrogated at an undisclosed location in Iraq.
"He's answering willingly to the questions that are being asked of him," U.S. Army Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez, the top military commander in Iraq, said in a televised interview on Monday. He said Saddam wasn't "freely giving us information yet, but we'll continue to work toward that end."
Saddam greeted his initial interrogation with a mix of sarcasm and defiance, U.S. officials in Washington said Monday, discussing the questioning only on the condition of anonymity.
The former dictator has complied with simple commands to stand up and sit down, but officials said he has not provided much useful information on the guerrilla war or other matters.
Some of his responses are regarded as an attempt to rationalize and justify his actions, the officials said.
Saddam has denied to his interrogators that his regime had weapons of mass destruction and ties to Al Qaeda.
He has also denied knowledge of the fate of Scott Speicher, the Navy pilot who disappeared over Iraq during the first Gulf War. Sen. Pat Roberts, the chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, said Saddam denied taking any prisoners when asked about Speicher.
Saddam's denials match those of his deposed regime.
Asked about the insurgency, Hertling said the guerrillas, who show signs of running short on cash, have begun turning to another tactic: kidnapping to compel victims' families to attack U.S. troops.
Hertling said the division's earlier theories on the rebel movement's leadership had proven accurate.
Last month, Hertling and Brig. Gen. Martin Dempsey, 1st Armored's commander, said there appeared to be eight to 12 guerrilla bands attacking targets in and around Baghdad, with a central financing structure and only a rough command that advised cells when to attack.
Hertling said the cells' relative independence made them tougher to root out, and allowed them to press attacks even after Saddam's capture -- as they did Sunday and Monday, with deadly bombings in Baghdad.
"It's proven we were very close to the mark," Hertling said.
But Saddam's capture won't help U.S. troops in battles with guerrillas who were never loyal to the former dictator, such as religious extremists and foreign fighters, Hertling said.
In Washington, a military analyst suggested U.S. and Iraqi authorities could offer Saddam lenient treatment in return for his appearing on television and telling resistance fighters to lay down their arms. Such tactics proved effective in defusing rebel movements in Turkey and Peru after the capture of guerrilla leaders, said Michael O'Hanlon of the Brookings Institution.
Hertling said the idea of granting leniency to Saddam would be an unpopular with U.S. troops and many Iraqis.
"I'm not sure I'd agree with a thing like that for a guy who's killed hundreds of thousands of people and buried them in mass graves," Hertling said. "It doesn't ascribe to the kind of values we're fighting for."
Richard Perle, a Pentagon adviser and an intellectual architect of the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, said he doubted Saddam's words could slow the attacks.
"The attacks are coming from others who were part of his killing machine and who also face trial," Perle said in an e-mail interview with AP.
Families of kidnap victims have already been pressured into attacking members of the 1st Armored Division on patrol in Baghdad, Hertling said.
"They're recruiting guys to plant the [roadside bombs] or drop them alongside the road."
On Friday, 1st Armored foiled one such kidnap-attack, when an Iraqi man appeared at the gate of a U.S. base complaining that he was being forced to detonate a roadside bomb to secure his son's release.
"They told me they'll kill my son unless I kill some Americans," Hertling quoted the Iraqi man as saying. The man carried an electric garage door opener wired as a remote-control detonator. U.S. troops followed the man's instructions and found a specially wired 120 mm mortar round on a street near the base, he said.
The man then escorted troops to a nearby house where American soldiers arrested three kidnappers and freed the son, the Army said. The three men then led the troops to the bomb maker.