tv Declassified CNN June 26, 2016 7:00pm-8:01pm PDT
that was him in my dream, telling me he was okay. and that's what got me straight. that's what straightened me back out, to know that he was okay. as a former fbi agent and chairman of the house committee, i had all 16 of of our agencies. i had access to classified information gathered by our operatives. people who risk ted everything r the united states and our families. we don't know their names or the real stories from the people who lived the pressure and the fear until now. >> every military force on the ground was looking for saddam hussein. >> i get orders that i'm going
to go join this task force i'd never heard of. i didn't know. >> you can't sit back behind walls and expect the information to come to you. we would go out and get it. >> we would get information that was bad information and innocent people get killed on both sides. >> we knew there was a degree of professionalism we were facing, and it was deadly. >> we could tell when someone was lying, and we'd confront them with those lies. >> everybody you talk to has a piece of information that you may not have known would become val unl later on. >> time was rung ouning out, bu would not stop looking for saddam. ♪
♪ saddam hussein and his sons must leave iraq within 48 hours. their refusal to do so will result in military conflict. >> under the president's order, coalition forces began the ground war to disarm iraq and liberate the iraqi people. >> operation iraqi freedom, our effort to dismantle the iraqi regime is fully under way. >> it started with the airstrikes in march. the ground campaign began late
march/early april. i brief telieve the last time w saddam was april 9th in the infamous clip of him moving down the streets in downtown baghdad. we pulled down the statue of saddam. but in order to have a decisive military victory, we needed the real saddam. we needed saddam hussein. the first brigade was a large unit with thousands of soldiers, and the mission of the brigade was establishing stability. the challenge to that was dealing with the physical reality of an armed insurgency. >> the u.s. military estimates there are between 4,000 and 5,000 mid-level ba'athist
fighte fighters. [ bleep ] >> three american soldiers were killed. >> tame, it was part of our duty to assist the special on races comman -- operations. >> they have identified a list of key regime leaders, 55 individuals who may be pursued, captured or killed. >> this forced us to go after the most dangerous target and do it at zero to minimal casualty because of their skills. these are extraordinarily gifted and trained men. you did not want to be the objective of their attention. >> in 2003, the organization i was assigned to was deployed to iraq to hunt down and capture the deck of cards, the priority being saddam hussein. >> what was your job? >> going out, conducting raids.
sometimes it was going after people in the deck of cards. sometimes it was going after people that were known associates of the deck of cards. >> you can't be on the offense unless you understand the enemy. but you can't just sit back behind walls and expect the information to come to you. you've got to go out and get it. >> we would get information that was bad information. it would identify a location, there would be nothing there, the wrong individual, the individual was someone that someone else disliked for whatever reason. it's frustrating, because you just destroyed someone's house. they're sitting there sleep eis. people wanted to defend their families. they may not be guilty of anything. and then innocent people get killed on both sides. the amount of detainees we were pulling off target, we needed someone that could conduct the interrogations to insure we were getting information we wachtsed.
>> in 2003, i was a staff sergeant in the united states army. i was a trained troelgter, but i had never really conducted a real, live interrogation. the war's going on for three months, and i get orders that i'm going to go join this task force i'd never heard of. i didn't know, but i packed my bags and they flew me to tikrit. and i am picked up by these soldiers with beards. soldiers don't have beards. we didn't know eric, didn't train with him. he didn't really know what was going on on targets. initially, it was a bumpy road. >> jeff was not happy to see me. jeff wasn't happy to see anybody. jeff was not a trained interrogator. jeff's a soldier. he had prisoners he wanted
interrogated so he and i drove to this u.s. army prison. there were hundreds of prisoners. brought the first prisoner down. we sat him down. and jeff looks at me, and he goes, so how are we going to do this? i was a new interrogator. i did not have a plan. but jeff and i looked at each other, and we started asking questions. declassified. untold stories of american spies is brought to you by lexus. turn every ride into a thrill ride with the lexus performance line. turn every ride, into a thrill ride.
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i was a trained interrogator that was responsible for tracking down everyone on the deck of cards specifically saddam hussein. i went to tikrit, his hometown, but i had never actually conducted a real, live interrogation. i didn't really feel like i knew what i was doing at all. but i learned very quickly. >> in the beginning, we would go in the room with eric, the translator and the detainee. and eric would begin questioning and talking to the individual. >> as the interrogator, i worked for a commander. i'd bring in the information that helps him make better decisions and to get that information i was learning how to get inside the minds of these prisoners and break them down.
when i talk about breaking a prisoner, it has nothing to do with physical contact of any kind. it has to do with breaking their previous decision of not cooperating with me to provide me information, and now they choose to provide me that information. that's a break. >> as questions were being asked and answered, every now and then i might pass him a note to highlight on a topic that was brought up. or tell him the individual was lying, based on what happened on the operation. >> jeff and i were figuring out how to ask good questions. we could tell when someone was lying, and we were beginning to confront them with those lies. >> we were able to follow each other mentally without talking. he knew what i needed. so yeah, we worked real well together. >> we'd interrogate all night and then maybe at 4:00, or 5:00 in the morning we'd sit down and
we would talk about it, and we'd talk about it nonstop. >> and it became our big piece of day to day life of using those interrogations to conduct operations. >> u.s. troops carried out predawn raids in saddam hugh same sain's hometown. >> by september, jeff and i have gone beyond just determining the guilt or incennocence of the prisoners that we brought in. i was trying to get information that would lied to a nurnts member, a current bad guy or a current regime official. >> did anybody think that saddam hussein was in tikrit at this time? >> nobody thought saddam was in tikrit, because we'd looked through the overwhelm towhole t. we'd been on hundreds of thousands of raids. we'd been through all the houses, and he wasn't there.
>> we kind of put finding saddam not so much on the back burner, but we got tired of chasing santa claus. and what i mean by that is you would always have reporting that saddam was here. saddam was there. so instead of looking for that santa claus, we started looking for what we knew to be facts. >> the current insurgency was what i saw killing our soldiers. and that, to me, like, we're going after the real bad guys. >> the u.s. calls this operation iraqi freedom, the war of liberation, they say, to make iraq's people free. commanders acknowledge, the resistance has been unexpectedly fierce. [ gunfire ] >> by this phase of the campaign, we tactically are doing everything we'd ever been trained to do to defeat this insurgency. the way they were using land
mines and ieds was tackically correct. so we knew there was a degree of professionalism we were facing and it was deadly. >> the iraqi battle space was a complex environment, learning the human terrain was as important if not more important than understanding the pfister ra -- physical terrain. >> the key was to maintain a relationship with the local inhabitants. spend time with them, gather information. >> every individual can give you something you didn't know. that was a trick eric figured out. that everybody you talk to has a piece of information that you may not have known, that if you can store it, it can become value later. >> there's no way to know how critical all the details are that i get from interrogations. but i do remember them all. you never know till much later what details really matter.
jeff and i worked for a couple months, and these prisoners start providing this information, and i started to get a feel for tikrit. and i realize, every person has a life, and they have a family, and they live in a neighborhood, and they're part of a tribe, and they go to a certain mosque. that's like this family's kids go to this elementary school. that means they're going to have connections to other families that go to that elementary school. it all ties in, so when the local iraqi police say hey, we got this guy, a month ago we would have said, so what? now we're like, who, that's a cousin of so-and-so, bring him in. >> were we catching saddam? no, but were we getting closer in painting a picture of how to get to him? yes. we were getting pieces of a puzzle that let everybody understand that nobody is going to know where he was until we found the right people.
>> after several hundred interrogations, these prisoners, they started talking about their insurgency groups. it started popping up the name of al musslid. we were interested in this al muslid. they brought in this guy, naus erschl musid. he was a bodyguard for saddam. he breaks and lays out saddam's inner circle for us. >> saddam had a huge security apparatus surrounding him. multiple layers, and all of these bodyguards played a role. >> he laid out 28 out of the 32
inner circle body guards for saddam hussein, and this al muslid group, we started to realize, maybe it's not just about the insurgency, but saddam hussein in the previous leadership structure. >> in the middle east, tribal and family relationships are paramount to how business gets done. the muslid clan was in close alliance with saddam's family. many of us compared this to what hollywood would show as an organized crime gang, where it's built around key families and familiar lal relationships. so we used that model to talk about it, and indeed, that's what we saw. >> we realized these individuals were in and around the tikrit area, they were close to saddam at one time. so we assumed think would at
least know key things in how to find saddam. that was the first time i thought we may have something. everything you're pretty good at now, you were once, well, pretty bad at. but you learned. and got better. at experian, we believe it's the same with managing your credit. you may not be good at it now. but that's okay. because credit isn't just a score.
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and how long will he remain embarrassing, unfinished business for the united states, like many of their other most wanted. >> i remember seeing black and white portraits of saddam hussein in the living rooms of people's homes, still displaying loyalty. that was an indicator to me that they sensed saddam was still out there. >> every military force on the ground was looking for saddam hussein. but eric and i realized nobody was going to know where he was until we found the right people. >> in order to find saddam hussein, we were going after this insurgency, but we didn't know who was in charge of the insurgency. but jeff and i were starting to see a lot of these al muslids who were involved in the insurgency. they brought in a guy nasr yasin al muslid. he breaks and lays out 28 out of the 32 inner circle body guards
for saddam. halegal ibrahim. all from this al muslid family. i'm thinking who's running this insurgency? and i started roreealize, it wa all connected to this family, these al muslids. so now, if we find anybody who's related, named al musslit, that's where we start feocusing. we were al mus llit focussed. we really running, and then it comes into early october. and jeff's leaving. >> my rotation was up. we were replaced by another element from the organization. and they come in and we flew
home. >> as soon as the new team showed up, i was introduced to their intelligence analyst. the analyst was there to collect information that could lead to the capture of high-value targets. and i told this team, listen, there's a team of body guards, and i think they're very powerful, controlling this insurgency, so what i started doing is charting my information out on pieces of paper. now the focal point was the al muslids. the new analysts loved charts. he'd go to the computer and put it all into a computerized-linked diagram. and two weeks into the new team being there, the new commander, bam-bam says eric, can we go arrest these guys? i thought you'd never ask. the team started going on raids. to get these al muslids.
we were going after my bad guys now. and we told the guards, anybody says the word "al muslid", call us. and november 7, get a call. from the informants that we know where of rodman is, rodman al muslid. and i deemed him so important because he was so close to saddam during the regime. and we captured the guy. but a team from baghdad came in helicopters. and they flew him straight to baghdad, so i never set eyes on radman. but when they captured radman, they captured his 18-year-old son as well, i referred to him as baby radman.
they said you've got 48 hours with this kid and then you're releasing him. being a troegtser, you've got t to have a strategy. i'm not trying to scare them, i'm not try being to intimidate them. i'm trying to influence them to provide me the intelligence which is inside their brain. they don't know what they know. so i started talking to baby radman. he was very defensive of his dad, so i would press, press, press on his dad, talk, talk, talk about his dad. and then i would go, does your dad have any brothers? and this kid looked at it as a release valve, like oh, yeah, talking about something other than my dad, and we went through every single brother. and one of the brothers that we talked about was mohammed ibrahim.
mohammed ibrahim al muslid. i said i want this guy, will you help me find him? he said yeah, my uncle always has these guys he's with. i said who? he said a business partner and his driver. and i realized. i said all right. here we go. so i went to bam-bam. i said, listen, i know mohammad ibrahim's driver is not wanted, but i have to have him arrested. so bam-bam arrested the driver of mohammad ibrahim. so i start interrogating latif. and he said why do you want my boss? and i said because he's running the insurgency. and then he said, you have no
idea what you're talking about. he said mohammad ibrahim's never ordered a single attack. he said there's only one person that orders the attacks. there's only one person that's ever ordered the attacks, and it's the president. saddam hussein. i knew at that moment we were hunting saddam. i knew we finally, really hunting him. and we had a chance. i knew we finally, really music: "sex machine" by james brown ♪
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army bulldozers are smashing saddam hussein's larger than life portrait in an effort to loosen his political grip. >> why is it so hard to find him? >> he had a lot of years to prepare, and he has a very big country to hide in. >> saddam had built this cult around himself, that he was the symbol of eerky resistance. and in the end, he was the key high-value target. >> so my interrogation with mohammad ibrahim's driver had gone on several hours, but eventually, he broke, and he told me, there's only one person that orders the attacks, and that's the president. and that's what they call saddam, the president. i knew at that moment we were hunting saddam. i knew we were finally, really
hunting him, and we had a chance. i felt very strongly that saddam hussein was in the area. it was saddam's hometown. i felt like he was in contact with mohammad ibrahim, and mohammad ibrahim might be a route to saddam. but i'm running out of time to find mohammad ibrahim, because my tour's up. i was supposed to be there for six months, now it's the beginning of december, and i was about to leave. my flight was leaving the country on december 13. and i didn't care. i'm not stopping. they didn't know home ibrahim's exacti location, but he gave us several locations for the safe house. it was go time. >> and that made sense, because the enemy we dealing with then was networked across the countryside. from one family group to
forefamiliforanother family group. and sometimes you would gather information in the most unlikely places. >> we conducted five simultaneous raids on all the mohammad ibrahim locations. he was not located at any of them. he wasn't there. but mohammad ibrahim's 20-year-old son was there. so i start interrogating muhammed ibrahim about his dad, and he tells me, my dad was at the house two hours before y'all came. and ei'm done. i'm done. who's supposed to know where he went? who, who, who would know? i've got everyone leading up to
a moment in time, and in a two-hour gap he's gone. we'd exhausted every target to find muhammed ibrahim. i was hoping the son could give me his next spot. so i'm just talking to him, looking for a lead. i'm looking for a clue. and i talk to him all night. i mean all night. i can't think of anything. i'm talking. i'm talking. i'm talking. then i asked him, what's your dad do for fun? what are his hobbies? and he said they go fishing. and i said where do they fish? he said in samarra. i said where? he said they just built this pond. and i said why would they build a pond? he goes, i don't know. they just built a pond. and it came to me. august. jeff and i are interrogating
saddam hussein's cook. >> the individual was picked up on a hit, nobody knew who he was, during the process of the conducting interrogations, it was identified that he was a former chef. and one of the things we'd learned in that conversation was every time saddam showed up, he cooked a special meal. and we asked what that special meal was, and it was muskut. it's a fish that's raised in fish farms in iraq. the kid said, they had this fish pond built in the middle of a war? why would you do that? unless you're stocking fish for the guy who can't be going to the store to get fish. at that point, it wasn't just a
hunch. we had to go to that pond. headquarters in baghdad is going to raid the pish pofish pond, as convinced we were getting close to saddam, but to get him i have to have muhammed ibrahim. night comes, and i was told, whatever happened at the fish pond, that would be my last night in at thtikrit. they conducted the raid and captured two guys. 20 minutes later, bam-bam calls back on the radio. and he says it's a dry hole. he says we got two fishermen. and they'd told me. they said, listen, you're done, you're going back to baghdad for your last few days, and i knew time was running out. but i would not stop looking for saddam.
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>> i was suppose the to be there for six months, my assignment was almost up, but i didn't care. i would not stop looking for saddam. >> i called one of the interrogators in baghdad and said don't let the fishermen go, i'm coming tonight. i needed to prove what they were. there's no why two guys are sticking around in the middle of nowhere next to a fish pond, fishing at 1:00 in the morning. that night i started my interrogations of the fishermen. started talking to the first one. sort of seemed kind of normal, actually, i was kind of worried. i start talking to the second fisherman, and i realize, these two fishermen have two different stories. and i went back aforth and turnd
them against each other. and one of them finally says, i work for muhammed ibrahim, he says i just fish, i just fish and put all the fish in the pond. i get him to understand muhammed ibrahim is a bad guy and working as his fisherman gets him in trouble. and he said, listen, my cousin is the deputy to muhammed ibrahim, they are always together. he goes, they left samarra three days ago. where did they go? he said they went to baghdad. got the exact location. exact house. so i brought in an analyst from the task force team in baghdad and said, i got a target, muhammed ibrahim in baghdad. and i know this is my last chance to find muhammed ibrahim and saddam hussein.
they call about 1:00 and say we're bringing in the mohammad hadir prisoner. they drive in, drop him off, i bring in the first prisoner, the one they said owned the house. i said what's your name? mohammad, mohammad what? mohammad hadir. okay. quickly, quickly, quickly. two hours to get this guy to go. i'm the deputy to muhammed ibrahim. i'm like, good, where is he? he said he was at the house last night. and i'm thinking, son of a bitch. it's a ghost. ivy mi-- i've missed him again, i'm like, where is he, where is he? he was at the house. and the ling west, my
interpreter's going mr. -- he's saying he was at the house when the soldiers came. and i'm like, they don't miss anybody. i'm like, did they get him? and i went to the guards, i'm like, who do we have? who was brought in on this raid? i'm looking at three guys sitting on the ground. hoods on, hands behind their back. and i'm like, is muhammed ibrahim one of these guys? and i knew exactly what he was supposed to look like. john travolta. had a john travolta chin. and i knew, i'm leeb, running out of time. first hood. all right. second hood. definitely not him. third hood. of i didn't even get it off his head. and i saw the chin.
my entire tour in tikrit was going to come down to my last two and a half hours. me and muhammed ibrahim in a six by six room in baghdad. we went a mental chess game. he was die knenying his capabil. and he'd say you give me too much credit, and i would list all his brothers and cousins and all the al muslitmuslits. and i said they'll spend the rest of their lives in prison unless you take us to saddam. it's going to happen without you or with you. if it happens with you, all your
relatives walk. if it happens without you, you get nothing. and then he said to me, if i tell you where saddam hussein is, they'll kill me. and i explained to him, but you're they. you're the top one. you're the only person that doesn't have ramifications for giving up saddam. give him up and you won't be the leader of the insurgency. you'll be the one who stood up to the plate, to the dictator. that will be you, and your family walks. and i know he's listening to me. i know he was. i had to leave at 7:00. and they were banging on my door going -- i mean, 7:00 came, and
they said you're out, man, you've got to meet your manifest. and i told him, i said, i'm leaving here. you're going to die in here a prisoner, a terrorist, and you don't have a shot, because nobody knows what you can do, nobody knows what you can do. this is it. and he's like, i can't do it. and i said you're going to change your mind, and you're going to want to do it. and i said when you want to do it you're going to have to make them come talk to you. bang on the walls of the cell, go nuts, and make them come talk to you. and i left. so i went to my tent to pack my bags. a few minutes later, a colleague picks me up and is taking me to the flight line. and my buddy was like what did you do to your guy? the ling west sent a message that of muhammed ibrahim's banging on the walls of his
cell. and i jumped out of the truck, and i just told lee, i said go hold that plane, he's going to give up saddam hussein, and lee's like, i got it. and i ran back. got muhammed ibrahim out, and he declared that we take us to saddam hussein right then. i got out the map, and he drew an exact location on the map, drew the sketch, said farmhouse in the village of addwar, which is the outskirts of tikrit. he said we got to go we got to go right now. so i went outside and told the other interrogators, this is the map to saddam hussein. and they're like, dude, go get on the plane. there are two billion people
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muhammed ibrahim declared that he would take us to saddam hussein. he said we got to go, we got to go right now. and i toad hld him, i said you' not going to go right now. you're going to go tonight. and i got on that plane, and i left. >> and then the field phone rang. and it was the commander of special operations unit. he goes, well, the guy we're
looking for, we picked up in baghdad. i go, really? he says, yeah. i said, you know what we're doing tonight? we're going after saddam. i knew we had to move that night, because i think once that guy was captured, the word would eventually get back. you know, the reality is we didn't know what to expect. i mean, this was a difficult place, adwar. it was the hometown of saddam hussein. yes, there were going to be risks, so i expected a fight, a serious fight. based upon lessons from other missions very similar to this. i said, listen, when does the moon come up? 2100 hours. okay. sunset is about 6:30. i wanted to be absolute blackout conditions, no illumination whatsoever when we got on to the objective. that would give us an advantage. and i also wanted to move fast.
you yuchd stan the risks, but as a commander, you try to mitigate those risks through artful tactics, element of surprise, overwhelming force at the objective area. apache gunships, what have you. i mean, i had an armor brigade with every of implement of war that you could imagine, with incredibly courageous and skilled soldiers, operating with the most capable combat special operators in the world. i had this sword that would do anything. the night was incredibly quiet. and by 1930 or 7:30 at night, the sun is set, it's completely blacked out. we ready to go. so now the assault force is moving towards what we called the release point, at a high rate of speed.
and everything is going like clockwork. no lights on. we're using our night-vision goggles. the first assault party went in, and the special operations later knew there was a possibility of an underground facility. but the special operators didn't find anything on the objective and sort of walked off and said probably a dry hole, and dez bailey, the commander said let's go back and check again. around 8:15, got the initial report, possible jackpot. >> ladies and gentlemen, we got him! [cheers and applause] >> within 24 hours of having the critical piece of information giving away his location, they
went there, surrounded the area. discovered him hiding in a hole in the ground that was what was described as an essentially a small man-made hole, about six feet by eight feet in size. he was disoriented. >> he said i am saddam hussein, i'm the president of iraq, and i'm willing to negotiate. and then the response from u.s. soldiers was president bush -- >> we found saddam hussein about 9 kilometers southeast of his hometown. but it just seemed to make sense to me, he's going to trust his own people. he's going to trust his own bloc. that's how that bathist regime really worked. at looieast saddam's inner circ. he's a small village boy who went back to his hometown in his last days. and that's where he decided to
hide out, not too far from where he was born and grew up. he went home to feel safe. >> were you disappointed that you didn't get to be involved in the capture of saddam hussein? >> i get that question more than any question in the world. i don't care. i don't need to see him. he's not a relic. it wasn't my job to see him. v r
back in 1981, i had the american dream, the beautiful wife, the house in the suburbs, and a beautiful 6-year-old son. and one day i went to work, kissed my son good-bye and never saw him again. in two weeks, i became the parent of a murdered child, and i'll always be the parent of a murdered child. i still have the heartache, i still have the rage. i waited years for justice, i know what it's like to be there waiting for answers. and over those years i learned how to do one thing really well, and that's how