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Iraqi Intelligence Agencies

The foundation of power of Saddam Hussein's regime was a network of security and intelligence agencies which protected the president and the regime from internal and external enemies. The number and size of these agencies multiplied over time, and by design the areas of responsibility of different agencies were duplicative, to ensure both competition among the services and to ensure that no agency emerged as a threat to the power of Saddam. Agency responsibilities can be broadly divided among foreign operations, internal security [including both against foreign intelligence agencies and domestic opponents], leadership protection [primarily physical security and counter-coup military rapid-reactionf forces], as well as specialized agencies providing signals intelligence [SIGINT] and limited imagery intelligence [IMINT] technical collection capabilities. Nearly 70,000 troops were assigned to leadership protection tasks [not counting Republican Guard military formations], while the total staff level of agencies with other intelligence and security function was another 30,000 persons.

The Presidential Secretariat's staff was around 100 persons, who were drawn from the SSO and other security agencies. The Secretariat had responsibility for Saddam's personal security, as well as defence, security and intelligence issues. It was overseen by Saddam's personal secretary, Lieutenant General Abd al-Hamid Mahmud al-Tikriti. Mahmud was Saddam's distant cousin and was the sheikh of both the Al-Bu-Nasir and Al-Khattab tribes.

Mahmud was believed by some to be the number two figure in the Iraqi leadership. He controled all access to Saddam (possibly with the exception of Qusay and Uday) and has the ability to override government decisions. He also had a role in filling key posts within the Iraqi leadership by composing shortlists and providing the results of background checks on candidates for Saddam's perusal. He also served as the secretary of the National Security Bureau. Mahmud had no real patronage system within the leadership and his survival was tied to that of Saddam, making him one of the few people Saddam could trust.

The Presidential Secretariat served two vital functions: presidential security and facilitation of Saddam's decision-making process. The SSO and Special Republican Guard were responsible for guarding the residences where Saddam was staying, while the presidential bodyguards (Himayat al-Ra'is) under Mahmud's control ensured Saddam's direct safety. Even within the bodyguards, there were rings of protection with the Haras al-Khas (special guards) overseeing grounds security, Himaya al-Khasa (special protection guards) providing specialized tasks related to security, and the Himaya (approximately 40 personal bodyguards) being responsible for Saddam's immediate security.

Mahmud's secretariat apparently did not sit atop a dedicated intelligence structure. Instead, it relied on procedures, which created dedicated channels of information. It was rumored that this channel of information exists in parallel to the SSO throughout the intelligence architecture. The General Security Directorate, General Intelligence Directorate and the General Directorate of Military Intelligence, bypassing the SSO, passed information related to regime security directly to the Presidential Secretariat. In addition it was rumored that Saddam used the Presidential Secretariat, and especially his bodyguard unit, as a springboard for the patronage system on which the shadow network was built. Personnel drawn from the key tribes that made up Saddam's power base were brought into the Secretariat as bodyguards, and after serving at Saddam's side, were sent out into the system to provide an independent channel of intelligence.

The Al-Hadi Project (Project 858) played a key role in the shadow network. Created in the early 1980s, Project 858 was the organization responsible for collecting, processing, exploiting and disseminating signals, communications and electronic intelligence. Its various ground collection stations monitor radio traffic within the country, as well as foreign military communications and the communications of the Iraqi National Congress (INC), the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan and the Kurdish Democratic Party. Project 858 sits outside the formal intelligence apparatus and reports directly to the Presidential Secretariat. The main facilities were located at Al-Rashidiya, about 20km north of Baghdad. Most of the center's monitoring equipment was purchased from the Soviet Union and Japan during the early 1980s. Some electronic equipment was also purchased in the USA. A US General Accounting Office report claimed that Iraq purchased US$1.5bn worth of dual-use technology from US companies between 1985-90, which included computers and other electronic components, such as voice scramblers and signal amplifiers. Much of this was destroyed in Coalition air attacks during Operation 'Desert Storm' (1991) and Operation 'Desert Fox' (1998); nevertheless, Iraq has managed to replace some of its monitoring ability since, by secretly acquiring new electronic equipment from various sources.

According to reports, the Al-Hadi monitoring stations can intercept clandestine electronic communications within 30 seconds after transmission starts. Under the circumstances this could be somewhat overestimated, but it seems certain that the Iraqi intelligence has substantial SIGINT and ELINT interception capabilities in their intelligence community. Monitoring efforts have recently grown, as Iraq anticipates an attack. Reports indicate SIGINT and ELINT intercepted military communications between Operation 'Provide Comfort' commands at Incirlik airbase in Turkey and US Military Co-ordination Facilities at Zakho, in the Kurdish sector of northern Iraq. Increased efforts to trace and jam clandestine signal communication of the INC and Kurdish opposition groups are also increasing.

The information from the intelligence apparatus, as well as the government ministries, was organized and prioritized within the Presidential Secretariat. Once this had been done, the secretariat had the ability to place its own stamp on this information by passing these reports to an in-house analytical department composed of experts on domestic, foreign and security affairs. This processed analysis was then passed to Saddam. After a decision has been made, this network ensured that it was executed at lower levels. Because this shadow network did not owe its allegiance to the formal bureaucracy, it was not susceptible to the corruption that pervades the Iraqi government.

Agency Staff Foreign
National Security Council/Bureau
[Maktab al-Amn al-Qawmi]
Special Security Committee 2,000
Special Security Service - SSS
[Jihaz al-Himaya al-Khas / Al Amn al-Khas]
Iraqi Intelligence Service - IIS
General Intelligence Directorate - GID
[Jihaz al-Mukhabarat al-Amma]
Military Intelligence
[Al-Istikhbarat al-Askariyya]
Project 858
Al Hadi Project
Air Force ???
Military Security Service
[Al Amn al-Askariyya]
General Security Service
[Mudiriyat al-Amn al-Amma]
Special Republican Guard (SRG) 26,000
Republican Guard (RG) NA
Saddam's Martyrs ["Men of Sacrifice"]
Fedayeen Saddam

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Page last modified: 28-07-2011 00:53:34 ZULU