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Select Committee on Standards and Privileges Sixth Report




1. Introduction

This memo addresses the question of authenticity of National Harmony file ISGP-2003-00014623. In order for a full understanding of how the file was identified it is important to understand the methodology and process behind the capture, identification and exploitation of documents from Iraq.

The memo also looks at a number of factors including the format of the layout of the Arabic original and the style and then compares that with other, similar contemporaneous files from the same office regarding meetings and writing of minutes that were seized in Iraq and processed by CMPC. By examining other files from the same originating office it is possible to establish what their standard practice was and consequently, whether ISGP -2003-00014623 differs in any substantial way and if so, why.

2. Background and Process Methodology

In the early stages of Operation Telic/Operation Iraqi Freedom coalition military first secured cities such as Baghdad then began the process of targeting and clearing the headquarters of regime institutions of documents and computer hard drives. The early efforts were directed at Ba'th Party offices, the headquarters of the Iraqi Intelligence Service, the General Military Intelligence Directorate and so on. These raids generated a tremendous amount of material, often filling up a number of heavy trucks.

Once documents were captured the units had done their job and had neither the time nor inclination to do any more than pass them on to the right people. In many cases, particularly in the early weeks of Operation Telic seized documents were sent back down the lines for safe keeping but information about capture location was lost. In the case of file ISGP-2003-00014623 this is not the case.

It is important to bear in mind that the primary purpose behind capture of regime documents and computer media at the time was for identifying intelligence surrounding the possible whereabouts of WMD stocks or production and procurement. Documents were handled differently from the standard handling procedures that a law enforcement organization would employ where they are guided by preservation of evidence integrity and chain of custody.

The system in place for exploitation of files was established and functions as follows:

  • Capturing units send the batch (either themselves or utilize a transporting unit) to the Combined Media Processing Center (CMPC) in one of three locations in Iraq
  • CMPC carries out a pre-triage[545] to separate the most interesting documents for triage and then summarizes or fully translates those files that conform to the PIR[546] guidelines

  • The bulk of the documents not selected in Iraq for further exploitation are sent to CMPC in Qatar which is a much larger operation with more linguists and can process large numbers of documents
  • Documents are triaged in Qatar, given a unique identification number known as a National Harmony number, and identified as translation worthy or not (eg a novel, a copy of the Qu'ran, a newspaper)
  • Then the document file is prepared for scanning, which means taking out staples, binders, separating each page, cutting off dog-eared corners of pages so that the pages can smoothly go through the scanner
  • Documents deemed sensitive (such as ISGP-2003-00014623) that discuss British or American citizens are not scanned and are passed to either the US Counter Intelligence (CI) Representative or to the UK CI counterpart
  • Once scanned, the original document is placed back into its respective box (along with, as in our case, documents not deemed worthy of translation) placed on a pallet with the other boxes from the same batch then stored in the CMPC warehouse

3. Capture Information

3.1 Capturing Unit

Task Force 20 and FBI was the unit that captured batch 3113-15 (see below for explanation of batch numbering) from the Iraqi Intelligence Service's (IIS) headquarters in the Karamah area of Baghdad. The captured material was then transported by 202 MI BN (202 Military Intelligence Battalion), arrived at the processing center at 15:00 local time on 23 April 2003 and the material was processed two days later on the 25th of April 2003. The point of contact was listed as ***** . In the comments field in the National Harmony database it says "very large batch on IIS. Pre-triaged then shipped to Qatar 18 June 2003".

3.2 Batch Details

The file came from batch 3113-15. The warehouse and the batch numbering system is based on the US National Archive standards to ensure strict accountability of all material. The National Archive's most recent visit to CMPC-Q to check compliance with their standards occurred in February 2004. The batch numbering system works in the following way:

The first digit "3" refers to the final digit of year of capture, in this case 2003. The next three digits is the Julian date and in this case, the 113th day of year 2003 was the 23rd of April. The dash and number separates different batches of captured documents that occur on the same day. Thus "15" indicates that it was the fifteenth batch to arrive for processing at CMPC that day.


2003      113th day (23 April)    Batch 15 of 23 April

In batch 3113-15 there was around 1000 boxes of documents (to save space the CMPC warehouse consolidated the number of boxes in all large batches thus the number of boxes at present is less than there were when the batch was processed originally) and each box was given a number from one to 1039. The file came from box 178. In turn this box contained a total of 99 files that were given National Harmony numbers. However, not all files in the box were translated because during the triage process they were not deemed to be of interest.

4. Exploitation and Context Information

4.1 Summary of All Files in Box 178

There are two groups of files in Box 178, the ISGP series and an IISP series[547]. The latter group was added during consolidation of batch 3113-15. They were taken from one half full box and put in Box 178 which had plenty of room in it for more files. The IISP series came from the same batch but simply for storage purposes the files were placed in Box 178 and integrity of other documents is kept in the sequential IISP series of National Harmony numbers.

As explained above, during the triage process, any device that holds together the pages, for instance staples, pins, paper clips and binders, are removed and discarded so that the pages can pass through a scanner. If, as in this case, the binder is large and contains differing subjects of interest, the pages are separated according to categories of potential interest - although pages are never mixed. Integrity of the whole binder is maintained to a degree by assigning sequential National Harmony numbers to the separated pages.

To understand the context of file ISGP-2003-00014623 the sequential Harmony numbers in the same box that are on either side of the number were examined.

The Harmony numbers in Box 178 run from ISGP-2003-00014600 through to ISGP-2003-00014665, or a total of 66 files. The dates of letters in the files run from 2000 to 2002. The majority of files are marked "NIV", short for No Intelligence Value. All the files in the series are from the Office of the Presidential Press Secretary because they each have at least one page of department letter headed correspondence from 'Ali 'Abdallah Salman and the handful that do not still contain information similar in nature.

The subject matter of the files is broad but is primarily concerned with various letters addressed to Saddam such as requesting his photographs, requests for an audience, request by foreign media for interviews, letters of support for Saddam from Iraqis and from foreigners, and bonuses for various journalists and writers. Three files warrant a closer examination because they deal with the question of standard practice of the Presidential Office regarding the use of recording devices and of writing up minutes of meetings. They are examined in the below section.

4.2 Physical Survey of Box 178

UKCI Rep completed a survey of the companion files in Box 178 of Batch 3113-15 on 14 June 2007 in the CMPC-Q warehouse on Camp Al-Saylyah, Doha, Qatar. The three files of particular interest are:




ISGP-2003-00014657 The file folder has "NIV" (No Intelligence Value) written on it and that it was scanned by user TNMACCI on 11 December 2005. It contains 24 pages in Arabic in total. The relevant pages refer to the minutes of a meeting held between Saddam Hussein and Ahmad Ibrahim, the head of Sudan's parliament [Analyst Comment (AC): Ahmad Ibrahim 'Umar was at that time the secretary general of the Sudanese ruling party the National Congress Party so it is unclear whether the author was mistaken about his position or the wrong words were chosen to describe 'parliament' and 'National Congress', which in Arabic are similar] on 24 July 2001. It follows exactly the same format as the Galloway minutes in that there is a cover letter from 'Ali 'Abdallah Salman (in this case dated 27 July 2001) then follows the actual transcription of the minutes in the same format. Furthermore it has the hole punches[548] on the same side of the page plus the staple marks in the top right hand corner. The first page states that the text is the minutes of the meeting of the morning of Wednesday, 24 July 2001. The Iraqi attendees were Dr Sa'dun Hamadi, head of the National Council and Dr Naji Sabri, Foreign Minister. Attendees from the President's Office were Lieutenant General Dr 'Abd Humayd Mahmud Al-Khitab, Presidential Secretary and Mr 'Ali 'Abdallah Salman, Presidential Press Secretary. Then follows the minutes of the dialogue between Saddam and Ahmad Ibrahim [AC: A full translation can be provided upon request.] Also of note is the fact that neither the minutes nor the covering letter are classified.

ISGP-2003-00014614 is a letter dated 16 September 2000 from Engineer[549] Musari'a Karim Mahmud to the Presidential Secretary under the subject heading of "Technical Opinion". It discusses why the sound quality was poor on the recording of the president's meeting with some officials from the Atomic Energy [AC: the Arabic is not explicit but it is probably the Iraqi Atomic Energy Association rather than the IAEA]. The file goes on to say that a meeting was held with various people including the technical deputy of the manager of the TV and Radio, plus a number of technical experts from the ministry of information. They reached several conclusions but the first was that the sound was recorded on an audio cassette rather than on a video cassette.

ISGP-2003-00014607 is a letter dated 3 September 2002 from 'Ali 'Abdallah Salman to Mr Secretary [of the President] saying that he encloses the results of the tests on three recording devices that they took from the Iraqi Intelligence Services. It says they were tested for explosives, bugging devices, radiation and chemical and biological contaminants. Enclosed is a signed, handwritten letter from the manager (no name included) of the Food Test & Analysis Laboratory of the ministry of commerce dated 23 August 2002.

Just these three examples demonstrate that the press secretary took a very active part in providing recording devices (audio and video) for meetings with Saddam and he reported directly to the president's secretary. Furthermore the recording equipment was provided for by the IIS. The fact that there is another file in the same box as the Galloway file that is minutes of a meeting demonstrates that it was practice to type up the meeting minutes that Saddam held with foreign dignitaries. Lastly, both the Galloway document and ISGP-2003-00014657 are not classified, which is notable for a regime obsessed with secrecy. In Section 5 below it is clear that it was standard practice that all minutes regarding Saddam meeting foreign dignitaries were unclassified.

4.3 Context of Press Office Documents in IIS HQ

It is of note that Press Office memos were captured at the Iraqi Intelligence Service headquarters.

ISGP-2003-00014623 is a facsimile and it shares that in common with the other Press Office files in box 178 and other Press Office files in the same batch. This suggests that as a matter of course either the Press Office regularly copied correspondence and minutes to pass on to the IIS or it was the Presidency Office that did so[550]. This is not unusual in a regime where everyone and every government department is monitored by at least one intelligence agency or another.

5. Saddam's Practice of Recording Meetings

There are many other instances of Saddam recording his meetings with foreign dignitaries.

Based on the proliferation of files (in the form of video and audio cassette tapes and handwritten and typed meeting minutes) and the time span they encompass, it is evident that the regime regularly video taped and audio taped high level meetings. These meetings included Ba'th Party gatherings, Revolutionary Command Council meetings, high level military meetings and meetings with foreign dignitaries. Translated captured files that fall into the categories mentioned date back to the early 1980s at least.

As seen in section 4.2 above, there was another example of a meeting of a foreign dignitary being minuted within the same box as file ISGP-2003-00014623. Expanding the search on files of a similar type to within the same batch, there are many very similar examples most of which emanate from the same office - that of the press secretary. There are files from other batches as well showing minutes of meetings with Saddam. Files of note or similar in content and format to the Galloway file are addressed below.

ISGQ-2003-00135742 from batch 3230-1 is 176 pages dated February 1986 and consist of minutes of meetings between high-ranking military personnel. The text specifically states that these minutes were taken from cassettes and recordings of the aforementioned meetings. Pages 2-23, 25-65, 68 refer to minutes for a meeting held on 01 February 1986 between Saddam and a number of high-ranking officers including, but not limited to the following:

Retired Staff Lieutenant General Qadduri Jabir Mahmud Al-Duri

Retired Staff Major General 'Abd-al-Mun'im 'Abd-al-Mu'ti Qadduri

Retired Staff Major General Mutar 'Abid Hasan Al-Ma'ini

Retired Staff Brigadier General Kamil Khamis Hammadi Al-Samirra'i

Retired Staff Air Commodore Isma'il Sa'd Faris Al-Sa'd

Staff Major General Hazim Salih Dawud Al-Janabi

Staff Major General Subhi Mahmud Isma'il

Staff Brigadier General Retired Tariq 'Inad Al-Shammari

Staff Air Commodore Muhammad Isma'il Mustaf

Pages 69 and 157 are forms indicating the number and date of cassettes. The notes make express reference to cassettes and that the pages are a transcription of those cassettes. The document is handwritten and dated 1986, demonstrating that the regime's practice of recording meetings and minuting them was at least 15 years old by the time of the Galloway meeting.

ISGQ-2003-M0007035 (from batch 3230-1) is a 63 minutes long audio tape of Saddam Hussein's meeting with the President of Vietnam on 9 November 1989. An interpreter translates from Arabic into Vietnamese. The two leaders discussed the Iraq-Iran War. This is a clear example of Saddam recording a meeting with a foreign head of state. Note also that the file originates from a different batch to the Galloway document, which was 3113-15.

ISGQ-2003-00045769 is a file of 58 pages and is from batch 3223-2 and consists of the minutes of a meeting between the former president of Algeria, Ahmad Bin Billah and Saddam Hussein on 14 September 1990. The meeting discussed some of the joint concerns of the Iraqi and Algerian nations including their worries from the increased American and French interference in the Arab affairs. The file is interesting because it shows a work in progress. The writer has printed out the minutes and has then edited them by hand. There would be no need to add such notes if the minutes were being typed up from handwritten notes.

ISGQ-2003-00046010 (batch 3223-2) is a 153 pages long transcription of minutes of a meeting between Saddam Hussein and 'Abbas Madani, the head of the Islamic Salvation Front (FIS) in Algeria and the accompanying delegation on 8 September 1990. The meeting was in the presence of 'Abdallah Fadil, Minister of Endowments and Religious Affairs, Hamid Yusif Hammadi, Presidential Secretary, Lt. Colonel 'Abd-al-Hamid Mahmud, Presidential Companion, Muhsin Khalil, Press Secretary and 'Ali Bilhaj (an Algerian official).

This file is interesting because it is dated in 1990 and the press secretary at that time was Muhsin Khalil. Looking at the Arabic text it is clear that the format was exactly the same and little has changed since 1990, when this file is dated, and August 2002. A letter headed cover page from the Press Secretary in the Presidency Office, titled "Minutes" and signed by the press secretary. The transcription of the meeting itself is on separate pages that are not letter headed, nor are they classified, they are simply numbered. Interestingly Muhsin Khalil preferred to place his hole punches on the right hand side of the page rather than the left like 'Ali 'Abdallah Salman. Further examples of Muhsin Khalil's memos and minutes can be seen in file ISGQ-2003-00046015 also from batch 3223-2. This file details a meeting concerning the recent invasion of Kuwait held on 12 September 1990 between Saddam Hussein and Ahmed Rida Kadirah, advisor to King Hasan II of Morocco. The meeting was held in the presence of Tariq Aziz and, Hamid Yusif Hammadi, the Presidential Secretary. Once again, the file follows the same exact format. Another file, ISGQ-2003-00044897 (batch 3223-2), dated 3 September 1993, is a meeting between Saddam and Dr. George Habash, the Secretary General of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine. In the same file is minutes of a meeting between Saddam and the president of Yemen on 4 August 1990. In both cases, the same format of letter headed cover letters signed by press secretary Muhsin Khalil, and unclassified minutes pages that have no letter head. The hole punches are on the right hand side of the page.

The following documents are related to 'Ali 'Abdallah Salman who was the Press Secretary at the time of the Galloway meeting. ISGP-2003-00017693 from batch 3113-15 is 97 pages from the press secretary's office, dated June 2000, of minutes concerning meetings between Saddam and the following foreign dignitaries: Jordanian prime minister, chairman of the Indonesian People's Consultative Council, Malaysian foreign minister, Indonesian commerce and industry minister and the president of Venezuela. The text follows the same format as the Galloway document, namely cover letter that is letter headed followed by unclassified pages of transcribed minutes that are not on letter headed paper. The major difference is that these pages were not placed in a binder as there are no hole punches. A very similar file - in the fact that it was not placed within a binder - is IISP-2003-00006409 (same batch) dated 12 February 2001. The file contains minutes of the meeting between Saddam and Vojislav Seselj, the head of the Serbian Radical Party.

ISGP-2003-00009701 from batch 3113-15 contains a total of 283 pages comprising meeting minutes dated 1995 between Saddam and foreign visitors to Iraq who included:

Rafael Muratuf an official from Tataristan, 'Iz-al-Din Al-Hanshiri the Secretary of the General Public Committee for Transportation in Libya, Pedro Mirayth Britu (Deputy Prime Minster of Cuba), Dr. Mustafa 'Uthman, delegate from the Sudanese president, Serge Mathew (a French politician), and Al-Habib Bin Yahya (Tunisian Minister of Foreign Affairs), Staff Lieutenant General Hassan 'Abd-al-Rahman 'Ali (Sudanese Minister of Defense), 'Abdallah Salih Al-Bar (delegate from the Yemeni president), Vladimir Ramtalin (Delegate of the Republican of Belarus) and Vladimir Zirinovski (head of the Russian Liberal Democratic Party). This file follows exactly the same format as file ISGP-2003-00014623: a cover letter from the Press Secretary 'Ali 'Abdallah Salman followed by the minutes of the meeting which are all unclassified. Lastly, the hole punches are also on the left hand side.

ISGP-2003-00020739 from batch 3113-15 is 66 pages including memos dated 1998, issued from the Office of the Presidency concerning minutes of meeting between Jordanian opposition politician Layth Shibaylat and Saddam Hussein. Same format as the Galloway document but without hole punches. The same is true for ISGP-2003-00018997, a 23 page file that includes minutes of a meeting dated on 1 April 2002 between Saddam and a Turkish minister. Same format and hole punches on the left side of the page.

From the above files it is clear that Saddam not only habitually recorded his meetings with his cabinet and foreign dignitaries but that it was also a requirement to transcribe the minutes and that it was the responsibility of the Press Secretary to do so.

20 June 2007

545   Triage is a cursory reading of the file to see whether it contains information that can be identified as complying with the Priority Intelligence Requirements. Pre-triage is the same but with the focus on quick, general identification of topics of interest and is used for sifting large batches of documents. Back

546   PIR stands for Priority Intelligence Requirements and are the guidelines used for determining the importance of a document and whether it is worthy of summarizing or of fully translating, which include, and are not limited to counter intelligence information, counter terrorism information, WMD information etc Back

547   It is not necessary to delve into details about National Harmony naming conventions; suffice it to say that each National Harmony number is unique. Back

548   Arabic is written right to left and so it is usual to fix pages together by stapling them on the top right hand corner, rather than the left as one would staple pages in English. The same is true for placement of papers in binders: the pages would normally be hole punched on the right hand side rather than the left as is the case in the Galloway file. Not everyone follows this convention and from examining 'Ali 'Abdallah Salman's documents either he or the person who filed them preferred to place the holes on the left hand side. Back

549   In the Arab world a qualified engineer is seen as a profession on a par with a medical doctor or professor and so they refer to them by the title of "Engineer" in the same way as they would use "Dr". Back

550   ISGP-2003-00014623 is addressed to the Secretary of the Presidency Office and there is no one else copied in. The regime was very bureaucratic and officials were sticklers for proper procedure as a result of the close scrutiny that everyone was held to. Thus it is more likely that the Presidency Office officially copied in the IIS. Back

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