Iraq Uses Techniques in Spying Against its Former Tutor, the US


By Tim Weiner

Philadelphia Inquirer
February 5, 1991

The Iraqis are deceiving U.S. spy satellites and fooling Pentagon intelligence analysts thanks to techniques they learned from U.S. military intelligence officers during the eight-year war between Iran and Iraq. The spoofing is hurting the Pentagon's ability to assess bombing damage and to eavesdrop on Iraqi military communications, according to U.S. military analysts reviewing current battlefield intelligence.

"They learned a lot from our coaching during the Iran-Iraq war, and they have made good use of the information" said an analyst who has received satellite intelligence collected by the Pentagon since the war began. "They are trying to fool our [satellite] imagery and deny us electronic information." U.S. intelligence agencies assisted Saddam Hussein during the Iran-Iraq war, which ran from 1980 to 1988. In doing so, they sought to counter Iran's army and obtain information on terrorism from Iraq. The United States gave Iraq intelligence on the Iranian armed forces while at the same time secretly selling arms to Iran. The intelligence relationship has backfired.

In the course of receiving the U.S. intelligence assessments, based on information from U.S. spy satellites, the Iraqis "were able to learn how we did the assessments" one analyst said. "They were able to learn how we keep track of what goes on in a war" and thus how to mask their military operations. The deceptive measures Iraq is using include electronically shielding communications from eavesdropping; broadcasting phony messages; maintaining silence on prime military channels; displaying decoy weapons and installations, and painting airfields to make them appear damaged, the analysts said.

Iraq is using the tips it gleaned from its liaisons with U.S. military intelligence to enhance techniques it had been taught by Soviet military advisers, the analysts said. The Soviet army has an entire directorate devoted to deceptive measures. Iraq also is using techniques and materials of deception that it has obtained from other countries including dummy weapons, bought from an Italian firm. These decoys are designed to deceive photo-reconnaissance and infrared-imaging satellites to spoof the United States.

Images of the battlefield, gathered by billion-dollar satellites, are operated by the National Reconnaissance Office, a secret branch of U.S. intelligence whose existence is not acknowledged by the Pentagon. They are being analyzed at the National Photographic Interpretation Center, a CIA facility located in the Washington Navy Yard.

Gen. Colin L. Powell, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, discussed the Iraqis' use of decoys, dummy missile systems and other deceptive techniques at a Pentagon news conference Wednesday.

"They're quite good at it," Powell said. "We've seen it. We've also seen them paint damage on airfields, to spoof us into thinking that it is still damaged, and therefore we don't have to worry about it. There are also reports that they are trying to put out dummy Scud Systems."

In addition, the Iraqis are "quite sophisticated in matters of electronic deception," said a former National Security Agency official. They include ways to deceive the National Security Agency, the nation's largest intelligence service, responsible for eavesdropping on Iraqi military communications. Those communications are known as signals intelligence, or SIGINT.

"What Iraq learned from us is having consequences for both SIGINT and imagery" one analyst said. "It increased their awareness of the amount of information we can develop," and thus their ability to deny the U.S. important military intelligence.

The tutoring described by the analysts suggests that there was a deeper intelligence link between the United States and Iraq in the 1980s than has been previously made public.

The Reagan administration's secret intelligence relationship with Iraq began in 1983, around the time the White House ordered Iraq removed from the State Department's list of terrorist nations, said Graham Fuller, who was the CIA's national intelligence officer covering the Middle East at the time.

Iraq was at war with Iran, and "we didn't want the Iraqis to lose." Said Fuller, now with the Rand Corp. in Santa Monica, Calif. 'There was some general sharing of intelligence with the Iraqis… to assist them in being able to prepare defensively. We wanted to make sure that when major Iranian offensives were coming, that the Iraqis were as well-prepared as possible." The intelligence relationship with Iraq cooled but did not cease in November 1986, when the world learned that the United States had secretly sold anti-tank and anti-aircraft weapons to Iran.

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