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Rumsfeld Asks CIA to Oversee Saddam Hussein Interrogations

By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Dec. 16, 2003 – The Central Intelligence Agency will oversee the interrogations of former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld told Pentagon reporters today.

"I have asked (CIA Director) George Tenet to be responsible for the handling of the interrogation of Saddam Hussein and his people," Rumsfeld said.

The CIA, he explained, will serve as "the regulator" over the interrogations, determining who will conduct them and what questions they will ask, and managing the intelligence that flows from the interrogations.

Rumsfeld clarified that the U.S. military will continue to maintain physical custody of Saddam and "may very well be the interrogators" under the CIA's direction.

"These are the people who have competence in that area," Rumsfeld said of his decision to request CIA oversight of the interrogation process. "They know the needs we have in terms of counterterrorism, they know the threads that have to come up through the needle head. And to the extent that this individual (Saddam) can offer anything that conceivably by accident would be helpful," we need to have the CIA managing the process, he said.

Saddam is receiving all protections guaranteed to prisoners of war under the Geneva Conventions, Rumsfeld said, although he is not being legally described as a POW. "The lawyers are carefully looking at the status," he said.

Rumsfeld denied that taking the captured dictator before members of the Iraqi Governing Council or showing him on television infringed on his guaranteed protections.

The secretary said getting positive identifications of the prisoner from those who knew him was essential until DNA tests could confirm his identify, particularly because Saddam was known to have "doubles" with the same physical features.

"He has been handled in a professional way, and he has not been held up as a public curiosity in any demeaning way by reasonable definitions of the Geneva Conventions," Rumsfeld said.

"On the other hand," Rumsfeld said, "It is very important that he been seen by the public for what he is which is a captive. And if lives can be saved by physical proof that that man is off the street, out of commission, never to return, then we opt for saving lives.

"And in no way can that be considered even up on the edge of the Geneva Convention protections," he said.

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