Lt. Cmdr. Michael S. Speicher
SPEICHER, MICHAEL SCOTT
UPDATE: New reports say Iraq holding U.S. pilot
By Bill Gertz
January 10, 2003
The Defense Department recently obtained additional intelligence stating that a missing Navy pilot is alive and being held by the Iraqi government, according to U.S. officials.
intelligence officials believe that the reports refer to Navy Capt. Michael
Scott Speicher, whose status was changed to "missing/captured" by the
Navy in October.
Link to source: http://www.washingtontimes.com/national/20030110-48937660.htm
Pilot believed alive, held in Iraq
By Bill Gertz
U.S. intelligence agencies have obtained new information indicating
Iraq is holding captive a U.S. Navy pilot shot down during the Persian Gulf
war, The Washington Times has learned.
The new intelligence has led some Pentagon officials to believe Iraq is holding Cmdr. Speicher prisoner.
One U.S. official said the new agent offered to identify the exact location in Baghdad where the American is being held and also offered to obtain a photograph of the prisoner.
A defense official said the new information is not related to an earlier report from an Iranian pilot who was repatriated recently to Iran and said that he had seen an American held prisoner in Iraq. "That was checked out, and the intelligence community didn't find anything about it," the defense official said.
President Bush has been briefed on the new intelligence on Cmdr. Speicher and the likelihood of an American POW in Baghdad is being factored into U.S. policy toward future operations against Iraq, the officials said.
DIA spokesman Lt. Cmdr. Jim Brooks said the Speicher case is "an active investigation." The agency "investigates and continues to investigate all reports regarding the Speicher case." He declined to comment further on specific reports on the case.
A White House spokesman could not be reached for comment.
It could not be learned if the Bush administration is taking steps to contact the Iraqi government about Cmdr. Speicher. However, U.S. intelligence agencies are continuing to gather information on the case, the official said.
The CIA sent a notice to Congress Feb. 4 saying it had obtained new intelligence related to Cmdr. Speicher and is expected to provide more information in a briefing that could come as early as this week, one official said.
A U.S. intelligence report from March 2001 stated: "We assess that Iraq can account for Cmdr. Speicher but that Baghdad is concealing information about his fate."
The report, ordered by the Senate Intelligence Committee, stated that Cmdr. Speicher "probably survived the loss of his aircraft, and if he survived, he almost certainly was captured by the Iraqis."
The report stated that Cmdr. Speicher's aircraft was shot down by an Iraqi jet firing an air-to-air missile, and that the jet crashed in the desert west of Baghdad.
An unclassified summary of the report, "Intelligence Community Assessment of the Lieutenant Commander Speicher Case," was obtained by The Times.
The intelligence community report said that after the Gulf war cease-fire, Cmdr. Speicher was not among the 21 U.S. military personnel released, nor were his remains returned.
The new intelligence information bolsters an earlier report from an Iraqi national. In 1999, an Iraqi defector reported to U.S. intelligence officials that he had taken an injured U.S. pilot to Baghdad six weeks after the Gulf war began. He identified Cmdr. Speicher in a photograph as the pilot.
Based on the defector report and pressure from Sen. Robert C. Smith, New Hampshire Republican, the Navy changed Cmdr. Speicher's status from killed in action to missing in action on Jan. 11, 2001.
The intelligence community report stated that during an investigation of the crash site in 1995, Iraqi officials provided investigators with a flight suit that appeared to be the one worn by Cmdr. Speicher. The flight suit had been cut.
The intelligence report concluded that the pilot "probably survived the crash of his F/A-18."
"We assess Lt. Cmdr. Speicher was either captured alive or his remains were recovered and brought to Baghdad," the report said.
Mr. Bush has called Iraq one of three "axis of evil" states, and there have been intelligence reports indicating Iraq may have supported the September 11 attacks.
The government of the Czech Republic monitored a meeting in Prague between an Iraqi intelligence officer and Mohamed Atta, regarded by U.S. investigators as a ringleader for the September 11 attacks.
Senior Pentagon policy-makers have said Iraq should be the next target for U.S. anti-terrorism operation.
Cmdr. Speicher was the pilot of a Navy F-18 jet that was shot down by enemy fire on Jan. 17, 1991, the first day of combat operations in the Gulf war.
Defense Secretary Richard B. Cheney said during a news conference that same day that the pilot had been killed, and the Navy declared Cmdr. Speicher killed in action five months later.
The intelligence community report said that Iraq's government learned that the pilot was declared dead and as a result felt it probably did not have to account for him at the end of the war.
At first the Pentagon believed Cmdr. Speicher's aircraft was hit by either a ground- or air-fired missile and broke up in flight.
But the aircraft was later found intact and its canopy was found some distance from the crash, a sign the pilot had ejected.
The CIA also was told about the capture of an American pilot in the early 1990s but dismissed the information as coming from an unreliable agent, the officials said. The agency later acknowledged its dismissal was an error, U.S. officials said.
CNN.com - U.S. officials
downplay report on Navy pilot in Iraq - March 11, 2002
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- U.S. officials Monday downplayed a published report that a U.S. Navy pilot thought to have been killed in action during the Persian Gulf War might be alive and held in Iraq.
The report in Monday's Washington Times said U.S. intelligence agencies had received new information about Cmdr. Michael Scott Speicher. Navy Secretary Richard Danzig last year changed Speicher's status from Killed in Action/Body not Recovered to Missing in Action. But one U.S. official said Monday, "If Scott Speicher were still alive, Saddam Hussein would have brought him out for propaganda."
Another official said, "This story has been out once or twice already." The official said he had no knowledge of any recent information to support the idea, including and beyond the time span the newspaper cited.
Speicher's F/A-18 aircraft was shot down by enemy fire on January 17, 1991, the first day of the air war over Iraq. He was placed on MIA status the next day.
On May 22, 1991, following a secretary of the Navy status review board that found "no credible evidence" to suggest he had survived, his status was changed to Killed in Action/Body not Recovered.
In December 1995, working through the International Committee of the
Red Coss, investigators from the Navy and Army's Central Identification
Laboratory entered Iraq and conducted a thorough excavation of the
In September 1996, based on a comprehensive review of evidence accumulated since the initial determination, the secretary of the Navy reaffirmed the presumptive finding of death.
But over the years since that determination was made, the Navy and the
U.S. government consistently have sought new details and continued to analyze
all available information to resolve Speicher's fate. This additional
Based on the review, Danzig concluded that Speicher's status should be MIA, and the change was made in January 2001.
Iraqi says gulf war U.S. pilot is alive
By Christine Spolar
March 12, 2002
WASHINGTON -- U.S. intelligence agents are working to corroborate new information from an Iraqi defector that an American pilot shot down over Iraq a decade ago is alive and imprisoned by Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein, government sources said.
New evidence about the Navy pilot, Michael Scott Speicher, surfaced in late January. President Bush and top advisers in the State and Defense Departments were informed by intelligence agents that a one-time high-ranking military adviser to Hussein, who defected earlier this year, has information that the American pilot was alive as of January.
Speicher, who would be 44 today, was classified killed in action from 1991 until January 2001. The CIA, the Navy and President Clinton reviewed what were considered serious gaps in intelligence analysis concerning the Speicher case. On Jan. 10, 2001, based on evidence that the pilot survived the crash and was seen in Iraq, Speicher was reclassified as missing in action.
The Iraqi defector first spoke earlier this year to Dutch intelligence about an imprisoned American pilot in Iraq. According to sources, the defector told interrogators that the American pilot in prison was in good health but walks with a limp and has facial scars.
The defector has been deemed credible through his descriptions of both Speicher, whom he did not name, and his knowledge of prisons where the pilot is thought to have been held, sources said.
Bush is kept informed about the case, and Secretary of State Colin Powell is "very much engaged," according to another well-placed source.
The imprisonment of Speicher, the first American lost in the war against Iraq in 1991, would have a powerful effect on, if not trigger a powerful reaction from, the Bush administration, which had made clear it wants Hussein ousted.
Attempts to verify the defector's claims intensified in February, sources said. Public comments by the administration regarding Iraq sharpened within the same week, including Powell's statement that the United States was weighing ways to topple Hussein.
The defector said the pilot had been held at Iraqi Intelligence Headquarters, the same building that the United States bombed in 1993 in retaliation for an assassination attempt on President George Bush, the father of the current president and the leader of the 1991 allied coalition against Iraq.
The defector told intelligence agents that the pilot was moved to a military facility on Sept. 12, the day after Islamic terrorists hijacked American airliners and drilled them into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. The Iraqis feared reprisals from the United States and wanted to safeguard their captive, the defector told his interrogators.
The defector said only a handful of Iraqis are aware of the pilot's existence, and that Hussein and his son, Qusay, closely monitor his well-being, sources said.
Interest from administration
The case of Michael Scott Speicher appears to have a special resonance for the current administration. Bush's father led the allied force coalition in the gulf. Powell then was chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and Vice President Dick Cheney was secretary of defense.
Cheney's role is particularly sensitive because, during the first press briefing after the first strike in 1991, Cheney declared Speicher dead. That announcement was both premature and problematic for the military, which at the time was seeking information about the downing of Speicher's plane.
"This is important to them," said one source knowledgeable about the White House interest in the case. "The people in charge then are the people in charge now."
The Speicher case continues to generate interest in the Senate, which has been conducting an investigation on intelligence lapses in the case. Sen. Pat Roberts (R-Kan.), a member of the Senate Select Intelligence Committee and the Armed Services Committee, wrote to the Pentagon in February that Speicher should be listed as a prisoner of war.
Roberts said in his letter that changing the status would better reflect unanswered questions about the "exceptional and compelling" case of the missing fighter pilot.
"If Capt. Speicher lives, we must make every effort to attain for him the freedom he has so long been denied. His case reaffirms to our nation, albeit somewhat belatedly, that we will never abandon our soldiers even if some embarrassment falls to our government," Roberts wrote to Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld.
Declared missing in action
Speicher was listed as killed in action from May 1991, four months after the war. He was reclassified as missing in action--in an unprecedented decision by the Navy--nearly 10 years later, in January 2001.
The change in status occurred in the last days of the Clinton administration. Congressional inquiries and extensive media reports raised serious questions about whether the airman, in fact, had died after his F/A-18 was hit by enemy fire over Iraq.
The New York Times first reported that Speicher's shattered plane was discovered in the desert in 1993 by a Qatar source and that the Joint Chiefs of Staff balked at embarking on a secret mission to recover the body. The newspaper reported that a mission, conducted with Iraq's knowledge, was not completed until late 1995. No evidence of the pilot was found, it was reported.
CBS' "60 Minutes II" later reported that in the days and weeks after the shootdown in 1991, U.S. forces never searched for Speicher because they believed the plane to be a total loss. The CBS program noted that investigators who went to the crash site in 1995 had found no human remains or other evidence that Speicher had died.
The network also revealed that American military and intelligence circles were grappling with some startling new information in 1999. There was another Iraqi defector, who was interrogated by American intelligence and passed multiple polygraph tests, who claimed he had driven a pilot who fit Speicher's description to a military facility outside Baghdad during the first week of the war.
CIA acts after broadcast
The CIA analysis was ordered within weeks of the broadcast and, in December 2000, a classified accounting of the Speicher case was sent to the Navy, the National Security Council and Clinton.
The 100-plus page document, which remains classified, asserted that Speicher's jet was hit by an Iraqi air-to-air missile, that there was a successful ejection and that the Iraqi source who described driving him after the shoot down was credible.
In a seven-page declassified version of facts released last year, the CIA asserted that Speicher probably survived being shot down, and "if he survived, he was almost certainly captured by the Iraqis."
As a result of Speicher's reclassification to missing in action in January 2001, the United States sent a formal demarche to Iraq demanding information about him.
Clinton: He `might be alive'
In a radio interview then, Clinton said that Speicher "might be alive" and "if he is . . . we're going to do everything to get him out."
Iraq rebuffed inquiries about Speicher and indicated, as Iraqi officials had told reporters, that he might have been eaten by wolves in the desert.
Inquiries by the United Nations and the Tripartite Commission responsible for missing soldiers from the gulf war provided no new information.
Late in 2001, the Iraq government issued its first written response to the Tripartite Commission, denying knowledge of Speicher.
Speicher, a lieutenant commander at the time of the war, has been promoted to commander in the past year, and, more recently, to captain.
His wife, who has since remarried, and children have been compensated with back pay for their loss over the past decade. The family has maintained a strict silence on the case.
Copyright (c) 2002, Chicago Tribune
March 12, 2002
Senator suspects pilot alive in Iraq
A member of the Senate Intelligence Committee said yesterday he suspects a Navy pilot shot down over Iraq in 1991 is alive and being held captive as the State Department said Baghdad has ignored U.S. requests for information about the pilot's fate.
Sen. Pat Roberts, Kansas Republican, said in an interview that he has asked Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld to classify Navy Lt. Cmdr. Michael Scott Speicher as a prisoner of war, instead of missing in action. The Pentagon changed Cmdr. Speicher's status last year from killed to missing in action.
"The bottom line is there is no evidence he was killed when his aircraft was shot down in 1991," Mr. Roberts said. "On the contrary, there are numerous reports that indicate he could be alive." State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said the Iraqi government has not replied to U.S. diplomatic appeals asking for information about the fate of Cmdr. Speicher.
A formal diplomatic note was sent to Baghdad in January 2001 asking for information about the pilot. The issue also was raised in diplomatic meetings with Iraqi officials in Geneva, Mr. Boucher said.
On Friday at a meeting of diplomats in Geneva known as the Tripartite
Commission, U.S. Ambassador to Kuwait Richard Jones told Iraqi officials:
"Iraq continues to shirk its responsibility to answer the many
Sen. Robert C. Smith, New Hampshire Republican and member of the Armed Services Committee, said he has been tracking reports on the Speicher case for more than five years.
"Unfortunately, we have not yet accounted for Commander Speicher, but I will continue to work with the administration to determine his fate," Mr. Smith said through a spokesman. "We must vigorously pursue every lead for the sake of Commander Speicher and his family. We owe him nothing less."
Pentagon officials are expected to brief Congress on the case as early as today. The administration and congressional officials were responding to a report in yesterday's editions of The Washington Times that said new intelligence information was uncovered in the last several months indicating Cmdr. Speicher is being held prisoner in Iraq.
Cmdr. Speicher was declared killed in action in 1991, but his status was changed last year to missing in action. It was an unprecedented action and put the Pentagon in the position of possibly having left behind an American at the end of the Gulf war.
A spokesman for the Iraqi mission to the United Nations could not be reached for comment.
Mr. Roberts, in a Feb. 14 letter to Mr. Rumsfeld, stated that a recent
U.S. intelligence community assessment of the case concluded that Cdmr.
Speicher "probably survived the loss of his aircraft and if he survived,
"This strongly suggests the more appropriate designator or status of POW," Mr. Roberts stated in the letter. "I believe the status of POW sends a symbolic message not only to the Iraqis, but to other adversaries, current and future - and most importantly to the men and women of the U.S. armed forces and the American people."
Mr. Roberts said in the interview he discussed the Speicher case with President Bush three weeks ago, and that the president assured him the case is "very high on his agenda."
The possibility of an American POW in Baghdad also is complicating U.S. efforts to expand the war on terrorism to Iraq, U.S. officials said. Mr. Roberts said the Pentagon has put together a special team of officials to investigate the case.
The senator also noted that various intelligence reports about an American pilot held in Iraq "tend to add up." Asked if he believes Cmdr. Speicher is alive, Mr. Roberts said: "I can't say conclusively that he's there, but that's not the point. They can't say conclusively he's not alive, and the presumption is they must aggressively pursue every avenue of this case."
Intelligence officials said reports that Cmdr. Speicher is alive in Iraq have been surfacing since 1991, when two Iraqi nationals told the CIA that Iraq was holding an American pilot. The CIA dismissed the information as coming from unreliable sources.
In 1995, Cmdr. Speicher's F-18 aircraft was found and an investigation team went to the site and determined that the pilot ejected before it crashed. Iraq also provided Cmdr. Speicher's flight suit at that time.
Then in 1999, an Iraqi defector reported driving an American pilot to Baghdad six weeks after the war started. That report eventually led to the reclassification of Cmdr. Speicher as missing in action.
Several months ago, the Defense Intelligence Agency and CIA obtained new information from a foreign intelligence service stating that a person who had been in Iraq had learned that an American pilot was held by the Iraqis. The source said the pilot's only visitors were Saddam's son Uday and the chief of Iraqi intelligence.
Some intelligence officials yesterday sought to play down the new intelligence information by claiming that Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein would not have kept secret the fact that an American pilot was captured and would have used the pilot for propaganda purposes.
Other intelligence officials said Saddam is just as likely to have kept secret its possession of a U.S. prisoner of war. These officials note that Saddam's government held one Iranian pilot as a prisoner of war for 17 years, all the while denying it held any Iranian prisoners of war.