Spy Agencies Say Pilot Likely Seized; Navy Flier Disappeared in Iraq during Persian Gulf War
Byline: Bill Gertz, THE WASHINGTON TIMES
A U.S. intelligence report on the case of Navy Lt. Cmdr. Michael Scott Speicher provides the most complete explanation by the U.S. government on why the pilot probably was captured alive by Iraqis after ejecting from his F-18 in 1991.
"We assess Lt. Cmdr. Speicher was either captured alive or his remains were recovered and brought to Baghdad," said the report, "Intelligence Community Assessment of Lieutenant Commander Speicher Case."
A six-page unclassified summary of the report - based on CIA and Defense Intelligence Agency data - states that Cmdr. Speicher "probably survived" the loss of his aircraft, and if he survived, he almost certainly was captured by the Iraqis.
The report was produced at the request of the Senate Select Intelligence Committee, and a note stated that the unclassified version is "incomplete" because secret data was omitted.
The Navy F-18 pilot disappeared Jan. 17, 1991, the first night of the Persian Gulf war. He was the only U.S. serviceman lost over land during the war, and he was classified "killed-in-action, body not recovered" until last year.
On Jan. 11, 2001, his status was changed to missing in action.
President Bush said on Wednesday that Cmdr. Speicher could be alive and expressed disgust at Saddam Hussein, "who would be so cold and heartless as to hold an American flier for all this period of time without notification to his family."
The intelligence report is dated March 27, 2001, but its contents were not disclosed until Monday, after a copy was obtained by The Washington Times.
U.S. intelligence officials told The Times that they had obtained new information in the past several months since the report was issued indicating that Cmdr. Speicher is being held in Iraq.
According to the intelligence report, all coalition airmen were accounted for at the end of the Gulf war except for Cmdr. Speicher and a Saudi Arabian pilot.
Suspicions about his fate were raised in 1991 when Baghdad gave the United States a small amount of human remains it identified as part of a pilot named "Mickel." Laboratory analysis revealed the remains were "human, but not those of Lt. Cmdr. Speicher," the report said.
Afterward, the Iraqi government said the pilot was "devoured by animals and that no remains were found," the report said.
The F-18 initially was thought to have blown up in flight. But in 1993, U.S. intelligence was informed that Cmdr. Speicher's downed F-18 was located in southwestern Iraq, and two years later a U-2 spy aircraft photographed the site.
A team of investigators, working with the International Committee of the Red Cross, visited the site in December 1995 and found that the area had "been expertly searched within a month prior to the team's arrival" by the Iraqis. …