Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Sen. Graham Wants Answers on Fate of Missing Pilot State Department Must Press Iraq More, He Says

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Sen. Graham Wants Answers on Fate of Missing Pilot State Department Must Press Iraq More, He Says

Article excerpt

Byline: Paul Pinkham and Rachel Davis, Times-Union staff writers

U.S. Sen. Bob Graham is calling on the State Department to pressure Iraq for details on the fate of Navy Cmdr. Scott Speicher, a Jacksonville-based pilot missing since he was shot down during Desert Storm 11 years ago.

"To a great extent, at this point, this is a matter for the Department of State to exert pressure on the government of Iraq," said Graham, chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee. "Iraqi leadership owes the United States information about the status of military personnel that are unaccounted for since the Persian Gulf War."

Speicher was listed as the first casualty of Desert Storm when his FA-18 Hornet was shot down over the Iraqi desert on Jan. 17,1991. He was believed killed but reports of him being alive and imprisoned in Baghdad have surfaced for years, leading the Pentagon to change his status last year to missing in action.

New reports came to light this week of an Iraqi defector who told intelligence officials of an American pilot being held and seen only by senior Iraqi officials. The defector, a former high-ranking military adviser to Iraq leader Saddam Hussein, said the pilot was in good health but walked with a limp and had facial scars, the Chicago Tribune reported.

He said the pilot was held at Iraqi Intelligence Headquarters until Sept. 12, the day after terrorist attacks in New York and Washington, when he was moved to a military facility because Iraqi officials feared reprisals from the United States and wanted to safeguard their captive, the Tribune reported.

At his news conference yesterday, President Bush was asked if he thought Saddam was holding Speicher. Bush replied: "Wouldn't put it past him."

Pentagon officials don't know whether Speicher is being held prisoner in Iraq but are working with intelligence agencies to determine his fate, spokeswoman Victoria Clarke said. …

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