Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Inside the 'Most Feared Place' for Iraqi Citizens ; at the Internal Security Service, Writings Both on the Walls and in Files Give a Glimpse into Hussein's Harsh Intelligence System

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Inside the 'Most Feared Place' for Iraqi Citizens ; at the Internal Security Service, Writings Both on the Walls and in Files Give a Glimpse into Hussein's Harsh Intelligence System

Article excerpt

A significant portion of Iraqi history under Saddam Hussein is scratched into prison-cell doors and walls.

One of the darkest chapters was written in the compound housing Iraq's Internal Security Service, the most feared place in Iraq for ordinary citizens. For most detainees landing inside, the prison represented no less than the end of the earth. Although the cells are empty now, they continue to cry out to the living.

"You the respectable one reading this know that we are not guilty of any real crime, only a trumped-up charge. And we will be getting out, if God wills it," writes one prisoner.

"This was literally the Gestapo headquarters," says US Air Force Lt. Col. Jim Gallagher, as he leads an interpreter and news reporter through the maze of bombed-out and looted buildings that once formed the very essence of Mr. Hussein's hold on power. Colonel Gallagher is working with the US Army's 2nd Armored Cavalry Regiment patrolling eastern Baghdad.

"In Iraq, we have a saying that when you are taken inside [the security compound], you are a dead person. And if you manage to get out, it is as if escaping from the mouth of the lion," says the interpreter.

A former officer in the Iraqi military, the interpreter asks that he not be identified by name out of concern that he might face retribution by former security officials for simply being in this place.

"Allah save me," is the only message left by one prisoner in the maximum- security section of the detention facility. Although most of the cells have been cleaned out by looters, there are still wallets, birth certificates, and identification cards on the floor at the intake office near the prison entrance.

Some simply sign the walls. "Farris Ebrahim." "Walid Sayed Ali al- Karbali." "Hader Jawadi."

"They don't think they are coming out, so they leave their name," the interpreter says. "They hope that someone will write it down later like you are doing now."

A looted list

Not all looters entered the security compound seeking furniture or other items to quickly sell. Someone located a list of suspected members of a militant Shiite Muslim group who had been executed at the prison. The documents are now posted on a wall outside a Shiite meetinghouse in Thawra, a heavily Shiite area of the city.

Ibrahim Moteb al-Amri used irony in his prison message. He dubbed his surroundings: "The Happiness Hotel."

For detainees, there was nothing happy about what went on at this large, self-contained compound of modern concrete buildings surrounded by a high wall.

Yet in contrast to that of the prisoners, the life of security officials was comfortable, even luxurious by Iraqi standards. There are high-rise living quarters, tennis courts, a swimming pool, even a movie theater.

Their mission: Identify and neutralize anyone who might pose even the slightest challenge to Hussein. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.