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WASHINGTON ? The U.S. Army is turning to local Iraqis
once loyal to Saddam Hussein to meet a critical need
for Arabic translators in areas of resistance.
And some of the hired interpreters are betraying
soldiers hunting for guerrilla fighters and the caches
of arms they’re using to attack American soldiers,
military intelligence officials told WorldNetDaily.
“We heard about dozens of cases where the infantry
would find out where stuff was, brief the interpreter,
but the interpreter would get out of sight,” said one
Army intelligence official who recently returned from
Iraq. “And when the infantry went on the raid, the
stuff wouldn’t be there.”
Additionally, two recent internal reports by Army
investigators have expressed doubts about
In one undated report prepared by the Center for Army
Lessons Learned in Fort Leavenworth, Kan.,
investigators in Iraq observed that local interpreters
seemed to be holding back information from soldiers
during interrogations of detainees.
“The foreign national would give a 10-minute answer,
and the interpreter would translate ‘yes’ or ‘no,'”
said the trip report, authored by Lt. Col. Robert L.
Chamberlain, a top Army intelligence trainer. “Who
knows what agenda the interpreter has?”
In another report, dated Sept. 17, Chamberlain
complained that some interpreters have led soldiers to
the wrong targets.
“If an interpreter is running a source and receives a
single source, unconfirmed report of some activity, he
immediately brings this up the chain of command
without conducting any analysis,” he said. “Then this
information is nominated at the next targeting
meeting, and bam, the wrong target is engaged and the
media is there saying what bad things soldiers are
doing. Yes, this scenario has occurred.”
Chamberlain said a shortage of competent and reliable
interpreters is hurting occupation efforts.
“The U.S. Army does not have a fraction of the
linguists required to operate” in either Iraq or
Afghanistan, he said in one evaluation.
Indeed, a top Army personnel official projected before
Operation Iraqi Freedom that several hundred Arabic
translators, interpreters and cryptologic linguists
would be needed to collect human intelligence and run
tactical intelligence operations in that war alone.
Yet the Army had only 209 authorized positions for
human intelligence collectors – and 39 of them were
unfilled, according to a General Accounting Office
audit before the war.
“The greatest number of unfilled human intelligence
collector positions was in Arabic,” the GAO report
The shortfall was worse among Army translators and
interpreters. The Army had just 84 authorized
positions and only half – 42 – were filled, GAO found.
Due to the translator shortage, American commanders
have had to hire former Baathist and Fedayeen members
to help with interrogations, officials say. And
weeding out the disloyal interpreters is difficult.
“We know we’ve got Baathist and Fedayeen working for
us as interpreters,” the Army intelligence official
said. “Except nobody knows how to get rid of the bad
ones. There aren’t enough counterintelligence agents
to run counterintelligence ops against the
The official, who asked not to be identified, added
that defense contractors, including Halliburton
subsidiary Kellogg Brown & Root, are hiring local
Iraqis without security clearance. The Class 1
interpreters, as they’re called (meaning they haven’t
undergone any vetting), are paid about $10 a day – “a
king’s ransom over there,” the official said, and a
fraction of the going rate for language contractors in
A military spokesman in Baghdad had no comment.
Defense analysts say Iraqi interpreters and informants
could be an asset or a liability, depending on how
closely soldiers monitor them. If soldiers lose
contact with them for any period of time, they are
more likely to be misled.
“You have to be in regular contact. That means you
have to keep up human contact, even though you’re
bringing Iraqi police security forces into the area,”
said Anthony Cordesman, senior defense analyst with
the Center for Strategic and International Studies
here. “You still have the problem that all of these
[locals] are both an asset and something you have to
watch and maintain contact with, or they could easily
become a source of misinformation.”