As U.S.-led troops pressed toward Baghdad in 2003, Saddam remained defiant in a walkabout among cheering crowds in the capital
A former American overseer of Iraqi prisons says several dozen inmates who were members of Saddam Hussein's military and intelligence forces boasted of helping transport weapons of mass destruction to Syria and Lebanon in the three months prior to Operation Iraqi Freedom.
Don Bordenkircher – who served two years as national director of prison and jail operations in Iraq– told WND that about 40 prisoners he spoke with "boasted of being involved in the transport of WMD warheads to Syria."
A smaller number of prisoners, he said, claimed "they knew the locations of the missile hulls buried in Iraq."
Some of the inmates, Bordenkircher said, "wanted to trade their information for a release from prison and were amenable to showing the locations."
The prisoners were members of the Iraqi military or civilians assigned to the Iraqi military, often stationed at munitions facilities, according to Bordenkircher. He said he was told the WMDs were shipped by truck into Syria, and some ended up in Lebanon's Bekaa Valley.
Other Iraqi military personnel, including former top Saddam associates, have made the same claim.
In early 2006, Saddam's No. 2 Air Force officer, Georges Sada, told the New York Sun Iraq's WMDs were moved into Syria six weeks before the war started.
WND also reported in 2006 a former general and friend of Saddam who defected alleged WMDs were hidden in Syria and said the regime supported al-Qaida with intelligence, finances and munitions. Ali Ibrahim Al-Tikriti, the southern regional commander for Saddam's militia in the late 1980s, said the regime had contingency plans established as far back as the 1980s in the event either Baghdad or Damascus was taken over.
Saddam knew the U.S. eventually would come for the weapons, Al-Tikriti said at the time, and had "wanted since he took power to embarrass the West, and this was the perfect opportunity to do so." So he denied they existed and made sure they were moved into hiding, the former general said.
Among other claims, WND also reported a former U.S. federal agent and counter-terrorism specialist deployed to Iraq before the war said he waged a three-year, unsuccessful battle to get officials to search four sites where he believed the former Saddam regime buried weapons of mass destruction.
Bordenkircher said four of the Iraqi prisoners who separately offered to speak to the "right" people about Saddam's alleged transport of WMD later became involved with U.S. and Iraqi intelligence agencies.
Some prisoners said the drivers, upon return from transporting the WMDs out of Iraq, discussed the movement. They said, according to Bordenkircher, the materials shipped out would return once Iraq got "a clean bill of health from the U.N., and then the program could be kick-started easily."
Four of the prisoners – civilians attached to the Iraqi military – said they worked at the al-Muthana Chemical Industries site. They said the cargo included nitrogen mustard gas warheads for Tariq I and II missiles.
Bordenkircher said the stories of the military personnel and the civilians matched and did not contradict one another.
Bordenkircher also said prisoners confirmed al-Qaida had a presence in Iraq before Operation Iraqi Freedom began, specifically in Mosul and Kirkuk.
Iraqis under the command of Uday Hussein, one of Saddam Hussein's sons, supported the al-Qaida elements in the country with training and providing safe harbor, they said.
Bordenkircher also was a senior adviser to South Vietnam's correctional system during the war in Southeast Asia, from 1967-72. His task was to improve conditions for 80,000 civilian prisoners. The U.S. Department of Justice asked him to play a similar role in Iraq, sending him first to Baghdad's infamous Abu Ghraib prison in Baghdad in March 2006 to shut it down.
Bordenkircher previously served as Marshall County sheriff of Moundsville, W.Va., and police chief and warden of the state penitentiary at Moundsville.