The Saddam tapes (2)

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Today the Intelligence Summit released transcripts from the Saddam tapes on the intelligencesummit.org website. There are some interesting revelations in the MS PowerPoint presentation they have posted.

The translation is indeed different than the one provided by ABC News. The matter of what exactly is said on those tapes will be struggled over by expert linguists and I won't try to debate that issue.

There are a few things that that we can immediately conclude from the presentation. The translations start with a number such as:

ISGC—2003—M0003997

The ISG stands for the Iraq Survey Group. The '2003' stands for the year that the media was labeled, usually shortly after capture. The 'M' stands for media section. This is the name given to the section I worked in. It handled audio and visual media. The number is randomly assigned. I believe the 'C' stands for coalition, but I could be wrong.

The main conclusion is that these are authentic and tapes from the Harmony database. I remember this particular Harmony number coming up a lot during queries for evidence.

Here is how the process of examining, digitizing, and exploiting these items worked. When the tapes were found, they were processed at an ISG facility and assigned a Harmony number. These tapes would then be brought into our section and analyzed by a Cat II linguist, usually a cleared Arab American. The tapes would be screened for immediate value.

This would involve a technique as simple as playing a tape in a stereo and listening for a few moments and fast forward, and listen and fast forward. Using this technique, linguists were able to screen out media with no intelligence value such as music tapes. Tapes with intelligence value were digitized and archived and a 'gist' was provided with the essentials of who, when and what was on the tape. The tapes may have then been given a closer examination in the form of a full translation at as much 3 hours each. Now multiply this process times over 50,000. That is why tapes like these may well have been overlooked for the findings of the Duelfer report.

It is also apparent that these tapes were taken from ISG probably after being provided to the FBI since that is how Mr. Tierney most likely got them. Mr. Tierney took a risk to release these tapes. He is a cleared professional and this release could cost him his ability to continue working in the field. I find it very hard to believe he would take that risk unless he was very certain of what was in them.

Here is the main point I want to make that may be shocking. Mr. Tierney may very well be the first person to listen to the entire tapes and recognize the value of them. I know it is hard to conceive, but without going into details, the linguists were generally not intelligence experts but were hired merely because they spoke Arabic. One linguist I worked with worked at a liquor store before coming to ISG and had no military or even state department experience. This is not to disparage them; they were great Americans for the most part.

These tapes and others may have received no review by any intelligence professional more than to read a 'gist' based on only the most basic facts of the tape.

Ray Robison  2 18 06

[Ray Robison is a Sr. Military Operations Research Analyst with a defense contractor at the Aviation and Missile, Research, Development, Engineering Command in Huntsville, Alabama. His background includes over ten years of military service as an officer and enlisted soldier including the Gulf War and Kosovo operations. Most recently he worked as a contractor for DIA with the Iraqi Survey Group. He holds a B.S. degree in Biology, Pre—med from the University of Tampa and is a graduate of the Combined Arms and Services Staff School.]

Today the Intelligence Summit released transcripts from the Saddam tapes on the intelligencesummit.org website. There are some interesting revelations in the MS PowerPoint presentation they have posted.

The translation is indeed different than the one provided by ABC News. The matter of what exactly is said on those tapes will be struggled over by expert linguists and I won't try to debate that issue.

There are a few things that that we can immediately conclude from the presentation. The translations start with a number such as:

ISGC—2003—M0003997

The ISG stands for the Iraq Survey Group. The '2003' stands for the year that the media was labeled, usually shortly after capture. The 'M' stands for media section. This is the name given to the section I worked in. It handled audio and visual media. The number is randomly assigned. I believe the 'C' stands for coalition, but I could be wrong.

The main conclusion is that these are authentic and tapes from the Harmony database. I remember this particular Harmony number coming up a lot during queries for evidence.

Here is how the process of examining, digitizing, and exploiting these items worked. When the tapes were found, they were processed at an ISG facility and assigned a Harmony number. These tapes would then be brought into our section and analyzed by a Cat II linguist, usually a cleared Arab American. The tapes would be screened for immediate value.

This would involve a technique as simple as playing a tape in a stereo and listening for a few moments and fast forward, and listen and fast forward. Using this technique, linguists were able to screen out media with no intelligence value such as music tapes. Tapes with intelligence value were digitized and archived and a 'gist' was provided with the essentials of who, when and what was on the tape. The tapes may have then been given a closer examination in the form of a full translation at as much 3 hours each. Now multiply this process times over 50,000. That is why tapes like these may well have been overlooked for the findings of the Duelfer report.

It is also apparent that these tapes were taken from ISG probably after being provided to the FBI since that is how Mr. Tierney most likely got them. Mr. Tierney took a risk to release these tapes. He is a cleared professional and this release could cost him his ability to continue working in the field. I find it very hard to believe he would take that risk unless he was very certain of what was in them.

Here is the main point I want to make that may be shocking. Mr. Tierney may very well be the first person to listen to the entire tapes and recognize the value of them. I know it is hard to conceive, but without going into details, the linguists were generally not intelligence experts but were hired merely because they spoke Arabic. One linguist I worked with worked at a liquor store before coming to ISG and had no military or even state department experience. This is not to disparage them; they were great Americans for the most part.

These tapes and others may have received no review by any intelligence professional more than to read a 'gist' based on only the most basic facts of the tape.

Ray Robison  2 18 06

[Ray Robison is a Sr. Military Operations Research Analyst with a defense contractor at the Aviation and Missile, Research, Development, Engineering Command in Huntsville, Alabama. His background includes over ten years of military service as an officer and enlisted soldier including the Gulf War and Kosovo operations. Most recently he worked as a contractor for DIA with the Iraqi Survey Group. He holds a B.S. degree in Biology, Pre—med from the University of Tampa and is a graduate of the Combined Arms and Services Staff School.]