US hires agents from Saddam's intelligence service

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The United States has hired officers from Saddam Hussein's feared and notorious Mukhabarat intelligence service to provide information about people who may be involved in resistance attacks and guerrilla strikes against American forces and international targets.

Officials confirmed that as part of an effort to expand its intelligence-gathering efforts and counter the growing number of attacks on US and western targets by resistance forces, about 100 former members of the service had been recruited.

Paul Bremer, civilian head of the American occupation in Iraq, said yesterday: "It's not a question of more troops, it's a question of being effective with our intelligence, getting more Iraqis to help us." He added: "We need better intelligence and we are seeking better intelligence."

The recruitment of the former security officers follows America's re-establishment of an Iraqi police force. Recruitment started about two weeks ago and Iraqi officials said the former agents would work with Americans inside Saddam Hussein's former presidential palace. "It was obvious they would have to turn to the Mukhabarat; they knew everything in this country," one said.

"[The Americans] couldn't hope to pacify such a big country as Iraq without the Mukhabarat. And the Mukhabarat men, they need money now," another official said. "Saddam had some really good agents in Tehran and Damascus. They should be good for the Americans."

A US official told The Washington Post: "The only way you can combat terrorism is through intelligence. It's the only way you're going to stop these people from doing what they're doing. Without Iraqi input, it's not going to work."

The Iraqi police force, which has around 33,000 officers across the country, remains at the forefront of efforts to gather intelligence on the forces carrying out the growing number of attacks on US forces and other targets.