The missions in Baghdad are part of a massive effort that has so strained resources that dozens of CIA retirees have been brought back to the agency in recent months to shore up exhausted and overloaded analysts and clandestine officers.
"Just about everybody who wants a green badge is getting a green badge," an agency veteran said, referring to the colored identification tags given to retirees who return to CIA headquarters in Langley, Va., for contract work.
For The Record
Los Angeles Times Sunday April 06, 2003 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 2 National Desk 1 inches; 59 words Type of Material: Correction
Intelligence on Iraq -- A headline on a Saturday Page 1 story about U.S. intelligence operations in Iraq incorrectly said the CIA admitted that sources inside Baghdad had largely dried up. In fact, as the story stated, the CIA disputed allegations that its intelligence from Iraq was weak, and declined to comment on its specific operations inside the country.
Much of that analytical energy has gone into preparing maps and demographic analyses of every sector of Baghdad, in expectation of block-by-block urban fighting.
The CIA, the State Department, the Pentagon and other U.S. government agencies have compiled lists of several thousand Iraqi government, security and intelligence officials, military officers and others who would be sought if the regime collapsed.
In the top tier are Hussein and his nine closest aides, including his sons. None of the top nine is known to have been captured or killed so far. At least some would likely be charged with war crimes for using chemical weapons in the 1980s.
Below them are tiers of officials who might be charged with other crimes, removed from a post-Hussein government in Baghdad or investigated further.
Those groups include senior Baath Party leaders, Republican Guard and other military chiefs, heads of government ministries and intelligence agencies, political commissars and key members of Hussein's numerous secret police agencies and death squads.
How reliable the lists are is unclear. Iraq has a vast web of overlapping security and spy services that were modeled on East Germany's infamous Stasi, or secret police. U.S. officials broadly estimate that at least 20,000 people are active officers in those agencies, which include the Mukhabarat, the chief security agency.
Family May Have Fled
One reliable intelligence source said there were credible reports that some members of Hussein's family left Iraq before the war started.
According to the reports, Hussein's first wife is in Syria and his third wife is in the United Arab Emirates. The whereabouts of his second wife, whom he married after ordering her to divorce the head of Iraqi airlines, is unknown.
Absent another intelligence breakthrough on a par with the tip that triggered the first strike on Hussein, many officials said the outcome in Baghdad will depend on the U.S.-led forces' ability to seize control of city sectors and shake loose information from detainees or defectors.
After the 1991 Persian Gulf War, U.S. Gen. H. Norman Schwarzkopf was harshly critical of the CIA's performance, chiding the agency for consistently overestimating enemy troop and tank counts, among other things.
The CIA received a great deal of credit, however, for its prominent role in Afghanistan.
Officials said the Pentagon and the CIA have cooperated smoothly on Iraq, but they acknowledged new frictions in recent weeks.
"There have been tussles galore between the agency and the Pentagon over whose light is shining brighter," one intelligence official said.
Intelligence officials say they remain convinced that Hussein was in the Dora Farm compound that was reduced to rubble by cruise missiles and bunker-busting bombs early March 20.
But the television appearance Friday, by raising the distinct possibility that Hussein had escaped the barrage, diminished the impact of the CIA's highest-profile contribution to the war so far.
Speaking in front of a sheet to obscure his location, Hussein praised an Iraqi peasant.
"Perhaps you remember the valiant Iraqi peasant and how he shot down an American Apache with an old weapon," he said, according to transcripts of the speech.
The reference matched Iraqi officials' claims that a single shot had downed an AH-64 Apache Longbow that the U.S. military acknowledges it lost in Iraq on March 24.
Other footage showed Hussein wading into a crowd of supporters against a backdrop of rubble and darkened skies that seemed to fit with recent pictures of Baghdad.
The CIA says it is still not fully convinced that Hussein is alive despite the new tapes.
"We flat don't know," an intelligence official said.