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Something missing, something black

I have several items in my list of ‘stories to watch’ on the Iraq campaign. The silence on two of them has been deafening. They are dogs ‘that didn’t bark’.

  1. What is the story on the Iraqi Salman Pak training facility? That is where an old Boeing 707 airframe was seen from overhead photography. Ground truth reports said it was used to train terrorists in the fine art of hijacking. What has been found there? Why hasn’t it been reported on? Why hasn’t someone from the army of Baghdad news correspondents been out to the suburbs to tell us?

  2. Where in hell are those ships? You know the ones I’m talking about. Osama’s fleet. In March we heard how they were floating around the world’s oceans and changing name and flag in mid voyage. Other reports suggested they might carry weaponry Saddam wanted both preserved and not found.

The latter seems to have slipped entirely into the black world. Did a Navy Seal team board and sink them with all hands dead?

Stories don’t go away in the blogosphere. They aren’t forgotten. They’ll keep popping up until satisfactory answers are found. Perhaps someone in ‘big media’, someone with resource enough for real intelligence work, can dig for the facts.

The truth is out there.

36 comments to Something missing, something black

  • JohnG

    This is probably extremely cynical of me, but perhaps big media does not want to report on links between terrorists and Saddam prior to the invasion because that would be the single smoking gun that throws all the WMD talk out the window. If there is a clear and indisputable link between Saddam and anti-American terrorists (apparently suicide bombers don’t count if they only target Jews) then nothing else matters and Bush is 100% justified in what he did for the same reasons he was justified in the invasion of Afghanistan.

    And of course that would mean that big media was completely wrong about everything. Again.

  • Well from what I understand Salman Pak is rather boring. According to Seymour Hersh:

    Almost immediately after September 11th, the I.N.C. began to publicize the stories of defectors who claimed that they had information connecting Iraq to the attacks. In an interview on October 14, 2001, conducted jointly by the Times and “Frontline,” the public-television program, Sabah Khodada, an Iraqi Army captain, said that the September 11th operation “was conducted by people who were trained by Saddam,” and that Iraq had a program to instruct terrorists in the art of hijacking. Another defector, who was identified only as a retired lieutenant general in the Iraqi intelligence service, said that in 2000 he witnessed Arab students being given lessons in hijacking on a Boeing 707 parked at an Iraqi training camp near the town of Salman Pak, south of Baghdad.

    In separate interviews with me, however, a former C.I.A. station chief and a former military intelligence analyst said that the camp near Salman Pak had been built not for terrorism training but for counter-terrorism training. In the mid-eighties, Islamic terrorists were routinely hijacking aircraft. In 1986, an Iraqi airliner was seized by pro-Iranian extremists and crashed, after a hand grenade was triggered, killing at least sixty-five people. (At the time, Iran and Iraq were at war, and America favored Iraq.) Iraq then sought assistance from the West, and got what it wanted from Britain’s MI6. The C.I.A. offered similar training in counter-terrorism throughout the Middle East. “We were helping our allies everywhere we had a liaison,” the former station chief told me. Inspectors recalled seeing the body of an airplane—which appeared to be used for counter-terrorism training—when they visited a biological-weapons facility near Salman Pak in 1991, ten years before September 11th. It is, of course, possible for such a camp to be converted from one purpose to another. The former C.I.A. official noted, however, that terrorists would not practice on airplanes in the open. “That’s Hollywood rinky-dink stuff,” the former agent said. “They train in basements. You don’t need a real airplane to practice hijacking. The 9/11 terrorists went to gyms. But to take one back you have to practice on the real thing.”

    Salman Pak was overrun by American troops on April 6th. Apparently, neither the camp nor the former biological facility has yielded evidence to substantiate the claims made before the war.

    Perhaps journalists aren’t going up there because it’s a military restricted area, nothing to get the tin foil out for.

  • Theodopoulos Pherecydes

    I’d like to know if they’ve found that large airplane stolen in Africa.

    But my real passion is UFO/alien “evidence”. Try finding out what happened to the “Mount Baigong Pyramid” expedition.

  • KymarFye

    The mysterious ships story never seemed very likely to me, and I suspect there never was anything to it. Getting to the truth of it – how it was generated, what if any substance was ever behind it – might be very difficult.

    Aside on Seymour Hersh: Why trust him for anything? He seems to return to the same group of sources over and over, and he continually over-plays whatever they give him: Remember how, during the war, the famous PLAN was deeply flawed, and in the process of leading to a horrible military catastrophe? Hersh barely managed to get that article published before events completely overwhelmed the pseudo-story. A similar thing happened during the Afghanistan operation, when Hersh generated one of his readymade exposes right before the war turned around, and events again validated a strategy that he had described as incompetent and virtually criminal. In Hersh’s world, the military, political, and intelligence leadership is always incompetent and/or criminal, and usually dishonest as well.

    He made his name exposing atrocities in Vietnam, and, ever since, he’s been hoping for a new Vietnam that would give him a chance to repeat his great moment.

    In an informative article on Saddam-Al Qaeda ties, Stephen Hayes briefly discusses intelligence on Salman Pak – indicating some ambiguity about its importance but not dismissing it – but concentrates on other, much stronger evidence that the Administration has so far refrained from disseminating:

    Saddam’s Al Qaeda Connection

    I expect that the Fall, perhaps as early as the first weeks of September in and around 9/11 commemorations, will see the launching of a major Bush propaganda offensive (I use the term non-judgmentally). David Kay will begin to reveal WMD evidence. The AQ material described in the above article may also begin to come out. The plan or hope may be to “shock and awe” Administration critics with a combined assault. The capture or killing of Saddam and the consolidation of a multinational security arrangement in Iraq would prepare the propaganda battlefield very nicely, but are obviously not fully under the Administration’s control.

  • RDB


    You might add “We’re only hours behind Saddam to that list. Chemical Ali was captured and held for a bit (4 days, I belive) before the news was released. Did we overtake Saddam (leaving him behind us)? Or has one of most trusted associates decided that $25 million in the hand is worth more than Saddam in the sand? Look for lots of news beginning around September 2 (I agree with Kymar).

  • HTY

    The US has been coordinating with Australia and a few others to form a sea patrol to watch for the transport of WMDs and missiles. (Remember North Korea selling missiles to Yemen?) Perhaps this is related to those 3 mystery ships?

  • Emmanuel Goldstein already addressed Salman Pak.

    The “mystery ship” thing was debunked almost immediately. In fact, there’s a link in the comments of the original Samizdata posting on the subject.

    I am amused to note that the mystery ship story has mutated considerably in Mr. Amon’s version above from the original incarnation. No doubt long after Iraq is forgotten, those ships will still be out there–waiting for the black helicopters to drop off aligators from the New York sewers for delivery to the Bermuda Triangle, no doubt. 🙂

  • Dale Amon

    Here are two references for you:

    20021231 Fox News
    Report 15 Freighters Believed Linked To Al Qaeda

    20030219 Independant Three Mystery Ships Are Tracked Over
    Suspected Weapons Cargo

    The first of these is what I am primarily refering to; I am uncertain whether the second is a reference to the same ships.

    I have copies of the full text of both. I do not know if either or both are still available on the net.

  • Ah, here’s a recent article on the subject:


    The stuff about “flags of convenience” in this article started me wondering if the whole point isn’t just to provide an excuse for the US and Europe to outlaw them. Sort of like the way terrorism and drug dealing is used as an excuse by the same countries to attack financial privacy…

  • No one want to outlaw flags of convenience, the major industrial countries are the primary users and beneficiaries. Essentially they allow shipping co’s to sidestep hugely costly western union crewing costs and requirements.

    The Liberian registry is, for example, conveniently located in Washington, D.C. . And it’s a perfectly _respectable_ registry used by some of the top US and other ship owners.

    I’m pretty sure Marshall Islands has at least a majority of it’s staff in the US mainland too.

    The are legal fictions set up by US/ Brit/ Netherlands lawyers who pay a royalty to the flag state.

    The really scary registries are (some of ) the “real” 3rd world owned and operated registries. The shipping news constantly has news of ships pulled over by some port control or other where inspectors can drive a screwdriver through the hull or deck plates and where no 3 crew members speak the same language.


    And just by the by, low cost does not _necessarily_ mean low quality, you can get very good phillipino, russian, or balkan crews with Korean, Spanish, and sometime even British officers.

    You can also get hopeless incompetents if don’t take care.


  • Dale Amon

    Thanks for the article. I’ll add the title here to be easily found in the next round of follow up on this story:

    20030820 Center for Defense Information, Al Qaeda’s ‘Navy’ – How Much of a Threat?

    It has other reference which might be of use, but mostly it tells me that no one really knows where they are. They Coast Guard is doing its’ job and watching out for suspicious craft. It is a real worry, I know certain classes of threats are being taken *very* seriously and I will leave it at that.

  • PapayaSF

    I want to hear a follow up on the story that, during the war, traces of poison gas were found in the Tigris (IIRC), and that there was a large fish kill in the Gulf shortly afterward.

  • MIDN Zech, USN

    Mystery ships? Nope, don’t exist (now at least!). I am a midshipman in the US Navy and they are not on any of our standard intel look out lists for threats or ships of interest, I can say that much, although not much more. My clearance only extends to the secret range and I would have no need to know/clearance to find out about any “black ops” that have been pulled off, sinking or capturing these ships( Additionally I would not be telling you if I did know!). I will put this out though- the press generally knows nothing of matters like this- usually they find out only after an op has “gone bad” that something might have happened. From scuttlebut gleaned from people more in the know I have learned that some of the best missions in SF history have gone largely unheard of, and probably will remain that way. The SEALS train specifically for these missions and take special care to remain anonymous- even to the point of not being able to have tattoos and using entirely unmarked foreign equipment. For a good story of covert Naval action in a related area- read Blind Man’s Bluff- someone I have been told did a very good job and got some extremely good sources. This should give you an idea of how much the press really “knows” about what goes on in the world. Much of that information was kept secret until several years ago and a good deal of it is 40 yr old info too. Much speculation could be spent on this subject, but unless someone messed the op up severely- I doubt you will hear if anything really did occur for a couple of decades when it is basically irrelevant, if you hear of it at all….

  • FC3 Jennings

    Yet another middie puffed up on his own importance 😉

    Who cut you down from the overhead?

  • art rice

    I want to know what happened to that Iraqi that jumped into the car with the UN weapons inspectors. ?


    Here is an article that follows up on the pre-war intelligence on Salmon Pak


    Marines capture suspected terrorist training camp By RAVI NESSMAN, Associated Press
    SALMAN PAK, Iraq (AP) – The rusted shell of an old passenger jet sat out in a field, its tail broken off. Good for hijacking practice, U.S. Marines speculated Sunday as they examined an Iraqi training base about 20 miles south of Baghdad. The Americans also found a full obstacle course – with wooden walls and other barriers to be climbed over or crawled under – as well as a three-story concrete tower draped with ropes, apparently for rappelling. President Saddam Hussein’s regime has said the camp, part of a larger military reservation in a bend of the Tigris River, was used for anti-terrorism training for Iraqi special forces. But U.S. officials and others have long suspected the camp trained terrorists. Two former Iraqi military officers told The New York Times and PBS’s “Frontline” in the fall of 2001 that Iraqis and non-Iraqi Arabs were brought here to practice hijacking planes and trains, planting bombs and staging assassinations. U.N. inspectors looking for biological weapons reported seeing a plane there. The defectors said the plane was a Boeing 707. The one seen on Sunday was not.

  • Catherine

    My sense, living here in the U.S., is that Salman Pak has been covered about as much as it could be covered under the circumstances. All news reports say the same thing: Salman Pak is exactly what and where defectors said it would be: everything is in place, the airplane, the train car–all there.

    If the media, collectively, believed there was a link between Saddam and 9/11, no doubt Salman Pak would have received more prominence in headlines.

    But given the fact that the media, collectively, do not believe that Saddam was involved in 9/11, and (in my view) have a stake in being correct on this point, the fact that there is an airplane sitting on the ground at Salman Pak isn’t going to generate headlines. It’s going to generate mild mentions-in-passing, which is what it got.

    What would be interesting (or perhaps will be interesting at some point in the future) would be to see how the media would handle the discovery of documentary evidence of foreign Islamists having been trained at Salman Pak. Such a story might be roundly ignored, as the Telegraph’s report of finding documents showing contact between Saddam’s government and al Qaeda were roundly ignored here. I didn’t see a single mention of that story in the mainstream U.S. press. The press, as well as essentially all liberal commentators, actively reject even the possibility that al Qaeda could have been allied with Saddam in any way at all.

    I do mean “actively.” Mainstream journalists and liberal commentators are not agnostics on this point. They are atheists. No-Saddam-in-9/11 is an article faith for the Democratic Party and the mainstream press.


    Actually its an act of faith for many parts of the bureaucracy in the US. And because the press is apparently so dependent on Leaks from those very same fellows, poof no link. The United States Bureaucracy has a vested interest in there being no link between Saddam and Al Queda after all if there was/is a link then the CIA, State Dept, and FBI have much to answer for. Not to mention the Clinton Whitehouse.

    Some of the clearest writing on the matter is being done by Dr. Laurie Mylroie and she covers just those sorts of facts in Bush vs the Beltway. After reading that book Im shocked that more of the weblogs have not even mentioned it. The Bureaucracy is absolutely devoted to disproving any sorts of linkage, for evidence watch all the anon leaks of informatin after any mention of linkage by anyone willing to put their names to paper, like Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz and others.

    If anyone is really interested in reading about the poor job our government has been doing regarding our war against the terrorists please read that book.

    Michael Leeden also alludes to the failures and why in his article. http://www.nationalreview.com/ledeen/ledeen082503.asp


  • Michael Levy

    I want to know what happened to that Iraqi that jumped into the car with the UN weapons inspectors. ?

    Gee, now that you meantion it, isn’t it funny how no major news organization has tried to find him? They were so worried about that blue-eyed Afghan girl.

  • rkb

    Re: the 3 ships, SOMETHING was going on there. There were reports on the standard commercial maritime sites about the fact that they did not come to port, did not respond or follow required communications protocols & were being provisioned by smaller fast boats.

    Commercial shipping has an interest because of the serious threat of piracy in certain areas of the world. These 3 ships were reported for over a week and then suddenly, the story just fell out of sight.

    Had the link to the online reports, but they’re no longer pointing to the entries from that period.

  • Harold Hamblet

    The story I wonder about is the one about the iraqi merchant sailor who sniffed the white powder he was given to carry to Toronto, and ended up with antrax rather than the high he was expecting.

  • Here is the text of the Salman Pak section of Hayes’ Weekly Standard article:

    Iraqi defectors had been saying for years that Saddam’s regime trained “non-Iraqi Arab terrorists” at a camp in Salman Pak, south of Baghdad. U.N. inspectors had confirmed the camp’s existence, including the presence of a Boeing 707. Defectors say the plane was used to train hijackers; the Iraqi regime said it was used in counterterrorism training. Sabah Khodada, a captain in the Iraqi Army, worked at Salman Pak. In October 2001, he told PBS’s “Frontline” about what went on there. “Training is majorly on terrorism. They would be trained on assassinations, kidnapping, hijacking of airplanes, hijacking of buses, public buses, hijacking of trains and all other kinds of operations related to terrorism. . . . All this training is directly toward attacking American targets, and American interests.” But the Bush administration said little about Salman Pak as it demonstrated links between Iraq and al Qaeda. According to administration sources, some detainees who provided credible evidence of other links between Iraq and al Qaeda, including training in terrorism and WMD, insist they have no knowledge of Salman Pak. Khodada, the Iraqi army captain, also professed ignorance of whether the trainees were members of al Qaeda. “Nobody came and told us, ‘This is al Qaeda people,'” he explained, “but I know there were some Saudis, there were some Afghanis. There were some other people from other countries getting trained.”

    I’d say direct quotes from a soldier who worked at the camp is a bit better than “ambiguous” about the camp. The only doubt, and the probable reason the administration didn’t use this piece of evidence in Powell’s presentation is that the Al Qaeda link couldn’t be nade positively

  • Cybrludite

    If those ships were loaded at an Iraqi port (Ok, THE Iraqi port, it’s not like they have all that many…), then the ships wouldn’t have gotten much further than 12 miles from the coast. The Persian Gulf is quite small & full-up with US Navy ships. (And covered by aircraft from all branches of the US military) During Desert Storm, we made it quite clear that this was our pond with the Bubyan Turkey Shoot. Suffice it to say that the new Iraqi Navy will have glass-bottomed boats…

  • Dale Amon

    PAPADOC: Thanks for the link to the Trib article. And thanks to all there others who are making this comment section a compendium of research information for anyone who wants to dig into this story.

    Perhaps if enough information comes together here, we’ll be able to kick this story to another level. Not just Salman Pak per se, but many of the other ignored linkages. Like Glenn Reynolds ex-boss’ getting his hands on a list that included the name of the Iraqi representative to al Qaeda.

    Likewise on the mystery ships. I never cease to be amazed how many ‘interesting’ people from places they can’t talk about drop into our humble list. Of course those who know don’t talk and those who talk don’t know… and if they do talk and they do know, I’d actually rather they didn’t do so here. This perhaps would be a case of “Loose lips don’t sink ships”!

    However, any public domain information our vast network of intelligence agents can sieve and deliver to our humble not so general HQ is fair game. There is something interesting going on with those ships and the more info I hear the more I get a scent of it.

    Thanks to all and keep that discussion flowing!

  • This ship stuff is something I have been wondering about myself.
    I distinctly recall Rumsfeld announcing that there was ‘a tanker’ (singular) carrying WMD but I haven’t been able to find any more details about it.

    BTW: I like your blog. It’s not my politics but it’s still good stuff. A good sense of humour too.

  • Dale Amon

    I remember it also. I’ve grepped my collection of DOD transcripts and failed to find it so far. It is probably a matter of chosing the wrong search words.

    Glad you enjoy us. And as that great sage Bugs Bunny once said; “Never take life too seriously – you’ll never get out of it alive.”

    I think any long time reader will know that although we are libertarian here, we are individuals in every sense of the word – something totally incompatible with being ideologues of The One True Way.

  • Robert

    I think the tanker reports play right into a recent article I read by a former Eastern Bloc agent who said that the Soviet Union taught those countries that they helped produce WMD to plan for the destruction of WMD by sinking it in the ocean. Does anyone else remember that article?

    Just found the link – http://www.washtimes.com/op-ed/20030820-081256-6822r.htm

    And in response to an earlier post – I think these ships were sent out before the US basically blockaded the Iraqi port.

    But regardless whether the WMD material was sunk or poured out, this article seems to have a plausible explanation for why they haven’t been found – from a source who should know. Makes one wonder why the Bush administration is making similar arguments – more forcefully. I think they be creating a massive report with just such information to “Shock and Awe” the voting population a little closer to election day.

  • stump

    Not to change the subject, but along the same vein, whatever happened to the investigation into all of the stock trading going on just prior to Sep. 11? Specifically, the major shorted postions on UAL, AMR, insurance co.’s, WTC tenants and other stocks sensitive to such an event. A couple of links asking the same question are here
    http://www.freerepublic.com/focus/f-chat/893831/posts and here http://www.globalresearch.ca/articles/HEN204B.html and an article asking the question early on 9/23/91 here http://www.unknownnews.net/010918911.html Was this issue put to rest and I missed it, or is it yet another example of poor follow-up by those who purport to be “investigative reporters”?

  • Sean

    I would like to hear a follow-up on the story of the woman in Tennessee who worked for the DMV who was found incinerated in her car. If I remember, she was being linked to forged drivers licenses for people from the mid-east. If the investigation is active and turning up sleeper cells in the US, I understand why it is not in the media. However, given the other stories that are making the news, I wouldn’t be surprised to find out that this has been swept under the rug.

  • ed

    Stump, yes that story was put to rest.

  • holly s

    The story that I would like to hear more about is the TUNNELS that were supposed to be everywhere under Baghdad. After only one brief Fox News segment on one tunnel, I have not heard another thing? Are the tunnels still there? What’s in them? As I remember, they were supposed to be big and opulent enough to hide all of Saddam’s entourage. Why haven’t we heard anything more about them?

  • Catherine

    The Anthrax Evidence Points to Iraq
    International Journal of Intelligence and CounterIntelligence, 16: 39–68, 2003
    Copyright # 2003 Taylor & Francis
    0885-0607/03 $12.00 + .00
    DOI: 10.1080=08850600390121467

    “Papadoc” is right: American journalists have followed the bureaucracy in their debunking of the Saddam-al Qaeda link. For those of you who don’t live in the U.S., the “leaking” drama here has been stunning. Each time someone in the administration would make even the mildest suggestion that Saddam and Bin Laden could be connected in any way at all anonymous analysts inside the CIA would call up Nicholas Kristoff at the New York Times, and, I’m assuming, Michael Issikoff at Newsweek and the Washington Post, and tell them it was all a lie. I don’t think I’ve ever seen anything like it.

    On the other hand, the Bush administration has never made the decision to fight back, which you can see if you read Stephen Hayes’ recent account in WEEKLY STANDARD. There’s got to be a reason for that.

    I recall Debka saying sometime back that in fact the Bushies had more evidence than they could possibly need to tie Saddam to Bin Laden; the problem was that it all implicated Saudi Arabia, too. I can’t find the link anymore . . . but I trust my memory on this, and recent events sure point that way.

    For me, Dany Shoham’s article is the strongest peer-reviewed work linking Saddam to 9/11. You can find it on the web through a Google search, posted as a PDF file somewhere, but I haven’t been able to access the journal itself.

    Laurie Mylroie’s book is: BUSH VERSUS THE BELTWAY. It’s wonderful.

    As to the ships, can’t remember everything I’ve seen on that, but I’m wondering whether the Donald Rumsfeld item had to do with a ship that was being quarantined off the New York City coast, I believe, (or New Jersey?) because they’d gotten some suspicious radiation readings. That ship turned out to be OK, but they were concerned for a while. (FYI, just about every substance on the planet emits radiation, if I’m remembering corrctly, including human beings. So the fact that a ship was giving off radiation can mean nothing more than: it’s a ship giving off radiation.)

  • Catherine

    Article on Stephen Hatfill in today’s WAPO: http://www.washingtonpost.com/ac2/wp-dyn/A48413-2003Aug26?language=printer

    Hatfill Sues U.S. Over Anthrax Probe
    The Associated Press
    Tuesday, August 26, 2003; 2:26 PM

    For those who don’t know about Hatfill, he is the person the FBI has worked so hard to arrest for the anthrax attacks.

  • seal

    The ships are no longer a concern.

  • Dale Amon

    The ship you are thinking of was one which was taken back out to sea for a careful search after it set off some geiger counters. It turned out to be perfectly ordinary materials with some slight radioactivity.

    But they have every reason to be cautious on such things.