Indictment: Hussein fed money to spy for U.S. officials’ trip
WASHINGTON (CNN) — Saddam Hussein’s intelligence agency footed the bill for a U.S. congressional delegation’s trip during a buildup to the Iraq war, according to a federal indictment unsealed Wednesday in the case of an Iraqi-born U.S. citizen charged with spying for the Iraqi government.
Saddam Hussein’s spy agency allegedly paid for a 2002 trip to Iraq made by three U.S. lawmakers.
Muthanna al-Hanooti, a former official with an Islamic charity in Detroit, Michigan, was taken into custody Tuesday night. Hussein’s spy agency secretly paid al-Hanooti 2 million barrels of oil, during the time the U.N. Oil for Food program was in place, for services rendered, the indictment states.
Those services included providing the Iraqi government with the names of U.S. members of Congress believed to favor the lifting of sanctions against Iraq, arranging for delegations of those members to visit Iraq and traveling with those delegations.
U.S. officials familiar with the case stressed that no member of Congress had any knowledge al-Hanooti was spying for Iraq or was complicit with illegal activity.
According to the indictment, the Iraqi Intelligence Service paid $34,000 through an intermediary to Life for Relief and Development, the charity that employed al-Hanooti, to pay the delegation’s travel expenses.
In September 2002, al-Hanooti traveled to Iraq with three members of Congress whom he believed to be sympathetic to lifting the economic sanctions against Iraq.
The U.S. led an invasion into Iraq, starting the war, in March 2003.
The indictment did not name the lawmakers, but Democratic Reps. Jim McDermott of Washington, David Bonior of Michigan and Mike Thompson of California made a trip to Iraq at that time. Watch report about Hussein believing the lawmakers would be sympathetic to lifting sanctions against Iraq »
McDermott spokesman Mike DeCesare said the congressman knew nothing about al-Hanooti. McDermott was asked to make the trip to discuss children’s health issues because he is a physician, DeCesare said.
The three came under strong criticism from the Bush administration for arguing the White House was “laying the pretext or the path for war” before U.N. weapons inspectors had begun their work.
Al-Hanooti appeared in court in Detroit Wednesday. He was charged with one count of being an unregistered agent for Hussein’s government, one count of violating economic sanctions on Iraq and three counts of lying to U.S. investigators.
He was released on $100,000 bond and his passport was confiscated