The mysterious “Colonel Yousef” came out of nowhere and ended up where no one is likely to see him again.
After he was handed the keys of interim government in Baghdad by the departing US administrator Paul Bremer, Iraqi prime minister Iyad Allawi introduced Colonel Yousef to his ministers:
“The colonel has now taken charge of government security. If you have any personal problem, such as protecting your offices, homes and loved ones, Yousef is the man to see,” Allawi told them.
The ministers were mystified. They had never seen or heard of a Colonel Yousef before and wondered where he had sprung from. They had not even been given his full name. Was he one of the disillusioned Baath military officers who defected from Saddam Hussein’s Iraq and joined the Iraqi National Accord Allawi formed in exile with the help of the CIA and British intelligence?
But then, as the terrorist threat to life and limb surged, they put their questions aside and swamped Yousef with requests for protection. Ministers needed bodyguards for themselves and for their children to reach school safely at the other end of town; ministry buildings required protection; top police, army and intelligence officers ran requests through Yousef for measures to assure their own and families’ safety.
He soon gained respect in the new Iraqi administration as exceptionally efficient dispenser of personal security.
Yousef then introduced a new rule. The proliferating bidders for personal security were handed questionnaires to fill out along with their applications. They were asked such questions as: Where do you spend most of your time in Baghdad and when? When do you leave your home and what route do you take to the office? Who are your closest associates? Who are your wife’s best friends and where does she meet them? Insert the license numbers of your cars. Record your private, cellular and satellite phone numbers.
The colonel explained that these particulars would help him maximize the security he provided. When the questionnaires were handed back, the subjects were given color-coded security badges for entry to the relevant government facility, military installation or Baghdad’s heavily fortified Green Zone, the seat of Iraqi government and US military and administration headquarters.
On October 15, on the eve of the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan, two suicide bombers from Abu Musab al-Zarqawi’s terrorist group blew themselves up in the Green Zone Cafe, a favorite hangout for Americans and Iraqis working in what had been till then the safest place in Baghdad, and a souvenir bazaar. Ten people were killed, including four Americans, and more than 20 wounded.
Sold His Security Charges for Cash
A brief investigation showed the two bombers had gained entry with security badges issued by Yousef. That was the end of Allawi’s security whiz.
DEBKA-Net-Weekly’s intelligence sources reveal that the mysterious Colonel Yousef was discovered by a US intelligence inquiry to have sold out. For every questionnaire handed in by a subject he protected, the head of the government’s security unit sold a copy to Iraqi Baath insurgents. They sold the forms in turn to Zarqawi’s people.
Yousef’s treachery, which had earned him a small fortune, handed the Baathist underground all the intelligence data they needed to target senior government figures and their close families for assassination or abduction.
A senior security official in Baghdad familiar with the case told our sources: “When you think of all the vital statistics in the hands of the insurgents, you wonder why they haven’t put them to wider use. With all the surveillance work done for them, they could if they chose wipe out the entire top level of Iraqi government.”
The answer to this may have been that Baath tacticians held back so as not to “burn” their primary source inside government.
But since Colonel Yousef was “blown,” and cast into solitary confinement in prison by Allawi, the members of his administration are in acute peril, even though he has called in all the security badges Yousef issued.
Our sources note that Colonel Yousef is the second Baath-al Qaeda mole discovered in Allawi’s office in six months. In July, the Iraqi chief of staff General Amer al-Hashmi was secretly sacked. A group of turncoat officers, led by Majid Kader, a senior member of Hashmi’s bureau, were discovered by chance to be passing to al Qaeda and Baath insurgents all the letters, cable and telephone traffic passing through the chief of staff’s office. The information included coded messages between the Iraqi and US military commands.
(See DNW 167 of July 30, “Baath-al Qaeda Moles Nests in New Iraqi Army Chief’s Bureau”).