Saddam's "sleepless nights" revealed in FBI files

Handwritten letters claimed "torture" by US military

Published:

In his final days, ousted Iraqi president Saddam Hussein complained of torture and severe "beatings" as well sleep deprivation in a series of letters penned during his time in American captivity, press reports said on Tuesday.

The handwritten letters, obtained by the New York Daily News, poured out complaints of mental and physical abuse by the "detention gang" of the United States military jailers.

In one letter Hussein wrote: "not a single part of my body was spared of the severe harm inflicted by the detention gang," adding, "some of the traces are still visible on my body."

Hussein described his detention center – believed to be inside Baghdad International Airport – as a nightmarish chamber where sleepless nights echoed the screams of prisoners being tortured.

"My opportunity to sleep in this place is limited and almost scarce," Saddam wrote. "I don't think there is anyone with a sensitive and humanitarian heart who can sleep amidst the screams of the tortured and the many blows of the doors and the squeaking sounds of the chairs."

In one letter written on Christmas day 2003, the former Iraqi leader claimed that in the past three days, the "total hours of sleep did not exceed four to five hours."

American denial

The letter is authentic, but its writer lacked credibility, said Ronald Kessler, American journalist and author of The Terrorist Watch, which includes an extensive interview with George Piro, the FBI agent who interrogated Saddam Hussein after his capture.

"Saddam Hussein was treated very humanely in prison, especially by George Piro who once brought him sweets," he told Al Arabiya.

Kessler said he has confirmed that the United States never tortured Saddam Hussein and added that such issues do not fall under the jurisdiction of the FBI.

"I guess what Saddam Hussein wrote about is what he used to do with his imprisoned opponents," Kessler concluded.

Kessler was one of the most prominent journalists for the New York Times and is author of several best-selling books.

The 17 books he wrote tackle key figures in the United States. He received 16 awards during his career. Kessler is currently a correspondent in New Max magazine, based in Washington.

Saddam Hussein was treated very humanely in prison, especially by George Piro who once brought him sweets

Ronald Kessler

Prisoner requests

The letters were among 352 pages in Hussein's declassified FBI file, which the paper requested after his December 2006 execution for crimes against humanity.

The heavily redacted FBI file did not address Hussein's allegations of mistreatment and are not considered credible by U.S. experts.

In one note, American officials - seemingly intent on convicting the imprisoned leader – stated that FBI should "overwhelm Hussein with the volume of evidence against him and others regarding human rights violations, mass murders and the use of chemical weapons."

Following Saddam's capture on Dec. 15, 2003, he penned his first letter nine days later requesting the return of "a number of simple necessities, the most important are notebooks with chapters from a story." He also demanded an accounting of over $1 million in cash found hidden with him in a Tikrit spider hole.

A 2004 memo also revealed that Hussein became fond of his FBI interrogator and even ended a hunger strike "for the benefit of Supervisory Special Agent Piro."

The files show that the Hussein and his family were tracked by the agency since the early 1970s. One early memo described the Iraqi leader as someone who "enjoys a good Havana cigar."