Before the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003, the CIA tossed around various ideas for discrediting Saddam Hussein. One involved producing a fake Saddam sex video. Anchor Marco Werman speaks with Washington Post columnist Jeff Stein about some of the plans and why they were scrapped.
MARCO WERMAN: When it comes to covert CIA operations, there is the high tech, like the remote control drones that strike at militants in Pakistan. And then there's the outlandish, like trying to kill Cuba's Fidel Castrol with an exploding cigar. Well, here's a more recent outlandish CIA plot. It was an attempt to discredit Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein on the eve of the Iraq war. The idea was to produce a fake video of Saddam having sex with a teenage boy. SpyTalk columnist Jeff Stein wrote about this in his Washington Post column SpyTalk. Jeff, tell us more about this just outlandish plot for lack of a better word.
JEFF STEIN: Well they were kicking around ideas in the Iraq operations group of what to do in terms of psychological warfare or information operations. One of the ideas that somebody came up with was to create a video that would look like a secretly recorded video, grainy, black and white kind of thing, of Saddam having sex with a teenage boy. And it didn't fly.
WERMAN: And it didn't fly. Why not?
STEIN: Well wiser heads came to the table. When the idea, I'm told by my sources, the idea was floated by people who had careers in Latin America and east Asia and they didn't understand as some of the people familiar with the Middle East pointed out to them, is that such relationships are quite common in the Arab world. You there are customs in the region where young boys are kind of cajoled and pressured into the trade, if you will, by older men and they're sort of swapped around. And so this video portraying Saddam having this might have set off some titters, but it wouldn't have discredited him.
WERMAN: Now this wasn't a flash in the pan. Your column mentions another CIA covert idea that involves, again, sex with children. This was a video that actually was made to discredit Osama Bin Laden. What did it show?
STEIN: Right, that was along sort of the same lines. The agency found a contractor to make another video that would show Osama Bin Laden and his cronies sitting around a campfire passing around a bottle of whiskey and talking about having sex with their favorite boys and so on. This one was actually made. My sources say it took about six weeks. There were professional makeup artists. "Darker skinned" CIA employees were recruited to act the part of Osama and his circle. But a lot of money was thrown at it and they did do it. But it was never broadcast or copies made.
WERMAN: Have you seen it? Do you know anybody who has seen it?
STEIN: I know someone who participated in it.
WERMAN: Like an actor?
STEIN: I'm not going to say exactly who it was, but someone who participated in making this film gave me the details, even voice coaches were provided. Shiatsu massage was available.
WERMAN: Craft service table?
STEIN: It was like a set.
WERMAN: Can you tell us where it was shot?
STEIN: It was done in a secret location out in Virginia near Culpepper, Virginia. In the CIA's defense, which is difficult in the circumstances, except that they didn't go through with this. You know, we pay these guys to sit around and be imaginative, think of ideas, and some of those ideas, inevitably, are going to be pretty stupid. And someone did call them out on it and said this is really stupid. So they didn't go ahead with it, so I supposed you'll have to give them some credit for that.
WERMAN: Another idea concerned a fake news program that showed Saddam Hussein passing power to his son Uday. What was that about and why was it ultimately rejected?
STEIN: That one was, to me, the most imaginative and clever. Pretty funny, because Uday, the son was widely reviled. So there was going to be this fake newscast that would be popped into Iraqi television, sort of a special bulletin announcement, and Saddam would come on and say he's abdicating in favor of his son Uday and in the script he would be saying I'm sure you would all swear your allegiance to his Excellency Uday. And even in discussing this, my sources and I just broke out laughing because we knew how reviled Uday was. But there was a grain of brilliance to the idea.
WERMAN: Jeff Stein writes the column SpyTalk which appears in the Washington Post. Jeff, thank you very much.
STEIN: Thanks for having me.