Pilot shot down in Gulf War may be alive in
Iraqi prison New York Post, Tuesday, March 12, 2002
By Niles Latham in Washington D.C. and
David K. Li in New York
A decade-long mystery about a Navy pilot - shot down
on the Persian Gulf War's opening night in 1991 - deepened yesterday amid
reports that he's alive and languishing in Saddam Hussein's dungeons.
The Washington Times reported that British
intelligence agencies have given the Pentagon and CIA a dramatic new report,
from an unnamed source, that Lt. Cmdr. Michael Scott Speicher has been secretly
held by the Butcher of Baghdad for 11 years while Iraq continues to assert he is
The British informant said Speicher's
captivity is such a closely guarded secret that the chief of Iraqi intelligence
and Saddam's ruthless son Uday are the only people permitted to see him.
Buddy Harris, who married Joanne Speicher believing
her husband to be dead, told The Post the family is familiar with the British
intelligence revelations and other unconfirmed accounts of the airman's
"This family has been on a roller coaster, and we've
heard reports even more explosive than this one," Harris said from the couple's
home in Orange Park, Fla.
"We know there are other people [intelligence
agencies] working on this."
Harris and his wife attended the funeral yesterday
of an Orange Park Army Ranger killed in combat in Afghanistan.
Pentagon officials downplayed, but did not totally
deny, the Washington Times report, saying the pilot's strange and tragic case
remains under investigation.
State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said
yesterday the United States complained to Iraq last week that its officials have
stonewalled for a year about Speicher's status.
Lt. Cmdr. Speicher, of Jacksonville, Fla., was
flying an F-18 Hornet on Jan. 17, 1991, when his craft was hit, probably by an
He was immediately listed among the first American
servicemen killed in Operation Desert Storm, but his status was changed from
"Killed in Action/Body Not Recovered" to "Missing in Action" two years ago amid
questions about whether he survived.
One member of Saddam's inner circle who defected to Jordan
told U.S. investigators in 1999 that he personally drove :I healthy and alert
downed American pilot from the desert to Baghdad.
The defector identified that pilot from a photo array as