[ISN] Dear Saddam, How Can I Help?

From: InfoSec News (isnat_private)
Date: Tue Oct 29 2002 - 02:59:51 PST

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    By Brian McWilliams  
    Oct. 28, 2002
    On the afternoon of July 17, a self-proclaimed expert in biochemistry 
    composed an e-mail message to Saddam Hussein. 
    The message, sent from an MSN Hotmail account on a computer in China, 
    recommended the use of methyl bromide, an agricultural pesticide, as 
    an effective chemical weapon against the U.S. Army. 
    "For weapon use, have function: no color, no smell, will let person 
    dead in a few second," wrote the e-mail's author, who provided the 
    phone number and address of a distributor in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, 
    from which the toxic chemical could be purchased "in cylinder or in 
    The chilling electronic missive was among hundreds evidently sent to 
    Iraq's president last summer from people around the world. 
    As America veers toward confrontation with Iraq, these e-mail messages 
    provide a raw, uncensored view of global opinion -- and of the 
    potential challenges awaiting U.S. efforts to disarm or overthrow 
    Saddam, Iraq's leader since 1979. 
    It's not clear whether Saddam uses e-mail or even knows how to operate 
    a personal computer. But scores of people write to him each week at 
    pressat_private, the e-mail address listed on the official homepage 
    of the Iraqi presidency since at least October 2000. 
    Messages sent to the account, Iraq's version of 
    presidentat_private, run the gamut from fawning solicitations for 
    autographed photos and media interviews to obscene death threats. 
    The e-mails sent to pressat_private were obtained earlier this 
    month by first clicking on a link, labeled "Check your e-mail in 
    Uruk," on the homepage of Iraq's state-controlled ISP, Uruklink.net, 
    then guessing the login name and password -- both of which were the 
    same, five-letter word. 
    Uruklink's Web-based e-mail service has been unavailable for the past 
    three days. The version of webmail software used by the Iraqi ISP is 
    known to have several security holes -- but the patches available for 
    them do not appear to have been applied. 
    Among the hundreds of messages marked as unread in Saddam's inbox were 
    several junk e-mails and messages infected with computer viruses. 
    Numerous e-mails -- including some from Americans -- offered advice 
    and assistance to Saddam. 
    Consider, for example, a flurry of messages apparently sent to Saddam 
    by an employee of a Saudi Arabian oil company in July and August. The 
    e-mails contained cryptic reports in broken English about the location 
    of U.S. oil pipelines, as well as warnings about the movement of 
    submarines, aircraft and other military equipment and personnel in the 
    Middle East. 
    "I will try to give you (An Sha Allah) a good way to protect your 
    Muslims," said the message. (The phrase In sha' Allah, from the Quran, 
    means "God willing.") 
    Meanwhile, an Internet user from Washington state, who conceded that 
    he would "probably end up on some FBI watch list for writing this," 
    told Saddam in an e-mail dated Aug. 1 that he opposed military action 
    against Iraq. 
    The author of the message advised Saddam to be diligent "with regards 
    to your own personal security. The CIA is notoriously crafty and 
    extremely adept at overthrowing governments and their respective 
    In another message, a resident of Vienna, Austria, told Saddam in a 
    July 27 message that Americans are "arrogant," and that should the 
    United States attack Iraq, "you need only send a ticket and I will 
    come to Iraq to fight the Americans. I am a good shot, and I am 
    serious about my offer." 
    Saddam's inbox also contained several solicitations from American 
    companies hoping to do business with Iraq -- despite U.S. prohibitions 
    and United Nations trade sanctions. 
    On Aug. 16, the CEO of a California wireless technology-maker e-mailed 
    Saddam to request a meeting. According to the CEO's message, the two 
    could discuss "technology improvements and exporting of rich 
    technology abroad." 
    In a press release dated Sept. 13, the company said it has developed 
    "4G" wireless technology capable of being used "as a weapon to ignite 
    large sections of the atmosphere and incinerate all living creatures 
    within its pre-selected coordinates." The press release also called 
    for the resignation of President Bush. 
    In a telephone interview, the CEO said he attempted to contact Saddam 
    to obtain permission to place a wireless communications antenna in 
    Iraq. "No way would we ever give the weapon-of-mass-destruction 
    technology to Mr. Hussein," the executive said. 
    On Aug. 14, the proprietor of a Las Vegas company e-mailed Saddam 
    "looking for someone to talk to about selling my fire retardant for 
    the army over there. We have a great product for the army." 
    The business owner replied to an e-mailed interview request, and was 
    informed how his message had been read. The man confirmed it had been 
    sent from his address, but that it had been a joke by a friend. He 
    also stressed that he would never sell products to Iraq. 
    Joke or not, such deals with Iraq are legally risky -- if not outright 
    A 1990 U.S. executive order prohibits transactions between American 
    companies and Iraq, according to Joseph Wilson, former deputy chief of 
    the U.S. Embassy in Iraq and an adjunct scholar with the Middle East 
    Institute. The U.N. sanctions imposed in the wake of Iraq's 1990 
    invasion of Kuwait further restrict trade of "militarily useful items" 
    with Iraq, Wilson said. 
    An excerpt from a U.N. document known as the Goods Review List (PDF) 
    containing a list of chemicals, biological agents and other prohibited 
    items was repeatedly e-mailed to the Iraqi president's account from 
    several Uruklink users over a one-week period in mid-August. A file 
    attached to the messages was infected with what appeared to be a 
    variant of the Yaha computer worm. 
    The presence of strict U.N. controls didn't stop the chairman of one 
    London company from e-mailing Saddam on Aug. 9 with an offer to 
    mediate Iraq's purchase of unspecified products from western Europe. 
    "Please consider this letter as secret ... I ensure you absolute 
    secrecy," the e-mail stated. 
    A Buenos Aires businessman repeatedly e-mailed Saddam in early August 
    offering technology "stolen from the National Transportation Safety 
    Board of United States" and designed to "enlarge the security of 
    flight in helicopters." 
    According to the author of the message, the technology was worth $40 
    International interest in e-mailing Saddam was apparently piqued in 
    October 2001, when Iraq's leader sent a long-winded personal response 
    to a message from Chris Love, a Pennsylvania resident who had pleaded 
    with Saddam to seek peace with the United States. 
    Saddam's 3,300-word message, which included the first detailed 
    condolences by Iraq's leader following the Sept. 11 attacks, garnered 
    considerable media coverage. Love said in an interview that he was 
    even forced to stop answering his phone and to disable his e-mail 
    account after receiving a barrage of interview requests. 
    According to Wilson, Iraq has a "well-oiled propaganda machine" and 
    messages like Love's "kind of play into Saddam's hands. He likes 
    nothing more than to be able to parade some misguided people as proof 
    that Americans don't support their government." 
    Nine months after Sept. 11, however, as President Bush began turning 
    up the heat on Iraq, Americans also wrote to criticize Iraq's ruler. 
    A man who identified himself as a former U.S. paratrooper and Persian 
    Gulf War veteran e-mailed on June 25 that he regretted that "a 
    political solution decision was made before my friends and I had a 
    chance to completely wipe your cartoon character of a leader off the 
    face of this earth." 
    One AOL user sent Saddam a one-word message: "Imminent." Attached to 
    the Aug. 6 e-mail was a photograph of an atomic mushroom cloud. 
    An Internet user from London chided Saddam for hoarding Iraq's oil 
    wealth for himself while the country's citizens die of starvation. 
    "You really are a most cynical regime," wrote the author of the 
    e-mail, which was dated Aug. 10. 
    Comments about Iraq's oil resources figured into several of the 
    messages. An Australian resident suggested in July that Saddam cut off 
    oil to neighboring Turkey, which the message's author said was 
    America's No. 2 ally after Israel. The e-mail said Iraq could also 
    tighten the screws on Turkey "if they cooperate with America" by 
    threatening to use biological and chemicals weapons on Turkey. 
    Though some analysts say Iraq's U.N.-mandated Persian Gulf War 
    reparation payments -- which currently stand at more than $43 billion 
    -- have mortgaged the future of Iraq's economy, a financial services 
    firm in Canada was apparently still hopeful. 
    In a July 1 e-mail addressed to "Iraqi Presidency," the chairman of 
    the company proposed a "future relationship" with Iraq. 
    The company, located in Montreal, specializes in "the movement and 
    leveraging of financial instruments" as well as "conversion of 
    currencies" and "offshore activities," according to the e-mail. 
    One pragmatic AOL user urged Saddam on July 28 to cooperate fully with 
    U.N. inspectors as the best way to avoid war. 
    "Please allow the weapons inspectors into your country so that the 
    illegitimate leader of my country, the U.S.A., who perpetrated a coup 
    and stole the election, will not have an excuse to attack your 
    country. If you would do that it would take away his power and weaken 
    him and make you look like the bigger man," she wrote. 
    Another Internet user, who identified himself as a 20-year-old Mormon 
    from Utah, wrote that he prayed for the day when Iraqis have plentiful 
    food, medicine, clothing and other necessities. 
    But the author of a July 19 message said he was frustrated about his 
    inability to help bring about such changes. 
    "To me it is all politics. Wars and disputes are not about right and 
    wrong, nor are they about good versus evil, but they are about power," 
    he wrote. 
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