A Futile Game of Hide and Seek
Ritter, UNSCOM Foiled by Saddam's Concealment Strategy

By Barton Gellman
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, October 11, 1998; Page A01

NEW YORK—First of two articles

Scott Ritter had some experience with erased magnetic disks, and he knew what kinds of traces deleted files leave for skillful operatives to exploit. He had no intention of letting such clues survive on his laptop computer, and he devoted some thought to the best way of demolishing its hard drive.

He planned to remove the drive and smash the storage platters beyond repair. But that would amount, he decided, to unlawful destruction of government property. Like so much equipment in use by United Nations arms inspectors, the Dell machine belonged to the U.S. Defense Department. Ritter settled for erasing it with a large industrial magnet.

It was nearly 9 p.m. on Aug. 25. The following morning, Ritter planned to resign his post with the U.N. Special Commission, or UNSCOM, where he had helped lead the hunt for Iraq's forbidden weapons since 1991. Alone in the commission's nerve center on the 30th floor of the United Nations tower, crouching over files beneath a pin-studded street map of Baghdad, he made a final sweep for the most sensitive secrets of a job no person had held before: United Nations intelligence operative.

Ritter meant to take some of those secrets with him. He had kept U.N. superiors apprised, as best anyone knew, of everything he did. Still, much of his work was improvised and his most sensitive relationships built on personal trust. He did not feel free to share all his leads or sources with any one government, including his own, and certainly not with every member of the world body on whose behalf they had been collected.

The 37-year-old reserve Marine had cause to worry about the security of any records he left behind. The FBI had warned of Iraqi agents on the U.N. janitorial staff, and the panel's leaders routinely left the building for their most confidential talks. Some of Ritter's ostensible colleagues reported covertly to home capitals that were ambivalent at best about his work. In his heart of hearts, as he cleared his desk, Ritter did not believe the intricate system he had devised amid all this could long survive without him.

Into Iraq

No international arms control agency had ever tried to disarm a country against its will, but that is what the U.N. Security Council created UNSCOM to do under the terms that ended the 1991 Persian Gulf War. Other such bodies, like the Vienna-based International Atomic Energy Agency, worked on the basis of treaties and consent.

From the start, the inspectors -- a tightknit group of chemists and rocket scientists, computer sleuths and biologists, trade experts and soldiers borrowed from contributing states -- were hated and harassed by the Iraqi government. But they made progress. They examined and verified Iraqi disclosures, on paper and in field expeditions that took them through bombed-out chemical bunkers in 120-degree desert heat. They demolished forbidden weapons with dynamite, or by cutting them to pieces with acetylene torches, or by burying them in pits of hardened concrete. They rid Iraq of far more unconventional weapons, as Western officials often recounted, than the allies had managed to destroy by ground or air in the war itself.

But UNSCOM soon discovered that Iraq ran shell games within shell games to hide the most deadly and sensitive weapons it was obliged to surrender. By 1994, the panel's active leads dried up with enormous gaps still remaining in its investigation. If the commission was to complete the work of the war, ridding a regional hegemonist of a biological and chemical arsenal and a nuclear program on the brink of success, its leaders concluded they would have to pierce what Ritter dubbed "the concealment mechanism" of the Baghdad regime.

With a few close colleagues in 1994 and 1995, Ritter led Rolf Ekeus, the commission's first executive chairman, to the unwelcome conclusion that he had no choice but to confront and defeat Iraq's secret services. Ekeus told CIA Director John M. Deutch in writing, while requesting assistance in September 1996, that "the best hope for the commission" to uncover stocks of illegal arms was a "concerted program . . . targeted against the Iraqi safeguarding mechanism."

Ekeus's decision meant UNSCOM was to play at a game of spy versus spy -- inspector versus spy, in legal terms -- that is normally the province of governments.

Ritter became the main figure in this risky enterprise, which he would call by a code name, "Shake the Tree." Its conception reflected his own outsized personality, skills and values. His own long journey into Iraq, which began before UNSCOM even existed and deepened as he rose from a junior UNSCOM hire to chief of its anti-concealment team, therefore became deeply entwined with the commission's.

Ritter brought skills to the job he had refined as a Marine "0202," an intelligence officer. Born in Gainesville, Fla., and schooled in Turkey and Germany during his father's Air Force career, he had helped police one of the last Cold War pacts as a 27-year-old lieutenant assigned to monitor intermediate-range nuclear forces in the former Soviet Union. According to Marine Corps records, Ritter received a classified commendation from the Central Intelligence Agency for his work in Votkinsk, the kind of letter that is presented to a young officer for perusal and returned to a vault at Langley.

Largely on the strength of that experience, government sources said, the CIA twice recruited him for employment, in 1991 and 1996. The agency rebuffed him in the end each time when questions arose about his marriage to a former Soviet interpreter.

Yet a Marine who once had and then lost the highest U.S. security clearances became entangled, at UNSCOM, in some of the more sensitive work of the U.S. intelligence community. And as much as he and UNSCOM came to rely on national governments -- above all the United States, Israel, United Kingdom and Netherlands -- they also struggled with some of those governments to maintain control of the information they needed to act.

Reliance on secret services, made inevitable by Iraq's resistance to full disclosure, held the keys to some of UNSCOM's success but also to its undoing. It raised in the end a subtle question that had gone largely unexplored save in unsubtle Iraqi propaganda over the years: Who was really running the commission, and with what aims?

The diplomatic ripples from that question, and the effectiveness of Iraqi spy craft in holding inspectors at bay, combined by this summer to bring UNSCOM's remaining program to the brink of defeat. On Aug. 3, Iraq announced the end of its cooperation with the inspectors. More than two months later, despite protests by the Security Council and warnings from Washington, there is no prospect in view of the unrestricted access for inspectors that the council demanded of Iraq, on pain of "the gravest consequences," as recently as March.

The Clinton administration saw itself as fighting valiantly, and with skill, to stave off UNSCOM's defeat. Ritter, disillusioned, read acquiescence in Washington's policy choices. His angry departure from the job made him a celebrity, wooed by congressional Republicans and talk show hosts and a speaker's bureau now trying to market his public appearances.

To others, his behavior harmed his reputation and his cause. Stung by criticism she thought unjust, Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright charged that Ritter "doesn't have a clue" about the broader horizons of American policy, and she speculated privately that he must be planning to run for office, like Oliver North. His former boss, Richard Butler, accused him of unspecified errors of fact and of breaking the law by revealing confidential UNSCOM data.

Scud Hunter

UNSCOM was a product of the uneven conclusion of the Gulf War, which left the Iraqi regime defeated but still in power. The war also shaped Ritter's eventual role.

Ritter spent the conflict fixed on Iraq's special weapons as an intelligence analyst for the U.S. Central Command, responsible for watching Scud missiles. Like everything Ritter does, he took it personally. As a lowly captain, his stubborn intensity led him into career-endangering disputes with the allies' commander in chief, Gen. H. Norman Schwarzkopf. These foreshadowed later battles in UNSCOM with the French armed services chief, a senior British defense official, the director of the CIA's Near East operations and National Security Adviser Samuel R. "Sandy" Berger.

Ritter "was a man who had not always toed the line," Ekeus said with a smile in the wood-toned office where he now holds court as Sweden's ambassador to Washington. When Ekeus first began recruiting for UNSCOM, he heard about a young Marine who stuck to wartime judgments "that I don't think were popular at the time. I knew he was a man of his own opinions. I liked that. We wanted to have strong personalities, but the very best talent."

Ritter had been on his way out of the Marines when war came. He resigned in 1990 to try to save a troubled first marriage to the former Heidi Evans, politely rebuffing a phone call to reconsider from the commandant, Gen. Alfred Gray. But Ritter changed his mind when President Bush began dispatching troops. "I can't leave the Marine Corps when my country's getting ready to go to war," Ritter said. "That's a dishonorable thing to do."

As the war began, Schwarzkopf was eager to claim success in the Scud hunt, for fear that Israel, the missile's main target, would enter the conflict. At a Jan. 30, 1991, news conference, the general displayed gun camera tape from an F-15E attack. "We knocked out as many as seven mobile erector-launchers in just that one strike," he declared.

Alarms rang immediately for Ritter, who was bomb damage assessment officer in Centcom's J-2, or intelligence directorate. He told his colleagues -- in Centcom and at the Defense Intelligence Agency -- that the targets looked like fuel trucks. Frantic work ensued among analysts at the CIA and the Joint Imagery Production Center. Before long, Rear Adm. Mike McConnell walked into Gen. Colin Powell's Pentagon office and told the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff he had a problem.

"We don't think those were Scuds," McConnell said, according to Powell's memoirs. When Powell asked his source, McConnell replied, "A captain, an analyst, on Schwarzkopf's staff."

The following morning, when he prepared the daily bomb damage report for Schwarzkopf, Ritter refused to mark the Scuds as "confirmed kills." According to Brig. Gen. John A. Leide, Centcom's intelligence chief, Schwarzkopf "didn't want to hear" he had made a mistake. Three members of the intelligence staff said in interviews that Schwarzkopf sent word down the chain he wanted Ritter to rewrite his report.

"I said, 'I'm BDA [bomb damage assessment] officer, and there is no criteria that says if the commanding officer says it's so, it's so,' " Ritter recalled. "They took it back, and Schwarzkopf blew up and they came back again and said, 'You have to change it.' I said I couldn't do that."

Ritter, meanwhile, had written a memorandum arguing that the allies were consistently striking decoys and not real Scuds. Even Delta Force commandos, running risky but, they thought, productive Scud hunts behind Iraqi lines, were blowing up the wrong targets, he wrote. Postwar analysis proved he was right. But when Maj. Gen. Wayne A. Downing heard the report, the former joint special forces commander said, "it made me irate."

"It probably took some personal courage, some intellectual courage and moral courage, to stand up and take that on because it certainly wasn't popular with the Air Force, it wasn't popular with General Schwarzkopf and it sure as hell wasn't popular with me," he said.

In another foreshadowing of his later role -- combining intelligence with secret operations and, some critics argue, overreaching -- wartime sources recounted that Ritter traveled to Ar Ar, a commando staging base in western Saudi Arabia. He proposed a plan to Col. Jesse Johnson, Centcom's special forces commander, for a covert team to infiltrate southwestern Iraq. Ritter would come along to select the debris of a bombed decoy, in hopes of developing a radar "signature" that could be used by Air Force bombardiers to distinguish fake Scuds from real ones.

Ritter refused to discuss Ar Ar or special operations in an interview. But he acknowledged that he was out of Riyadh one night, planning a reconnaissance mission, when an officer from Centcom headquarters arrived with a direct order from Schwarzkopf to abort his work and depart. "He said I was a defeatist, trying to ruin the morale of the operators, and two, I was trying to start my own war," Ritter recalled.

The Cabbage Patch

Ritter got his own war at UNSCOM, or part of one. Hired in September 1991 as a U.N. employee and paid for his UNSCOM work at various stages by the Marine Corps and the Pentagon's On-Site Inspection Agency, he received the assignment of writing a complete history of Iraqi ballistic missile development.

Like other experts on the commission, Ritter found gaps and inconsistencies in Iraq's "full, final and complete disclosure" of capabilities. Using his wartime training and his recent knowledge of highly classified intelligence techniques, he began thinking of methods to test doubtful claims and alternate theories. With permission from superiors he began to play an entrepreneurial role with contributing governments, bluffing and bargaining for access to their most expensive and secret resources.

This kind of work was already beyond the broad consensus that created UNSCOM by a vote of the Security Council. France and Russia, which had supplied Iraq with many of its nonconventional weapons components and had aspirations for future diplomatic and commercial relations with the Baghdad regime, played important roles inside the commission but did not fully support the Anglo-American hard line. Although Ekeus inspired a team spirit that transcended some of these concerns, UNSCOM evolved into a fractious and internally distrustful coalition.

Protecting secrets was difficult at UNSCOM, whose headquarters resided in a 185-nation world body accustomed to access for all. To match and outmaneuver Iraq, with its own layers of secrets behind each public event, UNSCOM gradually came to mimic the Baghdad regime in one respect: It had compartments within compartments to obscure the details of what it knew and how.

In particular, Ritter distrusted the French, whom he came to regard as playing a double game: professing support for the commission, but positioning themselves for future influence in Iraq. Tim Trevan, a close British adviser to Ekeus who admired Ritter, said, "Scott is a Francophobe, beyond the reasonable." But he also acknowledged it was "well understood that the senior French officer always" -- against UNSCOM's rules -- "reported to his embassy. If you bar all Frenchmen from the commission, you'd lose a permanent member of the Security Council's support." Ritter had back channels of his own, but he and his superiors said they were authorized and therefore different from those he criticized.

His suspicion boiled over in the spring of 1993, during planning for a high-technology surprise for Iraq. Based on a CIA estimate and UNSCOM's previous inspection results, the commission suspected Iraq had a hoard of Scud missile engines buried in desert weapons graveyards. Ritter helped lead the planning for Operation Cabbage Patch, which would fly over the suspected sites with ground-penetrating radar, a device Iraq did not know UNSCOM had available to it. The name came from the translation of the Russian town of Kapustin Yar, where UNSCOM hoped the Moscow government would help stage a rehearsal, burying missile components in the manner it had once taught to Iraq.

Cabbage Patch was a closely held secret in UNSCOM, but a French photo interpreter on staff could tell something was up and demanded to know. Ritter reluctantly filled him in but secured his word that he would report to no one. Soon afterward, he came across a letter in French briefing the Defense Ministry in Paris about "le Cabbage Patch."

"I got in his face," Ritter said, in what he described as a loud drill-field voice. "I started using every four-letter word I could think of, called him a coward, called him a dishonorable man, and I told him if he was in the American military he'd be court-martialed."

The secret out, Ekeus asked Ritter to fly to France and request support for Cabbage Patch. Ritter was characteristically blunt: He needed Puma helicopters, he told the French military chiefs, and if Paris would not supply them -- in the end, they did not -- he would ask for their equivalents from Washington.

Adm. Jacques Lanxade, the French chief of staff, complained afterward about "this young American who behaved like a general," according to a French account. And there was worse. Lanxade and his fellow four-stars hosted Ritter for lunch in a linen-and-silver Paris dining room, each selecting a wine and cheese from his home region. Ritter, no gastronome, flagged down a waiter and asked for Diet Coke.

"I just fill up the glass and I chug it and I say, 'Could I get another?' " Ritter said. "I think I drank four in a row, to try to get a caffeine boost. Well, you would have thought I had blown up the Eiffel Tower, these generals were so aghast."

Cabbage Patch went forward in November 1993, after rehearsals staged from Edwards Air Force Base, Calif., over a test site in Yuma, Ariz., on American Bell 412 helicopters nicknamed Beavis and Butt-Head. The operation learned a great deal, mostly in the negative. UNSCOM's estimates for Iraq's remaining operational ballistic missile force shrank from about 200 to two dozen or fewer. But finding the missiles themselves was another matter.

Rare Victories

For some years UNSCOM's leaders fought a paradox: The only doors Iraq would open were the ones that led inspectors to dead ends. Delays and refusals of entry became routine, and intelligence from defectors and signals intercepts disclosed that Iraq developed a 15-minute standard for evacuating evidence from a site or, if necessary, destroying it.

As Ekeus, the panel's first executive chairman, told a closed-door session of foreign policy experts on June 17, 1997, two weeks before he left his post, the inspectors had to halt when confronted by armed force. "We are nothing in Baghdad," he said. "We are at their complete mercy. They can just stop our work at any time."

Good luck and audacity sometimes gave UNSCOM a break. Diane Seaman, a University of Minnesota microbiologist, decided to go in the back door instead of the front at a Baghdad food laboratory on Sept. 25, 1997. One of two men holding briefcases literally ran into her on his way out. When he fled back inside and the scientist gave chase, the man was so flummoxed that he handed over his bag. Inside were documents on the letterhead of the SSO -- the service protecting the innermost secrets of the regime -- discussing Iraq's biological weapons program.

Such victories were unusual. More often the Iraqis succeeded, literally or figuratively, in taking the object of inspectors' interest out a back door. From its earliest days, UNSCOM tried to observe the methods of concealment at work.

In the beginning the efforts could be as simple as scaling a ladder. When David Kay, who worked jointly for UNSCOM and the International Atomic Energy Agency, showed up for a surprise search at the Al Fallujah army depot on June 28, 1991, the gate guard would not let him in but made what Kay called "a fatal mistake": The guard did not stop three of Kay's men from climbing a 50-meter water tower with cameras in hand.

When the men spotted tank transporters beating a hurried exit from a side gate, one of the observers, Maj. Richard Lally, descended to a car. Driving alongside the convoy until Iraqis fired warning shots, he photographed doughnut-shaped machines that proved to be calutrons -- 20-foot electromagnets used to enrich uranium for an atom bomb. Before Iraqi soldiers pulled him over, Lally stuffed the film in his underwear.

As time went on, nerve and fast thinking seldom sufficed to bring such advances. And borrowed technology like the Cabbage Patch radar -- as well as FLIRs, or forward-looking infrared sensors, and high-altitude photographs taken by U-2 surveillance planes piloted by Air Force aviators -- could only take inspectors only so far.

Iraq's shell game relied on movement and stealth -- a network of hiding places, fleets of trucks, and early warning of where inspectors meant to go. Frustration among the inspectors led to dawning recognition of what they were up against, and the appearance of a major break in 1995 shocked the commission with proof of its massive failures.

The shock came with the defection of Hussein Kamel, Saddam Hussein's son-in-law. Kamel's revelations forced Iraq to "discover" 1.5 million new pages of weapons research documents at a chicken farm owned by Kamel. Still, the disclosures did not lead to the core of what UNSCOM sought. Internal evidence showed that Iraq had removed the most important documents. In ballistic missile files, for example, Iraq turned over component drawings made during development but not the "integration drawings" -- the only ones necessary to resume production.

In a grim Baghdad headquarters of Iraq's National Monitoring Directorate, the bureaucracy set up to shadow UNSCOM's inspections, Ritter tried to question Iraqi officials about the missing documents on May 5, 1996. Hossam Amin, a top official, read him a prepared statement. All he knew was that a girlfriend of Hussein Kamel -- Kamel was married to Saddam Hussein's daughter, Raghad -- had phoned Amin after Kamel's defection to say some boxes of "important things" were stored at the chicken farm. She hung up without giving her name. Iraq, Amin said, had now told everything it knew about the documents and would not answer further questions.

The "girlfriend story," as it came to be known in UNSCOM, was seen as preposterous. A few months later, on Aug. 16, Amin told Ritter to "forget this, as it never happened," according to notes made by another participant in the interview. Amin had been under instruction to terminate the conversation, he admitted, so he made the story up. He then provided a new explanation, more complex but equally implausible.

"It became blindingly obvious that not only were we missing a little bit, we were missing a lot," said Charles Duelfer, UNSCOM's deputy chief. "We decided we had to take an active approach to go after their methods of concealment, and we turned our most creative minds to that task."

The inspectors became more convinced they had to pierce the secret services themselves, instead of discrediting their cover stories one by one. Here Ritter had an important partner -- ironically, under the circumstances, a Russian.

Nikita Smidovich was another of Ekeus's early recruits, a chain-smoking Soviet diplomat Ekeus first met when Smidovich helped represent his country at the Geneva talks on the Chemical Weapons Convention. Smidovich contributed impassivity to Ritter's passion, tact and composure to Ritter's hard charge, but instead of clashing "they just totally complemented each other," said David Underwood, a retired Air Force colonel who was chief of the State Department's UNSCOM support office and later director of operations for UNSCOM in Bahrain.

"While Ritter is Mr. Energy and Mr. Drive, Nikita has the patience of the millenia," Underwood said. "Ritter is not a great politician or diplomat. Well, I'll tell you what: Nikita Smidovich is the ultimate diplomat."

The two of them worked hand in hand to win over Ekeus, and Smidovich smoothed feathers ruffled by his younger colleague, as when Ritter summarily fired a French colonel 10 years his senior. In Baghdad, Smidovich often served as chief interlocutor with Iraqi counterparts such as Lt. Gen. Amer Rashid, while Ritter ran the complex operations intended to expose the Iraqi's words as lies.

Weapons and Power

In the early summer of 1994, Smidovich and Ritter received their first strong indications of who was behind Iraq's systematic plan to thwart the commission's work. It came from Israel's Military Intelligence organization, which is known by its Hebrew acronym, Aman.

Trevan, Ekeus's British political adviser, had made a chance contact with Israel at a January conference that year in Delphi, Greece. After a public argument with David Ivri, a senior Israeli defense official, a mutual acquaintance pulled Trevan aside and introduced him to a broad man in civilian clothes, wearing a beard and skullcap. The man was Yakov Amidror, at the time the only strictly Orthodox Jew in Israel's general officer corps, and, as it happened, the deputy director of Aman.

Amidror flew to New York in April for a meeting with Ekeus. By June, and again in August, his analysts began passing to Smidovich and Ritter early descriptions of an Iraqi secret agency that the inspectors had known nothing about.

From the Arabic, it was called the Apparatus of Special Security. Saddam Hussein's younger son, Qusay, directed it. Reporting to the umbrella group were the inner core of the president's protective agencies: the Special Security Organization, the Special Presidential Guard Unit and the Special Republican Guard. Saddam Hussein had long relied on this apparatus to maintain power. Now, the inspectors began to discover, he relied on it to help him preserve the special weapons he valued over all other national priorities.

As Ekeus would put it much later, in a June 1997 talk at Washington's Carnegie Endowment, the weapons gave Saddam Hussein "this sweet, wonderful, fantastic power, and that is why Iraq won't give them up."

"These guys are great systems analysts and they have thoroughly studied the way we operate, and they can build a reactive model to that," Duelfer said. "We're outnumbered. There's a lot of Iraqis and there are not many of us. They've got thousands of motivated people, and it turns out they are not motivated to help us but to fool us."

Extraordinary challenges called for an extraordinary response. Ritter and Smidovich came to Ekeus in September 1994 with a proposal to travel to Tel Aviv and learn about Qusay Hussein's apparatus in further detail. They did so in October and December, bringing UNSCOM scientist Norbert Reinecke along. The Israelis responded warily, receiving the unusual trio -- a young Marine, a German and a one-time Soviet diplomat -- in a facility north of Herzliya instead of the inner sanctum of the defense establishment, the Kirya.

Before the inspectors left, however, they had secured a meeting with Maj. Gen. Uri Saguy, the military intelligence chief. When Ritter came back, Ekeus put him in charge of an UNSCOM team that would think about Iraqi secret services as its central mission.

The new team, given the deliberately bland name of Capable Sites/Concealment Investigation, attracted political attack from its early days. Few nations on the Security Council looked with equanimity at probes into such sensitive territory -- as if, they sometimes argued, someone delved in the inner workings of the U.S. Secret Service and FBI. UNSCOM, with its American and British diplomatic backers, argued that it had no choice.

By this year, with Russia and China pressing attacks, France used its swing vote in the Security Council to force UNSCOM to scale back the team and accept a French intelligence officer, Patrick Haimzadeh, as one of its members.

"This meant," Ritter said, "that we had to compartmentalize inside the team. We basically had to live a cover story in front of the Frenchman so he wouldn't know the full extent of what we were doing." In the files available to Haimzadeh, Ritter and his trusted lieutenants placed "fake mission requests." The real details of their plans were "handwritten on plain white paper and kept in a special folder that we would carry with ourselves." There was no special code name used for this information, he said; "we just called it 'NO FRENCH.' "

The phenomenon was hardly new, nor confined to France. Another senior inspector described it as UNSCOM's "ongoing problem of being eaten away from within." At one point UNSCOM received a specific warning that Russian eavesdroppers were listening to UNSCOM's telephone calls and passing some of the information gleaned to Iraq.

Another time, Duelfer arranged to meet Ahmed Chalaby, an Iraqi resistance leader, to receive information. Chalaby, who heads the Iraqi National Congress, said Duelfer described his own office as insecure and insisted on meeting across First Avenue, in a corner of the U.N. Plaza Hotel lobby. "One of my men notices these two Russians lurking behind a pillar, trying to listen," Chalaby said. Duelfer, Chalaby added, "recognized them and immediately bolted."

As far back as 1992, Roger Hill, an Australian inspector, had caught a French military attache helping himself to the commission's files and bringing them to the copy machine. He and Ritter complained to Jeff St. John, the Canadian chief of the Information Assessment Unit, UNSCOM's euphemism for an intelligence section. St. John replied they could not afford a diplomatic incident. "That's when both Roger and I made the decision," Ritter said, "that anything we considered sensitive was not going in the file."

On the laptop computer he kept at home, Ritter maintained data he believed too sensitive to leave at the office, such as a complete log of his foreign contacts and notes describing evolution of the plan he called Shake the Tree. His deepest secrets lived inside a battered canvas briefcase, the olive drab model from Lands' End, that came as a 35th birthday present from his parents in 1996.

"The really sensitive information was carried in my green bag, twenty four hours a day, with me," Ritter said. "I carried it around everywhere I went. I took it home at night, put it under the bed, woke up in the morning and carried it back with me into work."

The habit, if not the contents, persisted. Last month, when Ritter testified in Congress, a careful observer would have noted the bag on all three occasions, never once beyond the witness's reach.

Tomorrow: The confrontation with Iraq.

Copyright 1998 The Washington Post Company

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