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Archive for Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Former Defense Dept interrogator recounts hunt for Saddam Hussein

April 16, 2014

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Eric Maddox was an interrogator for the U.S. Department of Defense who helped locate Saddam Hussein in 2003.

Eric Maddox was an interrogator for the U.S. Department of Defense who helped locate Saddam Hussein in 2003.

The interrogator who helped lead the United States to Saddam Hussein in 2003 had never conducted an interrogation before arriving in Iraq.

In fact, shortly after arriving in the country, Eric Maddox, an Army staff sergeant in the United States at the time, froze up in his first interview with a prisoner taken in a raid by special forces. After staring at the man for some time, Maddox finally said: "So. What brings you in here today?"

Maddox got a laugh when recounting the story Wednesday night to an audience at the Lied Center of Kansas in Lawrence. He admits his interpreter laughed at the time, too.

Maddox spoke at the Lied Center as part of the J.A. Vickers Sr. and Robert F. Vickers Sr. Memorial Lecture Series. He was the 45th speaker in the series, which is sponsored by the Kansas University School of Business.

During the Iraq war, Maddox would end up working with a Delta Force unit in Tikrit at a time when much of the U.S. force in Iraq was looking elsewhere for high-level Baath party officials.

In Tikrit, Maddox went on an exhaustive spree of more than 300 interrogations. At first he was only trying to understand the mechanics of the insurgency in the town.

But as Maddox went higher up in the insurgency's hierarchy, he came to suspect Hussein sat at the top, conducting the insurgency through Mohammed Ibrahim, a former body guard. It was Ibrahim who eventually led Maddox and the Delta Force team to Hussein.

Maddox often learned as he went along. Instead of trying to intimidate prisoners, Maddox would get them to open up. "Just talk to me," he would tell them. "If you identify the needs of the prisoner, and if you address their needs, they'll address your needs," he said.

Maddox originally enlisted in the U.S. Army in 1994 as an infantry paratrooper before re-enlisting as an interrogator and linguist specializing in Chinese Mandarin.

Maddox was deployed eight times after 9/11, including tours in Iraq, Afghanistan, South America, Southeast Asia and Europe. He carried out more than 2,700 interrogations in that time.

For his work in the hunt for Hussein, Maddox received the Legion of Merit, the Defense Intelligence Agency's Director Award and the National Intelligence Medal of Achievement.

In 2008 he published a book about the Tikrit operation titled "Mission: Black List #1 -- The Inside Story of the Search for Saddam Hussein," which is set to become a movie.

Maddox is currently a civilian interrogator for the Department of Defense.

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