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U.S. e-mail attack targets key Iraqis

From CNN Pentagon Correspondent Barbara Starr

Thousands of e-mail messages have been sent out since Thursday, a military source told CNN.
Thousands of e-mail messages have been sent out since Thursday, a military source told CNN.

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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- U.S. military and other U.S. government agencies have begun a surreptitious e-mail campaign inside Iraq, CNN has learned, in an effort to get some Iraqis to defy President Saddam Hussein.

U.N. inspectors Saturday resumed their search for signs that Iraq is developing weapons of mass destruction, visiting at least five sites, including two medical supplies warehouses and a facility that produces veterinary drugs, according to the Iraqi Ministry of Information.

The developments came as the United States ordered the deployment of 35,000 more troops to the region and a UK Royal Navy taskforce was setting sail to underline the "clear and credible" threat of force facing Saddam Hussein if he refuses to give up his weapons of mass destruction.

Thousands of e-mail messages have been sent out since Thursday, a military source told CNN.

The official says "this is just the beginning of a psychological warfare campaign" to convince the Iraqi leadership they cannot win a war against the United States and its allies.

The message includes instructions to the e-mail recipients to contact the United Nations in Iraq if they want to defect.

Senior military sources told CNN this was the first time the military had engaged in this type of "information warfare campaign."

Sources say the program was developed by the military and intelligence agencies in recent weeks.

The disguised e-mails, being sent to key Iraqi leaders, urge them to give up, to dissent and to defect. If they do not, the messages warn, the United States will go to war against them.

The U.S. military and intelligence officials were apparently hoping that the Iraqis do not realize where the e-mails are coming from.

One official tells CNN the Pentagon wanted "to preserve this capability as long as possible," but once the e-mail campaign was discovered it would be acknowledged publicly.

The official also says the United States acknowledges that Iraq may have already shut off some Internet gateways to prevent the e-mails from getting through.

He said these same types of messages will now be sent by radio broadcast in the days ahead from U.S. airborne and ground platforms.

CNN learned about the operation Friday afternoon, and was initially asked not to report on it by senior Bush administration officials. Those officials later decided the information could be released.

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