The CIA paid mullahs and created fake Islamic religious leaders to preach a moderate message and counter anti-American sentiment in the Arab world after the Sept. 11 attacks, a new book says. In "The CIA at War," Ronald Kessler, an investigative reporter and author of several books about the CIA and the FBI, also detailed espionage activity in Iraq that supported the March invasion that toppled President Saddam Hussein. For the book, made available to Reuters in advance of its October publication, Kessler interviewed CIA Director George Tenet in May and other senior CIA officials. The agency supplied most of the photographs in the book. "In Islam, as in many other religions, anyone can call himself a religious leader," he said in the book. "So, besides paying mullahs, the CIA created fake mullahs - recruited agents who would proclaim themselves clerics and take a more moderate position about nonbelievers." "We are taking over radio stations and supporting clerics," a CIA source was quoted as saying. "It's back to propaganda. We are creating moderate Muslims."
Kessler said the CIA also paid for mullahs to issue fatwas, or religious edicts, urging Iraqis not to resist American forces. He did not specify the countries in which this took place. He said the CIA planted tiny video cameras to track former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein, his sons and other officials, and monitor the position of Iraqi troops and suspected weapons of mass destruction facilities. Electronic beacons were attached to the undersides of cars that Saddam might use and radar-imaging sensors were dragged across the ground to look for hidden underground bunkers and storage facilities, the book said. He did not say exactly when such activities took place. Shedding light on how a major pre-war threat was averted - that Saddam would blow up his oil wells - Kessler says the CIA and U.S. Special Forces paid Iraqi guards who protected the wells to snip wires to explosive devices after the war began.