WASHINGTON - The Pentagon said Friday that US fighting forces in Iraq are
ready for any escalation of violence there, even as condemned former President
Saddam Hussein waged an 11th-hour appeal in American courts to spare his life.
"U.S. forces in Iraq are obviously at a high state of alert anytime because
of the environment that they operate in and because of the current security
situation," said spokesman Bryan Whitman, in advance of an appeal filed here on
Saddam's behalf by his lawyers.
Whitman said U.S. forces will "obviously take into account social dimensions
that could potentially led to an increase in violence which certainly would
include carrying out the sentence of Saddam Hussein."
Closer to home, U.S. government officials said Friday that people should be
vigilant about the possibility of a terror attack associated with Saddam's
impending execution in Iraq. But an advisory that the FBI and the Homeland
Security Department sent to local law enforcement agencies and intelligence
community figures was routine and did not cite any specific threat.
Saddam has been in U.S. custody since he was captured in December 2003. As
his execution drew near, Saddam's lawyers filed an appeal trying to stave it
Hussein's lawyers filed documents Friday afternoon asking for a stay of
execution. The 21-page request was filed in U.S. District Court in Washington
before Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly.
His attorneys argued that because Hussein also faces a civil lawsuit in
Washington, he has rights as a civil defendant that would be violated if he is
executed. He has not received notice of those rights and the consequences that
the lawsuit would have on his estate, his attorneys said.
"To protect those rights, defendant Saddam Hussein requests an order of this
court providing a stay of his execution until further notice of this court,"
attorney Nicholas Gilman wrote.
A similar request by the former chief justice of the Revolutionary Court,
Awad Hamed al-Bandar, was denied Thursday and is under appeal. Al-Bandar also
faces execution. The Justice Department argued in that case that U.S. courts
have no jurisdiction to interfere with the judicial process of another country.
The administration, meantime, sent out an advisory saying that Americans
should be vigilant about the possibility of an attack. The routine advisory the
FBI and the Homeland Security Department sent to local law enforcement agencies
and intelligence community figures did not cite any specific threat.
"We currently have no credible, specific intelligence indicating any imminent
threat against the Homeland or corroborating that individuals in the Ba'ath
party or others loyal to Saddam are prepared to carry out any activities in the
United States," said FBI spokesman Richard Kolko.
For its part, the White House declined Friday to talk about the timing of
Deputy White House press secretary Scott Stanzel, talking to reporters Friday
from Crawford, Texas, where President Bush was vacationing, said the hanging of
Saddam was a matter for the sovereign Iraqi government. Earlier, the White House
said the appeals court decision to uphold the sentence marked an important
milestone for the Iraqi people's efforts to replace the rule of a tyrant with
the rule of law.
At the Pentagon, Whitman said U.S. military forces "stay at a constant state
of high readiness in Iraq and I would expect through this period they would do
He wouldn't comment further on any potential troop movements to strengthen
security for the execution, but said the commanders in Iraq have the ability to
move forces as they deem appropriate based on conditions on the ground.
Whitman also said he wouldn't comment on anything that President Bush might
be contemplating in terms of changing U.S. war policy in Iraq or in connection
with the intensive administration review now under way on American strategy