Originally created 11/18/02

Journalist uncovers Saddam's e-mail file



DURHAM, N.H. - Even Saddam Hussein gets spam.

He also gets e-mail purporting to be from U.S. companies offering business deals, and threats, according to a journalist who figured out a way into an Iraqi government e-mail account and downloaded more than 1,000 messages.

Brian McWilliams, a free-lancer who specializes in Internet security, says he hardly needed high-level hacking skills to snoop through e-mail addressed to Saddam.

While doing research late one October night, the Durham resident clicked on the official Iraqi government Web site, www.uruklink.net/iraq.

The site, which worked last week but was offline Sunday, included links that allow visitors to send e-mail to Saddam and allowed users of the government-controlled site, which is set up in Dubai, to check their own accounts.

That mail-checking feature caught Mr. McWilliams' eye. On a whim, he typed in the address for Saddam, "press@uruklink.net," using "press" for president, and tried "press" again as a possible password.

Then he waited while his data bounced around the world.

"It took a long time. I was about to hit stop, but then, boom! The inbox appeared," Mr. McWilliams said.

There's no way of knowing if Saddam ever received any e-mail addressed to him. The messages that filled Mr. McWilliams' screen were sent between mid-June and mid-August, when the mailbox apparently reached capacity. None of them had been read or replied to, Mr. McWilliams said.

"Whoever was responsible for checking the mail - I'm sure it wasn't him (Saddam) - had fallen behind," he said.

Although he has described his find in an October article on Wired News online and has been written about in the International Herald Tribune, Mr. McWilliams hasn't heard anything from U.S. authorities. He also has no plans to share his findings with the government.

"The fact that I haven't heard anything leads me to believe either they don't care, or they already know about it," he said.

Rob Nichols, a spokesman for the Treasury Department, which enforces trade sanctions against Iraq, wouldn't comment on the e-mails Mr. McWilliams found, but he said his office actively investigates any credible information it receives about violations.

"There are plenty of investigations under way," he said.