Ancient Civilizations
Looting of Iraqi Treasures
JIACG - Joint Interagency Coordination Group 
Photo: DoD photo by Helene C. Stikkel

"During a Pentagon briefing, Marine Col. Matthew Bogdanos said so far during a four-month investigation, about 3,400 artifacts have been recovered and returned to the Iraqi people, but many items remain missing. He leads a 13-member team formed by U.S. Central Command to recover items missing or stolen from Iraqi museums."

Colonel Matthew F. Bogdanos, USMC, was recalled to active duty after September 11 from his position as a New York City prosecutor. He is currently detailed to the National Strategic Gaming Center, Institute for National Strategic Studies at the National Defense University.

Joint Interagency Cooperation: The First Step
by Matthew F. Bogdanos

"Shadowy networks of individuals can bring great chaos and suffering to our shores....To defeat this threat we must use every tool in our arsenal. -The National Security Strategy of the United States of America (September 2002)"


U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) responded to this threat by creating a Joint Interagency Coordination Group (JIACG). It was only the first step, but it was an order of magnitude greater than any prior attempt. This article traces the development of the CENTCOM JIACG through two wars, using it as a case study to highlight the need for better and institutionalized interagency coordination at the operational level, and concludes with practical recommendations for using "every tool in our arsenal" to reduce the likelihood of future terrorist attacks.

Joint Force Quarterly Issue 37
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Background Info #1

ABC Online

7.30 Report 15/4/2003 

This is the print version of story

KERRY O'BRIEN: Welcome to the program. The Pentagon may not be claiming final victory yet - but it's clear the war in Iraq is now winding down. Already, US carrier battle groups are being redeployed from the Gulf, while Defence Minister Robert Hill has foreshadowed the imminent return of Australian Special Forces and Hornet fighter jets. But another dozen Australians are about to head to the Gulf. The weapons specialists will join other coalition teams in Iraq searching for weapons of mass destruction. So far, despite the reported discovery of mobile chemical laboratories today, those weapons are proving elusive. The BBC's 'News Night' program has been given exclusive access to a shadowy British and American team seeking evidence of banned weapons. Richard Watson reports from southern Iraq. 

RICHARD WATSON: A safe taken from a Baath Party controlled building is blown open by an American specialist team now working in southern Iraq. Now the military campaign is nearing its end, the hunt for proof of Saddam Hussein's guilt is intensifying. The search has started in Iraq's only deep water port, Umm Qasr. The thinking is clear - developing nuclear, biological or chemical weapons programs would have required technical equipment imported from the US, Europe, Japan, Russia or China, and the paper trail is likely to start here. In amongst phones and office equipment are files, ledger books and floppy disks taken away for analysis.

Blowing the safe ripped the hinges from the doors. This is the operations room of the Joint Interagency Coordination Group, JIACG for short. This is part of a team of 80 now deployed across the region and drawn from agencies with expertise in counterterrorism, weapons of mass destruction and sanctions busting. 25 are drawn from the US Department of Defense, military intelligence and nuclear, biological and chemical weapons experts. But 55 out of the 80 are non-military, undercover customs investigators and the CIA. 'News Night' understands that British intelligence officers from MI6 are part of the team. We agreed to disguise the identity of some operatives while filming this report. The JIACG intelligence team has never been filmed before. US Central Command gave 'News Night' access partly to prove to the Iraqi people that the coalition is intent on finding evidence against the dictator and those countries which broke sanctions imposed after the last Gulf War. This man, known simply as 'Chief', is a senior member of the team.

'CHIEF', JOINT INTER-AGENCY COORDINATION GROUP: Whether or not this is strictly funding, payroll, documentation, at this point we don't know. Tens of thousands of pages of documents have already been seized. They haven't had time to box and file these ones. They've been designated low priority after initial assessment. High priority documents are scanned and sent to America as computer files for detailed analysis using computer programs which scan the text for clues. The noise of Baath Party safes being blown open has resounded across the port over the past couple of days. The old bank vaunt was intact before the explosives ordnance disposal team came in. Inside a strong room they found safe deposit boxes, but they proved too tough for hand tools. More explosive needed, but they did manage to break into the main safe. Perhaps unsurprisingly they found a lot of Iraqi dinar in the bank, much of it freshly minted in serial number order. 

UNDERCOVER OFFICER, US CUSTOMS: There's approximately a little over 1 million Iraqi dinars. 

RICHARD WATSON: How much is that in dollars? 

UNDERCOVER OFFICER: Well, that's hard to say, but as of March 17th, given the official rate then, this would be the equivalent of slightly more than $3 million US. If it is no evidence of crime, it belongs to the Iraqi people and will be turned over to them. 

RICHARD WATSON: But local currency is now trading at 1,000th of the official rate - a major problem for those Iraqis with money in the bank or under the bed. But some evidence found near the hall of money suggests it may never be claimed. 

UNDERCOVER OFFICER: What we have here are certificates of loyalty to the Baath Party. They were found with the money. You may draw whatever conclusions from that you wish. We have covered up the names of the individuals. 

RICHARD WATSON: The sheer volume of paperwork is daunting and the pressure is on for the team to come up with evidence of weapons of mass destruction. 'News Night' has also learned from other sources that two giant steam turbines are suspected to have been delivered to Iraq during the sanctions period, possibly from America via France. These are so-called dual use. They're needed for legitimate industry and chemical weapons production alike. As such, the export of this machinery to Iraq would have been prohibited. Is it true to say that that's part of your inquiry? 

COLONEL MATTHEW BOGDANAS, JOINT INTER-AGENCY COORDINATION GROUP: It is part of our inquiry. We are not focusing on such dual-use items, but as you pointed out, given the size of the items that have already been - that are already present in the warehouse, it's clear that that's one of the investigative leads that we are following up on. 

RICHARD WATSON: And so the investigation continues. This hitherto secret model of interagency cooperation first tested in Afghanistan will now face a stern test in Iraq as political pressure mounts for hard results.

© 2008 Australian Broadcasting Corporation
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The Thieves of Baghdad

November 2004 Atlantic Monthly
 Lauren Sandler

Everyone knows about the looting of Iraq's museums during last year's war. What almost no one knows is that most of the museums' holdings had been stolen and sold years before—and not by mobs of Iraqis off the street


The Thieves of Baghdad
by Matthew F. Bogdanos

Protecting Cultural Heritage:
International Law after the War in Iraq

Leader of the interagency investigation into Iraqi antiquities looting during Operation Iraqi Freedom
Colonel Matthew Bogdanos
U.S. Marine Corps;


 Ultimately, we must develop a comprehensive global strategy that joins all the elements of international power to combat the illicit antiquities trade in several meaningful and complementary ways. First, the strategy must include an aggressive but measured campaign to increase public awareness of the importance of cultural property, improve recognition of the magnitude of the current crisis, and create a climate of universal condemnation of trafficking in unprovenanced antiquities.

Second, there must be a greater level of cooperation not only between different law-enforcement agencies, but also between law-enforcement on the one hand and the art and archaeological communities on the other. The latter are needed to act as law enforcement's eyes and ears, as on-call experts for authenticating and identifying intercepted shipments, and for providing crucial in-court expert testimony. The art and archaeological communities should also request the appropriate law-enforcement personnel (depending on country and focus) to provide detailed, factual briefings at every single conference in the future that purports to address art or antiquities smuggling. The call for up-to-date investigative facts should become as standard as the call for papers.

Finally, every country and international organization should be pressured to increase its funding for specialized and expanded art and antiquities task forces. Interpol's member nations should fund a robust staff dedicated to Iraqi antiquities, and private foundations desirous of helping should fund resources such as vehicles, computers, communications assets, and quarterly international conferences, seminars, and training for such specialized squads. 



JIACG Recovers Treasures of Nimrud
DoD photo by Helene C. Stikkel (Released)
Colonel Matthew Bogdanos, USMC, conducts a Pentagon press briefing on Sept. 10, 2003. Bogdano, the leader of the team investigating the looting of Iraqi antiquities during Operation Iraqi Freedom, discusses his findings. 

U.S. Department of Defense
Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense (Public Affairs)
News Transcript

Presenter: Marine Col. Matthew Bogdanos   September 10, 2003 10:00 AM EDT
Briefing on the Investigation of Antiquity Loss from the Baghdad Museum

A photo from today's briefing is located at
The investigation final report is located at


JIACG Recovers Treasures of Nimrud

Photographs by Noreen Feeney
Edited by John Simmons
Iraq Museum International 

Treasure of Nimrod / Iraq

UPDATE: Nimrod Treasure Safe at Central Bank of Iraq

BAGHDAD, IRAQ.- Piero Cordone, the adviser on cultural affairs in Iraq stated, "Even if it’s just two rooms, my goal is to open it by September to highlight the resumption of cultural activity in the country." The exhibit would include the treasure of Nimrod which had been stored in the Central Bank of Iraq. Cordone also commented that the inventory of the cultural works showed between 1,800 and 2,000 exhibits missing from the archaeological museum.  He said: “There were about 3 000 to 3 500 works stolen and, out of that, only 1 200 were recovered. Among the missing items were about 30 that were priceless.  There are 650 bracelets, necklaces, royal tiaras, golden objects and semi-precious stones which were placed in the bank vaults during the 1991 Gulf War. We will check they are still there, do an inventory, clean them and then put them on show. It’s an exceptional collection." The Nimrod treasure was discovered in 1988-1989 by Iraqi archaeologists in the tombs of Assyrian queens and princes from the 8th and 9th centuries BC.

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