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Sunday, November 20, 2005

“Curveball” and the Iraq War

Posted by on November 20 at 10:52 AM

First the scary tales about aluminum tubes, yellowcake uranium, and nuclear mushroom clouds were all debunked. And now the LA Times, in an incredibly well-reported story, debunks another scary tale Americans were told before the Iraq war. It’s the tale about about those mobile weapons labs that were supposedly criss-crossing Iraq, churning out scary bio-weapons. Not only does the LA Times expose this as an obvious fiction, but more importantly, the paper shows that the Bush administration knew this tale was phony before the war and hyped it anyway. It all traces back to an Iraqi defector to Germany who was code-named, ironically, “Curveball.”

This is a must, must read.

According to the Germans, President Bush mischaracterized Curveball’s information when he warned before the war that Iraq had at least seven mobile factories brewing biological poisons. Then-Secretary of State Colin L. Powell also misstated Curveball’s accounts in his prewar presentation to the United Nations on Feb. 5, 2003, the Germans said.

Powell, of course, is not happy and is on-the-reord:

Powell said he was never warned, during three days of intense briefings at CIA headquarters before his U.N. speech, that he was using material that both the DIA and CIA had determined was false. “As you can imagine, I was not pleased,” Powell said. “What really made me not pleased was they had put out a burn notice on this guy, and people who were even present at my briefings knew it.”

Curveball, it seems, was trying to get asylum by making up stories based on internet research, but the CIA believed him anyway:

Tyler Drumheller, then the head of CIA spying in Europe, called the BND station chief at the German embassy in Washington in September 2002 seeking access to Curveball.

Drumheller and the station chief met for lunch at the German’s favorite seafood restaurant in upscale Georgetown. The German officer warned that Curveball had suffered a mental breakdown and was “crazy,” the now-retired CIA veteran recalled…

Drumheller, a veteran of 26 years in the CIA clandestine service, said he and several aides repeatedly raised alarms after the lunch in tense exchanges with CIA analysts working on the Curveball case.

“The fact is, there was a lot of yelling and screaming about this guy,” said James Pavitt, then chief of clandestine services, who retired from the CIA in August 2004. “My people were saying, ‘We think he’s a stinker.’ “

The analysts refused to back down. In one meeting, the chief analyst fiercely defended Curveball’s account, saying she had confirmed on the Internet many of the details he cited. “Exactly, it’s on the Internet!” the operations group chief for Germany, now a CIA station chief in Europe, exploded in response. “That’s where he got it too,” according to a participant at the meeting.

Other warnings poured in. The CIA Berlin station chief wrote that the BND had “not been able to verify” Curveball’s claims. The CIA doctor who met Curveball wrote to his supervisor shortly before Powell’s speech questioning “the validity” of the Iraqi’s information.

“Keep in mind that this war is going to happen regardless of what Curve Ball said or didn’t say and the Powers That Be probably aren’t terribly interested in whether Curve Ball knows what he’s talking about,” his supervisor wrote back, Senate investigators found.

The U.N. inspectors disproved Curveball’s reports before the war…

On March 7, 2003, Hans Blix, the chief U.N. inspector, told the Security Council that a series of searches had found “no evidence” of mobile biological production facilities in Iraq. It drew little notice at the time.

And yet…

The invasion of Iraq began two weeks later.


The CIA had advised Bush in the fall of 2003 of “problems with the sourcing” on biological weapons, an official familiar with the briefing said. But the president has never withdrawn the statement in his 2003 State of the Union speech that Iraq produced “germ warfare agents” or his postwar assertions that “we found the weapons of mass destruction.”