Chris's Rants

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Mein Gott!

How U.S. Fell Under the Spell of 'Curveball' - Los Angeles Times (emphasis mine):
The senior BND officer who supervised Curveball's case said he was aghast when he watched Powell misstate Curveball's claims as a justification for war.

"We were shocked," the official said. "Mein Gott! We had always told them it was not proven…. It was not hard intelligence."

In a telephone interview, Powell said that George J. Tenet, then the director of central intelligence, and his top deputies personally assured him before his U.N. speech that U.S. intelligence on the mobile labs was "solid." Since then, Powell said, the case "has totally blown up in our faces."


"The Iraqis were adept at feeding us what we wanted to hear," said a former official of the Pentagon's Defense Intelligence Agency who helped debrief about 50 Iraqi emigres in Germany before the war. "Most of it was garbage."


It got worse, like a children's game of "telephone," in which information gets increasingly distorted.


"Our fear is that as it was analyzed and translated and reanalyzed and retranslated, and comments got added, it could have gotten sexed up by accident," agreed a former CIA operations official.


But the story had holes.

"His information to us was very vague," said the senior German intelligence official. "He could not say if these things functioned, if they worked."

Curveball also said he could not identify what microbes the trucks were designed to produce.

"He didn't know … whether it was anthrax or not," said the BND supervisor. "He had nothing to do with actual production of [a biological] agent. He was in the equipment testing phase. And the equipment worked."

David Kay, who read the Curveball file when he headed the CIA's search for hidden weapons in 2003, said Curveball's accounts were maddeningly murky.

"He was not in charge of trucks or production," Kay said. "He had nothing to do with actual production of biological agent. He never saw them actually produce [an] agent."

But the CIA and the White House overlooked the holes in the story.


More problematic were the three sources the CIA said had corroborated Curveball's story. Two had ties to Chalabi. All three turned out to be frauds.

The most important, a former major in the Iraqi intelligence service, was deemed a liar by the CIA and DIA. In May 2002, a fabricator warning was posted in U.S. intelligence databases.

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."


In May 1999, before Curveball defected, a national intelligence estimate on worldwide biological warfare programs said Iraq was "probably continuing work to develop and produce BW [bio-warfare] agents," and could restart production in six months.

In December 2000, after a year of Curveball's reports, another national intelligence estimate cautiously noted that "new intelligence" had caused U.S. intelligence "to adjust our assessment upward" and "suggests Baghdad has expanded'' its bio-weapons program.

But the caveats disappeared after the Sept. 11 attacks and the still-unsolved mailing of anthrax-laced letters to several U.S. states.


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 supervisor later told them he was only voicing his opinion that war appeared inevitable.


On Feb. 5, 2003, Powell told the packed U.N. chamber that his account was based on "solid sources" and "facts and conclusions based on solid intelligence." "We thought maybe they had the smoking gun," recalled the BND supervisor, who watched Powell on TV. "My gut feeling was the Americans must have so much from reconnaissance planes and satellites, from infiltrated spotter teams from Special Forces, and other systems. We thought they must have tons of stuff."

Instead, Powell emphasized Curveball's "eyewitness" account, calling it "one of the most worrisome things that emerge from the thick intelligence file."

A congressional staffer on intelligence said she realized the case was weak when she saw Powell display CIA drawings of trucks but not photos. "A drawing isn't evidence," she said. "It's hearsay."

Powell's speech failed to sway many diplomats, but it had an immediate impact in Baghdad.

"The Iraqis scoured the country for trailers," said a former CIA official who helped interrogate Iraqi officials and scientists in U.S. custody after the war. "They were in real panic mode. They were terrified that this was real, and they couldn't explain it."

An explanation was available within days, but U.S. officials ignored it.

On Feb. 8, three days after Powell's speech, the U.N.'s Team Bravo conducted the first search of Curveball's former work site. The raid by the American-led biological weapons experts lasted 3 1/2 hours. It was long enough to prove Curveball had lied.

This part was most striking for me:
One CIA-led unit investigated Curveball himself. The leader was "Jerry," a veteran CIA bio-weapons analyst who had championed Curveball's case at the CIA weapons center. They found Curveball's personnel file in an Iraqi government storeroom. It was devastating.

Curveball was last in his engineering class, not first, as he had claimed. He was a low-level trainee engineer, not a project chief or site manager, as the CIA had insisted.

Most important, records showed Curveball had been fired in 1995, at the very time he said he had begun working on bio-warfare trucks. A former CIA official said Curveball also apparently was jailed for a sex crime and then drove a Baghdad taxi.

Jerry and his team interviewed 60 of Curveball's family, friends and co-workers. They all denied working on germ weapons trucks. Curveball's former bosses at the engineering center said the CIA had fallen for "water cooler gossip" and "corridor conversations."

"The Iraqis were all laughing," recalled a former member of the survey group. "They were saying, 'This guy? You've got to be kidding.' "

Jerry tracked down Curveball's Sunni Muslim parents in a middle-class Baghdad neighborhood.

"Our guy was very polite," Kay recalled. "He said, 'We understand your son doesn't like Americans.' His mother looked shocked. She said, 'No, no! He loves Americans.' And she took him into [her son's] bedroom and it was filled with posters of American rock stars. It was like any other teenage room. She said one of his goals was to go to America."

The deeper Jerry probed, the worse Curveball looked.

Childhood friends called him a "great liar" and a "con artist." Another called him "a real operator." The team reported that "people kept saying what a rat Curveball was."

Jerry and another CIA analyst abruptly broke off the investigation and took a military flight back to Washington. Kay said Jerry appeared to be nearing a nervous breakdown.

"They had been true believers in Curveball," Kay said. "They absolutely believed in him. They knew every detail in his file. But it was total hokum. There was no truth in it. They said they had to go home to explain how all this was all so wrong. They wanted to fight the battle at the CIA."

Back home, senior CIA officials resisted. Jerry was "read the riot act" and accused of "making waves" by his office director, according to the presidential commission. He and his colleague ultimately were transferred out of the weapons center.

The CIA was "very, very vindictive," Kay said.

Soon after, Jerry got in touch with Michael Scheuer, a CIA analyst who felt he had been sidelined for criticizing CIA counterterrorism tactics. Scheuer would quit within a year.

"Jerry had become kind of a nonperson," Scheuer recalled of their meeting. "There was a tremendous amount of pressure on him not to say anything. Just to sit there and shut up."

A CIA spokeswoman confirmed the account, but declined to comment further. Jerry still works at the CIA and could not be contacted for this report. His former supervisor, reached at home, said she could not speak to the media. "What was done to them was wrong," said a former Pentagon official who investigated the case for the presidential commission. "But we didn't see it so much as a cover-up as an expression of how profoundly resistant to recognizing mistakes the CIA culture was."
Bullshit. "we didn't see it so much as a cover-up?" Give me a break. Where did the pressure come from? From Dick and Scooter's repeated visits to the CIA demanding evidence that Saddam had WMD? Nope... nothing to see here, move along.

Re-writing history? Had access to the same intelligence as the White House?

Hey, Dick... may I call you Dick? You, and your dimwitted boss took this country to war on a pack of lies. You mislead the country. You know it, I know it, 57% of Americans think you and your sock puppet lied. In fact, were it not for FauxNews repeating your propagandistic lies day in, and day out, the numbers would be worse.
"Do you think President Bush gave the country the most accurate information he had before going to war with Iraq, or do you think President Bush deliberately misled people to make the case for war with Iraq?" Half sample (Form A)

Accurate Misled Unsure
% % %
11/4-7/05 35 57 8
6/04 RV 44 47 9
3/04 52 42 6
Each day, we are treated to yet more evidence that you lied. That you "fixed the facts around the policy".

Hey Dick, go Cheney yourself!


  • Just as Curveball was given a Burn Notice and anything he says is disregarded, it is time to come together to challenge and disregard other things such as the irrationality that led to the Iraq war.

    By Anonymous The Burn Notice, at February 07, 2016 8:43 AM  

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