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Sunday, November 20, 2005

Swinging at a curveball

The Los Angeles Times has a huge article on Curveball. Any reader who is unfamiliar with mr Curveball should not bother reading on. The article is absolutely awesome and proves that intelligence was massively distorted. It is also, as mentioned massive. Kevin Drum, has, as usual selected the most informative bits. Achieving brevity, he had to leave out lots of really striking stuff. I will aim for a middle road and present a broader selection of the proof of gross misconduct. Also I will mention which bits are new. Obviously we now know curveball is a total liar, so I won't bother with the overwhelming proof of that.

How U.S. Fell Under the Spell of 'Curveball'
# The Iraqi informant's German handlers say they had told U.S. officials that his information was 'not proven,' and were shocked when President Bush and Colin L. Powell used it in key prewar speeches.

By Bob Drogin and John Goetz, Special to The Times

The German intelligence officials responsible for one of the most important informants on Saddam Hussein's suspected weapons of mass destruction say that the Bush administration and the CIA repeatedly exaggerated his claims during the run-up to the war in Iraq.

Five senior officials from Germany's Federal Intelligence Service, or BND, said in interviews with The Times that they warned U.S. intelligence authorities that the source, an Iraqi defector code-named Curveball, never claimed to produce germ weapons and never saw anyone else do so.


Curveball's German handlers for the last six years said his information was often vague, mostly secondhand and impossible to confirm.

"This was not substantial evidence," said a senior German intelligence official. "We made clear we could not verify the things he said."


Curveball was the chief source of inaccurate prewar U.S. accusations that Baghdad had biological weapons, a commission appointed by Bush reported this year. The commission did not interview ... the German officials who handled his case


The White House, for example, ignored evidence gathered by United Nations weapons inspectors shortly before the war that disproved Curveball's account. Bush and his aides issued increasingly dire warnings about Iraq's biological weapons before the war even though intelligence from Curveball had not changed in two years.

At the Central Intelligence Agency, officials embraced Curveball's account even though they could not confirm it or interview him until a year after the invasion. They ignored multiple warnings about his reliability before the war, punished in-house critics who provided proof that he had lied and refused to admit error until May 2004, 14 months after the invasion.


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."


CIA officials now concede that the Iraqi fused fact, research he gleaned on the Internet and what his former co-workers called "water cooler gossip" into a nightmarish fantasy that played on U.S. fears after the Sept. 11 attacks.


Since the Iraqi had arrived in Munich, U.S. liaison with German intelligence was assigned to the local DIA team.


In DIA files, Iraqi sources were listed as "red" if U.S. intelligence could interview them. Curveball was a "blue" source, meaning the Germans would not permit U.S. access to him.

Curveball said he hated Americans, the Germans explained.

This is important because the DIA flagged curveball as a fabricator, while the CIA did not. The fact that the chain of communication was BND DIA CIA makes this a refusal to accept the conclusion of the people closest to the case.

In an e-mail to The Times, Robin Butler, head of the British inquiry into prewar intelligence, said "incomplete reporting" by the BND misled the British to assume the trucks could produce weapons-grade bio-agents such as anthrax spores. But Curveball only spoke of producing a liquid slurry unsuitable for bombs or warheads.

I note that the difficult step in weaponizing anthrax is grinding the clumps of spores into a very fine powder without killing them. Fermentors are easy and can be made as large or small as one likes. It is only because the step allegedly done on trucks is trivial that it was not obvious that it wasn't happening.

Curveball said he had helped assemble one truck-mounted germ factory in 1997 at Djerf al Nadaf, a tumble-down cluster of warehouses in a gritty industrial area 10 miles southeast of Baghdad. He helped the Germans build a scale model of the facility, showing how vehicles were hidden in a two-story building — and how they entered and exited on either end.


Curveball's reports were highly valued in Washington because the CIA had no Iraqi spies with access to weapons programs at the time.

One detail particularly impressed the CIA: Curveball's report of a 1998 germ weapons accident at Djerf al Nadaf. Powell cited the incident in his prewar U.N. speech. An "eyewitness" was "at the site" when an accident occurred, and 12 technicians "died from exposure to biological agents," Powell said.

Lawrence B. Wilkerson, then Powell's chief of staff, said senior CIA officials told Powell the "principal source had not only worked in mobile labs but had seen an accident and had been injured in the accident…. This gave more credibility to it."

But German intelligence officials said the CIA was wrong. Curveball only "heard rumors of an accident," the BND supervisor said. "He gave a third-hand account."


The BND, insisting Curveball spoke no English and would not meet Americans, introduced the doctor as a German. The CIA physician remained silent, because he was not fluent in German. He was surprised, he later told others, that Curveball spoke "excellent English" to others in the room.

Moreover, Curveball was "very emotional, very excitable," the doctor told one colleague. And although it was early morning, Curveball smelled of liquor and looked "very sick" from a stiff hangover.

German intelligence officials said Curveball didn't have a drinking problem.

this is interesting because it is evidence of BND deception. I'm sure they will argue with this CIA doctor, but the question whether someone is an English speaking drunk or not does not seem technical or open to various interpretations.

MI6 cabled the CIA that British intelligence "is not convinced that Curveball is a wholly reliable source" and that "elements of [his] behavior strike us as typical of … fabricators,'' the presidential commission reported.

British intelligence also warned that spy satellite images taken in 1997 when Curveball claimed to be working at Djerf al Nadaf conflicted with his descriptions. The photos showed a wall around most of the main warehouse, clearly blocking trucks from getting in or out.

From context this seems to be in early 2001, but the article is not clear. In any case there was proof curveball was a liar long before the Bush administration began presenting his claims as known facts.

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.


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.

Iraq "continues to produce at least … three BW agents" and its mobile germ factories provide "capabilities surpassing the pre-Gulf War era," the CIA weapons center warned in October 2001.


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.

[snip] The German officer warned that Curveball had suffered a mental breakdown and was "crazy," the now-retired CIA veteran recalled.

"He said, first off, 'They won't let you see him,' " Drumheller said. " 'Second, there are a lot of problems. Principally, we think he's probably a fabricator.' "

The above has been reported already. Notice this is before the NIE was sent to congress and before the vote. Did anyone say "hold the presses." Yes

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.' "

This is the first time I read this. Until now, I couldn't rule the possibility that Drumheller kept the news to himself.

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.


Curveball had said the germ trucks could enter the warehouse from either end. But there were no garage doors and a solid, 6-foot-high wall surrounded most of the building. The wall British intelligence saw in 1997 satellite photos clearly made impossible the traffic patterns Curveball had described.

Thus there was positive proof that curveball was lying before the invasion.

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.

The invasion of Iraq began two weeks later.

Soon after U.S. troops entered Baghdad, the discovery of two trucks loaded with lab equipment in northern Iraq brought cheers to the CIA weapons center.


The DIA then ordered a classified review of the evidence. One of 15 analysts held to the initial finding that the trucks were built for germ warfare.


"Jerry had become kind of a nonperson," Scheuer recalled of their meeting.

Jeesus at the CIA they don't even know decent newspeak the word is "unperson" not "nonperson". Double plus ungood Mr Scheuer no wonder you had to resign.

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."

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