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7/10/2004

Curveball: Bad Intelligence, Gullible Officials

"Curveball" was an INC informant that gave us mucho bad intelligence. Most notably, he was the source of the "mobile biological weapons laboratories" intel. The Senate Intelligence Committee report has some details on him.

The only American who met a now-discredited Iraqi defector codenamed "Curveball" repeatedly warned the CIA before the war that the Baghdad engineer appeared to be an alcoholic and that his dramatic claims that Saddam Hussein had built a secret fleet of mobile germ weapons factories were not reliable.

In response, the deputy director of the CIA's Iraqi weapons of mass destruction task force — part of the agency's counter-proliferation unit — suggested in a Feb. 4, 2003, e-mail that such doubts were not welcome at the intelligence agency.

"As I said last night, let's keep in mind the fact that this war's going to happen regardless of what Curveball said or didn't say, and the powers that be probably aren't terribly interested in whether Curveball knows what he's talking about," the CIA official wrote, according to information released Friday by Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) to support the Senate Intelligence Committee's blistering, 511-page critique of America's prewar intelligence. [LA Times]
For example, speculation that the presence of one specialized truck could mean an effort to transfer chemical weapons was puffed up into a conclusion that Iraq was actively making chemical weapons, the report said.

Analysts concluded that Iraq had a mobile biological weapons program based mainly on the since-discredited claims of one Iraqi defector code-named ``Curveball.'' The report said American agents did not have direct access to Curveball or his debriefers, but the source's information was expanded into the conclusion that Iraq had an advanced and active biological weapons program. [Guardian]
The Los Angeles Times broke the Curveball story back in March. Curveball was a false intelligence plant provided by the INC. The CIA and the DIA have accused each other of promoting Curveball. Both agencies ignored warnings from German intelligence. War and Piece provides a Fox News excerpt where Chalabi denied knowledge of Curveball's identity. Billmon put together a list of administration references to Curveball's intelligence back in April. It is really necessary to read the declassified text of the report, available here. The Curveball section begins on page 152 (162 of the PDF) and goes to page 157 (167). FAS has the report broken down by section. It is hard to make sense of it given the blackouts.

 

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