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
November 20, 2005
BERLIN — 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.
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.
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."
The German authorities, speaking about the case for the first time, also said that their informant suffered from emotional and mental problems. "He is not a stable, psychologically stable guy," said a BND official who supervised the case. "He is not a completely normal person," agreed a BND analyst.
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 Curveball, who still insists his story was true, or the German officials who handled his case.
Ain't that just ironish?
No wonder the Germans didn't think invading Iraq was such a wunderbar idea.
And what's up with the administration's claim that "everybody else's" intelligence agreed with ours?
Looks to me like the Bush adminstration has yet another thing to erklären.
An old German great uncle once told me this about different breeds of dogs.
"If you throw a steak off a cliff, some dogs will jump after it. A German Shepard will not."