BRANDOLAND: Talking to God...For You!

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Another Curveball

The headline from the LA Times:

How U.S. Fell Under the Spell of 'Curveball'

We covered "Curveball" back in April (with help from the UK's Guardian, of course): Glad to see the MSM is finally catching up.

The LA Times:
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.
No, but he's got a cool nickname.

Once again, we set the Brandoland Time Machine to April 01, 2005.

* * *

Here's the latest from the Guardian UK:

"US intelligence on Iraq chaotic and incompetent, says Bush commission"

Actually, the headline shoud read, "US bases its entire rush to war on info from a crazy guy":
A presidential commission investigating the intelligence debacle that preceded the Iraq invasion reported yesterday that the damage done to US credibility would "take years to undo."
Fine - great - dry set up - we've heard that charge before.

Get ready: It's time to take another drive through Crazytown.
The incompetence described in the report occasionally descends into farce, particularly over an Iraqi defector codenamed CURVEBALL, whose FABRICATED TALES about MOBILE biological LABORATORIES and their influence on US decision-makers were reminiscent of Graham Greene's accidental spy in Our Man in Havana. Despite warnings that he was "CRAZY", "a waste of time", and that he had not even been in Iraq at the time of an event he supposedly saw, his claims became the subject of almost 100 Defence Intelligence Agency reports and a focus of the National Intelligence Estimate in October 2002.
"What's the guy's name again?"

"Curveball, sir."

"Why? He throw a mean one? Heh heh."

"Don't know, sir."

"Nolan Ryan. He threw a mean curveball. But...he was all about the fastball. (Pause) Colin ready to talk to the UN people?"

"He is, sir."
Most critically, Curveball's description of MOBILE LABORATORIES provided one of the highlights of COLIN POWELL'S ADDRESS to the UN security council on February 5 2003, in which the then US secretary of state laid out the JUSTIFICATION for the INVASION.

Curveball's story has already been told in part, but yesterday's account is the most comprehensive. He was an IRAQI CHEMICAL ENGINEER who was first debriefed in 2000 by a foreign liaison service - not named in yesterday's report but elsewhere reported as being German intelligence.

Before the war, the Germans refused to let US interrogators question Curveball directly, saying that he "would refuse to speak to Americans"; they just passed on his claims, according to the Commission on the Intelligence Capabilities of the United States Regarding Weapons of Mass Destruction.

Warning signs emerged in MAY 2000 when a military intelligence officer was allowed to visit Curveball.
Wait. May 2000? May 2000?!

"That's a long time before the War on Terror."

Yep.
He reported: "I do have a concern with the validity of the information, based on Curveball having a terrible HANGOVER the morning of [the meeting]."
"I will not talk to the Americans until somebody brings me a bottle of Chivas!"
The warning fell on deaf ears, but by autumn 2002 the CIA was growing increasingly nervous, knowing it had not met an important source. So a meeting was arranged between the local CIA division chief and German intelligence officers.

When the division chief asked whether US agents could question the defector, "the foreign intelligence service responded with words to the effect of 'You don't want to see him because he's CRAZY' - furthermore, the [German] representative said that he worried that Curveball was 'a FABRICATOR'."

The division chief passed on this alarming news to his superiors, but George Tenet, then CIA chief, and his deputy, John McLaughlin, both denied having been told of it.
Good move.
Curveball is reportely related to a senior member of the Iraqi national congress (INC), then an exile group. However, the commission found that the INC had not brought him forward.
Gee. I wonder who Curveball is related to?

"Any chance it's that Chalabi guy?"

YA THINK?
THE REPORT is another nail in the coffin of Mr Tenet's reputation and CLEARS THE WHITE HOUSE AND PENTAGON of trying to shape intelligence to justify war.
You're kidding.
It concludes: "The commission found NO EVIDENCE OF POLITICAL PRESSURE to influence the intelligence community's prewar assessments of Iraq's weapons programmes."
No evidence of political pressure. Right. Glad that's been cleared up. I was beginning to think that the Bushies were gettin' good at putting political pressure on their peeps.
It warns only of the dangers of intelligence leaders becoming too close to the president and risking the loss of objectivity. In other words, the commission found that Mr Tenet had been TOO EAGER TO PLEASE.
Wow.

I hope Mr. Tenet walked away from the Bushies with some steak knives. ("Always be closing!")

Read between the lines: The Bushies wanted to go to war with Iraq...long before 9/11. They just needed a good EXCUSE, and didn't care where they found "it."

PART OF THAT EXCUSE CAME FROM A DRUNK CRAZY GUY.

Grrrrr.

"This info is from a drunk crazy guy?"

"Years of...torture...under Saddam...turned him to the bottle, sir."

"I hear that. Hey, what's his poison? Let's send him something, you know, for his efforts."

"Right away, sir."

LAST THING - Curveball? Come on, people. You've got to come up with some better nicknames.

* * *

Enough. A lot of bad comedy, but you get the picture.

(Memo to self: Reading old blog pages much like reading old diary passages. Don't do it.)

Finally...

Pentagon Probes Office Headed by Feith

This is huge - and another sign that the career military types are going after the Neo-Cons.
WASHINGTON - The
Pentagon's inspector general said Friday it has begun an investigation into allegations that an office run by Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld's former policy chief, Douglas J. Feith, engaged in illegal or inappropriate intelligence activities before the
Iraq war.

The probe, which two senators requested two months ago, comes at a contentious point in the political debate over President Bush's decision to invade Iraq and the intelligence upon which Bush based his decision.

*

In a letter Wednesday to Feith's successor, Eric Edelman, and to Rumsfeld's intelligence chief, Stephen Cambone, the inspector general's office asked for points of contact for the investigation no later than Dec. 1.

"The overall objective will be to determine whether personnel assigned to the Office of Special Plans from September 2002 through June 2003 conducted unauthorized, unlawful or inappropriate intelligence activities," the letter said. A copy was released by the Pentagon late Friday afternoon.

*

A Pentagon spokesman, Bryan Whitman, said the small office that Feith set up prior to the start of the Iraq war to evaluate intelligence on Iraq — the Office of Special Plans — has been the central focus of numerous inquiries by members of Congress and others who question whether it performed improper intelligence functions.
Could Rumsfeld be next? The OSP was his baby.

This all ties together, people: Curveball, Niger, WMD's, the OSP, the White House Iraq Group, and the Neo-Cons.

It's all about fixing intelligence to fit the policy.

More later...

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