Key Iraqi informant was 'crazy,' U.S. was told before war 

Greg Miller and Bob Drogin, 

04/01/05 "Los Angeles Times"
- - WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Prewar claims by the United States that Iraq was producing biological weapons were based almost entirely on accounts from a defector who was described as "crazy" by his intelligence handlers and a "congenital liar" by his friends.

The defector code-named "Curveball" spoke with alarming specificity about Iraq's alleged biological weapons programs and fleet of mobile labs. But postwar investigations found that he wasn't even in Iraq at times when he claimed to have taken part in illicit weapons work.

Despite persistent doubts about his credibility, Curveball's claims were included in the Bush administration's case for war without so much as a caveat. And when CIA analysts argued after the invasion that the agency needed to admit that it had been duped, they were forced out of their jobs.

The disclosures about Curveball and the extensive role he played in corrupting U.S. intelligence estimates were included in the report released Thursday by a commission established by President Bush to evaluate U.S. intelligence on weapons of mass destruction.

In many ways, Curveball's story is the centerpiece of the report, a cautionary tale told in excruciating detail to highlight failures that plagued U.S. spy agencies at almost every step in the intelligence process -- from collection to analysis to presentation to policymakers.

Intelligence agencies' reliance on Curveball and their failure to scrutinize his claims is described in the report as the "primary reason" that the CIA and other spy agencies "fundamentally misjudged the status of Iraq's [biological weapons] programs."

"Worse than having no human sources," the commission said, "is being seduced by a human source who is telling lies."

The commission's report describes Curveball as an Iraqi chemical engineer who defected after U.N. inspectors had left the country in 1998.

The CIA never had access to Curveball. Instead, he was controlled by the German intelligence service, which passed along the information it collected through the Defense Intelligence Agency, a Pentagon spy agency.

2005 Star Tribune. All rights reserved.

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