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November 20, 2005

All kudos to the LATimes today.

Someone in this country still remembers what journalism is all about.

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

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.

They "exaggerated."

An investigation by The Times based on interviews since May with about 30 current and former intelligence officials in the U.S., Germany, England, Iraq and the United Nations, as well as other experts, shows that U.S. bungling in the Curveball case was worse than official reports have disclosed.

They "bungled."

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.

They lied.

As a result, the DIA like the BND never tried to check Curveball's background or verify his accounts before sending reports to other U.S. intelligence agencies. Despite that failure, CIA analysts accepted the incoming reports as credible and quickly passed them to senior policymakers.

Desperate for "intelligence" that said what they wanted to hear, they took whatever came to hand.

At the CIA, bio-warfare experts viewed the defector's reports as sophisticated and technically feasible. They also matched the analysts' expectations.

They heard what they wanted to hear.

This is a hugely long article but don't ignore it on that account. It's the kind of laying-out of what happened, or what seems to have happened, that many of us have been hoping to see.

Posted by AnneZook at 10:22 AM