Tuesday, November 22, 2005

What did they know, and when did they know it? PreWar Intelligence--a review of current articles

Important points on prewar intelligence from current report on Curveball
Excerpts from How U.S. Fell Under the Spell of 'Curveball'

Also see: Codename 'Curveball'.

Note: Drawings above were pre
sented to UNSC on Feb 5, 2005 as evidence of Mobile labs making biological weapons. (Most of the world noticed that they were just drawings. The American news media played up Powell's masterful report and "irrefutable evidence" all of which has been refuted since.)

As we imagine a conversation between the president and vice president the day before the speech:

Bush: Did you get those drawings which 'proves' Saddam has mobile Bio Weapon labs done, Falseticker?

Cheney: Yeah, I just put the finishing touches on the last one now.

Bush: And all those squares and circles on that overhead shot?

Cheney: That was done yesterday.

Bush: Good. Now Congress will see the same evidence that we see!.

Excerpts (indented text):
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.


The White House, for example, ignored evidence gathered by United Nations weapons inspectors shortly before the war that disproved Curveball's account. Bush and his aides issued increasingly dire warnings about Iraq's biological weapons before the war even though intelligence from Curveball had not changed in two years.


The senior BND officer who supervised Curveball's case said he was aghast when he watched Powell misstate Curveball's claims as a justification for war.

"We were shocked," the official said. "Mein Gott! We had always told them it was not proven…. It was not hard intelligence."


CIA officials now concede that the Iraqi fused fact, research he gleaned on the Internet and what his former co-workers called "water cooler gossip" into a nightmarish fantasy that played on U.S. fears after the Sept. 11 attacks.

Curveball's motive, CIA officials said, was not to start a war. He simply was seeking a German visa.


David Kay, who read the Curveball file when he headed the CIA's search for hidden weapons in 2003, said Curveball's accounts were maddeningly murky.

"He was not in charge of trucks or production," Kay said. "He had nothing to do with actual production of biological agent. He never saw them actually produce [an] agent."

But the CIA and the White House overlooked the holes in the story.


MI6 cabled the CIA that British intelligence "is not convinced that Curveball is a wholly reliable source" and that "elements of [his] behavior strike us as typical of … fabricators,'' the presidential commission reported.

British intelligence also warned that spy satellite images taken in 1997 when Curveball claimed to be working at Djerf al Nadaf conflicted with his descriptions. The photos showed a wall around most of the main warehouse, clearly blocking trucks from getting in or out.


U.S. and German officials feared that Ahmad Chalabi had coached Curveball after the defector said his brother had worked as a bodyguard for the controversial Iraqi exile leader. But they found no evidence.

Curveball "had very little contact with his [bodyguard] brother," the BND supervisor said. "They are not close.''

More problematic were the three sources the CIA said had corroborated Curveball's story. Two had ties to Chalabi. All three turned out to be frauds.

The most important, a former major in the Iraqi intelligence service, was deemed a liar by the CIA and DIA. In May 2002, a fabricator warning was posted in U.S. intelligence databases.

Powell said he was never warned, during three days of intense briefings at CIA headquarters before his U.N. speech, that he was using material that both the DIA and CIA had determined was false. "As you can imagine, I was not pleased," Powell said. "What really made me not pleased was they had put out a burn notice on this guy, and people who were even present at my briefings knew it."

Please remember, folks, from Watergate on, the standard for truth from political figures seems to be whatever can be proven that you know. If it can't be proven that you were told something, then for all intents and purposes, you weren't.

This has become even worse since Iran Contra, when the standard also started excluding what you might know that could bring down a president who was popular with big business as long as it could be hushed up. Cockburn has an article with a bit about news, political information, and 'the truth' at Counterpunch. (Scroll down below the appeal for funds for article, but think about that appeal, too. Counterpunch is part of that small, underfunded liberal news and analysis community which makes corporate (mainstream) news put on a veneer of objectivity.)

The article goes on with this, but puts the spin that came from the "president's commission on prewar intelligence" on it, that the CIA got this wrong and sent the information to the president and his staff as being certain. If you remember, the president's commission was appointed by the Commander in Chief himself and included people known to be personally and politically friendly to him. Other sources, including the more balanced beginning of this own article have found that the CIA did pass on it's caveats and it's uncertainties to the Bush administration.

Also the article admits that the... National Intelligence Estimate issued in October 2002...
was sent to Congress days before lawmakers voted to authorize use of military force if Hussein refused to give up his illicit arsenal.

For the first time, the new estimate warned with "high confidence" that Iraq "has now established large-scale, redundant and concealed BW agent production capabilities."

It said "all key aspects" of Iraq's offensive BW program "are active and that most elements are larger and more advanced than they were before the Gulf War."

In other words, the Bush administration from 2001 on got the caveats, the "we're not certain about this. This guy is wacko, but it makes a good story.

The Congress got the 'certainty'.

Meanwhile back at the 'farm'...

Tyler Drumheller, then the head of CIA spying in Europe, called the BND station chief at the German embassy in Washington in September 2002 seeking access to Curveball.

Drumheller and the station chief met for lunch at the German's favorite seafood restaurant in upscale Georgetown. The German officer warned that Curveball had suffered a mental breakdown and was "crazy," the now-retired CIA veteran recalled.

"He said, first off, 'They won't let you see him,' " Drumheller said. " 'Second, there are a lot of problems. Principally, we think he's probably a fabricator.' "

September 2002. In time even to stop most of the build up, the certain assesment to Congress, and everything the the intense "I want it!"* in the hearts of the Bush administration.

*Afterall, it wasn't their fortunes or their families that were going to be ruined.

Drumheller, a veteran of 26 years in the CIA clandestine service, said he and several aides repeatedly raised alarms after the lunch in tense exchanges with CIA analysts working on the Curveball case.

"The fact is, there was a lot of yelling and screaming about this guy," said James Pavitt, then chief of clandestine services, who retired from the CIA in August 2004. "My people were saying, 'We think he's a stinker.' "


On Feb. 5, 2003, Powell told the packed U.N. chamber that his account was based on "solid sources" and "facts and conclusions based on solid intelligence." "We thought maybe they had the smoking gun," recalled the BND supervisor, who watched Powell on TV. "My gut feeling was the Americans must have so much from reconnaissance planes and satellites, from infiltrated spotter teams from Special Forces, and other systems. We thought they must have tons of stuff."

Instead, Powell emphasized Curveball's "eyewitness" account, calling it "one of the most worrisome things that emerge from the thick intelligence file."

A congressional staffer on intelligence said she realized the case was weak when she saw Powell display CIA drawings of trucks but not photos. "A drawing isn't evidence," she said. "It's hearsay."

Powell's speech failed to sway many diplomats, but it had an immediate impact in Baghdad.

"The Iraqis scoured the country for trailers," said a former CIA official who helped interrogate Iraqi officials and scientists in U.S. custody after the war. "They were in real panic mode. They were terrified that this was real, and they couldn't explain it."

An explanation was available within days, but U.S. officials ignored it.

On Feb. 8, three days after Powell's speech, the U.N.'s Team Bravo conducted the first search of Curveball's former work site. The raid by the American-led biological weapons experts lasted 3 1/2 hours. It was long enough to prove Curveball had lied.

Djerf al Nadaf was on a dusty road lined with auto repair shops and small factories, near the former Tuwaitha nuclear facility and a sewage-filled tributary of the Tigris River.

Behind a high wall, a two-story grain silo adjoined the warehouse that Curveball had identified as the truck assembly facility.

"That's the one where the mobile labs were supposed to be," said a former U.N. inspector who worked with the U.S. and other intelligence agencies. "That's the one we were interested in."

The doors were locked, so Boston microbiologist Rocco Casagrande climbed on a white U.N. vehicle, yanked open a metal flap in the wall, and crawled inside. After scrambling over a huge pile of corn, he scraped two samples of residue from cracks in the cement floor, two more from holes in the wall and one from a discarded shower basin outside.

Back at the Canal Hotel that afternoon, he tested the samples for bacterial or viral DNA. He was searching for any signs that germs were produced at the site or any traces of the 1998 bio-weapons accident. Test results were all negative.

"No threat agents detected," Casagrande wrote in his computer journal that night. "Got to climb on a jeep and crawl into buildings and play second-story man, but otherwise spent the day in the lab."

A British inspector, who had helped bring the intelligence file from New York, found another surprise.

Curveball had said the germ trucks could enter the warehouse from either end. But there were no garage doors and a solid, 6-foot-high wall surrounded most of the building. The wall British intelligence saw in 1997 satellite photos clearly made impossible the traffic patterns Curveball had described.

U.N. teams also raided the other sites Curveball had named. They interrogated managers, seized documents and used ground-penetrating radar, according to U.N. reports.

The U.N. inspectors "could find nothing to corroborate Curveball's reporting," the CIA's Iraq Survey Group reported last year.

On March 7, 2003, Hans Blix, the chief U.N. inspector, told the Security Council that a series of searches had found "no evidence" of mobile biological production facilities in Iraq. It drew little notice at the time.

The invasion of Iraq began two weeks later.

Still more along this line.

Also see:

Cheney's Rules of Evidence

Vice President puts on his war face

Skewed intelligence or not

Murtha: We must speak for troops


Anonymous Blake said...

I will from now on always trust men named Curveball.

Thanks for the summary.

7:26 PM  

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