Whose Fault Is 'Curveball'
By Mark Hosenball Newsweek
January 17, 2006
Jan. 16, 2006 - The Bush administration's reliance on a secret source,
code-named Curveball, to make its case that Iraq was harboring weapons of mass
destruction is one of the great embarrassments of the run-up to the Iraq war.
Curveball, the primary source for Secretary of State Colin Powell's prewar
assertion to the United Nations that Saddam Hussein was hiding mobile
germ-warfare labs, was later discredited. By why was the United States fooled
to begin with?
U.S. officials learned about Curveball from German intelligence. But
Germany's spymasters came to believe that the CIA relied on Curveball without
backing up his story, says a European official familiar with the case who
declined to be identified discussing sensitive matters. According to a document
cited to NEWSWEEK, in December 2002 Dr. August Hanning, then chief of Germany's
foreign intelligence service, the BND, wrote to CIA director George Tenet that
Curveball's story was "plausible" but had not been "verified." The Germans
repeatedly asked the CIA if they had corroborating evidence but were rebuffed.
U.S. officials say the cautionary letter never reached Tenet. But these
officials, also requesting anonymity, say the Germans were shown Powell's
testimony before his U.N. talk, and they raised no objection.
When Curveball was later discredited, news organizations including NEWSWEEK
initially reported that Curveball was planted on German intel by Ahmad Chalabi,
the Iraqi dissident who was trying to inspire the United States to overthrow
Saddam Hussein. A presidential commission later concluded that there was "no
evidence" Chalabi's organization was "directing" Curveball to mislead U.S.
intel. A key NEWSWEEK source at the time was David Kay, who had just left his
post as chief CIA representative on a Bush administration team created to track
down Iraqi WMD. Kay said last week that his belief was based on the fact that
Curveball was related to one of Chalabi's bodyguards.
The presidential commission did note that a corroborating source for
Curveball, cited in Powell's speech, was "brought to the attention" of U.S.
intelligence by representatives of Chalabi's Iraqi National Congress.
U.S. intel quickly figured the source was a "fabricator," but a so-called
burn notice about the source's unreliability was somehow mislaid. On the
botched WMD intelligence, there's enough blame to go around.
© 2005 Newsweek, Inc.