A brand new report from the Washington Post details the story of "Curveball", an Iraqi defector held by German authorities who was the one and sole source for claims of WMD's still in Iraq.
Regardless of what Rick Sanitorium believes, these claims were false, and in a repeat of the events reported by Vanity Fair which led to the false "16 Words" in the President's 2003 State of the Union Address, even after attempts to have these incorrect claims scrubbed were made by top CIA officials - they returned stronger than before.
Coincidence? I think not.
Vanity Fair reported just a couple weeks ago that claims of Iraq reconstituting it's nuclear program by purchasing unprocessed uranium from Niger were not a "mistake", they were part of a deliberate and planned Psy-Ops Campaign against the American People and the World.
For more than two years it has been widely reported that the U.S. invaded Iraq because of intelligence failures. But in fact it is far more likely that the Iraq war started because of an extraordinary intelligence success--specifically, an astoundingly effective campaign of disinformation, or black propaganda, which led the White House, the Pentagon, Britain's M.I.6 intelligence service, and thousands of outlets in the American media to promote the falsehood that Saddam Hussein's nuclear-weapons program posed a grave risk to the United States.
Now, this WaPo report indicates that the Niger claims may not have been the only gambit in this campaign. According to our old friend Tyler Drumheller, former Chief of the CIA Covert Operations in Europe, he personally removed references from Colin Powell's UN speach which came from the German held defector "Curveball".
In late January 2003, as Secretary of State Colin Powell prepared to argue the Bush administration's case against Iraq at the United Nations, veteran CIA officer Tyler Drumheller sat down with a classified draft of Powell's speech to look for errors. He found a whopper: a claim about mobile biological labs built by Iraq for germ warfare.
Drumheller instantly recognized the source, an Iraqi defector suspected of being mentally unstable and a liar. The CIA officer took his pen, he recounted in an interview, and crossed out the whole paragraph.
A few days later, the lines were back in the speech. Powell stood before the U.N. Security Council on Feb. 5 and said: "We have first-hand descriptions of biological weapons factories on wheels and on rails."
How similar is this to the event leading to the Niger/Uranium claims?
In addition, Vanity Fair has found at least 14 instances prior to the 2003 State of the Union in which analysts at the C.I.A., the State Department, or other government agencies who had examined the Niger documents or reports about them raised serious doubts about their legitimacy--only to be rebuffed by Bush-administration officials who wanted to use the material. "They were just relentless," says Wilkerson, who later prepared Colin Powell's presentation before the United Nations General Assembly. "You would take it out and they would stick it back in. That was their favorite bureaucratic technique--ruthless relentlessness."
But even Wilkerson didn't realize at the time that Niger claim wasn't the only false one that the Bush Administration was intent on pushing through no matter what.
Drumheller, who is writing a book about his experiences, described in extensive interviews repeated attempts to alert top CIA officials to problems with the defector, code-named Curveball, in the days before the Powell speech. Other warnings came prior to President Bush's State of the Union address on Jan. 28, 2003. In the same speech that contained the now famous "16 words" on Iraqi attempts to acquire uranium, Bush spoke in far greater detail about mobile labs "designed to produce germ warfare agents."
The warnings triggered debates within the CIA but ultimately made no visible impact at the top, current and former intelligence officials said. In briefing Powell before his U.N. speech, George Tenet, then the CIA director, personally vouched for the accuracy of the mobile-lab claim, according to participants in the briefing. Tenet now says he did not learn of the problems with Curveball until much later and that he received no warnings from Drumheller or anyone else.
"No one mentioned Drumheller, or Curveball," Lawrence B. Wilkerson, Powell's chief of staff at the time, said in an interview. "I didn't know the name Curveball until months afterward."
The new revelations by Drumheller are startling, from what I'd previously read and heard, only members of the DIA (Defense Intellignce Agency) had attempted to gain direct access to Curveball (taxi-driver-come-international-spy) through his German intelligence handlers and had been told "We think he's a fabricator". But it now seems that DIA wasn't the only one who heard this.
In late 2002, the Bush administration began scouring intelligence files for reports of Iraqi weapons threats. Drumheller was asked to press a counterpart from a European intelligence agency for direct access to Curveball. Other officials confirmed that it was the German intelligence service.
The German official declined but then offered a startlingly candid assessment, Drumheller recalled. "He said, 'I think the guy is a fabricator,' " Drumheller said, recounting the conservation with the official, whom he declined to name. "He said, 'We also think he has psychological problems. We could never validate his reports.' "
This diary here states that George Tenet knew that the Mobile Lab story was phony even when he personally vouched for it but it's not exactly that simple.
As we could clearly see with the Niger claims, when one career intelligence person would knock them down - others (usually political appointees, but not always) would prop them back up again.
Although no American had ever interviewed Curveball, analysts with the CIA's Center for Weapons Intelligence, Nonproliferation and Arms Control believed the informant's technical descriptions were too detailed to be fabrications.
"People were cursing. These guys were absolutely, violently committed to it," Drumheller said. "They would say to us, 'You're not scientists, you don't understand.' "
Before you can claim that Tenet knew (or that he informed Powell) you have to note exactly what he was told. A request came down from CIA headquarter to Drumheller in Europe asking three quesions:
- Could a U.S. official refer to Curveball's mobile lab accounts in an upcoming political speech?
- Could the Germans guarantee that Curveball would stand by his account?
- Could German intelligence verify Curveball's claims?
Drumheller asked Berlin and was told "There are no guarantees".
"They said: 'We have never been able to verify his claims,' " Drumheller recalled. "And that was all sent up to Tenet's office."
I hate to be a stickler for all those who wish to dump on Tenet and Powell, but that isn't exactly -- This Guy is a FUCKING L.I.A.R. -- language. Sometimes you really do have to shout "LIAR" in the crowded building, as the smoke and and flames start to rise.
When veteran CIA Officer Ray McGovern challenged Donald Rumsfeld a few weeks ago on the issue of Iraqi WMD's - Rumsfeld responded by using Powell and his integrity as a Human Shield.
RUMSFELD: Well, first of all, I haven't lied. I did not lie then. Colin Powell didn't lie. He spent weeks and weeks with the Central Intelligence Agency people and prepared a presentation that I know he believed was accurate, and he presented that to the United Nations. the president spent weeks and weeks with the central intelligence people and he went to the american people and made a presentation. i'm not in the intelligence business. they gave the world their honest opinion. it appears that there were not weapons of mass destruction there.
The highly interesting thing about Rumsfeld's claim here is the that the DIA - the Defense Intelligence Agency, HIS Intelligence Agency - was told the exact same thing about Curveball that Drumheller was told when he spoke to German Intellegence.
Jan 2000-Sept 2001: Curveball's statements are recorded in German, shared with a local Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) team, and sent to the US, where they are translated into English for analysis at the DIA's directorate for human intelligence in Clarendon, Va<. "This was not substantial evidence," one senior German intelligence official later recalls in an interview with the Los Angeles Times. "We made clear we could not verify the things he said." The reports are then sent to the CIA's Weapons Intelligence, Non-Proliferation and Arms Control Center (WINPAC), whose experts analyze the data and share it with artists who use Curveball's accounts to render sketches.
Rumsfeld didn't just accidentally mention Powell, he knew - or should have known - that Powell was being lied too.
The CIA never had access to Curveball. Instead, he was controlled by Germany's intelligence service, which passed along the information it collected to the United States through the Defense Intelligence Agency, a Pentagon spy agency that handled information from Iraqi defectors.
Rumsfeld's Agency got the information first, then passed it on to CIA for further analysis.
And meanwhile at CIA the apparent break in the information flow coming from Drumheller at CIA Europe occurred downstream of both Tenet and Powell - at the Office of Dept CIA Director John McLaughlin. Alarmed by the use of Curveball's information Drumheller made a call.
Drumheller said he called the office of John E. McLaughlin, then the CIA deputy director, and was told to come there immediately. Drumheller said he sat across from McLaughlin and an aide in a small conference room and spelled out his concerns.
In responding to questions about Drumheller, McLaughlin provided The Post with a copy of the statement he gave in response to the [Robb-Silbermann] commission's report. The statement said he had no memories of the meeting with Drumheller and had no written documentation that the meeting took place.
"If someone had made these doubts clear to me, I would not have permitted the reporting to be used in Secretary Powell's speech," McLaughlin said in the statement.
Someone comes to you and tells you that your lone and singular source for Iraqi WMD allegations is a known fabricator and liar and you forget the entire conversation?
Is this anything like Stephen Hadley forgetting to leave the Niger claims out of the State of the Union even after the White House received multiple phone calls and faxes from George Tenet stating that the information shouldn't be used? From Vanity Fair:
According to his Senate testimony, [Tenet] told Hadley that the "president should not be a fact witness on this issue," because the "reporting was weak." The C.I.A. even put it in writing and faxed it to the N.S.C. But somehow, some magical way - the reference to Iraq and Uranium just kept popping back up.
"You would take it out and they would stick it back in. That was their favorite bureaucratic technique--ruthless relentlessness."
You can say that again.
The one point which seems to hang Tenet, who had made assurances to Powell that he could "trust this one" peice of intellegence was a phone call between Tenet and Drumheller on the eve of the UN Speach.
On the eve of the U.N. speech, Drumheller received a late-night phone call from Tenet, who said he was checking final details of the speech. Drumheller said he brought up the mobile labs.
"I said, 'Hey, boss, you're not going to use that stuff in the speech . . . ? There are real problems with that,' " Drumheller said, recalling the conversation.
Drumheller recalled that Tenet seemed distracted and tired and told him not to worry.
Clearly Drumheller thought his previous warnings to McLaughlin had been filtered up the chain of command, and that this little reminder would be sufficient -- but Tenet had already made assurances on the accuracy of the information to Powell. It was far too little, far too late.
Since that time Tenet has adamantly claimed he wasn't informed about the weakness of Curveball as a source.
"Nobody came forward to say there is a serious problem with Curveball or that we have been told by the foreign representative of the service handling him that there are worries that he is a 'fabricator,' " Tenet said in his statement.
And I suspect that from his perspective, Tenet is probably right - nobody told him directly that Curveball was a fabricator, and Drumheller doesn't claim that he did. He told McLaughlin, and McLaughlin apparently told, no one.
This scenario is what happened with Niger Claims, what happened with the WMD claims and also the same problem existed with the claims of connections between Al Qaeda and Saddam Hussein -- all of which came from one source in U.S. Custody named Ibn Sheihk al-Libi. Whom the DIA said was - wait for it - a Fabricator.
From Newsweek last November:
The new documents also raise the possibility that caveats raised by intelligence analysts about al-Libi's claims were withheld from Powell when he was preparing his Security Council speech. Larry Wilkerson, who served as Powell's chief of staff and oversaw the vetting of Powell's speech, responded to an e-mail from NEWSWEEK Wednesday stating that he was unaware of the DIA doubts about al-Libi at the time the speech was being prepared. "We never got any dissent with respect to those lines you cite ... indeed the entire section that now we know came from [al-Libi]," Wilkerson wrote.
"You would take it out and they would stick it back in. That was their favorite bureaucratic technique--ruthless relentlessness."