Curveball the Eight Ball.

John Goetz has been working on the Curveball story for a long time now.  Ii is published today in the LA Times.  I am proud to say that I did what I could to help him and his partner Bob Drogin with this.

This story is a massive piece of the jigsaw puzzle that only now is beginning to be solved for the benefit of the understanding of the American people as to why they are now at war in Iraq.

The war in Afghanistan is easy to understand.  That Kiplingesque, far away, tribal land was made into a haven and breeding ground for enemies determined to harm us.  Only the truly pacifist have many doubts about the necessity that caused US intervention there.

Iraq is a different matter. In the case of Iraq, the US went to war because the American people became convinced that Iraq was a direct threat to the American homeland.  They were convinced of that through an artfully orchestrated campaign of half-truths which used evidence from dubious sources to make the case for Iraq as a threat to the US.  Paul Wolfowitz admitted as much in public when he said (paraphrasing) that WMD was sold to the American people as a threat because it COULD be sold and that nothing else would serve to take us to war.

CURVEBALL, the Iraqi source of the German intelligence (BND) became an essential element in the campaign of distorted and manipulated information.  CURVEBALL was a fraud.  The Germans said they did not believe him.  DIA said they did not believe him, but the Bush Administration evidently did believe him.  Why?  They believed because they wanted to believe.

Goetz and Drogin’s story in the Los Angeles Times lays out the sad story of incompetence and deception which centers, at least in part, around this man.

Some samples from the article:

"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."

"Curveball’s German handlers for the last six years said his information was often vague, mostly secondhand and impossible to confirm. "This was not substantial evidence," said a senior German intelligence official. "We made clear we could not verify the things he said."  The German authorities, speaking about the case for the first time, also said that their informant suffered from emotional and mental problems. "He is not a stable, psychologically stable guy," said a BND official who supervised the case. "He is not a completely normal person," agreed a BND analyst."

"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."  In a telephone interview, Powell said that George J. Tenet, then the director of central intelligence, and his top deputies personally assured him before his U.N. speech that U.S. intelligence on the mobile labs was "solid." Since then, Powell said, the case "has totally blown up in our faces.""

"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."

""The Iraqis were adept at feeding us what we wanted to hear," said a former official of the Pentagon’s Defense Intelligence Agency who helped debrief about 50 Iraqi emigres in Germany before the war. "Most of it was garbage.” "

"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.""

""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."

"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."

"One CIA-led unit investigated Curveball himself. The leader was "Jerry," a veteran CIA bio-weapons analyst who had championed Curveball’s case at the CIA weapons center. They found Curveball’s personnel file in an Iraqi government storeroom. It was devastating. Curveball was last in his engineering class, not first, as he had claimed. He was a low-level trainee engineer, not a project chief or site manager, as the CIA had insisted. Most important, records showed Curveball had been fired in 1995, at the very time he said he had begun working on bio-warfare trucks. A former CIA official said Curveball also apparently was jailed for a sex crime and then drove a Baghdad taxi. Jerry and his team interviewed 60 of Curveball’s family, friends and co-workers. They all denied working on germ weapons trucks. Curveball’s former bosses at the engineering center said the CIA had fallen for "water cooler gossip" and "corridor conversations." "The Iraqis were all laughing," recalled a former member of the survey group. "They were saying, ‘This guy? You’ve got to be kidding.’ "Jerry tracked down Curveball’s Sunni Muslim parents in a middle-class Baghdad neighborhood. "Our guy was very polite," Kay recalled. "He said, ‘We understand your son doesn’t like Americans.’ His mother looked shocked. She said, ‘No, no! He loves Americans.’ And she took him into [her son’s] bedroom and it was filled with posters of American rock stars. It was like any other teenage room. She said one of his goals was to go to America."The deeper Jerry probed, the worse Curveball looked."

We were made fools of.  By whom?  Is it not obvious?

Take note:

The Iraqi government was frightened and surprised by Powell’s assertions at the UN about mobile bio-weapons production facilities.  They searched the country looking for whatever it was we were talking about.  they seem to have been afraid that there was something going on that they did not know about.

We should all be ashamed in this country.  We should be ashamed that we are so childish and easily manipulated that CURVEBALL’s supposed story and that of all the other shoddy sources and rumor mongers were so easily "sold" to us by a band of political extremists.  Our gullibility raises the issue of our collective worthiness to be the sovereigns of the commonweal of whom Jefferson wrote.

Pat Lang

Download dear_pat.pdf,0,2053900,full.story?coll=la-home-headlines

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10 Responses to Curveball the Eight Ball.

  1. Alvord says:

    “The German authorities, speaking about the case for the first time, also said that their informant suffered from emotional and mental problems. “He is not a stable, psychologically stable guy,” said a BND official who supervised the case. “He is not a completely normal person,” agreed a BND analyst.”

  2. Tuli says:

    Dear Patrick:
    You wrote:
    “We should all be ashamed in this country. We should be ashamed that we are so childish and easily manipulated that CURVEBALL’s supposed story and that of all the other shoddy sources and rumor mongers were so easily “sold” to us by a band of political extremists. Our gullibility raises the issue of our collective worthiness to be the sovereigns of the commonweal of whom Jefferson wrote.”
    Can you say, “Amen.”

  3. alice says:

    This is another article I have bookmarked into a special directory. I use the appropiate ones when I visit the comments section of other sites, especially the rightist ones.

  4. I would first like to thank Col. Lang for his long (and continuing) service to our once-great nation.
    Also, it is not my intent to single him out personally here, as what I take issue with is a nearly universal phenomenon.
    But I think if we would stop euphemizing and blaming victims we could serve the American People’s interests much more effectively.
    They/we have no cause for shame.
    We were not “easily manipulated” into informed consent, nor were we simply “sold” some bill of goods.
    We became the victims of the MOST HEINOUS ACT OF TERRORISM IN HISTORY when they falsely threatened the American People with “mushroom clouds in 45 minutes.”
    Anything 20 guys with boxcutters could do pales in comparison. Even a “dirty bomb” is less threatening.
    The **PNACons’ “bomb threat” on our nation (resulting in the sacrifice our soldiers’ lives) was only perpetrated to advance their own ideological and profiteering wet-dreams.
    This was clearly premeditated criminal intent leading to willful criminal acts, that in the context of national security can only accurately be called HIGH TREASON.
    Terrorizing our citizenry for whatever reason is far worse than Watergate, worse than Iran/contra, worse than pardoning co-conspirators to obstruct justice.
    And we need to say so. Loudly. And refuse to shut up until full punishment is exacted.
    **(pronounced pee-nah-cons)

  5. Norbert Schulz says:

    Congratulatuions to your insightful blog. Your story on curveball reminds me of an article I read just today, written by James Bamford on the Rendon Group and their activities in selling the war.
    It suggests to me that Rendon, probably paid for by the Pentagon, as well as Chalabi didn’t really care wether info was reliable, but merely about managing perception, that is, propaganda.
    Thats suggests something very cynical to me: Spreading propaganda by feeding it to the media through willing executioners like Judith Miller, and to then make administration officials quote it as fact. “As we all know from the NYT …”
    This outsourcing of propaganda to the private sector is a threat to democracy. Nothing less.
    When outsourcing war propaganda to profit oriented entities, doesn’t propagating war become good business? When media survey and propaganda are domestically prohibited to the administration, doesn’t that suggest to outsource that too, to some Republican private entity?
    Far fetched? The Whitehouse is said to have set up a list of approx 10.000 ‘political enemies’, having used detailed information obtained by the FBI or other government agencies through instruments like the national security letter. But this list is reportedly operated by proxy, a Republican private entity, that is of course, solely working for the Whitehouse and the Republican party.
    Is it true? I can’t tell, but it’s certainly probable.
    All in all outsourcing these functions present an ‘escape into civil law’ to avoid limitations imposed on the government by administrative and constitutional law, and to avoid checks and ballances and accountability to the public in general. You don’t need to report to Senate or some other elected or bi-partisan supervision comitee when you’re operating a private enterprise.
    In Germany, all that would be unconstitutional.

  6. wcw says:

    In Germany, of course, you have to register with the police each time you move your domicile, and you are not free to form or join or support any political party, as some (admittedly abhorrent ones) remain illegal. That is what makes this so depressing; an acquaintance likes simply to put on a lugubrious face and a German accent and mutter, “but at ze bohrder zey told me zis vas a free cohntry.”
    Good post, but one note: while I admit sympathy for admitted pacifists, I will say that the Taliban had been making noises as if they might give up OBL and other responsible parties under the right circumstances. If these noises were for mere international public consumption, which I incline to believe, then a martial response likely was the only option. However, had the US been able to get extraditions and honest concessions to marginalize Al Qaeda, then the Afghan invasion could have been avoided. After all, despite a lovely little war we still don’t have OBL or some of the most-responsible lieutenants. War is hell, but better it not be pointless as well.

  7. Norbert Schulz says:

    we Germans sure have our buereaucracy. It is indeed as bad as its reputation.
    But then, you have never tried to travel into the U.S. as a foreigner. Then you cannot know these remarkable forms you have to fill out on the aircraft. They include questions like: “Are you a member of a terrorist organisation?” “Do you intend to commit criminal acts in the U.S?”
    No, I am not kidding.
    No evildoer would fill out that form honestly. So what is the point of it anyway? To be able to accuse people like Mohammed Atta of lying in this form, in addition to murder on 6.000 counts?
    In Germany we’re indeed required to register, yet not with the police but the local mayor’s office. Because that is also where you vote, and where you live determines at which tax office you have to declare your income. The whole process is surprisingly unbuereaucratic, and has a point.
    Btw, now that you have called me on that, I remember that I am atm still registered where I lived before …
    On things like protection of private data of citizens, we are probably way ahead of the U.S. That is a lesson Germany re-learned after the re-unification when East-German politicians, with their experience with the Stasi fresh in mind, insisted on tight regulation on who is allowed to see what data. Data exchange between authorities actually is remarkably limited. And that is good.
    Germany outlawing certain parties is exaggerated, too. In 50 years Germany outlawed two parties, the nazi party SRP, and the communist party KPD, the last time in 1956. That isto underline that this is very much an exception.
    When in 2003 they tried to ban the nazi party NPD, they failed preposterously – they probably had more police informers than members in their leading council.
    Where right parties were elected into local governments, they proved without exception, to be utterly incompetent. So I don’t really understand why Chancellor Schröder tried to get the NPD banned.
    The rarely used option to outlaw parties is the result of Germany’s bitter Weimar experiences, where parties with an openly anti-constitutional attitude subverted the democratic process from within. The principle behind it is called “wehrhafte Democratie”, a Democracy that defends itself against its enemies.
    Germany has two different brands of tyranny too fresh in mind to take that risk again. Our laws are very much a result of our past.
    The ‘no escape into civil law’ is a basic legal principle german legal students get hammered into their heads in the first semester.
    The reasoning behind it is palpable, wherever the U.S. government has decided to out-source former govermnemt activities: Today mercenaries do logistics, fighting, intel gathering, propaganda. What laws apply to them? Who’s accountable for their actions? Who is liable? Who is holding the client accountable – the government paying for all these ourtsourced activities payed for with taxpayer money?
    I bring up this example from German law because I see this principle violated in the U.S., and this is IMO very much harming of the U.S. And it is a thing I don’t like to see. IMHO, America deserves better.

  8. Rider says:

    This article will go down as a watershed. John Goetz and Bob Drogin were wise to look to Pat Lang for assistance.
    Trivial question. Curveball was detained at the airport. Is immigration control now handled at the airport in Germany rather than at the local Polizeiamt?

  9. Norbert Schulz says:

    Well, I did some research to get it precise:
    Airport security is done by the BGS, the federal border police. They do the procedures when someone’s entering Germany. They sure initiate the immigration process, but they don’t handle it.
    Immigration is the task of the Ausländeramt, the immigration office. In that function it works for the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees (BAMF) at the local level and under state authority.
    For EU citizens and those of Iceland, Norway and Liechtenstein the thing is done with showing the passport at the customs counter. After three months in Germany they are required to get a residence permit. That is usually granted without trouble.
    If you want a residence permit you go to the Einwohnermeldeamt, a part of the local mayor’s office. Residency permits are handled by your local immigration office (Ausländeramt). In order to apply for a residency permit, first register your residence at the local Einwohnermeldeamt, where you can also get the application forms for a residency permit.
    Citizens of the United States of America, Australia, Canada, Israel, Japan, New Zealand and Switzerland, who may also apply for their residence permit after entering Germany without a visa. You can enter Germany without a visa, as long as you don’t plan to do any paid or self-employed work.
    Non EU citizens will have to show their passport and their visa. If someone tries to enter Germany but doesn’t have a visum – the harsh immigration procedures start: Now that part is usually about political asylum.
    Foreigners claiming the right of asylum must submit their claims in accordance with the procedures specified in the Asylum Procedure Act. Using the nation-wide system for initial distribution known as EASY, asylum seekers are assigned to the initial reception centres of the individual German states (Länder). The Federal Office for Migration and Refugees (BAMF), which lies within the remit of the Federal Ministry of the Interior, is responsible for processing all asylum claims. Formerly known as the Federal Office for the Recognition of Foreign Refugees, the BAMF has its headquarters in Nuremberg and a branch office in each state so that claims may be processed as closely as possible to the reception centres.
    Rejected claims to asylum may be appealed in administrative court; no preliminary proceedings are conducted. About 80% of those whose asylum claims have been rejected make use of this possibility. Rejected asylum seekers are in principle obligated to leave the country; if they refuse to do so, they may be deported, i.e. forcibly removed, as long as there are no obstacles to deportation. Carrying out deportations is the responsibility of the foreigners authorities of the states, which must abide by all decisions of the BAMF and the administrative courts pertaining to the asylum procedure.
    Now my informed guess on Curveball: Iirc he pleaded for political asylum in Germany, and went to the authorities with the argument he would face political prosecution in Iraq. Asked why, he probably he gave as a reason his ‘knowledge about Saddam’s secret WMD program’ and they then most likely forwarded him to the BND as a ‘person of interest’.
    The rest is well known. The BND said Curveball was a loony, but that point must have gotten lost as his phantastic tales made their way through the liaision channels to eventually be presented as fact in speeches.

  10. Norbert Schulz says:

    Thinking closer on this: That Germany, like probably any other country, screens person’s of interest at the border is well known.
    Insofar, sending Curveball to Germany under the cover of seeking asylum is a rather innocuous and credible cover for a disinformation campaign from Chalabi’s INC.
    Probably everyone at that time wanted to get out of Iraq. It was far from implausible that Curveball might indeed have a reason to seek asylum.

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