America

German Foreign Minister: CIA Knew 'Curveball's' WMD Intel Was Questionable

Former German foreign minister Joschka Fischer presents his book "I Am Not Convinced" in Berlin on Feb. 17. i i

Former German foreign minister Joschka Fischer presents his book "I Am Not Convinced" in Berlin on Feb. 17. Wolfgang Kumm/AFP/Getty Images hide caption

itoggle caption Wolfgang Kumm/AFP/Getty Images
Former German foreign minister Joschka Fischer presents his book "I Am Not Convinced" in Berlin on Feb. 17.

Former German foreign minister Joschka Fischer presents his book "I Am Not Convinced" in Berlin on Feb. 17.

Wolfgang Kumm/AFP/Getty Images

On Tuesday, as Mark reported, the defector who convinced the U.S. government that Iraq had a secret biological weapons program confessed for the first time that he lied.

Now, The Guardian reports, Germany's former foreign minister Joschka Fischer is saying that the BND, Germany's intelligence agency, "realised some time before the war that Curveball was not a watertight source, and passed on his testimony to the CIA with warnings attached."

Secretary of State Colin Powell, at the United Nations on Feb. 5, 2003, holds up a vial that he said was the size that could be used to hold anthrax. Powell was warning that Iraq might have the capability to produce biological and chemical weapons. And some of the faulty intelligence the U.S. relied on was supplied by "Curveball." i i

Secretary of State Colin Powell, at the United Nations on Feb. 5, 2003, holds up a vial that he said was the size that could be used to hold anthrax. Powell was warning that Iraq might have the capability to produce biological and chemical weapons. And some of the faulty intelligence the U.S. relied on was supplied by "Curveball." Timothy A. Clary/AFP/Getty Images hide caption

itoggle caption Timothy A. Clary/AFP/Getty Images
Secretary of State Colin Powell, at the United Nations on Feb. 5, 2003, holds up a vial that he said was the size that could be used to hold anthrax. Powell was warning that Iraq might have the capability to produce biological and chemical weapons. And some of the faulty intelligence the U.S. relied on was supplied by "Curveball."

Secretary of State Colin Powell, at the United Nations on Feb. 5, 2003, holds up a vial that he said was the size that could be used to hold anthrax. Powell was warning that Iraq might have the capability to produce biological and chemical weapons. And some of the faulty intelligence the U.S. relied on was supplied by "Curveball."

Timothy A. Clary/AFP/Getty Images

Curveball, as he was codenamed by intelligence officials, told The Guardian that he fabricated stories of mobile bioweapons trucks and clandestine factories. That intelligence made it into President George W. Bush's State of The Union address and Secretary of State Colin Powell went to the United Nations with it in February of 2003, six weeks before the war began.

Yesterday, George Tenet, who served as the director of central intelligence from 1997 to 2004, issued a statement on his website saying the latest revelations amplify "a great deal of misinformation about the case."

With the statement, he issued an excerpt from his 2007 memoir At the Center of the Storm. In it, Tenet argues that the first time he heard Curveball was untrustworthy, was in 2005 when a presidential commission was looking into the Iraq intelligence failure and that came "two years too late to do a damn thing about it."

In the memoir, Tenet also recounts that one of his officers did meet with a German official in Washington and that official told him that Curveball was "crazy," but added that Germany would never say that officially because they didn't want to be embarrassed. The details of that conversation, writes Tenet, never made it to the CIA or the Defense Intelligence Agency.

What Fischer told The Guardian today directly contradicts that claim. The Guardian reports:

Fischer said Germany was put in a "very difficult position" when the CIA asked whether they could "have" Curveball, or at least use his evidence to justify a war in Iraq...

"On the one hand we didn't want to withhold from the US any bit of relevant information we had about possible WMD in Iraq. On the other hand, we did not want to take part in any propagandistic exploitation of material, which was far from proven, to justify a war," Fischer writes in his new autobiography, I Am Not Convinced.

He added: "We decided, therefore, that we would do our duty by sending the Americans all the information we had, together with our assessment that that information came from a deserter and that we had not verified or substantiated it ourselves, and that it could be completely wrong."

He said the then head of the BND, August Henning, wrote a letter to the CIA outlining the possible problems with Curveball.

Yesterday, The Guardian reported that Secretary Powell is now calling for the CIA and the Pentagon to explain their failure to alert him to problems with Curveball's intelligence:

"It has been known for several years that the source called Curveball was totally unreliable," he told the Guardian . "The question should be put to the CIA and the DIA as to why this wasn't known before the false information was put into the NIE sent to Congress, the president's state of the union address and my 5 February presentation to the UN."

Comments

 

Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the NPR.org Community rules and terms of use, and will be moderated prior to posting. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.