Of Fools and Curveballs:
So let's see if the Rude Pundit's got this straight: the U.S. went to war with Iraq because of some asshole named "Curveball"? Why the fuck would you trust someone named "Curveball"? The very nature of the curve ball is to trick the batter, to make the guy standing at the plate think the ball is coming straight across before veering inside or outside. A good curveball is an amazing deception. Trust someone with the super secret spy name "Curveball"? It'd be like investing all your money in a firm called, to be au courant, April Fool's Finance. It'd be like eating a meal at a restaurant named "Kentucky Fried Botulism." It'd be like fucking a hooker named "Syphilitic Sally." You know from the outset you're gonna get ripped off and/or diseased. But if you do it anyway, you're just a fuckin' idiot.
'Cause, really, and, c'mon, as the report of the Commission on the Intelligence Capabilities of the United States Regarding Weapons of Mass Destruction discusses in detail, Syphilitic Sally came to town with her friend Gonhorrea Greta and we were, indeed, infected. Quoth the Commission: "Virtually all of the Intelligence Community’s information on Iraq’s alleged mobile biological weapons facilities was supplied by a source, codenamed 'Curveball,' who was a fabricator." (Or, in the real world, a "liar" or a "con artist.")
Curveball was an Iraqi chemical engineer who was sent to American intelligence through a "foreign liaison." But, in a way that wouldn't be admissible in any court of law because we'd call it "hearsay," the U.S. didn't formally interview the obliging Curveball because, it seems, Mr. Ball wouldn't speak to Americans and, besides, it was claimed, Curveball didn't speak English. "That liaison service debriefed Curveball and then shared the debriefing results with the United States. The foreign liaison service would not, however, provide the United States with direct access to Curveball. Instead, information about Curveball was passed from the liaison service to DIA’s Defense HUMINT Service, which in turn disseminated information about Curveball throughout the Intelligence Community."
From January 2000 to September 2001, the U.S. got 100 reports from Curveball's keepers about the magical biological weapons labs in Iraq. Yes, the Commission says, Curveball's lies were incorporated into the National Intelligence Estimate, which goes to "senior policymakers," but that NIE, under Clinton, contained this caveat: "[w]e cannot confirm whether Iraq has produced . . . biological agents." Notice the way that works: the Intelligence people actually put in that they were unsure.
The Commission then says, "By 2001, however, the assessments became more assertive." Yup, with the rise of the Bush regime, they were pushin' that biological weapons story like so much coke to college students. The tone of the reports changed to more definite assessments, based solely on Curveball's tales, that Iraq was producing biological weapons from these roving labs. This change in tone was most clearly reflected when George Tenet said to Congressional committees, "We know Iraq has developed a redundant capability to produce biological warfare agents using mobile production units." All info courtesy of you-know-who.
"The October 2002 NIE reflected the shift from the late-1990s assessments that Iraq could have biological weapons to the definitive conclusion that Iraq 'has' biological weapons, and that its BW program was larger and more advanced than before the Gulf War," says the Commission. And the emphasis on "could" is the Commission's. It continues, "For this conclusion, the NIE relied primarily on reporting from Curveball." CB hit the big time when Colin Powell used CB's info in his big ol' pack o' lies he shat in front of the U.N. General Assembly in February 2003.
But, alas, sweet Curveball was not what he seemed. He was not straight and down the middle. He . . . how shall this be put . . . curved. The Defense Department sent a "detailee" to meet with Monsieur Ball way back in May 2000 to see if Le Ball was telling le truth about being in a biological weapons accident. Oh, let's let the Commission speak for itself here:
"First, the detailee observed that Curveball spoke excellent English during their meeting.286 This was significant to the detailee because the foreign service had, on several earlier occasions, told U.S. intelligence officials that one reason a meeting with Curveball was impossible was that Curveball did not speak English. Second, the detailee was concerned by Curveball’s apparent 'hangover' during their meeting. The detailee conveyed these impressions of Curveball informally to CIA officials, and WINPAC [the Center for Weapons, Intelligence, Non-Proliferation and Arms Control] BW analysts told Commission staff that they were aware that the detailee was concerned that Curveball might be an alcoholic."
Said the poor detailee in a hurried e-mail sent to the CIA Directorate of Operations, "I do have a concern with the validity of the information based on Curveball having a terrible hangover the morning of [the meeting]. I agree, it was only a one time interaction, however, he knew he was to have a [meeting] on that particular morning but tied one on anyway. What underlying issues could this be a problem with and how in depth has he been vetted by the [foreign liaison service]?" When was this sent? The night before Colin Powell's presentation to the U.N. In 2003.
On and on this sad, sordid tale continues, with its unraveling of Curveball's stories when they were actually checked. When the weapons inspectors did their jobs after the invasion. All Curveball's words unverified. All "fabrications," all lies. But still, because intelligence officials "believed" (or were told to believe) that Iraq had to have weapons, they clung to Curveball like a wet rat clings to the debris of a sinking ocean liner. It became a farce, really: Former co-workers said he had been fired before the times he claimed he had been involved in any programs. "By January 2004, however, when CIA obtained travel records confirming that Curveball had been out of Iraq during the time he claimed to have been working on the mobile BW program, most analysts became convinced that Curveball had fabricated his reporting."
In March 2004, the CIA finally met Curvey and, indeed, quickly discovered he had punked them. Tenet didn't want to admit "error," and, indeed, "Only in May 2004, more than a year after the commencement of Operation Iraqi Freedom, did CIA formally deem Curveball’s reporting fabricated and recall it."
And there's your April Fool's joke for the day. The real question is who gets the credit for the joke? Just poor drunken Curveball? Just the miserable Intelligence community who, strangely, were able to offer caveats in their reports prior to Bush coming to office? Or perhaps those who needed Curveball desperately to be right and did not want to know otherwise until they were forced to know? Or, most ominously, those who knew it was all lies and wouldn't let the rest of us in?
See? That's how pranks are played. No, it's not "ha-ha" funny. It's more like "bang-bang-you're-dead-soldier" funny.