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Exclusive: Curveball, the Defector Whose Lies Led to War

The Blotter | March 13, 2007
Brian Ross and Rhonda Schwartz

The Iraqi defector known as Curveball, whose fabricated stories of "mobile biological weapons labs" helped lead the U.S. to war four years ago, is still being protected by the German intelligence service, an ABC News investigation has found.

Intelligence sources, who provided ABCNews.com with the first known photo of the man, say he has been resettled in a small town near the Munich headquarters of the German service, which has continued to honor its original commitment made when he fled Iraq in 1999.

Curveball's false tales became the centerpiece of Secretary of State Colin Powell's speech before the United Nations in February 2003, even though he was considered an "unstable, immature and unreliable" source by some senior officials at the CIA.

Powell told ABC News he is "angry and disappointed" that he was never told the CIA had doubts about the reliability of the source.

"I spent four days at CIA headquarters, and they told me they had this nailed," Powell said.

Behind the scenes at the CIA, however, a former senior official says he was trying to keep the Curveball information out of the Powell speech.

"People died because of this," said Tyler Drumheller, the former chief of European operations at the CIA, who has written about it in a new book, "On the Brink." "All off this one little guy who all he wanted to do was stay in Germany."

Drumheller says he personally redacted all references to Curveball material in an advance draft of the Powell speech.

"We said, 'This is from Curveball. Don't use this,'" Drumheller says. Powell says neither he nor his chief of staff Col. Larry Wilkerson was ever told of any doubts about Curveball.

"In fact, it was the exact opposite," Wilkerson told ABC News. "Never from anyone did we even hear the word 'Curveball,' let alone any expression of doubt in what Secretary Powell was presenting with regard to the biological labs," Wilkerson said.

Drumheller also says he met personally with the then-deputy director of the CIA, John McLaughlin, to raise questions about the reliability of Curveball, well before the Powell speech.

"And John said, 'Oh my, I hope not. You know this is all we have,' and I said, 'This can't be all we have.' I said, 'There must be another, there must be something else.' And he said, 'No, this is really the only tangible thing we have.'"

McLaughlin adamantly denies any such meeting or warning from Drumheller and also denies knowing that Drumheller had attempted to redact the Curveball portions of Powell's speech.

"This man never came into my office, sat down, looked me in the eye and made a case that Curveball was a fabricator. That didn't happen," McLaughlin, now retired, told ABC News.

The CIA has since issued an official "burn notice" formally retracting more than 100 intelligence reports based on his information.

 
 

 

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