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June 25, 2006
CIA Officer Writes Book About Being Overruled

We will soon have another new book from a disgruntled former CIA officer about his experiences of being overruled by the Bush administration, and he has received the traditional Page 1 launch in the Washington Post. Tyler Drumheller's upcoming tome on his work in the WMD program will highlight his participation in the mobile-labs controversy and with "Curveball", the discredited Iraqi defector, and the Post uses that as its lead this morning:

While the administration has repeatedly acknowledged intelligence failures over Iraqi weapons claims that led to war, new accounts by former insiders such as Drumheller shed light on one of the most spectacular failures of all: How U.S. intelligence agencies were eagerly drawn in by reports about a troubled defector's claims of secret germ factories in the Iraqi desert. The mobile labs were never found.

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."

One of the problems with Curveball was that he wasn't an American asset. The Germans had Curveball, and the CIA had to rely on information supplied by the Germans on his intelligence. The Germans had reviewed his extensive details on the science of his information on Iraqi WMD and concluded that he was a credible source on WMD, and communicated that to the Americans. They refused to stand behind it when the US wanted to use the information as part of their overall argument for deposing Saddam Hussein, which Drumheller and the Post spins as relating to Curveball's credibility with the Germans. However, given German involvement with Saddam Hussein, that could have been a political calculation rather than an intelligence evaluation, something the Post and Drumheller never bother to address.

On the question of the mobile labs in particular, that question hardly seem closed. As shown here five weeks ago, the Iraqis themselves apparently thought that these mobile labs served a military purpose, belying the common wisdom that they amounted to nothing more than hydrogen generators for weather balloons. The Iraqi document translated by Joseph Shahda and confirmed by two independent translators was addressed to the Military Industrialization Commission, the Iraqi bureau tasked with managing their WMD programs, and discussed an order for two of the labs in late 2002, when Iraq was busily preparing for the impending American invasion.

The key portion of the memo deals with the payment for the two labs:

1. Develop and enlarge existing laboratories, 178,000,000 Dinars

2. Prepare MOBILE LABORATORIES , In Iraqi Dinar 128,413,00 + 273,445 Euros with 10 Dinar/Euro, 27,344,500, 155,757,500 Dinars.

Total 333,757,500 Dinars

Twenty-seven million Euros at that time equalled roughly $33 million per laboratory. Given that the MIC had to be rather occupied with fighting the Americans and that the MIC would have little to do with Iraqi weather observation, having them spend $33 million on two devices for hydrogen production seems highly suspicious. No one has ever explained a need for mobile hydrogen production in Iraq, either. Iraqi oil production would naturally produce plenty of hydrogen, certainly more than enough for any weather balloons -- and it would be much less expensive to transport hydrogen in tanks than to produce it in mobile laboratories. Hydrogen production does not require precision rotation or vibration, nor does it need an X-ray tester, all of which are listed in the memo as components of the labs.

In order to believe that these facilities were meant for peaceful purposes, we have to believe that the bureau that ran the Iraqi WMD program suddenly concerned itself with weather observation to such an extent that it spent $66 million for two trailers, for the sole purpose of producing hydrogen locally when it could easily and cheaply been transported in tanks from its oil refineries, all while the Iraqi command watched the Americans debate an invasion of Iraq all summer long. The alternative to this scenario is that the US hid that memo in a stash of captured documents, sat on them for over three years, had to release them untranslated only after Congress forced them to do so, and then hoped that some civilian might get around to reading it in a document dump of thousands of such documents, in the off chance that they could then finally use that false information to bolster their WMD argument.

Can anyone buy that with a straight face? Apparently Drumheller can, and the rest of the WMD deniers.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at June 25, 2006 8:43 AM

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» Wash Post peddling old story as new, cherry-picking intel from The Unalienable Right
CBS' 60 Minutes did a profile of ex-CIA officer Tyler Drumheller back in April. We discussed the problems with that story back in April. Now The Washington Post has essentially done the same story months later. This is the old "Curveball" story; there'... [Read More]

Tracked on June 25, 2006 10:46 AM


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