While it’s perfectly legitimate to criticize my decision or the conduct of the war, it is deeply irresponsible to rewrite the history of how that war began. (Applause.) Some Democrats and anti-war critics are now claiming we manipulated the intelligence and misled the American people about why we went to war. These critics are fully aware that a bipartisan Senate investigation found no evidence of political pressure to change the intelligence community’s judgments related to Iraq’s weapons programs.
They also know that intelligence agencies from around the world agreed with our assessment of Saddam Hussein. — President George W. Bush, November 11, 2005
We’ve already discussed the reason the bipartisan Senate investigation found no evidence of political pressure regarding WMDs — they weren’t looking for it. That’s why the Senate Dems closed the Senate down a few days ago. They were trying to pressure the Republicans in charge to get off their butts and start looking.
As they say … duh.
Now, let’s go on to the part about the world intelligence community agreeing with Bush’s assessment. Bob Drogin and John Goetz write in today’s Los Angeles Times that Germany tried to warn the U.S. about funky intelligence before the Iraq invasion.
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.
According to the Germans, President Bush mischaracterized Curveball’s information when he warned before the war that Iraq had at least seven mobile factories brewing biological poisons. Then-Secretary of State Colin L. Powell also misstated Curveball’s accounts in his prewar presentation to the United Nations on Feb. 5, 2003, the Germans said.
Curveball was the chief source of inaccurate prewar U.S. accusations that Baghdad had biological weapons, a commission appointed by Bush reported this year. The commission did not interview Curveball, who still insists his story was true, or the German officials who handled his case.
Sounds like the commission missed some spots.
An investigation by The Times based on interviews since May with about 30 current and former intelligence officials in the U.S., Germany, England, Iraq and the United Nations, as well as other experts, shows that U.S. bungling in the Curveball case was worse than official reports have disclosed.
The White House, for example, ignored evidence gathered by United Nations weapons inspectors shortly before the war that disproved Curveball’s account. Bush and his aides issued increasingly dire warnings about Iraq’s biological weapons before the war even though intelligence from Curveball had not changed in two years.
At the Central Intelligence Agency, officials embraced Curveball’s account even though they could not confirm it or interview him until a year after the invasion. They ignored multiple warnings about his reliability before the war, punished in-house critics who provided proof that he had lied and refused to admit error until May 2004, 14 months after the invasion.
The Germans say Curveball is mentally and emotionally unstable. And they say they told the U.S. that his stories about WMDs in Iraq were, at the very least, dubious.
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 provenâ€¦. It was not hard intelligence.”
This is a long story that I haven’t read all the way through yet, but I ‘spect we’ll be hearing more about this in the next few days.
Related link: “What I Knew Before the Invasion” by Bob Graham