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U.S.-backed Iraqis provided questionable info
(Jonathan S. Landay and Drew Brown, Knight Ridder Newspapers, April 3, 2004)
The Iraqi National Congress, a U.S.-funded group of former Iraqi exiles, supplied the four defectors whose claims that Saddam Hussein had mobile biological warfare facilities now are being questioned by Secretary of State Colin Powell. . . . One of the defectors was code-named Curveball, senior U.S. officials said, and Curveball was the brother of a top lieutenant to Ahmed Chalabi, the group's leader and now a member of the Iraqi Governing Council. U.S. intelligence officials never directly questioned Curveball before the war, they said. . . . A second defector was determined to be a fabricator, but his claims still found their way into the Bush administration's case for war, according to U.S. officials. . . . Powell's questioning of the defectors' claims puts added pressure on a bipartisan commission named by President Bush in February to examine the quality and use of pre-war intelligence that Saddam had secret stockpiles of chemical and biological weapons and was developing nuclear weapons in violation of a U.N. ban. . . . Powell charged in a Feb. 5, 2003, speech to the U.N. Security Council that Iraq had mobile biological warfare production and research facilities. At the time, he was seeking a U.N. resolution backing a U.S.-led invasion. . . . He dramatized his contention by displaying a drawing of a mobile production facility that he said was based on an eyewitness account. . . . Returning from a visit to Germany and Belgium, Powell on Friday acknowledged that the information that underpinned the charge, which he called "the most dramatic" part of his U.N. presentation, is now in doubt. . . . "It appears not to be the case, that it (the defectors' information) was that solid," he said. . . . If the sources fell apart, then we need to find out how we've gotten ourselves in that position," he said. "I've had discussions with the CIA about it." . . . Senior U.S. officials said it was not the CIA but the Defense Intelligence Agency, the top U.S. military intelligence organization, which was responsible for analyzing and corroborating the defectors' information. . . . The DIA received the defectors' claims through its Information Collection Program, a multi-million dollar effort to gather intelligence inside Iraq run by the Iraqi National Congress and funded by U.S. taxpayers. . . . Most of the material supplied by the INC-provided defectors has been determined by U.S. intelligence officials to have been marginal at best, and some of it exaggerated or bogus. . . . Curveball stood out as the best placed of the four INC-supplied defectors whose tales formed the basis for the allegation that Iraq had mobile biological weapons facilities. . . . Claiming to be a chemical engineer, he said that he'd helped design and build such facilities disguised as trucks and railway cars, said the senior U.S. official. . . . "Curveball was the main pillar of the report," he said. . . . The defector was eventually determined to be a brother of a top aide to Chalabi, who lobbied for years in Washington for a U.S.-led ouster of Saddam and forged close ties to pro-invasion hawks in the Pentagon and Vice President Cheney's office.

posted by Lorenzo 4:56 PM

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