Why the CIA is to Blame
From the beginning, the CIA made claims that the Saddam regime was working on its Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD) program. CIA suspicions concerning Iraqi biological weapons program led to the making of many wrong assumptions based on Curveball’s unverified information. Drogin and Goetz report that because of this suspicion, CIA analysts regarded reports by the defector as “sophisticated and technically feasible” (2).
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All this was in spite of the fact that Curveball provided incomplete and unverifiable information. Whitelaw reveals that in October 2002, the American intelligence community issued a warning that Saddam had restarted Iraq’s chemical weapons program therefore necessitating a response by the policy makers (32).
However, this claim by the CIA was not based on direct evidence but rather circumstantial evidence and logical deduction (Betts 602). The senior policy makers did not have any reasons to question the credibility of reports passed to them by CIA analysts.
The CIA was responsible for coming up with the October 2002 “National Intelligence Estimate on Iraq” report. Barnes and Whitelaw assert that this report, which served as the foundation of the Bush administration’s case for war, was full of overstatements on Iraq’s chemical warfare ability or provided facts that were not supported by any underlying intelligence reporting (22).
Since the Bush administration was in the habit of making decisions based on intelligence provided by the CIA, the report was taken at face value and used as justification for the Iraqi invasion. Because of the trust that senior policy makers had in the ability of the CIA, the Secretary of State in the Bush administration, Colin Powell, used testimony forwarded from Curveball by the CIA as authoritative information in a key speech to the UN.
The policy makers who made a case for the Iraqi invasion did so under the impression that they had multiple reliable sources on the issue. However, the reality was that the only source providing information about Saddam’s alleged WMD program was the Iraqi defector, Curveball.
Whitelaw states that because of the practice of the CIA to withhold critical details about their sources, policy makers were kept unaware of the fact that Curveball was the primary source used to support claims that the Saddam Regime had restarted its chemical weapons program (33). It is possible that if policy makers would not have made a case for war against Iraqi had they know that all their information was coming from one unreliable source.
The CIA did not engage in a thorough verification of the information provided by the Iraq defector through his German handlers. The credibility of Mr. Janabi was already being called into question by the German intelligence agencies who were interviewing him. They expressed these concerns to the CIA but little action was taken.
Drogin and Goetz note that in spite of Curveball providing vague information and making false claims about the role that he had played in the Saddam regime before defecting, the CIA was willing to take his word as the truth and act on it (4). The agency went on to make claims concerning Iraq’s chemical weapon program based on the testimonies of this defector.
Whitelaw reports that this habit was not isolated since the CIA had frequently made assumptions about Iraq based on little factual evidence (32). Mr. Janabi has publicly confessed that he made up stories concerning the Saddam Regime’s alleged biological weapons program.
If the intelligence analysts at the CIA had been more thorough, they would have been able to detect this deception and Curveball’s stories would not have reached senior government analysts.
The main justification for the US led invasion against Iraq was provided by the testimonies given by the Iraqi defector, Rafid Ahmed al-Janabi, who is commonly known by his code name Curveball. However, in the years following the war, it emerged that this decision to invade Iraq was made using unreliable intelligence concerning Weapons of Mass Destruction from the Iraqi defector.
This led to the Curveball debacle where a presidential commission was even formed to review the issue and determine who was to blame for this huge mistake. The fiasco made the US intelligence community and senior government officials seem incompetent. This paper has shown that the CIA was responsible since it was their duty to verify the credibility of the source and any intelligent information provided before giving it to the policy makers.
The CIA was already held suspicions that the Saddam regime was engaged in the production of WMD. The paper has argued that the CIA’s inability to accurately access the Iraqi defector’s credibility is to blame for the Curveball debacle.
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The agency therefore failed to engage in thorough intelligence work to confirm the situation in Iraq and provide the senior policy makers with factually sound information on the situation in Iraq. From the discussions presented in this paper, it is clear that senior government policy makers cannot be blamed for the Curveball debacle since they did not have any reason to doubt information received from the credible CIA.
Barnes, J. and Whitelaw K. “Missed Clues, Dropped Balls”. U.S. News & World Report 137.2 (2004): 22-25.
Betts, R. “Two Faces of Intelligence Failure: September 11 and Iraq’s Missing WMD”. Political Science Quarterly 122.4 (2008): 585-606.
Drogin, B. and Goetz, J. The Curveball Saga How U.S. Fell Under the Spell of ‘Curveball’. 2005. Web.
Whitelaw, K. “Getting it Dead Wrong”. U.S. News & World Report 138.13 (2005): 32-33.