Page 2 of 4   <       >

Warnings on WMD 'Fabricator' Were Ignored, Ex-CIA Aide Says

Curveball described himself as a chemical engineer who had worked inside an unusual kind of laboratory, one that was built on a trailer bed and produced weapons for germ warfare. He furnished detailed, technically complex descriptions of mobile labs and even described an industrial accident that he said killed a dozen people.

The German intelligence agency BND faithfully passed Curveball's stories to the Americans. Over time, the informant generated more than 100 intelligence reports on secret Iraqi weapons programs -- the only such reports from an informant claiming to have visited and worked in mobile labs. Other informants, also later discredited, had claimed indirect knowledge of mobile labs.

In late 2002, the Bush administration began scouring intelligence files for reports of Iraqi weapons threats. Drumheller was asked to press a counterpart from a European intelligence agency for direct access to Curveball. Other officials confirmed that it was the German intelligence service.

The German official declined but then offered a startlingly candid assessment, Drumheller recalled. "He said, 'I think the guy is a fabricator,' " Drumheller said, recounting the conversation with the official, whom he declined to name. "He said: 'We also think he has psychological problems. We could never validate his reports.' "

When Drumheller relayed the warning to his superiors in October 2002, it sparked what he described as "a series of the most contentious meetings I've ever seen" in three decades of government work.

Although no American had ever interviewed Curveball, analysts with the CIA's Center for Weapons Intelligence, Nonproliferation and Arms Control believed the informant's technical descriptions were too detailed to be fabrications.

"People were cursing. These guys were absolutely, violently committed to it," Drumheller said. "They would say to us, 'You're not scientists, you don't understand.' "

In January 2003, Drumheller received a new request from CIA headquarters to contact the German intelligence service about Curveball. This time, Drumheller recalled, the U.S. spy agency had three questions:

Could a U.S. official refer to Curveball's mobile lab accounts in an upcoming political speech?

Could the Germans guarantee that Curveball would stand by his account?

Could German intelligence verify Curveball's claims?

The reply from Berlin, as Drumheller recalls it, was less than encouraging: There are no guarantees.

<       2           >

© 2006 The Washington Post Company