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Warnings on WMD 'Fabricator' Were Ignored, Ex-CIA Aide Says
"They said, 'We have never been able to verify his claims,' " Drumheller recalled. "And that was all sent up to Tenet's office."
When Drumheller listened to Bush's speech several days later, he was astonished to hear the mobile labs described in detail.
"Boom, there it was," he said.
A few days later, Drumheller was handed a draft of another key speech on Iraq: Powell's remarks to the U.N. Security Council accusing Hussein of reconstituting his WMD programs. This time, the speech included an obvious reference to Curveball -- an unnamed "chemical engineer" who worked in one of the labs -- as well as detailed drawings of mobile labs inspired by Curveball's descriptions.
Drumheller said he called the office of John E. McLaughlin, then the CIA deputy director, and was told to come there immediately. Drumheller said he sat across from McLaughlin and an aide in a small conference room and spelled out his concerns.
McLaughlin responded with alarm and said Curveball was "the only tangible source" for the mobile lab story, Drumheller recalled, adding that the deputy director promised to quickly investigate.
Portions of Drumheller's account of his meetings with McLaughlin and Tenet appear in the final report of the Silberman-Robb commission, which was appointed by Bush to investigate prewar U.S. intelligence failures on Iraq's weapons programs. The report cites e-mails and interviews with other CIA officials who were aware of the meetings.
In responding to questions about Drumheller, McLaughlin provided The Post with a copy of the statement he gave in response to the commission's report. The statement said he had no memories of the meeting with Drumheller and had no written documentation that the meeting took place.
"If someone had made these doubts clear to me, I would not have permitted the reporting to be used in Secretary Powell's speech," McLaughlin said in the statement.
In their briefings to Powell on Feb. 4, one day before the secretary's U.N. speech, Tenet and McLaughlin expressed nothing but confidence in the mobile-lab story, according to Wilkerson, Powell's chief of staff, who was present during the briefings.
"Powell and I were both suspicious because there were no pictures of the mobile labs," Wilkerson said. The drawings were constructed from Curveball's accounts.
But the CIA officials were persuasive. Wilkerson said the two men described the evidence on the mobile labs as exceptionally strong, based on multiple sources whose stories were independently corroborated.