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‘Curveball’ Living Up to Reputation

Remember “Curveball,” the Iraqi defector-turned-informant whose interviews with German intelligence officials supplied the White House with much of the justification to invade Iraq? Well, The Los Angeles Times caught up with the guy (aka: Rafid Ahmed Alwan) in Germany recently, and with a good deal of persistence got him to speak a bit about his role in selling the case for war. Here’s a hint: There’s no reason in hell we ever should have taken this guy seriously. As the Times reports of those intelligence sessions:

Alwan didn’t share all his secrets. He didn’t disclose that he had been fired at least twice for dishonesty, or that he fled Iraq to avoid arrest. But he did tell some whoppers that should have raised warnings about his credibility.

He claimed, for example, that the son of his former boss, Basil Latif, secretly headed a vast weapons of mass destruction procurement and smuggling scheme from England. British investigators found, however, that Latif’s son was a 16-year-old exchange student, not a criminal mastermind.

When a Western intelligence team interviewed Latif outside Iraq in early 2002, a year before the war, he warned that Alwan had been fired for falsifying invoices at work. Latif also denied that anyone produced biological weapons at the plant where he worked with Alwan.

“They thought I was lying,” Latif, who now lives in Oman, said in an interview. “But I was telling the truth. It upset me very much.”

German officials instead believed Alwan’s story that he helped manage an Iraqi factory that installed fermenters, spray dryers and piping within tractor-trailers to brew anthrax, botulinum toxin and other biological agents. CIA and Pentagon biological warfare analysts embraced Alwan’s account without corroborating evidence or directly questioning the informant.

President Bush declared in his State of the Union address in January 2003 that “we know” that Iraq built mobile germ factories. Then-Secretary of State Colin L. Powell highlighted Alwan’s supposed “eyewitness” account to the U.N. Security Council when he pressed the case for war.

In October 2004, more than a year after the invasion, a CIA-led investigation concluded that Baghdad had abandoned all chemical, biological and nuclear weapons programs after the 1991 Persian Gulf War. The germ trucks never existed.

In a telling display of character, Alwan tried to haggle for an interview fee when a Times reporter first knocked on his door in Nuremberg.

Eventually, he agreed to a series of brief interviews. In every encounter, he was combative and unapologetic. Others, he insisted, had twisted or misinterpreted his information.

“I never said Iraq had weapons of mass destruction, never in my whole life,” he said. “I challenge anyone in the world to get a piece of paper from me, anything with my signature, that proves I said there were weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.”

Defiant, arrogant and with a knack for eluding accountability for his lies: No wonder the Bush administration liked this guy so much.

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