The presidential commission that is investigating the intelligence failures that lead up to our going to war with Saddam Hussein is due out later this morning. While most major newspapers, such as the New York Times and Washington Post have been previewing the recommendations of the commission, Knight Ridder's Washington bureau has instead turned out a story providing new details about a questionable CIA informant code-named "Curveball".
An Iraqi chemical engineer, "Curveball" claimed to have helped design mobile biological-warfare facilities for Saddam Hussein. The tale has long since been shown to be a canard, but not before the information was cited by the Bush administration as a pretext for war.
Curveball's claims were cited in a Feb. 5, 2003 speech to the United Nations Security Council by then-Secretary of State Colin Powell. They were also central to the false conclusions of a subsequent National Intelligence Estimate that Saddam had a chemical weapons capability. A number of Senators and Congressmen have since said they would have not voted to authorize Bush to go to war if they knew that the claims in the NIE were false.
The Senate Intelligence Committee has already thoroughly documented how "Curveball"'s fictions helped lead the country on the path to war. Some other background information on "Curveball" is contained in this American Prospect commentary I wrote about the Senate report. The Senate report, in its entirety, can also be found online.
Update, 8:45 P.M., April 3
Curveball makes the big time! Who would have ever thought? I knew if I kept writing about himself enough... Sure enough, Maureen Dowd devotes her entire column to him today. And to think, I wrote about him way back in the day. Not really favorable press. considering her column is headlined "Curveball the Goofball". But that goes with the territory of making the big time.