“I had the chance to fabricate something to topple the regime. I and my sons are proud of that, and we are proud that we were the reason to give Iraq the margin of democracy.”
Rafid Ahmed Alwan al-Janabi aka CURVEBALL
Six months before the invasion, the then Prime Minister Tony Blair warned the country about the threat posed by Saddam Hussein’s weapons of mass destruction (WMD). Much of the key intelligence used by Downing Street and the White House was based on “fabrication, wishful thinking and lies”. Follow us on Twitter: @INTEL_TODAY
General Sir Mike Jackson, then head of the British Army, concluded:
“What appeared to be gold in terms of intelligence turned out to be fool’s gold, because it looked like gold, but it wasn’t.”
The most notorious spy who fooled the world was the Iraqi defector, Rafid Ahmed Alwan al-Janabi.
His fabrications and lies were a crucial part of the intelligence used to justify one of the most divisive wars in recent history.
And they contributed to one of the biggest intelligence failures in living memory.
He became known as Curveball, the codename given to him by US intelligence that turned out to be all too appropriate.
Mr Janabi arrived as an Iraqi asylum seeker at a German refugee centre in 1999 and said he was a chemical engineer, thus attracting the attention of the German intelligence service, the BND.
He told them he had seen mobile biological laboratories mounted on trucks to evade detection.
The Germans had doubts about Mr Janabi which they shared with the Americans and the British.
MI6 had doubts too, which they expressed in a secret cable to the CIA: “Elements of [his] behaviour strike us as typical of individuals we would normally assess as fabricators [but we are] inclined to believe that a significant part of [Curveball’s] reporting is true.”
The British decided to stick with Curveball, as did the Americans. He later admitted being a fabricator and liar. [BBC]
CIA and the Iraqi WMDs
In a recent documentary — Spymasters: CIA In the Crosshairs — Former CIA Director Robert Gates asked the viewer to reflect on a simple issue (@ 1H49′): “Have we not gone to war in Iraq, what would the world look like?” Gates then admits that this war was a “analytical failure”. Not everyone at the CIA agrees.
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Indeed, not all the intelligence was wrong. Information from two highly-placed sources close to Saddam Hussein was correct. Both said Iraq did not have any active WMD.
The CIA’s source was Iraq’s foreign minister Naji Sabri. Former CIA Bill Murray – then head of the agency’s station in Paris – dealt with him via an intermediary.
Murray was not happy with the way the intelligence from these two highly-placed sources had been used.
“I thought we’d produced probably the best intelligence that anybody produced in the pre-war period, all of which came out – in the long run – to be accurate. The information was discarded and not used.”
The Spies Who Fooled the World
Documentary 2013 – Panorama: On the eve of the tenth anniversary of the Iraq War, Panorama reveals how key aspects of the secret intelligence used to justify the invasion were based on fabrication and lies.
“The lies of two Iraqi spies were central to the claim – at the heart of the UK and US decision to go to war in Iraq – that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction. But even before the fighting started, intelligence from highly-placed sources was available suggesting he did not, Panorama has learned.”
The Spies Who Fooled the World — Never Forget, Never Forgive