Sunday, November 04, 2007

Curve Ball questions

Well, 60 Minutes didn't disappoint in their Curve Ball story, essentially blaming the war on him and by extension Tenet, Powell, and by further extension, Bush. But Simon didn't ask all the questions. Here are a few more:

1) Why did Curveball leave Iraq? The report says he left in the mid 90s and traveled to Jordan, Egypt, Libya and Morocco where "his trail went cold" before turning up in Germany. Where was he suspected to be when the trail went cold?

2) Why did 60 Minutes spare German intelligence from the embarrassment they deserved? It didn't appear they even tried to interview anyone from the BND.

3) Why did Curveball choose Germany, the same country Atta and the Hamburg Cell were cloistered? The New Yorker claims Chalabi sent him there. Tenet claims that Defense Intelligence held sway over Iraqis dealing with Germany, not the CIA. Did this have any bearing going in? If Chalabi/INC didn't send him, somebody did. Who and why? In March 2001 the Germans expelled several Iraqi spies--any tie-ins? Ahmad Al-Ani, an envoy at the Iraqi embassy in Prague and reportedly in charge of a network of spies in Europe, was alleged to have met with Atta also in March April, 2001 (later denied). Al-Ani was subsequently expelled in April, 2001.

4) After entering an asylum plea and being sent to the refugee camp, was it necessary for Curve Ball to continue to lie if just "getting a green card", as Drumheller said, was his goal?

5) Was he a Sunni Ba'athist? The wedding acquaintance mentioned was an Mr. Dulaimi, which is the same surname of Saddam's lawyer (whatever happened to his book?).

6) Drumheller called Curve Ball's act an outrageous example of the "law of unintended consequences". This seems to say several things. One, it would possibly separate him from Chalabi, since one would conclude he wouldn't have picked an asset afraid to talk directly with Americans since toppling Saddam was his goal (of course with all this stuff there's an ever-present deception factor; Chalabi could have instructed Curve Ball to show hostility towards the US to make him seem more realistic). It also separates him from the IIS or Mukhabarat or even Iranian intelligence, if indeed he was just looking for a new life.

Yet if Curve Ball was just a fabricator shilling for a green card why didn't he back off after 9/11, or when Bush began to saber rattle about invasion? How much were the Germans paying him?

7) Since he didn't back off, and since he was referring to mobile bio-weapons labs, what affect did the anthrax attacks after 9/11 have on the decision-makers? Apparently he correctly identified pictures of the mobile weapons trailers in 2003 after the invasion, which seems odd for a low-level operator not involved with any intelligence agency.

8) And finally, why did the BND code name an Iraqi "Curve Ball"? Other than American baseball, what does that term signify?

Tenet had some interesting things to say about Drumheller and Curve Ball in his book. On page 381 he recounts:
Drumheller had many opportunities before and after the Powell speech to raise the alarm with me, yet he failed to do so.
On the next page Tenet recounts a purported memo sent him by Drumheller in August 2003 regarding an upcoming visit by the head of BND August Hanning, to which he suggested:
Thank Dr. Hanning for the Iraqi WMD information provided by the BND asset "Curve Ball." Inform Dr. Hanning that we would like to work with the BND to craft an approach to Curve Ball to secure his cooperation in locating evidence of Iraq's biological weapons (BW) programs, and about the direct involvement of Dr. Rihab Taha al-Azzawi in Iraq's mobile BW program.
He goes on to say Drumheller attended the lunch and never brought up the problems, something 60 Minutes didn't bother to ask. Of course Tenet himself was charged with fabricating a story about Richard Perle on 9/11, so take it for what it's worth.

As Drumheller said, whether Curve Ball was clean or dirty probably didn't matter anyway--we were going in. That's because despite all the minutiae about assets and such the fact is the Middle East was never going to change with Saddam Hussein's regime parked in the middle of it. Bush made his choice, and in the end history can only judge what happened, not what might have happened.

Of course, we got CBS's view of history at the end of the show when they channeled it through their resident grumpy old man. Andy Rooney spent several minutes cutting Bush slack about how tough the presidency is and about how he couldn't do it, only to end by saying, "of course, I wouldn't have gone into Iraq."

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