Monday, November 21, 2005

The Dangers of Watercooler Gossip

I just read the LA Times story exposing Curveball, and boy is it a doozie.  If you haven’t read it yet, I suggest you do.  I’ll wait.  Roger Ailes quotes a good part, but here was a favorite of mine:

The analysts refused to back down. In one meeting, the chief analyst fiercely defended Curveball's account, saying she had confirmed on the Internet many of the details he cited. "Exactly, it's on the Internet!" the operations group chief for Germany, now a CIA station chief in Europe, exploded in response. "That's where he got it too," according to a participant at the meeting.

Uh, yeah.  Defending a claim of secret data because you found it on the internet.  I believe that’s what they call “Fucking Stupid”.  My own mother automatically discounts anything I source as being from the internet, but here we have a chief analyst using it to confirm top secret intelligence that was to justify war.  Great.  I’m sure that analyst has gotten the promotion she so obviously deserves.

To be sure, I honestly believe that part of the problem is that too many people instinctively believe Arabic-type people to be stupid and too naïve to lie.  I’m not sure if it’s the accent or what, but that’s certainly the impression that many people give off.  Sure he’s an engineer, but perhaps he can’t do internet research.  But there was clearly more to this than that.  There was clearly a case of CIA people just trying to find the justification for war that they knew Bush needed.  This quote just about says it all:

Other warnings poured in. The CIA Berlin station chief wrote that the BND had "not been able to verify" Curveball's claims. The CIA doctor who met Curveball wrote to his supervisor shortly before Powell's speech questioning "the validity" of the Iraqi's information. "Keep in mind that this war is going to happen regardless of what Curve Ball said or didn't say and the Powers That Be probably aren't terribly interested in whether Curve Ball knows what he's talking about," his supervisor wrote back, Senate investigators found.

That’s right; they knew that the “Powers That Be” weren’t interested in whether Curveball was telling the truth.  They wanted what he had to say in either case.  And it was all so obvious that a supervisor wrote to his underling to keep it in mind.  

And also keep in mind that the above quote came before Colin Powell’s UN presentation.  And as the article makes clear, Powell says that he strongly questioned the validity of Curveball, because he knew that so much was riding on the one guy.  It also says that people who were there when Powell was briefed knew that a “fabricator warning” had been issued for Curveball, but didn’t say anything.  But again, the Powers That Be misled Powell because they knew he had high credibility and wouldn’t completely jeopardize it with false claims.  What does it say when the Secretary of State isn’t a Power That Be, but is just used because he was the only one with any credibility left.

I’ll end with a few quotes which speak for themselves:

Days later, the CIA and DIA rushed to publish a White Paper declaring the trucks part of Hussein's biological warfare program. The report dismissed Iraq's explanation that the equipment generated hydrogen as a "cover story." A day later, Bush told a Polish TV reporter: "We found the weapons of mass destruction."  

But bio-weapons experts in the intelligence community were sharply critical. A former senior official of the State Department's Bureau of Intelligence and Research called the unclassified report an unprecedented "rush to judgment." The DIA then ordered a classified review of the evidence. One of 15 analysts held to the initial finding that the trucks were built for germ warfare. The sole believer was the CIA analyst who helped draft the original White Paper.Hamish Killip, a former British army officer and biological weapons expert, flew to Baghdad in July 2003 as part of the Iraq Survey Group, the CIA-led Iraqi weapons hunt. He inspected the truck trailers and was immediately skeptical."The equipment was singularly inappropriate" for biological weapons, he said. "We were in hysterics over this. You'd have better luck putting a couple of dust bins on the back of the truck and brewing it in there."

Jerry and his team interviewed 60 of Curveball's family, friends and co-workers. They all denied working on germ weapons trucks. Curveball's former bosses at the engineering center said the CIA had fallen for "water cooler gossip" and "corridor conversations." "The Iraqis were all laughing," recalled a former member of the survey group. "They were saying, 'This guy? You've got to be kidding.' "

"After the first couple of days, he said, 'This doesn't sound good,' " Drumheller recalled. "After the first week, he said, 'This guy is lying. He's lying about a bunch of stuff.' "But Curveball refused to admit deceit. When challenged, he would mumble, say he didn't know and suggest the questioner was wrong or the photo was doctored. As the evidence piled up, he simply stopped talking."He never said, 'You got me,' " Drumheller said. "He just shrugged, and didn't say anything. It was all over. We told our guy, 'You might as well wrap it up and come home.' "

The CIA had advised Bush in the fall of 2003 of "problems with the sourcing" on biological weapons, an official familiar with the briefing said. But the president has never withdrawn the statement in his 2003 State of the Union speech that Iraq produced "germ warfare agents" or his postwar assertions that "we found the weapons of mass destruction."

I know us good guys always find it upsetting when villains and liars never confess to their evil deeds, but that’s the way it is.  In the end, you just have to satisfy yourself that you’re right and hope that there’s some afterlife to punish these people.  Because they’ll never give you the satisfaction of admitting the truth; whether they’re wacko Iraqi defectors or incompetent world leaders.

No comments: