March 24, 2008 -- The Iraqi defector known as "Curveball," whose fabricated stories about mobile biological weapons labs helped lead the U.S. to war in Iraq five years ago, says he is not to blame for the war and that he never said Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction, according to a new report released this weekend in the German magazine Der Spiegel.
Curveball is still living in Germany under a new name and protection and money offered by German intelligence services.
"In all, Curveball is said to have been paid hundreds of thousands of euros. And the BND [German foreign intelligence agency] may now have to cough up once again. The intelligence service is considering giving Curveball yet another new identity, as well as one for his second wife from Morocco and for his son, who was born in Erlangen," write Der Spiegel investigative reporters Erich Follath, John Goetz, Marcel Rosenbach and Holger Stark.
Curveball's false tales became the centerpiece of then-Secretary of State Colin Powell's speech before the United Nations in February 2003, even though he was considered an "unstable, immature and unreliable" source by some senior officials in the CIA. The CIA has since issued an official "burn notice" formally retracting more than 100 intelligence reports based on his information.
Curveball told Der Spiegel that while he didn't tell German intelligence that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction, he did provide important information in exchange for which he thinks he should be "living like a king." And he said if he is offered more money, he'll tell his story all over again.
Curveball arrived in Germany in 1999 seeking asylum, and as Der Spiegel reports, quickly began talking to the German secret service about his experience working at the "Military Industrialization Commission," which was responsible for developing new weapons. By the beginning of 2003, shortly before Powell would give his now infamous speech at the U.N., the BND had passed on about 100 classified reports detailing the information they'd received from Curveball to Washington, D.C. That information later become the cornerstone of Powell's speech.
Following the U.S. invasion and subsequent fall of Saddam Hussein, former U.N. weapons inspector David Kay was sent to Iraq to uncover chemical and biological weapons and labs. Kay told Der Spiegel that once he learned that the entire weapons claim was based on just one source, Curveball, he assigned two of his staff members to investigate Curveball. It was then, Kay told Der Spiegel, that they learned of the extent of his lies.
Curveball's mother told Kay's staff that Curveball did not graduate at the top of his class, as he had told the Germans, but that he barely managed to finish his education with a D average. Even more disturbing, Curveball had told the Germans that he had worked in the weapons program until 1998, but he wasn't even in Iraq in 1998, according to the Der Spiegel report.
Finally, Kay's team learned that an arrest warrant had been issued for Curveball in 1998 after he was accused of stealing 1.5 million dinars' worth of goods. That was the real reason he left the country.
Kay told Der Spiegel that he believes German intelligence did not adequately investigate their source before passing on his information.
"That was dishonest, unprofessional and irresponsible," Kay told Der Spiegel.
The BND for their part did not officially respond to Der Spiegel's interview request, but a high-ranking German intelligence official is quoted as saying that the U.S. is ultimately at fault.
"We simply passed on information, no evaluations," the official told Der Spiegel. "The U.S. bears responsibility for what happened at the Security Council."