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Curveball: Spies, Lies, and the Con Man Who Caused a War Kindle Edition

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Length: 368 pages Word Wise: Enabled

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

In 1999, an Iraqi refugee, soon code-named Curveball, told German intelligence agents of his work on an ongoing Iraqi program that produced biological weapons in mobile laboratories. His claims electrified the CIA, which had little good intelligence about Saddam Hussein's regime and was fixated on the threat of Iraqi WMDs, which later became a centerpiece in the Bush administration's case for invading Iraq. It was only after American occupation forces failed to find any mobile germ-warfare labs—or other WMDs—that prewar warnings about Curveball's heavy drinking and mental instability, and the nagging gaps and contradictions in his story, were taken seriously. In this engrossing account, Los Angeles Times correspondent Drogin paints an intimate and revealing portrait of the workings and dysfunctions of the intelligence community. Hobbled by internal and external turf battles and hypnotized by pet theories, the CIA—including director George Tenet, whose reputation suffers another black eye here—ignored skeptics, the author contends, and fell in love with a dubious source who told the agency and the White House what they wanted to hear. Instead of connecting the dots, Drogin argues, the CIA and its allies made up the dots. (Oct. 16)
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Review

Just when you thought the WMD debacle couldn’t get worse, here comes veteran Los Angeles Times national-security correspondent Drogin’s look at just who got the stories going in the first place…Simultaneously sobering and infuriating– essential reading for those who follow the headlines. 
--Kirkus Reviews

In this engrossing account, Los Angeles Times correspondent Drogin paints an intimate and revealing portrait of the workings and dysfunctions of the intelligence community.
--Publishers Weekly

Enter Bob Drogin's new book… an insightful and compelling account of one crucial component of the war's origins… Had Drogin merely pieced together Curveball's story, it alone would have made for a thrilling book. But he provides something more: a frightening glimpse at how easily we could make the same mistakes again…The real value of Drogin's book is its meticulous demonstration that bureaucratic imperative often leads to self-delusion.
--Washington Monthly

Drogin delivers a startling account of this fateful intelligence snafu.
--Booklist

But, again, the intelligence community was disappointing the Bush administration… Los Angeles Times correspondent Bob Drogin lays out the whole sorry tale in his forthcoming book, "Curveball: Spies, Lies, and the Con Man Who Caused a War."
--Newsweek

By the time you finish this book you will be shaking your head with wonder, or perhaps you will be shaking with anger, about the misadventures that preceded the misadventures in Iraq. This book is so powerful, it almost refutes its subtitle: The man called Curveball did not cause a war; he became a pretext -- one among many.
-- George F. Will
There used to be an old rule that *real* journalists lived by: 'All governments are run by liars, and nothing they say should be believed.' We've come a ...

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22 of 25 people found the following review helpful By maskirovka VINE VOICE on October 27, 2007
Format: Hardcover
The Curveball saga is a watershed in the history of the American Intelligence Community. Despite multiple blinking warning signs about the credibility of this "source," the IC wound up using the "intelligence" provided by him with the end result of the IC looking very, very foolish.

Drogin's book is a pretty good recounting of that sad little saga. He sheds particularly interesting light on how the Germans handled Curveball and the poisonous relations between the CIA and the Bundesnachrichtungdienst (German Federal Intelligence Service).

Beyond that, Drogin's book does not tell much more than what the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence and the WMD Commission reports (issued in 2004 and 2005 respectively) do. Both of those reports are available on the Internet and are written with remarkable clarity.

In my opinion, the book suffers from the fact that Drogin has only talked with some of the players in this particular fiasco ...namely David Kay and Tyler Drumheller. Both of them are out of government and have some axes to grind. In contrast, some of the people who they locked horns with are still in government and would find themselves in deep trouble if they went on record with Drogin.

I also think that Drogin's book suffers from a remarkable flaw given the fact that it is such a devastating critique of the IC's inept use of sources. He doesn't document his own research very well in the book. For example, there is a twelve-page section of the book that doesn't have a single endnote (he uses endnotes instead of footnotes or chapter notes). There are many other parts of the book where I found myself wondering where Drogin got a particular piece of information or interpretation and found the endnotes singularly unhelpful.
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16 of 19 people found the following review helpful By Steven A. Peterson TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on October 26, 2007
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Bob Drogin's "Curveball: Spies, Lies, and the Con Man Who Caused a War" is an examination of the refugee from Iraq, code named "Curveball," who contended that he had been involved in WMD biological warfare research and development. It is also another story of serious mistakes by American intelligence in the run up to the Iraq invasion after 9/11.

In 1999, the Iraqi refugee ended up linking up with German intelligence. As the agents worked with the man who became code named "Curveball," they were convinced that he must be telling the truth about knowledge of biological weapons developed by Iraq. He was an engineer and, he claimed, had been involved in the development of systems to deliver biological agents in warfare. The details convinced the Germans; they communicated with American and British intelligence, but tended to jealously guard their source and not let other intelligence services get near him. However, over time, the German intelligence team began to wonder more and more about his veracity.

After 9/11 and as the Bush Administration looked more closely at the possibility of regime change in Iraq, Curveball's story became an integral part of the case being developed against Saddam Hussein and justifying invasion. The threat of WMD was a key part of the justification for war. And Curveball's reports were accorded great weight in the United States.

The book is written well. Its dependence on sources, some anonymous, who may have axes to grind is obviously something that readers must keep in mind. However, this is yet another in a series of books that clearly suggests that the Administration actively sought out information to support its already made decision to invade Iraq.
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11 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Webster Nolan on October 25, 2007
Format: Hardcover
For all kinds of reasons--penetrating research, narrative flow, nifty phrases, occasional gentle wisecracks, helpful appendices-- 'Curveball" is a remarkable achievement. Equally appealing is the tone: Drogin leaves the reader to ponder the many complexities rather than arguing his own views. Even the footnotes are fascinating. The book also cleared up a disturbing concern of mine going back to CIA chief George Tenet's February 2004 Georgetown speech, a chunk of which I happened to catch on CSpan. He came across as a policy advocate, not the detached collector and evaluator of intelligence that's needed in the job. "Curveball" provides a context that helps explains this dangerous man. Of course, the book does a lot more than that, describing, much like a business school case review. how the "intelligence community" leadership can abandon common sense in favor of catering to the White House or competing with other agencies. One wonders if the same thing is going on today with respect to Iran.
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10 of 12 people found the following review helpful By M. Ettlinger on October 24, 2007
Format: Hardcover
Curveball doesn't presume to tell the complete story of how the US came to invade Iraq--but it does the best job of it of the books I've read. It shows how the intelligence supporting the decision to go to war was a house of cards built on an extremely shaky foundation and how the process of intelligence analysis and assessment was distorted by the desire of the intelligence community to tell the nation's leaders what they wanted to hear.

The book is extraordinarily well written and engaging, but doesn't sacrifice its integrity by oversimplifying what happened. The easier path in a book about a colossal failure is to make it a simple, viscerally satisfying, story of actors who are stupid or evil. No question that Curveball tells the story of a colossal failure and that those responsible did stupid things and, in some cases, acted without the best of motives. What distinguishes this book is that it shows how real people who should have known better came to deceive themselves, the country and much of the world into believing that there was solid information that Saddam Hussein's Iraq possessed biological and other weapons of mass destruction. There's culpability here from top to bottom--with heroes mixed in who tried to make things right but were willfully ignored, suppressed and dismissed. That isn't to say this lets the President and Vice-President off the hook. They played their roles in the intelligence failure and the President has the ultimate responsibility for the decision to go to war--and no one can know whether better intelligence on WMD would have given him pause. But this is not a simple story of "the President lied" or "the CIA was incompetent"--and for that it's a book that squares well with how things like this really come to happen.

As for the writing . . .
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Another CIA-Centric Account?
Drogin appears to think that the CIA was pushed (by Cheney.) I suspect that is correct. Drogin (according to the Wall Street Journal review of the book by (cough) Judith Miller also says that there were lies beyond what Curveball supplied. That is demonstrably true: the CIA/DIA white paper... Read More
Oct 13, 2007 by Amazon Customer |  See all 2 posts
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