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

Bob Drogin
4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (31 customer reviews)

Kindle Price: $10.99
Sold by: Random House LLC

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Book Description

Curveball answers the crucial question of the Iraq war: How and why was America’s intelligence so catastrophically wrong? In this dramatic and explosive book, award-winning Los Angeles Times reporter Bob Drogin delivers a narrative that takes us to Europe, the Middle East, and deep inside the CIA to find the truth–the truth about the lies and self-deception that led us into a military and political nightmare.

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)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.


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.

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."

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 ...

Product Details

  • File Size: 378 KB
  • Print Length: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Random House; 1 edition (October 30, 2007)
  • Sold by: Random House LLC
  • Language: English
  • Text-to-Speech: Not enabled
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  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #343,055 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

4.6 out of 5 stars
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22 of 25 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Good but not that well-sourced itself October 27, 2007
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
5.0 out of 5 stars Another tale of American intelligence failures in Iraq 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
5.0 out of 5 stars The gangs that couldn't think straight October 25, 2007
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
5.0 out of 5 stars Fair and Well Written October 24, 2007
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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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Did we go to war because of a lie?
After reading this book I seriously wonder if we went to war in Iraq on a lie. Too much of the case for the war was made off the supposed intelligence gleaned from an Iraqi... Read more
Published 12 months ago by Sgt. Rock
5.0 out of 5 stars This is the tale of a man who cost you billions...
When I got my doctorate at Columbia on the subject of Vietnam, I ever worried about the vast damage done by lies and disinformation and lobbying. Read more
Published 14 months ago by Will Brownell
3.0 out of 5 stars Good book, but emphasized the story over analysis.
This book was so hyped, I was looking forward to a pragmatic analysis of what went right and what went wrong in the lead-up to the Iraq war. Read more
Published 18 months ago by ME Kincaid
5.0 out of 5 stars Be cautious of "Intelligence"
Does anyone doubt that the Iraq war was a mistake? Seemed to be well researched. Makes the case for avoiding war hysteria.
Published 18 months ago by JAMES BRUBAKER
5.0 out of 5 stars Very interesting
This book points out how human the people making life and death decisions are. What is seen in this book is seen in all walks of life and I found it enlightening
Published 21 months ago by Henry Eissler
5.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating, Required Reading for Studies in Intelligence
This is an amazing account--very well written, crafted, and presented. Anyone interested in understanding how intelligence failures can happen must read this book.
Published 22 months ago by Eric Croddy
4.0 out of 5 stars Good book! well written and detailed!
I found this book, (which I listened to on the audio version, which was abridged) to be well written and detailed! Read more
Published 24 months ago by David
5.0 out of 5 stars A fantasy that put the US at peril - Curveball.
Drogan, Bob - Curveball; Spies, Lies and the Con man who Caused a War - 2007
Random House, Inc., N.Y. Read more
Published on March 3, 2013 by Bruce Martin
3.0 out of 5 stars Haven't Read yet
Will use this book as a reference, sure it's a little biased against the intelligence systems used to collection the information.
Published on February 13, 2013 by Paul B. King
4.0 out of 5 stars An example of how CIA analysis can affect foreign policy
It was Fate that I bought this overpriced ebook for a class a few days before Curveball's admission of fabricating his entire story about mobile bioweapons trucks being used by the... Read more
Published on February 20, 2011 by WriterGirl
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Topic From this Discussion
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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