Enter your mobile number or email address below and we'll send you a link to download the free Kindle App. Then you can start reading Kindle books on your smartphone, tablet, or computer - no Kindle device required.
To get the free app, enter your mobile phone number.
Curveball: Spies, Lies, and the Con Man Who Caused a War Hardcover – October 16, 2007
"Rebound" by Kwame Alexander
Don't miss best-selling author Kwame Alexander's "Rebound," a new companion novel to his Newbery Award-winner, "The Crossover,"" illustrated with striking graphic novel panels. Pre-order today
Customers who bought this item also bought
Customers who viewed this item also viewed
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.
About the Author
Bob Drogin covers national security and intelligence for the Los Angeles Times. He previously served as a foreign correspondent for the Times in Asia and Africa, and as a national correspondent based in New York. He has won or shared multiple journalism awards, among them the Pulitzer Prize, the Robert F. Kennedy Journalism Award, and the George Polk Award. He has been interviewed on Nightline, CNN, the BBC, PBS, NPR, and many other media outlets. He lives with his wife and two children outside Washington, D.C.
Author interviews, book reviews, editors picks, and more. Read it now
Top customer reviews
There was a problem filtering reviews right now. Please try again later.
The book is a good read, but also supports a number of other accounts of the incredible ineptitude of CIA's Directorate of Intelligence. Apparently the WMD team at CIA (WINPAC) had (has?) no idea of how to transform information into intelligence. They made the leap of logic that since the second hand reports of Curveball's debriefings (codenamed the `Hortensia' series) appeared internally consistent they constituted solid intelligence. They by all accounts made no real effort to verify or enhance these reports by other means and dismissed imagery information that did not support Curveball's assertions as Iraqi denial and deception. They also made no effort to consider if Curveball's assertions really made any sense given the nature of weaponization of biological agents. Late in the game they did provide the Bechtel Corporation with reproductions of Curveball's drawing of what he claimed were mobile production facilities (18Wheeler Trucks) and were reassured that yes they could be used for that purpose. What they did not ask and Bechtel did volunteer was what else could they be used for and how practical would it be run trucks full of bio-toxins over notoriously bad road. Finally they apparently made no effort to determine if Iraq had been seeking the technologies associated with bio-toxin production (e.g. containment technologies, vaccines, or protective gear). The National Intelligence Council (NIC) that produced the infamous pre-Operation Iraqi Freedom National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) clearly did not know the difference between information and intelligence either. This is a sorry state of affairs indeed and not likely to be improved by the cosmetic reforms that have been undertaken by the U.S. Intelligence System since 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. And even though there might be axes to grind, the momentum of Drogin's historical account seems to be pretty well supported.
Drogin concludes by observing that many criticized American intelligence and law enforcement agencies for not connecting the dots before 9/11. However, he claims (Page 281), "In this case, the CIA and its allies made up the dots. Iraq had never built or planned to build any mobile weapons labs. It had no other WMD. The U.S. intelligence apparatus, created to protect the nation, conjured up demons that did not exist. America never before has squandered so much blood, treasure, and credibility on a delusion." Harsh words. Also, was he actually the person who, as per the title, "caused a war"? It appears that the Administration had already made up its mind and Curveball's "intelligence" was simply one more argument in favor. Readers must decide if the author accurately makes his case.
This isn't made-up stuff, though. It's the real story of how an Iraqi nobody with a good sales pitch and a glib tongue fooled enough intelligence people enough of the time to give the U.S. administration its pretext to go after Saddam Hussein's supposed weapons of mass destruction.
Author Bob Drogin is a veteran newspaper reporter who wrote episodes of this story for the Los Angeles Times over the past several years. His book is thoroughly (but unobtrusively) documented. Read it and you'll hope, as I do, that future Washington decision-makers have read it, too.