America was determined to go to war. Curveball had the information they needed. One problem...He was lying. 'Curveball' was the undercover code name given to the mysterious defector whose assertions set the Iraq War in motion. A desperate young Iraqi applying for political asylum in Munich, his first-hand 'evidence' on Saddam Hussein's biological weapons programme would ultimately be a central plank of the Bush administration's justification in launching an invasion. Trouble was, virtually everything he told the intelligence services was a fabrication.Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Bob Drogin, who broke the story to a shocked world, has written the definitive account of the most notorious intelligence fiasco in recent American history. How Curveball hoodwinked his handlers in the German secret services. How petty nationalistic rivalries meant the CIA never even got to meet their primary source. How squabbling, arrogance and incompetence within the various US intelligence agencies allowed Curveball's lies to spread higher and higher up the chain of authority, eventually reaching the White House itself.
An irresistible story of international intrigue that twists its way from Germany to America to Iraq and back again, "Curveball" shows how honour and dishonesty amongst spies led to the US and the UK becoming embroiled in a catastrophic war.
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(240mm x 162mm x 33mm)
Publisher: Ebury Publishing
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US Kirkus 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."Clandestine operatives are trained to spread falsehoods as part of their tradecraft," Drogin admits at the outset. The falsehoods that came from an asylum seeker in Germany may have been deliberate, schooled and carefully scripted. More likely they were the inventions of an alcoholic desperate to be believed long enough not to be deported to a land still run by Saddam Hussein. "Curveball" was recruited out of Baghdad University in 1994 to keep tabs on Hussein's chemical-weapons program; by 1996, the CIA's files were full of notes averring that he was developing mobile germ-weaponry labs and other biochemical nasties. Curveball fled Iraq for Germany in 1999, seeking asylum. He apparently passed the tough scrutiny of the German spies, though British intelligence warned that he was untrustworthy. Meanwhile, other informers on the weapons program were feeding back information that had come from American intelligence, eager to supply what they imagined their American handlers wanted. Said weapons inspector Scott Ritter, "most of it just regurgitated what we'd given them. It was crap. Total crap." So it was, as Drogin demonstrates. Even though some within American intelligence eventually came to doubt Curveball, the higher-ups had too much invested in him - "the CIA analysts seemed so cocksure about the Iraqi, a defector they had never met, that the president was citing him." The president also used Curveball's reports to take the country to war, depending on a single source that had never been vetted or substantiated. Curveball, Drogin suggests, may in the end be blameless; he told pleasing stories that comforted the president, while George Tenet and his CIA colleagues "held on to the lies" long after they were shown to be worthless.Simultaneously sobering and infuriating - essential reading for those who follow the headlines. (Kirkus Reviews)
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Author Biography - Bob Drogin
Bob Drogin is a national security correspondent for the Los Angeles Times. 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 appeared on the BBC, CNN and many other media outlets. He lives in Silver Spring, Maryland, with his wife and two children.