Dafna Linzer—writing the Washington Post—notices that the WMD Commission reveals that UNMOVIC inspections in February 2003 discredited “Curveball”—the defector whose claims about mobile bio-weapons made a liar out of Colin Powell:
That Iraq was cooking up biological agents in mobile facilities designed to elude the prying eyes of international inspectors and Western intelligence services was, along with the aluminum tubes, the most important and alarming assessment in the October 2002 NIE. This judgment, as it turns out, was based almost exclusively on information obtained from a single human source—codenamed “Curveball”—whose credibility came into question around the time of the publication of the NIE and collapsed under scrutiny in the months following the war.
But it should be noted that during the pre-NIE period—in addition to the more general questions about Curveball’s credibility discussed above—at least some evidence had emerged calling into question the substance of Curveball’s reporting about Iraq’s BW program as well.
Specifically, a WINPAC BW analyst told us that two foreign services had both noted in 2001 that Curveball’s description of the facility he claimed was involved in the mobile BW program was contradicted by imagery of the site, which showed a wall across the path that Curveball said the mobile trailers traversed.
Turns out—if you read the footnotes—the UNMOVIC visited the facility in question and discredited Curveball’s description:
Information from 1998 indicated that the Iraqis had broken and then reconstituted part of the wall, which convinced the majority of analysts that the wall was “temporary” and would allow BW trailers through it, thus not contradicting Curveball’s reporting. When United Nations Monitoring Verification and Inspection Commission (UNMOVIC) inspectors visited the site on February 9, 2003, they found that the wall was a permanent structure and could find nothing to corroborate Curveball’s reporting.
No word yet on whether the President plans to give Curveball the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
Late Update: So, this post sat 12 hours with “IAEA” instead of “UNMOVIC.” I was running out the door to dinner with friends. Thanks to Paul for noticing that.
The administration still doesn’t much care what the inspectors thought. Rice told Sen. Kerry during her confirmation hearing that:
the WMD inspection process was simply not getting anywhere. I think the inspectors will tell you that while they were in the country they were able to make some headway, but of course Saddam Hussein…
KERRY: Well, the difference is why couldn’t you have gotten full compliance? You don’t know the answer to that because you made a different decision.
RICE: Well, I don’t think you were going to get full compliance with Saddam Hussein.
KERRY: We know you don’t think that.
RICE: Well, with American forces—American and coalition forces building up on his shores, he still decided not to comply with his international obligations, so it’s pretty good evidence that he wasn’t going to be convinced to comply.
This is, needless to say, complete bullshit. Indeed, one of the most under-reported findings of the Duelfer report is that the UN inspectors actually had better access to Iraq’s facilities than did the ISG.