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The Story of “Curveball” - Rafid Ahmed Alwan



Media Reports

Government Reports

Photo Credits




“An alcoholic cousin of an aide to Ahmed Chalabi has emerged as the key source in the US rationale for going to war in Iraq. According to a US presidential commission looking into pre-war intelligence failures, the basis for pivotal intelligence on Iraq's alleged biological weapons programmes and fleet of mobile labs was a spy described as ‘crazy’ by his intelligence handlers and a ‘congenital liar’ by his friends. The defector, given the code-name Curveball by the CIA, has emerged as the central figure in the corruption of US intelligence estimates on Iraq. Despite considerable doubts over Curveball's credibility, his claims were included in the administration's case for war without caveat. […]” - Excerpt of a Guardian article from April 3rd, 2005.

Curveball/Rafid Ahmed Alwan (left) being interviewed


Video: CBS/60 Minutes Documentary on “Curveball”


Media Reports


June 28th, 2009 - Iraqi Whose Lies Made the Case for War Looks on from Afar

1 news article from the Guardian


June 17th, 2008 - ‘Curveball’ Speaks, and a Reputation as Disinformation Agent Remains Intact

1 news article by the Los Angeles Times


March 22nd, 2008 - How German Intelligence Helped Justify the US Invasion of Iraq

3 feature articles by the Spiegel


November 1st, 2007 - U.S. Program Unveils Man Behind Iraq Weapons Story

1 news article by Reuters


October 16th, 2007 - The Man who Sold the War

1 feature article by Salon Magazine


November 20th, 2005 - How U.S. Fell Under the Spell of ‘Curveball’

1 news article by the Los Angeles Times


April 3rd, 2005 - US Relied on ‘Drunken Liar’ to Justify War

1 news article by the Guardian


April 2nd, 2004 - Germans Accuse US Over Iraq Weapons Claim

1 news article by the Guardian



Government Reports


September 8th, 2006 - Report on the Postwar Findings about Iraq’s WMD Programs

Report by the U.S. Senate Select Committee on Intelligence


“[…] In the summer and fall of 2003, the Iraq Survey Group (ISG) investigated whether Iraq had a mobile biological weapons program as part of its overall investigation into Iraq’s WMD capabilities. The primary focus was investigating sites and individuals identified by CURVE BALL and later, CURVE BALL himself. The ISG located and debriefed over sixty individuals who could have been involved in a mobile program, were linked to suspect sites, or to CURVE BALL.


“Many of the individuals corroborated some of the reporting on personnel and some legitimate activities CURVE BALL claimed were cover activities, but none provided evidence to substantiate the claim of a mobile BW program. Inspections of the facilities CURVE BALL had described also did not support his story. A CIA assessment dated May 26,2004 states that ‘investigations since the war in Iraq and debriefings of the key source indicate he lied about his access to a mobile BW production project.’


“The CIA and DIA jointly issued a congressional notification in June 2004 noting that CURVE BALL was assessed to have fabricated his claimed access to a mobile BW production project and that his reporting had been recalled.


“[…] During the ISG's investigation of CURVE BALL, the group learned that CURVE BALL had a close relative who had worked for the INC since 1992, for at least some period in a senior position. This revelation, combined with the fact that CURVE BALL was determined to have fabricated substantial portions of his reporting, led to suspicion that CURVE BALL may have been coached on his story by the INC [Iraqi National Congress = Iraqi opposition group led by Ahmed Chalabi]. […]”


April 1st, 2005 - Statement of George J. Tenet, Former Director of Intelligence

Statement by George J. Tenet


“[…] I learned for the first time from the Silberman-Robb Commission the account of a conversation that allegedly occurred in late September or October of 2002 between a CIA Directorate of Operations Division Chief and the representative of a foreign service regarding a CIA request to secure direct access to Curveball.


“The representative of the foreign service, it is now reported, responded to CIA’s division chief responsible for relations with the foreign service with words to the effect of ‘You do not want to see him (Curveball) because he’s crazy.’ Speaking to him would be ‘a waste of time.’ The representative reportedly went on to say that his service was not sure whether Curveball was telling the truth; that he had serious doubts about Curveball’s mental stability and reliability; and that Curveball had had a nervous breakdown. Further the representative of the foreign service is said to have worried that Curveball was ‘a fabricator’. The representative reportedly cautioned the CIA division chief that the foreign service would publicly and officially deny these views if pressed, because they did not wish to be embarrassed. […]”


April 1st, 2005 - Statement of John E. McLaughlin

Statement by John E. McLaughlin


“[…] I did not know prior to Secretary Powell's UN speech that some of the information used in the biological weapons (BW) section was the product of a likely fabricator, as suggested by some of the testimony discussed in the Silberman-Robb Commission Report. I would never have permitted the use of such material by the Secretary had I known this. In fact, much of our time in the run-up to the speech was spent taking out material, including much that had been added by the policy community after the draft left the Agency, that we and the Secretary's staff judged to have been unreliable.


“With hindsight and the benefit of on-the-ground investigation in Iraq, we now know that the specific material in question - reporting from a source code-named Curveball, who alleged mobile production of BW was underway - cannot be substantiated. It is difficult to reconstruct every moment of deliberation during the tumultuous period leading up to the Iraq war, but my predominant memory regarding this reporting is of receiving assurances at the time that the information was credible.


“I was told that the source had produced close to a hundred reports - many highly technical in nature. The processes he described had been assessed by an independent laboratory as workable engineering designs. The UN had earlier come upon documentary evidence suggesting Iraq was contemplating mobile production of BW. Although we did not have direct access to the source, who was handled by a foreign intelligence service, that service had joined US Intelligence Community officers and representatives of two other foreign intelligence services in a quadrilateral conference in 2001 which had judged the reporting credible. Finally, the foreign service handling the source had granted permission to cite the information publicly, indicating, we thought, that it must have confidence in the reporting. These are the main things I remember from discussions at the time. […]”


March 31st, 2005 - Intelligence Capabilities of the U.S. regarding Weapons of Mass Destruction

Report by the U.S. Silberman-Robb Commission


“[…] The Intelligence Community assessed with ‘high confidence’ in the fall of 2002 that Iraq ‘has’ biological weapons, and that ‘all key aspects’ of Iraq’s offensive BW program ‘are active and that most elements are larger and more advanced than they were before the Gulf War.’ These conclusions were based largely on the Intelligence Community’s judgment that Iraq had ‘transportable facilities for producing’ BW agents. That assessment, in turn, was based largely on reporting from a single human source.


“Contrary to the Intelligence Community’s pre-war assessments, the ISG’s post-war investigations concluded that Iraq had unilaterally destroyed its biological weapons stocks and probably destroyed its remaining holdings of bulk BW agent in 1991 and 1992. Moreover, the ISG concluded that Iraq had conducted no research on BW agents since that time, although Iraq had retained some dual-use equipment and intellectual capital. The ISG found no evidence of a mobile BW program.


“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. This section discusses how this ultimately unreliable reporting came to play such a critical role in the Intelligence Community’s pre-war assessments about Iraq’s BW program. […]”


February 5th, 2003 - U.S. Secretary of State adresses the U.N. Security Council

Transcript of Colin Powell’s speech before the United Nations


“[…] One of the most worrisome things that emerges from the thick intelligence file we have on Iraq's biological weapons is the existence of mobile production facilities used to make biological agents. […] The source was an eye witness, an Iraqi chemical engineer who supervised one of these facilities. He actually was present during biological agent production runs. He was also at the site when an accident occurred in 1998. Twelve technicians died from exposure to biological agents. […]


“A second source, an Iraqi civil engineer in a position to know the details of the program, confirmed the existence of transportable facilities moving on trailers. A third source, also in a position to know, reported in summer 2002 that Iraq had manufactured mobile production systems mounted on road trailer units and on rail cars. Finally, a fourth source, an Iraqi major, who defected, confirmed that Iraq has mobile biological research laboratories, in addition to the production facilities I mentioned earlier. […]”


The Extended World of Curveball

Colin Powell at the United Nations

Non-existing WMD facilities

August Hanning


Photo Credits




1) Rafid Ahmed Alwan with reporter - probably 2007/2008 - The Spiegel magazine;


The Extended World of Curveball


1) U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell during his presentation before the U.N. Security Council with George Tenet and John negroponte in the background listening - February 5th, 2003 - White House photo;

2) Slide No. 20 of the presentation by then U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell before the U.N. Security Council. The caption of the official transcript reads: “The trucks and train cars are easily moved and are designed to evade detection by inspectors. In a matter of months, they can produce a quantity of biological poison equal to the entire amount that Iraq claimed to have produced in the years prior to the Gulf War.” - February 5th, 2003 - U.S. Department of State;

3) August Hanning: former head of the German intelligence service BND (Bundesnachrichtendienst) - 2007 - Bundesministerium des Innern/German Federal Ministry of Interior;


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