Monday, June 26, 2006

More evidence that the war planners whiffed on Curveball

Back in April, I wondered why so little press attention was being paid to Tyler Drumheller, the newly retired CIA chief of European operations, who had tried to warn the White House (in vain, naturally) that prewar reports about Saddam Hussein WMDs were greatly exaggerated. I suggested that because the Bush administration's refusal to process factual reality was already so well established, Drumheller's eyewitness account was not even considered "news" anymore.

Allow me to amend that observation; a lengthy take on Drumheller finally appeared over the weekend, in the Washington Post, building on what he told CBS' 60 Minutes in April. The gist is that he knew the administration was relying on a discredited Iraqi source (a mentally unstable taxi driver nicknamed "Curveball") to push its claim that Hussein was supposedly readying plans for germ warfare, and supposedly cooking up the ingredients in his supposedly existing mobile biological labs.

Drumheller is now on record saying that he specifically told deputy CIA chief John McLaughlin that "Curveball" was a fantasist; German intelligence (which was hosting "Curveball") knew this, and had passed him the word. But the warnings were ignored. Shortly thereafter, Secretary of State Colin Powell still made the accusation in his United Nations speech. Drumheller also says he warned CIA chief George "Slam Dunk" Tenet that the germ-warfare mobile lab story was bogus, but President Bush uttered this falsity anyway during his Jan. 28, 2003 State of the Union speech (the same speech that included his more famous Hussein-is-buying-uranium falsity). Today, McLaughlin and Tenet are essentially telling the Post that they remember no such warnings.

It wouldn't be surprising if the Drumheller saga comes up today in Washington, where Senate Democrats are holding their own hearing on prewar intelligence bungling (because the GOP-led Senate Intelligence Committee, despite past promises, still declines to explore the issue of whether the info was spun in order to aid the case for war).

Meanwhile, the right is trying to find ways to undercut Drumheller, of course. The blog at The Weekly Standard thinks it has found a way: Drumheller --- get ready, this should blow him out of the water forever -- is seeking attention and "will soon have a book out."

Well, I'm suitably floored. I wasn't aware that doing what Ann Coulter does virtually every year is supposed to be bad.