An Unholy Trinity: The BND, Curveball and Iraq

Pasted from my friend Julie’s blog, this is a rather interesting piece…

 

The German secret service, Bundesnachrichtendienst (BND), overestimated its top secret Iraq source ‘Curveball’, then blamed the US, and paid hush money.

According to a new German documentary (part one and two on youtube), the BND played an extensive role in providing the US government with the necessary information to justify the invasion of Iraq. Even though the government of former Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder fiercely opposed the Iraq war, they knew that the BND was secretly feeding the Bush administration’s policy.

Intriguingly, BND President Uhrlau distanced himself from Curveball, after it was clear he had lied to the German authorities:

With great interest I have watched the Powell speech and I have to say I was quite surprised about the evidence presented by the Americans.

The key question is: Did the German government warn the Americans about the possible unreliability of their source? Apparently they did not.

According to former CDU politician, Friedbert Pflüger, who was a member of the German Parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee at the time of the Iraq war, he himself was convinced that Saddam was in possession of WMDs, after the BND President assured the committee – before and after the Powell speech – that Curveball was a reliable source:

We explicitly asked about the briefing given to the United Nations by the American Secretary of State, Powell. Is that true? And we have not had the impression, after the disclosure of our Federal Intelligence Service, that anything was wrong with Powell’s evidence.

Below I copied parts of the press release regarding Panorama broadcast on 2 December 2010. (You can read the entire report here).

Curveball fled Iraq for Germany in 1999 under his real name, Rafid Ahmed Alwan, and came into contact with German intelligence officers at a refugee camp in Zindorf in Franconia. In dozens of interviews with German intelligence agents he reported that he had witnessed activities related to Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein’s biochemical weapons programme while working as a chemical engineer at a company in Iraq. Among other things, he told them of mobile biological weapons labs that were housed in trucks and could purportedly evade weapons inspectors with ease. US President George Bush and his Secretary of State Colin Powell then directly cited the information provided by the BND informant to publicly justify going to war. The BND had forwarded transcripts of their interviews to the CIA, yet did not provide them with direct access to Curveball. Shortly after the invasion of Iraq in 2003 it became clear that the claim that Iraq possessed biological weapons of mass destruction was a complete fabrication.

The Panorama investigation sheds new light on the question of the extent to which German decision makers warned the Americans of the possibility that Curveball’s revelations were unreliable. With regard to the US Secretary of State’s speech at the UN Security Council on 5 February 2003, in which Powell referred to Curveball, former CDU Bundestag member Friedbert Pflüger told ARD this: “Many of the key statements made by Powell were based on information provided by our intelligence service. In a secret briefing the BND told us it was highly probable that Iraq once again had weapons of mass destruction at its disposal. We were shown charts of germ labs.” Prior to the war, Pflüger was a member of the Bundestag Committee on Foreign Affairs, which was repeatedly briefed on the information Curveball was providing, by August Hanning, president of the BND at the time.

According to Panorama’s investigation, the BND paid him a net monthly income of 3000 euros until the end of 2008, disguising it as a salary payment from a front company in Munich called Thiele und Friedrichs. His employment contract gives no description of what services he actually rendered in return for the payments. Evidently, Curveball promised the BND that in return he would not speak to the media about his case. At the end of 2008, the BND terminated the employment contract, which was apparently an over ten-year employment agreement. As Panorama learnt, Curveball filed a lawsuit with the Munich employment tribunal contesting the termination of his contract and won a supplementary payment of just under 2000 euros. Since then Curveball has been receiving state benefits, most recently in the amount of 1590.82 euros.

Furthermore, Panorama reveals how the BND helped its former informant – a man who epitomises the biggest intelligence botch-up in recent decades – attain German citizenship. According to the report, two BND officers presented Curveball to officials in the City of Karlsruhe as an applicant for German citizenship. Research indicates that the BND accompanied the application process until the very end and helped furnish the necessary documentation.

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