Further Information Regarding US Government Attribution of a Mobile Biological Production Capacity by Iraq (cont'd)

by Milton Leitenberg

Secrecy News has previously carried two brief analyses regarding the origin of conceptions and descriptions of an ostensible possession by Iraq of mobile BW production vehicles. The first (Part I) appeared on June 29, 2006 titled "Unresolved Questions Regarding US Government Attribution of a Mobile Biological Production Capacity by Iraq" (pdf). The second (Part II), "Further Information Regarding US Government Attribution of a Mobile Biological Production Capacity by Iraq", appeared on August 13, 2006.

The first of these items contained information about the Iraqi defector codenamed "Curveball." It noted Curveball's relations with Ahmad Chalabi and his CIA- and DIA-funded organization, the Iraqi National Congress (INC). In addition, Chalabi and the INC provided two of three additional defectors who offered extremely tenuous "corroboration" of Curveball's testimony. This raises the possibility that Curveball may have made contact with INC representatives in Europe, or with Chalabi directly, and that Chalabi may even have been instrumental in suggesting that Curveball should approach the German BND as well as the nature of the information that he should provide. If this postulated train of events is correct, it would make Chalabi instrumental in Curveball's initial role, not only for the INC provision of subsequent "corroborating" informants.

As indicated in Part I (June 29), Curveball's information was provided to the German intelligence services from late-1999 through 2001, and much of it had reached US intelligence agencies during 2000. (The Silberman-Robb report states that "Curveball began reporting in January 2000;" this, however, is apparently when the first reports reached US intelligence services.)

However, the most likely route by which suggestive information about putative Iraqi mobile BW production platforms could have reached Ahmad Chalabi, which he could then have utilized in feeding informants back to US intelligence agencies, has been overlooked. By his own account, Scott Ritter, the UNSCOM inspector who later became a disputed public figure, met with Chalabi in London in January and July 1998 and discussed such putative vehicles. In his 2004 book, Ritter wrote "I have met repeatedly with Achmed Chalabi."1 Ritter was seeking information from informants inside Iraq working with the INC that might help UNSCOM to resolve its intractable problems. Ritter's prime responsibility almost from the inception of his work with UNSCOM was attempting to track, intercept and overcome Iraq's mobile concealment and inspection evasion organization based in the Iraqi intelligence agencies. In speaking with Chalabi, Ritter mentioned that he suspected that Iraq might have mobile BW and CW production facilities. Interviewed for a long New Yorker profile of Chalabi, Ritter said that

Ritter was voicing his own concerns, and not those of UNSCOM's BW team. UNSCOM's senior BW inspectors had been the recipients of General al-Sa'adi's original information in 1996 in which he stated that prior to 1990 he had offered the suggestion of mobile BW production. Nevertheless they did not consider the possible existence of such vehicles to be likely, nor did they see the subject as one of their major priorities in 1998 and 1999.

The above described chain of personal contacts produces a possible chain of information transfers from Scott Ritter to Chalabi, from Chalabi to Curveball, and from Curveball to the US CIA. It is also well known that Chalabi was perhaps the prime source of "intelligence" used by the Office of Special Plans (OSP), established by Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz in the office of Under Secretary of Defense Douglas Feith in the Department of Defense. The same INC-provided information was also a favorite source relied on by Vice President Cheney. Both Cheney's office and DOD's OSP were prime champions of the claim that Iraq had mobile BW production vehicles. Scott Ritter's book also provides extensive detail regarding his interactions with the CIA during the period that he served with UNSCOM. It is conceivable that the CIA may even have asked Ritter in the years prior to his visits with Chalabi to seek information about possible Iraqi mobile BW production vehicles. IF this occurred, one would have a complete circle of "information" fabricated as a consequence of CIA indications of interest coming back to the CIA as defector-provided "intelligence."

At first glance, there appeared to be one further circle of possible involvement of Scott Ritter since he had admitted to participating in disinformation activities in yet another context while serving with UNSCOM. The "Butler Commission" report prepared for the British House of Commons in July 2004 contains the following page:

As best as can be judged from the above information, the issue of Iraqi mobile biological weapon production vehicles was not one of the subjects that was involved in this covert UK disinformation effort. British press reports about Operation Mass Appeal, and a parent Operation Rockingham with in the British SIS and Joint Intelligence Committee (JIC) describe its functioning as somewhat similar to that of the US DOD's Office of Special Plans. Their description was aided by additional (British) press interviews with Scott Ritter.4 The Butler Commission's description of Project Rockingham is less tendentious than the press accounts, but none of these claim any involvement of disinformation regarding Iraqi mobile BW production vehicles.5