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Iran/Iraq "Defectors" and Disinformation

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The U.S. intelligence community also learned that Curve Ball "had a close relative who had worked for the INC since 1992," but the CIA could never resolve the question of whether the INC was involved in coaching Curve Ball.

One CIA analyst said she doubted a direct INC role because the INC pattern was to "shop their good sources around town, but they weren't known for sneaking people out of countries into some asylum system."

Delayed Report

In September 2006, four years after the Bush administration seriously began fanning the flames for war against Iraq, a majority of Senate Intelligence Committee members overrode the objections of the panel's senior Republicans and issued a report on the INC's contribution to the U.S. intelligence failures.

The report concluded that the INC fed false information to the intelligence community to convince Washington that Iraq was flouting prohibitions on WMD production. The panel also found that the falsehoods had been "widely distributed in intelligence products prior to the war" and did influence some American perceptions of the WMD threat in Iraq.

But INC disinformation was not solely to blame for the bogus intelligence that permeated the pre-war debate. In Washington, there had been a breakdown of the normal checks and balances that American democracy has traditionally relied on for challenging and eliminating the corrosive effects of false data.

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By 2002, that self-correcting mechanism -- a skeptical press, congressional oversight, and tough-minded analysts -- had collapsed. With very few exceptions, prominent journalists refused to put their careers at risk; intelligence professionals played along with the powers that be; Democratic leaders succumbed to the political pressure to toe the President's line; and Republicans marched in lockstep with Bush on his way to war.

Because of this systematic failure, the Senate Intelligence Committee concluded four years later that nearly every key assessment of the U.S. intelligence community as expressed in the 2002 National Intelligence Estimate about Iraq's WMD was wrong:

"Postwar findings do not support the [NIE] judgment that Iraq was reconstituting its nuclear weapons program; ... do not support the [NIE] assessment that Iraq's acquisition of high-strength aluminum tubes was intended for an Iraqi nuclear program; ... do not support the [NIE] assessment that Iraq was "vigorously trying to procure uranium ore and yellowcake' from Africa; ... do not support the [NIE] assessment that 'Iraq has biological weapons' and that 'all key aspects of Iraq's offensive biological weapons program are larger and more advanced than before the Gulf war'; ... do not support the [NIE] assessment that Iraq possessed, or ever developed, mobile facilities for producing biological warfare agents; ... do not support the [NIE] assessments that Iraq 'has chemical weapons' or 'is expanding its chemical industry to support chemical weapons production'; ... do not support the [NIE] assessments that Iraq had a developmental program for an Unmanned Aerial Vehicle 'probably intended to deliver biological agents' or that an effort to procure U.S. mapping software 'strongly suggests that Iraq is investigating the use of these UAVs for missions targeting the United States.'"

Today, as a similar process unfolds regarding Iran -- both its alleged nuclear weapons program and supposed links to the 9/11 attacks -- the case of the Iraqi "defectors" stands as a useful cautionary tale.

Cross-posted from Consortium News

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Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories in the 1980s for the Associated Press and Newsweek. His latest book, Secrecy & Privilege: Rise of the Bush Dynasty from Watergate to Iraq, can be ordered at It's also available at

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