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[Adapted from original post:
PETRAEUS' IRAQ WMD DECEPTION: How the General Earned His Stripes With Bush-Cheney (September 11, 2007)]

In the last few days, it's come to light that Gen. Petraeus was the original source for incorrect information released to the U.S. media in May 2003 that mobile biological warfare trailers had been located in Iraq. False intelligence findings were indeed substituted for a 122-page DIA report suppressed by the Pentagon.

During the next year, the Bush-Cheney Administration continued to make false assertions that Saddam Hussein had a biotoxins program in place before the invasion, and that certain trailers found in Iraq proved that claim.

We learned years later that a team of Defense Intelligence Agency investigators concluded on May 26 (2003) that the trailers found had no connection to a biowarfare program, but, nonetheless, Pentagon spokesmen and the Administration continued to make unfounded allegations that the mobile labs had been manufacturing anthrax, smallpox, and other deadly germs.

Gen. Petraeus appears to have taken no steps to correct the record after he falsely stated to reporters on May 13 that there is a "reasonable degree of certainty that this is in fact a mobile biological agent production trailer."

We should all ask why this part of Petraeus' history has been glossed over. Why has Congress and the media not pointed this out about the General before? (On edit Nov. 10, 2012: isn’t it finally about time, now, that the American people learned that the General is not the paragon of integrity he has long been made out to be by those who have created and nurtured his Cult of Personality?)

- MORE -

Here’s the money quote from Petraeus’ official statement, as reported on May 13, 2003 by the US Information Service:

"The suspected mobile biological agent production lab found on 9 May
in our area was found by one of our infantry units during operations
at the al-Kindi Rocket and Missile Research and Development Center,"
Major General David Petraeus said May 13 during a briefing from Mosul.
"Our own chemical section looked at the trailer and confirmed it as a
trailer that was very close to identical to the first trailer that was
found by Special Forces southeast of here last week."
Petraeus said he spoke with experts May 13, and they have a
"reasonable degree of certainty that this is in fact a mobile
biological agent production trailer."
It's not so much what Petraeus said in his initial official announcement on May 13, as what he did or didn't say publicly in the following weeks and months as the Administration repeated and embellished its story about Iraq WMDs. Petraeus went along with it, and kept his mouth shut. This sort of loyalty has its rewards in the Bush-Cheney Administration.

If the General -- widely portrayed as an icon of intelligence and integrity -- had made a good-faith effort to publicly correct the record, then his initial statement could be considered a mistake. Lots of them got made in Iraq, and his mistatement would be, perhaps, forgivable.

But, as he did not speak up and contradict the statements of superiors -- something that recently fired Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Gen. Peter Pace did do occasionally (see, ) -- the General is part of the most serious fraud in U.S. history.

If one wonders what steps the Bush-Cheney cabal took to plant false evidence to justify the invasion after the fact, one need look no further than Petraeus' pronouncement that his troops had found the long-rumoured "mobile biological agent production trailer."


Is it really overreaching to call him a liar?

Statements made by Petraeus in 2003 strike one as being disingenuous, to say the very least, unless it can be show that he subsequently took positive steps to correct the misinformation (disinformation?) attributed to him.

Gen. Petraeus and Steven Cambone Quoted on Location of Iraqi Biowarfare Trailers

As initially reported by the US Department of State Information Agency, the State Department press release also made reference to statements made by Undersecretary of State Steven Cambone, who was later directly implicated in the Iraq WMD disinformation campaign:

Washington File
13 May 2003
U.S. Troops Find Second Biological Weapons Trailer Near Mosul

(Defense Department Report) (520)
Washington -- Troops from the U.S. Army's 101st Airborne Division - - stationed in northern Iraq and headquartered in Mosul -- have found what military authorities believe may be a second mobile biological weapons laboratory, says the division commander.


The trailer found May 9 has been moved to Baghdad International Airport for security and for further examination by a team of experts coming from the United States, he said.

Petraeus also said that, based on a preliminary examination by his chemical experts, the lab had not been completed. "Several welds were not finished, and shipping plugs were still in place", he noted, adding that a water pump, forward air compressor, canvas cover and some of the piping had been looted.

The trailer found April 19 by U.S. troops outside the northern Iraqi city of Tall Kayf is also undergoing extensive testing and evaluation in Baghdad. At a special Pentagon briefing May 7, Stephen Cambone, the under secretary of defense for intelligence, said that it was seized at a Kurdish checkpoint in northern Iraq. It had been freshly painted in a military camouflage pattern and thoroughly washed with a caustic solution to hide the work conducted in the lab.

"The experts have been through it. And they have not found another plausible use for it," Cambone said. "So while some of the equipment on the trailer could have been for purposes other than biological weapons agent production, U.S. and U.K. tactical experts have concluded that the unit does not appear to perform any function beyond ... the production of biological agents.''

U.S. intelligence officials have said they believe Iraq had 18 mobile chemical and biological laboratories, but finding them will be a laborious process. Cambone said that, for example, U.S. troops found an Iraqi fighter jet that had been literally buried in the desert to hide it from coalition troops, an indication of Iraq's extensive
efforts at deception.

(Distributed by the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site: )

So, what can be said about this? The corporate media apparently (still, as of Nov. 20, 2102) doesn't see it as significant that the same General who seemed to confirm the Bush Administration's lies about Iraq WMDs was promoted to command the escalation of the Iraq war (and then the surge in Afghanistan, and then, after his appointment in 2010 as Director of the CIA, promptly initiated the botched regime change operations in Libya and Syria.) Petraeus is smart -- smart enough to hedge his statements, providing himself cover if later the deception is found out. These are the very qualities that would make a good politician, which is exactly why he was chosen as the front man for The Surge.

About this, one can also say, if he had integrity, he would have corrected a manifestly false claim in a timely fashion. As far as one can tell, he never did. At the very least, Petraeus should now be asked to "clarify" his statement.


At the beginning of this sordid affair is Steve Cambone, Undersecretary of Defense for Intelligence. Cambone was Rumsfeld's closest lieutenant, and in command of the unit within the Pentagon, the Office of Special Plans (OSP) that was later shown to have a central role in the "stovepiping" of cherry-picked intelligence to Cheney's White House Iraq Group (WHIG) in the deception campaign that created the casus belli for the Iraq invasion.

Powell, Cheney and Bush went on to repeat Cambone and Petraeus' claims despite the DIA's finding that trailers had no role as biolabs.

In late May, 2003, the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) concluded that the trailers were not biolabs. The resulting report was circulated at high levels in Washington, and then classified. It's findings were not released until October 2004, when they were made part of the final report of the Iraq Survey Group. For more than a year, Dick Cheney, George Tenet, Steven Cambone, and others continued to assert that the trailers were proof that Iraq was developing biological weapons. That disinformation had originally been provided by "Curveball", an Iraqi defector tied closely to Ahmad Chalabi's INC organization. It now appears that the DIA technical experts report was suppressed, and the Administration instead relied on a rival group of analysts and the findings of Petraeus' own "chemical experts" to make their case about the trailers.
Lacking Biolabs, Trailers Carried Case for War
Administration Pushed Notion of Banned Iraqi Weapons Despite Evidence to Contrary

By Joby Warrick
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, April 12, 2006; A01

On May 29, 2003, 50 days after the fall of Baghdad, President Bush proclaimed a fresh victory for his administration in Iraq: Two small trailers captured by U.S. and Kurdish troops had turned out to be long-sought mobile "biological laboratories." He declared, "We have found the weapons of mass destruction." The claim, repeated by top administration officials for months afterward, was hailed at the time as a vindication of the decision to go to war. But even as Bush spoke, U.S. intelligence officials possessed powerful evidence that it was not true.

A secret fact-finding mission to Iraq -- not made public until now -- had already concluded that the trailers had nothing to do with biological weapons. Leaders of the Pentagon-sponsored mission transmitted their unanimous findings to Washington in a field report on May 27, 2003, two days before the president's statement. The three-page field report and a 122-page final report three weeks later were stamped "secret" and shelved. Meanwhile, for nearly a year, administration and intelligence officials continued to publicly assert that the trailers were weapons factories.

The authors of the reports were nine U.S. and British civilian experts -- scientists and engineers with extensive experience in all the technical fields involved in making bioweapons -- who were dispatched to Baghdad by the Defense Intelligence Agency for an analysis of the trailers. Their actions and findings were described to a Washington Post reporter in interviews with six government officials and weapons experts who participated in the mission or had direct knowledge of it.


The contents of the final report, "Final Technical Engineering Exploitation Report on Iraqi Suspected Biological Weapons-Associated Trailers," remain classified. But interviews reveal that the technical team was unequivocal in its conclusion that the trailers were not intended to manufacture biological weapons. Those interviewed took care not to discuss the classified portions of their work.


Warrick's revealing article in the Washington Post continues:
The story of the technical team and its reports adds a new dimension to the debate over the U.S. government's handling of intelligence related to banned Iraqi weapons programs. The trailers -- along with aluminum tubes acquired by Iraq for what was claimed to be a nuclear weapons program -- were primary pieces of evidence offered by the Bush administration before the war to support its contention that Iraq was making weapons of mass destruction.


Spokesmen for the CIA and the Defense Intelligence Agency declined to comment on the specific findings of the technical report because it remains classified. A spokesman for the DIA asserted that the team's findings were neither ignored nor suppressed, but were incorporated in the work of the Iraqi Survey Group, which led the official search for Iraqi weapons of mass destruction. The survey group's final report in September 2004 -- 15 months after the technical report was written -- said the trailers were "impractical" for biological weapons production and were "almost certainly intended" for manufacturing hydrogen for weather balloons.

What appears to have happened is that the DIA report came to a conclusion that contradicted the very public statements that had been made by Petraeus, Cambone and others, so it was stamped secret, and shelved until someone gave it to David Kay, who made it part of the final version of Iraq Survey Group report released, 15 months later. Whoever ordered that report classified and buried, also withheld it for several months from Kay, head of the US Government's investigation into alleged Iraqi WMD programs.

Is it conceivable that Gen. Petraeus was unaware of the DIA report and the controversy over the purpose of the trailers? Not particularly likely, as he was in charge of intelligence for the Army group in Iraq, a role that Cambone had overall within DoD as Assistant Secretary for Intelligence. Petraeus was in the midst of a heated controversy about the trailers, and he took sides. That Post report also tells us:

Intelligence analysts involved in high-level discussions about the trailers noted that the technical team was among several groups that analyzed the suspected mobile labs throughout the spring and summer of 2003. Two teams of military experts who viewed the trailers soon after their discovery concluded that the facilities were weapons labs, a finding that strongly influenced views of intelligence officials in Washington, the analysts said. "It was hotly debated, and there were experts making arguments on both sides," said one former senior official who spoke on the condition that he not be identified.
Note Patraeus's statement that his own technicians looked at the trailer and four days later, the General said he spoke with "experts". Petraeus then endorsed that side's position, announcing that there was a "reasonable degree of certainty that this is in fact a mobile biological agent production trailer."

In effect, Petreaus repeated what he was told on May 13. Who were these unnamed "experts"? One can safely conclude that they are the very same "teams of military experts" whose false findings about Iraq WMDs were embraced by the Administration. At the same time, Petraeus lent his weight in favor of that position, establishing his credentials as a reliable member of Cambone's team. This would later be rewarded. According to The Post, the CIA also jumped on the bandwagon, endorsing the Cambone-Petraeus findings:

The technical team's findings had no apparent impact on the intelligence agencies' public statements on the trailers. A day after the team's report was transmitted to Washington -- May 28, 2003 -- the CIA publicly released its first formal assessment of the trailers, reflecting the views of its Washington analysts. That white paper, which also bore the DIA seal, contended that U.S. officials were "confident" that the trailers were used for "mobile biological weapons production."

Throughout the summer and fall of 2003, the trailers became simply "mobile biological laboratories" in speeches and press statements by administration officials. In late June, Secretary of State Colin L. Powell declared that the "confidence level is increasing" that the trailers were intended for biowarfare. In September, Vice President Cheney pronounced the trailers to be "mobile biological facilities," and said they could have been used to produce anthrax or smallpox.

By autumn, leaders of the Iraqi Survey Group were publicly expressing doubts about the trailers in news reports. David Kay, the group's first leader, told Congress on Oct. 2 that he had found no banned weapons in Iraq and was unable to verify the claim that the disputed trailers were weapons labs. Still, as late as February 2004, then-CIA Director George J. Tenet continued to assert that the mobile-labs theory remained plausible. Although there was "no consensus" among intelligence officials, the trailers "could be made to work" as weapons labs, he said in a speech Feb. 5.


Tenet, now a faculty member at Georgetown's Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service, declined to comment for that story.

David Kay, in an interview, said senior CIA officials had advised him upon accepting the survey group's leadership in June 2003 that some experts in the DIA were "backsliding" on whether the trailers were weapons labs. But Kay said he was not apprised of the technical team's findings until late 2003, near the end of his time as the group's leader.

"If I had known that we had such a team in Iraq," Kay said, "I would certainly have given their findings more weight."

How could everyone from Petraeus on the ground to the President of the United States allow themselves to be so "misled" about the trailers?

The answer goes back to the original source of the deception, an Iraqi defector the CIA codenamed, "Curveball."

Even before the trailers were seized in spring 2003, the mobile labs had achieved mythic stature. As early as the mid-1990s, weapons inspectors from the United Nations chased phantom mobile labs that were said to be mounted on trucks, rail cars -- and even a specific brand of ice cream trucks, according to a story originating with Chalabi being spun by then UN weapons inspector Scott Ridder -- churning out tons of anthrax by night and moving to new locations each day. No such labs were found, but many officials believed the stories, thanks in large part they claim to elaborate tales told by Iraqi defectors.

The CIA's star informant, an Iraqi with the code name Curveball, was a self-proclaimed chemical engineer who defected to Germany in 1999 and requested asylum. For four years, the Baghdad native passed secrets about alleged Iraqi banned weapons to the CIA indirectly, through Germany's intelligence service. Curveball provided descriptions of mobile labs and said he had supervised work in one of them. He even described a catastrophic 1998 accident in one lab that left 12 Iraqis dead.

Curveball's detailed descriptions -- which were officially discredited in 2004 -- helped CIA artists create color diagrams of the labs, which Powell later used to argue the case for military intervention in Iraq before the U.N. Security Council.

"We have firsthand descriptions of biological weapons factories on wheels and on rails," Powell said in the Feb. 5, 2003, speech. Thanks to those descriptions, he said, "We know what the fermenters look like. We know what the tanks, pumps, compressors and other parts look like."


Who was Curveball, and why was he given credibility?

He was, to begin with, the brother of one of Ahmed Chalabi's top lieutenants. US intelligence officials did not have direct access to him: the one American who had ever met him had already marked him as, at best, unreliable. The response to these concerns came from the deputy director of the CIA's Iraqi weapons of mass destruction task force in the form of an e-mail message dated Feb. 4, 2003:

"As I said last night, let's keep in mind the fact that this war's going to happen regardless of what Curveball said or didn't say, and the powers that be probably aren't terribly interested in whether Curveball knows what he's talking about."

How did Curveball manage to gain credibility with key segments of the intelligence community, and his claims were accepted without being verified? According to the WMD report:

"With respect to Curveball – the primary source of our intelligence on Iraq's BW program – the Defense HUMINT Service disclaimed any responsibility for validating the asset, arguing that credibility determinations were for analysts and that the collectors were merely 'conduits' for the reporting.

"This abdication of operational responsibility represented a serious failure in tradecraft.

"Although lack of direct physical access to the source made vetting and validating Curveball more difficult, it did not make it impossible. While Defense HUMINT neglected its validation responsibilities, elements of the CIA's D O understood the necessity of validating Curveball's information and made efforts to do so; indeed, they found indications that caused them to have doubts about Curveball's reliability. The system nonetheless 'broke down' because of analysts' strong conviction about the truth of Curveball's information and because the DO's concerns were not heard outside the DO."

This level of intelligence failure does not happen all by itself: multiple high-ranking officials made it happen, and made sure the "analysts" were fed on multiple sources of disinformation, not just the self-serving lies planted by Chalabi's organization. Since the late 1990s, the INC was being actively promoted by the neoconservatives within and around the Bush administration and allies in Congress, such as John McCain and Joe Lieberman. After the 2000 election, the Iraq regime change program was concentrated primarily in the office of Vice President Cheney and the various Washington institutions that fed the civilian offices of the Pentagon with scores of political appointees, and like-minded contractors and "consultants."

And, further, who were the CIA DO officers who were warning about Curveball's information?

One of them was a program manager named Valerie Plame.


Finally, why was the DIA and CIA unable to verify Curveball's claims about mobile labs?

The Robb-Silberman Commission found:
Biological Warfare Finding 1

The DIA's Defense HUMINT Service's failure even to attempt to validate Curveball's reporting was a major failure in operational tradecraft.

The problems with the Intelligence Community's performance on Curveball began almost immediately after the source first became known to the U.S. government in early 2000. As noted above, Curveball was not a source who worked directly with the United States; rather, the Intelligence Community obtained information about Curveball through a foreign service. The foreign service would not provide the United States with direct access to Curveball, claiming that Curveball would refuse to speak to Americans. 274 Instead, the foreign intelligence service debriefed Curveball and passed the debriefing information to DIA's Defense HUMINT Service, the human intelligence collection agency of the Department of Defense.

And, which foreign intelligence service might they be alluding to here? According to the Washington Post of May 21, 2005:
Similarly, the president's intelligence commission, chaired by former appellate judge Laurence H. Silberman and former senator Charles S. Robb (D-Va.), disclosed that senior intelligence officials had serious questions about "Curveball," the code name for an Iraqi informant who provided the key information on Hussein's alleged mobile biological facilities.

The CIA clandestine service's European division chief had met in 2002 with a German intelligence officer whose service was handling Curveball. The German said his service "was not sure whether Curveball was actually telling the truth," according to the commission report. When it appeared that Curveball's material would be in Bush's State of the Union speech, the CIA Berlin station chief was asked to get the Germans to allow him to question Curveball directly. On the day before the president's speech, the Berlin station chief warned about using Curveball's information on the mobile biological units in Bush's speech. The station chief warned that the German intelligence service considered Curveball "problematical" and said its officers had been unable to confirm his assertions. The station chief recommended that CIA headquarters give "serious consideration" before using that unverified information, according to the commission report.

The next day, Bush told the world: "We know that Iraq, in the late 1990s, had several mobile weapons labs . . . designed to produce germ warfare agents and can be moved from place to a place to evade inspectors." He attributed that information to "three Iraqi defectors." A week later, Powell said in an address to the United Nations that the information on mobile labs came from four defectors, and he described one as "an eyewitness . . . who supervised one of these facilities" and was at the site when an accident killed 12 technicians.

Within a year, doubts emerged about the truthfulness of all four, and the "eyewitness" turned out to be Curveball, the informant the CIA station chief had red-flagged as unreliable. Curveball was subsequently determined to be a fabricator who had been fired from the Iraqi facility years before the alleged accident, according to the commission and Senate reports.

But, the Commission's conclusions seem to glance over some obvious issues that need to be addressed. If Curveball was "unwilling" to talk to Americans, normal CIA spycraft would have told any trained intelligence officer that there are relatively easy ways to get around that. One, obviously, would be to work more closely with the Germans in questioning that source, and to "look over their shoulders" by verifying the information the source provided.

Another would be to find out who Curveball was willing to talk to, and then to make the man believe he was talking to someone other than the CIA. In any case, this does not seem to have been an insurmountable hurdle, if indeed the CIA European Division head and the Chief of Berlin Station had really wanted to verify that information.

In any case, the job of interviewing Curveball should have been tasked to specialists within the Directorate of Operations most familiar with Iraq's WMD program, which would have been Valerie Plame and her colleagues. The reason that wasn't done -- and that task was instead given to certain individuals in the Pentagon is one of the great over-arching questions that still haven't been fully answered in the fraud that led up to the Iraq invasion.

The terrible irony is that nobody seems to have raised questions about the fraud that connects General Petreaus to the Iraq WMD deception and the Plame case. Why has official Washington failed to look behind the mask that continues to portray him as a man of unquestionable integrity? That's the true intelligence failure in this story.

[NOTE to reader: live links in original 2007 post]

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