Confidence tricksIraqi defector admits he duped U.S. about Saddam's WMD

Published 16 February 2011

On 5 February 2003, Secretary of State Colin Powell spoke before the UN Security Council, making the case for tough measures against Saddam Hussein — including a U.S. invasion to topple him; one of the key revelations in Powell’s speech was that in order to evade detection of its WMD program, Iraq had constructed mobile biowarfare labs; as was the case with many other assertions in Powell’s speech, this assertion, too, was false; the CIA analysts who wrote Powell’s speech relied on an Iraqi defector code-named Curveball, who was considered unreliable by German and Israeli intelligence; the man who pulled off one of the greatest confidence tricks in the history of modern intelligence now admits that everything he had said about the inner workings of Saddam Hussein’s biological weapons program was a flight of fantasy

A defector whose claims that Iraq had biological weapons were used in justifying the 2003 U.S. invasion has admitted that he lied to help get rid of Saddam Hussein, the Guardian newspaper said Tuesday.

Maybe I was right, maybe I was not right,” Rafid Ahmed Alwan al-Janabi told the British newspaper.

They gave me this chance. I had the chance to fabricate something to topple the regime. I and my sons are proud of that and we are proud that we were the reason to give Iraq the margin of democracy. I had to do something for my country, so I did this and I am satisfied because there is no dictator in Iraq any more,” he added.

Janabi, codenamed Curveball by German and American intelligence officials, told the BND, Germany’s secret service, that Iraq had mobile bio-weapons trucks and had built clandestine factories.

Fox News reports that even after he went back on his story after being confronted with denials from another source, his former boss, the BND continued to take him seriously, he said.

The BND confronted Janabi with a statement from Bassil Latif, his former boss at the Military Industries Commission in Iraq, who said there were no trucks or factories.

OK, when [Latif says] there no trucks then [there are none],” the paper reported Janabi telling the BND.

Despite his admission, Janabi said security officials continued to take his claims seriously. They told him in 2002 that his pregnant wife might not be allowed to join him in Germany if he refused to cooperate.

The faulty information Janabi provided helped form the cornerstone of former U.S. secretary of state Colin Powell’s key address to the United Nations on5 February 2003.

During the speech, Powell described Janabi as “an Iraqi chemical engineer” who “supervised one of these facilities.”

He actually was present during biological agent production runs and was also at the site when an accident occurred in 1998,” Powell told the UN.

Janabi said he was “shocked” by Powell’s speech, but played down his role in the conflict.

Powell didn’t say I was the only reason for war, he talked about three things — uranium, al Qaeda in Iraq and my story [biological weapons],” he said.

He also accused the BND of having broken an agreement that they would not hand over his information to other countries.

Tyler Drumheller, the former CIA chief in Europe, said Janabi’s “fascinating” admissions “makes me feel better.”

I think there are still a number of people who still thought there was something in that, even now,” Drumheller told the Guardian.

German authorities approached Janabi in 2000 after identifying him as a Baghdad-trained chemical engineer with possible inside intelligence of former leader Saddam’s regime.


Janabi, who fled Iraq in 1995, denied that he lied to the BND in order to secure asylum, claiming he did it purely to topple Saddam.

I had a problem with the Saddam regime, I wanted to get rid of him. Believe me, there was no other way to bring about freedom to Iraq. There were no other possibilities,” he said.