As war loomed, the U.S. Intelligence Community was charged with telling policymakers what it knew about Iraq's nuclear, biological, and chemical weapons programs. The Community's best assessments were set out in an October 2002 National Intelligence Estimate, or NIE, a summation of the Community's views. 1 The title, Iraq's Continuing Programs for Weapons of Mass Destruction, foretells the conclusion: that Iraq was still pursuing its programs for weapons of mass destruction (WMD). Specifically, the NIE assessed that Iraq had reconstituted its nuclear weapons program and could assemble a device by the end of the decade; that Iraq had biological weapons and mobile facilities for producing biological warfare (BW) agent; that Iraq had both renewed production of chemical weapons, and probably had chemical weapons stockpiles of up to 500 metric tons; and that Iraq was developing unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) probably intended to deliver BW agent.

These assessments were all wrong.

This became clear as U.S. forces searched without success for the WMD that the Intelligence Community had predicted. Extensive post-war investigations were carried out by the Iraq Survey Group (ISG). The ISG found no evidence that Iraq had tried to reconstitute its capability to produce nuclear weapons after 1991; no evidence of BW agent stockpiles or of mobile biological weapons production facilities; and no substantial chemical warfare (CW) stockpiles or credible indications that Baghdad had resumed production of CW after 1991. Just about the only thing that the Intelligence Community got right was its pre-war conclusion that Iraq had deployed missiles with ranges exceeding United Nations limitations.

How could the Intelligence Community have been so mistaken? That is the question the President charged this Commission with answering. 2

We received great cooperation from the U.S. Intelligence Community. We had unfettered access to all documents used by the Intelligence Community in reaching its judgments about Iraq's WMD programs; we had the same access to all of the Intelligence Community's reports on the subject--including the articles in the President's Daily Brief that concerned Iraq's weapons programs. During the course of our investigation, we and our staff reviewed thousands of pages of documents--ranging from raw operational traffic produced by intelligence operators to finished intelligence products--and interviewed hundreds of current and former Intelligence Community officials.

We also drew on the labors of others. The Butler Commission report on the quality of British intelligence was an important resource for us, as was the work of Australian and Israeli commissions. The careful and well-researched July 2004 report of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence on this topic was particularly valuable.

This report sets out our findings. For each weapons category, it tells how the Intelligence Community reached the assessments in the October 2002 NIE. It also offers a detailed set of conclusions. But before beginning, we offer a few broader observations.

An "Intelligence Failure"

Overall Commission Finding

The Intelligence Community's performance in assessing Iraq's pre-war weapons of mass destruction programs was a major intelligence failure. The failure was not merely that the Intelligence Community's assessments were wrong. There were also serious shortcomings in the way these assessments were made and communicated to policymakers.

For commissions of this sort, 20/20 hindsight is an occupational hazard. It is easy to forget just how difficult a business intelligence is. Nations and terrorist groups do not easily part with their secrets--and they guard nothing more jealously than secrets related to nuclear, biological, and chemical weapons. Stealing those secrets, particularly from closed and repressive regimes like Saddam Hussein's Iraq, is no easy task, and failure is more common than success. Intelligence analysts will often be forced to make do with limited, ambiguous data; extrapolations from thin streams of information will be the norm.

Indeed, defenders of the Intelligence Community have asked whether it would be fair to expect the Community to get the Iraq WMD question absolutely right. How, they ask, could our intelligence agencies have concluded that Saddam Hussein did not have weapons of mass destruction--given his history of using them, his previous deceptions, and his repeated efforts to obstruct United Nations inspectors? And after all, the United States was not alone in error; other major intelligence services also thought that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction.

We agree, but only in part. We do not fault the Intelligence Community for formulating the hypothesis, based on Saddam Hussein's conduct, that Iraq had retained an unconventional weapons capability and was working to augment this capability. Nor do we fault the Intelligence Community for failing to uncover what few Iraqis knew; according to the Iraq Survey Group only a handful of Saddam Hussein's closest advisors were aware of some of his decisions to halt work on his nuclear program and to destroy his stocks of chemical and biological weapons. Even if an extraordinary intelligence effort had gained access to one of these confidants, doubts would have lingered.

But with all that said, we conclude that the Intelligence Community could and should have come much closer to assessing the true state of Iraq's weapons programs than it did. It should have been less wrong--and, more importantly, it should have been more candid about what it did not know. In particular, it should have recognized the serious--and knowable--weaknesses in the evidence it accepted as providing hard confirmation that Iraq had retained WMD capabilities and programs.

How It Happened

The Intelligence Community's errors were not the result of simple bad luck, or a once-in-a-lifetime "perfect storm," as some would have it. Rather, they were the product of poor intelligence collection, an analytical process that was driven by assumptions and inferences rather than data, inadequate validation and vetting of dubious intelligence sources, and numerous other breakdowns in the various processes that Intelligence Community professionals collectively describe as intelligence "tradecraft." In many ways, the Intelligence Community simply did not do the job that it exists to do.

Our review revealed failings at each stage of the intelligence process. Many past discussions of the Iraq intelligence failure have focused on intelligence analysis, and we indeed will have much to say about how analysts tackled the Iraq WMD question. But they could not analyze data that they did not have, so we begin by addressing the failure of the Intelligence Community to collect more useful intelligence in Iraq.

There is no question that collecting intelligence on Iraq's weapons programs was difficult. Saddam Hussein's regime had a robust and ruthless security system and engaged in sophisticated efforts to conceal or disguise its activities from outside intelligence services--efforts referred to within the Intelligence Community as "denial and deception." The United States had no Iraq embassy or official in-country presence; human intelligence operations were often conducted at a distance. And much of what we wanted to know was concealed in compartmented corners of the Iraqi regime to which few even at high levels in the Iraqi government had access.

Still, Iraq was a high-priority target for years, and the Intelligence Community should have done better. It collected precious little information about Iraq's weapons programs in the years before the Iraq war. And not only did the Community collect too little, but much of what it managed to collect had grave defects that should have been clear to analysts and policymakers at the time. Indeed, one of the most serious failures by the Intelligence Community was its failure to apply sufficiently rigorous tests to the evidence it collected. This failure touched all the most salient pieces of evidence relied on by our intelligence agencies, including the aluminum tubes, reporting on mobile BW, uranium from Niger, and assertions about UAVs.

One of the most painful errors, however, concerned Iraq's biological weapons programs. Virtually all of the Intelligence Community's information on Iraq's alleged mobile biological weapons facilities was supplied by a source, codenamed "Curveball," who was a fabricator. We discuss at length how Curveball came to play so prominent a role in the Intelligence Community's biological weapons assessments. It is, at bottom, a story of Defense Department collectors who abdicated their responsibility to vet a critical source; of Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) analysts who placed undue emphasis on the source's reporting because the tales he told were consistent with what they already believed; and, ultimately, of Intelligence Community leaders who failed to tell policymakers about Curveball's flaws in the weeks before war.

Curveball was not the only bad source the Intelligence Community used. Even more indefensibly, information from a source who was already known to be a fabricator found its way into finished pre-war intelligence products, including the October 2002 NIE. This intelligence was also allowed into Secretary of State Colin Powell's speech to the United Nations Security Council, despite the source having been officially discredited almost a year earlier. This communications breakdown could have been avoided if the Intelligence Community had a uniform requirement to reissue or recall reporting from a source whose information turns out to be fabricated, so that analysts do not continue to rely on an unreliable report. In the absence of such a system, however, the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA), which disseminated the report in the first place, had a responsibility to make sure that its bad source did not continue to pollute policy judgments; DIA did not fulfill this obligation.

Lacking reliable data about Iraq's programs, analysts' starting point was Iraq's history--its past use of chemical weapons, its successful concealment of WMD programs both before and after the Gulf War, and its failure to account for previously declared stockpiles. The analysts' operating hypothesis, therefore, was that Iraq probably still possessed hidden chemical and biological weapons, was still seeking to rebuild its nuclear weapons program, and was seeking to increase its capability to produce and deliver chemical and biological weapons. This hypothesis was not unreasonable; the problem was that, over time, it hardened into a presumption. This hard and fast presumption then contributed to analysts' readiness to accept pieces of evidence that, even at the time, they should have seen as seriously flawed.

In essence, analysts shifted the burden of proof, requiring evidence that Iraq did not have WMD. More troubling, some analysts started to disregard evidence that did not support their premise. Chastened by the effectiveness of Iraq's deceptions before the Gulf War, they viewed contradictory information not as evidence that their premise might be mistaken, but as evidence that Iraq was continuing to conceal its weapons programs.

The Intelligence Community's analysis of the high-strength aluminum tubes offers an illustration of these problems. Most agencies in the Intelligence Community assessed--incorrectly--that these were intended for use in a uranium enrichment program. The reasoning that supported this position was, first, that the tubes could be used in centrifuges and, second, that Iraq was good at hiding its nuclear program.

By focusing on whether the tubes could be used for centrifuges, analysts effectively set aside evidence that the tubes were better suited for use in rockets, such as the fact that the tubes had precisely the same dimensions and were made of the same material as tubes used in the conventional rockets that Iraq had declared to international inspectors in 1996. And Iraq's denial and deception capabilities allowed analysts to find support for their view even from information that seemed to contradict it. Thus, Iraqi claims that the tubes were for rockets were described as an Iraqi "cover story" designed to conceal the nuclear end-use for the tubes. In short, analysts erected a theory that almost could not be disproved--both confirming and contradictory facts were construed as support for the theory that the tubes were destined for use in centrifuges.

In the absence of direct evidence, premises and inferences must do. Analysts cannot be faulted for failures of collection. But they can be faulted for not telling policymakers just how little evidence they had to back up their inferences and how uncertain even that evidence itself was. The October 2002 NIE and other pre-war intelligence assessments failed to articulate the thinness of the intelligence upon which critical judgments about Iraq's weapons programs hinged.

Our study also revealed deficiencies in particular intelligence products that are used to convey intelligence information to senior policymakers. As noted above, during the course of its investigation the Commission reviewed a number of articles from the President's Daily Brief (PDB) relating to Iraq's WMD programs. Not surprisingly, many of the flaws in other intelligence products can also be found in the PDBs. But we found some flaws that were inherent in the format of the PDBs--a series of short "articles" often based on current intelligence reporting that are presented to the President each morning. Their brevity leaves little room for doubts or nuance--and their "headlines" designed to grab the reader's attention leave no room at all. Also, a daily drumbeat of reports on the same topic gives an impression of confirming evidence, even when the reports all come from the same source.

The Commission also learned that, on the eve of war, the Intelligence Community failed to convey important information to policymakers. After the October 2002 NIE was published, but before Secretary of State Powell made his address about Iraq's WMD programs to the United Nations, serious doubts became known within the Intelligence Community about Curveball, the aforementioned human intelligence source whose reporting was so critical to the Intelligence Community's pre-war biological warfare assessments. These doubts never found their way to Secretary Powell, who was at that time attempting to strip questionable information from his speech.

These are errors--serious errors. But these errors stem from poor tradecraft and poor management. The Commission found no evidence of political pressure to influence the Intelligence Community's pre-war assessments of Iraq's weapons programs. As we discuss in detail in the body of our report, analysts universally asserted that in no instance did political pressure cause them to skew or alter any of their analytical judgments. We conclude that it was the paucity of intelligence and poor analytical tradecraft, rather than political pressure, that produced the inaccurate pre-war intelligence assessments.

The Iraq Study

This case study proceeds in two parts. The study first details the stream of pre-war intelligence assessments, from the Gulf War to Operation Iraqi Freedom, and compares those to the post-war findings of the Iraq Survey Group. That comparison is provided for each weapons type--nuclear, biological, chemical, and their delivery systems--and also for the political context in Iraq during this time period. For each of these sections, the report also offers the Commission's findings, which often identify specific flaws that led to the inaccuracies in the assessments. The study then identifies the overarching conclusions about the collection, analysis, and dissemination of intelligence that we drew from our examination of the Intelligence Community's performance on the Iraq WMD question.


Nuclear Weapons Summary Finding

The Intelligence Community seriously misjudged the status of Iraq's alleged nuclear weapons program in the 2002 NIE and other pre-Iraq war intelligence products. This misjudgment stemmed chiefly from the Community's failure to analyze correctly Iraq's reasons for attempting to procure high-strength aluminum tubes.

The pre-war estimate of Iraq's nuclear program, as reflected in the October 2002 NIE Iraq's Continuing Programs for Weapons of Mass Destruction, was that, in the view of most agencies, Baghdad was "reconstituting its nuclear weapons program" and "if left unchecked, [would] probably...have a nuclear weapon during this decade," although it would be unlikely before 2007 to 2009. 3 The NIE explained that, in the view of most agencies, "compelling evidence" of reconstitution was provided by Iraq's "aggressive pursuit of high-strength aluminum tubes." 4 The NIE also pointed to additional indicators, such as other dual-use procurement activity, supporting reconstitution. The assessment that Iraq was reconstituting its nuclear program and could therefore have a weapon by the end of the decade was made with "moderate confidence." 5

Based on its post-war investigations, the Iraq Survey Group (ISG) concluded--contrary to the Intelligence Community's pre-war assessments--that Iraq had not tried to reconstitute a capability to produce nuclear weapons after 1991. 6 Moreover, the ISG judged that Iraq's work on uranium enrichment, including development of gas centrifuges, essentially ended in 1991, and that its ability to reconstitute its enrichment program progressively decayed after that time. 7 With respect to the aluminum tubes, the ISG concluded that Iraq's effort to procure the tubes is "best explained by its efforts to produce 81-mm rockets," and the ISG uncovered no evidence that the tubes were intended for use in a gas centrifuge. 8

The Community was, in brief, decidedly wrong on what many would view as the single most important judgment it made. The reasons why the Community was so wrong are not particularly glamorous--failures of analysts to question assumptions and apply their tradecraft correctly, errors in technical and factual analysis, a paucity of collection, and failure by the Community to authenticate relevant documents. But these seemingly workaday shortcomings collectively led to a major mis-estimation of a critical intelligence question.

This chapter details our review of the Intelligence Community's performance on the nuclear issue. Like the chapters that follow on the Community's assessments of other aspects of Iraq's weapons programs, this chapter is divided into three sections. First, we review the Intelligence Community's pre-war assessments of Iraq's nuclear program. We then summarize the findings of the ISG regarding Iraq's nuclear efforts and how those findings compare to the Intelligence Community's assessments. The final section contains our findings concerning the causes of the Intelligence Community's failures on the aluminum tubes issue and the now-infamous Niger story.

The Intelligence Community's Pre-War Assessments

The Intelligence Community's assessments of Iraq's pre-war nuclear program were not made in a vacuum. Rather, as the Intelligence Community later explained, its assessments were informed by its analysis of Iraq's nuclear ambitions and capabilities spanning the preceding fifteen years, as well as by "lessons learned from over a decade of dealing with Iraqi intransigence on this issue." 9 Thus the proper starting point for an evaluation of the Intelligence Community's assessments lies at the conclusion of the first Gulf War--when the Intelligence Community reviewed the state of Saddam Hussein's nuclear programs and was surprised by what it found.

Post-Gulf War. Following the Gulf War, based on a variety of sources of intelligence including reporting from defectors, the Intelligence Community learned that Iraq's nuclear weapons program went "far beyond what had been assessed by any intelligence organization" in 1990-1991. 10 Before the Gulf War, in November 1990, the Community had assessed that, because analysts had not detected a formal, coordinated nuclear weapons program, Iraq likely would not have a nuclear weapon until the late 1990s. 11 Thus after the war the Intelligence Community was surprised to discover the breadth of Iraq's nuclear weapons program, including the wide range of technologies Iraq had been pursuing for uranium enrichment, which in turn indicated that Iraq "had been much closer to a weapon than virtually anyone expected." 12 This humbling discovery that Iraq had successfully concealed a sophisticated nuclear program from the U.S. Intelligence Community exercised a major influence on the Intelligence Community's assessments throughout the early 1990s and afterwards.

Iraq's subsequent and continuing attempts to evade and deceive international inspectors heightened analysts' concerns. 13 In a 1994 Joint Atomic Energy Intelligence Committee (JAEIC) assessment, Iraq's Nuclear Weapons Program: Elements of Reconstitution, the Intelligence Community agreed that the "Iraqi government is determined to covertly reconstitute its nuclear weapons program," and that, although Iraq had not yet begun reconstitution, it "would most likely choose the gas centrifuge route" and would "invest a great deal of time and effort" to "conceal its efforts from long-term monitoring." 14

Mid-1990s. Still, through the mid-1990s, analysts continued to assess that Iraq had not yet reconstituted its nuclear program. Most agencies judged in a 1993 NIE that "if sanctions are lifted and especially if inspections cease, Baghdad will rapidly accelerate its effort" to produce nuclear weapons. 15 And all agencies agreed in a September 1994 JAEIC assessment that Iraq "still seems to be pursuing" its former program. 16 The Intelligence Community believed that if Iraq were able to mount a dedicated centrifuge program, it would probably take the Iraqis five to seven years to produce enough fissile material for a nuclear weapon. 17 This consensus was best reflected by an October 1997 assessment by the JAEIC, which reaffirmed its previous judgments that Iraq would need five to seven years to produce fissile material indigenously, assuming some availability of foreign technical assistance and supplies. 18 Whether that five to seven year clock had started to run, however, was unclear: this assessment noted that although there was "no firm evidence that reconstitution had begun, six years had passed since the Gulf War and the Community could not be certain whether the starting point for the five to seven year timeline was in the past or future." 19

During this period, the lack of specific intelligence on the subject continued to complicate analysts' abilities to assess Iraq's ability to reconstitute its nuclear program. The Intelligence Community noted in a 1998 assessment, for instance, that there was limited and often contradictory human intelligence reporting on Iraqi nuclear efforts, with some human intelligence sources indicating that Iraq was continuing "low-level theoretical research for a weapons program" while other sources reported that "all nuclear-related activity [had been] halted." 20 The Intelligence Community acknowledged that it had an "incomplete picture of the Iraqi nuclear program." 21

Post-1998. The end of international inspections in 1998, prompted by Saddam Hussein's preventing the inspectors from doing their work, increased concern among analysts that Iraq would use that opportunity to reconstitute its nuclear program. Accordingly, in 1999, the JAEIC noted that although it still had no specific evidence that reconstitution had begun, the absence of inspectors gave Iraq greater opportunity to conduct covert research and development. 22 As of December 2000, however, an Intelligence Community Assessment noted that Iraq still did not appear to have taken major steps toward reconstitution. 23 Thus, after the departure of inspectors, the Intelligence Community assumed that Iraq had the opportunity and the desire to jumpstart its covert nuclear weapons program; by the end of 2000, however, the Community had seen no firm evidence that this was actually happening.

This judgment began to shift in early 2001 as a result of a discovery that, in hindsight, was the critical moment in the development of the Intelligence Community's assessment of Iraq's nuclear program. In March 2001, intelligence reporting indicated that Iraq was seeking high-strength tubes made of 7075 T6 aluminum alloy. 24 The Intelligence Community obtained samples of the tubes when a shipment bound for Iraq was seized overseas. 25

At this point, a debate began within the Intelligence Community about the reason why Iraq had procured the tubes. The CIA assessed that the tubes were most likely for gas centrifuges for enriching uranium and believed that the tubes provided compelling evidence that Iraq had renewed its gas centrifuge uranium enrichment program. 26 CIA subsequently identified possible non-nuclear applications for the tubes, 27 but continued to judge that the tubes were destined for use in Iraqi gas centrifuges 28 --even while acknowledging that the Intelligence Community had very little information on Iraq's WMD programs to corroborate this assessment. 29

This judgment concerning the tubes' likely intended use was echoed by another expert technical entity within the Intelligence Community. Analysts from the National Ground Intelligence Center (NGIC), a component of the U.S. Army recognized as the national experts on conventional military systems, judged that while it could "not totally rule out the possibility" that the tubes could be used for rockets and thus were not destined for a nuclear-related use, the tubes were, technically speaking, poor choices for rocket bodies. NGIC's expert judgment was therefore that there was a very low probability the tubes were designed for conventional use in rockets. 30 Because of NGIC's expertise on conventional weapons systems such as rockets, NGIC's view that the tubes were poor choices for rocket bodies gave CIA analysts greater confidence in their own judgment that the tubes were likely for use in centrifuges. 31

Other entities took a different view, however. The Department of Energy (DOE), the U.S. government's primary repository of expertise on nuclear matters, assessed that the tubes--although they "could be used to manufacture centrifuge rotors"--were "not well-suited for a centrifuge application" and were more likely intended for use in Iraq's Nasser 81 millimeter Multiple Rocket Launcher (MRL) program. 32 The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) agreed with DOE's assessment, concluding that the tubes were usable in a gas centrifuge application but that they were not directly suited to that use. 33

Despite this disagreement, the CIA informed senior policymakers that it believed the tubes were destined for use in Iraqi gas centrifuges. 34 While noting that there was disagreement within the Intelligence Community concerning the most likely use for the tubes, the CIA pointed out that there was also interagency consensus that the tubes could be used for centrifuge enrichment. 35 This consensus on capability led many analysts at both CIA and DIA to think that the tubes supplied the evidence that Iraq was starting to "reconstitute" its nuclear program. 36

Other streams of evidence also raised flags. At about the same time, analysts began to see indications that Iraq was seeking procurement of other dual-use items that would be consistent with a possible renewed effort at developing centrifuges. 37 This activity concerned even DOE, which had expressed skepticism that the intercepted tubes had centrifuge applications. 38 These concerns were affected by the Intelligence Community's history of underestimating Iraq's nuclear program; as the National Intelligence Council (NIC) would later observe, analysts became concerned during 2002 that "they may again be facing a surprise similar to the one in 1991." 39

In the months before the October 2002 NIE, the CIA continued to assess that the tubes were intended for use in gas centrifuges, albeit with slight variations in the strength of that formulation, pointing out that Iraq's interest in the tubes was "key" to the assessment that Iraq was "reconstituting its centrifuge program." 40 CIA presented this view in an Intelligence Assessment, entitled Iraq's Hunt for Aluminum Tubes: Evidence of a Renewed Uranium Enrichment Program, in which CIA concluded that the aluminum tubes "are most likely for gas centrifuges for enriching uranium" and that Iraq's pursuit of such tubes provided "compelling evidence that Iraq has renewed its gas centrifuge uranium enrichment program." 41 The assessment noted that "some" in the Intelligence Community believed conventional armament applications, such as multiple rocket launchers, were "more likely end-uses," but the assessment noted that NGIC, the "national experts on conventional military systems," had found such uses "highly unlikely." 42 At the same time, DOE disseminated a separate assessment arguing that, while the tubes could be modified for use as centrifuge rotors, "other conventional military uses [we]re more plausible." 43 The Department of State's Bureau of Intelligence and Research (INR) agreed with DOE's assessment. 44

October 2002 NIE. The Intelligence Community judged in the NIE with moderate confidence that "Baghdad ha[d] reconstituted its nuclear weapons program." 45 Only INR dissented from this assessment, although INR judged in the President's Summary of the NIE that the overall evidence "indicates, at most, a limited Iraqi nuclear reconstitution effort." 46 By reconstitution, the Intelligence Community meant that Iraq was in the "process of restoring [its] uranium enrichment capability." 47 To the relevant CIA and DIA analysts, the pursuit of aluminum tubes provided "compelling evidence" of reconstitution. 48 In particular, the composition, dimensions, cost, and tight manufacturing tolerances for the tubes were assessed by CIA and DIA to exceed by far those needed for non-nuclear purposes, thus demonstrating that the tubes were intended for a nuclear-related use. 49 At the interagency coordination meeting for the NIE, both NSA and the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA) agreed with the CIA/DIA position on the tubes. 50 DOE and INR dissented from the tubes judgment, assessing that the tubes were more likely for use in tactical rockets. 51

The NIE stated that the conclusion that the tubes indicated reconstitution was bolstered by additional evidence that suggested Iraq could be rebuilding its nuclear program:

1. Other Dual-Use Procurements. Reporting indicated that Iraq was attempting to procure other dual-use items that would be required to build a gas centrifuge plant, such as magnets, "high-speed balancing machines," and machine tools. 52 These items are all dual-use materials, however, and the reporting provided no direct indication that the materials were intended for use in a nuclear program, as indicated in the NIE. 53

2. Nuclear Cadre. The NIE also pointed to evidence that Iraq was making efforts to preserve, and in some cases re-establish and enhance, its cadre of weapons personnel. 54 Reporting indicated that some scientists had been reassigned to the Iraqi Atomic Energy Commission (IAEC) and that Iraq had "reassembled" many scientists, engineers, and managers from Iraq's previous nuclear program. 55

3. Activity at Suspect Sites. Sources indicated that Iraq was trying to procure a magnet production line in 1999-2001 and one report indicated the plant would be located at Al-Tahadi, where analysis suggested construction of buildings in late 2000 that could have housed a magnet production line. 56 Both sources indicated, however, that magnet procurements were likely affiliated with Iraq's missile program, rather than with nuclear applications, though some reporting noted that the cadre of scientists and technicians at the site formerly worked in the nuclear program. 57

Uranium from Niger. Although the NIE did not include uranium acquisition in the list of elements bolstering its conclusion about reconstitution, it did note that Iraq was "vigorously trying to procure uranium ore and yellowcake" from Africa. 58 This statement was based largely on reporting from a foreign government intelligence service that Niger planned to send up to 500 tons of yellowcake uranium to Iraq. 59 The status of the arrangement was unclear, however, at the time of the coordination of the Estimate and the NIE therefore noted that the Intelligence Community could not confirm whether Iraq succeeded in acquiring the uranium. 60 Iraq's alleged pursuit of uranium from Africa was thus not included among the NIE's Key Judgments. 61 For reasons discussed at length below, several months after the NIE, the reporting that Iraq was seeking uranium from Niger was judged to be based on forged documents and was recalled. 62

In short, all of the coordinating agencies, with the exception of INR, agreed that Iraq was reconstituting its nuclear program. 63 Of those agencies that agreed on reconstitution, all but DOE agreed that the tubes provided "compelling evidence" for that conclusion. DOE reaffirmed its previous assessments that, while the tubes could be modified for use in a gas centrifuge, they were poorly suited for such a function and were most likely designed for use in conventional rockets. 64 On the question of reconstitution, DOE believed that the other factors--the attempted procurement of magnets and balancing machines, efforts to reconstitute the nuclear cadre, activity at suspect sites, and evidence of Iraqi efforts to obtain uranium from Africa--justified the conclusion that Iraq was reconstituting its nuclear program. 65 None of the other agencies placed significant weight on reporting about attempts to procure uranium from Africa to support their conclusion of reconstitution. 66

Post-NIE. The publication of the NIE did not settle the dispute about the aluminum tubes and so, in the period between the NIE and the invasion of Iraq, debate within the Intelligence Community over their significance continued. INR, for its part, continued to see "no compelling reason to judge that Iraq ha[d] entered" the timeframe of at least five to seven years that the Intelligence Community agreed Baghdad would need to produce sufficient fissile material for a nuclear weapon. 67 DOE, meanwhile, continued to believe that reconstitution was underway but that the "tubes probably were not part of the program," 68 assessing instead that the tubes were intended for use in conventional rockets. 69 On the other side of the dispute, NGIC and CIA continued to assess that the tubes were destined for use in gas centrifuges. 70 Outside the Intelligence Community, the IAEA, after inspections resumed in fall 2002, also weighed in on the dispute, concluding with DOE and INR that the tubes were likely intended for use in Iraq's 81 millimeter rocket program. 71

During this time the CIA continued to explain to senior policymakers that the Intelligence Community was not of one view on the most likely use for the tubes, 72 but CIA offered its own view that the "alternative explanation" for the tubes' intended use--that they would be used for rockets--was likely an Iraqi "cover story." 73 The CIA also noted the overall paucity of information on Iraq's programs, but suggested that the lack of information was due in part to Iraq's successful efforts to hide its illicit activity. 74

Other countries' intelligence agencies views of the tubes were, on balance, somewhat more circumspect than that of the majority in the NIE. For its part, the British Joint Intelligence Committee assessed, as did the NIE, that the aluminum tubes, with some modifications, would be suitable for use in a centrifuge, but noted that there was no definitive intelligence that the tubes were destined for the nuclear program. 75 The views of the Australian Office of National Assessments on the relevance of the tubes to Iraq's nuclear program were "inconsistent and changeable." 76

Post-War Findings of the Iraq Survey Group

The Iraq Survey Group concluded that Iraq had not tried to reconstitute a capability to produce nuclear weapons after 1991. 77 It concluded that Iraq's efforts to develop gas centrifuges for uranium enrichment ended in 1991, as did Iraq's work on other uranium enrichment programs, which Iraq had explored prior to the Gulf War. 78 The ISG also found no evidence that Iraq had taken steps to advance its pre-1991 work in nuclear weapons design and development. 79 Although the ISG did find indications that Saddam remained interested in reconstitution of the nuclear program after sanctions were lifted, it concluded that Iraq's ability to reconstitute its program progressively decayed after 1991. 80

Not long after the start of the Iran-Iraq war in 1980, Iraq started to pursue formally a uranium enrichment program using a variety of uranium enrichment techniques. 81 By 1990, Iraq had built two magnetic-bearing centrifuges (with foreign assistance) using imported carbon fiber rotors and two oil-bearing centrifuges. 82 During the first Gulf War, however, nearly all of the key nuclear facilities in Iraq--those involved in the processing of nuclear material or weapons research--were bombed and many of the facilities were largely destroyed. 83

After the Gulf War, Iraq initially chose not to disclose the extent of its nuclear program and instead sought to hide any evidence of it. Accordingly, the director of Iraq's Military Industrialization Commission, Hussein Kamil, ordered the collection of all inculpatory documents and equipment. The equipment and documentation were then moved to a variety of locations to hide them from the IAEA. Hussein Kamil ordered at least one set of all nuclear-related documents and some equipment to be retained by a senior scientist. 84

Despite Iraqi efforts, in early summer 1991 the IAEA confronted Baghdad with evidence of uranium enrichment components during the course of its inspections. At that point Baghdad admitted to its large pre-war enrichment programs, but still did not fully declare the extent of its centrifuge program. 85

Indeed, Iraq continued to resist more comprehensive disclosure of its pre-1991 nuclear program until after the defection of Hussein Kamil in 1995, when a large number of documents and equipment fell into the hands of UNSCOM and the IAEA. From this point forward, according to the ISG, the Iraqis appear to have been more cooperative and provided more complete information. For example, the Iraqis largely declared their pre-1991 centrifuge program, although a full set of documents obtained by Iraq from German engineers in the 1980s was not supplied to IAEA inspectors. 86

Although the Iraqis did not make more comprehensive disclosures about their nuclear program until 1995, the Iraq Survey Group concluded that Iraq had actually ended its nuclear program in 1991. More specifically, the ISG assessed that Iraq's development of gas centrifuges essentially ended in 1991 and that Iraq did not continue work on any of the other pre-1991 enrichment methods it had explored, including electromagnetic isotope separation (EMIS). 87 The ISG did point out, however, that many of the former EMIS engineers and scientists continued to work for either the Iraqi Atomic Energy Commission or the Military Industrialization Commission in roles that could preserve their technical skills. 88

Despite these efforts to preserve the skills and talent of the nuclear cadre, the intellectual capital underlying Iraq's nuclear program decayed in the years after 1991. 89 For example, starting around 1992, the Director of Iraq's Military Industrialization Commission transferred personnel from the former nuclear program to various military research and production facilities. Some of the work performed by these former nuclear scientists by its nature preserved for Iraq capabilities that would be needed for a reconstituted nuclear program. Still, the ISG noted that the overall decline of the Iraqi economy made it very difficult to retain scientists, many of whom departed for better prospects abroad. 90

With the influx of funds from the Oil-for-Food program and later the suspension of cooperation with UNSCOM, Saddam began to pay renewed attention to former members of the Iraq nuclear program. In the late 1990s, for instance, he raised salaries for those in the Military Industrialization and Iraqi Atomic Energy Commissions, and new programs, such as joint programs with universities, were initiated to employ the talent of former nuclear program employees. 91 In the year before Operation Iraqi Freedom, Iraq's Military Industrialization Commission also took steps to improve capabilities that could have been applied to a renewed centrifuge program for uranium enrichment. But the ISG did not uncover information indicating that the technologies being pursued were intended to support such a program. 92

With respect to Iraq's interest in procuring high-strength aluminum tubes, the ISG concluded that the Iraqi attempt to procure the tubes is best explained by Iraq's efforts to produce effective 81 millimeter rockets; the ISG uncovered no evidence that the tubes were intended for use in a gas centrifuge. 93 The ISG arrived at this conclusion only after investigating the key indicators that suggested a possible centrifuge end-use for the tubes--for example, the tubes' dimensions and tight manufacturing tolerances--and found no evidence of a program to design or develop an 81 millimeter aluminum rotor centrifuge. 94

What the ISG found instead was that, with respect to the dimensions of the tubes, Iraqi nuclear scientists thought it was at best impractical for Iraq to have made a centrifuge with 81 millimeter rotors. For example, Ja'far Diya Ja'far, the head of Iraq's pre-1991 uranium enrichment program, stated in post-war debriefings that, while it was possible to make a rotor from the tubes, he thought it would be impractical to do so. 95 He also said that using 81 millimeter rockets as a "cover story" for a centrifuge project would not have been very useful, because Iraq had difficulty importing any goods. 96 Ja'far similarly did not consider it reasonable that Iraq could have pursued a centrifuge program based on 81 millimeter aluminum tubes, judging the technical challenges to doing so were too great. 97

Conversely, the Iraq Survey Group investigation did uncover what it judged to be plausible accounts that linked the tubes to 81 millimeter rockets, and which answered questions about why the Iraqis had sought such tight manufacturing specifications for the tubes. For example, some sources indicated to the ISG that the tight tolerance requests were driven by a desire to improve the accuracy of the rockets. Inconsistencies among rockets had resulted in past variations in range and accuracy, according to these sources, and the Iraqis chose to address this problem by tightening specifications. 98 Another explanation was that the engineering drawings for the Iraqi 81 millimeter rocket, which was originally reverse-engineered from an Italian air-to-ground rocket (the Medusa), had undergone many ad hoc revisions over the years because the Iraqis were using their 81 millimeter rockets as ground-to-ground rockets. An Iraqi military committee was convened to return the design to the original Italian-based design, according to the ISG report, and that military committee then set new, and more strict, specifications. 99 The ISG also learned that misfires sometimes resulted from pitting in the tubes caused by improper storage and corrosion, a problem that could explain the requirement that the tubes be anodized and shipped carefully. 100

Though ultimately concluding that the evidence did not show that the Iraqis intended a nuclear end-use for the tubes, the Iraq Survey Group did note some inconsistencies in the explanation that the tubes were intended for use in tactical rockets. 101 For example, the ISG found technical drawings that showed that Iraq's 81 millimeter rocket program had a history of using tubes that fell short of the strict manufacturing standards demanded in the procurement attempts before the war. 102 Also, the ISG found evidence that, in the months just before the war, the Iraqis accepted lower-quality, indigenously produced aluminum tubes for its 81 millimeter rockets, despite the continuing efforts to procure high-specification tubes from abroad. 103 Iraq also explored the possibility (about a year before the war) of using steel for the rocket bodies. This approach was rejected, however, because it would have required significant design modifications for the existing 81 millimeter rocket design. 104 The ISG noted that these efforts raise questions about whether high-specification tubes were really needed for rockets. 105

The ISG reconciled this evidence by judging that Iraq's continued efforts to obtain tubes from abroad, even while simultaneously accepting some indigenously produced tubes for use in rockets, could be explained in large measure by bureaucratic inefficiencies and fear of senior officials in the ranks of the Iraqi government. 106 For example, Dr. Huwaysh, the head of the Military Industrialization Commission, "exhibited a rigid managerial style" and frequently made unreasonable production demands. The fear of being held responsible for rejected tubes or components affected the lead production engineer and he therefore decided to tighten specifications for the rocket program. Similarly, a report from the rocket program noted that some engineers requested tight specifications in order to appear effective in addressing problems. Also, because Huwaysh demanded results quickly, the engineers did not have time to attempt a detailed analysis of the causes for rocket scatter and inaccuracy; instead, the engineers simply tightened some specifications in the hope that that would improve accuracy. 107 Other factors influencing the continuing efforts to procure tubes from abroad included the "lack of sufficient indigenous manufacturing capabilities"--an effort that Iraq only began in 2002--the high costs of production, and the "pressure of the impending war." 108

The ISG noted that one other factor that the Intelligence Community had cited as evidence that the tubes were intended for use in a centrifuge was that the potential supplier was asked to provide 84 millimeter tubes--a change that would have meant the tubes could not be used in an 81 millimeter rocket. 109 But the ISG found no clear indication that it was Iraq (or an Iraqi entity) that was making these inquiries about 84 millimeter tubes. 110 In any event, the ISG concluded that, although a larger diameter tube would be better for use in a centrifuge, Iraq already had 500 tons of 120 millimeter diameter aluminum shafts which it had imported before sanctions were imposed in 1990. And, furthermore, Iraq was using those shafts in the months before Operation Iraqi Freedom to support the flow-forming operations related to the 81 millimeter rocket program. 111

With respect to alleged "high-level interest" in tubes by Iraqi leaders, the ISG concluded that such interest in the tubes appears to have focused on efforts to produce 81 millimeter rockets rather than on any element of a nuclear program. 112

The Iraq Survey Group also found no evidence that Iraq sought uranium from abroad after 1991. 113 With respect to the reports that Iraq sought uranium from Niger, ISG interviews with Ja'far Diya Ja'far, the head of Iraq's pre-1991 enrichment programs, indicated that Iraq had only two contacts with the Nigerien government after 1998--neither of which was related to uranium. 114 One such contact was a visit to Niger by the Iraqi Ambassador to the Vatican Wissam Zahawie, the purpose of which Ja'far said was to invite the Nigerien President to visit Iraq (a story told publicly by Zahawie). 115 The second contact was a visit to Iraq by a Nigerien minister to discuss Nigerien purchases of oil from Iraq--with no mention of "any kind of payment, quid pro quo, or offer to provide Iraq with uranium ore, other than cash in exchange for petroleum." 116 The use of the last method of payment is supported by a crude oil contract, dated June 26, 2001, recovered by the ISG. 117

The ISG found only one offer of uranium to Baghdad since 1991--an offer that Iraq appears to have turned down. 118 The ISG found a document in the headquarters of the Iraqi Intelligence Service that reveals that a Ugandan businessman had approached the Iraqi Embassy in Nairobi with an offer to sell uranium, reportedly from the Congo. The Iraqi Embassy in Nairobi, reporting back to Baghdad on the matter on May 20, 2001, indicated that the Embassy told the Ugandan that Iraq did not deal with "these materials" because of the sanctions. 119

Finally, and on a broader plane, even if an order to reconstitute had been given, Iraq Survey Group interviews with former senior officials indicated that Iraq would not have been able to do so given the conditions inside the country in 2002. 120 Unsurprisingly, therefore, the ISG found no indication that Iraq had resumed fissile material or nuclear weapon research and development activities after 1991. 121

Analysis of the Intelligence Community's Pre-War Assessments

This marked disjuncture between the Intelligence Community's assessments and the findings of the Iraq Survey Group about Iraq's purported nuclear weapons program was not solely the product of bad luck or the inherent difficulties of making intelligence judgments. It arose out of fundamental flaws in the way the Intelligence Community approached its business.

Above all, the Intelligence Community's failure on the nuclear issue was a failure of analysis. To be sure, the paucity of intelligence contributed to that failure. Although signals intelligence played a key role in some respects that we cannot discuss in an unclassified format, on the whole it was not useful. Similarly, though imagery intelligence showed some construction at a possible suspect nuclear site in or around 2000, imagery provided little helpful insight into the purpose of that activity and nothing beyond that. And, other than information on the alleged uranium deal that was later determined to be unreliable, very little human intelligence was available to provide insight into Iraq's intentions. The time pressures of the October 2002 NIE also may have hampered the normal thorough review before dissemination. 122

But on the crucial question of whether the aluminum tubes were for use in a gas centrifuge or in tactical rockets--an analytical question--the Intelligence Community got it wrong. 123 And, notably, it was not one of the difficult and inherently speculative questions intelligence analysts often confront; it was not a question that required the Intelligence Community to make a prediction about future events or to draw conclusions about the state of the world based upon limited information. Rather, the critical question was, at bottom, largely a technical one, where the critical facts were known or knowable: namely, how well-suited were the aluminum tubes for tactical rockets and centrifuges, respectively? An even-handed assessment of the evidence should have led the Intelligence Community to conclude that the tubes were more likely destined for tactical rockets. This section examines this analytic failure and other issues uncovered by our review of the Intelligence Community's performance.

Nuclear Weapons Finding 1

The Intelligence Community's judgment about Iraq's nuclear program hinged chiefly on an assessment about Iraq's intended use for high-strength aluminum tubes it was seeking to procure. Most of the agencies in the Intelligence Community erroneously concluded these tubes were intended for use in centrifuges in a nuclear program rather than in conventional rockets. This error was, at the bottom, the result of poor analytical tradecraft--namely, the failure to do proper technical analysis informed by thorough knowledge of the relevant weapons technology and practices.

The judgment of most agencies that Baghdad's pursuit of aluminum tubes "provide[d] compelling evidence" that Iraq was reconstituting its weapons turned upon two separate but related analytical determinations. 124 The first was that the tubes would not have been well-suited for use in Iraq's conventional military arsenal--in particular, as a conventional rocket casing. The second was that the tubes were a suitable fit for centrifuges in a nuclear program.

This section addresses the soundness of each of these conclusions in turn. We find that the Intelligence Community--and in particular, conventional weapons analysts at the National Ground Intelligence Center (NGIC) in the Defense Department--got the first of these two questions completely wrong; the intercepted tubes were not only well-suited, but were in fact a precise fit, for Iraq's conventional rockets, and the Intelligence Community should have recognized as much at the time. The second question--whether the tubes would have been well-suited for centrifuge applications--was a closer one, but we conclude that certain agencies were more wedded to the analytical position that the tubes were destined for a nuclear program than was justified by the technical evidence. We also conclude that these misjudgments, while reflecting lapses in basic tradecraft, ultimately stemmed from a deeper source: analysts' willingness to accept that a superficially enticing piece of evidence confirmed the prevailing assumption--that Iraq was attempting to reconstitute its nuclear program--was wrong. That CIA and DIA reached this conclusion was a product of, in our view, an effort to fit the evidence to the prevailing assumptions.

Suitability of the tubes for conventional rockets. The most egregious failure regarding the aluminum tubes was the inability of certain agencies to assess correctly their suitability for a conventional weapons system. While the CIA and DIA acknowledged that the tubes could be used for rockets, these agencies believed it was highly unlikely that the tubes had been intended for such a use. 125 But these agencies' basis for believing this was wrong. Iraq had been seeking tubes composed of a particular material--high-strength 7075-T6 aluminum--which CIA and DIA viewed as suggestive of a nuclear end-use. 126 But that material is wholly consistent with a non-nuclear end-use. This same material in fact has been used in rockets manufactured by Russia, Switzerland, and twelve other countries, according to Department of Defense rocket design engineers. 127 Indeed, Iraq itself had used this kind of aluminum in its Nasser 81 rocket program and had declared that use in its 1996 declaration to the IAEA. 128

Yet NGIC, the national experts on conventional military systems, assessed in September 2002 that the material and tolerances of the tubes sought by Iraq were "highly unlikely" to be intended for rocket motor cases. 129 That assessment was clearly mistaken and should have been recognized as such at the time. NGIC later conceded, in written testimony to the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, that "lightweight rockets, such as those originally developed for air-to-ground systems, typically use 7075-T6 aluminum for the motor casing." 130 As the experts on such systems, NGIC should have been aware of these facts. Similarly, although NGIC assessed that the tolerances of the tubes Iraq was seeking were "excessive" for rockets, NGIC was not aware at that time of the tolerances required for the Iraqi Nasser 81 rockets, for the Italian Medusa rocket on which the Nasser 81 was based, or for comparable U.S. rockets. 131

NGIC also believed that the tubes would make poor choices for rocket motor bodies because the walls of the tubes were too thick. 132 But the tubes Iraq was seeking had precisely the same dimensions--including the same wall thickness--as the tubes that Iraq itself used in its Nasser 81 rockets in 1996. 133 This fact also should not have come as a revelation to NGIC analysts, as DOE had published detailed assessments of the tubes used in the Nasser 81 rocket--including their dimensions--in August 2001, and as the IAEA had noted Iraq's use of the Nasser 81 rocket in its earlier catalogs of Iraq's weapons programs. 134 Yet the two primary NGIC rocket analysts said that they did not know the dimensions of the Nasser 81 rockets at that time. While these analysts assert that they had no access to IAEA information and did not receive the DOE reporting in question, 135 we believe that NGIC could and should have conducted a more exhaustive examination of the question. We agree with the conclusion of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence that NGIC's performance represents a "serious lapse" in analytical tradecraft. 136

CIA and DIA's confidence in their conclusions also led them to fail to pursue additional, easily obtainable data on the tubes that would have pointed them in the direction of conventional weapons applications. For example, though elements of the Intelligence Community were aware that the Nasser 81 millimeter rocket was likely reverse-engineered from the Italian Medusa air-to-ground rocket, neither DIA nor CIA--the two most vociferous proponents of a nuclear end-use--obtained the specifications for the Medusa rocket until well after the commencement of Operation Iraqi Freedom. 137 Indeed, CIA appears to have consciously bypassed attempts to gather this crucial data. A CIA officer had actually suggested that CIA track down the precise dimensions and specifications of the Medusa rocket in order to evaluate the possibility that the tubes Iraq was seeking were in fact intended for rockets. CIA rejected the request in early September 2002, however, on the basis that such information was not needed because CIA judged the tubes to be destined for use in centrifuges--a textbook example of an agency prematurely closing off an avenue of investigation because of its confidence in its conclusions. 138

Suitability of tubes for nuclear centrifuges. As discussed above, a debate raged within the Intelligence Community in the months preceding the Iraq war on a second question as well: namely, whether the intercepted aluminum tubes were well-suited for use in nuclear centrifuges. According to both DOE and CIA centrifuge experts, the resolution of this issue depended primarily on the answer to two highly technical questions: first, whether the tubes had a sufficiently large internal diameter (and hence could allow the requisite gas flow) to enrich uranium effectively, and whether the walls of the tubes were too thick for use as centrifuge rotors. 139 While generally the analytical issue of the tubes' suitability for centrifuges was more technically complex than that of their fit for conventional rocket applications, the manner in which certain agencies answered these two technical questions about centrifuge-suitability suggests that their analysis was driven more by their underlying assumptions than by the available scientific evidence.

For example, to answer the first question, analysts from CIA's Weapons Intelligence, Non-Proliferation, and Arms Control Center (WINPAC) sought the assistance of the DOE National Laboratories--specifically, Oak Ridge National Laboratory--to test the tubes. 140 The Oak Ridge laboratory concluded that, while it was technically possible to enrich uranium using tubes of the diameter the Iraqis were seeking, it would be suboptimal to do so. 141 The prototype design unit that Iraq built before the Gulf War--which used carbon fiber rotors and was built with the assistance of German engineers using the European Urenco design--had a separative capability four to five times greater than would a centrifuge built using the 81 millimeter tubes for rotors. 142 Accordingly, to support a program that could produce one nuclear device per year, Iraq would need to manufacture and deploy 10,000 to 14,000 such machines. 143 The number of tubes Iraq was seeking, however, would be enough to manufacture 100,000 to 150,000 of these machines, which could produce 170-260 kg of highly enriched uranium per year (enough for 8-10 nuclear devices per year). But DOE pointed out that no proliferator has ever operated such a large number of centrifuges. 144 In other words, the tubes Iraq was seeking were so suboptimal for uranium enrichment that it would have taken many thousands of them to produce enough uranium for a weapon--and although Iraq was in fact seeking thousands of tubes, DOE assessed it would have been highly unlikely for a proliferator to choose a route that would require such a large number of machines.

With respect to the second suitability question--whether the walls of the tubes were too thick for centrifuge use--CIA's WINPAC sought the assistance of a contractor to perform separate tests (a "spin test") of the tubes in order to determine if they were strong enough to withstand the extremely high speeds at which centrifuge rotors must spin. 145 The initial test performed by the contractor was reported to have resulted in successfully spinning a tube at 60,000 revolutions per minute (rpm). 146 The NIE included these test results and explained that this test provided only a rough indication that the tubes were suitable as centrifuge rotors. The NIE noted, however, that additional tests would be performed at higher speeds to determine whether the tubes were suitable for operations under conditions that replicated gas centrifuge operations. 147

Unfortunately, these subsequent tests--performed by CIA contractors in January 2003--only clouded an already murky picture. The contractors' initial findings gave the appearance that the tubes were of insufficient strength for use in centrifuge equipment. The CIA, however, questioned the methodology used by its contractors, asserting that the test results had failed to distinguish between the failures of the tubes and failures of the test equipment itself. 148 The contractors then provided a "correction" with new test data, which, the CIA believed, demonstrated that the tubes had sufficient strength to be spun at speeds of 90,000 rpm. 149 But DOE was unpersuaded by the corrected findings and argued that the CIA's conclusions were not supported by the test results. 150 At bottom, the ineptly handled spin tests did little more than deepen the divisions between CIA and DOE over the tubes' intended use; in the words of one former senior Intelligence Community official, the tests were "like throwing a lighted match into gasoline." 151

In any event, the initial technical tests led all agencies to agree that the tubes could be used to build gas centrifuges for uranium enrichment. 152 DOE, however, did not believe that tubes were intended for such use, a view with which INR agreed. DOE's view was based on disagreement with CIA's view on both counts--DOE argued that the diameter of the tubes was too small and the walls were too thick for centrifuge use. The tubes, in DOE's judgment, were therefore "not favorable for direct use as centrifuge rotors." 153

CIA countered that the dimensions of the tubes were "similar" to Iraq's pre-war Beams gas centrifuge design and "nearly matched" the tube size used in another type of gas centrifuge, the Zippe design. 154 Nuclear analysts from WINPAC explained that prior to the Gulf War Iraq had pursued the development of a Beams centrifuge with aluminum rotors that had a wall thickness in excess of 3.0 millimeters, and that Iraq had built an oil centrifuge with aluminum rotors in excess of 6.0 millimeters. CIA also asserted that the unclassified document describing Zippe's design could be interpreted as using rotors with wall thicknesses that ranged from 1.0 millimeter to 2.8 millimeters. 155 WINPAC reasoned that, although these dated models for centrifuges were not ideal, Iraq was likely to build what it could rather than what would be the optimal design. 156 Specifically, old centrifuge designs using aluminum rotors were the only ones Iraq had successfully built in the past without extensive assistance from foreign experts. 157 Similarly, DIA assessed that "[a]lternative uses" for the tubes were "possible," but that such alternatives were "less likely because the specifications [of the tubes] are consistent with late 1980s Iraqi gas centrifuge rotor designs." 158

DOE disputed this analysis on several grounds. From the outset, DOE believed that Iraq would pursue a more advanced design, such as the Urenco-style centrifuge that Iraq had pursued with the covert assistance of German engineers before the Gulf War. 159 DOE also disagreed with CIA's technical conclusion that the tubes were a plausible match for the Zippe design; it asserted that the optimum Zippe design required a wall thickness no greater than a certain figure (the figure itself is classified).160 Finally, DOE noted that the Beams design had never been successfully used to enrich uranium--Beams himself could never get his design to work beyond pilot-plant operation. 161 As DOE subsequently explained, in DOE's view it was therefore irrelevant, and misleading, to point to similarities with this design as evidence the tubes were intended for use in a centrifuge. 162

In sum, although even DOE agreed that the tubes could be used for centrifuges, DOE's assessment that such use was unlikely proved closer to the mark. DIA and CIA analysts overestimated the likelihood that the tubes were intended for use in centrifuges, an erroneous judgment that resulted largely from the unwillingness of many analysts to question--or rigorously test--the underlying assumption that Iraq would try to reconstitute its nuclear program.

The influence of assumptions on the analytical process. As we have seen, the majority of intelligence agencies--and in particular, CIA and DIA--were simply wrong on the question of whether the aluminum tubes were suitable for conventional rocket applications. A similar dynamic emerged during the intra-Community debate on whether the tubes were a good fit for centrifuge designs; while the judgments were in this case more defensible, CIA and DIA consistently construed quite ambiguous technical data as supporting the conclusion that the aluminum tubes were well-suited for use as centrifuges. A consistent pattern emerges: certain analysts, and certain agencies, were clearly inclined to view evidence--even exceedingly technical evidence--through the prism of their assumptions that Iraq was reconstituting its nuclear program.

This tendency is reflected in the way these analysts interpreted other information about the tubes as well. For instance, CIA and DIA assessed that the tight manufacturing tolerances that Iraq required for the tubes pointed towards centrifuge use, because of the increased cost and manufacturing challenges that would result from these stringent requirements. 163 But as DOE pointed out, although the specifications did seem excessive for use in conventional rockets, the tolerances were also a peculiar requirement if they were destined for centrifuges; the specifications were neither as tight as those previously used by Iraq for centrifuges nor as tight as those typically desired for high-speed rotating equipment. 164 Moreover, the tubes would have required substantial modifications to make them suitable for centrifuge use, 165 and the required modifications would have been inconsistent with the tight manufacturing tolerances demanded. 166 Finally, the tight specifications were not inconsistent with conventional rocket applications; as DOE pointed out to the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, it is in fact quite common for inexperienced engineers to over-specify tolerances when trying to reverse-engineer equipment. 167

The focus of certain intelligence agencies on the cost of the tubes offers another example of analysts straining to fit the data into their prevailing theories. The NIE cites reporting indicating that Iraq paid "up to" $17.50 for the tubes, and noted that the willingness to pay this "high" price was indicative of the high priority of the purchase--a fact which, it is suggested, supports the view that the tubes had nuclear application. 168 But in fact this price was not unusually elevated. DOE obtained a price quote from a U.S. manufacturer--without the tight tolerances--of $19.27 per tube. 169

Adherence to prevailing assumptions also led analysts to discount contrary evidence. Both CIA and DIA were quick to dismiss evidence which tended to show that the tubes were intended for use in Iraq's rocket program, instead attributing such contrary evidence to Iraq's "deception" efforts. Analysts were well aware that Iraq historically had been very successful in "denial and deception" 170 activities, and that, at least in part because of such activities, the Intelligence Community had underestimated the scope of Iraq's pre-Gulf War nuclear program. So analysts, in order to ensure that they were not fooled again, systematically discounted the possibility that the tubes were for rockets.

Indeed, in some instances, analysts went even further, interpreting information that contradicted the prevailing analytical line as intentional deception, and therefore as support for the prevailing analytical view. For example, NGIC characterized the Iraqi claim that the tubes were for use in tactical rockets as "a poorly disguised cover story," reasoning that Iraq was claiming such an end-use for the tubes because Iraq was aware that its intentions to use the tubes in a nuclear centrifuge application "have been compromised." 171 CIA also noted in a Senior Executive Memorandum that Iraq "has established a cover disguise the true nuclear end use" for the aluminum tubes, explaining that Iraq may be exploiting press reports regarding the disagreement within the Intelligence Community about the tubes. 172 In some quarters, then, the thesis that the tubes were destined for centrifuges took on the quality of a hypothesis that literally could not be disproved: both confirming and contradictory facts were construed as supporting evidence. 173

The unwillingness to question prevailing assumptions that Iraq was attempting to reconstitute its nuclear program therefore resulted in faulty analysis of the aluminum tubes. While CIA analysts now agree with the ISG position that the tubes were most likely intended for use in rockets rather than in centrifuge applications, 174 as of March 2005, CIA had still not published a reassessment of its position on the tubes. 175

Nuclear Weapons Finding 2

In addition to citing the aluminum tubes, the NIE's judgment that Iraq was attempting to reconstitute its nuclear weapons program also referred to additional streams of intelligence. These other streams, however, were very thin, and the limited value of that supporting intelligence was inadequately conveyed in the October 2002 NIE and in other Intelligence Community products.

Nuclear Weapons Finding 3

The other indications of reconstitution--aside from the aluminum tubes--did not themselves amount to a persuasive case for a reconstituted Iraqi nuclear program. In light of the tenuousness of this other information, DOE's argument that the aluminum tubes were not for centrifuges but that Iraq was, based on these other streams of information, reconstituting its nuclear program was a flawed analytical position.

Until now, this review has focused on flaws in the Intelligence Community's assessment concerning the likely uses of the aluminum tubes--the central basis for the overall judgment that Iraq was reconstituting. But the Intelligence Community also identified in the NIE other evidence to support this conclusion, including Iraq's attempts to procure other dual-use items needed for a gas centrifuge such as magnets and balancing machines, efforts to reconstitute its nuclear cadre, and activity at suspect sites. This evidence, however, was based on thin streams of reporting (and indeed, as will be shown, the NIE's recitation of this evidence was also marred by inaccuracies). 176 Analysts are of course often called upon to make judgments based on limited information, particularly on difficult targets such as Iraq's nuclear program. With that said, the NIE too often failed to communicate the paucity of intelligence supporting its assessments and also contained several inaccurate statements.

For example, the NIE indicated that according to sensitive reporting, Saddam Hussein was "personally interested in the procurement of aluminum tubes." 177 This sensitive reporting was a single report from a liaison service which reported that Saddam was "closely following" the purchase of the tubes. 178 Yet even this single report was under dispute. According to one CIA officer, it was the service's intelligence officer who said Saddam was following the purchase, although another CIA officer at the meeting remembered the exchange differently. 179 Even though fundamental doubts existed about the validity and ultimate source of this information, CIA was not able to clarify this point (which was understandable, given the uncertainties inherent in working with liaison services) and allowed the NIE to use the information without reflecting this uncertainty (which was not understandable). 180

In other places, the NIE's assertions concerning Iraq's nuclear program were simply factually incorrect. First, the NIE pointed to Iraq's attempts to procure a permanent magnet production capability as evidence that Iraq was reconstituting its uranium enrichment program. It noted that "a large number of personnel for the new production facility worked in Iraq's pre-Gulf War centrifuge program." 181 This, however, was a mistake; the National Intelligence Officer (NIO) for Strategic and Nuclear Programs subsequently noted that the workers had not been associated with Iraq's centrifuge program but with the former EMIS program. 182 And the NIE misidentified a front company involved in procurement efforts and the items being procured; the company involved in the initial aluminum tube procurement was seeking high-speed spin testing machines, while another company, also involved in tube procurement, was seeking balancing machines. 183

In light of this, DOE's position on Iraqi nuclear reconstitution appears rather dubious. DOE was alone in its view that these other procurement attempts, combined with the later-recalled reporting regarding uranium from Africa, provided sufficient evidence to conclude that Iraq was reconstituting. Leaving aside the factual errors noted above, there was no evidence that Iraq had actually obtained the dual-use items it was seeking, and DOE conceded that there was no evidence that the magnets Iraq was seeking were intended for the nuclear program. 184 With respect to the alleged uranium enrichment procurement efforts in Africa, DOE reasoned that any indication that Iraq was attempting to procure uranium covertly would be a significant indication of Iraq's intention to pursue a nuclear program. 185

The gossamer nature of the evidence relied upon by DOE, and the doubts expressed about the attempts to procure uranium from Africa long before the reporting was recalled (more in a moment about this) had led senior officials in other agencies to question the substantive coherence of DOE's position. The former NIO for Strategic and Nuclear Programs, for one, said that he had not fully understood the logic supporting DOE's conclusion that Iraq was reconstituting despite specifically questioning DOE on this point during the NIE coordination meeting. 186 Similarly, a former senior intelligence officer remarked in November 2004 that DOE's position had "made sense politically but not substantively." 187 In fact, the DOE intelligence analyst who participated in the coordination meetings for the NIE--while maintaining that there was no political pressure on DOE, direct or indirect, to agree with the reconstitution conclusion at the NIE coordination meeting--conceded to this Commission that "DOE didn't want to come out before the war and say [Iraq] wasn't reconstituting." 188

As mentioned above, DOE's position rested in part on a piece of evidence not relied upon by any of the other intelligence agencies in the NIE--that of Iraq's attempts to procure uranium from Niger. 189 This evidence was unconfirmed at the time of the NIE and subsequently shelved because of severe doubts about its veracity. As will be shown in the next section, the Intelligence Community was right to have its doubts about this story, and DOE was wrong to rely on it as an alternative piece of evidence confirming Iraq's interest in reconstitution.

Nuclear Weapons Finding 4

The Intelligence Community failed to authenticate in a timely fashion transparently forged documents purporting to show that Iraq had attempted to procure uranium from Niger.

Intelligence Community agencies did not effectively authenticate the documents regarding an alleged agreement for the sale of uranium yellowcake from Niger to Iraq. The President referred to this alleged agreement in his State of the Union address on January 28, 2003-- evidence for which the Intelligence Community later concluded was based on forged documents. 190

To illustrate the failures involved in vetting this information, some details about its collection require elaboration. The October 2002 NIE included the statement that Iraq was "trying to procure uranium ore and yellowcake" and that "a foreign government service" had reported that "Niger planned to send several tons" of yellowcake to Iraq. 191 The statement about Niger was based primarily on three reports provided by a liaison intelligence service to CIA in late 2001 and early 2002. 192 One of these reports explained that, as of early 1999, the Iraqi Ambassador to the Vatican planned to visit Niger on an official mission. The report noted that subsequently, during meetings on July 5-6, 2000, Niger and Iraq had signed an agreement for the sale of 500 tons of uranium. 193 This report stated that it was providing the "verbatim text" of the agreement. 194 The information was consistent with reporting from 1999 showing that a visit to Niger was being arranged for the Iraqi Ambassador to the Vatican. 195

Subsequently, Vice President Cheney requested follow-up information from CIA on this alleged deal. 196 CIA decided to contact the former U.S. ambassador to Gabon, Ambassador Joseph Wilson, who had been posted to Niger early in his career and maintained contacts there, to see if he would be amenable to traveling to Niger. Ambassador Wilson agreed to do so and, armed with CIA talking points, traveled to Niger in late February 2002 and met with former Nigerien officials. 197

Following the trip, CIA disseminated an intelligence report in March 2002 based on its debriefing of Ambassador Wilson. 198 The report carried the caveat that the individuals from whom the Ambassador obtained the information were aware that their remarks could reach the U.S. government and "may have intended to influence as well as to inform." 199 According to this report, the former Prime Minister of Niger said that he was not aware of any contracts for uranium that had been signed between Niger and any rogue states. He noted that if there had been such an agreement, he would have been aware of it. 200 He said, however, that in June 1999 he met with an Iraqi delegation to discuss "expanding commercial relations" between Niger and Iraq, which the Prime Minister interpreted as meaning the delegation wanted to discuss yellowcake sales. The Prime Minister let the matter drop, however, because of the United Nations sanctions on Iraq. 201

The British Government weighed in officially on the Niger subject on September 24, 2002, when it disseminated a white paper on Iraq's WMD programs stating that "there is intelligence that Iraq has sought the supply of significant quantities of uranium from Africa." 202

The story grew more complicated when, on October 9, 2002, several days after the NIE was published, an Italian journalist provided a package of documents to the U.S. Embassy in Rome, including documents related to the alleged agreement for the sale of uranium from Niger to Iraq. 203 The State Department passed these documents on to elements of the CIA. Although the documents provided to the Embassy by the Italian journalist related to the purported agreement, these elements of the CIA did not retain copies of the documents or forward them to CIA Headquarters because they had been forwarded through Embassy channels to the State Department. 204

WINPAC analysts, for their part, only requested and obtained copies of the documents several months later--after State's INR had alerted the Intelligence Community in October 2002 that it had serious doubts about the authenticity of the documents. 205 And, even after this point, CIA continued to respond to policymakers' requests for follow-up on the uranium deal with its established line of analysis, without attempting to authenticate the documents and without noting INR's doubts about the authenticity of the information--despite not having looked at the documents with a critical eye.

For example, in mid-January 2003, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff requested information--other than information about the aluminum tubes--about why analysts thought Iraq was reconstituting its nuclear program. In response, WINPAC published a current intelligence paper pointing to Iraqi attempts to procure uranium from several African countries, citing "fragmentary reporting," and making no reference to questions about the authenticity of the source documents. 206 Shortly thereafter, the National Security Council and Office of the Secretary of Defense requested information from the NIO for Strategic and Nuclear Programs and from DIA, respectively, on the uranium deal. The responses included information based on the original reporting, without any mention of the questions about the authenticity of the information. 207

The CIA had still not evaluated the authenticity of the documents when it coordinated on the State of the Union address, in which the President noted that the "British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa." 208 Although there is some disagreement about the details of the coordination process, no one in the Intelligence Community had asked that the line be removed. 209 At the time of the State of the Union speech, CIA analysts continued to believe that Iraq probably was seeking uranium from Africa, although there was growing concern among some CIA analysts that there were problems with the reporting. 210

The IAEA, after receiving copies of the documents from the United States, reviewed them and immediately concluded that they were forgeries. 211 As the IAEA found, the documents contained numerous indications of forgery--flaws in the letterhead, forged signatures, misspelled words, incorrect titles for individuals and government entities, and anomalies in the documents' stamps. 212 The documents also contained serious errors in content. For example, the document describing the agreement made reference to the legal authority for the agreement, but referenced an out-of-date statutory provision. The document also referred to a meeting that took place on "Wednesday, July 7, 2000" even though July 7, 2000 was a Friday. 213

When it finally got around to reviewing the documents during the same time period, the CIA agreed that they were not authentic. Moreover, the CIA concluded that the original reporting was based on the forged documents and was thus itself unreliable. 214 CIA subsequently issued a recall notice at the beginning of April, 2003 for the three original reports, noting that "the foreign government service may have been provided with fraudulent reporting." 215 On June 17, 2003, CIA produced a memorandum for the Director of Central Intelligence (DCI) stating that "since learning that the Iraq-Niger uranium deal was based on false documents earlier this spring we no longer believe that there is sufficient other reporting to conclude that Iraq pursued uranium from abroad." 216 The NIO for Strategic and Nuclear Programs also briefed the Senate and House Intelligence Committees, on June 18 and 19, respectively, on the CIA's conclusions in this regard. 217

Given that there were already doubts about the reliability of the reporting on the uranium deal, the Intelligence Community should have reviewed the documents to evaluate their authenticity as soon as they were made available in early October 2002, rather than waiting over six months to do so. The failure to review these documents caused the Intelligence Community to rely on dubious information when providing highly important assessments to policymakers about the likelihood that Iraq was reconstituting its nuclear program. The Community's failure to undertake a real review of the documents--even though their validity was the subject of serious doubts--was a major failure of the intelligence system. 218


Biological Warfare Summary Finding

The Intelligence Community seriously misjudged the status of Iraq's biological weapons program in the 2002 NIE and other pre-war intelligence products. The primary reason for this misjudgment was the Intelligence Community's heavy reliance on a human source--codenamed "Curveball"--whose information later proved to be unreliable.

The Intelligence Community assessed with "high confidence" in the fall of 2002 that Iraq "has" biological weapons, and that "all key aspects" of Iraq's offensive BW program "are active and that most elements are larger and more advanced than they were before the Gulf War." 219 These conclusions were based largely on the Intelligence Community's judgment that Iraq had "transportable facilities for producing" BW agents. 220 That assessment, in turn, was based largely on reporting from a single human source.

Contrary to the Intelligence Community's pre-war assessments, the ISG's post-war investigations concluded that Iraq had unilaterally destroyed its biological weapons stocks and probably destroyed its remaining holdings of bulk BW agent in 1991 and 1992. 221 Moreover, the ISG concluded that Iraq had conducted no research on BW agents since that time, although Iraq had retained some dual-use equipment and intellectual capital. 222 The ISG found no evidence of a mobile BW program. 223

That Iraq was cooking up biological agents in mobile facilities designed to elude the prying eyes of international inspectors and Western intelligence services was, along with the aluminum tubes, the most important and alarming assessment in the October 2002 NIE. This judgment, as it turns out, was based almost exclusively on information obtained from a single human source--codenamed "Curveball"--whose credibility came into question around the time of the publication of the NIE and collapsed under scrutiny in the months following the war. This section discusses how this ultimately unreliable reporting came to play such a critical role in the Intelligence Community's pre-war assessments about Iraq's BW program. We begin by discussing the evolution of the Intelligence Community's judgments on this issue in the years preceding the second Iraq war; compare these pre-war assessments with what the ISG found; and, finally, offer our conclusions about the Intelligence Community's performance against the Iraqi BW target, focusing in particular on Curveball and the handling of his information by the Intelligence Community.

We note at the outset that this section includes new information about the failure of the Intelligence Community--and particularly of Intelligence Community management--to convey to policymakers serious concerns about Curveball that arose in the months preceding the invasion of Iraq. Although these findings are significant, we believe that other lessons about the Intelligence Community's assessments of Iraq's purported BW programs are the more critical ones. At bottom, the story of the Intelligence Community's performance on BW is one of poor tradecraft by our human intelligence collection agencies; of our intelligence analysts allowing reasonable suspicions about Iraqi BW activity to turn into near certainty; and of the Intelligence Community failing to communicate adequately the limited nature of their intelligence on Iraq's BW programs to policymakers, in both the October 2002 NIE and other contemporaneous intelligence assessments.

The Intelligence Community's Pre-War Assessments

The Intelligence Community's assessment of Iraq's BW program--like its judgments about Iraq's other WMD programs--evolved over time. The October 2002 NIE reflected a shift, however, in the Community's judgments about the state of Iraq's BW program. Previous Community estimates had assessed that Iraq could have biological weapons; the October 2002 estimate, in contrast, assessed with "high confidence" that Iraq "has" biological weapons. This shift in view, which began in 2000 and culminated in the October 2002 NIE, was based largely on information from a single source--Curveball--who indicated that Iraq had mobile facilities for producing BW agents.

Background. In the early 1990s, the Intelligence Community knew little about Iraq's BW program. 224 Prior to the Gulf War, the Intelligence Community judged that Iraq was developing several BW agents, including anthrax and botulinum toxin, at a number of facilities. 225 The Intelligence Community further assessed that Iraq might have produced up to 1,000 liters of BW agent, and that Iraq had used some of it to fill aerial bombs and artillery shells. At that time, however, the Community judged that it had insufficient information to make assessments about BW agent testing and deployment of filled munitions. 226 Between 1991 and 1995, the Intelligence Community learned little more about Iraq's BW program. However, there was some additional human intelligence reporting indicating that pre-Gulf War assessments of Iraq's BW program had substantially underestimated the quantities of biological weapons that Iraq had produced. Moreover, this reporting suggested that the Intelligence Community was unaware of some Iraqi BW facilities. 227

It was not until 1995--when UNSCOM presented the Iraqis with evidence of continuing BW-related imports and Saddam Hussein's son-in-law, Hussein Kamil, defected--that Iraq made substantial declarations to the United Nations about its activities prior to the Gulf War, admitting that it had produced and weaponized BW agents. 228 These declarations confirmed that the Intelligence Community had substantially underestimated the scale and maturity of Iraq's pre-Desert Storm BW program. Iraq had, before the Gulf War, weaponized several agents, including anthrax, botulinum toxin, and aflatoxin; produced 30,165 liters of BW agent; and deployed some of its 157 bombs and 25 missile warheads armed with BW agents to locations throughout Iraq. 229 Following these declarations, the Intelligence Community estimated in 1997 that Iraq was still concealing elements of its BW program, and it assessed that Iraq would likely wait until either sanctions were lifted or the UNSCOM presence was reduced before restarting agent production. 230

After 1998, the Intelligence Community found it difficult to determine whether activity at known dual-use facilities was related to WMD production. The departed inspectors had never been able to confirm what might be happening at Iraq's suspect facilities. Accordingly, the Intelligence Community noted that it had no reliable intelligence to indicate resumed production of biological weapons, but assessed that in the absence of inspectors Iraq probably would expand its BW activities. 231 These assessments were colored by the Community's earlier underestimation of Iraq's programs, its lack of reliable intelligence, and its realization that previous underestimates were due in part to effective deception by the Iraqis. 232 By 1999, the CIA assessed that there was some Iraqi research and development on BW and that Iraq could restart production of biological weapons within a short period of time. The 1999 NIE on Worldwide BW Programs judged that Iraq was "revitalizing its BW program" and was "probably continuing work to develop and produce BW agents." 233

Growing concern. The Intelligence Community's concern about Iraq's BW program increased in early 2000, and the Community began to adjust upward its estimates of the Iraq BW threat, based on a "substantial volume" of "new information" regarding mobile BW facilities in Iraq. 234 This information came from an Iraqi chemical engineer, subsequently codenamed Curveball, who came to the attention of the Intelligence Community through a foreign liaison service. That liaison service debriefed Curveball and then shared the debriefing results with the United States. The foreign liaison service would not, however, provide the United States with direct access to Curveball. Instead, information about Curveball was passed from the liaison service to DIA's Defense HUMINT Service, which in turn disseminated information about Curveball throughout the Intelligence Community.

Between January 2000 and September 2001, DIA's Defense HUMINT Service disseminated almost 100 reports from Curveball regarding mobile BW facilities in Iraq. 235 These reports claimed that Iraq had several mobile production units and that one of those units had begun production of BW agents as early as 1997. 236

Shortly after Curveball started reporting, in the spring of 2000, his information was provided to senior policymakers. 237 It was also incorporated into an update to a 1999 NIE on Worldwide BW Programs. The update reported that "new intelligence acquired in 2000...causes [the IC] to adjust our assessment upward of the BW threat posed by Iraq...The new information suggests that Baghdad has expanded its offensive BW program by establishing a large-scale, redundant, and concealed BW agent production capability." 238 In December 2000, the Intelligence Community produced a Special Intelligence Report that was based on reporting from Curveball, noting that "credible reporting from a single source suggests" that Iraq has produced biological agents, but cautioned that "[w]e cannot confirm whether Iraq has produced...biological agents." 239

By 2001, however, the assessments became more assertive. A WINPAC report in October 2001, also based on Curveball's reporting about mobile facilities, judged "that Iraq continues to produce at least...three BW agents" and possibly two others. This assessment also concluded that "the establishment of mobile BW agent production plants and continued delivery system development provide Baghdad with BW capabilities surpassing the pre-Gulf War era." 240 Similar assessments were provided to senior policymakers. 241 In late September 2002, DCI Tenet told the Senate's Intelligence and Armed Services Committees (and subsequently the Senate Foreign Relations Committee) that "we know Iraq has developed a redundant capability to produce biological warfare agents using mobile production units." 242

October 2002 NIE. The October 2002 NIE reflected this upward assessment of the Iraqi BW threat that had developed since Curveball began reporting in January 2000. The October 2002 NIE reflected the shift from the late-1990s assessments that Iraq could have biological weapons to the definitive conclusion that Iraq "has" biological weapons, and that its BW program was larger and more advanced than before the Gulf War. 243 Information about Iraq's dual-use facilities and its failure to account fully for previously declared stockpiles contributed to this shift in assessments. 244 The information that Iraq had mobile BW production units, however, was instrumental in adjusting upward the assessment of Iraq's BW threat. 245 And for this conclusion, the NIE relied primarily on reporting from Curveball, who, as noted, provided a large volume of reporting through Defense HUMINT channels regarding mobile BW production facilities in Iraq. 246 Only in May 2004, more than a year after the commencement of Operation Iraqi Freedom, did CIA formally deem Curveball's reporting fabricated and recall it. 247 At the time of the NIE, however, reporting from three other human sources--who provided one report each on mobile BW facilities--was thought to have corroborated Curveball's information about the mobile facilities. 248 These three sources also proved problematic, however, as discussed below.

Another asylum seeker (hereinafter "the second source") reporting through Defense HUMINT channels provided one report in June 2001 that Iraq had transportable facilities for the production of BW. 249 This second source recanted in October 2003, however, and the recantation was reflected in a Defense HUMINT report in which the source flatly contradicted his June 2001 statements about transportable facilities. 250 Though CIA analysts told Commission staff that they had requested that Defense HUMINT follow-up with this second source to ascertain the reasons for his recantation, DIA's Defense HUMINT Service has provided no further information on this issue. 251 Nor, for that matter, was the report ever recalled or corrected. 252

Another source, associated with the Iraqi National Congress (INC) (hereinafter "the INC source"), was brought to the attention of DIA by Washington-based representatives of the INC. Like Curveball, his reporting was handled by Defense HUMINT. He provided one report that Iraq had decided in 1996 to establish mobile laboratories for BW agents to evade inspectors. 253 Shortly after Defense HUMINT's initial debriefing of the INC source in February 2002, however, a foreign liaison service and the CIA's Directorate of Operations (DO) judged him to be a fabricator and recommended that Defense HUMINT issue a notice to that effect, which Defense HUMINT did in May 2002. Senior policymakers were informed that the INC source and his reporting were unreliable. The INC source's information, however, began to be used again in finished intelligence in July 2002, including the October 2002 NIE, because, although a fabrication notice had been issued several months earlier, Defense HUMINT had failed to recall the reporting. 254

The classified report here discusses a fourth source (hereinafter "the fourth source") who provided a single report that Iraq had mobile fermentation units mounted on trucks and railway cars.

Post-NIE. After publication of the NIE in October 2002, the Intelligence Community continued to assert that Baghdad's biological weapons program was active and posed a threat, relying on the same set of sources upon which the NIE's judgments were based. 255 For example, a November 2002 paper produced by CIA's Directorate of Intelligence (DI) reiterated the NIE's assessment that Iraq had a "broad range of lethal and incapacitating agents" and that the "BW program is more robust than it was prior to the Gulf War." 256 The piece contended that Iraq was capable of producing an array of agents and probably retained strains of the smallpox virus. It further argued that technological advances increased the potential Iraqi BW threat to U.S. interests. And a February 2003 CIA Intelligence Assessment anticipated Iraqi options for BW (and CW) use against the United States and other members of the Coalition; the report stated that Iraq "maintains a wide range of...biological agents and delivery systems" and enumerated 21 BW agents which it judged Iraq could employ. 257

Statements about biological weapons also appeared in Administration statements about Iraq in the months preceding the war. Secretary of State Colin Powell's speech to the United Nations Security Council on February 5, 2003, relied on the same human sources relied upon in the NIE. 258 Secretary Powell was not informed that one of these sources-- the INC source --had been judged a fabricator almost a year earlier. And as will be discussed at length below, serious doubts about Curveball had also surfaced within CIA's Directorate of Operations at the time of the speech--but these doubts also were not communicated to Secretary Powell before his United Nations address.

Reliance on Curveball's reporting also affected post-war assessments of Iraq's BW program. A May 2003 CIA Intelligence Assessment pointed to the post-invasion discovery of "two probable mobile BW agent productions plants" by Coalition forces in Iraq as evidence that "Iraq was hiding a biological warfare program." 259 Curveball, when shown photos of the trailers, identified components that he said were similar to those on the mobile BW production facilities that he had described in his earlier reporting. 260

Post-War Findings of the Iraq Survey Group

The Iraq Survey Group found that the Intelligence Community's pre-war assessments about Iraq's BW program were almost entirely wrong. The ISG concluded that "Iraq appears to have destroyed its undeclared stocks of BW weapons and probably destroyed remaining holdings of bulk BW agent" shortly after the Gulf War. 261 According to the ISG, Iraq initially intended to retain elements of its biological weapons program after the Gulf War. UNSCOM inspections proved unexpectedly intrusive, however, and to avoid detection, Saddam Hussein ordered his son-in-law and Minister of the Military Industrial Commission Hussein Kamil to destroy, unilaterally, Iraq's stocks of BW agents. 262 This took place in either the late spring or summer of 1991. 263 But Iraq retained a physical plant at Al-Hakam and the intellectual capital necessary to resuscitate the BW program. 264 Simultaneously, Iraq embarked on an effort to hide this remaining infrastructure and to conceal its pre-war BW-related activities. 265

In early 1995, however, UNSCOM inspectors confronted Iraqi officials with evidence of 1988 imports of bacterial growth media in quantities that had no civilian use within Iraq's limited biotechnology industry. 266 This confrontation, followed by the defection of Hussein Kamil in August 1995, prompted Iraq to admit that it had produced large quantities of bulk BW agent before the Gulf War. 267 Iraq also released a large cache of documents and issued the first of several "Full, Final and Complete Declaration[s]" on June 22, 1996, further detailing its BW program. UNSCOM subsequently supervised the destruction of BW-related facilities at Al-Hakam in 1996. 268

The Iraq Survey Group found that the destruction of the Al-Hakam facility effectively marked the end of Iraq's large-scale BW ambitions. 269 The ISG did judge that after 1996 Iraq "continued small-scale BW-related efforts" under the auspices of the Iraqi Intelligence Service, and also retained a trained cadre of scientists who could work on BW programs and some dual-use facilities capable of conversion to small-scale BW agent production. 270 Nevertheless, the ISG "found no direct evidence that Iraq, after 1996, had plans for a new BW program or was conducting BW-specific work for military purposes." 271

With respect to mobile BW production facilities, the "ISG found no evidence that Iraq possessed or was developing production systems on road vehicles or railway wagons." 272 The ISG's "exhaustive investigation" of the two trailers captured by Coalition forces in spring 2003 revealed that the trailers were "almost certainly designed and built exclusively for the generation of hydrogen." The ISG judged that the trailers "cannot ... be part of any BW program." 273

Analysis of the Intelligence Community's Pre-War Assessments

The Intelligence Community fundamentally misjudged the status of Iraq's BW programs. As the above discussion demonstrates, the central basis for the Intelligence Community's pre-war assessments about Iraq's BW program was the reporting of a single human source, Curveball. This single source, whose reporting came into question in late 2002, later proved to be a fabricator.

Our intelligence agencies get burned by human sources sometimes--it is a fact of life in the murky world of espionage. If our investigation revealed merely that our Intelligence Community had a source who later turned out to be lying, despite the best tradecraft practices designed to ferret out such liars, that would be one thing. But Curveball's reporting became a central part of the Intelligence Community's pre-war assessments through a serious breakdown in several aspects of the intelligence process. The Curveball story is at the same time one of poor asset validation by our human collection agencies; of a tendency of analysts to believe that which fits their theories; of inadequate communication between the Intelligence Community and the policymakers it serves; and, ultimately, of poor leadership and management. This section thus focuses primarily on our investigation of the Curveball episode, and the findings we drew from it.

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.

The lack of direct access to Curveball made it more difficult to assess his veracity. But such lack of access does not preclude the Intelligence Community from attempting to assess the source's bona fides and the credibility of the source's reporting. Indeed, it is incumbent upon professional intelligence officers to attempt to do so, through a process referred to within the Intelligence Community as "vetting" or "asset validation."

Defense HUMINT, however, did not even attempt to determine Curveball's veracity. A Defense HUMINT official explained to Commission staff that Defense HUMINT believed that it was just a "conduit" for Curveball's reporting--that it had no responsibility for vetting Curveball or validating his information. 275 In Defense HUMINT's view, asset validation is solely the responsibility of analysts--in their judgment if the analysts believe the information is credible, then the source is validated. 276 This line echoes what Defense HUMINT officials responsible for disseminating Curveball's reporting told the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence; they told the Committee that it was not their responsibility to assess the source's credibility, but that it instead was up to the analysts who read the reports to judge the accuracy of the contents. 277

The Senate Select Committee on Intelligence concluded that this view represents a "serious lapse" in tradecraft, and we agree. 278 Analysts obviously play a crucial role in validating sources by evaluating the credibility of their reporting, corroborating that reporting, and reviewing the body of reporting to ensure that it is consistent with the source's access. But analysts' validation can only extend to whether what a source says is internally consistent, technically plausible, and credible given the source's claimed access. The process of validation also must include efforts by the operational elements to confirm the source's bona fides (i.e., authenticating that the source has the access he claims), to test the source's reliability and motivations, and to ensure that the source is free from hostile control. 279 To be sure, these steps are particularly difficult for a source such as Curveball, to whom the collection agency has no direct access. But human intelligence collectors can often obtain valuable information weighing on even a liaison source's credibility, and the CIA's DO routinely attempts to determine the credibility even of sources to whom it has no direct access. In light of this, we are surprised by the Defense HUMINT's apparent position that it had no responsibility even to attempt to validate Curveball.

As a footnote to this episode, while DIA's Defense HUMINT Service felt no obligation to vet Curveball or validate his veracity, it would later appear affronted that another agency--CIA--would try to do so. On February 11, 2003, after questions about Curveball's credibility had begun to emerge, an element of the DO sent a message to Defense HUMINT officials expressing concern that Curveball had not been vetted. The next day the Defense HUMINT division chief who received that message forwarded it by electronic mail to a subordinate, requesting input to answer CIA's query. In that electronic mail message, the Defense HUMINT division chief said he was "shocked" by CIA's suggestion that Curveball might be unreliable. The reply--which the Defense HUMINT official intended for Defense HUMINT recipients only but which was inadvertently sent to CIA as well--observed that "CIA is up to their old tricks" and that CIA did not "have a clue" about the process by which Curveball's information was passed from the foreign service. 280

Biological Warfare Finding 2

Indications of possible problems with Curveball began to emerge well before the 2002 NIE. These early indications of problems--which suggested unstable behavior more than a lack of credibility--were discounted by the analysts working the Iraq WMD account. But given these warning signs, analysts should have viewed Curveball's information with greater skepticism and should have conveyed this skepticism in the NIE. The analysts' resistance to any information that could undermine Curveball's reliability suggests that the analysts were unduly wedded to a source that supported their assumptions about Iraq's BW programs.

As we have discussed, when information from Curveball first surfaced in early 2000, Defense HUMINT did nothing to validate Curveball's reporting. Analysts within the Intelligence Community, however, did make efforts to assess the credibility of the information provided by Curveball. In early 2000, when Curveball's reporting first surfaced, WINPAC analysts researched previous reporting and concluded that Curveball's information was plausible based upon previous intelligence, including imagery reporting, and the detailed, technical descriptions of the mobile facilities he provided. 281 As a WINPAC BW analyst later told us, there was nothing "obviously wrong" with Curveball's information, and his story--that Iraq had moved to a mobile capability for its BW program in 1995 in order to evade inspectors--was logical in light of other known information. 282

At about the same time, however, traffic in the CIA's Directorate of Operations began to suggest some possible problems with Curveball. 283 The first CIA concerns about Curveball's reliability arose within the DO in May 2000, when a Department of Defense detailee assigned to the DO met Curveball. The purpose of the meeting was to evaluate Curveball's claim that he had been present during a BW accident that killed several of his coworkers by seeing whether Curveball had been exposed to, or vaccinated against, a BW agent. 284 Although the evaluation was ultimately inconclusive, 285 the detailee raised several concerns about Curveball based on their interaction.

First, the detailee observed that Curveball spoke excellent English during their meeting. 286 This was significant to the detailee because the foreign service had, on several earlier occasions, told U.S. intelligence officials that one reason a meeting with Curveball was impossible was that Curveball did not speak English. Second, the detailee was concerned by Curveball's apparent "hangover" during their meeting. The detailee conveyed these impressions of Curveball informally to CIA officials, and WINPAC BW analysts told Commission staff that they were aware that the detailee was concerned that Curveball might be an alcoholic. 287 This message was eventually re-conveyed to Directorate of Operations supervisors via electronic mail on February 4, 2003--literally on the eve of Secretary Powell's speech to the United Nations. The electronic mail stated, in part:

I do have a concern with the validity of the information based on Curveball having a terrible hangover the morning of [the meeting]. I agree, it was only a one time interaction, however, he knew he was to have a [meeting] on that particular morning but tied one on anyway. What underlying issues could this be a problem with and how in depth has he been vetted by the [foreign liaison service]? 288

By early 2001, the DO was receiving operational messages about the foreign service's difficulties in handling Curveball, whom the foreign service reported to be "out of control," and whom the service could not locate. 289 This operational traffic regarding Curveball was shared with WINPAC's Iraq BW analysts because, according to WINPAC analysts, the primary BW analyst who worked on the Iraq issue had close relations with the DO's Counterproliferation Division (the division through which the operational traffic was primarily handled). 290 This and other operational information was not, however, shared with analysts outside CIA. 291

A second warning on Curveball came in April 2002, when a foreign intelligence service, which was also receiving reporting from Curveball, told the CIA that, in its view, there were a variety of problems with Curveball. The foreign service began by noting that they were "inclined to believe that a significant part of [Curveball's] reporting is true" in light of his detailed technical descriptions. 292 In this same message, however, the foreign service noted that it was "not convinced that Curveball is a wholly reliable source," and that "elements of [Curveball's] behavior strike us as typical of individuals we would normally assess as fabricators." 293 Even more specifically, the foreign service noted several inconsistencies in Curveball's reporting which caused the foreign service "to have doubts about Curveball's reliability." 294 It should be noted here that, like the handling foreign service, this other service continued officially to back Curveball's reporting throughout this period.

Again, these concerns about Curveball were shared with CIA analysts working on the BW issue. 295 But none of the expressed concerns overcame analysts' ultimate confidence in the accuracy of his information. Specifically, analysts continued to judge his information credible based on their assessment of its detail and technical accuracy, corroborating documents, confirmation of the technical feasibility of the production facility designs described by Curveball, and reporting from another human source, the fourth source mentioned above. 296 But it should be noted that during the pre-NIE period--in addition to the more general questions about Curveball's credibility discussed above--at least some evidence had emerged calling into question the substance of Curveball's reporting about Iraq's BW program as well. 297

Specifically, a WINPAC BW analyst told us that two foreign services had both noted in 2001 that Curveball's description of the facility he claimed was involved in the mobile BW program was contradicted by imagery of the site, which showed a wall across the path that Curveball said the mobile trailers traversed. Intelligence Community analysts "set that information aside," however, because it could not be reconciled with the rest of Curveball's information, which appeared plausible. 298 Analysts also explained away this discrepancy by noting that Iraq had historically been very successful in "denial and deception" activities and speculated that the wall spotted by imagery might be a temporary structure put up by the Iraqis to deceive U.S. intelligence efforts. 299

Analysts' use of denial and deception to explain away discordant evidence about Iraq's BW programs was a recurring theme in our review of the Community's performance on the BW question. 300 Burned by the experience of being wrong on Iraq's WMD in 1991 and convinced that Iraq was restarting its programs, analysts dismissed indications that Iraq had actually abandoned its prohibited programs by chalking these indicators up to Iraq's well-known denial and deception efforts. In one instance, for example, WINPAC analysts described reporting from the second source indicating Iraq was filling BW warheads at a transportable facility near Baghdad. When imagery was unable to locate the transportable BW systems at the reported site, analysts assumed this was not because the activity was not taking place, but rather because Iraq was hiding activities from U.S. satellite overflights. 301 This tendency was best encapsulated by a comment in a memorandum prepared by the CIA for a senior policymaker: "Mobile BW information comes from [several] sources, one of whom is credible and the other is of undetermined reliability. We have raised our collection posture in a bid to locate these production units, but years of fruitless searches by UNSCOM indicate they are well hidden." 302 Again, the analysts appear never to have considered the idea that the searches were fruitless because the weapons were not there.

Biological Warfare Finding 3

The October 2002 NIE failed to communicate adequately to policymakers both the Community's near-total reliance on Curveball for its BW judgments, and the serious problems that characterized Curveball as a source.

The Community erred in failing to highlight its overwhelming reliance on Curveball for its BW assessments. The NIE judged that Iraq "has transportable facilities for producing bacterial and toxin BW agents" and attributed this judgment to multiple sources. 303 In reality, however, on the topic of mobile BW facilities Curveball provided approximately 100 detailed reports on the subject, while the second and fourth sources each provided a single report. (As will be discussed in greater detail below, the reporting of another source-- the INC source --had been deemed a fabrication months earlier, but nonetheless found its way into the October 2002 NIE.) 304 The presentation of the material as attributable to "multiple sensitive sources," however, gave the impression that the support for the BW assessments was more broadly based than was in fact the case. A more accurate presentation would have allowed senior officials to see just how narrow the evidentiary base for the judgments on Iraq's BW programs actually was.

Other contemporaneous assessments about Iraq's BW program also reflect this problem. For example, the Intelligence Community informed senior policymakers in July 2002 that CIA judged that "Baghdad has transportable production facilities for BW agents...according to defectors." 305 Again, while three "defector" sources (Curveball, the second source, and the INC source) are cited in this report, Curveball's reporting was the overwhelmingly predominant source of the information.

And the NIE should not only have emphasized its reliance on Curveball for its BW judgments; it should also have communicated the limitations of the source himself. The NIE, for instance, described him as "an Iraqi defector deemed credible by the [Intelligence Community]." 306 The use of the term "credible" was apparently meant to imply only that Curveball's reporting was technically plausible. To a lay reader, however, it implied a broader judgment as to the source's general reliability. This description obscured a number of salient facts that, given the Community's heavy reliance upon his reporting, would have been highly important for policymakers to know--including the fact that the Community had never gained direct access to the source and that he was known at the time to have serious handling problems. While policymakers may still have credited his reporting, they would at least have been warned about the risks in doing so.

Biological Warfare Finding 4

Beginning in late 2002, some operations officers within the regional division of the CIA's Directorate of Operations that was responsible for relations with the liaison service handling Curveball expressed serious concerns about Curveball's reliability to senior officials at the CIA, but these views were either (1) not thought to outweigh analytic assessments that Curveball's information was reliable or (2) disregarded because of managers' assessments that those views were not sufficiently convincing to warrant further elevation.

After the NIE was published, but before Secretary Powell's speech to the United Nations, more serious concerns surfaced about Curveball's reliability. These concerns were never brought to Secretary Powell's attention, however. Precisely how and why this lapse occurred is the subject of dispute and conflicting memories. This section provides only a brief summary of the key events in this complicated saga.

The NIE went to press in early October 2002, but its publication did not end the need to scrutinize Curveball's reliability. To improve the CIA's confidence in Curveball, the CIA's Deputy Director for Operations (DDO), James Pavitt, sought to press the foreign intelligence service for access to Curveball. 307 Mr. Pavitt's office accordingly asked the chief ("the division chief") of the DO's regional division responsible for relations with the liaison service ("the division") to meet with a representative of the foreign intelligence service to make the request for access . 308 According to the division chief, he met with the representative in late September or early October 2002. 309

At the lunch, the division chief raised the issue of U.S. intelligence officials speaking to Curveball directly. According to the division chief, the representative of the foreign intelligence service responded with words to the effect of "You don't want to see him [Curveball] because he's crazy." Speaking to him would be, in the representative of the foreign service's words, "a waste of time." The representative, who said that he had been present for debriefings of Curveball, continued that his intelligence service was not sure whether Curveball was actually telling the truth and, in addition, that he had serious doubts about Curveball's mental stability and reliability; Curveball, according to the representative, had had a nervous breakdown. Further, the representative said that he worried that Curveball was "a fabricator." The representative cautioned the division chief, however, that the foreign service would publicly and officially deny these views if pressed. The representative told the division chief that the rationale for such a public denial would be that the foreign service did not wish to be embarrassed. 310 According to the division chief, he passed the information to three offices: up the line to the office of CIA's Deputy Director for Operations; 311 down the line to his staff, specifically the division's group chief ("the group chief") responsible for the liaison country's region; 312 and across the agency to WINPAC. 313 At the time, the division chief thought that the information was "no big deal" because he did not realize how critical Curveball's reporting was to the overall case for Iraqi possession of a biological weapons program. 314 He assumed there were other streams of reporting to buttress the Intelligence Community's assessments. He could not imagine, he said, that Curveball was "it." 315

Several months later, prompted by indications that the President or a senior U.S. official would soon be making a speech on Iraq's WMD programs, one of the executive assistants for the then-Deputy Director of Central Intelligence (DDCI) John McLaughlin 316 met with the group chief to look into the Curveball information. 317 This meeting took place on December 18, 2002. 318 Although the executive assistant did not specifically recall the meeting when he spoke with Commission staff, 319 an electronic mail follow-up from the meeting--which was sent to the division chief and the group chief --makes clear that the meeting was called to discuss Curveball and the public use of his information. 320

As a result of this meeting, the division sent a message that same afternoon to the CIA's station in the relevant country again asking that the foreign intelligence service permit the United States to debrief Curveball. 321 The message stressed the importance of gaining access to Curveball, and noted the U.S. government's desire to use Curveball's reporting publicly. On December 20, the foreign service refused the request for access, but concurred with the request to use Curveball's information publicly--"with the expectation of source protection." 322

By this point, it was clear that the division believed there was a serious problem with Curveball that required attention. A second meeting was scheduled on December 19 at the invitation of DDCI McLaughlin's same executive assistant. 323 According to the executive assistant, he called the meeting because it had become apparent to DDCI McLaughlin that Curveball's reporting was significant to the Intelligence Community's judgments on Iraq's mobile BW capability. 324 The invitation for the meeting stated that the purpose was to "resolve precisely how we judge Curveball's reporting on mobile BW labs," and that the executive assistant hoped that after the meeting he could "summarize [the] conclusions in a short note to the DDCI." 325 The meeting was attended by the executive assistant, a WINPAC BW analyst, an operations officer from the DO's Counterproliferation Division, and the regional division's group chief. Mr. McLaughlin, who did not attend this meeting, told this Commission that he was not given a written summary of the meeting and did not recall whether any such meeting was held. 326

Although individuals' recollections of the meeting vary somewhat, there is little disagreement on the meeting's substance. The group chief argued that Curveball had not been adequately "vetted" and that his information should therefore not be relied upon. In preparation for the meeting, the group chief had outlined her concerns in an electronic mail to several officers within the Directorate of Operations--including Stephen Kappes, the then-Associate Deputy Director for Operations. The electronic mail opened with the following (in bold type):

Although no one asked, it is my assessment that Curve Ball had some access to some of this information and was more forthcoming and cooperative when he needed resettlement assistance; now that he does not need it, he is less helpful, possibly because when he was being helpful, he was embellishing, a bit. The [foreign service] ha[s] developed some doubts about him. We have been unable to vet him operationally and know very little about him. The intelligence community has corroborated portions of his reporting with open source information ... and some intelligence (which appears to confirm that things are where he said they were). 327

At the meeting, the group chief stated that she told the attendees that the division's concerns were based on the foreign service representative's statements to the division chief, the CIA's inability to get access to Curveball, the significant "improvement" in Curveball's reporting over time, the decline of Curveball's reporting after he received the equivalent of a green card, among other reasons. 328 She also recalled telling the attendees the details of the foreign service representative 's statements to the division chief. 329 In the group chief's view, she made it clear to all the attendees that the division did not believe that Curveball's information should be relied upon. 330

With equal vigor, the WINPAC representative argued that Curveball's reporting was fundamentally reliable. 331 According to the WINPAC analyst, Curveball's information was reliable because it was detailed, technically accurate, and corroborated by another source's reporting. 332

Both the group chief and the WINPAC analyst characterized the exchange as fairly heated. 333 Both of the two primary participants also recalled providing reasons why the other's arguments should not carry the day. Specifically, the group chief says she argued, adamantly, that the supposedly corroborating information was of dubious significance because it merely established that Curveball had been to the location, not that he had any knowledge of BW activities being conducted there. In addition, the group chief questioned whether some of Curveball's knowledge could have come from readily available, open source materials. 334 Conversely, the WINPAC BW analyst says that she questioned whether the group chief had sufficient knowledge of Curveball's reporting to be able to make an accurate assessment of his reliability. 335

It appears that WINPAC prevailed in this argument. Looking back, the executive assistant who had called the meeting offered his view that the WINPAC BW analyst was the "master of [the Curveball] case," and that he "look[ed] to her for answers." 336 He also noted that the group chief clearly expressed her skepticism about Curveball during the meeting, and that she fundamentally took the position that Curveball's reporting did not "hold up." 337 The executive assistant further said that while the foreign service officially assessed that Curveball was reliable, they also described him as a "handling problem." 338 According to the executive assistant, the foreign service said Curveball was a handling problem because he was a drinker, unstable, and generally difficult to manage. In the executive assistant's view, however, it was impossible to know whether the foreign service's description of Curveball was accurate. Finally, the executive assistant said that he fully recognized Curveball's significance at the time of the meeting; that Curveball "was clearly the most significant source" on BW; and that if Curveball were removed, the BW assessment was left with one other human source, "but not much more." 339

The following day, the executive assistant circulated a memorandum to the WINPAC BW analyst intended to summarize the prior day's meeting. 340 Perhaps in keeping with his reliance on the WINPAC BW analyst as the "master of the case," the executive assistant's "summary" of the draft of the memorandum, titled "Reliability of Human Reporting on Iraqi Mobile BW Capability," played down the doubts raised by the DO division:

The primary source of this information is an Iraqi émigré (vice defector) ... After an exhaustive review, the U.S. Intelligence Community-- [as well as several liaison services]... judged him credible. This judgment was based on:

  • The detailed, technical nature of his reporting;

  • [Technical intelligence] confirming the existence/configuration of facilities he described (one Baghdad office building is known to house administrative offices linked to WMD programs);

  • UNSCOM's discovery of military documents discussing "mobile fermentation" capability;

  • Confirmation/replication of the described design by U.S. contractors (it works); and

  • Reporting from a second émigré that munitions were loaded with BW agent from a mobile facility parked 341 within an armaments center south of Baghdad. 342

The memorandum then continued on to note that "[w]e are handicapped in efforts to resolve legitimate questions that remain about the source's veracity and reporting because the [foreign service] refuses to grant direct access to the source." 343 Later, in the "Questions/Answers" section, the memorandum stated:

How/when was the source's reliability evaluated-- [One foreign service] hosted a...meeting in 2001, over the course of which all the participating services judged the core reporting as "reliable." [One of the other services] recently affirmed that view--although the [service] ha[s] declined to provide details of sources who might provide corroboration. Operational traffic ... indicates the [hosting foreign service] may now be downgrading its own evaluation of the source's reliability. 344

It does not appear that this memorandum was circulated further; rather, the executive assistant explained that he would have used the memorandum to brief the DDCI at their daily staff meeting. 345

Former DDCI McLaughlin, however, said that he did not remember being apprised of this meeting. 346 Mr. McLaughlin told the Commission that, although he remembered his executive assistant at some point making a passing reference to the effect that the executive assistant had heard about some issues with Curveball, he (Mr. McLaughlin) did not remember having ever been told in any specificity about the