The CIA won't say so, but the U.K. initially opposed war in Iraq. A new book by Tyler Drumheller, former chief of the CIA's European ops, describes how, the day after 9/11, a "powerful delegation from a very close European ally" visited CIA Director George Tenet at HQ. In his book "On the Brink," Drumheller says the foreign-team leader said "his government stood by us ... and that we could count on it for any and all support." But the foreign rep cautioned, "I hope we can all agree that we should concentrate on Afghanistan and not be tempted to launch any attacks on Iraq." In Drumheller's account, Tenet replied, "Absolutely, we all agree on that."
"It just sticks in my craw every time I hear them say it's an intelligence failure. It's an intelligence failure. This was a policy failure," Drumheller tells Bradley.
Drumheller was the CIA's top man in Europe, the head of covert operations there, until he retired a year ago. He says he saw firsthand how the White House promoted intelligence it liked and ignored intelligence it didn't:
"The idea of going after Iraq was U.S. policy. It was going to happen one way or the other," says Drumheller.
"The group that was dealing with preparation for the Iraq war came back and said they're no longer interested," Drumheller recalls. "And we said, 'Well, what about the intel?' And they said, 'Well, this isn't about intel anymore. This is about regime change.'"
Drumheller: ...never before have I seen the manipulation of intelligence that has played out since Bush took office. As chief of Europe I had a front-row seat from which to observe the unprecedented drive for intelligence justifying the Iraq war....
SPIEGEL: There are more than a few critics in Washington who claim that the Germans, because of Curveball, bear a large part of the repsonsibility for the intelligence mess.
Drumheller: There was no effort by the Germans to influence anybody from the beginning. Very senior officials in the BND expressed their doubts, that there may be problems with this guy. They were very professional. I know that there are people at the CIA who think the Germans could have set stronger caveats. But nobody says: "Here's a great intel report, but we don't believe it." There were also questions inside the CIA's analytical section, but as it went forward, this information was seized without caveats. The administration wanted to make the case for war with Iraq. They needed a tangible thing, they needed the German stuff. They couldn't go to war based just on the fact that they wanted to change the Middle East. They needed to have something threatening to which they were reacting.
SPIEGEL: The German government was convinced that "Curveball" would not be used in the now famous presentation that then US Secretary of State Colin Powell gave in 2003 before the United Nations Security Council.
Drumheller: I had assured my German friends that it wouldn't be in the speech. I really thought that I had put it to bed. I had warned the CIA deputy John McLaughlin that this case could be fabricated. The night before the speech, then CIA director George Tenet called me at home. I said: "Hey Boss, be careful with that German report. It's supposed to be taken out. There are a lot of problems with that." He said: "Yeah, yeah. Right. Don't worry about that."
SPIEGEL: But it turned out to be the centerpiece in Powell's presentation -- and nobody had told him about the doubts.
Drumheller: I turned on the TV in my office, and there it was. So the first thing I thought, having worked in the government all my life, was that we probably gave Powell the wrong speech. We checked our files and found out that they had just ignored it.
SPIEGEL: So the White House just ignored the fact that the whole story might have been untrue?
Drumheller: The policy was set. The war in Iraq was coming and they were looking for intelligence to fit into the policy. Right before the war, I said to a very senior CIA officer: "You guys must have something else," because you always think it's the CIA. "There is some secret thing I don't know." He said: "No. But when we get to Baghdad, we are going to find warehouses full of stuff. Nobody is going to remember all of this."
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