14 April, 2013


BBC Panorama
It's now 10 years since forces led by the United States invaded Iraq and overthrew Saddam Hussein. The reason for the invasion was made clear: Iraq had weapons of mass destruction (WMD). But it's now accepted there were in fact none. So where did the original "evidence" come from and why was it believed? 

One man who told American and British spy agencies what they wanted to hear was Rafid Ahmed Alwan al-Janabi, known as 'Curveball'. He claimed that not only did Saddam have WMD, but he'd also constructed mobile germ factories on trucks, creating a potential hell on wheels. In the aftermath of September 11, this testimony became the centrepiece in the case to justify an invasion of Iraq. 

There was just one problem - the story was a fabrication. Al-Janabi was asked about his testimony: "The fact is that we went to war in Iraq on a lie, and that lie was your lie?" He replied: "Yes." 

This week on Four Corners BBC reporter Peter Taylor exposes, with forensic detail, how intelligence services on both sides of the Atlantic ignored information from reputable sources that said Iraq had no WMD. He also describes how, at the same time, the CIA and MI6 cherry-picked intelligence to submit to their political masters that would justify military action. "There was a consistent effort to find key intelligence that supported pre-conceived positions. Very bad intelligence got to the leadership very quickly, but other intelligence just didn't make it." 

 In this hothouse atmosphere, every possible piece of evidence justifying an invasion was highly prized. However, as Taylor explains, the evidence of al-Janabi and another man - Major Mohammad Harith, an Iraqi defector with links to the Iraqi National Congress (INC) - was crucial. Al-Janabi's evidence was considered so important that it was used by former US Secretary of State, Colin Powell, when he addressed the United Nations to argue the need for military action. 

Powell quoted directly from al-Janabi's testimony, using it as evidence that WMD existed. Talking with al-Janabi himself, a key CIA officer and the former head of German Intelligence, Peter Taylor makes a compelling case that not only was al-Janabi lying but that the US had been warned of his lack of credibility. As one former CIA officer explains, he spoke to the Head of the CIA, George Tenet, and told him not to rely on 'Curveball'. 

Tenet told him not to be concerned. Later when al-Janabi was exposed as a fraud, Tenet denied he had been warned at all. The CIA officer tells Taylor: 

"One of us is not telling the whole truth so, I'm quite comfortable with what I have to say." "The Spies Who Fooled the World", reported by Peter Taylor and presented by Kerry O'Brien, goes to air on Monday 15th April at 8.30pm on ABC1. It is replayed on Tuesday 16th April at 11.35pm. It can also be seen on ABC News 24 Saturday at 8.00pm and at ABC iview .