Secrecy News has previously carried two brief analyses regarding the origin of conceptions and descriptions of an ostensible possession by Iraq of mobile BW production vehicles. The first (Part I) appeared on June 29, 2006 titled "Unresolved Questions Regarding US Government Attribution of a Mobile Biological Production Capacity by Iraq" (pdf). The second (Part II), "Further Information Regarding US Government Attribution of a Mobile Biological Production Capacity by Iraq", appeared on August 13, 2006. The first of these items contained information about the Iraqi defector codenamed "Curveball." It noted Curveball's relations with Ahmad Chalabi and his CIA- and DIA-funded organization, the Iraqi National Congress (INC). In addition, Chalabi and the INC provided two of three additional defectors who offered extremely tenuous "corroboration" of Curveball's testimony. This raises the possibility that Curveball may have made contact with INC representatives in Europe, or with Chalabi directly, and that Chalabi may even have been instrumental in suggesting that Curveball should approach the German BND as well as the nature of the information that he should provide. If this postulated train of events is correct, it would make Chalabi instrumental in Curveball's initial role, not only for the INC provision of subsequent "corroborating" informants. As indicated in Part I (June 29), Curveball's information was provided to the German intelligence services from late-1999 through 2001, and much of it had reached US intelligence agencies during 2000. (The Silberman-Robb report states that "Curveball began reporting in January 2000;" this, however, is apparently when the first reports reached US intelligence services.) However, the most likely route by which suggestive information about putative Iraqi mobile BW production platforms could have reached Ahmad Chalabi, which he could then have utilized in feeding informants back to US intelligence agencies, has been overlooked. By his own account, Scott Ritter, the UNSCOM inspector who later became a disputed public figure, met with Chalabi in London in January and July 1998 and discussed such putative vehicles. In his 2004 book, Ritter wrote "I have met repeatedly with Achmed Chalabi."1 Ritter was seeking information from informants inside Iraq working with the INC that might help UNSCOM to resolve its intractable problems. Ritter's prime responsibility almost from the inception of his work with UNSCOM was attempting to track, intercept and overcome Iraq's mobile concealment and inspection evasion organization based in the Iraqi intelligence agencies. In speaking with Chalabi, Ritter mentioned that he suspected that Iraq might have mobile BW and CW production facilities. Interviewed for a long New Yorker profile of Chalabi, Ritter said that
Further Information Regarding US Government Attribution of a Mobile Biological Production Capacity by Iraq (cont'd)by Milton Leitenberg
He outlined most of the U.N. inspector's capabilities and theories, telling Chalabi how they had searched for underground bunkers with ground-penetrating radar. He also told Chalabi of his suspicion that Saddam may have had mobile chemical- or biological-weapon laboratories, which would explain why investigators hadn't been able to find them. "We made that up!" Ritter said. "We told Chalabi, and, lo and behold, he's fabricated a source for the mobile labs." 2Ritter was voicing his own concerns, and not those of UNSCOM's BW team. UNSCOM's senior BW inspectors had been the recipients of General al-Sa'adi's original information in 1996 in which he stated that prior to 1990 he had offered the suggestion of mobile BW production. Nevertheless they did not consider the possible existence of such vehicles to be likely, nor did they see the subject as one of their major priorities in 1998 and 1999. The above described chain of personal contacts produces a possible chain of information transfers from Scott Ritter to Chalabi, from Chalabi to Curveball, and from Curveball to the US CIA. It is also well known that Chalabi was perhaps the prime source of "intelligence" used by the Office of Special Plans (OSP), established by Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz in the office of Under Secretary of Defense Douglas Feith in the Department of Defense. The same INC-provided information was also a favorite source relied on by Vice President Cheney. Both Cheney's office and DOD's OSP were prime champions of the claim that Iraq had mobile BW production vehicles. Scott Ritter's book also provides extensive detail regarding his interactions with the CIA during the period that he served with UNSCOM. It is conceivable that the CIA may even have asked Ritter in the years prior to his visits with Chalabi to seek information about possible Iraqi mobile BW production vehicles. IF this occurred, one would have a complete circle of "information" fabricated as a consequence of CIA indications of interest coming back to the CIA as defector-provided "intelligence." At first glance, there appeared to be one further circle of possible involvement of Scott Ritter since he had admitted to participating in disinformation activities in yet another context while serving with UNSCOM. The "Butler Commission" report prepared for the British House of Commons in July 2004 contains the following page:
6.3 OPERATION MASS APPEALAs best as can be judged from the above information, the issue of Iraqi mobile biological weapon production vehicles was not one of the subjects that was involved in this covert UK disinformation effort. British press reports about Operation Mass Appeal, and a parent Operation Rockingham with in the British SIS and Joint Intelligence Committee (JIC) describe its functioning as somewhat similar to that of the US DOD's Office of Special Plans. Their description was aided by additional (British) press interviews with Scott Ritter.4 The Butler Commission's description of Project Rockingham is less tendentious than the press accounts, but none of these claim any involvement of disinformation regarding Iraqi mobile BW production vehicles.5 ___________________________
485. In November 2003, the former United Nations weapons inspector Scott Ritter was reported to have told journalists that, in the late-1990s, the Secret Intelligence Service (SIS) ran "Operation Mass Appeal" - an alleged disinformation campaign to disseminate "single source data of dubious quality" about Iraq, in order to "shake up public opinion".486. Mr Ritter was quoted as follows:
I was brought into the operation in 1997 because at the UN . . . I sat on a body of data which was not actionable, but was sufficiently sexy that if it could appear in the press could make Iraq look like in a bad way. I was approached by MI6 to provide that data, I met with the Mass Appeal operatives both in New York and London on several occasions. This data was provided and this data did find its way into the international media. It was intelligence data that dealt with Iraq's efforts to procure WMDs, with Iraq's efforts to conceal WMDs. It was all single source data of dubious quality, which lacked veracity. They took this information and peddled it off to the media, internationally and domestically, allowing inaccurate intelligence data to appear on the front pages. The government, both here in the UK and the US, would feed off these media reports, continuing the perception that Iraq was a nation ruled by a leader with an addiction to WMDs. [BBC News, 12 November 2003]487. Mr Ritter was reported as saying that he was prepared to reveal details before a public inquiry. 488. We took evidence from Mr Ritter, including on Operation Mass Appeal. Mr Ritter said that Operation Mass Appeal was already up and running when SIS approached him in December 1997. He was asked if there was material on Iraq's weapons programmes on which the United Nations Special Commission (UNSCOM) could not act, but which might be made public through media outlets in a range of countries. Mr Ritter said that Mr Richard Butler, the then Executive Chairman of UNSCOM, agreed that UNSCOM should co-operate with the UK in this way and that two reports relating to prohibited trade between Iraq and two other countries were passed to the UK the same month. UNSCOM's involvement then fell into abeyance until May 1998 when contact resumed. Mr Ritter said that he met SIS officers again in June 1998 to discuss Operation Mass Appeal for the last time. He resigned from UNSCOM soon after that. 489. We have examined relevant SIS papers. These confirm that there were two meetings between British Government officials and UNSCOM representatives, including Mr Ritter, in May and June 1998 at which there were discussions about how to make public the discovery of traces of the nerve agent VX on missile warheads after this fact had been reported to the United Nations Security Council. (Iraq had previously denied weaponising VX.) Operation Mass Appeal was set up for this specific purpose and did not exist before May 1998. In the event, before Operation Mass Appeal could proceed, the UNSCOM report was leaked to the press in Washington. Because of this, Operation Mass Appeal was abandoned. 3
1. Scott Ritter, Endgame: Solving the Iraq Problem - Once and for All, New York: Simon & Schuster, 1999, p. 202.
2. Jane Mayer, "The Manipulator: Ahmad Chalabi pushed a tainted case for war. Can he survive the occupation," The New Yorker, June 7, 2004.
3. Review of Intelligence on Weapons of Mass Destruction, Report of a Committee of Privy Counsellors Ordered by the House of Commons to be printed 14th July 2004, HC 898, London: The Stationery Office, 2004.
4. Michael Meacher, "David Kelly referred obliquely to Operation Rockingham. What role did this mysterious cell play in justifying the Iraq war," The Guardian, November 21, 2003; Nicholas Rufford, "Revealed: How MI6 sold the Iraq war," The Sunday Times, December 28, 2003.
5. Review of Intelligence on Weapons of Mass Destruction. See page 104.