Statement of John E. McLaughlin

Former Deputy Director of Central Intelligence

April 1, 2005

I did not know prior to Secretary Powell's UN speech that some of the information used in the biological weapons (BW) section was the product of a likely fabricator, as suggested by some of the testimony discussed in the Silberman-Robb Commission Report. I would never have permitted the use of such material by the Secretary had I known this. In fact, much of our time in the run-up to the speech was spent taking out material, including much that had been added by the policy community after the draft left the Agency, that we and the Secretary's staff judged to have been unreliable.

With hindsight and the benefit of on-the-ground investigation in Iraq, we now know that the specific material in question - reporting from a source code-named Curveball, who alleged mobile production of BW was underway - cannot be substantiated. It is difficult to reconstruct every moment of deliberation during the tumultuous period leading up to the Iraq war, but my predominant memory regarding this reporting is of receiving assurances at the time that the information was credible.

I was told that the source had produced close to a hundred reports - many highly technical in nature. The processes he described had been assessed by an independent laboratory as workable engineering designs. The UN had earlier come upon documentary evidence suggesting Iraq was contemplating mobile production of BW. Although we did not have direct access to the source, who was handled by a foreign intelligence service, that service had joined US Intelligence Community officers and representatives of two other foreign intelligence services in a quadrilateral conference in 2001 which had judged the reporting credible. Finally, the foreign service handling the source had granted permission to cite the information publicly, indicating, we thought, that it must have confidence in the reporting. These are the main things I remember from discussions at the time.

The Commission reports that several Agency officers say they had serious doubts about this reporting at the time and sought to raise them with Agency leadership. Let me state unequivocally that if someone had made these doubts clear to me, I would not have permitted the reporting to be used in Secretary Powell's speech. Regarding a reported meeting in which an Agency division chief is said to have told me in late January 2003 that Curveball might be a fabricator, I have absolutely no recall of such a discussion. None. Such a meeting does not appear on my calendar, nor was this view transmitted to me in writing.

I am at a loss to explain why accounts of this period vary so sharply. But if officers had confident knowledge of the source's unreliability, I am equally at a loss to understand why they passed up so many opportunities in the weeks prior to and after the Powell speech to highlight it and bring it forward.