WASHINGTON — Secretary of State Colin Powell says the CIA was wrong about the presence of mobile biological weapons labs in Iraq before the invasion by U.S.-led coalition forces last year.
In a February 2003 speech to the United Nations, Powell presented the claim as part of the evidence that Saddam Hussein was pursuing weapons of mass destruction.
Interviewed Sunday on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” Powell said his presentation “was based on the best information that the Central Intelligence Agency made available to me. ... In the case of the mobile trucks and trains, there was multiple sourcing for that. Unfortunately, that multiple sourcing over time has turned out to be not accurate.”
Powell continued: “At the time that I made the presentation, it reflected the collective judgment, the sound judgment of the intelligence community. But it turned out that the sourcing was inaccurate and wrong and, in some cases, deliberately misleading.”
In April, Powell used more vague language in discussing the intelligence that led him to believe the Iraqis had mobile biological weapons labs. “It appears not to be the case that it was that solid,” he said.
Current and former U.S. officials, including David Kay, the former chief weapons inspector in Iraq, have said that most of the evidence came from an Iraqi defector code-named “Curveball.”
According to newspaper accounts, U.S. officials didn't know the defector's name until after the war, when they learned that he was a brother of one of the top aides of Ahmad Chalabi, the Iraqi exile who was an important advocate for the U.S. invasion of Iraq.
The Los Angeles Times reported in March that the most of the information about the supposed mobile laboratories was passed to the CIA by the German Intelligence Service (BND).
Kay has said that Curveball was a "downright swindler," and charged that the case suggested "a lack of due diligence and care" by U.S. officials.
In May 2003, the CIA said it had found two suspicious trucks in northern Iraq. The agency later backtracked, but some Bush administration officials continued to cite the discovery as supporting the prewar intelligence.
As recently as January, Vice President Dick Cheney referred to the trucks as "conclusive" proof that Iraq was producing weapons of mass destruction. But CIA Director George Tenet later testified to Congress that he had called Cheney to warn him that the evidence was in doubt.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.