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Originally published Tuesday, February 15, 2011 at 8:41 PM

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'Curveball' admits he lied to start Iraq War

The Iraqi defector whose claims that Saddam Hussein's government had biological weapons became part of the Bush administration's justification...

The New York Times

WASHINGTON — The Iraqi defector whose claims that Saddam Hussein's government had biological weapons became part of the Bush administration's justification for the 2003 invasion of Iraq has admitted that he fabricated his story.

The defector, Rafid Ahmed Alwan al-Janabi, who was code-named "Curveball" by the CIA and German intelligence officials, told the British newspaper The Guardian on Tuesday that he had concocted his tale that Iraq was hiding mobile bioweapons laboratories. He did so, he said, in hopes that his lies would lead to the eventual overthrow of the Iraqi ruler.

"I had the chance to fabricate something to topple the regime," Janabi told the newspaper. "I and my sons are proud of that, and we are proud that we were the reason to give Iraq the margin of democracy."

Janabi, who lives in Germany, has given several interviews in the past, but until now has always denied that he had lied to his intelligence handlers before the war in Iraq, even though his information had long been discredited.

The strange case of "Curveball" has become one of the most infamous episodes in the Bush administration's case for war. Janabi's claim about the mobile laboratories was featured prominently in Secretary of State Colin Powell's address to the United Nations in February 2003, when he laid out the administration's case that Saddam was hiding weapons of mass destruction.

The United States invaded Iraq in March 2003, and eventually determined that Iraq did not have any such weapons.

It later became clear that the Bush administration had relied heavily on bogus information from unreliable exiles like Janabi.

Even before the invasion, there was strong evidence that Janabi was an unreliable source, evidence which critics now say the Bush White House and the CIA's top leadership ignored.

Janabi, who defected to Germany in the 1990s, met repeatedly with German intelligence officials beginning in 2000.

They refused to allow CIA officials to meet directly with him, instead providing the Americans only with reports of what he had said.

Eventually, though, the Germans grew doubtful of their informer and passed on their suspicions to American intelligence officials.

Janabi said in his interview with The Guardian that he still believed that it was right for him to lie, because it was the only way to rid Iraq of Saddam.

In an interview conducted in German and translated by The Guardian, he said: "Believe me, there was no other way to bring about freedom to Iraq. There were no other possibilities."

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