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The University of Texas at Austin

Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs



The LBJ School of Public Affairs presents

Bob Drogin - Curveball: Spies Lies and the Con Man Who Caused a War

Curveball
Curveball: Spies Lies and the Con Man Who Caused a War
Additional Reviews of Curveball:

THIS is a book you can imagine Alec Leamas, the miserable spook hero of "The Spy Who Came In From the Cold", enjoying on the number 11 bus back to his dingy Hammersmith flat..."Curveball" offers a squalid and up-to-date procession of real-life fools, traitors and game-players seeking to brighten their rotten lives. --The Economist

Even though we know how this story ends, said Judith Miller in The Wall Street Journal, Drogin brings suspense to his detailed retelling...The timely and valuable accomplishment of Curveball is that it shows precisely how the intelligence agencies we have today bring out "the worst impulses of intelligence professionals. --The Week

Bob Drogin has achieved the unlikely feat of making the intelligence blunder that led to the invasion of Iraq into a gripping spy story...He does what a good reporter must: bring the story to life. --Adam Begley, New York Observer

In his new book, "Curveball: Spies, Lies, and the Con Man Who Caused a War," Los Angeles Times reporter Bob Drogin gives the most comprehensive account to date of the man who was the source of much of the faulty intelligence about weapons of mass destruction that was used to justify the U.S. invasion. Drogin explains how "Curveball," a still-anonymous Iraqi who defected to Germany in 1999, came to be a principal source for American intelligence, even though the CIA didn't even know who he really was until after the war had begun. Drogin's narrative is simpler and sadder and, in some ways, more disturbing than if this really was just a tale about a known liar and the neocons who loved him. Instead, it's the story of a man desperate for political asylum and what he was willing to say to get it; of German intelligence officers who wanted to tweak their American rivals; and of American intelligence officers who were determined to give their bosses what their bosses wanted. Salon spoke to Drogin by telephone. --Alex Koppelman, Salon

Mr. Drogin breathes life into this saga, offering fascinating detail and creating suspense even though we now know how the story will end. What is more, he provides an instructive inside look at the clandestine community's closed culture. He shows, for instance, that an enmity between the German and American intelligence services -- rooted in Cold War rivalries -- played a role in Germany's unwillingness to give the CIA access to its cherished, if dubious, source.

We see the Defense Intelligence Agency, acting as a conduit between the Germans and the CIA, handling the Curveball material ineptly, passing along sloppy translations and making scant effort to vet Curveball's veracity for itself. We see the childish bickering between the CIA and the DIA and, at times, between CIA officials themselves. We have a seat at the conference table during a heated clash, in December 2002, over Curveball's reliability between "Beth," the CIA's chief analyst, whose division had endorsed Curveball, and "Margaret," the skeptical CIA's operations group chief for Germany, who invites Beth, memorably, to "kiss my ass in Macy's window."

How the CIA came to trust a source it couldn't interview and why it insisted on his veracity long after the agency should have walked away from him is at the heart of this page-turner (which has been bought for a feature film). In depressing detail, Mr. Drogin portrays a U.S. intelligence apparatus in utter disarray, burdened by poor spycraft, a risk-averse culture, bureaucratic rivalries, poor communication and, at times, a reluctance to deliver news that is at odds with what higher-ups most want to hear.

But Mr. Drogin goes further. He insists that the WMD fiasco was caused by outright "lies" and by officials for whom "tawdry ambitions and spineless leadership proved more important than professional integrity." He alludes to the visits of Vice President Cheney to CIA headquarters in Langley, Va., and to Scooter Libby's draft of Secretary Powell's U.N. speech, implying that they are evidence of soul-compromising political pressure. He says that Curveball might have "fused fact and fiction" but that "others twisted and magnified his account in grotesque ways. --Judith Miller, Wall Street Journal

Just when you thought the WMD debacle couldn't get worse, here comes veteran Los Angeles Times national-security correspondent Drogin's look at just who got the stories going in the first place...Simultaneously sobering and infuriating-essential reading for those who follow the headlines. --Kirkus Reviews

In this engrossing account, Los Angeles Times correspondent Drogin paints an intimate and revealing portrait of the workings and dysfunctions of the intelligence community. --Publishers Weekly

Enter Bob Drogin's new book... an insightful and compelling account of one crucial component of the war's origins... Had Drogin merely pieced together Curveball's story, it alone would have made for a thrilling book. But he provides something more: a frightening glimpse at how easily we could make the same mistakes again...The real value of Drogin's book is its meticulous demonstration that bureaucratic imperative often leads to self-delusion. --Washington Monthly

Drogin delivers a startling account of this fateful intelligence snafu. --Booklist

But, again, the intelligence community was disappointing the Bush administration... Los Angeles Times correspondent Bob Drogin lays out the whole sorry tale in his forthcoming book, "Curveball: Spies, Lies, and the Con Man Who Caused a War." --Newsweek

In chronicling the perfect storm of ideology, dishonesty and incompetence that transformed a liar's fabrications into a casus belli, (Drogin) has preserved for posterity a crucial chapter of the Bush years. "Curveball" achieves the synthesis all investigative journalism aspires to: penetrating reportage, trenchant political commentary and page-turning drama. --San Francisco Chronicle

Amazing and horrifying. --San Diego Union Tribune

Drogin tells Curveball's story with an eye toward intrigue. He keeps the pace moving...Well-written and researched. --Los Angeles Times