August Hanning, the now retired Bundesnachrichtendienst boss, told the Welt am Sonntag newspaper that the administration of former US President George W. Bush presented unconfirmed reports by a BND source about Iraqi bio-weapons labs as a fact to the UN Security Council.
“The US misused the BND to start the Iraq War,” Hanning told the paper, adding that Germany was not at blame for the deception. "The Americans need to take responsibility for the war themselves."
The former spook also said the Bush administration was already planning the Iraq invasion in September 2001 shortly after the terrorist attacks in New York and Washington DC. Just two weeks after the World Trade Center was destroyed, the BND received a request the US Central Intelligence Agency asking for any German information about Saddam Hussein's Iraq.
"For me, the request was a first sign of an American military strike in Iraq," Hanning said.
The Americans were particularly interested in an Iraqi informant with the tragically ironic code name "Curveball." He was a former Iraqi chemical engineer who had come to Germany in 1999 as an asylum seeker and who gave the BND information. Among other things, he claimed that Iraq possessed rolling biological weapons laboratories.
He later admitted to having lied about that.
Several former senior BND officials told the newspaper that the agency had repeatedly warned the CIA not to take Curveball's information as fact. Hanning, the BND president at the time, even formulated his concerns about that in a letter to then CIA Director George Tenet.
Powell's infamous UN speech
However, Bush officials used the statements of the BND informant as a reason to attack Iraq. In his now infamous speech on February 5, 2003 at the United Nations, then US Secretary of State Colin Powell listed three highly controversial reasons for military intervention in Iraq – including the information about mobile biological weapons laboratories from Germany.
"The Americans assured me that our information would not be used in the Powell speech," Hanning said, noting he complained to the CIA following Powell's appearance before the UN Security Council.
“The BND was burned,” he said.
The CIA would not comment to the paper on the allegations.
In his first interview with the German media, Curveball, whose real name is Rafed Aljanabi, admitted to lying about the mobile labs.
"Honestly, I was telling a false story about mobile bioweapons labs because I wanted to increase the pressure on Saddam Hussein," the 44-year-old told the newspaper.
When he made those statements, he said he was not aware that he was speaking to the BND. He thought he was being interviewed by a weapons inspector.
Aljanabi said he did not want to start a war. After he was exposed in November 2007, the BND pressured him to go undercover and to surgically change his appearance. He refused to do so.