Wippl Discusses Lead up to Iraq Invasion in NYT Magazine

Joseph Wippl, Professor of the Practice of International Relations at the Frederick S. Pardee School of Global Studies at Boston University, was quoted in a story from the July 19, 2020, issue of the New York Times MagazineThe article chronicles former Secretary of State Colin Powell’s speech before the U.N. on February 5, 2003, which presented the U.S. findings on Iraq’s weapons program and expressed the urgency of putting an end to it, by invasion if necessary. 

At the time of Powell’s speech before the U.N., Wippl was the Central Intelligence Agency’s (CIA) chief of station in Berlin. As described in the article, the crux of Secretary Powell’s argument that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction was based on the accounts of a former Iraqi chemical engineer code-named “Curveball.” Powell and his team deemed Curveball a credible source; however, a message from Wippl, which did not reach Powell or his team in time, raised serious concerns about the validity of “Curveball’s” claims.

An excerpt:

The German intelligence agency handling Curveball ‘has not been able to verify his reporting,’ Wippl warned. He added: ‘The source himself is problematical. Defer to headquarters, but to use information from another liaison service’s source whose information cannot be verified on such an important, key topic should take the most serious consideration.’

Powell knew nothing about these serious concerns. The C.I.A.’s dissenters were not in the room during the secretary’s U.N. speech preparation – and Curveball’s intelligence was the room’s star attraction. ‘George was on the team, and that itself is an issue,’ Wippl would later reflect. ‘It was, ‘Hey, guys, we’re going to war – and we’ll find this stuff anyway once we’re there.’ It’s something that, in retrospect, kind of makes you sick.’

The full article can be read here.

Joseph Wippl is a former CIA officer. He spent a 30 year career as an operations officer in the National Clandestine Service (NCS). On assignments in CIA headquarters, he served as the Deputy Chief of Human Resources, as the Senior NCS representative to the Aldrich Ames Damage Assessment Team, as Chief of Europe Division and as the CIA’s Director of Congressional Affairs. Prior to his arrival at Boston University, he occupied the Richard Helms Chair for Intelligence Collection in the NCS training program. Wippl has taught at BU since 2006, and speaks and writes widely on issues regarding intelligence. Read more about him here