A review by the Defence Intelligence Agency found members of the Iraqi National Congress, an organisation of exiles opposed to Saddam Hussein’s regime, had stretched the truth or lied outright about their credentials and the information they supplied, the New York Times said on Monday.
“Several Iraqi defectors introduced to American intelligence agents by the exile organisation and its leader, Ahmad Chalabi, invented or exaggerated their credentials as people with direct knowledge of the Iraqi government and its suspected unconventional weapons programme,” the paper said.
The defectors gave US officials supposed details of Saddam Hussein’s alleged nuclear, chemical and biological weapons programme.
The information was then used by the White House in the months leading up to the attack on Iraq to win public support for the war.
“But a review early this year by the defence agency concluded that no more than one-third of the information was potentially useful, and efforts to explore those leads since have generally failed to pan out,” the newspaper said, quoting unnamed officials.
Before the war, Chalabi was touted by many senior figures in the Bush administration as a possible future Iraqi leader, and he now sits on the US-installed Iraqi Governing Council.
$1 million wasted
Several government officials told the paper the arrangement had "wasted more than $1 million in taxpayers' money" and had led them to question the credibility of Chalabi and the INC.
But two other unnamed officials from the US Defence Department defended the arrangement, saying the credibility of the Iraqi defectors, though low, had been roughly on par with that of most human intelligence about Iraq.
The officials also said the Defence Intelligence Agency had been generally sceptical of the defectors from the start.
"...they were motivated more by the money and the desire to stir up sentiment against Saddam Hussein than by a desire to provide accurate information” they told the paper.