The CIA and the Pentagon's Defense Intelligence Agency are blaming each other for validating information from a dubious Iraqi defector who was the key source for Bush administration claims that Saddam Hussein was building a fleet of mobile biological weapons labs and factories. The defector, given the code name "Curveball," produced such detailed accounts of the alleged motorized death factories that Secretary of State Colin Powell brandished drawings based on Curveball's descriptions when he presented the case against Saddam to the U.N. Security Council.

Officials acknowledge that U.S. spies never spoke directly to Curveball before using his information in speeches and papers because Germany's foreign intelligence service, which controlled access, said the informant distrusted Americans. Officials familiar with the CIA's views say it was the DIA that handled all direct dealings with German intelligence about Curveball and say the Pentagon should answer questions about whether his story was properly investigated. Defense officials say that the CIA "should look in the mirror" before blaming the fiasco on the DIA. One source who helped uncover the apparent fraud said the defector's story sounded plausible until investigators started checking out details of his story on the ground in Iraq after the war, at which point it unraveled. Powell told reporters he has "had discussions with the CIA" about Curveball's story. But a State Department official said Powell doesn't think anybody in U.S. intelligence was deliberately trying to con him.