Home—Silver Spring, MD. E-mail—[email protected]
Charlotte Observer, Charlotte, NC, police/investigative reporter, 1977-79; Philadelphia Enquirer, Philadelphia, PA, environment reporter, 1981-83; Los Angeles Times, national correspondent in New York, NY, 1983-89, bureau chief in Southeast Asia, 1989-93, bureau chief in South Africa, 1993-97, intelligence/national security correspondent in the Washington, DC bureau, 1998-2006, investigative reporter in the Washington, DC bureau, 2007—. United Nations Children's Fund, Indonesia, program associate, 1973-75, Thailand, Kampuchean emergency relief coordinator, 1980.
Pulitzer Prize for Meritorious Public Service, 1981, for article "Brown Lung: A Case of Deadly Neglect"; Los Angeles Times Editorial Award for Best News Feature, 1991; Robert F. Kennedy Journalism Award for International Print (honorable mention), 1994; Hal Boyle Award, Overseas Press Club of America, 2001; Los Angeles Times Editorial Award for Beat Reporting, 2004; Investigative Reporters and Editors Award for best investigative book, and "Cornelius Ryan Award" for best book on international affairs, Overseas Press Club of America, both 2007, both for Curveball. John S. Knight fellow, Stanford University, 1997; Media Fellow, Hoover Institution, Stanford University, 2006.
Curveball: Spies, Lies, and the Con Man Who Caused a War, Random House (New York, NY), 2007.
Curveball has been translated into nine languages.
One of the reasons the George W. Bush administration gave for the 2003 invasion of Iraq was that Iraq's leader, Saddam Hussein, possessed weapons of mass destruction. Among these weapons, according the U.S. intelligence community, were biological warfare agents that were being shipped around Iraq in mobile laboratories. This assertion was based upon testimony of an Iraqi defector in Germany who claimed to have worked in Iraq's biological weapons program. Bob Drogin, an investigative reporter for the Los Angeles Times, uncovers the truth about the shadowy Iraqi informant—and the agencies that believed him—in Curveball: Spies, Lies, and the Con Man Who Caused a War. As the title suggests, the informant, code-named "Curveball," ultimately proved to be untrustworthy, even as his assertions helped plunge America into the Iraq War.
Drogin is a professional journalist who began writing for the Los Angeles Times in 1983 as a national correspondent and went on to work abroad, reporting from bureaus in Africa and Asia. In 1998 he was assigned to cover intelligence and national security, making him responsible for investigative dispatches on the events surrounding the World Trade Center Towers bombings and the subsequent U.S. invasion of Iraq. Two years before 9/11, a young Iraqi engineer fled his homeland and sought asylum in Germany, claiming to have secrets about Iraq's biological weapons program. The German intelligence agency shared transcripts of the refugee's interviews with the U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) but would not allow either that agency or the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) to meet with the man personally. Curveball describes the series of events that led to this one man's uncorroborated evidence being accepted as truth by those at the highest levels of power in the United States, unreasonably bolstering America's case for invading Iraq. In an interview with Amy Goodman for Democracy Now!, Drogin said that the book arose from his attempts to penetrate the chain of misinformation that led many Americans to believe in a threat that did not exist. "I tried to sort of drill down and peel back the layers of what had happened here, this idea of these bureaucracies made up of people who are trained to lie, cheat and steal … at every possible juncture" he said. Later in the same interview he added: "The entire intelligence community got this so devastatingly wrong."
Curveball details how the intelligence community failed, beginning in 1999 when German operatives believed a man who was fabricating lies, and ending in 2003 when those lies, accepted as truth, found their way into compelling speeches by General Colin Powell and Vice President Dick Cheney. In an interview with Harper's magazine, Drogin described to Ken Silverstein his exposé as a chronicle of "tawdry ambition, frightening ineptitude and spineless leadership."
Reviewers of Curveball emphasized both the righteous indignation readers ought to feel while digesting Drogin's material and the cautionary tale Drogin offers for future intelligence efforts pertaining to the war on terror. A Publishers Weekly contributor called the book "an intimate and revealing portrait of the workings and dysfunctions of the intelligence community." In Washington Monthly, Spencer Ackerman wrote: "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." New York Times Book Review contributor Christopher Dickey noted: "This is a story of willful blindness masquerading as secret intelligence … and Drogin rises to the occasion." A Kirkus Reviews commentator concluded that Curveball is "simultaneously sobering and infuriating—essential reading for those who follow the headlines."
In an interview with American Prospect's Tara McKelvey, Drogin spoke about his motivation for writing Curveball. "I think like most people I felt betrayed," he said. "I didn't believe everything [the intelligence community] told us but I had to assume they knew more than I did. That's the … reason I got obsessed with this story. So if there's vindication there, I found the book cathartic."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Arms Control Today, December, 2007, review of Curveball: Spies, Lies, and the Con Man Who Caused a War, p. 47.
Booklist, September 15, 2007, Gilbert Taylor, review of Curveball, p. 18.
Economist, November 3, 2007, "Inventing the Dots: Espionage," review of Curveball, p. 100.
Harper's, October, 2007, Ken Silverstein, "Six Questions for Bob Drogin on Curveball and the Iraq War."
Kirkus Reviews, September 1, 2007, review of Curveball.
New York Times Book Review, November 18, 2007, Christopher Dickey, "Artificial Intelligence," review of Curveball, p. 22.
Publishers Weekly, September 3, 2007, review of Curveball, p. 54.
Washington Monthly, October, 2007, Spencer Ackerman, "When WMD Meets Office Space: How Petty Bureaucratic Jealousies in the Intelligence World Led to the Invasion of Iraq," review of Curveball, p. 46.
American Prospect Web site,http://www.prospect.org/ (November 27, 2007), Tara McKelvey, "The CIA's Flim-Flam Man."
Curveball Book Web site,http://www.curveballbook.com/ (July 18, 2008), author biography and reviews.
Democracy Now! Web site,http://www.democracynow.org/ (January 24, 2008), Amy Goodman, "Curveball: Reporter Bob Drogin on ‘Spies, Lies, and the Con Man Who Caused a War.’"
Random House Web site,http://www.randomhouse.com/ (June 12, 2008), author biography.