March 2, 2007
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Who is this scientist?

Colin Powell’s famous PowerPoint presentation to the UN Security Council included this slide (from Gregory Pece's MA thesis, The PowerPoint Society)

Who is this scientist?

Who is the scientist in the picture?

We now know that this slide’s argument was based almost completely on source Curveball, a purported defector who was actually a disinformation agent of Ahmed Chalabi’s exile group. Powell thought this was a sound source at the time, backed by other sources, but all the information turned out to be planted and almost all traced back to Curveball.

But surely this isn’t a picture of Curveball himself: you aren't going to take a highly secret source on whom so much depends and literally broadcast his photo on television. But I assume it’s not just a picture of a nice man with books, lifted from Corbis or Getty or .

But what could it be? Either it’s a confidential source — an ex-Iraqi nuclear scientist — or it’s not. If it’s a source, why are we telling everybody? If it’s a stock photo, what is it doing on the slide?

I bet this can be found out — and the method for finding out will itself be an interesting new media question. Got an idea? Email me.

"Update: The scientist in the picture is physicist Faleh Hassan, whose house was searched by UN weapons inspectors in 2003. BBC. 'Mr Hassan insists [the papers] are part of his private research and from doctoral theses of his students at Baghdad University.' I wonder how things go with him now. Winning strategy: Ken Tompkins found a similar PowerPoint deck online at the US Embassy to Thailand, which credits the photo to Reuters. That suggests the subject must have been covered in the news, and a Google Image Seach for iraq scientist nuclear papers home yields the name and Image search for Faleh Hassan gets plenty of pictures."