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Tyler S. Drumheller, at 63; officer in CIA opposed Iraq war

WASHINGTON — Tyler S. Drumheller, a high-level CIA officer who publicly battled agency leaders over one of the most outlandish claims in the US case for war with Iraq, died Aug. 2 at a hospital in Fairfax County, Va. He was 63.

The cause was complications from pancreatic cancer, said his wife, Linda.

Mr. Drumheller held posts in Africa and Europe over a 26-year career during which the CIA’s focus shifted from the Cold War to terrorist threats. He rose to prominent positions at CIA headquarters, serving as chief of the European division at a time when the agency was abducting Al Qaeda suspects on the continent and US allies there faced a wave of terrorist plots.

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But he was best known publicly for his role in exposing the extent to which a key part of the administration’s case for war with Iraq had been built on the claims of an Iraqi defector and serial fabricator with the fitting code name ‘‘Curveball.’’

In contrast to Hollywood’s depiction of spies as impossibly elegant and acrobatic, Mr. Drumheller, of Biloxi, Miss., was a bulky, rumpled figure.

Mr. Drumheller spent the bulk of his career as an undercover officer seeking to avoid public attention.

But after retiring in 2005, he emerged as a vocal critic of the George W. Bush administration’s use of deeply flawed intelligence to build support for its decision to invade Iraq in 2003. Mr. Drumheller was widely quoted in news accounts and appeared on the CBS program ‘‘60 Minutes.’’