The "We Had Other Intelligence Sources" Defense Begins to Fall Apart
The African uranium story that both the Brits and Bush have been claiming was based on multiple sources is falling apart today.
The Brits have been saying lately that their claim that Saddam was trying to buy uranium from African nations rested on intelligence information from more than one country, likely two. Over the weekend, the administration said that Bushís statement was technically accurate because the Brits claimed last year that they had more evidence than the Niger documents. In fact, the Brits were saying that their intelligence was from other intelligence that they had yet to share with the US, yet the US feels comfortable with sticking its neck out on the SOTU claims based on Intel it has never seen.
Well, the claims are falling apart today. The Financial Times this morning claims that the countries that supplied the African uranium stories were Italy and France. The CIA and others in the Intel community claimed that the forged documents upon which the Brits built their dossier and the CIA used in their October 2002 NIE came from Italian intelligence. But now the Italians are denying that they are the source of the Niger fakes.
The Italian government on Sunday denied reports that its intelligence services handed the United States and Britain documents indicating that Iraq was seeking uranium from Niger for a nuclear weapons programme.
The Financial Times reported Monday that Britain received information that Iraq was seeking to acquire uranium from Niger from two sources, thought to be France and Italy, which explained why it was included in the September dossier despite being told the US Central Intelligence Agency had "reservations" about its inclusion.
And, you guessed it, France has already come out and said that the other country was not them.
Furthermore, a source at the IAEA has told the media today that all the British evidence on this subject is based on fakes.
The United Nations nuclear watchdog believes Britain's evidence on Iraq trying to import uranium from Africa is all based on forged documents, a diplomat close to the agency said Monday.
British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw Monday said its evidence was not linked to the forged documents. It came from a third country and the Americans had not seen it.
"This information on which we relied, which was completely separate from the now notorious forged documents, came from foreign intelligence sources," Straw told BBC Radio.
A Western diplomat close the Vienna-based U.N. International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) said the IAEA had the impression the so-called genuine evidence was ultimately referring to the same alleged transaction described in a series of fake documents.
"I understand that it concerned the same group of documents and the same transaction," the diplomat told Reuters on condition on anonymity. Another diplomat said he thought Britain's other evidence came from French intelligence services.
The IAEA's impression arose from briefings on intelligence about Iraq gathered by national intelligence agencies.
Most of these briefings took place between November and March while the IAEA was hunting for signs Baghdad had secretly renewed its nuclear weapons program.
While IAEA officials did not actually see Britain's so-called genuine evidence, the diplomat said the IAEA had been briefed about it and concluded it referred to the same transaction which the agency now believes was never attempted.
So what exactly do the Brits have that the Americans based a part of their war rationale on? If Jack Straw says the British evidence was from other countries which havenít been disclosed to the US, and if the likely two countries for that intelligence have now backed away, then what the hell do the Brits have, especially if the IAEA and Scott Ritter think it was all based on lies and forgeries?
And please donít confirm one of my original fears on this, that we based this part of our rationale on forgeries that came from Mossad or Rumsfeldís Office of Special Plans. I donít think that Mossad is that clumsy in producing fakes signed by guys who are dead or gone. But Rummyís Pentagon, who cannot plan for an occupation, is definitely capable of being this stupid.
Given Strawís statement that the nature of the intelligence and its source country requires that it not be disclosed to the US makes me think it isnít Mossad anyway. But who is it, if it isnít the French, the Italians, or the Israelis?
Or does it exist at all? Can someone tell me which country or countries do not want their intelligence shared with the US? The rightwingers suspected that it was the French that didn't want their Intel shared with us, because it would only help us make our case. But the French denial today shot that down. Why hasn't anyone pinned Jack Straw down on which countries woulld not want to share their Intel with the US? Doesn't that claim sound more and more absurd on its face?
This, plus the bad news that the Third Infantry Division will not be coming home soon after all makes this a bad week for Bush.