Tuesday :: Jul 26, 2005

Uranium from Africa and the Senate (SSCI) Report: Part 3A-3

by eriposte

This is a continuing series focusing on the findings on the "uranium from Africa" issue in the whitewash Senate Report - the report by the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence (SSCI). [Previous parts: Introduction, Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 3A-1, Part 3A-2].

This part focuses briefly on the third intelligence report relating to an alleged Iraq-Niger uranium deal, from the same foreign intelligence service (FIS-A) that issued the first two reports (Part 3A-1). I am reserving most of the details of the discussion on this intelligence for my next post because this particular report has extraordinary significance. [Note that all bold/highlighted text is my emphasis; all page numbers refer to the Senate report].

3A-3. Third report from Foreign Intelligence Service A in Mar 2002 on alleged Iraq-Niger year 2000 uranium deal


The Senate Report points out (bold text is my emphasis):

On March 25, 2002, the DO issued a third and final intelligence report from the same "[foreign] government service." The report said that the 2000 agreement by Niger to provide uranium to Iraq specified that 500 tons of uranium per year would be delivered in [redacted].


The Senate Report also notes:

...on June 10, 2002, the government of Niger signed a comprehensive safeguards agreement with the IAEA. The cable [from U.S. Embassy, Niamey] indicated that the agreement would help ensure that Niger's uranium production is only used for "peaceful purposes."

On July 22, 2002, the DOE published an intelligence product...The report added that there was "no information indicating that any of the uranium shipments arrived in Iraq," and suggested that the "amount of uranium specified far exceeds what Iraq would need even for a robust nuclear weapons program.

On August 1, 2002 CIA NESA published a paper on Iraq's weapons of mass destruction (WMD) capabilities which did not include the alleged Iraq-Niger uranium information. [page 48]

At a time when some people in the CIA were advertising the Iraq-Niger claim, it is certainly interesting that NESA made no mention of it. The DOE statements clearly challenge the credibility of the so-called reports of a sales agreement, even further. (I have intentionally left out some additional information in the Senate Report that destroys the credibility of this third report because I plan to discuss that at some length in my next post).

Additionally, something quite dramatic happened over the next several months. At the same time that some in the CIA were going along with the uranium in Africa claim (contradicting INR), all of a sudden, starting in the September 2002 timeframe, some top people in the CIA started saying that the reports of Saddam seeking uranium in Africa were not credible. According to the Senate Report, this happened around the time (and after) the British government published a white paper in late September 2002 making the same claim. There were some fairly strong rebuttals by the Deputy DCI, the DCI himself and the CIA overall, to the British paper and to the general claim that Saddam was seeking uranium from Africa, in the October 2002 timeframe, and I've discussed that at length in previous posts. (Among other things, the CIA noted that one of the mines supposed to have been implicated in the allegations was flooded and could not have been a source of uranium.)


As I demonstrated in my previous post, at the end of the Wilson trip to Niger, the credibility of the claims that Iraq had been seeking uranium from Niger since 1999 and that a uranium deal with Niger had been signed by 2000 were both very low.

The weakness of the third intelligence report from FIS-A (more analysis forthcoming in the next part of this series), the DOE's statement that the uranium booked in the alleged deal far exceeded the amount Iraq would have needed, and the dramatic acknowledgement by senior CIA officials (like the Deputy DCI and the DCI) months later that the uranium from Africa claim was not credible were clear indicators that this third report from FIS-A did not in any way improve the credibility of the original reports. If anything, the CIA leadership's own behavior indicated that they actually lost confidence in the uranium from Africa reports (including alleged reports from outside Niger, which I will cover in subsequent parts). This was a significant - and seemingly inexplicable - development which I will revisit later.

Appendix: FIS-A

There is a fair amount of evidence suggesting that the foreign intelligence service (FIS-A) which sent the U.S. the original three reports on Niger (early 2002) was that of the Italian government (SISMI). For instance, at The Next Hurrah, emptywheel recently noted this:

From the way the SSCI treats the name of the country, it's clear that it is still considered classified. People have sometimes assumed that the country was England, but we're never supposed to have learned it definitively.

But right there, in the middle of Novak's Plame column, he says,

Wilson's mission was created after an early 2002 report by the Italian intelligence service about attempted uranium purchases from Niger, derived from forged documents prepared by what the CIA calls a "con man."

[emphasis mine]

In 2003, Novak revealed information that the Intelligence Community still treats as classified.

I don't know if that was really classified though, since this March 22, 2003 article by Dana Priest and Karen DeYoung in the Washington Post says:

The apparent genesis of the [forged] letters, or at least the U.S. and British willingness to believe in them, was a 1999 tour of African countries, including Niger, by Iraq's ambassador to Italy, noted at the time by a number of Western intelligence agencies. At some later point, a U.N. official recently told reporters, a Niger diplomat turned the letters over to Italian intelligence, which provided summaries of the information to Washington and London.

Although the Italians have been denying their role, the coincidence of the forged Niger documents (to be discussed in my next post) becoming public through an Italian journalist is another point of note.

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