Friday :: Jul 29, 2005

Uranium from Africa and the Senate (SSCI) Report: Part 3A-7


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, Part 3A-3, Part 3A-4, Part 3A-5, Part 3A-6]. (Note that all bold/highlighted text in this post is my emphasis).

3A-7. Report from Foreign Intelligence Service B in Jan 2003 on alleged attempt by Iraq to seek uranium as early as 1999

Summary

The Senate report says:

On January 27, 2003, a CIA intelligence report...said that separate foreign government service had information on Iraqi attempts to obtain uranium from Niger, dating from 1999, but had no further information. [page 64]

Analysis

I strongly suspect that the foreign service mentioned here (call it FIS-B) is British intelligence. The British were aggressively pushing the 1999 angle, even in the Butler Report, despite the fact that both the IAEA (before the war) and the Iraq Survey Group (after the Iraq invasion) showed that the reports associated with 1999 did not have any credibility with respect to the claim that it had something to do with Saddam seeking uranium from Africa. I also did a more detailed analysis of the year 1999 claims in my review of the Joseph Wilson trip to Niger and showed that there was nothing to these claims.

Indeed, it was no surprise then, that when the CIA asked FIS-B for documentation or corroboration, they were unable to provide anything credible:

On February 3, 2003, the CIA sent a cable to [redacted] requesting information from the foreign government service, on its January 27, 2003 report which [redacted] had information on a Iraq-Niger uranium deal from 1999. The cable said, "the issue of Iraqi uranium procurement continues to resonate with senior policymakers and may be part of SecState's speech to the UN Security Council on 5 Feb 2003 if [a foreign government service] is able to provide a contract for the 1999 uranium deal, confirm that the information was not from another foreign government service, [redacted]." The same day, CIA [redacted] responded that the foreign government service does not have a copy of the contract, the information was of "national origin," [redacted]. [page 67]

Reading between the lines, the CIA asked FIS-B (most likely British intelligence) to let them know whether they had any contract copies proving their 1999 uranium claim, that *did not originate* from FIS-A (Italian intelligence service). FIS-B responded saying "No contract, but the sources are ours." This interpretation is bolstered, as I said, by the British sticking to the 1999 claim in the Butler report.

However, the CIA's real position on the alleged 1999 deal became clear in their response to Senator Carl Levin's letter, dated Jan 29, 2003, asking for proof of Bush's State of the Union claim on uranium in Africa.

The response says the CIA believes the government of Niger's assurances that it did not contract with Iraq but says, "nonetheless, we question, [redacted], whether Baghdad may have been probing Niger for access to yellowcake in the 1999 timeframe. [page 69]

The CIA's very weak confidence in the credibility of the report comes through immediately, especially with the use of the phrase "may have been". The CIA thus acknowledged that the intelligence was definitely not a certainty. So, it was not a fact that Iraq was not seeking uranium (based on this 1999 claim), but a conjecture - they "may have been" seeking uranium (which sounds familiar, doesn't it).

Later, the position became even more clear:

On April 5, 2003, the NIC issued a Sense of the Community Memorandum (SOCM)...The SOCM said, "we judge it highly unlikely that Niamey has sold uranium yellowcake to Baghdad in recent years. The IC agrees with the IAEA assessment that key documents purported showing a recent Iraq-Niger sales accord are a fabrication. We judge that other reports from 2002 - one alleging warehousing of yellowcake for shipment to Iraq, a second alleging a 1999 visit by an Iraqi delegation to Niamey - do not constitute credible evidence of a recent or impending sale." The SOCM added, "the current government of Niger [redacted] probably would report such an approach by the Iraqis, especially because a sale would violate UN resolution 687." [page 71]

So, they were obviously referring to the same alleged trip that my previous review demonstrated had nothing to do with uranium.

Finally, the CIA themselves made an unambiguous statement:

On June 17, 2003, nearly five months after the President delivered the State of the Union address, the CIA produced a memorandum for the DCI which said, "since learning that the Iraq-Niger uranium deal was based on false documents earlier this spring, we no longer believe that there is sufficient other reporting to conclude that Iraq pursued uranium from abroad." This memorandum was not distributed outside the CIA and the Committee has not been provided with any intelligence products in which the CIA published its corrected assessment on Iraq's pursuit of uranium from Niger outside of the agency. [page 71]

Conclusion

Once again, like in the previous "intelligence" reports, there was no credible evidence to back up this claim. The claim was unfounded, and at best it had always been highly questionable and the CIA knew this before the State of the Union.

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