Uranium from Africa and the Senate (SSCI) Report: Part 3C - Somalia
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, Part 3A-7, Part 3A-8, Part 3B].
In this post I examine the last bit of "intel" discussed in the Senate Report regarding Saddam Hussein's alleged attempt to seek significant quantities of uranium from Africa. The country in question here is Somalia. (Note that all bold/highlighted text in this post is my emphasis).
3B. Alleged attempts to procure uranium from Somalia
This bit of "evidence" is mentioned in passing, within a heavily redacted footnote, in the Senate Report:
Throughout the time the Niger reports were being disseminated. the [redacted] CIA Iraq nuclear analyst said he had discussed the issue with his INR colleague and was aware that INR disagreed with the CIA's position...The CIA analyst said he assessed at the time that the intelligence showed both that Iraq may have been trying to procure uranium in Africa and that it was possible Niger could supply it. He said his assessment was bolstered by several other intelligence reports on Iraqi interest in uranium from other countries in Africa.6 [page 47]
Footnote 6 refers to this:
[Redacted] Several intelligence reports [redacted] alleged Iraq wanted to purchase uranium from countries in Africa. [Redacted] said Iraq had offered the Democratic Republic of the Congo [redacted]. Two CIA intelligence reports from separate sources in March and April 1999 said a delegation of Iraqis, [redacted] had arrived in Somalia in March to evaluate and discuss [redacted] uranium from a Somali [redacted]. [page 47]
In September 2002, the DIA also issued an assessment citing "Iraqi efforts to acquire uranium from Somalia and the Democratic Republic of the Congo." [page 48]. A brief Somalia reference is also in the NIE.
The INR dissent to the uranium claims in the NIE is to be noted, when we refer to the NIE:
...the claims of Iraqi pursuit of natural uranium in Africa are, in INR's assessment, highly dubious. [page 53]
But, more importantly, the evidence is unambiguous that the Somalia intel was never credible and that the SOTU claim was NOT based on the Somalia intel. In brief:
1. If the argument is that the SOTU claim was based on British intelligence, then, as I have already shown previously, the Butler Report concluded quite clearly that the British claim about Saddam seeking uranium in Africa was based on a 1999 Niger visit by an Iraqi envoy Wissam Al-Zahawie - a visit that had nothing to do with uranium. Indeed, the Butler Report does not even list Somalia anywhere in its discussion of any evidence relating to Saddam's alleged seeking of uranium from Africa. The concluding statement of the report specifically did not list Somalia as being part of the reason behind the British claim about Saddam seeking uranium from Africa.
2. If the argument is that the SOTU claim was based on American intelligence, then the unambiguous statements of the CIA before and after the SOTU, and numerous, repeated statements issued by various senior officials in the Bush administration (including AFTER the Wilson op-ed) made it crystal clear that the SOTU claims were based on Niger and not Somalia or the favorite African country of the day for the Right (or for Bob Somerby).
3. The footnote in the Senate Report refers to an alleged Iraqi delegation visiting Somalia in March 1999. There was/is no evidence that such a delegation ever visited Somalia and this is likely one of the reasons why both the U.S. and the British completely killed this piece of "intel" from their subsequent claims (as the Senate and Butler Reports indicate). (In my previous discussion of allegations relating to Iraqis meeting Africans in 1999, I showed clearly that both the meetings in 1999 had nothing to do with uranium. The only known visit of an Iraqi to African countries in 1999 was that of Wissam al-Zahawie and the countries he visited were Niger, Burkina Faso, Benin and Congo-Brazzaville.)
4. Like the Democratic Republic of Congo, Somalia also has some uranium reserves on its territory (but not a whole lot). However, also like the Democratic Republic of Congo, Somalia does not have any active uranium mining capabilities or activities, making it implausible that Iraq would have been seeking "significant quantities of uranium" from Somalia. Somalia's industrial infrastructure has also been debilitatingly ravaged by years of civil war. The World Nuclear Association's annual uranium production figures and list of worldwide uranium mining does not include Somalia. This BBC article that raises concerns about unofficial/illegal uranium mining in Africa does not list Somalia either, even though it lists a horde of other African countries (Algeria, DR Congo, Gabon, Malawi, Zambia and Zimbabwe) in addition to the officially recognized list of uranium producing countries (Niger, Namibia and South Africa; note that Gabon was previously a producer but stopped production in 1999). So, it is not surprising that Somalia disappeared from the CIA/British claims as quietly as it appeared.
5*. The Robb-Silberman report (The President's WMD Commission) makes it clear that the so-called "evidence" relating to countries other than Niger was never considered credible. The report says:
The Intelligence Community agencies did not effectively authenticate the documents regarding an alleged agreement for the sale of uranium yellowcake from Niger to Iraq. The President referred to this alleged agreement in his State of the Union address on January 28, 2003-- evidence for which the Intelligence Community later concluded was based on forged documents .
To illustrate the failures involved in vetting this information, some details about its collection require elaboration. The October 2002 NIE included the statement that Iraq was "trying to procure uranium ore and yellowcake" and that "a foreign government service" had reported that "Niger planned to send several tons" of yellowcake to Iraq . The statement about Niger was based primarily on three reports provided by a liaison intelligence service to CIA in late 2001 and early 2002 .
The report hints that the Niger reports were the sole basis for the Bush 2003 SOTU claim. This becomes even more obvious when we consider the contents of Ref. 192 in the report (bold text is my emphasis):
192 Classified intelligence report (Oct. 2001); Classified intelligence report (Feb. 2002) ; Classified intelligence report (March 2002). There was additional reporting that Iraq was seeking to procure uranium from Africa, but this reporting was not considered reliable by most analysts at the time, and it was subsequently judged not credible and recalled. Interview with CIA WINPAC nuclear analysts (Aug. 11, 2004); CIA, Memorandum for the DCI, In Response to Your Questions for Our Current Assessment and Additional Details on Iraq's Alleged Pursuits of Uranium From Abroad (June 17, 2003) at p. 2. For example, s eparate reporting indicated Iraq had offered weapons to a country in exchange for uranium. Classified intelligence report (April 1999). There were two human intelligence reports in March-April 1999 indicating that a delegation of Iraqis, Iranians, and Libyans had arrived in Somalia to discuss the possibility of extracting uranium from a Somali mine. Classified intelligence report (March 1999); Classified intelligence report (April 1999). Another report indicated further Iraqi involvement with a uranium purchase. Classified intelligence report (April 2002); see also SSCI at p. 47 n. 6; CIA, Memorandum for the DCI, In Response to Your Questions for Our Current Assessment and Additional Details on Iraq's Alleged Pursuits of Uranium From Abroad (June 17, 2003) at p. 2....
In other words, consistent with the information in the Senate (SSCI) Report, the Robb-Silberman Report made it very obvious that the uranium from Africa claim in the 2003 SOTU was based on Niger alone.
[* Added 1/1/06]
The evidence is conclusive that claims relating to uranium and Somalia were not the basis for Bush's State of the Union claim.
All attempts to cite the Somalia claim to defend Bush's SOTU statement constitute obvious post facto myth-making to falsely attack Joseph Wilson and recover from the PR disaster that occurred after the Bush administration withdrew the false SOTU claim.
In fact, even the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA), in its memo to [Crying] Wolfowitz on June 12, 2003 [page 71 of the Senate report], did not mention Somalia (or the Democratic Republic of Congo) as being sources for the "uranium from Africa" allegation. This was before Joseph Wilson's op-ed.