Thursday :: Nov 3, 2005

Treasongate: The Niger Forgeries v. the CIA Intel Reports - Part 4: Wissam Al-Zahawi and Uranium from Niger

by eriposte

This is the next part of a series (see Introduction, Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3) focused on comparing the CIA intel reports on Niger to the corresponding contents of the relevant Niger documents (mostly forgeries) to understand how the forgeries were "mainstreamed" and to what extent Italian intelligence (SISMI) was complicit in this affair. This part focuses on another aspect of the CIA claims and the presence of false information in a related Niger document (Doc 2) that is missing in the CIA claim.

In the second Niger intel report from the CIA dated 2/5/02, the following claim was included per the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence (SSCI) Report (bold text is my emphasis):

Several analysts interviewed by Committee staff also pointed out that information in the second intelligence report matched [DELETED] reporting from 1999 which showed that an Algerian businessman, Baraka, was arranging a trip for the Iraqi Ambassador to the Vatican, Wissam al-Zahawi, to visit Niger and other African countries in early February 1999. [SENTENCE DELETED] [page 38]

This needs to be read in conjunction with the first Niger intel report from the CIA dated 10/15/01, where the following claim was included per the SSCI Report (bold text is my emphasis):

The intelligence report said the uranium sales agreement had been in negotiation between the two countries since at least early 1999, and was approved by the State Court of Niger in late 2000. [page 36]

The thrust of the CIA's claim was that an Iraqi delegation visited Niger in February 1999 and that it was the starting point of Iraq's alleged seeking of uranium from Niger, i.e., that Al-Zahawi's visit had something to do with uranium. Let's set aside, for a moment, the fact that it was not. As I briefly highlighted in Part 1, this combination of claims is plausibly traceable to two Niger documents: Doc 1 (possibly authentic) and Doc 2 (a forgery).

Doc 1 is a letter from the Niger embassy in Rome to the Nigerien Minister of Foreign Affairs announcing Al-Zahawi's trip. The letter is dated February 1, 1999 and is quite possibly authentic. Doc 2, as the Cryptome website notes, is an alleged letter from the Nigerien Minister of Foreign Affairs (Nassirou Sabo) to the Nigerien ambassador in Rome asking the latter to contact Wissam Al-Zahawi regarding an agreement signed on June 28, 2000, to supply uranium to Iraq. This alleged letter is, however, dated July 30, 1999 (at least you can't accuse the forgers of being boring and only time traveling to the past).

Recall that the second Niger intel report on 2/5/02 was the first one to introduce Al-Zahawi's name into the uranium junk that was being fed to the CIA. That raises the following question: if Doc 2 was indeed the smoking gun document that led to the introduction of Al-Zahawi's name into the Niger intel reports, then what specifically did the CIA (and/or INR) see from this document? After all, as Pat Conway previously observed, Doc 2 was not just an obvious forgery but it had several distinguishing characteristics compared to the other documents (I'm largely using Conway's words/sentences here but I've rearranged his comments in bullet form):

  • It has different idiosyncrasies than Docs 3, 4 and 5. First of all, the name of the government on the letterhead has changed. While Doc 4 refers to the “Conseil Militaire Supreme”, Doc 2 has the “Conseil de Reconciliation Nationale”.
  • The name of the foreign ministry has been updated. “Et De La Cooperation” in Doc 4 has been replaced by “Et De L’Integration Africaine” in Doc 2.
  • The seal of the foreign ministry has also changed (note the placing of the little shield) and a coat of arms has been added to the top of the page.
  • Most importantly, they’ve changed the name of the foreign minister. Instead of Allele Habibou, Doc 2 claims to be signed by Nassirou Sabo. However, Doc 2 is dated 30 July 1999 and in 1999, the foreign minister was Aichatou Mindaoudou. Sabo did not get the job until January 2000.
  • Doc 2 also has the uranium agreement signed on the 28 June 2000, whereas Docs 3, 4 and 5 have it signed more than a week later on the 5-6 July.
[Conway's speculation at the time was that Docs 3, 4 and 5 were forged sometime before the first Niger intel report in October 2001, but that Doc 2 was forged later, probably before the second report in February 2002. He was the one who first tipped me off to the likelihood that the second intel report was the first to implicate Wissam al-Zahawi in the uranium deal. He suspected at the time that Doc 2 was forged so that Al-Zahawi could be ‘name-dropped’ into the second report and that the CIA could be alerted to the pre-existing intelligence on Zahawi’s 1999 Niger trip.]

Again, these revelations are not new. The real issue is the following. Considering that Doc 2 likely played an important role in the CIA's (and the British Government's) linking the Al-Zahawi trip to uranium, how is it possible that the CIA (or INR) would have missed the litany of fake stuff in this document? It suggests, again, that the CIA (and INR) probably did not receive the full verbatim text of this alleged letter (Doc 2) or the corresponding forged document from SISMI (or any other sources) until sometime in Fall 2002. Prior to Fall 2002, they likely received select extracts from the Niger forgeries (from SISMI) passed off as "reliable" intel. But in this process, clearly someone was excluding information in Doc 2 that would have revealed it was a forgery. Obviously, the forgers of the documents would not have taken the trouble to do this (why include the fake information in the first place and then try to change it?). So, who did? The road, once again, would seem to lead to SISMI.

The notion that someone was correcting the information in the forgeries (perhaps before transmitting its contents to others) gains additional credence when you consider another observation. Although Doc 2 was dated July 30, 1999 (discussing, absurdly, an agreement from the year 2000), the date on the document was evidently hand-corrected at some later time. As the Cryptome website noted:

In the Panorama version the date has been hand corrected to the year 2000.
Very odd indeed.

In summary, here is what I conclude from the data/evidence available so far. Doc 2 was filled with false information. Someone was likely transmitting select pieces of information from this document to others (like the CIA). But they withheld or changed some of the information in the document before they transmitted extracts from it, so as to not give away the fact that the documents were fakes. And who's that "someone"? It appears the answer is "someone in SISMI."

eriposte :: 6:01 AM :: Comments (5) :: TrackBack (0) :: Digg It!