Monday :: Nov 7, 2005

Treasongate: The Niger Forgeries v. the CIA Intel Reports - Preliminary Conclusion: An Italian Job


by eriposte

This is a preliminary conclusion (pending further investigation) to a series (see Introduction, Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5 and Part 6, as well as Post Script 1 and Post Script 2) 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 provides the likely explanation for how (and to some extent, why) the forgeries got "mainstreamed" despite their obvious bogus nature. The discussion is broken up into the following sections.

1. Preface

2. Background

3. Analysis

3.1 Scenario 1

3.2 Scenario 2

3.3 Likely Scenario

3.4 Motive

4. Conclusion


1. PREFACE

There are four equally important aspects to the Niger/uranium scandal.

(i) Who forged the bogus Niger documents and why
(ii) How the bogus Niger documents were "mainstreamed" and why
(iii) How and why the false uranium from Africa claim really got into Bush's State of the Union claim
(iv) The cover-up of the false SOTU uranium claim that led to the expose of Valerie Plame's identity and "Scooter" Libby's indictment

I have covered items (iii) and (iv) previously in my detailed analysis and reports on the British Butler and Taylor Reports, the Senate (SSCI) Report, the Robb-Silberman report, the report of the Iraq Survey group and the Valerie Plame expose (key links are consolidated here). Press coverage of item (i) has recently picked up and I provided a tentative synopsis on this in Part 6 of this series. What has been substantively lacking in most media coverage to date is the the question of why and how the forgeries got "mainstreamed" [item (ii)]. This series has been focused on this specific aspect - to particularly understand how the claims in a bunch of documents which were deliberate, obvious, third-rate fakes got so easily assimilated into the original intelligence reports from the CIA until sometime in late September-early October 2002.


2. BACKGROUND

Any attempt to explain how the forged Niger documents were "mainstreamed" would, at the minimum, have to explain all of the following observations.

(a) The Italian intelligence agency, SISMI, was the source for the CIA's original Niger uranium reports dated 10/15/01, 2/5/02 and 3/25/02.
(b) The CIA directly admitted (in the Robb-Silberman report) that the original Niger uranium reporting "was based on the forged documents and was thus itself unreliable".
(c) The denial from SISMI and the Italian Government that they had anything to do with creating or disseminating the Niger forgeries.
(d) The fact that the most obviously bogus information in the forged Niger documents evidently failed to show up in the CIA's original Niger uranium reports.

The key to explaining this combination of observations is (d), which has been the main focus of this series.

Stated differently, it is a surprise to me that not a single news report (or for that matter, member of Congress) is asking this basic question:

Since the Niger forgeries were the basis of the original CIA reports, why is it that the obviously faked names and dates in the Niger dossier are not mentioned in any of those reports? Why is it that the original CIA reports appear to mention only material that couldn't be summarily dismissed as fake?

After all, despite the obvious inconsistencies in names and dates in the forgeries and the fact that the CIA's intel reports were based on claims in the Niger forgeries (as they discovered much later), the CIA and INR stood behind this blanket statement in the SSCI report:
There were no obvious inconsistencies in the names of officials mentioned or the dates of the transactions in any of the three reports. [page 47]
One possible explanation for this is that the CIA and INR were lying to the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence (SSCI). However, I don't find this explanation compelling (at this time). This is because the intel which the CIA saw and reported was evidently also seen by INR, and INR was deeply skeptical about the "uranium from Africa" claims almost from day one (even without ostensibly knowing that the intel was based on material from forged documents). If INR had seen obviously fake names or dates in the original intel reports, it is more than likely that they would have summarily dismissed the Niger uranium "intel" as a hoax. After all, when the forgeries publicly surfaced in October 2002, it was an INR analyst who immediately noticed some of the dubious/fake material in the documents.

If the "CIA lied" explanation is not the answer to the question above, what is? Well, it depends on the answer to the next obvious question:

If the CIA did not know about the obviously fake names and dates in the Niger "intel", did their source know? Did their source pass on selective extracts (from the Niger forgeries) which had a slight whiff of plausibility while leaving out the portions that would have revealed the intel to be obviously bogus?
This question needs to be considered very seriously because here are a couple of examples of what we specifically know regarding the CIA's original Niger intel reports (see Footnote 1 for more):

(i) The 1965* Niger Constitution: One of the CIA's claims in its 10/15/01 intel report was based on information in forged Niger Doc 3 [TLC numbering explained here]. Doc 3 was a letter dated 7/27/2000 which invoked powers established by Niger's 1965* constitution - a constitution that had been obsolete since 1991. Yet, per the SSCI Report, the CIA's 10/15/01 report evidently did not mention the obviously false reference to the 1965* constitution (Note: if the letter had really been written in 2000, it would have referred to the July 1999 constitution, not the May 1965* constitution). [More details on this in Part 2 of this series]

[*NOTE added on 12/1/05: The year is likely 1965, not 1966 - see this post for an explanation. So all references to 1966 in this post have been changed to 1965.]

(ii) The "Nassirou Sabo" letter: Another claim from the CIA's 10/15/01 report was based on forged Niger Doc 4. Doc 4 was a letter dated 10/10/2000 and allegedly signed by Nigerien Foreign Minister Allele Elhadj Habibou. However, the 10/15/01 CIA report actually claims that it was signed by Nassirou Sabo. As it turns out Nassirou Sabo would have been the correct signatory if the letter was real (based on its October 2000 date) since Habibou was not Foreign Minister of Niger at that time. The CIA report is also missing the "received date" marked on the letter - 9/28/00, which was ~2 weeks prior to the sent date, which would have shown that the letter was fake. [More details on this in Part 3 of this series]

A review of the above examples makes it clear that if the CIA was not lying to the SSCI, then:

  • Either the CIA did not receive some of the fake information in the Niger documents (on 10/15/01, 2/5/02 and/or 3/25/02) because their source (SISMI) was excising [or changing]* the overtly fraudulent material from the information they sent to the CIA
  • Or SISMI themselves received from their source only selective portions of the Niger documents with the overtly fraudulent material excised [or changed]*

[* added on 12/1/05]

In this post, I offer evidence that the former possibility is the most likely one. Post Script 2 to this post provides additional confirmation for my conclusion.


3. ANALYSIS

As I highlighted in Part 6 of this series, SISMI has strongly denied that they either created or disseminated the forged Niger documents. Yet, we know that SISMI was the CIA's source, that the CIA's original Niger reports were based on the forged Niger documents, but that the CIA reports were missing some obviously false information in the forgeries. This allows us to do some scenario analysis to come up with what likely happened.

In all of this analysis, it is implicitly assumed that the CIA (and INR) were/are telling the truth about not having seen the most obvious inconsistencies in names and/or dates in the Niger claims on or before 3/25/02. (It does not absolve the CIA or the White House of responsibility in allowing Bush to use the false uranium claim in the 2003 State of the Union).

3.1 SCENARIO 1

We start with a generic scenario as illustrated by the schematic below. The key at the bottom of the schematic explains the meaning of the symbols A, B and C. The entity "Source of SISMI-C" is included to capture the possibility that SISMI's source was someone other than a member of the Niger forgery cabal; however, as discussed below, this was not really the case. That said, the purpose of this schematic is to focus the reader's attention on the type of information (A, B, or C) flowing from one entity to another and observe how, in the end, the information communicated to the CIA was C, not A or B. Remember, C represents the fact that the CIA received selective portions of the Niger documents with the overtly fraudulent material excised.

Scenario 1, while being generic, can be made more precise because it is known that at least one of the members of the Niger Forgery Cabal (La Signora) was in fact a direct source for SISMI's first report to the CIA. SISMI had actually admitted this, as reported by both La Repubblica and The Independent.

The Independent:

Sismi has acknowledged informing other intelligence services, including the CIA, in a letter on 15 October 2001, of "evidence of intelligence" on Iraqi efforts to procure uranium from Niger.

The information came from a woman who worked at the Niger embassy in Rome, given the code name of La Signora by Sismi. She also provided Niger's cryptographic codes and other internal documents.

La Repubblica's Giovanni D'Avanzo (translation by Nur Al-Cubicle) goes farther to say:
2. On October 15, 2001, SISMI claims that La Signora is a “creditable source” but then it turns around and questions the information which she passes to them. How can a source be “creditable” if it passes only dubious information? What kind of checks and verifications did SISMI perform on La Signora’s reliability and the trustworthiness of the intelligence which she gathers? Did Colonel Antonio Nucera have a hand in the operation, assuming he was there? What were the results?
Additionally, Rocco Martino (ex-SISMI agent, freelancing as a SISMI informant) and Antonio Nucera (SISMI colonel) were involved in some form or fashion with the forgery cabal, as discussed in Part 6. So, it would not be inaccurate to say that the Niger forgery cabal was intimately linked to SISMI and was a direct source for SISMI, even if they did not provide SISMI with a copy of the forged documents. That leads us to possible scenario 2.

3.2 SCENARIO 2

This is perhaps the simplest rendering of the events that transpired - which would be broadly consistent with the facts. However, as I explain below the schematic, I suspect that the actual events were slightly more complicated than this simple picture because it is entirely possible that the internal politics or dynamics within SISMI was complex.

As I noted above, the simplicity of the above scenario likely masks possible internal divisions within SISMI regarding the credibility and use of the Niger claims. Considering that there were differing opinions about the credibility of these claims within the U.S. intelligence community, it cannot be ruled out that that was also the case within SISMI. Since the Italian Government never did a formal investigation of the breadth and depth of SISMI's involvement in spreading the Niger uranium hoax, it is not possible just yet, to definitively conclude what really happened within SISMI. That said, we can use the available facts to arrive at a preliminary conclusion. That leads us to what I call the "likely scenario".

3.3 LIKELY SCENARIO

Although the Niger forgery cabal included La Signora (a SISMI asset in the Niger Embassy in Rome at that time) and Rocco Martino (ex-SISMI agent, freelancing as a SISMI informant) - and potentially Antonio Nucera (the SISMI colonel who brought them together) - it is obvious that others were (or could have been) involved in the creation or dissemination to SISMI of the Niger forgeries or the claims in the forgeries. For instance, there have been speculations on the possible involvement of Bush neocons (like Michael Ledeen) or ex-CIA agents in the generation of the forgeries. Moreover, as the Italian newspaper La Repubblica (translation by Nur Al-Cubicle) noted, a Nigerien national was also likely involved in the Cabal (bold text is my emphasis):

Nucera arranged the meeting. Rocco and La Signora don’t take long. He going to get what he came for. But wasn’t Nucera her official contact at SISMI? Then why wasn’t she supposed to know that it was SISMI who wanted the favor? And why was the item useful to the Agency?

With the blessing of Nucera, Rocco and La Signora, a pair of clever snake oil vendors, conclude a bargain. There would be a few sheets of paper available for sale. But the help of a Niger national was needed. La Signora points him to the right man. He’s First Embassy Counselor Zakaria Yaou Maiga. As Pollari told us, that Maiga spent six times more than he earned.

The gang of spendthrift bunglers, short on cash, is ready to go into action. Rocco Martino, La Signora, Zakaria Yaou Maiga. Nucera retreats into the shadows. They wait for the embassy to close its doors for New Years 2001. They simulate a break-in and burglary. When on January 2, 2001, bright and early, the Second Secretary for Administrative Affairs Arfou Mounkaila reports the burglary to the Carabinieri of the Trionfale station, he has to admit with a grin that the burglars were half asleep. A lot of trouble and effort for nothing. Mounkaila is unable to report missing what he doesn’t know is gone: Letterhead, and official stamps. In the hands of the snake oil vendors, useful stuff with which to assemble a dodgy dossier.

In fabricating the dossier, stale documents, such as code books, are extracted from the SISMI's division archives (where Nucera serves as deputy chief of section). To this are added the sheets of stolen letterhead that have been used for forged letters, contracts and a memorandum of understanding between the government of Niger and Iraq “concerning the supply of uranium on 5 and 6 July 2000 in Niamey”. The memorandum has a 2-page attachment entitled “Agreement”. Rocco hands over the “package” to agents from the French Direction Générale de la Sécurité Extérieure. They hand him some banknotes which he spends in Nice. Rocco loves the Cote d’Azur.

Up to this point, a caper worthy of Stan Laurel, Goofy and Cruella deVille. But it's an innocuous swindle. The French take the documents and pitch them in the rubbish. One of the agents remarks, Niger is a French-speaking place and we know how they do things there. But no one would have mistaken one minister for another in they way they did in that useless piece of garbage.

Case closed, then? No! The burlesque imbroglio is transformed into a very grave matter—along comes September 11th and Bush immediately starts to think about Iraq and requests proof of Saddam’s involvement in the attacks.

Considering the above, and the fact that there is a lot that is still unknown, it is reasonable to tentatively conclude that the most likely scenario of what happened is the one shown in the schematic below. Some of the facts and assumptions behind this scenario are discussed below the schematic.

The most important aspect of the schematic (and my conclusion) is that some group within SISMI (denoted as SISMI-F) must have received unchanged or unedited transcripts or copies of the Niger forgeries. As to why this must have been the case becomes obvious when you consider the following facts:

  • If the objective of the Cabal was to be convincing and credible, why would they create such third-rate, obviously fake forgeries in the first place? It makes no sense to postulate that they would invest their time and money in forging something that is so bogus and then take a lot of trouble to hide some of the material in the forgeries before they transmitted them. The argument that they may have done so to trick SISMI, only to later embarrass SISMI by revealing the obviously fake nature of the source documents, doesn't hold water because they didn't need the obviously fake stuff to reveal that the source documents were forged! The fact that they were forged (whether with obviously fake material or less-obviously fake material) was sufficient to later embarrass SISMI.
  • As I discussed in Part 6, Rocco Martino was an informant to Western intelligence agencies. His career depended on his being able to provide credible information to his customers. It is therefore stretching imagination to suggest that he would have compromised his entire career in order to peddle documents (to numerous agencies, including the CIA in Fall 2001!) that he knew were totally bogus. After all, Panorama reporter Elisabetta Burba to whom Martino tried to sell the documents had considered Martino a trustworthy source. As Seymour Hersh noted in the New Yorker: "She considered the informant [Rocco Martino] credible. In 1995, when she worked for the magazine Epoca, he had provided her with detailed information, apparently from Western intelligence sources, for articles she published dealing with the peace process in Bosnia and with an Islamic charity that was linked to international terrorism. The information, some of it in English, proved to be accurate." So, if Martino was unaware that the documents were overtly and completely bogus - as he has claimed - then there would be no reason for him to remove any extracts from them to hide the overtly bogus material. In fact, he never bothered to peddle selective extracts - he was directly attempting to sell the Niger dossier to various entities, including intelligence agencies, as discussed in Part 6.
The bottom line is that a contention that the Niger Forgery Cabal selectively excised the obviously fraudulent information in the forgeries before passing on the remaining claims to SISMI does not hold water (as of today). Which naturally leads us to the conclusion that there was likely an individual or group within SISMI (denoted as SISMI-F) - perhaps a rogue operation much like the White House Iraq Group (WHIG) or Office of Special Plans (OSP) inside the Bush White House - that removed or changed some of the material that would have shown the claims to be obviously fake, before passing on the remaining material to other groups in SISMI (referred to in the schematic as SISMI-C). Then, SISMI-C may have passed on the "cleaned up" version of the claims to the CIA (and other intelligence agencies - U.K. France, etc.).

It is also possible that SISMI-F may have noticed the obviously fake material from the Cabal and asked the Cabal to "fix it" and send them "corrected" versions of the Niger forgeries - which have not surfaced yet. Regardless, that would still make SISMI-F complicit in this matter. In effect, this scenario is no different from the above.

SISMI has of course denied that they saw, forged or disseminated the Niger forgeries. The above scenario is fully consistent with those denials (regardless of whether the denials are true or false). SISMI could have been sent transcriptions of the forgeries and they may have then disseminated selective extracts from the transcriptions to the CIA (and other intelligence agencies). In the end, the facts are clear that the Niger forgeries were the basis of the claims and that SISMI was CIA's source for the claims. What happened between is what the likely scenario above tries to elucidate.

In light of the facts presented in this series/post, it is obvious that the FBI's egregious shut-down of their investigation of the forgery scandal without revealing any of the substantive issues involved, including the creators of the forgeries or the mechanism of their "mainstreaming", is/was a scandal in itself. Members of Congress and the media should not accept this cover-up by the FBI's leadership. [As of 12/25/05, the FBI's investigation has been re-opened and more details are pending].

3.4 MOTIVE

As to the question of why someone at SISMI may have participated in this egregious conspiracy to peddle fake claims about Niger, Iraq and uranium, there is significant evidence that Italy and Italian intelligence were trying hard to support/please the Bush neocons in their efforts to find something compelling about Saddam Hussein.

Josh Marshall, Laura Rozen and Paul Glastris have reported on the secret Bush neocon-Ghorbanifar-SISMI meetings in the Washington Monthly. As Laura Rozen summarized (emphasis mine):

1) The secret meetings between Pentagon officials and associates of Ghorbanifar in Europe went on for almost two years, a full year longer than the Bush administration has acknowledged. Ghorbanifar told me of three meetings. While the Pentagon originally told the Post last year that Harold Rhode, an official in Feith's office, had simply run into Ghorbanifar in Paris in June 2003, Ghorbanifar tells me that the two spent weeks planning the meeting.

2) The Italian military intelligence organization SISMI provided logistics and security at the first meeting, in Rome, in December 2001. And the head of Sismi, Nicolo Pollari, as well as the Italian Defense Minister, Antonio Martino, attended the meeting, along with Michael Ledeen, Ghorbanifar, Pentagon officials Harold Rhode and Larry Franklin. [Sismi has been in the news recently for having been reported to have used an Italian middleman to put the forged Niger docs into circulation.]

3) Ghorbanifar told me he has had fifty meetings with Michael Ledeen since September 11th, and that he has given Ledeen "4,000 to 5,000 pages of sensitive documents" concerning Iran, Iraq and the Middle East, “material no one else has received.” Ghorbanifar, speaking with me by telephone from France, says those meetings took place abroad because he has been refused a US visa the last two times he has applied.

4) Ghorbanifar has also been meeting with an assortment of other American officials, which I will write about later.

SISMI director Nicolo Pollari also met with NSA Condi Rice and her deputy Stephen Hadley in September 2002. Stephen Hadley does not deny that he may have met with Nicolo Pollari or other Italian officials to (partly) discuss the Niger uranium claims. He just can't recollect doing so. Also note Laura Rozen's comments (emphasis mine):
Berlusconi's office says the September 9, 2002 meeting that Sismi director Nicolo Pollari attended at the White House was actually principally with then national security advisor Condoleezza Rice, and that Stephen Hadley just attended as her deputy. Which is pretty close to what the Berlusconi-friendly Il Foglio reported yesterday, saying that a delegation of other Sismi officials was also in attendance. Separately, have been told that the Sismi delegation did not visit Langley on the trip as would happen under normal protocol, but Il Foglio reported that a senior CIA official attended the meeting at the White House. The story gets stranger and stranger. Any other foreign country intelligence chiefs dropping in on the White House we should know about? Esp. when the White House is assembling discredited claims from those governments in making its case for war to the Congress and the American public?
The Italian newspaper La Repubblica (translation by Nur Al-Cubicle) has also written quite a bit on SISMI's interest in proving "help" to the Bush administration:
Up to this point, a caper worthy of Stan Laurel, Goofy and Cruella deVille. But it's an innocuous swindle. The French take the documents and pitch them in the rubbish. One of the agents remarks, Niger is a French-speaking place and we know how they do things there. But no one would have mistaken one minister for another in they way they did in that useless piece of garbage.

Case closed, then? No! The burlesque imbroglio is transformed into a very grave matter—along comes September 11th and Bush immediately starts to think about Iraq and requests proof of Saddam’s involvement in the attacks.

SISMI recalls the via Baiamonti squad to into action. A new director, Nicolò Pollari, arrives at Forte Brasco. And Col. Alberto Manenti, the new man on the job, is placed in charge of WMD. A well-prepared officer but completely incapable of saying "No" to a superior, says a SISMI official who worked with him. Col. Manenti had Nucera on his staff for a time and knew him well. Manenti, who knows that Nucera is about to retire, asks him to stay on as a consultant.

SISMI wants to make itself useful. It's got more room for maneuver than ever before in the history of the Italian republic. Berlusconi asks Pollari for a feat on the international stage which will catapult Italy to the first among US allies. A request along the same line comes in from the CIA station chief in Rome, Jeff Castelli. News, information, useful scraps of intelligence are needed. Now! On the double! Washington is looking for proof to use against Saddam.

The fact that SISMI chief Nicolo Pollari also changed his story about their source for the Niger claims is suggestive. As La Repubblica (translation by Nur Al-Cubicle) pointed out:
Back from his secret meeting with Hadley, Pollari was debriefed by an Italian Parliamentary intelligence oversight committee. They summon him twice. In the first session, the SISMI director maintains: We do not have documentary proof, only information that a central African country sold uranium ore to Baghdad. Thirty days later, Pollari says: We had documentary proof of the acquisition by Iraq of uranium ore from a republice in central Africa. We also know of an Iraqi attempt to purchase centrifuges for uranium enrichment from German and possibly Italian manufacturers.
Laura Rozen at War and Piece has captured the essence of this scandal is two posts.

One:

You have an ex-Sismi agent (Rocco Martino), a current Sismi vice captain (Antonio Nucera), and a long-time Sismi mole in the Niger embassy Rome involved in assembling the Niger forgeries. You have a former Sismi agent (Rocco Martino) trying to selling them, to the French, to the British, to an Italian journalist. Sismi itself issued reports to the CIA and MI6 with the information on Iraq supposedly contracting to purchase 500 tons of yellowcake from Niger that turned up in the forgeries. You have the head of Sismi Nicolo Pollari admitting to Repubblica in an interview published Monday that Sismi knew what Rocco Martino was up to in 2001 and offering to show them a photo of Martino passing the dossier to British intelligence. I am not sure how the Berlusconi government can plausibly deny that Sismi didn't have a direct role in the Niger yellowcake claims to western intelligence, and a very cozily indirect role to the forgeries themselves. Unless it's the kind of denial that Rove and Libby meant when they told the grand jury that they hadn't told journalists about Wilson's wife or her place of employment.
Two (emphasis mine):
Is it possible the 8th division of Sismi, the counterproliferation division, of which Nucera is reportedly the #2 guy, was doing its own kind of operation? Also keep in mind, that in all of the interviews he has given, Martino has been consistent in saying that this whole transaction was set in motion as early as 1999/2000. In fact, as I understand, he received the documents/forgeries *over time* from the Sismi asset at the Niger embassy in Rome. All of it occurring before Nicolo Pollari became Sismi director in October 2001.
...
As we've learned about our own US governmental bureaucracies, factional disputes between divisions can rule the day. One division's operations aren't always transparent to the others. Perhaps what also deserves more scrutiny is the particular division that Nucera works for, Sismi's eighth division, and its role in WMD counterproliferation intelligence and operations. Who ran it in 1999? What was going on? Why would Nucera have been interested in setting up a Sismi-connected intelligence peddler with a Sismi asset at the Niger embassy?
This story is just beginning to be told. So many questions remain and I hope that the wider news media and members of Congress continue a serious investigation of the issue and its cover-up.
4. CONCLUSION

Understanding the mechanism of "mainstreaming" of the forged Niger documents, requires a compelling answer to this basic question:

Since the Niger forgeries were the basis of the original CIA reports, why is it that the obviously faked names and dates in the Niger dossier are not mentioned in any of those reports? Why is it that the original CIA reports appear to mention only material that couldn't be summarily dismissed as fake?
After all, despite the obvious inconsistencies in names and dates in the forgeries and the fact that the CIA's intel reports were based on claims in the Niger forgeries (as they discovered much later), the CIA and INR stood behind this blanket statement in the SSCI report:
There were no obvious inconsistencies in the names of officials mentioned or the dates of the transactions in any of the three reports. [page 47]
One possible explanation for this is that the CIA and INR were lying to the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence (SSCI). However, I don't find this explanation compelling (at this time). This is because the intel which the CIA saw and reported was evidently also seen by INR, and INR was deeply skeptical about the "uranium from Africa" claims almost from day one (even without ostensibly knowing that the intel was based on material from forged documents). If INR had seen obviously fake names or dates in the original intel reports, it is more than likely that they would have summarily dismissed the Niger uranium "intel" as a hoax. After all, when the forgeries publicly surfaced in October 2002, it was an INR analyst who immediately noticed some of the dubious/fake material in the documents.

Since the "CIA lied" explanation is not compelling, the question that it raises is the following:

If the CIA did not know about the obviously fake names and dates in the Niger "intel", did their source know? Did their source pass on select extracts (from the Niger forgeries) which had a slight whiff of plausibility while leaving out the portions that would have revealed the intel to be obviously bogus?

In this series and this post, I have provided systematic evidence and facts that lead to the inference that the CIA most likely did not receive some of the fake information in the Niger documents (on 10/15/01, 2/5/02 and/or 3/25/02) because their source (SISMI) was excising [or changing]* the overtly fraudulent material from the information they sent to the CIA. Post Script 2 to this post provides additional confirmation for my conclusion. This calls for a more serious investigation of the origin and "mainstreaming" of the Niger forgeries, rather than an unquestioning acceptance of the whitewashed, egregious FBI claim regarding their Niger forgery investigation (which the FBI was forced to re-open sometime after this post was published, due to largely unknown reasons).

At the same time, the Bush administration is not easily exculpated in this scam. There is the still-to-be-explained altering of a key date in one of the CIA intel reports, the questions raised by the fact that the CIA was likely alerted by the French DGSE to the bogus nature of the uranium claims (and their emanating from the forgeries) by mid-summer 2002, the issue of how the uranium claim was stovepiped to the White House by a few individuals within WINPAC despite the fact that the CIA as a whole did not consider the uranium claim credible, and the CIA's alleged (bizarre) behavior when they received the Niger forgeries in Oct 2002, among the many other things that need to be properly investigated.**

[* added on 12/1/05; ** added on 12/26/05]


FOOTNOTES

1. Another claim from the CIA regarding Iraqi Ambassador Wissam Al-Zahawi's trip to Niger in Feb 1999 appears to have used Niger Doc 2 [I say "appears to have" because I cannot be 100% certain of this at this time]. Doc 2 is another alleged letter with obviously false information on a name and a date, which is not in the CIA report. The letter is dated 7/30/1999 and has Nassirou Sabo listed as the sender. However, the foreign minister at that time was Aichatou Mindaoudou, not Sabo. Moreover, this letter alleges that the Niger-Iraq uranium agreement was signed on the 6/28/2000 whereas the other forged Niger Docs 3, 4 and 5 use the date 7/5/00 and/or 7/6/00. The CIA reports use the latter date. [More details in Part 4 of this series]. A fourth CIA claim that the State Court of Niger approved the alleged uranium deal in late 2000 is contradicted by the CIA's own report 3 days later claiming that the State Court of Niger approved the alleged uranium deal in [early] 2001. The year 2000 claim is based on Niger Doc 5 which has a date error - it claims that 7/7/2000 was a Wednesday, even though it was actually a Friday. The CIA acknowledged this date error, but the switch to the 2001 date is unexplained. This clearly involved the CIA and is not just a matter of what the CIA's source may have hidden or removed. [More details in Part 5 of this series]

UPDATES: On 11/28/05, this post was updated for minor grammatical errors and a link to Post Script 1 of this series topic was added. On 12/1/05, additional minor edits were added (and indicated as appropriate) and a link to Post Script 2 of this series was added. On 12/25/05, additional minor updates were made. On 12/26/05, I removed the sentence :"(Note: The intel fooled the French as well, even though the French Government was not predisposed to war with Iraq)." This is because it now appears the French were not fooled at all. This starts to raise questions about the degree of CIA complicity in perpetrating this hoax.

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