Friday :: Jan 20, 2006

Treasongate: The Niger Forgeries v. INR Intel Reports - The March 1, 2002 report


by eriposte

This post is partly related to my earlier series "The Niger Forgeries v. the CIA Intel Reports." My focus here is a recently declassified INR memo (Niger: Sale of Uranium to Iraq is Unlikely) discussing the uranium from Niger claim in CIA reports from late 2001 and early 2002. The INR memo (document) was released in response to an FOIA filing by Judicial Watch. This memo has been discussed by Emptywheel at The Next Hurrah - and those who are following this matter closely should hop over to her site and read her observations. The findings in the memo are mostly unsurprising and some of its contents were revealed already in the SSCI Report, as Emptywheel points out. However, there are a couple of pieces of information in it that are worth highlighting, in part because they provide additional evidence for some of what I've deduced in my work on the uranium hoax. (Note that significant portions of the released memo are still classified. So, all of my observations here are based on the declassified portions of the report).

One of the issues I have been talking about almost ad infinitum is the visit of then-Iraqi Ambassador Wissam Al-Zahawi to Niger in February 1999 (as part of a trip to four African countries, three of the others being non-uranium producing countries) to invite those heads of state to visit Iraq in an attempt to try and break the U.N. sanctions regime against Iraq. I have also discussed earlier how the Al-Zahawi trip was falsely linked to uranium in the Niger forgeries and how the Zahawi-uranium link was mentioned in the 2/5/02 CIA intel report. One thing to keep in mind is that Al-Zahawi met Niger's President at that time - Bare Mainassara - who was assassinated barely two months later (in April 1999). So, a careful reading of this March 1, 2002, INR memo suggests that it was partly trying to address the Zahawi-uranium allegation:

34. A CORRUPT FORMER PRESIDENT MAY HAVE NEGOTIATED WITH IRAQ. [REDACTED] AT THAT TIME NIGER WAS RULED BY PRESIDENT BARE MAINASSARA, AN UNSOPHISTICATED AND VENAL INDIVIDUAL WHO WOULD NOT HAVE BEEN ABOVE TRYING TO SELL URANIUM TO A ROGUE STATE. BUT BARE'S PRESIDENTIAL GUARD KILLED HIM IN APRIL 1999. THE JUNTA THAT GOVERNED NIGER FOR THE NEXT NINE MONTHS RELINQUISHED POWER TO TANDJA'S FREELY ELECTED GOVERNMENT IN DECEMBER 1999. THE JUNTA THAT GOVERNED NIGER FOR THE NEXT NINE MONTHS RELINQUISHED POWER TO TANDJA'S FREELY ELECTED GOVERNMENT IN DECEMBER 1999.

35. TANDJA NOT LIKELY TO RISK AID FOR SHORT-TERM GAIN. THE REPORT FURTHER STATES THAT NIGER AND IRAQ SIGNED THE SALES AGREEMENT IN JULY 2000, WITH FULL SUPPORT FROM TANDJA (AND FOLLOWING AN INTERNAL LEGAL REVIEW). IN VIEW OF TANDJA'S [REDACTED] RELUCTANCE TO DO ANYTHING THAT MIGHT ENDANGER RELATIONS WITH WESTERN AID DONORS, IT IS IMPROBABLE ANY SUCH AGREEMENT WAS SIGNED WITH HIS KNOWLEDGE. NIGER IS DEPENDENT ON FOREIGN ASSISTANCE -- NOT ONLY FOR DEVELOPMENT AID, BUT ALSO FOR FINANCING MUCH OF THE DAY-TO-DAY OPERATIONS OF THE GOVERNMENT. A PAYOFF FROM IRAQ OF $50 MILLION OR EVEN $100 MILLION WOULD NOT MAKE UP FOR WHAT WOULD BE LOST IF THE DONOR COMMUNITY TURNED OFF THE TAPS TO NIGER. [REDACTED]

The key inference from the above passages was well summarized by Emptywheel (emphasis mine):

...INR found the claim that Tandja would be involved in this unbelievable, and therefore questioned the notion of a deal started in 1999 and consummated in 2000.

At the same time, there are additional noteworthy observations we can make about this INR memo.

Firstly, paragraph 35 (above) mentions that the alleged sales agreement was signed in July 2000 with "full support from Tandja" and "following an internal legal review". The former clearly refers to information derived from the forged Niger Doc 3, while the latter almost certainly refers to information derived from the forged Niger Doc 5 (the alleged approval of the deal by the State Court of Niger on "Wednesday, July 7, 2000"). I have discussed previously - here and here - how both of these documents had obviously fake information in them. In particular, the fact that the INR report (at least the declassified portion) appears to not have addressed the obviously fake information in Niger Doc 3 indicates that the information provided to INR likely had some of the fake information excluded or edited to prevent easy diagnosis of the fraudulent nature of the source. This goes back to my earlier observation that the CIA and INR most likely did not receive some of the fake information in the Niger documents because their source (SISMI) was excising or changing the overtly fraudulent material from the information they sent to the CIA.

Second, it is also interesting that the INR report does not address the altered claim in the CIA Senior Executive Intelligence Briefing (report) on October 18, 2001, regarding the alleged year of Niger legal/court approval of the deal. The CIA report changed the date of alleged court approval from "late 2000" to "early" 2001 without providing any explanation. However, the INR report written well after Oct 2001 (March 1, 2002), still uses the 2000 date. This raises the question of whether INR was even provided a copy of the CIA's October 18, 2001 SEIB.

Third, this passage from the INR memo is interesting as well:

36. THE DIFFICULTY OF MOVING SECRETLY 500 TONS OF URANIUM. THOUGH THE ALLEGED AGREEMENT WITH IRAQ IS NOT SPECIFIC, IT APPARENTLY CALLS FOR THE 500 TONS TO BE DELIVERED [REDACTED] IN ONE YEAR. THIS WOULD MEAN THAT [REDACTED] 25 HARD-TO-CONCEAL 10-TON TRACTOR-TRAILERS WOULD BE USED TO TRANSPORT THE OFF-THE-BOOKS URANIUM. BECAUSE NIGER IS LANDLOCKED THE CONVOY WOULD HAVE TO CROSS AT LEAST ONE INTERNATIONAL BORDER AND TRAVEL AT LEAST 1,000 MILES TO REACH THE SEA. MOVING SUCH A QUANTITY SECRETLY OVER SUCH A DISTANCE WOULD BE VERY DIFFICULT, PARTICULARLY BECAUSE THE FRENCH WOULD BE INDISPOSED TO APPROVE OR CLOAK THIS ARRANGEMENT.

As I have pointed out before, the forged Niger Doc 3 says (emphasis mine):

...500 tons of pure uranium per year will be delivered in two phases.

So, the redacted portion in the above paragraph in the INR memo is clearly referring to the "two phases" because 25 10-ton trucks refers to a 250-ton shipment. I do wonder why this information has been redacted - and not just in the INR memo but also in the discussion of the Niger uranium claims in the SSCI Report.

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