Thursday :: Feb 23, 2006

Uranium from Africa and the Niger Forgeries: Look who Elisabetta Burba and Rocco Martino talked about


by eriposte

[This is part of my ongoing coverage on this topic; click here to read a consolidated synopsis of my findings to-date]

UPDATE: I am hearing from someone that perhaps il Giornale's article may have been written in a manner that inadvertently conflates the timelines - and that the mention of Ledeen may not have happened until much later. So I am holding off from making any inference on this until I get a confirmation on the timeline.
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Earlier today, Emptywheel alerted me to this mid-Jan 2006 article in Raw Story by Larisa Alexandrovna whose title says it all:

American who advised Pentagon says he wrote for magazine that found forged Niger documents

Some details (emphasis and embedded comments are mine):

In an email to RAW STORY, occasional Bush foreign affairs advisor Michael Ledeen confirmed that he was, "several years ago," a regular contributor to Panorama. Leeden would not provide more specificity.
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"I've said repeatedly, I have no involvement of any sort ["have" or "had"? Involvement of "any sort"? - Eriposte] with the Niger story, and I have no knowledge of it aside from what has appeared in the press," Ledeen said in an email. "I have not discussed it with any government person in any country. [how about any non-Government person in, say, Italy?- Eriposte]"

But Ledeen confirmed that he wrote for Panorama and worked with the publication's Editor-in-Chief, Carlo Rossella. [that would be Elisabetta Burba's boss back in Oct 2002 - Eriposte]

"I have no current relationship with Panorama," Ledeen said. "For a year or two I wrote an occasional column for Panorama, I would guess on average twice a month."
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While Ledeen admits to writing for Panorama, he explained that the work had been in the past, saying, "That would be a couple of years ago."

But "a couple of years ago" would be right around the time when the forgeries were delivered to Burba or sent from the U.S. embassy in Rome via backchannels to the U.S. State Department, bypassing the CIA and other intelligence agencies.

Actually, if Ledeen had been interviewed by Raw Story, say, in late 2005, a "couple of years ago" would put him in Panorama's employ around late 2003 (which is a year or so after the forgeries were delivered to Elisabetta Burba in Oct 2002). But he also says he worked for Panorama "for a year or two" (fuzzy, fuzzy). So, did he stop working 2 years ago - in which case he might have been in Panorama's employ in Oct 2002? Needless to say, its rather important to get Mr. Ledeen to state on the record, when he started working for Panorama and when he stopped - without any fuzziness or neo-con "truthiness" factor involved. Why?

Well, first of all, let me say right off the bat that I have no idea whether Michael Ledeen is in any way linked to the Niger forgeries. Sure, his name has been mentioned in a few articles by third parties, in the context of his alleged connections to the Niger forgeries (see this article by Justin Raimondo for example - or this post by Scott Horton), and sure, he has close ties to SISMI and the Italian Government. But I've not done much research on this specific aspect of the case - so I can't yet offer a meaningful assessment on his alleged link to the forgeries. That said, Ledeen's statements to Raw Story seem rather sweeping for someone who was connected to Panorama closely enough that when Rocco Martino met Panorama magazine's Elisabetta Burba in early October 2002, Ledeen's name was mentioned by Burba in their recorded conversation. Says who? Well, the Berlusconi-owned il Giornale (translation by de Gondi at European Tribune):

[Martino] asks her when she could publish, but Burba takes her time because as she reads the documents she finds errors. Rocco pushes her on: "What could happen in Italy after this article is published?" He fears the law might move even if in his opinion "Italy isn't involved." The reporter interrogates Rocco on the authenticity of the documents, and Martino: "What can I tell you, that I stole the whole batch? That would be enough. That's why I'm worried about the legal aspects." Burba expresses further doubts, asks Rocco if he had ever known Michael Ledeen or Wolf at the CIA. She says there are other people who would like to meet him. In the end Martino agrees with Burba that there is someone who wants to frame him and in mentioning the name of Nucera of the SISMI he relates several details about the spy.

"Other" people? What does that mean? Other than Ledeen or [Alan] Wolf? Did the il Giornale authors drop some context from their report?

Why did Ledeen's name even appear in a conversation between the key trafficker of the Niger forgeries and one of the key people he was trying to sell it to?

Why would Burba, who had just met Martino for the first time to look at documents alleging an Iraq-Niger uranium deal, suddenly bring up Michael Ledeen (and Alan Wolf)?

Perhaps Mr. Ledeen has some "clarification" pending to his statement to Raw Story?

I have no involvement of any sort with the Niger story, and I have no knowledge of it aside from what has appeared in the press.

Maybe Larisa or Justin can sort it all out with Mr. Ledeen.

P.S. Let me reiterate this. The il Giornale piece does not appear (at face value) to be idle speculation. As de Gondi points out in his comments preceding his translation of the il Giornale article:

Transcripts of interrogation sessions of the key figures in the Niger forgeries case have been leaked to the press. Il Giornale, owned by the Berlusconi family, has published four articles with excerpts, authored by Gian Marco Chiocci and Mario Secchi, since last Friday.
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Rocco Martino made a point of secretly taping all of his conversations. In the last article in the Giornale series, the authors summarize what was said in key encounters. One comes away with the impression that Rocco may have been talking to his gizmo rather than to the person next to him.

So unless someone proves that il Giornale got leaked an.....um.....say, forged document purporting to be a transcript, this calls for closer examination.

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