Monday :: Feb 27, 2006

Uranium from Africa and the Niger Forgeries: When did the CIA (in the U.S.) first receive copies of the Niger uranium forgeries? - Introduction

by eriposte

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

One of the key questions in the uranium from Africa scandal is this one:

When did the CIA (in the U.S.) first receive copies of (some or all of) the Niger uranium forgeries?

The declassified portions of the Senate (SSCI) Report did not really address this question satisfactorily. This question has in fact been at the back of my mind for some time and I believe that sufficient evidence now exists to make an informed judgment on a preliminary answer.

Some of you may wonder why I am raising this question since the Senate (SSCI) Report already appears to provide the answer in pages 57-58 (emphasis mine):

On October 9, 2002, an Italian journalist from the magazine Panorama provided U.S. Embassy Rome with copies of documents [8] pertaining to the alleged Iraq-Niger uranium transaction. The journalist had acquired the documents from a source who had requested 15,000 Euros in return for their publication, and wanted the embassy to authenticate the documents. Embassy officers provided copies of the documents to the CIA's [DELETED] because the embassy, which did collect the information, was sending copies of the documents back to State Department headquarters.



Also on October 11, 2002, the U.S. Embassy in Rome reported to State Department headquarters that it had acquired photocopies of documents on a purported uranium deal between Iraq and Niger from an Italian journalist. The cable said that the embassy had passed the documents to the CIA's [SENTENCE DELETED]. The embassy faxed the documents to the State Department's Bureau of Nonproliferation (NP) on October 15, 2002, which passed a copy of the documents to INR.

(U) Immediately after receiving the documents, the INR Iraq nuclear analyst e-mailed IC colleagues offering to provide the documents at a previously planned meeting of the Nuclear Interdiction Action Group (NIAG) the following day.
(U) On October 16, 2002, INR made copies of the documents available at the NIAG meeting for attendees, including representatives from the CIA, DIA, DOE and NSA. Because the analyst who offered to provide the documents was on leave, the office's senior analyst provided the documents.

In other words, if you believe this rendition of events, CIA analysts in Langley (U.S. headquarters) must have received the Niger forgeries for the first time on October 16, 2002, via INR.

Is that really true? This series will discuss evidence which indicates that could not have been the case.

In that context, let me make a brief observation on the significant redactions associated with the discussion of the manner in which the Niger forgeries were supplied to the U.S. Government in October 2002. I find these redactions quite intriguing to say the least considering that subsequent news reports indicate that the forgeries were passed on to the CIA Station Chief in Rome (Jeff Castelli) at the U.S. Embassy. Was the above narrative (with redactions) an attempt to create the impression that the CIA heard nothing directly from their Rome office and only got the forgeries through the State Department? I'm not sure, but it certainly is suspicious, especially considering that Castelli likely knew that the documents were bogus.

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