Monday :: Mar 6, 2006

Treasongate: The Niger Forgeries v. the CIA Intel Reports - Part 7: The Case of the Fastidious Footnote


by eriposte

[This is part of my ongoing coverage on the uranium from Africa matter; click here to read a consolidated synopsis of my overall findings]

This is an addendum to a series I published last year (see Introduction, Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6, Preliminary Conclusion, 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 to understand how the forgeries were "mainstreamed" and to what extent Italian intelligence (SISMI) was complicit in this affair. One of the main conclusions of this investigative series has been that one or more individuals in the Italian intelligence agency, SISMI, must have been complicit in mainstreaming the forgeries by deliberately changing or removing overtly fraudulent information from the source materials (the forged documents) before transmitting some of the remaining (less overtly bogus) information to the CIA. That conclusion was validated subsequently by a report in the Italian newspaper La Repubblica (that also cited my work).

In this part, I present additional evidence which suggests, at face value, that SISMI was even more complicit in perpetrating this fraud. This evidence is also straightforward enough that journalists looking to expose this scandal further may find it a worthwhile avenue to pursue. (As always, all of my information is based on what is in the public record, but I don't believe any news outlet has exposed this story).

The evidence in question comes from another one of the hundreds of often cryptic footnotes in the Robb-Silberman Commission report (R-S report) that was published last year. The footnote in question, and the passage citing the footnote, refers to the three CIA intel reports on the Niger uranium claims (dated 10/15/01, 2/5/02 and 3/25/02) which were, in turn, based on the reports received by the CIA from SISMI. Here is the relevant passage (emphasis mine, throughout this post):

When it finally got around to reviewing the documents during the same time period, the CIA agreed that they were not authentic. Moreover, the CIA concluded that the original reporting was based on the forged documents and was thus itself unreliable [214]. CIA subsequently issued a recall notice at the beginning of April, 2003 for the three original reports, noting that "the foreign government service may have been provided with fraudulent reporting." [215]

The key footnote here is #215:

215 Department of State and CIA, Joint Report of Inspectors General on Iraqi Attempts to Procure Uranium From Niger (Sept. 2003) at p. 11. Although the Inspectors General report notes that all three reports were recalled, CIA/DO officials advised the Commission that in fact two of the reports were recalled and the third, which included information not included in the forged documents, was reissued with a caveat that the information the report contains may have been fabricated. Comments from CIA/DO (March 3, 2005).

A casual reading of this footnote may provide the impression that the CIA/DO clarification was merely the work of a fussbudget. Quite the contrary. The portions underlined are of great significance - something I had unfortunately missed in my original analysis of the uranium section of the Robb-Silberman report. So, let's take a closer look at the implications in this post.

1. Preface
2. Analysis
3. Conclusions


1. Preface

Let's recall a few salient points first:

  • 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.
  • The CIA directly admitted (see above) that the original Niger uranium reporting "was based on the forged documents and was thus itself unreliable".
  • SISMI and the Italian Government have denied that they disseminated the Niger forgeries.

SISMI and the Italians have, of course, not denied transmitting information to the CIA that may have ultimately originated in the forgeries, without actually directly transmitting the forgeries themselves (or copies of the forgeries). They have also not denied transmitting information that may not have been contained in the forgeries, but may have a link to what was in the forgeries. [Even if they deny it now, let's just say those denials wouldn't be based on fact.]


2. Analysis

Let's start with this phrase from footnote 215 of the Iraq section of the R-S report:

...the third [report], which included information not included in the forged documents...

First of all, although the wording says "third", this does *not* refer to the chronology of the reporting. If you scroll back to the top of this post and read the entire passage and see the context, it is obvious that "third" report does not mean the third report from a timeline perspective. It just means one of the three reports.

Second, there are only two possible interpretations of the phrase "included information not included in the forged documents". Either, this report had zero information that originated in the forgeries and 100% information that originated from some other source - or, this report had some information that originated in the forgeries and some information that originated from another source. The latter is the correct interpretation, as I show here. I previously published an almost line-by-line comparison between the information stated to be in the CIA's Niger uranium reports based on the SISMI reporting and the information contained in the Niger forgeries. The comparison is not entirely complete because not all the Niger forgeries have become public yet. But based on what we know already, we can easily conclude that all the three CIA reports in question had some information that was attributable to one or more of the Niger forgeries.

  • The 10/15/01 report had information that was traceable to at least the forged Niger documents 3 and 4.
  • The 2/5/02 report had information that was traceable to at least the forged Niger documents 3, 4 and 5.
  • The 3/25/02 report had information that was traceable to at least the forged Niger document 3.

What this means is that of the two possible interpretations of the cryptic statement in footnote 215, only the following interpretation is correct:

One of the three CIA DO Niger uranium reports had some information that originated from the Niger forgeries and some information that originated from some other source.

Having established that, let's now focus on the second part of footnote 215:

...the third [report], which included information not included in the forged documents, was reissued with a caveat that the information the report contains may have been fabricated.

The R-S choice of words is unfortunate and annoyingly nebulous, but let's try to wring out the meaning. Two of the reports were based entirely on the Niger forgeries and were therefore recalled completely because they were known to be fraudulent. As I've pointed out above, the third report also obviously had some known fraudulent information from the forgeries. Yet, here is how that report was described:

...the information the report contains may have been fabricated...

Why reissue the report and add the caveat "may have been fabricated" when the report actually had some confirmed fraudulent information? One possible reason is that the additional information in this third report - that was separate from what was in the forgeries - was also likely fraudulent, but the CIA was not sure because they could not trace it back to a known fraudulent (document) source. As it turns out, this interpretation is obviously the correct one simply because a Niger-Iraq uranium deal or Iraqi attempts to seek uranium from Niger never existed since at least 1991. So any information claiming to validate the fiction of a 1999-2000 Niger-Iraq uranium negotiation/deal was obviously fraudulent, whether or not it came from the Niger forgeries peddled by Rocco Martino.

Which brings us to the real significance of footnote 215.

Since SISMI did not obtain the additional information in the "third" report from the Niger forgeries, and this additional information was also fraudulent, then, by definition, either SISMI had a second fraudulent source for the Niger uranium claim or they must have had a role in fabricating this information. The former is a possibility but it appears unlikely simply because the information was obviously linked directly to the claims in the Niger forgeries. In other words, the evidence suggests that SISMI added some bogus information to one of their communiques to the CIA that was not directly from the forgeries but was related directly to the information in the forgeries - to bolster the claims emanating from the forgeries. This conclusion is rather inescapable because the CIA obviously concluded that all of the information they received from SISMI in those three reports related to the same alleged uranium deal. We already know that one or more individuals in SISMI were linked to the Niger forgery cabal, and that one or more individuals in SISMI must have deliberately mainstreamed the information in the forgeries by changing or removing overtly fraudulent information before forwarding the remaining claims to the CIA. So, Occam's Razor suggests that SISMI must have had some role in fabricating this additional information, perhaps to make the uranium case more "solid" and "fill in the blanks" (so to speak).

That's not all.

I have some preliminary, but reasonable, speculation (subject to change as more information emerges) on what this additional fabricated information might have been.

In a previous post, I highlighted a speculation by de Gondi at European Tribune (and reader FMJ) that one of the forgeries that Panorama magazine's Elisabetta Burba never gave the CIA - the "Wissam al-Zahawie/uranium/July 6, 2000" forgery - was probably the mysterious Niger-Iraq uranium "Accord". I added my own comments at the time explaining why de Gondi (and FMJ) were probably right. But I did acknowledge the possibility that this particular forgery may not necessarily be the "Accord". The reason I bring this up now is straightforward.

Of all the Niger-Iraq uranium claims in the three CIA intel reports discussed in the SSCI Report and the Robb-Silberman report (10/15/02, 2/5/02 and 3/25/02), the only claim to-date that has not yet been conclusively linked to any corresponding Niger forgery is this one:

Reporting on the uranium transaction did not surface again until February 5, 2002...The second report provided more details about the previously reported Iraq-Niger uranium agreement and provided what was said to be "verbatim text" of the accord. [SSCI Report, p. 37]

In other words, no Niger forgery that represents the actual "Accord" and contains the "verbatim text" of the accord has been made public to-date. I am also not aware of any published evidence indicating that Elisabetta Burba, Panorama magazine or La Repubblica ever saw or received such a forgery from the forgers. Elisabetta Burba, in any case, never gave the CIA any forgery that purported to be the uranium "Accord" because she never received such a forgery from Rocco Martino. This obviously raises the question as to whether a forgery purporting to be the alleged Niger-Iraq uranium "Accord" even exists.

Now, if such a forgery actually exists in the Martino dossier, then it is possible that it is the "Wissam al-Zahawie/uranium/July 6, 2000" forgery which the CIA handed over to the IAEA even though Elisabetta Burba never gave them that forgery. But this could be easily verified by talking to the IAEA since the IAEA would most certainly have been sent a copy of the "Accord" forgery, if it exists. (One could certainly ask the CIA directly, as well). But if the "Accord" forgery does not exist in the Martino dossier, then the Robb-Silberman report's footnote 215 would in fact be a reference to the SISMI report that formed the basis of the CIA DO's 2/5/02 intel report - which would imply that the "verbatim text" of the "accord" was a separate fabrication from what was in the Martino forgeries.

So, based on the above analysis, here's a suggestion for a first line of investigation for all the journalists covering this story (and for the SSCI and FBI).

1. Did the CIA ever get any forgery from the Niger dossier that was supposed to be the actual Niger-Iraq uranium "Accord"? (You can quiz the IAEA to see if they ever received any Niger forgery from the CIA that purported to be the "Accord" since the CIA should have turned it over to them if they did. You should also ask the CIA directly).

2. If the answer to question #1 is NO, then SISMI must have had a role in fabricating the "verbatim text" of the accord that they sent to the CIA, and which formed the basis of the 2/5/02 CIA DO report.

3. If the answer to question #1 is YES, then this would provide an additional piece of evidence for what I already showed last month - that, the CIA had a different, second source for the Niger forgeries than Elisabetta Burba - which contradicts the Bush administration narrative about how and when they first got the forgeries. (In this case, please verify whether the "Wissam al-Zahawie/uranium/July 6, 2000" forgery was in fact the "Accord" forgery.) At the same time, this would also mean that there is some other information in one of the three Niger intel reports that SISMI had a role in fabricating. What is that information? We need to know!


3. Conclusions

One of the main conclusions of this investigative series so far has been that one or more individuals in the Italian intelligence agency, SISMI, must have been complicit in mainstreaming the Niger forgeries by deliberately changing or removing overtly fraudulent information from the source materials (the forged documents) before transmitting some of the remaining (less overtly bogus) information to the CIA. In this part, I presented additional evidence which suggests that SISMI was even more complicit in perpetrating this fraud. Specifically, based on an analysis of a cryptic footnote in the Robb-Silberman commission report, I have presented evidence that SISMI may have had a role in fabricating some of the Niger uranium "intel" transmitted to the CIA that was not present in the Niger forgeries.

I have also provided those investigating this matter some preliminary guidance on how to take this finding to the next step.

1. Did the CIA ever get any forgery from the Niger dossier that was supposed to be the actual Niger-Iraq uranium "Accord"? (You can quiz the IAEA to see if they ever received any Niger forgery from the CIA that purported to be the "Accord" since the CIA should have turned it over to them if they did. You should also ask the CIA directly).

2. If the answer to question #1 is NO, then SISMI must have had a role in fabricating the "verbatim text" of the accord that they sent to the CIA, and which formed the basis of the 2/5/02 CIA DO report.

3. If the answer to question #1 is YES, then this would provide an additional piece of evidence for what I already showed last month - that, the CIA had a different, second source for the Niger forgeries than Elisabetta Burba - which contradicts the Bush administration narrative about how and when they first got the forgeries. (In this case, please verify whether the "Wissam al-Zahawie/uranium/July 6, 2000" forgery was in fact the "Accord" forgery.) At the same time, this would also mean that there is some other information in one of the three Niger intel reports that SISMI had a role in fabricating. What is that information? We need to know!

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