Wednesday :: Mar 8, 2006

Uranium from Africa and the Niger Forgeries: When did the CIA first receive copies of the Niger uranium forgeries? - Part 3: The Non-Burba Forgeries

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 the next part of a series (Introduction, Part 1, Part 2) focused on obtaining an answer to the question of when the CIA (in the U.S.) first received copies of (some or all of) the Niger uranium forgeries. In this part I reiterate some facts I discussed recently - namely that the U.S. Government had in their possession one or more Niger uranium forgeries that were not supplied to them by Elisabetta Burba of Panorama magazine in October 2002. Let me reproduce those findings in brief.


1. There is no doubt that there were more forged documents in the Niger dossier than what Panorama magazine and Elisabetta Burba publicly released (17+1 pages) [see Footnote 1 for a clarification]. Burba herself confirmed this in July 2003 and Seymour Hersh reported in late October 2003, after talking to Burba, that there were 22 pages in the dossier.

2. Burba made it clear that she initially received 17 pages (+1 page ostensibly relating to China) from Rocco Martino and that she only took those pages [see Footnote 1] to the U.S. Embassy in Rome (in Oct 2002) for them to analyze/make copies. She did not give the U.S. embassy the additional pages that she received from Rocco Martino after her trip to the U.S. embassy.

3. Burba also made it clear that she did not actually receive the (fake) uranium "Accord" - so it was not in the bunch of pages which she provided to the U.S. embassy (something that de Gondi at European Tribune has also noted). The translation of her words by Nur al-Cubicle (this passage appears before she talks about her Embassy trip):

"Once we’re seated, he takes out his “wares”. 17 pages of documents.
We spend the evening studying the papers laid out on the kitchen table. I grasp a few things that had escaped me in the restaurant. Above all, the text of the purchase agreement is missing, there’s only the cover letter. Groan…. "

[NOTE: The CIA acknowledged in the Senate (SSCI) Report (page 37) that on February 5, 2002 (prior to former Amb. Joseph Wilson's trip to Niger) they received from a foreign intelligence service (SISMI) the "verbatim text" of the uranium sale "Accord". They did not state whether they received a copy of the actual forgery purported to be the "Accord". In a recent post, I have raised the question of whether a forgery purporting to be the uranium "Accord" even exists - please take a look at that post if you have not done so already, because the answers to that question - and others raised in that post - have major implications.]

4. Likewise, the "Wissam al-Zahawie/uranium/July 6, 2000" forgery (which may or may not be the uranium "Accord") was not part of the 17 (+1) pages [see Footnote 1] that Burba handed over to the U.S. embassy in Rome.

5. Yet, the IAEA got the "Wissam al-Zahawie/uranium/July 6, 2000" forgery from the U.S. Government in early February 2003, even though Burba had not given the U.S. embassy this document. The former piece of information is confirmed by this letter (PDF) from the IAEA to Rep. Henry Waxman on June 20, 2003 (bold text is my emphasis) :

5 [Waxman]: On what date did IAEA officials receive intelligence documentation regarding these allegations? Who provided these documents? Were any assessments, qualifications, explanations, or warnings provided with these documents. If so, please describe what comments the IAEA received and when they were received.

[Response from Piet de Klerk for IAEA]: The documents were provided in early February to the Agency’s Iraq Nuclear Verification Office (INVO) by the US Government.....

(Note that de Gondi at European Tribune also effectively reached this same conclusion; and effectively, so did reader FMJ.)

6. Based on an analysis of the stamps in the forgeries, I provided independent evidence that INR/CIA had in their possession, at least by 15 October 2002, one or more Niger/Iraq uranium documents that were not in the list of documents provided to the U.S. Embassy by Burba on October 9, 2002. It is possible (indeed, likely) that among these documents was the "Wissam al-Zahawie/uranium/July 6, 2000" forgery. (This raises the obvious question, which is not discussed here, as to whether the U.S. Embassy in Rome had the additional Niger document(s) already in their possession, which they sent over to the United States along with what they received from Elisabetta Burba).

7. The Bush administration/CIA clearly gave the impression in the SSCI Report that they first saw the documents in the forged Niger dossier only after Elisabetta Burba provided copies to the U.S. embassy in Rome, and that they did not have any other source who supplied them the Niger forgeries. Yet, the facts laid out in this post (and Parts 1 and 2 of this series) make it clear that the Bush administration/CIA must have received at least one or more of the forged Niger documents through a different entity - other than Burba.


The data presented in this post makes it clear that the U.S. Government must have had a source other than Elisabetta Burba, who also provided them a copy of one or more of the Niger forgeries. Based on the analysis presented here, they would have to have received those forgeries from the other source on or before October 15, 2002.


De Gondi at European Tribune has started publishing more information on three of the publicized Niger documents whose images were/are not available at the Cryptome Niger webpage. In his first post he suggests that rather than 17+1, we should consider the pages Burba publicized as 16+2 and that she may have given the U.S. Embassy in Rome 16 pages or less. Let me note that whether she gave the U.S. 16 or 17 pages does not change any of the conclusions I have made so far. It also does not in any way impact the inferences in this post because I am using specific forgeries, identified by their contents, for my inferences - not the number of forgeries she handed over. However, I am including a link to De Gondi's post here for completeness, since we are trying to build the most accurate picture of what transpired. I will take a closer look at his post and comment in due course.

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