Friday :: Jun 16, 2006

Uranium from Africa: Who forged the bogus Iraq-Niger uranium sale "accord" and why?

by eriposte

I am pleased to report on an important development in the Nigergate story, based in part on collaborative sleuthing with investigative reporter Solomon Hughes from the British publication Private Eye. For clarity, I will discuss the findings in the following sections.

1. Introduction

2. Background

3. New findings

4. Conclusions

Note that all emphasis in quoted portions is mine.

1. Introduction

In the midst of everything you have heard about the forged Niger dossier, there's one rather revealing fact that not too many people in the media (or Congress) seem to be interested in. The fake Iraq-Niger uranium sale "accord" (or "agreement"). Note that I'm not talking about the "Niger forgeries" (as they are usually described). I'm talking about a very specific document - the alleged Iraq-Niger uranium sale "accord". Why is this important?

Well, partly because when Rocco Martino shared the forged Niger dossier with Elisabetta Burba of Panorama magazine, there was no uranium sale "accord" among the numerous fake letters, memos and documents that he gave Burba (there was only an alleged "cover page" for the "accord"). Incredulous, you ask - how could it be that there exists an entire dossier with allegations about a uranium sale accord, but no actual accord in that dossier, describing the terms of the sale? Hmmm?

Another interesting aspect about this "accord": it has not publicly surfaced to date despite being arguably the most important forgery. Isn't that rather strange? The forged Niger documents are all over the internet - but the fake uranium sale "accord" is not. Why is that exactly?

Well, maybe because the cost of making it public is too high. What do I mean by that? I mean that making the bogus uranium sale "accord" public will raise highly unpleasant questions about who forged the uranium sale "accord" and why, since all the evidence to date indicates that it was not part of the forged Niger dossier peddled by Rocco Martino. So, if you can't scapegoat Rocco Martino for this, you can see how it might make more than a few people on either side of the Atlantic a tad bit uneasy.

Are you with me so far?

2. Background

The basic point I'm trying to remind readers about is that there is the forged Niger dossier that everyone and their uncle has probably heard about - and there is a *separate* forgery that was not part of the forged Niger dossier. In other words, the CIA actually had 2 documentary sources of fabricated Niger uranium information (as keen readers of this previous post of mine from March 2006 would have recognized). Let me explain.

As I discussed in my March post, CIA/DO slyly hinted at the second documentary source in one of the various cryptic footnotes of the Robb-Silberman report (emphasis mine, throughout this post):

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 [CIA DO intel] 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).

In my previous post on this odd footnote, I carefully explained the meaning and significance of this footnote and suggested a follow-up investigation to better understand what this separate fraudulent information might have been. Here's a quick recap of my main points at that time.

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.

More recently, we learned that the "Wissam al-Zahawie/uranium/July 6, 2000" document is actually a letter and was a forged document that was provided to the IAEA. So, it was not the uranium sale "accord" (although it is possible that the letter may have a mention of the (fake) uranium "accord").

So, that naturally raises the question - is there an "accord" forgery and was the IAEA given a copy of it - considering it was the most important documentary evidence for an alleged uranium sale?

3. New Findings

I had some discussions on my observations (above) with an investigative journalist across the Atlantic - Solomon Hughes of the British magazine Private Eye (who has previously cited my work). As it turned out, Mr. Hughes was planning to contact the IAEA on a slightly different matter - so he very generously agreed to query the IAEA on the "accord" as well (a huge thank you to Mr. Hughes on this!). And he sent me an email summarizing what he found (bold text is my emphasis):

....the International Atomic Energy Agency [IAEA] told [me] that the Niger papers they received were not noticeably different from those now in public circulation. They had not received copies of a Niger-Iraq Uranium contract or "Accord" among the papers, only documents that referred to such an Accord. The [IAEA] also said they had no knowledge of a supposedly "credible" document from the French government relating to an Iraq-Niger uranium trade...

Well, well. Isn't that interesting! Two birds with one stone.

For now, let me set aside the last sentence ("they had no knowledge of a supposedly "credible" document from the French government relating to an Iraq-Niger uranium trade") since that relates to the alleged "Wissam al-Zahawie/uranium/July 6, 2000" letter (which I have pointed out was a forgery but which a London Times reporter mistakenly thought was an authentic document). In the context of this post, what is significant is the IAEA's statement to Mr. Hughes that they never received any forgery from the U.S. Government (or anyone else) that purported to be the actual uranium sales "accord".

This is major news, folks! Let's recall that the CIA actually received the so-called "verbatim text" of the "accord" from SISMI in February 2002 - roughly one year before they turned over some of the Niger forgeries to the UN. From the SSCI Report:

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]

Since the CIA had the "verbatim text" of the "accord", if they had later received a forgery that claimed to be the "accord" why would they have not shared it with the UN? It wouldn't make sense to hide the one document that allegedly established the purported uranium sale (the "accord") while sending the UN other forgeries that merely mention the "accord". Moreover, the U.S. Government could have sent the UN the "verbatim text", but by all accounts, they did not. Why not?

There's only one consistent explanation for all of this.

On or before February 2003, the U.S. Government must have known that the "verbatim text" of the "accord" was possibly a fabrication and they must not have had a corresponding (forged) document from the Martino dossier to send to the UN. Sending the "verbatim text" of the accord to the UN would have very likely:
(a) exposed that to the public domain when the UN analyzed it,
(b) made it obvious that the "accord" was not part of Rocco Martino's dossier, and
(c) therefore raised obvious questions about the source of the "verbatim text"

Before we digest the ramifications of that, let me add a caveat.

There's a very slight possibility that I am mistaken in my conclusions (although I am not mistaken about SISMI having played a role in fabricating at least some of the uranium information). But for me to be mistaken, both of the following statements have to be true:

  • The "accord" was part of the forged Niger dossier but Rocco Martino never bothered to share it with Elisabetta Burba (or anyone else that we know of) even though he was peddling all kinds of junk to them that mentioned the "accord"
  • The "accord" forgery was provided to the CIA/U.S. Government by someone else but the USG never thought it was important to share the actual "accord" forgery with the UN and thought it was just sufficient to share some alleged letters that merely referred to the "accord"

You can judge for yourself, but on matters like these I am not a great believer in Cheney's Razor - Occam's Razor is generally more reliable. So, between my earlier post and this one I believe I have demonstrated why my inferences are solid.

4. Conclusions

I have shown previously that the CIA actually had two documentary sources of fabricated Niger uranium information - the well-known Niger forgeries (peddled by Rocco Martino) and a separate documentary source. In this post, I presented additional, new evidence which indicates that the fake Iraq-Niger uranium "accord" came from the separate documentary source and not from the Rocco Martino dossier. The fact, confirmed by investigative journalist Solomon Hughes of Private Eye and reported (exclusively) in this post, that the IAEA never received any forgery purporting to be the "accord" provides an independent indication that such a forgery did not exist in the forged Niger dossier - and that the "accord" itself was forged separately.

I have briefly examined the question of who forged the bogus Iraq Niger uranium sale "accord" and why. Between my earlier post and this one, I have presented evidence that indicates that one or more individuals within SISMI must have fabricated the "accord". The actions of SISMI appear to have been designed to make the CIA believe that the "evidence" sent to the CIA by SISMI prior to Feb 2002 (on the existence of an alleged Iraq-Niger uranium "accord") was "credible" and was backed up by the presence of the actual "accord" itself. This may have been SISMI's way of assuaging the CIA's long-standing concern about the credibility of the Niger uranium reports that they were fed by SISMI. Indeed, since SISMI had sent reports to the CIA in late 2001 about alleged letters mentioning a uranium sale "accord", it would have been natural for the CIA to ask SISMI about whether SISMI had access to the "accord" itself. Since Rocco Martino's dossier (that was shared with Elisabetta Burba) did not have an "accord" forgery, it would not be surprising if one or more individuals within SISMI simply fabricated the "accord" ("verbatim text") to satisfy the CIA's concerns or queries.

Whether SISMI had some partners in this egregious affair is unclear, but what is clear is that it is way past time for the media and Congress to actually investigate what really happened vis-a-vis the "accord" (and the forged Niger dossier).

P.S. Is there any media outlet or reporter in the United States who would care to FOIA the CIA and ask for the "verbatim text" of the "accord" that the CIA received from SISMI on or before 2/5/2002?

eriposte :: 7:34 AM :: Comments (20) :: TrackBack (0) :: Digg It!