The "Scooter" Libby Trial and Uranium from Africa, Part 5: Dear Mr. Fitzgerald, do you practice in State Courts as well?
[Preface: This post is the fifth of a series (see Parts 1, 2, 3 and 4) focused on offering some observations and analysis on some of the documents released during the Libby trial. Cross-posted at Firedoglake.]
In this post I'm going to talk about one of the key unsolved mysteries in the uranium from Africa scandal - which may provide an additional window into what the CIA knew about the bogus Niger claims and when they knew it (NOTE: All emphasis in this post in quoted portions is mine, unless otherwise stated).
One of the documents I've discussed in earlier posts is an April 3, 2003 intelligence community memo (labeled DX64, titled "Purported Iraqi attempt to get Uranium from Niger") that was forwarded to the Office of the Vice President (OVP) in early June 2003 (it appears this might be a WINPAC memo). Page 3 of this document has the following statement:
2. [DELETED] On 15 October 2001, the CIA's Directorate of Operations issued a report [DELETED] that indicated as of early 2001, Niger planned to send several tons of uranium to Iraq. The agreement of the sale of uranium to Iraq reportedly was approved by the state court of Niger in 2000. [DELETED]
The "early 2001" wording shows up in the October 2002 NIE as well but there's a glaring discrepancy about this intel that the DX64 memo does not seem to have addressed. I first discussed this in a post back in 2005 - so I'd like to reproduce a relevant part of my earlier reporting here.
Let's start with the following claim in the 10/15/01 Niger intel report from the CIA, per the Phase I SSCI report:
The intelligence report said the uranium sales agreement had been in negotiation between the two countries since at least early 1999, and was approved by the State Court of Niger in late 2000. [page 36]
Three days after that report, CIA issued another paper:
Only the CIA wrote a finished intelligence product on the report (Senior Executive Intelligence Brief [SEIB], Iraq: Nuclear-Related Procurement Efforts, October 18, 2001). Regarding the Niger reporting the SEIB said:
According to a foreign government service, Niger as of early this year planned to send several tons of uranium to Iraq under an agreement concluded late last year. Iraq and Niger had been negotiating the shipment since at least early 1999, but the state court of Niger only this year approved it, according to the service. [pages 36-37]
Notice the change?
- In the 10/15/01 CIA DO report, it is claimed that the State Court of Niger approved the alleged uranium deal in late 2000.
- In the 10/18/01 CIA SEIB, it is claimed that the State Court of Niger approved the alleged uranium deal in 2001.
This does not look to be an inadvertent error/typo. The first report specifically used a qualifier for the year 2000 ("late 2000"), and the report from three days later changed the deal approval date to 2001. In the latter case, the context of the sentence ("...early this year planned to send...") indicates that the qualifier for 2001 was 'early' 2001. So just replacing 2000 with 2001, or vice versa, wouldn't make the claims consistent.
To try to decipher what may have happened, it is instructive to review the Niger forgery corresponding to the allegation pertaining to the state court of Niger. That forgery is Doc 5 (the fake "Annexe 1" to the fake uranium sales agreement) wherein the State Court of Niger allegedly "approved" the deal. Doc 5 says this (translation by Cryptome):
THE STATE COURT, CALLED UPON TO GIVE HIS ADVICE ACCORDING TO THE 20TH ARTICLE OF ORDONNANCE # 74-19 OF THE 5TH OF JULY 2000, REGARDING CREATION, COMPOSITION, ATTRIBUTION AND WORKINGS OF THE STATE COURT, MET IN THE CHAMBER OF THE COUNCIL IN THE PALACE OF THE SAID COURT ON WEDNESDAY JULY 7, 2000, AT NINE O'CLOCK
Remember, the CIA did possess some or all of the contents of fake Doc 5. How do we know that? Well, they indirectly admitted it in a highly misleading statement in the SSCI report [eRiposte aside: Incidentally, this is one of the clues that allowed me to deduce in July 2005 that the Niger claims from SISMI were traceable directly to the Niger forgeries]:
The foreign government service did not provide the DO with information about its source and the DO, to date, remains uncertain as to how the foreign government service collected the information in the three intelligence reports...The only mistake in any of the reports regarding dates, is that one date, July 7, 2000, is said to be a Wednesday in the report, but was actually a Friday. [page 47]
Now, perhaps July 2000 can loosely be called "late 2000" (even this is somewhat questionable), but July 2000 certainly isn't (early) 2001. So, returning to my earlier observation - what happened between October 15, 2001 and October 18, 2001, that prompted the CIA to change the year of the alleged Niger State Court approval? For example, did the CIA raise the obvious concern about "Wednesday July 7, 2000" with their source (the Italian intelligence agency SISMI) and get some "clarification" in response, with a different date? Or did the report on 10/18/01 inadvertently pick up the 2001 date from a different (unsurfaced) document?
As luck would have it, shortly after my Nov 2005 post was published, the Italian newspaper La Repubblica mentioned that there was a SISMI communique on 10/18/2001 to the CIA in response to questions or concerns from the U.S. regarding the credibility of the 10/15/01 intel from SISMI (translation by Nur-al Cubicle):
CIA, DIA, and the Department of Energy judge the information to be plausible while the INR believes, to the contrary, that it is highly suspect. To remove any remaining doubt, Langley asks for "further clarification" from Rome. Pollari, as reported by Il Messagero, responds with a quick followup on 18 October with “a letter of a page and a half." He explains that “the information comes form a creditable source, La Signora". He does not reveal her identify, but he recounts that “in the past La Signora has given SISMI the cryptographic codes and memorandum ledgers from the Niger Embassy. So, those documents could be good. The same day, 18 October 2001, the CIA writes an in-depth report (Senior Intelligence Executive brief, "Iraq, Nuclear-Related Procurement Efforts").
[NOTE: Not surprisingly, the Phase I SSCI report did not reveal anything about this communication.]
As I said back then, the glaring 2000-2001 date discrepancy raises obvious questions that Congress should be asking the U.S. IC and the Bush administration. For example, was the issue of "Wednesday July 7, 2000" raised with SISMI after receipt of the 10/15/01 report from SISMI? If so, what was SISMI's response to that question? Why did the date of the alleged approval of the alleged uranium deal by the Niger court, change from late 2000 in the 10/15/01 CIA report to [early] 2001 in the 10/18/01 report? Did SISMI provide a "corrected" or "updated" date? If so, did that not call for more questioning of the basis of the 10/15/01 report and the 10/18/01 report? What does this say about the CIA's knowledge of the fraudulent nature of the claims emanating from SISMI?.....
I don't have any hope of getting answers to these questions, but I thought the Libby trial document dump might be a good opportunity to highlight this.