The CIA Got Played
By Pat Conway
The “Slam Dunk” Case
In Bob Woodward’s book, Plan of Attack, CIA director George Tenet is described assuring President George W. Bush that the case that Saddam had WMDs was a “slam dunk” (Woodward, p. 249). Part of the CIA’s case was based on reports from a “foreign intelligence service” of an illicit uranium deal between Iraq and the West African republic of Niger. In 2003, it was discovered that the documents that detailed the alleged agreement were crude forgeries. How is it that the CIA – the most diligent, professional and best funded intelligence service in the world – was suckered by something so stupid?
The following essay is an analysis of the infamous forged Niger documents and the ‘FIS’ reports as documented in The Senate Select Committee on Intelligence Report on the US Intelligence Community’s Pre-War Intelligence Assessments on Iraq (“The Senate Report”) and The Commission on the Intelligence Capabilities of the United States Regarding Weapons of Mass Destruction (“The Robb-Silberman Report”).
My analysis shows that in late 2001, a group of ex-intelligence agents (who I half-jokingly call the ‘Cabal’) were provided classified US intelligence on Iraq so they could fabricate evidence of Iraqi WMDs that would fool the CIA. The CIA wasn’t suckered. It was played.
Intelligence failure, my ass.
The Foreign Intelligence Service
CIA did not learn of Iraq’s alleged uranium deal from the infamous forged Niger
documents (which I’ll discuss in detail later on). The Niger documents didn’t
surface until October 2002. According to the Senate Report, the CIA Directorate
of Operations was first informed of the supposed deal almost a year earlier by
a “foreign intelligence service”. I’m going to call these guys the ‘FIS’ for
The FIS sent the CIA three reports about an Iraq-Niger uranium deal in October 2001 (Senate p. 36), February 2002 (Senate p. 37) and March 2002 (Senate p. 47). Unfortunately, we don’t know exactly what was in the FIS reports as we don’t have their complete texts. However, there’s enough information in the Senate Report and the Robb-Silberman Report to put together some rough summaries.
The first FIS report on the fake uranium deal is sent to the CIA on October 15 2001. According to the Senate Report, it contains the following information.
The Senate Report goes on to say that the CIA, Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) and Department of Energy (DOE) intelligence analysts considered the report “possible” but “very limited and lacking needed detail.” (Senate p. 36). The State Department’s Bureau of Intelligence and Research (INR) were suspicious of the report because they knew that such a transaction would be too risky for Niger and a French consortium controlled all the uranium anyway.
The CIA writes up a finished intelligence product, a Senior Executive Intelligence Brief, on October 18 2001 based on the FIS report. The product notes “[t]here is no corroboration from other sources that such an agreement was reached or that uranium was transferred.” (Senate p. 37)
Clearly, no US intelligence agency has bought the idea of a Niger-Iraq uranium deal after the initial FIS report. The intelligence community (IC) are going to need more convincing.
FIS sends a second report to the CIA in February 2002. This report provides
much more detail on the fake Niger-Iraq uranium deal, including the “verbatim
text” of the agreement. (Senate p. 37)
The Robb-Silberman Report describes some of the second report’s contents.
From the Senate Report, we learn that the second FIS report also says:
After the second report is disseminated, several IC analysts note that it matches intelligence that Iraq’s ambassador to the Vatican, Wissam al-Zahawie, had planned to visit Niger in early February 1999. (Senate p. 38)
al-Zahawie really was Iraq’s ambassador to the Vatican and really did travel to
Niger - as well as several other African countries - in early 1999. It’s easy
to see why intelligence analysts might have suspected his trip to be a
‘shopping expedition’ for black market uranium. According to the Iraq Survey Group,
Iraq had purchased uranium from Niger before, in 1981, which it had failed to
declare to the International Atomic Energy Agency. (ISG Nuclear p. 9) A quick
glance at the CIA world
factbook on Niger reveals the country’s chief exports are uranium and
livestock. As Laurie Mylroie sarcastically suggests in this article, if
the Iraqis were looking to expand trade with Niger, were they going to buy
However the Iraq Survey Group found no evidence that “Iraq sought uranium from abroad after 1991.” (ISG Nuclear p. 9) The ISG interviewed the head of Iraq’s pre-1991 nuclear program, a guy called Ja’far Diya’ Ja’far. He says Zahawie’s visit to Africa was part of an attempt to convince African heads of state to travel to Iraq. Zahawie himself says the same thing in an interview with Time Magazine. If Niger’s then-president Ibrahim Bare would visit Baghdad, it would help undermine the UN sanctions on Iraq.
But I digress.
I think the Cabal knew that the IC was sceptical of the first FIS report and so the second report was not only more detailed but specifically ‘name-drops’ Wissam al-Zahawie. The Cabal knew that the pre-existing intelligence of Zahawie’s 1999 Niger trip would help corroborate the fake Niger-Iraq uranium deal.
And, in the case of the Defense Intelligence Agency, it worked. The second FIS report is enough to convince the DIA that the uranium deal is real. Just a week after the second report is disseminated, the DIA writes a finished intelligence product titled Niamey signed an agreement to sell 500 tons of uranium a year to Baghdad. (Senate p. 38)
But the CIA is still sceptical. Replying to VP Cheney’s request for CIA’s analysis of the alleged agreement, the agency publishes an assessment that reads, “information on the alleged uranium contract between Iraq and Niger comes exclusively from a foreign government service report that lacks crucial details, and we are working to clarify the information and to determine whether it can be corroborated.” (Senate p. 38) The assessment also notes that “some of the information in the report contradicts reporting from the US Embassy in Niamey. US diplomats say the French Government-led consortium that operates Niger’s two uranium mines maintains complete control over uranium mining and yellowcake production.” (Senate p. 39)
The CIA was not yet played. The Cabal would need to do more.
around this time that the CIA dispatches everyone’s favourite former
ambassador, Joe Wilson, to Niger to check out the story. He arrived in the
country on February 26 2002. (Senate p. 42) You can read his account of what he
found here. The
Senate Report smacks him around a bit for shooting his mouth off in that op-ed,
but the former and current Niger officials he interviews deny they have any
illicit uranium agreements and maintain they couldn’t sell to a rogue state
even if they wanted to. (Senate p. 44)
Wilson’s intelligence report was disseminated March 8 2002. (Senate p. 43) Most US intelligence analysts don’t believe it adds any new information to the issue. (Senate p. 46) DIA and CIA analysts don’t find the Nigerien denials surprising. If Niger is involved in a black market uranium deal, it’s argued, they’re hardly going to admit it to a suspiciously nosy American. While analysts in the State Department’s INR feel Wilson’s report corroborates their position, it “could be read in different ways,” they say. (Senate p. 46)
Unfortunately, there’s very little info available on the contents of the third FIS report. The Senate Report has one paragraph one sentence long, half of which is redacted.
“The report said that the 2000 agreement by Niger to provide uranium to Iraq specified that 500 tons of uranium per year would be delivered in...” (Senate p. 47)
And that’s it. If my Cabal theory is correct and the Cabal had access to classified intelligence, then the third FIS report would attempt to answer some of the US intelligence community’s remaining scepticism about the uranium deal. I’m guessing the third report specified the way the uranium would be delivered. It perhaps specifies a way Niger could ship the uranium to Iraq so they wouldn’t be “bound to be caught”, which is one of the main reasons the INR disbelieves the previous FIS reports. It may deal with details specifically related to Wilson’s report.
The Senate Report mentions details about the FIS reports without saying specifically which of the three reports they’re about. Here are those bits and pieces:
Whatever is in the third report, it seems to do the trick. In May 2002, the CIA’s Office of Near Eastern and South Asian Analysis (NESA) refers to the FIS reports in a Principals Committee briefing book updating the status of Iraq’s WMD programs. (Senate p. 48) In July 2002, the DOE highlights the Iraq-Niger deal as one of three indications Iraq is reconstituting its nuclear program. (Senate p. 48) The DIA also details the uranium deal in its September 2002 assessment Iraq’s Reemerging Nuclear Program. (Senate p. 48) Also in September, the CIA twice clears language for possible use by President Bush based on the Iraq-Niger intelligence. On September 11 2002, the CIA clears the statement that says Iraq “was caught trying to purchase 500 metric tons of [uranium oxide].” (Senate p. 49). On September 24 2002, the CIA clears “we also have intelligence that Iraq has sought large amounts of uranium and uranium oxide, known as yellowcake, from Africa.” (Senate p. 51)
In mid-September 2002, the US intelligence community begins writing a National Intelligence Estimate on Iraq’s WMDs for publication in October. On the topic of the fake uranium deal, the NIE says:
“A foreign government service reported that as of early 2001, Niger planned to send several tons of ‘pure uranium’ (probably yellowcake) to Iraq. As of early 2001, Niger and Iraq were still working out arrangements for this deal, which could be for up to 500 tons of yellowcake. We do not know the status of this arrangement.” (Senate p. 52) (My emphasis)
Note the NIE does not say ‘We do not know if this arrangement is actually true’. The deal is believed genuine, only its “status”, i.e. whether the uranium has already been shipped or not, is in question.
The CIA, DIA and DOE all concur with the language in the National Intelligence Estimate. Only the State Department’s INR voices disagreement and includes a text box to the NIE, which states that “the claims of Iraqi pursuit of natural uranium in Africa are, in INR’s assessment, highly dubious.” (Senate p. 53) The NIE on Iraq’s Continuing Programs for Weapons of Mass Destruction is published on October 1 2002. Due to an error of formatting, however, INR’s text box is separated from the discussion of the uranium issue by sixty pages. (Senate p. 54)
With the publication of the NIE, it appears the Cabal’s disinformation campaign has succeeded. While the status of the Iraq-Niger deal is unknown, the entire US intelligence community, with the exception of INR, believes that the deal is real. The CIA is played.
The CIA Not Played
Although the CIA signed off on the NIE in mid-September, from October 2, the day after the NIE is published, the CIA inexplicably loses confidence in the credibility of the Iraq-Niger intelligence.
On October 2 2002, the CIA’s Deputy Director testifies before the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence. When asked about the British white paper, which also describes the alleged Iraq-Niger uranium deal, he says that the British have stretched “on the points about Iraq seeking uranium from various African locations. We’ve looked at those reports and we don’t think they are very credible.” (Senate p. 54)
On October 4 2002, the National Intelligence Officer for Strategic and Nuclear Programs, the guy responsible for coordinating the NIE, also testifies before the SSCI. When he is asked about disagreements with the British white paper, he says that “they put more emphasis on the uranium acquisition than we would.” He adds, “there is some information on attempts… but in the last couple of weeks, there’s a question about some of those attempts because of the control of the material in those countries. In one case the mine is completely flooded and how would they get the material.” (Senate p. 54) (My emphasis)
It seems that since the writing of the NIE in mid-September and its publication on October 1, new information has come to light that has caused the CIA to question the Iraq-Niger deal’s existence. The Senate Report does not state explicitly what this new information is. However, the National Intelligence Officer implies in his testimony that the deal is in doubt because the CIA has learned that one of Niger’s uranium mines is flooded.
Also on October 4, the CIA recieved a draft of a speech being prepared for President Bush to deliver in Cincinnati, Ohio. The speech contains a line that reads, “and the regime has been caught attempting to purchase up to 500 metric tons of uranium oxide from Africa.” (Senate p. 55) Although the line almost identical to the two statements the CIA cleared barely three weeks earlier (see above), the CIA requests its removal from the speech (Senate p. 56). When the line shows up again in a later draft, the Director of Central Intelligence, George Tenet himself, personally intervenes to have the sentence deleted. A fax to the White House from the CIA on October 6 2002 explains that the line should be removed because “[t]he evidence is weak. One of the two mines cited by the source as the location of the uranium oxide is flooded. The other mine cited by the source is under the control of the French authorities.” (Senate p. 56) (My emphasis)
Clearly, the CIA has figured out that it’s impossible for Niger to sell uranium to rogue states, even if it wanted to. News of the flooded mine has revealed the FIS reports to be bullshit.
The Cabal would have to act fast if it was going to play the CIA.
This is where things start to get interesting. The National Intelligence Estimate is published on October 1 2002. A few weeks prior to its publication, the CIA begins to lose confidence in the Niger-Iraq reporting and by October 5 no longer clears speeches that reference the Niger intelligence. The Cabal really wants those speeches cleared. Enter the forged Niger documents.
October 9, the Niger docs surface when an Italian journalist hands copies to
the US Embassy in Rome to be authenticated. (Senate p. 57) The journalist has
been identified as Elisabetta
Burba who works for the Italian magazine, Panorama. Her source for the
documents was Rocco Martino,
a former officer in Italy’s intelligence agency, SISMI.
Images of the Niger docs are available from cryptome.org (which is where I got them from), here, here and here. Since I don’t speak French, I’m also using their translations. If the translations are innacurate, please let me know.
There are eight documents pertaining to the fake uranium deal, which I’ve numbered in order of their purported date and titled according to their contents.
Doc 1: Ambassador Zahawie
Feb 1 1999
A letter from Niger’s ambassador in Rome to Niger’s foreign minister, informing him of Wissam al-Zahawie’s intended visit to Niger.
Doc 2: Get Zahawie’s Answer
July 30 1999
A letter from Niger’s foreign minister to the ambassador in Rome instructing him to contact Zahawie and get Iraq’s answer regarding the uranium agreement.
Doc 3: The President’s Letter
July 27 2000
A letter from the president of Niger to the president of Iraq informing him of his approval of the uranium deal.
Doc 4: The Cover Letter
Oct 10 2000
A letter from the foreign minister to the ambassador in Rome accompanying a copy of the uranium agreement.
Doc 5: The Annex
An annex to the uranium agreement detailing the agreement’s ratification by Niger’s supreme court.
Doc 6: The Coded Letter
Written in code, the letter is from Niger’s “Secretary of State” to the ambassador in Rome and describes the way Niger will ship the uranium to Iraq.
Doc 7: Delivery of U92
August 28 2001
A letter from the Secretary-General of Niger’s foreign ministry to the ambassador in Rome, informing him that a uranium deal has been concluded.
Doc 8: Global Support
June 14 2002
The minutes of a meeting held in the apartment of the Iraqi ambassador in Rome in which he plots to activate a terrorist network with the ambassadors of Niger, Sudan, Pakistan, Libya and Iran.
Note, however, that while all the above are about the Niger-Iraq agreement, there is no document that purports to be the uranium agreement itself. I don’t know if this means the text of the agreement wasn’t given to the journalist, the journalist didn’t give it to the embassy, or the press has just decided not to publish it.
Republic of Niger
Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation
The Embassy in Rome
Via Antonio Baiamonti, 10
Tel: 06/3729013 - Telex 626290
S. 027/49/ABNI/ROME/ML [?]
Rome, February 1, 1999
His Excellency The Minister
Of Foreign Affairs and
I am honoured to inform you that the Embassy of Iraq to the Holy See has just informed me that His Excellency Mister Wissam Al Zahawie, Ambassador of Iraq to the Holy See, will make an official visit to our country as a representative of His Excellency Mister Saddam Hussein, President of the Iraqi Republic.
His Excellency Mister Zahawie will arrive in Niamey on Friday, February 5, 1999, at 6:25 PM with Air France flight 730 from Paris.
I would be grateful for whatever measures you may kindly take.
REPUBLIC OF NIGER
COUNCIL OF NATIONAL RECONCILIATION
MINISTRY OF FOREIGN AFFAIRS AND AFRICAN INTEGRATION
DIRECTORATE OF JUDICIARY AMD CONSULATE AFFAIRS
NIAMY, THE 30TH OF JULY 1999
N- 05055 /MAE/IA/DAJC/DIR
HONOR TO ASK YOU TO CONTACT HIS EXCELLENCY THE AMBASSADOR OF IRAQ MR. WISSAM AL ZAHAWIE TO RECEIVE ANSWER FOR HIS COUNTRY REGARDING PROVIDING URANIUM ACCORDING TO LAST AGREEMENTS ESTABLISHED IN NIAMEY ON THE 28TH JUNE 2000
PLEASE FOLLOW THIS HIGHLY CONFIDENTIAL DOSSIER WITH ALL DISCRETION AND CARE.
SEAL OF THE REPUBLIC OF NIGER
MINISTRY OF FOREIGN AFFAIRS
REPUBLIC OF NIGER
IT'S MY HONOR TO REFER TO THE AGREEMENT # 3*1-NI 2000, REGARDING THE SUPPLY OF URANIUM, SIGNED IN NIAMEY ON THE 6TH OF JULY 2000 BETWEEN THE GOVERMENT OF THE REPUBLIC OF NIGER AND THE GOVERMENT OF IRAQ BY THEIR RESPECTIVE REPRESENTATIVES OFFICIAL DELEGATES.
ABOVE MENTIONED SUPPLY EQUIVALENT TO 500 TONS OF PURE URANIUM PER YEAR, WILL BE DELIVERED IN TWO PHASES.
HAVING SEEN AND INSPECTED THE SAID DEAL. I APPROVE IN ALL AND EACH OF ITS INVOLVED PARTIES IN REGARD TO THE POWERS INVESTED IN ME BY THE CONSTITUTION OF THE 12TH OF MAY 1966.
ACCORDINGLY, I PRAISE YOU TO CONSIDER THIS LETTER AS BEING THE FORMAL TOOL OF APPROVAL OF THIS AGREEMENT BY THE GOVERMENT OF THE REPUBLIC OF NIGER THAT BECOMES BY THIS RIGHTFULLY ENGAGED.
PLEASE ACCEPT, MR. THE PRESIDENT, THE
OF MY HIGHEST REGARDS
SEAL OF THE PRESIDENT OF THE REPUBLIC OF NIGER
Document 4: Cover Letter to the Agreement
REPUBLIC OF NIGER
COUNCIL OF NATIONAL RECONCILIATION
MINISTRY OF FOREIGN AFFAIRS AND AFRICAN INTEGRATION
DIRECTORATE OF JUDICIARY AMD CONSULATE AFFAIRS
NIAMEY, THE 10TH OF OCTOBER 2000
THE MINISTER OF FOREIGN AFFAIRS AND OF COOPERATION
MR. THE AMBASSADOR OF NIGER
SUBJECT: PROTOCOL OF AGREEMENT BETWEEN THE
OF NIGER AND THE GOVERMENT OF IRAQ RELATED TO THE SUPPLYING OF URANIUM
SIGNED ON THE 5TH AND THE 6TH OF JULY 2000 IN NIAMEY
I HAVE THE HONOR TO SEND TO YOU THE ATTACHED, FOR INFORMATION PURPOSES, COPY OF THE PROTOCOL OF AGREEMENT SIGNED IN NIAMEY BETWEEN THE REPUBLIC OF NIGER AND THE GOVERMENT OF IRAK REGARDING THE SUPPLYING OF URANIUM THAT THE NIGER STATE ISSUED REGARDING THE PROTOCOL CITED IN THE SUBJECT
ATTACHED PAPER: 1
ALLELE ELHADJ HABIBOU
MINISTER OF FOREIGN AFFAIRS AND COOPERATION
THE DIRECTION OF JUDICIAL AFFAIRS OF THE MINISTER OF FOREIGN AFFAIRS IN THE PERSON OF HIS EXCELLENCY MR. THE MINISTER AND THE (TIER ?) OF THE MINISTER OF MINES IN THE PERSON OF MR THE MINISTER IN CHARGE, UNITED IN ASSEMBLY STATED THE FOLLOWING:
- 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;
-READ THE LETTER # 488/MJ/SO OF THE 3RD OF JULY 2000 OF MR. THE MINISTER OF FOREIGN AFFAIRS AND COOPERATION:
DEMANDING TO SOLICITATE A FAVORABLE ADVICE TO THE STATE COURT ON THE POINTS TO BE KNOWN:
-ON ONE PART, IF THE PROTOCOL OF THE DEAL BETWEEN THE GOVERMENT OF THE REPUBLIC OF NIGER AND THE GOVERMENT OF IRAQ, RELATED TO THE SALE OF PURE URANIUM, SIGNED ON THE 6TH OF JULY 2000 IN NIAMEY CONFORMS TO THE INTERNAL LAWS OF THE REPUBLIC OF NIGER, AND IF IT CONSTITUTES FOR THE REPUBLIC A VALID AND INCUBENT ENGAGEMENT;
-IN OTHER MATTERS, IF IT HAS BEEN RIGHTFULLY SIGNED AND APPROVED BY THE GOVERMENT OF IRAQ IN COMPLIANCE TO ALL ADMINISTRATIVE NORMS THAT ARE APPLICABLE AND CONSTITUING FOR HER A VALID AND INCUBENT AGREEMENT;
ISSUES THE ADVICE
THAT THE STATE OF NIGER SATISFIED ALL THE REQUIRINGS OF ITS CONSTITUNIONAL LAWS AND OF *** OTHERS PRINCIPLES OF LAWS FOR THE TAKING CHARGE OF VALID AND JURIDICALLY INCUBENT TO ALL ITS ENGAGEMENTS RESULTING FROM THE PROTOCOL OF THE AGREEMENT
THAT THE REPRESENTATIVE OF THE STATE OF NIGER AND THE REPRESENTATIVE OF IRAQ WHO HAVE SIGNED IN THE NAME OF THEIR RESPECTIVE GOVERMENT, HAD JURIDICALLY POWER OF REPRESENTATION.
WERE SITTING MISTER: MAMADOU MALAN AOUAMI, PRESIDENT OF THE COURT OF NIGER; HADJ NADJIR, ADVISOR TO THE GOVERMENT OF IRAK, MAHAMANE BOUKARI INTERIM ADVISOR TO THE MINISTRY OF FOREIGN AFFAIRS OF NIGER, IN THE PRESENCE OF MR BANDIAIRE ALI, ATTORNEY GENERAL OF IRAQ AND WITH THE ASSISTANCE OF MASTER MAIGA ALI, CLERK OF THE COURT IN CHIEF.
SEAL OF THE MINISTRY OF FOREIGN AFFAIRS
Document 6: Niger Code
A government representative [from Iraq] has concluded his visit with his Nigerien colleague. Negotiations are underway and look very promising.
It's necessary that you keep in close contact with the ambassador in Rome concerning the transportation of metal 551.91 [sic- 551.81 in original]. The authorization for overflight arrived too late. Our government has decided to send the merchandise secretly by sea under the Gabon banner and tranship in international waters. Contact re-established. Very good work done together with the personal emissary of the Iraqi president.
It's understood that this information is top secret and personal. Be on guard as far as all embassy personnel are concerned.
Secretary of State
Mamadou El Hadji
Document 7: U92
REPUBLIC OF NIGER
Niamey, August 28, 2001
Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Cooperation and African Integration
Directorate of Nigeriens Abroad
[..] – 6093/ MAE/C/IA/DNE[?]
[From] the Minister to the Ambassador of Niger [in] Rome
It is our pleasure to inform you that the delivery of the chemical merchandise- U 92 (238.028 9) has finally concluded today August 28, 2001.
All documents concerning this operation have been remitted to the NITRA Transit Society which will assure transportation from Niamey to Cotonou via Lomé.
For the Minister and P.O.
The Secretary General
MAIGA[?] DJIBRILLA AMINATA
SIGNED AND SEALED WITH THE SEAL OF THE
OF FOREIGN AFFAIRS OF THE REPUBLIC OF NIGER
REPORT ON THE MEETING REALIZE[D] WITH THE IMPLEMENTATION OF THE PLAN OF ACTION "GLOBAL SUPPORT"
Our group, which met today June 14, 2002, at 4 PM in the residence of the Iraqi ambassador, via della Camillucia n° 355 in Rome has determined as follows:
The group directed by the ambassadors of Niger, Sudan, Iraq, Pakistan, Libya, Iran have [plural in original] decided that "Global Support" which is composed of specialists belonging to different military corps of the allied countries will be active immediately.
We are convinçed [sic] that the high profession of the military belonging to "Global Support" are [subjunctive plural in original] qualified with considerable experiences and very diversified in the sectors of defence and security and without a doubt they are responsible for the tasks assigned to them.
The Global Support (our group) is active worldwide, in all areas and extreme climates.
The competences of the members of Global Support are the following:
- Our support will above all be extended to:
governments submitted to an embargo;
governments continually suspected, and without just cause, of producing nuclear, bacteriological, chemical weapons; governments accused, without just cause, of international terrorism;
Islamic patriots accused of belonging to criminal organizations, to cells having non-existent ramifications;
SEAL OF THE EMBASSY IN ROME OF THE REPUBLIC OF NIGER
Analytical Ju-Jitsu (Docs 3, 4 and 5)
best way to analyse the Niger docs is to print them out first. It makes it way
easier to compare letterheads, seals and signatures if they’re right in front
of you rather than having to flip back and forth between windows.
Anyway. On October 15 2002, the US embassy in Rome passed copies of the documents to the CIA and the State Department’s INR. (Senate p. 58) INR was immediately suspicious of the documents’ validity. An INR analyst wrote about the documents in an email, “you’ll note that it bears a funky Emb. of Niger stamp (to make it look official, I guess).” (Senate p. 58) The documents were later passed to the IAEA and discovered to be crude forgeries. (Senate p. 57) You can read about how the IAEA determined the docs were fake here.
The documents can tell us a lot more than simply the fact that they were forged. With a little analytical ju-jitsu we can discover details of how they were forged and why.
Doc 3: The President’s Letter, Doc 4: The Cover Letter and Doc 5: The Annex are different from the other documents. These three appear to be stuck in some kind of weird time-warp. They appear to be based on Niger info from around 1989.
Doc 3 references Niger’s 1966 constitution. This constitution was suspended in 1991 and a new one adopted in 1993. Doc 4 is written on the letterhead of Niger’s former military government, the “Conseil Militaire Supreme”, which was abolished in May 1989. Doc 4 also claims to be signed by Niger’s foreign minister, Allele El Hadj Habibou. Habibou, however, has not been the foreign minister since 1989.
But Doc 5: The Annex is the most interesting of these three. Doc 5 claims to be an account of the ratification of the Niger-Iraq uranium deal by Niger’s supreme court. It ends with a list of the members of the court who were supposedly present that day:
Let’s put the implausibility of Iraq sending its attorney general to Niger in abeyance for the moment. What happens when we google a couple of these names? Eventually, what we find is this website here, which, believe it or not, details every one of Niger’s supreme court decisions since 1962. (I know, I was surprised too. Ladies and gentlemen, let’s hear it for the Internet!)
All the people listed in Doc 5 are actually
Nigeriens and served in Niger’s supreme court in, you guessed it, 1989. Hadj
Nadjir and Mahamane Boukari are not advisors to Iraq and the ministry of foreign
affairs, respectively, but are “conseillers”, which means they’re just Nigerien
lawyers. “Bandiaire Ali” is not the attorney general of Iraq but is Ali
Bandiare, the attorney general of Niger. The Cabal switched his first name with
his last and thought no one would notice!
I think what happened was the Cabal forged Doc 3, Doc 4 and Doc 5 using genuine Niger documents from 1989. This suggests that the Cabal, while they have access to classified US intelligence, are not current intelligence agents. If they were, the forgeries would be a lot harder (if not impossible) to detect. Their information would have been up-to-date. I think these guys are ex-agents who only have access to fifteen year old foreign documents.
The FIS Reports and the Niger Docs
It’s difficult to say conclusively that the
FIS reports are based on the Niger docs because we don’t have access to the
reports in full. Plus, the text of the agreement has not yet surfaced. Any
comparison of the information in the reports to the contents of the docs is
necessarily going to have holes. That said, I think there is a good
circumstantial case that the FIS reports are summaries of the forged Niger
The first FIS report seems to be based on Docs 3, 4 and 5 and the missing agreement. The first report mentions:
The second FIS report provides more detail from the documents plus the “verbatim text” of the agreement:
The October National Intelligence Estimate’s uranium acquisition section quotes from Doc 3: The President’s Letter. It says Niger has agreed to supply Iraq with “pure uranium”. (Senate p. 52) Also, note that in Doc 5: The Annex, “July 7, 2000, is said to be a Wednesday but was actually a Friday.” (Senate p. 47)
The similarities between the FIS reports and Docs 3, 4 and 5 are unlikely to be coincidental. Reproducing the mistaken date is a dead giveaway. However, if the FIS reports were based on the forged Niger docs (and I think they were), then did the FIS know they were sending the CIA summaries of forgeries?
First of all, I don’t think the FIS is
responsible for forging the Niger docs. Like I said previously, I think the
Cabal is a bunch of ex-intelligence agents with access to classified US
intelligence but not much else. Any professional intelligence service, foreign
or otherwise, would have done a much better job.
But did the FIS know its reports were based on forgeries? Even though the errors might be glaring to some, it’s possible that the FIS simply didn’t check the documents closely enough before sending the reports. After all, not many people in the world are going to recognise the name of an obscure third world country’s 1989 foreign minister when they see it.
Or are they?
Take a look at the first FIS report from October 2001. According to the Senate Report, the report says:
“[I]n October 2000 Nigerien Minister of Foreign Affairs Nassirou Sabo informed one of his ambassadors in Europe that Niger had concluded an accord to provide several tons of uranium to Iraq.” (Senate p. 36) (My emphasis)
But wait a second. Doc 4 is the only document dated October 2000 and the only one from the foreign minister to an ambassador in Europe informing him of the uranium agreement. But that document purports to be signed by Allele El Hadj Habibou, not Nassirou Sabo.
Nassirou Sabo really was Niger’s foreign minister in October 2000. This means the FIS saw the mistake and fixed it for the report! That’s why the uranium deal didn’t trip the CIA’s bullshit detector. It was a set up!
While I doubt very much the entire FIS is in on it, I’ll bet dollars to donuts that at least someone in the FIS is in the Cabal. Maybe it’s just a couple of high-ranking officers or maybe it’s just the guy in charge of sending reports to the CIA. But the Cabal definitely have a guy inside the FIS. It’s the only way it works.
2: Get Zahawie’s Answer has different idiosyncrasies than Docs 3, 4 and 5. First
of all, the name of the government on the letterhead has changed. While Doc 4
refers to the “Conseil Militaire Supreme”, Doc 2 has the “Conseil de
Reconciliation Nationale”. The name of the foreign ministry has been updated.
“Et De La Cooperation” in Doc 4 has been replaced by “Et De L’Integration
Africaine” in Doc 2. The seal of the foreign ministry has also changed (note
the placing of the little shield) and a coat of arms has been added to the top
of the page. Most importantly, they’ve changed the name of the foreign
minister. Instead of Allele Habibou, Doc 2 claims to be signed by Nassirou
Close, Cabal, but no cigar! While Sabo was Niger’s foreign minister in October 2000, like the first FIS report says, Doc 2 is dated 30 July 1999. The late nineties, it seems, was a choppy period for the Nigerien foreign ministry. In 1999, the foreign minister was Aichatou Mindaoudou. Sabo did not get the job until January 2000. Another difference is that Doc 2 has the uranium agreement signed on the 28 June 2000, whereas Docs 3, 4 and 5 have it signed more than a week later on the 5-6 July.
So I think that while Docs 3, 4 and 5 were forged sometime before the first FIS report in October 2001, Doc 2 was definitely forged later, probably before the second report in February and after the Cabal had gotten some ‘feedback’.
The second FIS report is the first to implicate Iraqi ambassador Wissam al-Zahawie in the uranium deal. (Robb-Silberman p. 76) Doc 2 also ties Zahawie to the deal, whereas Docs 3, 4 and 5 don’t mention him. I think Doc 2 was forged so the FIS could ‘name-drop’ Zahawie into the second report and clue the CIA to the pre-existing intelligence on Zahawie’s 1999 Niger trip. (See: So, who is this Zahawie character?)
Doc 6: The Coded Letter, the Cabal are just not even trying any more. No
complicated letterheads or seals. No obscure dignitary’s signature to scrawl.
This time the document is just a string of numbers, an old Nigerien code from
1967. (I like to think the Cabal’s contact in the FIS got pissed off after the
last two forgery fiascos and gave them the code so they wouldn’t fuck up
I think Doc 6, which describes Niger secretly shipping the uranium by sea “under the Gabon banner”, corresponds with the third FIS report from March 2002. The third report, while heavily redacted, implies the manner the uranium will be delivered.
Admittedly, my argument linking Doc 6 to the third report is kinda weak. Really, what it amounts to is Doc 6 doesn’t fit anywhere else and I don’t know what’s in the third FIS report, so, hey, fuck it, let’s put ‘em together. If anyone has any ideas how to make the argument stronger or whether I should abandon it all together, drop me a line.
1: Ambassador Zahawie is a letter dated February 1999 from the Nigerien ambassador in Rome to
the Nigerien foreign minister. The minister is informed that Iraqi ambassador
Wissam al-Zahawie is coming to Niger on an official visit. Doc 1 stands out
among the Niger docs because it looks like it’s legitimate.
The letterhead is completely different from the other documents (it looks friendlier – more diplomatic). The seal is different again – it’s clearer, you can read the writing inside the circle – and I’ll bet the signature matches the signature of the actual 1999 Nigerien ambassador. Even the phone number and address in the letterhead checks out.
The contents of the document also seem authentic. The letter contains no reference to the uranium deal or anything now known to be false. The information it does contain is very specific. Zahawie’s flight details, right down to his time of arrival and flight number, are probably not things even Zahawie himself would likely remember.
I think that Doc 1 was included with the other Niger docs for the benefit of the journalist, Elisabetta Burba. The documents were leaked for a reason. In October 2002, the war was gearing up and the Cabal wanted her to write a story about Saddam’s alleged uranium acquisition. Now, no journalist is going to know about some obscure diplomat’s trip to a third world country more than three years prior. If the Cabal want her to get the story straight and implicate Zahawie’s 1999 Niger trip as the start of the uranium negotiations, then they’ve got to be explicit about it. Thus, Doc 1 is thrown in the mix.
Doc 7: U92 might be authentic as well because, as with Doc 1, the letterhead, seal and signature don’t look quite so suspicious. If it is a forgery, it’s a professional job. The letter is dated August 2001 and is from the Secretary General of the foreign ministry, Maiga Djibrilla Aminata, who is a real person who held that post at that time. It informs the Nigerien ambassador of a uranium deal about to be concluded and the uranium shipped from “Niamey to Cotonou via Lome,” which are all real places through which Niger ships its exports. The document doesn’t mention who the deal is with or urges secrecy or caution (characteristic of all the forgeries). It may very well refer to a legitimate uranium deal.
While Doc 1 was included for the benefit of the journalist, I don’t think that’s the whole story for Doc 7. Remember that a week before the Docs were leaked, the classified National Intelligence Estimate was published on October 1 2002. The NIE said about the Niger-Iraq uranium deal:
“A foreign government service reported as of early 2001, Niger planned to send several tons of ‘pure uranium’ to Iraq. As of early 2001, Niger and Iraq reportedly were still working out arrangements for this deal, which could be for up to 500 tons of yellowcake. We do not know the status of this arrangement.” (Senate p. 52) (My emphasis)
Doc 7 is for the benefit of the US intelligence community. It answers the question implied by the NIE. The status of the arrangement is that delivery has concluded. Saddam has the uranium. He’s building a nuclear weapon. The clock is ticking. Somebody start the war already!
the State Department’s INR received the forged Niger docs on October 15 2002,
analysts were quickly suspicious of their authenticity. “[T]he thing that stood
out immediately about the documents was that the companion documents – a
document included with the Niger documents that did not relate to uranium
– mentioned some type of military campaign against major world powers.
The members of the alleged military campaign included both Iraq and Iran, and
was, according to the documents, being orchestrated through the Nigerien
Embassy in Rome, which all struck the analyst as ‘completely implausible’.”
(Senate p. 58)
Which brings us to Doc 8: Global Support. Dated June 14 2002, the document claims to be the minutes of a meeting at the address of the Iraqi ambassador. Niger, Sudan, Iraq, Pakistan, Libya and Iran have activated “Global Support”, which is composed of military “specialists” of the allied countries. The whole thing reeks of a Neocon paranoid fantasy in which a variety of freedom-hating rogue nations and terrorist groups put aside their differences to form a united front against the US and it’s allies. Check out Michael Ledeen’s book The War Against the Terror Masters for the archetype.
It seems to me Doc 8 is trying to set up a hit-list of nations to be targeted after Iraq. It’s taking advantage of the Bush Doctrine. If a regime “supports” terrorist groups, then the US will make no distinction between the regime and the terrorists.
Unfortunately, Doc 8 doesn’t give many clues to the identity of its author beyond similarities with Neocon wet dreams (it could just have easily been written to influence Neocons as written by one of them). I did, however, think the use of “patriotes Islamiques” or “Islamic patriots” was a strange choice of phrase. Patriots? Not Mujahideen? Not Jihadi? It sounds to me like Doc 8 was written by a Westerner, trying to sound like a terrorist, but unsure how other terrorists refer to each other.
Part 4: The Playing
I don’t think the Niger docs were ever supposed to get to the US State Department or to anyone else who would easily detect them as forgeries. I think the Cabal intended the Italian journalist to write her story the way they wanted her to write it. The story was supposed to be picked up by the American press and/or flagged by some open-source analyst in the US intelligence community. But Elisabetta Burba never wrote her story. Instead she tried to determine whether the info she had was true. She took the docs to the US embassy where they were quickly falsified. It seemed the Cabal’s propaganda campaign had suffered a set-back.
The Cabal wanted the uranium deal in the President’s speeches and wanted it bad. The leaking of the Niger docs was supposed to be the first step in a coordinated campaign to provide ‘independent’ corroboration of the Iraq-Niger uranium deal. Over the next few months, enough corroborating evidence would reach the US intelligence community that the CIA would be played once again.
According to the Senate Report, on November 22 2002, a little over a month after the Niger docs were leaked, the French foreign ministry reported to the State Department that “France had information on an Iraqi attempt to buy uranium from Niger.” (Senate p. 59) Months later it’s learned that France’s assessment is based on the same forged documents. (Senate p. 69)
I think the Niger docs were given to the French by Rocco Martino, Elisabetta Burba’s source. The Cabal hoped that French intelligence would pass summaries of the documents to the CIA just as the FIS had done a year before. It seems though that the French took their time and investigated the claims. It’s not known if/when the French determined the documents were forgeries.
Enter the West African Businessman. (I’m
going to call him the WABman for short – it sounds espionage-y.)
According to the Senate Report, “[o]n November 25, 2002, The Naval [redacted
sentence] issued a very brief report (Alleged Storage of Uranium Destined for
Iraq [redacted sentence] that a large quantity of uranium from Niger was being
stored in a warehouse in Cotonou, Benin. The uranium was reportedly sold to
Iraq by Niger’s President. The report provided the name and telephone numbers
for the individual, a West African businessman, who was responsible for
co-ordinating the alleged uranium transaction and indicated that he was willing
to provide information about the transaction.” (Senate p. 59)
So, let me get this straight. This WABman shows up out of the freaking blue and tells the US Navy three specific things about the fake Niger deal he could only have known from the forged Niger docs or the three FIS reports.
this dude psychic? Niger isn’t alleged as the target of Iraq’s attempted
uranium procurement until December 19 when the State Department accidentally
posts it on the Internet. (Senate p. 61). The forged Niger docs don’t become
public until March, 2003, after they were sent to the IAEA. (Senate, p. 69).
Yet, somehow, months earlier, the WABman has specific information about a
uranium deal that didn’t exist. He’s either psychic or he’s Cabal. And, I’ll
tell ya, I don’t believe in psychics.
But, wait. It gets better. The WABman leaves his name and number with the Navy. Somebody’s got in touch with him, right? Right? Wrong! Neither the CIA’s Directorate of Operations, the Pentagon’s Defense Humint Service, or the US Navy has ever bothered to pick up a phone and give this guy a call. (Senate p. 60). Doesn’t that tick you off? I wanna know where this guy got his information.
In fact, it’s suspicious the WABman goes to the Navy to tell his story. How do you tell the US Navy anything? Do they have offices in West Africa you can just walk into? Did the WABman semaphore a passing battle cruiser? Considering that Niger is a land-locked country, I think it’d be easier just to drop into the local US embassy.
I think the WABman wanted to avoid the State Department’s INR, which certainly would have been sceptical of his claims and would have more thoroughly investigated who he was. The Defense Humint Service didn’t check the WABman’s warehouse in Benin until more than three weeks later on December 19. (Senate p. 60). They found no uranium, just bales of cotton. This was not reported until February 10, 2003. According to the Senate Report, there had been a coup in Ivory Coast and so the Defense Attaché for the region had been “occupied with other responsibilities.” (Senate p. 68).
The FIS-B (The ‘B’ Stands For ‘Britain’)
On January 27 2003, the CIA recieved an intelligence report from another foreign intelligence service. I’m going to call these guys the FIS-B. FIS-B reported that they “had information on Iraqi attempts to obtain uranium from Niger, dating from 1999, but had no further information.” (Senate p. 64)
As eriposte contends in his analysis of the Senate Report and the Niger docs, FIS-B is most likely British intelligence. The intelligence dating from 1999 is probably simply that Ambassador Zahawie travelled to Niger in January that year. As I’ve explained previously (see: So who is this Zahawie character?), it’s easy to see why some analysts might suspect Zahawie’s trip of being a shopping expedition for black market uranium. This is simply a misinterpretation of the intelligence, not the influence of the Cabal. However, the next piece of information in the report is another story entirely.
In the report, the FIS-B indicates that “Niger had been looking to sell an old stock of uranium for years to the highest bidder.” (Senate p. 64) This is pure Cabal. Notice that this intelligence completely negates the CIA’s opposition to the Niger-Iraq deal. Remember that back in late-September/early-October 2002, the CIA learned that one of Niger’s uranium mines was flooded (see: The CIA Not Played). This, along with the knowledge that Niger’s other mine was under strict French control, caused George Tenet to personally remove references to the Niger-Iraq deal from the President’s Cincinnati speech. (Senate p. 56) However, if Niger was selling an “old stock” of uranium, it wouldn’t matter if the mines were flooded, on fire, under the control of the French or guarded by Jedi. The CIA’s objections to citing the uranium deal were demolished, but it would have to be sourced to the FIS-B – British intelligence.
And not a moment too soon. The next day, January 28 2003, the CIA clears the President’s State of the Union address. President Bush tells the world that “…the British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium in Africa.”
Two months later, the US was at war. The CIA had been played. The Cabal had prevailed.
Without the Niger-Iraq uranium deal, the evidence of Saddam’s nuclear reconstitution was ambiguous. Were the aluminium tubes parts for reverse-engineered rockets or were they destined for uranium enrichment centrifuges? Was Iraq attempting to procure magnets, balancing machines and machine tools for a nuclear program or were they to be used in legitimate enterprises? The uranium deal was the only evidence that was clear cut. An illicit uranium purchase could only mean one thing – a nuclear weapons program.
Without strong evidence of Iraq’s nuclear reconstitution, the Bush administration’s scare campaign would have lost a lot of its bite. Administration officials, like Condileeza Rice, would not have been able to go on CNN and say things like “we don’t want the smoking gun to be a mushroom cloud.” Without such charged rhetoric, there would have been a lot less hysteria about Iraq. Cooler heads might have prevailed. Someone might have noticed that invading Iraq would radicalize the Middle East and provide Osama bin Laden all the Al-Qaeda recruits he could possibly want.
In the next few years, Al-Qaeda may overthrow the House of Saud as a direct result of their increased numbers. Without a steady supply of Saudi oil, the global economy will plunge into depression. Western society will not have the ability to feed itself, let alone maintain its vast military-industrial complex. We’ll be forced to fight each other for meat cut from the bloated corpses of our dead. Civilization as we know it will cease to exist.
Nice going Cabal. Real smooth. When society crumbles, the first people I’m going to eat will be you.