Monday, October 31, 2005

(Not quite) Out of Africa

Knight-Ridder has compiled a detailed timeline of the real heart of the CIA Leak scandal: who forged those Niger/uranium documents and how did they get into White House hands?
Italy's military intelligence agency, SISMI, and people close to it, repeatedly tried to shop the bogus Niger uranium story to governments in France, Britain and the United States. That created the illusion that multiple sources were confirming the story.
The "illusion" of multiple sources was, alas, stunningly persistent; if it weren't, the lazy U.S. media wouldn't keep simpering about how "everybody got it wrong on WMD." The review continues:
The CIA had begun receiving intelligence reports based on the same forgeries in October 2001, but they could not be confirmed. Copies of the fake documents suddenly surfaced at a critical point in the White House's fall 2002 campaign to take the country to war in Iraq. The CIA eventually determined that the earlier reports were "based on the forged documents" and were "thus ... unreliable," a presidential commission on unconventional weapons proliferation said in March.
Note--and this is very important: Josh Marshall & Laura Rozen have found that the "earlier reports" and the "forged documents" were not distinct: "the intelligence reports from Italy were actually text transcriptions and summaries of the forged documents. The reports from Italy and the forgeries were one and the same."

I'm going to try to hit the salient bits in the Knight-Ridder timeline, as it's extremely valuable. Clearly this forgery scam goes way back; at least as far back as October 2001. If you do a bit of reading-betwixt-the-lines, I think you'll see how the Vulcan-cabal availed themselves of the forgeries, the Italian "intel"-agents, and Berlusconi's media-empire to "make it happen:"

[click "Read on, MacDuff!" to continue reading]
[...] Oct. 15, 2001 - The CIA received the first of three top-secret reports from a foreign intelligence service - which intelligence officials said was Italy's SISMI - that Niger planned to ship tons of uranium ore, or yellowcake, to Iraq. SISMI was behind similar reports in Britain and France. Paris never put any stock in the reports, according to two European officials. London has stood behind its statement that Iraq was seeking uranium in Africa.
February 2002 - Cheney and other officials asked the CIA to find out more. Some CIA and Pentagon analysts were impressed with the reporting. But the State Department's Bureau of Intelligence and Research (INR) was skeptical. Its analysts noted that France controls Niger's uranium mines and argued that Iraq wouldn't risk being caught breaking U.N. sanctions. The CIA station in Rome was skeptical of the reports from the start.
Feb. 21 - Wilson traveled to Niger at the CIA's request to investigate the purported uranium deal. He said he found nothing to substantiate the allegation. Neither did two other U.S. officials who investigated.
March 8 - The CIA circulated a report on Wilson's trip - without identifying him - to the White House and other agencies.
Sept. 9 [2002]
- With the White House's public campaign against Iraq in full swing, Nicolo Pollari, head of SISMI, met with then-Deputy National Security Adviser Stephen J. Hadley at the White House. Hadley later took the blame for including the false Niger allegation in Bush's 2003 State of the Union speech. National Security Council spokesman Frederick Jones said Thursday that the meeting was a 15-minute courtesy call and that no one could recollect talk about yellowcake.
Oct. 1 [2002; just before the Congressional vote on Iraq]- U.S. intelligence agencies sent the White House and Congress their key prewar assessment of Iraq's illicit weapon programs, which said Iraq was "vigorously" trying to buy uranium ore and had sought deals with Niger, Somalia and possibly the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The State Department's INR dissented in the report.
[...] Oct. 9 - An Italian journalist for the Rome magazine Panorama, owned by Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, a supporter of the Iraq war**, gave the U.S. Embassy a copy of the purported agreement by Niger to sell yellowcake to Iraq. The journalist, Elisabetta Burba, reportedly received the documents from Italian businessman Rocco Martino, who has connections to SISMI. The Italian government has denied any connection to the forged documents. The embassy forwarded a copy to the State Department. It raised the suspicion of an INR nuclear analyst, who noted in an e-mail that the documents bear a "funky Emb. Of Niger stamp (to make it look official, I guess.)"
Jan. 13, 2003 - The INR nuclear analyst told other analysts that he believed the Niger documents were forgeries.
[...] March 3 [2003; oops! too late! US forces are already awaiting orders to invade]- The International Atomic Energy Agency told the United States that the documents were forgeries after an expert used the Google search engine to identify false information. [emphasis mine]
** Today, the Guardian is reporting that Berlusconi tried to stop the war: "We tried right up to the end to persuade Bush and Blair not to launch a military attack." If these anti-war bleatings strike you as...um...disingenous, you're not alone!

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