eriposte over at the Left Coaster has a masterful post showing that the CIA knew the Niger documents were forgeries significantly before the IAEA let them in on that fact. He (she? these single-word handles starting in a small "e" are so ambiguous in terms of gender!) shows that there is only one set of Niger documents, but that the Italian reports on the documents corrected inaccurate information on the forgeries that they knew to be wrong. Partly I'm just posting this to get more people to go read that post. But I want to make one addition to his (her?) work.
eriposte argues that the CIA clearly knows the Niger documents are false before they receive them, because they're very insistent that Bush should not refer to them even before the documents are handed over to the US embassy in Italy.
Because some important details have been redacted it is not clear which CIA division or group received a copy of the documents and on what date. However, what is clear is that the CIA (esp. in the United States) could not have received the copies from the embassy prior to October 9, 2002. Yet, in a mysterious twist to the CIA's earlier position on the "uranium from Africa" claim, between October 2, 2002 and October 6, 2002 - prior to the CIA's ostensibly seeing the forged documents - top players in the CIA (including the Deputy DCI and the DCI) personally made efforts to try and dissuade the White House, and strongly so, from including the "uranium from Africa" claim in speeches.
Clearly, this raises the question as to what the CIA knew even before they ostensibly received a copy of the forged documents, that changed their minds regarding the "uranium from Africa" claim. (Remember, the CIA kept claiming that they did not know the documents were forgeries until after the IAEA exposed them in March 2003.) And why, despite the above, did the Bush State of the Union claim on "uranium from Africa" persist?
Well this argument becomes very interesting when you consider this WaPo article from March 22, 2003, which was the CIA (and IAEA's, I suspect) first disavowal of the war. This article makes it clear that the CIA knew well before the IAEA told them the Niger documents were false.
U.S. intelligence officials said they had not even seen the actual evidence, consisting of supposed government documents from Niger, until last month. The source of their information, and their doubts, officials said, was a written summary provided more than six months ago by the Italian intelligence service, which first obtained the documents.
This is remarkable. First, consider the gall of CIA officials to go on the record 3 days after the war started to refute the intelligence behind that war. And they don't just refute the evidence, they totally trash it.
"I have seen all the stuff. I certainly have doubts," said a senior administration official with access to the latest intelligence. Based on the material he has reviewed, the official said, the United States will "face significant problems in trying to find" such weapons. "It will be very difficult."
(Note, I thought this might be a quote from Rand Beers, who as the top counter-terrorism guy at NSC would have been privy to much of this evidence. But Beers had resigned the week before the war. And this person, basically warning us we would find no WMDs, was still employed by the Administration.)
But more importantly, this article refers to a summary of the Niger documents that they had received more than 6 months previously. More than 6 months from March 22, 2003 would put you before September 22, 2002. And during the production of the NIE that justified the war with Congress.
Now this is scandalous enough, that the CIA had learned these documents were bogus significantly before they let on they were (although we knew that anyway, because the INR analyst who saw them in mid-October immediately discredited them, but CIA just ignored him. Interestingly, even in this WaPo article, CIA doesn't acknowledge that an intelligence analyst had debunked those documents back in October 2002).
But here's one more bit of scandal.
Unless it appears in one of the redacted sections, this report is not mentioned in the SSCI Report. The only place it might appear in September is in the redacted passage on the British White Paper pages 49-50 (perhaps the Brits received this report, but not the CIA?). There's one half-redacted paragraph on page 54 and another fully-redacted paragraph on page 57. But contextually, it doesn't seem like these paragraphs could be referring to this report. Moreover, these redacted passages are too late--they're already chronicling events from October, less than 6 months before the WaPo article appeared on March 22.
So either this report was part of the British White Paper. Or it doesn't appear in the SSCI.
I implied in my last post that the CIA was sending a warning to Senator Roberts about the leaking they might do if he persisted in his little investigation of Fitzgerald. Could this report--which discredited one of Bush's biggest reasons for war a full 6 months before he went to war, but which was completely suppressed in the SSCI--be one of the things they were warning about?