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May 21, 2006


Martino apparently tried to sell the forgeries to the French, but they debunked them (I'm looking for the link to back this up).

It's Chouet's claim. Here's your link.

If I were wearing tinfoil, I'd suggest that the FBI non-investigation investigation may have been an attempt to prevent other agencies in the government from learning where the Niger documents came from.

There's no need for tinfoil. All you need is an appreciation for Sen. Roberts' infinitely better strategic judgment, and ruthlessness, as compared with Sen. Rockefeller's.

All your key points seem important. Perhaps the forger was so well known in intelligence circles in WA-DC, and even UK, that a simple clause would be enough to evoke that agent's entire mystique; maybe it was a double or triple agent. I remember reading somewhere there were several ex-agents involved in purveying the forgeries in exchange for payment in IT.
Somewhat agreeing with how you portray SCSI, and especially after reading the transcript of chairman Roberts' opening remarks at the May 18, 2006 hearings about the nomination of the new director of secret programs, it is clear that Roberts' oratorical style is to tangentialize, and borrow fragments to cobble together a fiction intended to include enough buffering familiar concepts to disguise its fundamental misleading character. Wilson said as much in one of his critiques.
Having lived a long time in Mueller's former part of the land, I have a kind of innate respect for his perspicacious management of his agency's sector of intelligence, although at its origin exclusively targeting territorial USA. Your suggestion that his branch's assignment might have helped a coverup may be valid only because of the immense amount of background it would have to begin to start to overcome the handicap of not being the primary entity responsible for intelligence within Berlusconi's bailiwick.
The chemistry in the triad of Berlusconi, Blair, and Bush is of interest, as well; diplomats must have had their juggling arts honed by that era, but I digress. And Berlusconi is back in the private sector. Like Blair, Mueller covered his own responsibilities with respect to due diligence about phony documents, I believe, although many readers have cast other interpretations overlaying that issue.
It remains curious that the inspector general investigator on the trail of the sourcing of the 16 words recently was fired and her boss quit suddenly immediately thereafter. It may take forensics of the sort you and Pollyusa do to ferret out some basic facts probably commonplace within the intelligence community, and you both do excellent work with that; there has to have been a more in foreign press, as well, as you start to indicate today.

Translated from Nural Cubible:

In brief, between 1999 and 2000 the French realize that someone is working abandoned mines to generate a brisk clandestine trade in uranium. Who is purchasing the smuggled uranium? The French are looking for an answer and Rocco Martino senses an opportunity.

That SISMI is interested in providing false information on this question (via La Signora) to the French is curious in and of itself. But as I read the La Repubblica narrative the French had punted on the forgeries by early 2001. Could be French spin. But when they got the docs from Martino could clear things up.

That should have been: "by Nural Cubible"

John LoPresti,

I had not heard this before:

"It remains curious that the inspector general investigator on the trail of the sourcing of the 16 words recently was fired and her boss quit suddenly immediately thereafter."

Can you point me to a URL(s) of this?

John Forde

Look not futher

What's up with Pincus's story for 5/22: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/05/21/AR2006052101024.html

[Bush's SOTU] attributed reports of attempted uranium purchases to the British government ... the British relied on forged documents.

And we are back to David Kelley with his claims that the British dossier on Iraq was sexed up, his betrayal by his own government, and his death. What did Kelley know about Plame? What did he tell Judy Miller?

Blair wanted the war as much as did Bush. They used the same methods to achieve their aims, and the same methods to remove contrary or questioning voices.

Hopefully, they'll both sit in the dock at the Hague with their cabinets of masterminds and ministers handcuffed next to them. Deception and illusion and lies are like fairie glamour: sooner or later the sun rises and it all dissolves. You can no more stop the truth than you can stop the sun.

A reminder about Gellman's 10/30/5 article:

The chain of events that led to Friday's indictment can be traced as far back as 1991, when an unremarkable burglary took place at the embassy of Niger in Rome. All that turned up missing was a quantity of official letterhead with "Republique du Niger" at its top.

More than 10 years later, according to a retired high-ranking U.S. intelligence official, a businessman named Rocco Martino approached the CIA station chief in Rome. An occasional informant for U.S., British, French and Italian intelligence services, Martino brought documents on Niger government letterhead describing secret plans for the sale of uranium to Iraq.

The station chief "saw they were fakes and threw [Martino] out," the former CIA official said. But Italy shared a similar report with the Americans in October 2001, he said, and the CIA gave it circulation because it did not know the Italians relied on the same source.

When did the walk-in/throw-out occur? When and how did the former (high-ranking) CIA source learn about it? A report on the incident could easily have mentioned that Martino was a "con man." And it would presumably have found its way to CIA HQ, but it feels like the sort of report that wouldn't advance beyond the nearest file cabinet once it got there. Or do high-ranking intelligence officials routinely deal with reports of random walk-ins? Might Armitage have had reason to see the CIA report? Could another report on the incident have been filed through State Dept. channels--since it all happened at an embassy? Or do "we" not believe Gellman's source?

Babar is in the room working abandoned African mines to generate a brisk clandestine trade in uranium. Is Shere Khan buying the smuggled uranium?


Interesting post. Some quick comments:

>>> Presumably, he would have had to address Rocco Martino's role in the process, but it's not clear what Pollari said about Martino.

This is the part that the Italians refused to investigate for a long time - namely, how it is that overtly bogus documents created by a "con man" made it into their reports to the CIA in 2001 and early 2002. That said, it's not immediately obvious that Pollari may have known about Martino, specifically, and how the junk dossier got mainstreamed back in 2001 by his SISMI operatives. He may have known or he may have not.

>>> That discussion suggests that DO didn't know about SISMI's source.
>>> 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.
>>> So either the discussion about polygraphs and "very credible sources" just related to SISMI, or they're just confused--and remained confused all the way until 2003 or 2004 when DO presumably told SSCI they they still didn't know where the intelligence came from.

Actually, the statement in the SSCI report is deliberately misleading. Note that it says :"DO, to date, remains uncertain as to how the foreign government service collected the information in the three intelligence reports". It doesn't say that CIA DO knows nothing about the source of the information - only that they were unsure how it was "collected" by SISMI. That may have been technically accurate even as late as 2004 since Berlusconi had not submitted to an investigation on who within SISMI took the bogus stuff in the forgeries and mainstreamed it. DO knew that the stuff was bogus. What they may not have been sure of at that time was who in SISMI took the bogus stuff and massaged it to make it look "real".

>>> I'd suggest that the FBI non-investigation investigation may have been an attempt to prevent other agencies in the government from learning where the Niger documents came from.

I don't think so. One thing to remember is that the scandal here is not just the origin of the forgeries but also how they got mainstreamed. A lot of the cover-up is focused on preventing people from knowing how the mainstreaming occurred. Blaming Rocco Martino - as the FBI did when they first shut down their "investigation" - was/is a convenient way to prevent the public from understanding how it is that utterly bogus and erroneous information in the forgeries was nicely suppressed or altered when SISMI mainstreamed its contents to the CIA and others:

>>> Perhaps the FBI investigation really presented a legitimate reason to avoid reporting what appears to be an acknowledgment within the Intelligence Community that Martino was a questionable source. More likely, it provided a convenient excuse for Pat Roberts to avoid admitting that nothing from Rocco Martino should have been treated with the credulity the CIA treated it with.

Actually, as I mentioned above, my inference is that one of the main reasons the FBI has been reticent is that a real investigation would have revealed how SISMI mainstreamed the bogus documents and the Italians wouldn't have come out looking good. Secondly, the real story on the US side is not that the CIA treated the forgeries with credulity. Quite the opposite. The CIA left enough tell-tale evidence in the SSCI Report that they knew all along that the stuff was bunk (here's one example: http://www.theleftcoaster.com/archives/007000.php). Only the White House's plants at WINPAC were still peddling the junk and the evidence would therefore lead back to the White House. The real story is not that the CIA did not know the documents were forged - they knew and they never treated it as something credible. The story that is being suppressed is that the WH wanted the junk in their speeches and used WINPAC to do their bidding. So, the question is what did the WH know and when did they know it. If the FBI went after the CIA, the CIA would have lit up the White House's role.


Gellman's article had one error. The break-in was only in 2001, not 1991 - as I learned more recently.

And yes, the CIA likely knew from the 2001 Martino walk-in that there was a pack of bogus Niger stuff circulating via Martino:

Here's what likely happened. The CIA heard about the Martino junk through their Rome station. Around the same time the Italians started peddling the uranium claim as credible. The CIA was skeptical since they knew about Martino's dossier - so the Italians kept coming back with what they said was "credible" info. The CIA started to think maybe the forgeries were just mimicking something real that may have occurred which the Italians knew - until they spoke to the French and the French told them it was all from the same junk. Then the CIA started to pull back aggressively from the uranium allegation (around August 2002). Then the forgeries landed in their arms a second time - via Burba. When that happened, the Rome station chief likely advised the CIA a second time that this was junk (which may have been the reason why there is very little discussion on how the docs got to the US from Rome). Which is why the CIA continued to ignore the junk and left it filed in a safe. Only some individuals in WINPAC - who were the WH's plants in the CIA - continued to push the uranium claims thereafter.

Anyway, that's at a 10,000 ft level and I've got enough evidence for this theory. Hopefully I'll get to finish my research on it in a month or two.

Babar just raised his trunk and trumpeted yellow cake flour all over your research.

eR and &y

After reading all your posts, I wondered, first, if the CIA-State IG excuse that the CIA recognized the documents were part of an intended CI operation to provide an excuse that didn't have to do with connecting it back to earlier warnings about the documents and Martino. So long as they could pretend they were two sets of documents, they could do the kind of alterations that eR has identified AND make it look like this was reinforcing evidence. How to turn one piece of invented evidence into 3.

Also, while I agree, eR that they're definitely hiding the SISMI part of this, they are also very actively hiding Bolton's role in this (Bolton lied about his role just a few weeks ago, and we see from the INR memos that this is still an item State is hiding, more urgently than even the Top Secret NIE information). That is, the SISMI alterations are lethal, but so is whatever Bolton did to make sure they got reintroduced into the US IC. Now that may or may not have to do with ignoring Martino's role (it could, for example, if CIA threw them out because of Martino's reputation and Bolton specifically sought out a version from the Embassy in Rome). But I'd say there is clear complicity on both Bolton's side and Pollari's, and the FBI got shut down on both fronts.

Oh, one more thing. About Pollari's response. I was only implying that, if Pollari claimed La Signora was credible, he would have had to admit Martino's role in passing the documents along to Burba. Wouldn't he?

Oh, one more thing. Those elephant cakes are radioactive and the associated gas, flourescent. What about the French realizing between 1999 and 2000 that there was working in the abandoned mines, that ore was being recovered, and a brisk trade in yellow cake(how it is transported) going on?

Ignore that at peril to your understanding.

eriposte --

Thank you for the reply, the link, and the info. I don't know why that point about decade-old letterhead never struck me as odd--just read right through it every time, I guess. But I have a few papers around that are ten years old... they don't look or feel anything like "fresher" paper. I guess good forgers probably have various tricks for aging/unaging paper, but these forgers weren't exactly the inkiest stamps in the in the bureaucracy (if you get my drift). Plus, what are the odds that the Nigeriens hadn't changed the letterhead in all that time?

I like your 10,000-foot scenario and look forward to the fleshed-out version. But I confess that I mostly bounce around in the eriposte "echo chamber" when it comes to the forgery story--since you're The Go-To Source for it all and you're so thorough, your theories always sound great to me. (I mean this as a compliment to you and a critique of the lame news media.)

Also, I know it falls way below your "blogospheric pay grade," but I've been slowly trying to synthesize the Niger-Wargate-Plame story here (ongoing work in progress, pardon our dust). If you ever have time to skim through it for glaring foolishness on my part, I'd be most grateful. Later: Dammit... I just realized that I answer my own question from above ("When did the walk-in/throw-out occur?") in the "Spring 2002" entry of my timeline--citing that same L. Rozen post you quote at the Left Coaster link you just gave me. Thought it all sounded a little familiar. Too many things to remember, alas.

One last thing, eriposte... I love this table of yours, The CIA's expressed position on "uranium from Africa". It is quite handy. Thank you.


emptywheel (or anyone) -- What do you make of the Sept. 9, 2002 Pollari-Hadley meeting? Right in the thick of the campaign to fix intelligence and facts to policy, naturally. Apologies if you've discussed this at length before... as I said above, too many things to remember.

P.S. typepad is giving me serious guff about previewing and posting this comment. If it eventually appears, say, a dozen times--please delete all the redundant ones. OK? And sorry if I screwed up any of the links--they look OK to me but, again, no preview.


You know, here's a thought. We know from Woodward that WHIG was meeting intensely the week before September 8. They seem to issue Judy some talking points, then give the same talking points to all their Sunday talking heads to use. Those talksing points vaguely include Niger, but not directly. But every single one of these talking points people say they were going to declassify something soon. On September 12 (going by memory here) Bush reports to the UN, again no Niger. And then around the 20th, the Brits issue their White paper and the Americans start a few more leaks (including Feith's Al Qaeda-Iraq BS). Note that, Graham thinks the NIE was actually written after the talking points that became the declassified version.

In other words, September is new product month, and they're throwing everything they've got into the muddle. But they don't, directly, mention Niger. I wonder if Pollari actually warned them off using that or if he strategized a way they could use it? Note too that Blair was visiting at Camp David that weekend (the 7th or so, again from memory).

To me, the most circumstantially significant thing about the timing of the (secret) Hadley-Pollari meeting is that Burba shows up one month later with copies of the forgeries. Just in the nick of time.

The only thing that keeps me from going off the deep end tinfoilwise when I think about this is that Burba's forgeries are not "corrected" (or recorrected) by anybody. If Hadley had told Pollari (mad-tinfoil speculation), "The intel reports aren't doing the trick; WHIG would like to circulate actual copies to the IC. What can you do make that happen?" it's hard to believe he wouldn't have mentioned that the forgeries were crap (debunked by a station chief in 10 seconds flat) and asked that some effort be made to improve them.

Maybe correcting the actual forgeries (or copies) to match the intel reports would have left an even more obvious "THESE ARE FAKE signature" than the mistakes they corrected for the reports. Maybe The Cabal just didn't care about the fakeness--nobody was ever supposed to know anything about the documents beyond what They told us, anyway--and by reinjecting the documents during the U.N. phase of the marketing campaign, they could sow further confusion around the ICs of the world (along the lines of, "Are these confirmations of the earlier reports?"... that thrice-recycled "reinforcing evidence" business.) Plus, Bolton's gang and WINPAC could always be counted on as an ace-in-the-hole; at least a thin sliver of our IC would maintain the farce no matter what and give the Cabal a layer of protection ("Sure, there were some in the intelligence community who didn't buy the forgeries--but that's the way it is with intelligence...." cf. the fake debates over evolution, global warming, etc. It just takes is one dishonest participant with a loud voice to manufacture a dispute--once there's a fake dispute, the rules change and all the experts in the world are irrelevant.)

I don't know. And I probably don't even understand what I think I know well enough to claim that I know it. You know?

JF: I will try to find the article which reported it like that. I remembered it because that rationale solved at least part of the numerous mysteries of why that dismissal occurred. When I relocate the source I will post its link in this thread.

JF: I appreciate your questioning that. Evidently it was the detainee topic and my mistake; i.e., not the arms issue at all. Link; at least, that is how this article in WaPo begins. M-McC was in the IG department but focusing on a different matter.


One month later Burba gets the documents, just a few days after the NIE comes out and Hadley, after much cajoling from Tenet, has to tell Bush he can't talk about Niger in his Cincincatti speech. Yup.

As (apparently) the only person who still thinks that Armitage isn't Mr. X, let me provide an alternate deconstruction of Novak's sources. One of the biggest reasons I don't buy Armitage as a source for the Novak article is that there is no State Department spin in the article. I think Novak's sources came from three camps. First, there is the White House faction that includes people operating primarily from a personal loyalty to George Bush. I think both SAO's fit that description. They leaked to Novak to punish Joe Wilson. Second, there is the Tenet faction who are trying to protect/rehabilitate George Tenet. I think Novak has at least two sources, one of whom is Harlow, in that camp. Finally, there is what I will call (somewhat anachronistically) the Goss faction. These are the people at the CIA who want to dump Tenet and purge the Agency of "lefties" and fellow travelers. Indirectly, they want to satisfy their ideological protector and overlord, Richard B. Cheney. Novak is more closely attuned to these folks that the first two factions.

The Tenet faction gets the lead paragraph, although the White House faction would be willing to second source it as well, because they get most of the second paragraph.

The "Goss" faction provides the meaty (non-Plame) details of the article from the last sentence of the second paragraph through paragraphs three and four. They spin away their culpability for the fraud by pointing fingers at the White House and spreading the blame around to the whole government.

Paragraph five is just Joe Wilson's bio, but the big mystery is who sticks the shiv in Valerie Wilson's back (metaphorically speaking, of course) in the first sentence of paragraph six. Novak clearly attributes the second sentence to the White House camp, but not the first. I think we can be pretty sure that the Tenet crowd had nothing to gain from outing Plame. If the "Goss" faction did the deed, it's time for everybody to put on the tinfoil hats, because that's really inexcusable. Still, I think neither CIA camp would be stupid enough to give that kind of leak to Novak, so we can safely assume that the White House faction is guilty there. That leads me to believe that Karl Rove is the person most likely to be in danger of a future IIPA charge. Novak misuses Harlow's comments to fill in the third sentence of paragraph six and finishes up with Wilson's entirely proper "no comment" response.

The information in the rest of the article was known to the White House and has a mostly White House spin, so I think we can assume that is source primarily to the same two SAO's that Novak mentions earlier.


You are likely right about the Bolton part as well.

>> I was only implying that, if Pollari claimed La Signora was credible, he would have had to admit Martino's role in passing the documents along to Burba. Wouldn't he?

Not quite sure how the latter follows from the former. If he claimed La Signora was credible that doesn't mean that he was aware at the time that La Signora was in cahoots with Martino and others. He may have been, but we don't know enough to be sure at this time. Also, Burba herself must have made it clear to the U.S. Embassy in Rome that she got the documents from Martino. It's not like Martino was trying to be anonymous - far from it.


Nice uranium/Plame page...I'll try to take a closer look later.

Regarding this comment:
>> The only thing that keeps me from going off the deep end tinfoilwise when I think about this is that Burba's forgeries are not "corrected" (or recorrected) by anybody.

I'm not sure that this is the case. See:

If ewheel visits here, I took a link from one of these European references and found an article, now six weeks old, in a foreign newspaper by evidently a prominent journalist following the story from the perspective of three EU countries; the text is vague and couched in generalizations, but perhaps you and other experts here will find it helpful. There is a free translation service online, but it has lots of mistakes; it is useful if you understand a little bit of a foreign language; some of the machine-made mistakes are ludicrous, though.

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