I love eRiposte, because he makes me, by comparison, look like a disinterested dilettante with no grasp for details. I urge everyone with the slightest interest in how the Administration lied us into war to go check out his most recent post. Here's some background.
eR has analyzed the Niger forgeries obsessively for years now. He has shown a number of things, notably that Italy's intelligence service SISMI was involved in "fixing" the information that CIA was getting, so that the obvious errors in the Niger forgeries didn't appear in the cables CIA received; he has provided strong evidence to suggest SISMI was doing this with feedback from CIA, so they could adjust to the reactions within CIA to make their "intelligence" more persuasive.
In today's post, he discusses the accord, the agreement between Niger and Iraq for the sale of a huge amount of yellowcake. This accord is the whole reason the Niger claims were supposed to have been so dangerous--it was supposed to be proof that Niger and Iraq had already closed a deal on uranium.
Well, eR's latest post proves that the accord was not part of the Niger dossier forwarded to the US in Fall 2002 (which also served as the source for all the other claims). That is, there was no accord in the documents that were supposed to prove that Niger was such a threat. There was no accord in the documents sent to the IAEA.
So where did the claim there was an accord come from? Well, SISMI cabled the CIA in February 2002 describing "verbatim" the terms of the deal. Does February 2002 ring a bell? Well, it should. This cable was the piece of intelligence, you see, that so attracted Dick Cheney's attention, that caused him to ratchet up the harassment of intelligence personnel to go find him some corroborating information. This was the piece of intelligence that caused the CIA to send Joe Wilson to Niger to check into the accord. This was the piece of intelligence that lies at the core of debates about gaming intelligence to bring us to war.
But it's also a piece of intelligence that may not exist. It may be no more than the "verbatim" transcription of a document that never really existed, in forged or real form.