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August 07, 2005


Suppose for a moment that uranium letter is another forgery. Is it connected to the original forgeries (get it, original forgeries?) If so, it does get you to implicating Chalabi and his neocon patrons pretty quickly.

My God, what the fuck is wrong with this MET? They lost the evidence at the Mukhabarat building and the explosives at Al-Qaqaa?

FWIW, I don't think they're responsible for Al-Qaqaa.

But geez. Are they this stupid to go along with all the stuff Judy reports? I mean, this one is absolutely incredible. Or is Gonzales just keeping them quiet?

Original forgeries? You mean genuine copies.

Cue the John Williams lietmotif... what a read.

How do you mean "not responsible?" As in, "it wasn't them at al-Qaqaa?" Or as in, "the explosives were long gone before the one team actually tasked with tracking down WMD ever got to the only weapons deemed so dangerous and so closely related to 'weapons of mass destruction-related program activities' that the IAEA actually had them under seal managed to drag its sorry ass up there, because Judy Miller may or may not have been trying to change their mission to suit her own schedule?"

Hmm. I guess it would be the second. But don't you think the floating Knesset was worth the years of increasingly lethal IEDs?

It's the oldest established, permanent, floating Knesset in Baghdad.

Thanks EW. Look forward to the next installment.

I've just got to see this Floating Knesset, and I'd be willing to chip in $20. to order the pic from NYT. Anybody else willing to join me?

Guys and Dolls? Nobody?


I'd consider that a pop culture reference. I really did fail pop culture of the 20th and 21st century. 19th, I can compete handily in, 20th, not so good.

Ever since Jane Mayer's profile of Chalabi in the New Yorker in 2003 mentioned that Chalabi had a forgery shop in the INC enclave in northern Iraq I had always figured him for the original source of the Niger documents, and Ghorbanifar to Michael Ledeen as the conduit.

There is another explanation how the Niger document got where Judy says she found it: It wasn't a forgery at all, but a real report from an Iraqi intel officer of what he heard bruited about in West Africa--in other words, he stumbled on the planted stories about Niger and uranium. And Chalabi's people somehow missed it, or the original discoverer didn't realize how it fit in with the Niger story that had been so carefully planted.

If a document got out that had the Iraqis being approached, rather than the other way around, it doesn't really implicate them. In fact, it sounds reasonably accurate, since Saddam really wouldn't want to reconstitute his weapons system until the sanctions were lifted.

So it could be a real document of a virtual deal, kind of like Marianne Moore's definition of poetry as a real toad in an imaginary garden.

Yeah, I suppose you're right. Although it seems like the Iraqi intelligence officer was reporting an offer directly to him, not the rumor of the planted stories. Which does then subject it to the credibility arguments made by the INR and some in the CIA--would it have been possible for yellowcake to get sold to Niger? Well, perhaps if you're going through someone like Victor Bout, an illicit dealer. But not if you're talking about getting yellowcake from Niger or Somalia or Congo directly. The control over the supply in those countries is just too tightly controlled. At which point, the African country becomes moot.

Also, you'd have to explain why it showed up IN THIS SEARCH. They were down in the basement collecting Floating Knessets, not rifling through file drawers. If this letter HAD been in the basement, it would have disintegrated because of the flooding (I've also been wondering why the books haven't disintegrated). I think it possible that there is a real document that Chalabi found in the files which they then planted, along with inventing a reason to go into the Mukhabarat when they weren't tasked to, so Judy could find it. Or perhaps they had already handed it over to her and the two of them together invented the Floating Knesset trip to explain how Judy got it. In fact, that seems perfectly plausible. If you ignore the fact that so much other intelligence rules against an African uranium deal.

I wasn't suggesting it was a real deal, just a real report (as opposed to a forgery) of a fake deal. And the approach could have been a setup, not a real approach, something to try to hook Saddam. Part of the invented backstory for the documents, and, of course, the war.

But this stuff is so through-the-looking-glass that almost anything is possible, except accurate reporting from Judy Miller.

Oh, I understand. So say someone (not unlike the mysterious West African businessman who shows up in the Niger forgeries) approaches the actual bureau chief in said African country offering to sell him uranium. Then the bureah chief writes back to CYA.

Yeah, that does make sense.


It could be some variation on a False Flag operation. The object would be to convince Saddam someone had yellow cake for sale -- and if he bites, then you have the evidence he is tr4ying to reconstitute his nuclear operations.

Many of the absolute classic False Flag operations were early Soviet. It was these that eventually drove James Jesus Angleton totally nuts. It could well be that parts of the same operation are found in the forged papers passed from Italy -- and whatever it was Judith was shown in the wet basement.

After your current Judy series was several installments along, NYT announced it will be applying its resources and Jehl shall write the definitive research; certainly your parsing of several of Ms. Miller's co-authored articles must have touched a sensitive editorial button at NYT. This will afford NYT an opportunity to improve their newsgathering process. It must be difficult for the editor to perform the decisionmaking in times when the propaganda organs of government are in augmented output mode. As you observe in the matter of the photo reprint barrier, NYT has considerable archives, and wherewithal to access others on a scale which will help you increase the impact of some of your key themes and goals of your serialized story of how in these times one of the best news organizations was reduced to printing misdirection because the overwhelming majority of the information out there was government controlled at that juncture.
In installment four, your caricature of the hapless adventure in the ruins is a poignant re-creation of the pointlessness of war itself, as if Judy and crew themselves somehow had absorbed the shell shocked mentality of the populace in that devastation and were incapable of controlling their own response, wanderers, as it were, at the periphery of a scene in which scurrilous characters were afoot and a man who hoped be the president of Iraq was bombarding her party with all manner of self-serving information. Truly she was called upon to make judgments regarding a wide array of bizarre inputs in those days, even as an embed.

Just for the entertainment of anyone who might care, here's my same-night debunking of that May 7, 2003 article by Judith Miller. One of my favorite early posts, back when my co-bloggers and I were the only ones reading Needlenose.

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