Re: Rightwing Hit Piece on Joe Wilson
Here's an interesting counterpoint from another right-wing
source. As George Friedman of Stratfor has noted, the Bush
administration's outing of Valerie Plame has incensed significant
sections of the national security establishment. --PG
November 21, 2005 Issue
Copyright © 2005 The American Conservative
Forging the Case for War
Who was behind the Niger uranium documents?
by Philip Giraldi
From the beginning, there has been little doubt in the intelligence
community that the outing of CIA officer Valerie Plame was part of a
bigger story. That she was exposed in an attempt to discredit her
husband, former ambassador Joseph Wilson, is clear, but the drive to
demonize Wilson cannot reasonably be attributed only to revenge.
Rather, her identification likely grew out of an attempt to cover up
the forging of documents alleging that Iraq attempted to buy
yellowcake uranium from Niger.
What took place and why will not be known with any certainty until the
details of the Fitzgerald investigation are revealed. (As we go to
press, Fitzgerald has made no public statement.) But recent
revelations in the Italian press, most notably in the pages of La
Repubblica, along with information already on the public record,
suggest a plausible scenario for the evolution of Plamegate.
Information developed by Italian investigators indicates that the
documents were produced in Italy with the connivance of the Italian
intelligence service. It also reveals that the introduction of the
documents into the American intelligence stream was facilitated by
Undersecretary of Defense Doug Feith's Office of Special Plans
(OSP), a parallel intelligence center set up in the Pentagon to
develop alternative sources of information in support of war against
The first suggestion that Iraq was seeking yellowcake uranium to
construct a nuclear weapon came on Oct. 15, 2001, shortly after 9/11,
when Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi and his newly appointed
chief of the Servizio per le Informazioni e la Sicurezza Militare
(SISMI), Nicolo Pollari, made an official visit to Washington.
Berlusconi was eager to make a good impression and signaled his
willingness to support the American effort to implicate Saddam Hussein
in 9/11. Pollari, in his position for less than three weeks, was
likewise keen to establish himself with his American counterparts and
was under pressure from Berlusconi to present the U.S. with
information that would be vital to the rapidly accelerating War on
Terror. Well aware of the Bush administration's obsession with Iraq,
Pollari used his meeting with top CIA officials to provide a SISMI
dossier indicating that Iraq had sought to buy uranium in Niger. The
same intelligence was passed simultaneously to Britain's MI-6.
But the Italian information was inconclusive and old, some of it
dating from the 1980s. The British, the CIA, and the State
Department's Bureau of Intelligence and Research analyzed the
intelligence and declared that it was "lacking in detail" and
"very limited" in scope.
In February 2002, Pollari and Berlusconi resubmitted their report to
Washington with some embellishments, resulting in Joe Wilson's trip
to Niger. Wilson visited Niamey in February 2002 and subsequently
reported to the CIA that the information could not be confirmed.
Enter Michael Ledeen, the Office of Special Plans' man in Rome.
Ledeen was paid $30,000 by the Italian Ministry of the Interior in
1978 for a report on terrorism and was well known to senior SISMI
officials. Italian sources indicate that Pollari was eager to engage
with the Pentagon hardliners, knowing they were at odds with the CIA
and the State Department officials who had slighted him. He turned to
Ledeen, who quickly established himself as the liaison between SISMI
and Feith's OSP, where he was a consultant. Ledeen, who had personal
access to the National Security Council's Condoleezza Rice and
Stephen Hadley and was also a confidant of Vice President Cheney, was
well placed to circumvent the obstruction coming from the CIA and
The timing, August 2002, was also propitious as the administration was
intensifying its efforts to make the case for war. In the same month,
the White House Iraq Group (WHIG) was set up to market the war by
providing information to friends in the media. It has subsequently
been alleged that false information generated by Ahmad Chalabi's
Iraqi National Congress was given to Judith Miller and other
journalists through WHIG.
On Sept. 9, 2002, Ledeen set up a secret meeting between Pollari and
Deputy National Security Adviser Hadley. Two weeks before the meeting,
a group of documents had been offered to journalist Elisabetta Burba
of the Italian magazine Panorama for $10,000, but the demand for money
was soon dropped and the papers were handed over. The man offering the
documents was Rocco Martino, a former SISMI officer who delivered the
first WMD dossier to London in October 2002. That Martino quickly
dropped his request for money suggests that the approach was a set-up
primarily intended to surface the documents.
Panorama, perhaps not coincidentally, is owned by Prime Minister
Berlusconi. On Oct. 9, the documents were taken from the magazine to
the U.S. Embassy, where they were apparently expected. Instead of
going to the CIA Station, which would have been the normal procedure,
they were sent straight to Washington where they bypassed the
agency's analysts and went directly to the NSC and the Vice
On Jan. 28, 2003, over the objections of the CIA and State, the famous
16 words about Niger's uranium were used in President Bush's State
of the Union address justifying an attack on Iraq: "The British
government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant
quantities of uranium from Africa." Both the British and American
governments had actually obtained the report from the Italians, who
had asked that they not be identified as the source. The UN's
International Atomic Energy Agency also looked at the documents
shortly after Bush spoke and pronounced them crude forgeries.
President Bush soon stopped referring to the Niger uranium, but Vice
President Cheney continued to insist that Iraq was seeking nuclear
The question remains: who forged the documents? The available evidence
suggests that two candidates had access and motive: SISMI and the
Pentagon's Office of Special Plans.
In January 2001, there was a break-in at the Niger Embassy in Rome.
Documents were stolen but no valuables. The break-in was subsequently
connected to, among others, Rocco Martino, who later provided the
dossier to Panorama. Italian investigators now believe that Martino,
with SISMI acquiescence, originally created a Niger dossier in an
attempt to sell it to the French, who were managing the uranium
concession in Niger and were concerned about unauthorized mining.
Martino has since admitted to the Financial Times that both the
Italian and American governments were behind the eventual forgery of
the full Niger dossier as part of a disinformation operation. The
authentic documents that were stolen were bunched with the Niger
uranium forgeries, using authentic letterhead and Niger Embassy
stamps. By mixing the papers, the stolen documents were intended to
establish the authenticity of the forgeries.
At this point, any American connection to the actual forgeries remains
unsubstantiated, though the OSP at a minimum connived to circumvent
established procedures to present the information directly to
receptive policy makers in the White House. But if the OSP is more
deeply involved, Michael Ledeen, who denies any connection with the
Niger documents, would have been a logical intermediary in
co-ordinating the falsification of the documents and their surfacing,
as he was both a Pentagon contractor and was frequently in Italy. He
could have easily been assisted by ex-CIA friends from Iran-Contra
days, including a former Chief of Station from Rome, who, like Ledeen,
was also a consultant for the Pentagon and the Iraqi National
It would have been extremely convenient for the administration,
struggling to explain why Iraq was a threat, to be able to produce
information from an unimpeachable "foreign intelligence source" to
confirm the Iraqi worst-case.
The possible forgery of the information by Defense Department
employees would explain the viciousness of the attack on Valerie Plame
and her husband. Wilson, when he denounced the forgeries in the New
York Times in July 2003, turned an issue in which there was little
public interest into something much bigger. The investigation
continues, but the campaign against this lone detractor suggests that
the administration was concerned about something far weightier than
his critical op-ed.
Philip Giraldi, a former CIA Officer, is a partner in Cannistraro
Associates, an international security consultancy.