"La Pistola Fumante"
October 26, 2005 3:42 PM   Subscribe

The Great Italian Yellowcake Scam. Three- part translation of a three- article series in the Italian newspaper La Repubblica that "attempted to reconstruct the who, where and why of the manufacture and transfer to British and American intelligence of the dodgy dossier for war." [more inside]
posted by kirkaracha (16 comments total)
Summary by American Prospect:
In an explosive series of articles appearing this week in the Italian newspaper La Repubblica, investigative reporters Carlo Bonini and Giuseppe d'Avanzo report that Nicolo Pollari, chief of Italy's military intelligence service, known as Sismi, brought the Niger yellowcake story directly to the White House after his insistent overtures had been rejected by the Central Intelligence Agency in 2001 and 2002. Sismi had reported to the CIA on October 15, 2001, that Iraq had sought yellowcake in Niger, a report it also plied on British intelligence, creating an echo that the Niger forgeries themselves purported to amplify before they were exposed as a hoax.

Today's exclusive report in La Repubblica reveals that Pollari met secretly in Washington on September 9, 2002, with then-Deputy National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley. Their secret meeting came at a critical moment in the White House campaign to convince Congress and the American public that war in Iraq was necessary to prevent Saddam Hussein from developing nuclear weapons. National Security Council spokesman Frederick Jones confirmed the meeting to the Prospect on Tuesday.
The Italian government has denied the reports and will be questioning Pollari about La Repubblica's allegations.

ABC reports that:
After meeting Pollari, Hadley later took the blame for a reference to Iraq seeking uranium in Niger that showed up in Bush's January 2003 State of the Union speech, shortly before the invasion of Iraq.
See also: WikiPedia article on the yellowcake forgeries. Newsweek article on the 60 Minutes story that CBS killed in favor of their Bush/National Guard debacle. (Salon review of the 60 Minutes story.) The Left Coaster's extensive analysis of the significance of the La Repubblica stories.
posted by kirkaracha at 3:45 PM on October 26, 2005

Thanks for the link. Babelfish wasn't cutting it for me.
posted by spock at 4:26 PM on October 26, 2005

Actually, they didn't run the National Guard stuff in lieu of the yellowcake stuff, it's just that after running their own forgeries CBS decided to skip their yellowcake expose.

Too bad, as well. CBS could have contrasted the two events. Oh well.
posted by delmoi at 4:51 PM on October 26, 2005

Josh Marshall, naturally, is also following this closely, although he seems to be taking a more careful tack and spending time confirming things with sources.

Whiskey Bar also has some good context and open questions; Billmon seems to still suspect that it was at least plausible that the documents were a rope-a-dope that was intended to be exposed as a forgery, but that angle seems to be a little less credible today:

It's almost crazy enough to be true. I mean, the whole Niger episode was completely absurd -- the most ridiculous story to come out of the secret world since Ollie North and Bob McFarlane flew into Tehran bearing a Bible and a chocolate cake baked in the shape of a key. And yet it's the central mystery behind both the Plame case and the cabal's WMD con job, which is why I've spent so much time and so many words on it.

In any case, it's now eminently clear that all the swirling yellowcake and African uranium stories stemmed from this single, bogus source, often "laundered" through more than one agency or even agencies from more than one country.
posted by dhartung at 5:02 PM on October 26, 2005

finally, here it is.

as we say in Holland: Bukken !
posted by Substrata at 5:03 PM on October 26, 2005

Excellent. Thanks, kirkaracha.
posted by homunculus at 5:24 PM on October 26, 2005

Don't eat the yellow cake.
posted by uncanny hengeman at 5:55 PM on October 26, 2005

I've seen two accounts involving how the fraudulent documents found their way to the US. Both involved Michael Ledeen. The question at this point seems to be, was he a dupe or was he a traitor?

What's more troubling, perhaps, is that there are prior allegations that Ledeen spied for the Israelis. If so, that would be potentially two people serving as agents for the Israelis in the Department of Special Plans alone.
posted by insomnia_lj at 6:49 PM on October 26, 2005

Once the IAEA got ahold of the documents, they used GOOGLE to fact check the documents and found them to be a forgery.

So either the Intelligence services in the US of A and Briton are not worth whatever they are being paid, OR the elected officials who read the reports and made decisions are not worth what they are being paid.
posted by rough ashlar at 7:16 PM on October 26, 2005

What really gets me is that the W and his henchmen used the forgeries to railroad a vote, ostensibly taken to threaten force in pursuit of inspections, and they later claimed the vote all but declared war.
posted by wrapper at 7:26 PM on October 26, 2005

By the way, here's a link to all the other nuclear material that Saddam had obtained:

posted by kablam at 7:38 PM on October 26, 2005

Yes, and yes.
posted by Balisong at 7:39 PM on October 26, 2005

CIA leak illustrates selective use of intelligence on Iraq:
A Knight Ridder review of the administration's arguments, its own reporting at the time and the Senate Intelligence Committee's 2004 report shows that the White House followed a pattern of using questionable intelligence, even documents that turned out to be forgeries, to support its case - often leaking classified information to receptive journalists - and dismissing information that undermined the case for war.

The State of the Union speech was one of a number of instances in which Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney and their aides ignored the qualms of intelligence professionals and instead relied on the claims of Iraqi defectors and other suspect sources or, in the case of Niger, the crudely forged documents.
Yellow Cake Recipes
posted by kirkaracha at 10:53 PM on October 26, 2005

insomnia: Yeah, a wild-ass conspiracy theory is that the US was rope-a-doped by Israel the whole way. But then, I've always had the impression that the neocons like Ledeen are more Zionist than Zionists. They're the kind of people who think Sharon is soft, y'know. They don't need to get direction from Tel Aviv -- they're self-starters. Plus, I think Mossad would have been a little more thorough.

Billmon and I are stuck on the same question, though -- these forgeries were so obviously bad, you have to wonder whether they were intentionally bad. And what that means.
posted by dhartung at 2:28 AM on October 27, 2005

Yep, kablam, just as most people expected, no production or weaponization capabilities after 1998. What was your point?
posted by Freen at 6:31 AM on October 27, 2005

Interesting tidbit from TPM, Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi is coming to the White House next Monday for lunch.
posted by caddis at 7:27 AM on October 27, 2005

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