Oversight Overlooks the Obvious
SISMI knows about the imbroglio but does not warn anyone. Five hours of hearings for Pollari before the Parliamentary Intelligence Oversight Committee.
COPACO absolves SISMI. Too many gaps in the Nigergate Affair.
The committee members believe that there was only one "dossier" fabricated by Rocco Martino yet this fraudster managed to hornswoggle everyone and start a war.
Complete and formal exoneration—assuming there has been a genuine investigation or at least an appreciable and coherent interrogation--yet there are reasons to doubt that this is the case. For five hours, SISMI Director Nicolò Pollari, seated next to Gianni Letta (whose job at Palazzo Chigi is to oversee Italy’s intelligence services) related, explained, exhibited documents and recalled, or so it seems. It’s the Nigergate affair, which could not possibly involve Forte Braschi. It’s the brainchild of Rocco Martino. He’s the fraudster who fabricates the “dossier” and with extraordinary genius is able to hustle the entire Western intelligence community (if you exclude Israel’s Mossad) by snaring the bumbling nitwits employed as spies for America’s CIA, France’s DGSE, and Britain's MI6. Not to mention the Italians, who didn’t see anything, didn’t suspect anything and didn’t hear anything about the dealings of the ex-SISMI collaborator and bosom buddy of a SISMI colonel, Antonio Nucera, who, just “because”, decides to help Rocco make a little money by introducing him to a SISMI “asset” employed at the Embassy of Niger, La Signora. It’s just a plain old Italian-style swindle, an “Italian Job”, a clip from a film starring Totò, Peppino and La Malafemmina [Translator's Note: The reference is to a 1956 Italian comedy film about the misadventures of three Neapolitan hayseeds in Milan]. It doesn’t matter if the trio is somehow able to build the case for the clear and present danger of an Iraq nuclear program and to formally justify a war. SISMI has nothing at all to do with it, Why, it should be cleared any implication. This is the music from center-Right to center-Left to the radical Left. To the members of Parliament, there are no gaps, no contradictions and just one little, insignificant hiccup in the SISMI director’s reconstruction of the events.
Maurizio Gasparri of the Allianza Nazionale [Neo-fascist party—Nur]: SISMI's actions were entire correct from both an internal and international standpoint in the Nigergate affair. Gigi Malabarba of Rifondazione comunista raises the ante: No document is sent from SISMI to the United States concerning Saddam’s Niger uranium. Inquiries were carried out by the Italian judiciary and by the FBI, which formally closed the books on the affair with its letter of July 20, 2005. Massimo Brutti of Democrazia Sociale is willing to provide a detail or two: Since the 1990’s, SISMI has been in possession of intelligence on the possible trafficking of uranium between Niger and Iraq and has shared all this information allied clandestine services, but never claimed that the information was trustworthy or that there had been actual trafficking going on. Committee Chair Enzo Bianco of the Margherita Coalition: We would like our intelligence people to know that we appreciate their work. SISMI should be allowed to work in a climate of maximum serenity. The rest is politics.
An unexpected moment of surprise came when Fabrizio Chicchitto of Forza Italia [Berlusconi's party--Nur] claimed that the war on Iraq was thrust upon Britain and the United States because if France and Germany hadn’t given the impression that Saddam Hussein could escape armed intervention, then a peaceful solution would have been possible. Silvio Berlusconi would agree with that. At the opposite pole is, naturally, Massimo Brutti: SISMI never vouched for nor had any relationship with the forged dossier assembled by Rocco Martino. The problem for the DS parliamentarian is Berlusconi. The Prime Minister [Berlusconi] stood right here in the Senate and told us that that Saddam Hussein had WMD and that the dictator would have to be removed by force. There is a small void in political responsibility between a government pushing for war and the intelligence which this same government possessed. For this reason I have asked the Defense Minister, Antonio Martino, be summoned to appear before the Intelligence Oversight Committee. So with an imprecise schedule which everyone would like to know, Antonio Martino will soon be called to give testimony before COPACO.
With the whirl of voices now abated, we can finally get around to understanding something of the “exhaustive” reconstruction offered to Parliament by our intelligence people and the Government. They ask Gasparri: Were the people who assembled the phony dossier Italian? Is that confirmed? Answer: Yes, but their role was of minor significance and in any case, they were not part of SISMI. (I guess we’ll have to forget that Rocco Martino was tailed by SISMI, as Nucera reported at the end of 2002, and that La Signora was vouched for as a creditable source by Pollari to the CIA on October 15, 2001). So Totò, Peppino and La Malafemmina [Translator's Note: The reference is to a 1956 Italian comedy film about the misadventures of three Neapolitan hayseeds in Milan]) cook up a frittata under the nose of Forte Braschi and it doesn’t notice a thing. But at a certain point SISMI enters into possession of the dossier handed over to the US Embassy by Panorama magazine. They ask Gasparri and Brutti: When and how did SISMI enter into possession of the forged document? It’s a banal question, obviously, but the answer is not: They did not tell us. Nevertheless, at a certain point the dossier (and let’s place it on the date when Panorama forwards the dossier to the US Embassy) did come into the hands of our intelligence people. Ok, so now our secret agents have the opportunity examine the papers and discover that they are forged, right? And besides, they have the name of the peddler of the phony dossier: Rocco Martino. At this point, what do they do? Who do they tell? Who do they warn? And amid the bedlam of the microphones and the TV cameras, Brutti gets confused.
Brutti says: SISMI warned the International Atomic Energy Agency. This cannot be true because, as Pollari has explained every which way to more than one person, when the agency was compelled to send its man to the IAEA, it dispatched Colonel Alberto Manenti to Vienna with a single instruction: "If they show you the documents and they ask for your opinion on their reliability, you are going to tell them: Why don’t you ask the people who gave them to you? Manenti then grabbed the first flight back home. A few hours go by. Brutti has second thoughts: I was confused by the episode described to us by Pollari. The IAEA was not warned. It’s too late now. SISMI does not even tell the United Nations in February 2003 that the document is phony. The matter is not insignificant. SISMI insists that it had nothing to do with the fabrication of the phony dossier or its distribution through Western intelligence conduits. Okay. But on or around October 9, 2002, SISMI does come into possession of the forged dossier and to know the identity of the fraudster who put it all together (a “customer” known to SISMI). Four months and 10 days before the invasion. What to do at this juncture? Warn the Americans? The British? The French? Or everybody? It is well known that manipulation can occur with words as well as through silence. They ask Chairman Bianco: When did SISMI materially enter into possession of the dossier? The same answer: They didn’t tell us. Question: But at a certain point the phony dossier did come into the hands of our intelligence people. Did SISMI tell the Committee who was informed and when they were informed that it was a fraudster’s scam?
Enzo Bianco doesn’t open his mouth. He clams up for a protracted interval. He orders his thoughts. But the question isn’t so difficult. Yes, they did inform someone. No, they didn’t warn anyone. Finally Bianco says, The affair was not revealed in those terms. Pollari reported contacts and relationships to other intelligence agencies, but nothing specific to Rocco Martino.
We’ll have to save a last question for another time and take it home with us: Just what did they talk about for five hours?