Nur al-Cubicle

A blog on the current crises in the Middle East and news accounts unpublished by the US press. Daily timeline of events in Iraq as collected from stories and dispatches in the French and Italian media: Le Monde (Paris), Il Corriere della Sera (Milan), La Repubblica (Rome), L'Orient-Le Jour (Beirut) and occasionally from El Mundo (Madrid).

Monday, October 31, 2005

SISMI's War in Iraq: The Iranian Connection

Translation edited for errors and omissions. Republished on November 5, 2005.--Nur

Carlo Bonini and Giuseppi d'Avanzo are at it again. Another three-part blockbuster exposé on the involvement of Italian Military intelligence inside Iraq.

Part I: From Chelabi to Iranian Agents--SISMI's War in Iraq
A strategic summit in Rome with the Pentagon.

ROME: He’s another politico-military intelligence chief. He’s a SISMI man. He races down the narrow hallway of the bar at the Hotel Eden in via Ludovisi but stops to admire the sky and the attractive skyline of Rome in the April sun (it is 22 April 2003) through the hotel’s large windows. He looks elegant in his Chairman's Committee [of the Council of Ministers] grisaille. [Berlusconi is Chairman of the Council of Ministers--Nur]. He selects a table at the center of the terrace. The waiter walks over and solicitously takes his order. The gentleman orders a freshly-squeezed orange juice and a double espresso. The Anglo-American invasion of Iraq began on the night of 19-20 March, thirty-three days earlier.

Today, as Silvio Berlusconi reveals that he never supported the military intervention in Iraq, it is fitting to tell the story of how our country, Italy, although allegedly opposed to war as our Premier now claims, was an active protagonist in war preparations and operations.

We will reveal the different arrangements and plans of action, as well as who planned them and with whom they were planned.

For us Italians, recounts the high-ranking SISMI official to La Repubblica, the war on Iraq was already underway in the days before Christmans, 2002. He smiles. He is animated with a glint of excitement in his eyes and for once seems seems to have no qualms about letting his personal satisfaction slip from behind a frozen mask.

Our man is too disciplined to crow about his successes and too stubborn to be discouraged by defeat. He tells us: It was a novelty, a revolution for our intelligence services. Never before in its history has SISMI been so prominently involved in military ground operations and a major role in planning a war campaign, to boot. The Italian Government? Of course our work was authorized by the Italian Government—are you joking? It was real war, not an exercise! The twenty men we sent to Iraq were risking their lives. He pauses. The espresso arrives. He sips it slowly, his eyes half-closed with satisfaction.

He continues. Twenty men from three SISMI departments were involved: Intelligence, Operations and Counterterrorism. They were divided into small groups which were to operate in and around the areas of Kirkuk, Baghdad and Basrah using very imaginative cover. Each unit was unaware of the identities and the mission of the others. Each unit was ordered to operate within a sector of territory and to work with intelligence “assets” who had already been selected and trained. The objectives were twofold: To identify Iraqi defenses and to evaluate the readiness of the Iraqi armed forces.

If combat was less intense than expected, it is due to the job we did—and naturally, we didn’t do it alone. If the war was won before firing a shot, it was due to our success at infiltration and intelligence-gathering.

The story of Italian military intervention in Iraq begins when the resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, Michael Ledeen, who is sponsored by Defense Minister Antonio Martino, debarks in Rome with Pentagon men in tow to meet a handful of “Iranian exiles.” The meeting is organized by SISMI. In an Agency “safe house” near Piazza di Spagna (however, other sources have told us it was a reserved room in the Parco dei Principi Hotel).

Twenty-five men are gathered around a large table, covered by maps of Iraq, Iran and Syria. The big cheese are Lawrence Franklin and Harold Rhode of the Office of Special Plans, Michael Ledeen of the AIE, a SISMI center director accompanied by his assistant (the former is a balding man between 46 and 48 years of age; the latter is younger, around 38, with a listening device in his teeth) and some mysterious Iranians.

Pollari confirms the meeting to La Repubblica: When [Defense Minister Martino] asked me to organize the meeting, I became curious. But it was my job and I wasn’t born yesterday. It’s true—my men were also present at the meeting. I wanted to know what was cooking. It’s also true that there were maps of Iraq and Iran on the table. I can tell you those Iranians were not exactly “exiles”. The came and went from Tehran with their passports with no difficulty whatsoever as if they were transparent to the eyes of the Pasdaran....

So the Iranians are not exiles. They are not opponents to the regime of the ayatollahs. These men are members of the regime--delegates sent by Tehran. If Washington were asked what the devil the Iranians were doing in Rome on the eve of the invasion, elbow-to-elbow with people from the Pentagon, you would get some solid information. But to make some sense out of the confusion, you have to listen to an American intelligence source, who has requested anonymity. He tells us: You Italians have always underestimated the work of contamination carried out Ahmed Chalabi, the Chairman of the Iraqi National Congress. You tend to omit this chapter from your side of the story because you think Ahmed concerns only the Americans. But that’s not the way it is: he is also your business, ar beyond anything you currently believe or imagine.

So what do we know about Ahmed Chalabi? The darling of the Neocons, Chalabi has been charged by the "hawks" in the Pentagon to pass intel on WMD proliferation to European intelligence agencies supposedly garnered from presumed scientists, who have defected from Baghdad. The person charged with “intelligence gathering” and story invention is Aras Habib Karim, Chalabi’s personal intelligence man.

Aras is a key player. He coordinates the Intelligence Collection Programme. He supervises and fabricates the “output” of the dissidents. He is a Shi’ite Kurd just under 50, extremely clever, consumately evil and a magician of double-cross and document forgery. But there is something peculiar about him. The CIA has long considered him an “Iranian agent.” A second key player is an American, Francis Brooke.

The bogus Italian dossier on the Niger uranium turns up--and we don’t know precisely why--in the hands of Chalabi. Brooke is responsible for liaison with Condoleezza Rice and Paul Wolfowitz and between the Pentagon and the Iraqi National Congress. He is more heeded in Tehran than Chalabi.

Our US intelligence source continues: Ahmed Chalabi and his right-hand men, Karim and Brooke, travel with the Pentagon and American Enterprise Institute teams. Here’s an example to better understand what's going on: The three men who alternate in 2004 in Baghdad at Chalabi’s side as “liaison officers” with the Pentagon are Michael Rubin, Chairman of the American Enterprise Institute; Harold Rhode, aide to Douglas Feith at the Office of Special Plans and “Islamic Affairs Advisor” to Paul Wolfowitz. They were already serving in such a capacity in Italy on the eve of the invasion.

The meetings called in Rome assemble the representatives of all the teams: Michael A. Ledeen of the American Enterprise Institute, Larry Franklin and Harold Rhode of the Office of Special Plans, the colonels of the Iraqi National Congress and in addition, the Iraqi Shi’ites of the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI) and of course, the Guardians of the Revolution. All these actors gathered in Rome. Wouldn’t you say that’s interesting? Yes, very interesting, indeed.


We discover that the trump card played in the conflict in terms of the involvement of Iran in post-9/11 planning is Shi’ite. Tehran decides to get involved “to reasonably preserve Iranian strategic interests in the region”. The pragmatic Americans must realize the extent of the Iranian influence on the Shi’a community in Iraq (65% of the population). The ayatollahs have a vested national interest in regime change in Baghdad. An Iraq liberated from Sunni power means major political influence by Tehran and good prospects for the handover of the government to the Shi’a of the Supreme Revolutionary Council led by Ayatollah Muhammad Baqir al-Hakim, who is both supported and protected by Iran, together with its military wing, the [B]adr Brigades (7 to 15 thousand militiamen). It is no surprise that Chalabi’s team (no matter who they are—the colonels or the Iranian agents) is welcomed in Tehran as dignitaries and is feted with ceremony usually reserved for foreign diplomatic delegations.

It is in this political context in which SCIRI is able to collaborate with the Bush Administration in the fabrication of the pretext for war. Together with the Intelligence Collection Programme, Aras Habib Karim organizes the information from the Iraqi defectors. SCIRI offers the Pentagon a confirmation of their seemingly “independent” revelations which are, in reality, agreed with Chalabi’s group under the guidance of Tehran’s intelligence services.

A defector deployed by the Iraqi National Congress in London would say that Saddam Hussein is preparing develop a new type of chemical weapon. But when Abdalaziz al-Hakim, the chief of the military wing of the Badr Brigades travels to Washington, he hands over to US officials an Iranian intelligence document showing that the dictator has ordered regional commanders to use chemical and biological weapons against the Shi’ite resistance should the Americans invade.

We had come to be quite familiar with the disinformation scheme. However, some protagonists have cropped up who, beyond our knowledge, had made all the calculations concerning the lay of the land in Italy on the eve of war. We now see them side by side at the meeting in Rome. Planning by Michael A. Ledeen for the Office of Special Plans, political sponsorship (according to Pollari) by Defense Minister Antonio Martino and technical coordination by SISMI.


The lies that were pandered concerning this meeting! First it was said that the meeting was called to save human lives in Afghanistan. Then its purpose was to plan, with the involvement of Iranian exiles, assistance to the Iranian masses, yearning for an uprising sufficiently widespread to overthrow the ayatollahs. Next it was said that the meeting was called to identify Iranian interests in Afghanistan. Finally, as one reads in a SISMI bulletin, it was to obtain information on presumed links between al-Qaeda and certain Middle Eastern governments fostering international terrorism.

In each and every one of these interchangeable frames for the meeting, Manusher Ghorbanifar claims he played the leading role. Iranian by birth and residing as far as we know between Paris and Geneva, Ghorbanifar does not have a good reputation. For some, he is an arms trafficker. For others, an expert in forgery. For civilian Italian intelligence, Ghorbanifar is a secret agent for Tehran. For a certain US intelligence agency, he is a Mossad agent. For yet others he is a clever bullshitter. And for still others, he is all those things. But the truth is that he is a minor character, or so it seems.

Ghorbanifar is the decoy planted by the organizers of the meeting to keep busybodies off the scent and away from the scene of the crime and above all, far removed from the motive. An American source tells La Repubblica: Manusher Ghorbanifar says he has a London source who is able, it appears, to identify where in Baghdad Saddam’s stockpile of enriched uranium is located. Ledeen then embellishes the tale by adding that Ghorbanifar’s contact knows of an effort by Iran to acquire uranium and that radiation emitted from Saddam's stockpile of radioactive material has contaminated a few Iraqi technicians, whose identities were known to him.

After some back-and-forth between the CIA and the Pentagon, Ghorbanifar’s London source is brought to Baghdad at the expense of the Agency to assist in the identificatoon of the site where the uranium has been stockpiled. After leading the men of Langley on a wild goose chase, the source demands $50 thousand to refresh his memory on just who in Baghdad would be in a position to help in the search. Naturally, the buffoon is dismissed with a kick in the pants.

So, forget about Manusher Ghorbanifar. In the Rome meeting held at the Parco dei Principi Hotel or in the safe house in Piazza di Spagna—but probably in both locations--the paths of three intelligence networks will cross: Nicolò Pollari’s SISMI, Ahmed Chalabi’s Iraqi National Congress and the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq and the [B]adr Brigades led by Muhammad and Abdalaziz al-Hakim. The integration of the “processing” and “output” of the three “networks” will provide essential information to the Anglo-American war planners and above all, a concrete estimation of Saddam’s defenses, from the willingness to fight of his generals to the arsenal of weaponry at their disposal, in addition to the influence operations. Each of the three intelligence networks has an ace in the hole which will be useful to the Pentagon.

SISMI boasts of its excellent contacts within the Iraqi officer corps which had trained in Italy during 1980’s. Over time they have become informers and moles. Meanwhile, Iraqi National Congress relies on defectors from the regime. Before his assassination on March 18, 2003, Muhammad Baqir al-Hakim told La Repubblica that the [B]adr Brigades, thanks to is independent militias in Baghdad, in Iraqi Kurdistan and in the Iranian south, is able to keep the country under constant surveillance. From Karbala and Najaf to Basrah, down to the Faw Peninsula and on to the Kuwaiti border, nothing escapes the Shi'ite underground intelligence networks active in no-fly zones south of the 33rd parallel, key territory for any invader.

The Pentagon’s operations planning ensure that warfare on the ground is "oriented" towards information which intelligence teams will snatch behind the lines. The data will be collected by the Anglo-American Joint Command in real time, cross-checked and processed, then transformed into instructions to combat units. The idea is very simple: To “illuminate” from inside the country enemy targets, defensive military positions and the counterattack capabilities of its irregular units embedded among the civilian populace. There is also a secondary aim which is possibly more important.

Behind the lines, the infiltrated agents must prepare the groundwork for a “secret pact” (safqa in Arabic) for the surrender of the country. The pact provides for a bundle of safe-conducts for the commanders of the Republican Guard, the Ba’ath Party militias and Saddam’s Fedayeen. Later, the Americans begin to have second thoughts about the lavish payouts, the offers of residency in the United States, and above all, to play high-profile in liaising between certain factions of the opposition, in particular the Iraqi National Congress.

Alongside SCIRI and Chelabi’s men, Italy is able to lend a hand in the horsetrading with regime figures that goes on in Baghdad and in Basrah, places well familiar to Italian military counterespionage. Moreover, the first phase of the Mesopotamian adventure (up to the moment of Bush’s Mission Accomplished speech) was nothing other than a question of simple corruption within a crumbing bureaucracy whose officials had sold out en masse to the CIA. SISMI agents now get down to business. And moment has come to return to the terrace of the Eden hotel, to hear the rest of what our SISMI man has to say.

End of Part I. To be continued...

Sunday, October 30, 2005

Iraqi Air Force Veterans Targeted by Death Squads

From the October 26th online edition of L'Orient-Le Jour:

Former Iraqi Air Force Pilots Targeted in Manhunts

Former pilots who served in Saddam Hussein’s Air Force are victims of a manhunt by armed militias which has cost the lives of dozens of veterans since the fall of the former regime in April 2003.

I never leave the house out of fear of assassination, says Rabih Ahmad al-Taï, who held the rank of general in Saddam Hussein’s Air Force, echoing the fears of his comrades-in-arms who live under continual threat of assassination. At least 23 pilot-officers have been murdered by Iraqi groups linked to Iran, which wants to take vengeance on the pilots, continues al-Taï, who originates from Tikrit—the fief of Saddam Hussein. Al-Tai fought in the eight year-long Iran-Iraq war between 1980 and 1988 during which the regime used chemical weapons on Iranian troops. Pilots who had the means to leave the country have left while others remain cloistered in their homes, with fear in their stomach, shrugs a resigned al-Tai. A thousand former military officers formed a delegation two weeks ago to visit President Talabani, a Kurd, to request his intervention against the acts of vengeance. Acknowledging his own impotence in protecting lives in the current turbulent atmosphere, Talabani invited the group to settle in Kurdistan: The pilots have no responsibility for the policies of the former regime and merely carried out criminal orders. If they had refused, they would have faced summary execution, Talabani told the delegation, while promising them a safe and secure life in Kurdistan, regardless of political affiliation. But he has been unable to deliver on the promise.

This week two former officers were shot dead in the holy Shi’ite city of Karbala, including former Air Force Commandant Rajab Abdel Wahed al-Jaberi. Pilot-officer Mazen Jalal al-Salaami, who lives in the Dour neighborhood in north Baghdad, accuses police death squads for their involvement in the kidnapping, torture and murder of former Air Force officers. Sunni religious and political leaders denounce the infiltration of the security forces by Shi’ite militiamen, particularly the Badr Brigades, who were trained in Iran. These acts of revenge are causing a terrible loss for our country because they are killing off professionals who could have made a subtantial contribution to the new Iraqi military, regretted al-Salaami.

Ahmed Sattam al-Joubouri, who participated in bombing missions against Iran, Kuwait (1991) and Kurdistan, was assassinated by Kurdish Peshmerga fighters in August 2004, says his brother Ayed. After the fall of the Ba’athist regime, he remained in his village south of Mosul, where Kurdish militiamen murdered him to avenge the victims of the former regime. Ayed doubts President Talabani’s sincerity. He sought to calm the fears of the pilots so they would not join the insurgency, says Ayed, emphasizing that the government recently announced the dismantling of a “Salafist” network, whose leader was a former Iraqi Air Force general.

Shorter Nigergate

Editorial opinion in today's Repubblica:

...It is evident that it is not SISMI which is at the crux of this affair. Nicolò Pollari, like CIA Director George Tenet, provided his "boss" with what he wanted: manipulated intelligence. At the crux of this affair are the actions of a government which, four years down the road after the first report on the Made in Rome forgeries (15 October 2001), now denies its role in a travesty which has led to the death of 20 thousand Iraqis, 2,000 American troops and 33 members of Italian contingent in Nassiriya.

This is Nigergate--a political scandal. It is not the work of the hoax-peddling snake oil salemen of the "Italian Job" nor a squabble among institutions (as former minister Francesco Cossiga and the center-Left would have us to believe), nor the misguided initiative of an intelligence agency director....

The Twilight of the Vulcans

The horsemen of the pre-emptive strike and their squires believed they were invulnerable and omnipotent. When the 2003 investigation into the outing of a covert CIA agent began, they laughed, saying that the affair was a “NadaGate”, a “nothingburger” and an air-fried meatball. They were the NeoCons, the liberators of the planet, the justice brigade, the Vulcans (as the invincible race of warriors from Star Trek were known) and were prepared to crush anyone who dared to stand in their path.

Today their point man inside the White House, the protégé of Dick Cheney and the star pupil of Paul Wolfowitz, I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby, faces five charges and a possible 30 years in prison and has turned in his resignation. Many others, including Vice President Cheney, are spending many a sleepless night as they contemplate the doings which might be revealed and negotiated to avoid a prison sentence. “Nadagate", the scandal arising out of thin air, just like the “nothing” behind the Watergate break-in, Irangate and Sexgate. A meatball poisoned with the usual toxin: the arrogance of power.

The demise of the leader of the Vulcans began on Saturday 6 July 2003 with a 1,400-word article. When a copy of the New York Times landed on the desks of the White House that Saturday, the gates of prosecution hell, which had dispatched US politics into the nightmare of Watergate, Irangate and Monicagate, reopened to swallow up yet another administration into the abyss of its own arrogance and fear.

On the penultimate page of the most respected and vilified newspaper in America, the New York Times' Op-Ed page, an ambassador without embassy, a nobody on the stage of US power, Joseph C. Wilson wrote an article, What I Didn't Find in Africa that included this phrase: I have little choice but to conclude (following his mission to Niger) that some of the intelligence related to Iraq's nuclear weapons program was twisted to exaggerate the Iraqi threat.

For the audience of readers, it was a midsummer’s morning like any other. But for the White House and the protector of the Neocons, Dick Cheney and his right-hand man, Lewis Libby, known as “Scooter” (because as an infant he was a speed crawler), the news was a blared warning of the stripping away the invulnerabilty, the hubris and the prideful arrogance which had inspired and blinded them.

The occupation of Iraq to prevent the smoking gun from taking on the form of a mushroom cloud, as the President and his spokesman had insisted for months, was entering its fifth month and 204th US casualty, not to mention the legions of unknown Iraqi civilians, soldiers and guerrillas.

US media and public opinion were still psychologically embedded--wrapped up inside the cocoon of patriotism spun from the shock of 9-11—and only the first doubts on that terrifying imaginary arsenal began to ripple through the substantial consensus built up around Bush. But Cheney and his man Scooter, who is now facing 30 year for 5 charges of perjury and obstruction of justice, and the rest of the Vulcans understood what the rest of us merely suspected: that the entire dossier on Saddam was built out of exaggeration, stunts, conclusions and threats concocted, as Paul Wolfowitz divulged in an interview, for reasons of bureaucratic consensus—something to convince the objectors to the war such as Colin Powell in the Department of State and George Tenant (a Clinton holdover) at the CIA.

The answer of the war hawks was proportional to the terror which the ambassador’s revelations struck in their hearts—that in those words was the thread of truth which would unravel the entire fabric of lies and exaggerations. We now know, thanks to the capable and unsparing independent prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald, that at the highest levels of government--inside the office of the Vice President--a preemptive strike was prepared for Wilson and above all, his wife, Valerie Plame, a CIA agent with No Official Cover carrying a delicate brief, who sent her husband to Niger to unmask the subterfuge behind the yellowcake story—the uranium sought by Saddam.

And here is the key to understanding the new “-gate”, the new imbroglio which is stinging the band of hawks with their hand on the tiller of America. The fact that the purchase of uranium never took place, that the Italian documents were shoddy forgeries and that Saddam Hussein never possessed nuclear weapons (although he desired them ardently) was admitted by the White House when mention of yellowcake was removed from the President’s State of the Union Address six months prior to Wilson’s revelations. Officials even admitted that the Sixteen Words pronounced by Bush citing intelligence received by the British should not have been found in the text of the speech.

Why, then, did Cheney, the Darth Vader of the war on Iraq, Libby, his right arm, and possibly others launch a campaign to destroy the ambassador and to take down his CIA agent wife, when their “revelations” were not particularly hostile? Because exactly like 30 years before--during the Nixon Administration--the moment had come for a final showdown between warring gangs and agencies in Washington.

In its half-hearted scoop, the New York Times reports that the Vulcans saw signs of possible open war with the CIA, opposed to the war and unwilling to furnish the “evidence” sought be Cheney and Wolfowitz to “sell” the invasion of Iraq. They perceived the threat of a mutiny of dissidents within the State Department and the Agency against the Pentagon and the White House and issued a Mafia warning, as we say in Italy--the kneecapping of a minor official, Plame, as a warning to others—but which the CIA has used to bring charges againt “persons unknown” responsible for the outing of their employee.

A gang war. According to the investigating arm of the US Judiciary, it was Cheney himself, the “enforcer” of this presidency and the bellwether of the Neocons who gave his man Libby the name and the position of the ambassador’s wife which were then passed to reporters “off the record.”

The inexorable law of US political scandals entered into force thanks to a tenacious judiciary which has so far succeeded in remaining independent from the current shift on duty in the White House. It isn’t what you did, but what you did to hide what you did that causes the “-gates” to open. And it confirms the existence of the most deadly weapon of self-destruction of all: a guilty conscience.

--Vittorio Zucconi, La Repubblica, Rome, 29 October 2005.

Saturday, October 29, 2005

Perbacco, Berlusconi Says He's a Peacenik!

Berlusconi. Wah! They should call him Burlesque-phony. His ass and that of his party, the Freedom House-backed Casa Della Libertà, is history. They have lost every local and regional election in the last four years. So today war fanboy Berlusconi is backpeddling furiously on the rodent wheel.
I was never convinced that a war against Iraq was the best means to democratize a country or to rescue it from a bloody dictator. I tried to find alternate paths and solutions, even through the mediation of Ghedaffi. We just could not convince [Bush] and military intervention occurred. I always believed that we should have avoided a military confrontation.
However, let's check the bugia-o-meter:

17 February 03: PM Berlusconi urges the European Union to war during summit of the European Union.

23 February 03: If [Saddam Hussein] does not disarm, the International community, the international community sends the clear message that it will do it.

30 March 03: Thousands of US paratroopers dropped over northern Iraq on 26 March 2005 departed from an airbase in Northern Italy with the permission of PM Silvio Berlusconi.

Other quotes:

Bush's war on Saddam Hussein was a stroke of genius.

We are delighted to have been on the right side of history.

If [Saddam Hussein] does not disarm, the International community, the international community sends the clear message that it will do it.

Friday, October 28, 2005

A Battle in Cheney's War on the CIA

Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald has unsealed the indictment of Vice President Cheney's Chief of Staff, Scooter Libby, who led the Hawk Army Charge on the CIA at the battle of Plame Hill.

Le Monde's Washington correspondent Eric Leser directs our attention to backdrop: Dick Cheney's decades-old war on the CIA. The bleeding, staggering CIA thrust one last dagger into Cheney by deploying Wilson to write a NYT editorial revealing the false intelligence on which the war on Iraq was waged.

But we are now in a situation of fait accompli, both on the ground in Iraq and in Langley. Iraq is occupied by US forces and Langley is being put to the sack by Bush's henchman, Porter Goss. A new agency, the National Clandestine Service, is being built from the ground up by a Bush field marshall, John Negroponte, at last realizing Cheney's long-dreamed goal: to finish off the CIA once and for all. The sacrifice of a general, Scooter Libby, was a small price to pay.

The Iraqi conflict, the stakes of a long secret war on the CIA led by the Vice President and the hawks of the Bush Administration.

The backdrop to the affair of Valerie Plame, the CIA agent whose identity was unveiled to the press by members of the US Administration, is the years-long war fought between the Vice President, Dick Cheney, and the Central Intelligence Agency.

In March 2003, Cheney attempted to force the CIA into inflating the size of Saddam Hussein’s arsenal of WMD to justify the invasion of Iraq. In the end, blame was pinned on the Agency when it was revealed that Saddam’s WMD were non-existent. For Vice Presidential Chief-of-Staff I. Lewis Libby, the attacks launched by ex-Ambassador Joseph Wilson (husband of Valerie Plame) in the New York Times on July 6, 2003, denouncing the use of false intelligence of uranium purchases from Niger by Saddam Hussein, bore hallmark of the CIA.

The agency had sought to defend itself and to extract revenge. The fact that Valerie Plame was a CIA agent and that it was she who suggested that her husband be dispatched to Niger to verify the intelligence claim was sufficient in the eyes of Scooter Libby to demonstrate that the CIA was behind Joe Wilson’s attacks. According to the statements of Judith Miller, a reporter for the New York Times made to the grand jury, which will issue indictments in the affair, Lewis Libby was in a rage against the CIA, holding it responsible for erroneous estimates of Iraq’s WMD and for the inaccuracies included in George W. Bush's speeches before the invasion. [The infamous Sixteen Words--Nur].

Dick Cheney is long-time adversary of the CIA. As Secretary of Defense during the administration of Bush père and as Vice President since 2001, he has never missed a chance to denounce the failings and shortcomings of the Agency. Cheney's criticism began at the end of the 1980s, when the CIA failed to foresee the fall of the Soviet Union. When Saddam invades Kuwait in August 1990, Mr. Cheney, then Secretary of Defense, notices with stupefaction the lack of intelligence available to the United States on the Iraqi arsenal. Lewis Libby, who was already working with Cheney, is charged with the mission of investigating the biological warfare capabilities of the Iraqi army.

Just after the 2001 inauguration of George W. Bush, Mr. Cheney created a powerful intelligence center inside Vice President’s office—a parallel national security council. Mr. Cheney not only received the daily presidential briefings issued by the CIA but he attended nearly every meeting on national security at which the President was present.

During preparations for the invasion of Iraq, Dick Cheney made dozens of visits to the CIA headquarters in Langley (Virginia). No Vice President had done such a thing in the past. He continually posed the same questions to the experts on weapons of mass destruction and on links between Saddam Hussein and al-Qaeda intending, when the reply was unsatisfactory, to get answers elsewhere. There is no doubt that Saddam is amassing weapons of mass destruction. There is no doubt that he intends to use them against our friends, our allies and on us, declared Dick Cheney in an August 2002 speech to Korean War veterans.

In his war on the CIA, the Vice President had powerful allies, including Don Rumsfeld, Secretary of Defense, and his deputy, Paul Wolfowitz, both long-standing enemies of the CIA. Paul Wolfowitz was a member of the B-Team, created to monitor the work of experts considered “too soft” on the USSR during the 1970s during George Bush Sr.'s term as CIA director. The alarmist reports published by the B-Team were behind President Ronald Reagan’s rearmament and Star Wars programs.

As to Don Rumsfeld, he headed a 1998 Congressional commission on “rogue states”. The commission concluded that the CIA was incapable of gathering intelligence on these new threats. On the day following 9-11, the Office of Special Plans was created inside the Pentagon. This back-office, placed under the authority of Paul Wolfowitz and managed by his Under Secretary of Defense, Douglas Feith, was to analyze data supplied by the CIA and military intelligence and to report its conclusions to the White House. Working from assertions by Iraqi exiles close to the Iraqi National Congress and its chairman, Ahmed Chalabi, the bureau inflated the Iraqi WMD threat. The office has since been shut down.

Beginning in 2003, after US troops in Iraq were unsuccessful in finding the slightest proof of recent WMD programs, fear began to overpower the Administration. The CIA was about to reveal to the public the pressure to which it had been subjected. The attacks on Joseph Wilson were just a start. It became necessary at all costs to destroy Wilson's credibility in order to discourage further criticism.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Bonini and D'Avanzo

We should probably find out who these guys are.

The prizewinning pair are investigative journalists on the "Big Crime" beat, covering spectacular Mafia murders, judicial corruption, official blackmail and, well, apparently illegal war, too.

Carlo Bonini, born in Rome in 1967, is special correspondent for the Rome daily, La Repubblica, which he joined after having worked for the Milanese newspaper Il Corriere della Sera, where he reported on the courts and the judiciary. Bonini has written or co-authored several non-fiction books, including:

Guantanamo. Usa, a Journey to the War on Terror Prison, Einaudi (2004)
One Country, One Cooperative, One Man, Mucchi (2002)
The Red Robe, Tropea (1998)
The Flower of Evil, Tropea (1999)

Giuseppe D'Avanzo is La Repubblica's top investigative reporter, teamed recently with Bonini. D'Avanzo has published as well:
Rostagno: A Crime Among Friends, Mondadori (1996)
Justice Is Cosa Nostra, Mondadori (1996)
The Days of the Gladio Conspiracy, Sperling & Kupfer (1991)
The Capo of Capos: The Life and Criminal Career of Totò Riina, Mondadori

Below is an exerpt from Bonini's book on Guantanamo, pictured above.

Inside the cage, someone decides to end it all. Forever. And in the only way possible--by hanging. Or rather, by trying to hang himself. This has happened thirty two times. With twenty-seven different injuries. Because some attempt hanging more than once. It is a changeable statistic which fluctuates as the months go by and sometimes inflates when collective desperation sets in. The same death scene is performed again and again. The victim knots a piece cloth and hangs it from the highest point on the wall of the cage where the steel wire of the mesh meets the cement roof of the cell. A noose is made at one end of the cloth. The victim slips his head in and lets himself slide down using the weight of the chest and pelvis. The body remains angular, sometimes in a jackknife position, other times bent at the knees. The hanging attempt causes tremendous convulsions, they tell me. Because in a space as restricted as that of the cage, with such a low roof, suffocation is never final. In the excitement of the shouts for help in the detention unit, the limbs of those who fail at the attempt begin to thrash in all directions governed by reflex. The cyanotic body is cerebrally and physically damaged. I talked to one of the suicide survivors on the other side of the windbreak protecting the cots of the "Detention Hospital”, a structure said to be for medical use at the western edge of Camp Delta. The air-conditioned tent reeking of lysoform with a spotless greenish linoleum floor has a several 20-bed wards and a staff of ninety-three doctors and nurses pulling teeth, amputating arms and legs, setting bones and sometimes treating chronic, debilitating illnesses such as tuberculosis. Those who visited the hospital in the weeks prior to my arrival reported seeing a man holding onto life thanks to a resuscitation machine. Fed through a system of tubes surgically inserted into the stomach. In a permanent vegetative state. Non-reversible. He’s recovering. We’re very pleased about that, says Capt. Kelleher. He’s started to talk and can move a bit. Of course, he still has trouble holding a cup. As in the detention units, here in the hospital the prisoners are addressed by number, never by name. By the number of the cell in which hanging was attempted. And every night, his body is chained to the cot in which he lies, as with anyone else who is treated there.


The the Italian pejorative for paper is, "cartaccia", meaning ugly, meaningless, useless and possibly copious amounts of marks on rag.

La Repubblica writes today that Berlusconi's government is claiming that the FBI has closed the case on Italian involvement in Nigergate through the issue of a piece of cartaccia: a July 20, 2005 letter from the Director of the FBI officially informing them that its investigation of the forgeries forwarded from the magazine Panorama to the US Embassy in Rome on October 9 2002 clear Italy of any involvement.

Neat and tidy, huh?

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Stonewalling Italian Style

Epilogue: The Great Italian Yellowcake/Centrifuge Scam

From this evening's Repubblica:

Palazzo Chigi denies everything
Following La Repubblica's investigation into the phony anti-Saddam evidence, the Italian government has issued a denial: The facts as related do no correspond to the truth.

The Executive Branch denies any and all allegations of its involvement in the phony Niger uranium dossier: The story may not be considered trustworthy just because it is well-written.

Palazzo Chigi [the Italian "White House"] terms the story published in La Repubblica on the so-called Nigergate affair—the phony dossier on Niger uranium which permitted Bush to justify his war on Iraq--unfounded and inaccurate.

The related events and content, as well as the circumstantial elements referring to time, place, subject matter and actors, are not only untruthful, but they are a repudiation of prompt and accurate internal reports, all of which are unassailably documented. Palazzo Chigi is carefully evaluating every option for the guardianship of information protected by law.

Palazzo Chigi categorically denies any involvement of the Government or SISMI with respect to any allegation of direct or indirect involvement in the collection and transfer of the forged dossier on Niger uranium. Undoubtedly fascinating in its unfolding and full of revelatory material, the [newspaper’s] investigation goes beyond the limits of responsibility: the baseless and inaccurate story should not be considered trustworthy merely because it is well-written.

Nigergate: The Great Nuclear Centrifuge Scam

Update: A translation of the 12 September 2002 Panorama article entitled, La guerra? è cominciata, cited below can be found here.

English translation cleaned up and republished on 31 October 2005

This Part III of the investigative series by Carlo Bonini and Giuseppe d'Avanzo of La Repubblica.

THE INVESTIGATION : Nicolò Pollari knew that the equipment purchased by Saddam Hussein was not destined for nuclear use. But when he is at the White House, he avoids mentioning it.

Nigergate: The Great Nuclear Centrifuge Scam

The bizarre Panorama scoop is accepted as fact and included in the dodgy dossier.

The story of the Italian involvement in [intelligence] manipulations which will provide the justifications for war on Iraq is one of dates on the calendar. We have already looked at of a few of them. And once again, it is a date that unravels and reveals Chapter Two of the Great Scam.

The date is September 9, 2002. On that day, in the chambers of the National Security Council, a very strange (if you believe in the principle of institutional transparency) and secret meeting takes place.

Why is the director of Italian military intelligence meeting a White House Administration official? It would be perfectly natural for Nicolò Pollari to meet with the Director of the Central Intelligence Agency. It would be quite routine if the director of SISMI were to meet with Italian administration officials--but very bizarre indeed if he meets with officials of a foreign government, even if an ally. In this meeting there were Cabinet officials and under-secretaries. So, just what is it that he discusses with Stephen Hadley?

Stephen Hadley is no low-ranking underling in the White House. Today he is National Security Advisor. In 2002, he is deputy to Condoleezza Rice and a node in the parallel intelligence conduit ["Stovepipe"--Nur] desired by Dick Cheney to legitimize a war on Saddam Hussein. He is the man who, among other things, is responsible for the sixteen words pronounced by George W. Bush in his January 28, 2003 State of the Union Address which served as a declaration of war on Iraq.

We know that Hadley, together with Pollari, are concerned with weapons of mass destruction. And it’s reasonable to ask what exactly Pollari knows on the score of the Niger uranium on the 9th of September 2002. As he admits himself, Pollari knows everything. He has been apprised of sordid adventure of Rocco Martino. His own men were up to their necks in it. He is familiar with the actions of SISMI deputy division chief Antonio Nucera, who lends a hand to snake oil salesman Martino. On the day in question, Pollari well-positioned to make a choice: either to tell Rice’s deputy that the White House had better forget about the uranium story, because it’s a hoax and that the Martino-Nucera duo are imposters, or to reinforce the convictions of the American ally, perhaps with a little well-intentioned silence. So what does Pollari choose to do? To find out, we had better take a look at Pollari’s comportment concerning the other topic of conversation with Hadley: the nuclear centrifuge dossier.

Barely 24 hours before, on September 8, 2002, Judith Miller reports on the nuclear threat posed by Baghdad on the front page of the New York Times. In the last 14 months, writes the reporter, Iraq has sought to acquire aluminum tubes which, according to US officials, are intended for use as rotor sheathings inside uranium enrichment centrifuges.

On September 9, 2002, seated in front of Stephen Hadley, Pollari has the means to address even this aspect of the issue. As Pollari admits, SISMI is in possession of documentary proof of the acquisition of aluminum tubes by Iraq. But let’s take a look what he’s talking about.

These are 7075-T6 aluminum tubes. This is the preferred material for low-cost missile systems (each tube costs approximately $17.50). There are made with an extremely hard alloy which makes them suitable as rotors inside a centrifuge capable of separating fissile from non-fissile uranium. It is not simple process because thousands of centrifuges (16 thousand) are needed and they must withstand synchronous rotation at extremely high speed.

As we now know, the CIA and the very cautious Secretary of State, Colin Powell, convince themselves that dual use material was meant for Iraq’s nuclear program. Powell draws on all his military experience. He says: I am not an expert in centrifuges, but from the standpoint of a military veteran, ask yourself this this: why are the Iraqis are so busy in acquiring these tubes which, if they were used as rockets, would disintegrate soon after launch?

Incredibly, the objection is left standing even after the scientists at Oak Ridge National Laboratory (where uranium for the US nuclear arsenal is processed by centrifuge enrichment) annihilate Powell’s theory. The Oak Ridge people say that the tubes are too narrow, to heavy, too long and likely tto fracture if used as centrifuge components. They conclude with: Those tubes are used in the manufacture of a specific type of artillery shell.

So on September 8, 2002, Judith Miller portrays the aluminum tubes as “a smoking gun.” The next day, Pollari is seated in front of Stephen Hadley. So what does he tell him? Pollari keeps his mouth shut. He doesn’t reveal what he knows about the aluminum tubes, which are the source of so much concern (or even enthusiasm) within the Bush Administration. The shame is that those 7075-T6 tubes--900 millimeters long, 81 millimeters in diameter, 3.3 millimeters thick--are well-known hardware to the Italian Army. They are 81-mm rocket artillery shells used in the Medusa air-to-ground missile defense system installed on Italian Army and Navy helicopters. In reality, the Iraqis are merely attempting to reproduce weaponry with which they became familiar during the long years of economic, military and nuclear cooperation between Rome and Baghdad. (Iraq’s top army and air force officers trained in Italy during the 1980’s). Saddam’s General Staff needs to duplicate them, so to speak, because their inventory is stockpiled outdoors and is now corroded. That was the reason behind the new anodized aluminum tube purchases.

Why does Pollari not utter a word? If you ask Greg Thielmann, ex-chief of the State Department Intelligence Service, he’ll tell you: But seriously, haven’t you yet understood why the chief of Italian military intelligence did not provide us with any indication that would have allowed us to definitively discard the notion that the tubes would be used in someone’s nuclear program? Well, I have an idea for you. SISMI, like the CIA and the entire Anglo-Saxon intelligence community, is ready and willing to satisfy the hawks in the US Administration. Thielmann’s assertion echoes like a shotgun blast. And the dates will yield solid confirmation.

September 8, 2002: Judith Miller throws a rock thorugh the window.
September 9, 2002: Hadley meets Pollari.
September 11, 2002: Stephen Hadley’s office contacts the CIA for authorization to allow the President of the United States to use the information on the sale of Niger uranium in a public address. Specifically, as the report by the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence relates, the request made to the CIA at the behest of the National Security Council asks George Tenet in writing if George W. Bush is authorized to say, "Iraq has made several attempts to acquire aluminum tubes for use in its uranium enrichment centrifuges. We also know that over the last few years, Iraq has restarted its attempts to acquire large quantities of uranium oxide, known as yellowcake--the necessary component for enrichment processing." The CIA gives its permission but on October 7th in Cincinnati, Ohio, the authorized words are not found in the President's speech.

The day before the scheduled address, Langley recommends that the statement be expunged. The intelligence is weak. One of the two mines cited by the intelligence source as used for the extraction of uranium is flooded. The other mine is under the control of the French authorities.

What the devil was Pollari up to? The twisted yellowcake affair and now the centrifuges are tangled up around Rocco Martino’s phony documents. Who did what to whom and where and why? Who read the documents and who kept silent on their phony origin? Who believed in their worth and who "distributed" them? The crux of the imbroglio lies not only in answering those questions but in the words which are never spoken. The Italians know that Rocco Martino is a creep. They know very well that the only genuine papers in the dossier are stale intelligence pulled from the files of the SISMI division concerned with WMD. Pollari lets the lie off the leash and permits it trot around the globe. He does not have Rocco Martino “busted” when he knocks on the door of MI6. Instead, Pollari credits Martino as “a reliable source”. He does not put the damper on the enthusiasm of his American friend Michel Ledeen and the Pentagon’s Office of Special Plans. He simply sits there in silence as the imbroglio simmers. In fact, when he does open his mouth, he neither extinguishes nor disappoints American expectations. This is what happens to the aluminum tubes. Following a “brilliant operation”, SISMI enters into concrete possession of the tubes. It’s a military intelligence victory. But even the lowest grunt would understand that the tubes must be Italian—they are shells from the Medusa-81 aircraft missile defense system. Naturally, SISMI is well aware of this. Yet on September 9, 2002, Pollari maintains a reserved silence in the presence of Hadley. And he does more than that.

On September 12, 2002, Panorama magazine hits the newsstands. In a lengthy article titled,La guerra? è cominciata, (War with Iraq? It has already started)the magazine make decisive yet unverified revelations on Iraqi nuclear rearmament to the world. So far, no one has started talking about uranium, let alone 500 tons of the ore. It will be Tony Blair to mention it first, but not until September 24, 2002--two weeks following the meeting between Pollari and Hadley and twelve days after Panorama’s "scoop". Inside the 50-page British government document, London affirms that Iraq is seeking to acquire uranium from Africa. Blair maintains that Iraq has attempted to purchase significant quantities of uranium from an African nation despite the fact that he has no civilian nuclear program which would require it. Even today, Foreign Secretary Jack Straw continues to repeat that the “Italian dossier” was not the basis behind Blair’s words and that MI6 is in possession of previously acquired intelligence. Yet such “evidence” has come to light. If it were to come out--a source at Forte Braschi tells La Repubblica with a smile, it would be easily discovered, producing more than a few red faces, that the “evidence” is in fact stale Italian intelligence collected by SISMI at the end of the 1980s and shared with our friend, Hamilton Mac Millan.

There was no excessive talk implicating Italy in the yellowcake affair. It was the silence. We’ve seen how SISMI keeps silent (or is forced to keep silent). But poor SISMI is not alone. Although perfectly informed, none of the protagonists in this sordid affair talks. Panorama clams up. When the editorial board of the magazine, owned by the Italian head of government, is called upon to reconstruct its contacts with Rocco Martino (who tried to sell the hoax to Segrate), it omits the recollection that the information contained in the bogus dossier was already published a month earlier. The weekly's Editor-in-Chief inexplicably shares the documents with the US Embassy in Rome alone--and not with the Italian government or the excellent resources of the Italian intelligence agency to which, as September’s scoop shows, it has access. He has no interest in relating, as a second possible worldwide scoop, that the evidence on which the war is based is false. As you would expect, Palazzo Chigi is also silent. The role of Silvio Berlusconi’s diplomacy advisor, Gianni Castellaneta, has been key in mediating the relations between Italy with the parallel conduit [“Stovepipe”—Nur] that Dick Cheney creates with financing from Ahmed Chelabi’s Iraqi National Congress to funnel "tweaked" intelligence by the Office for Special Plans which is then distributed to the media by the “Iraq Group” (which is also seen in action in the Judith Miller-New York Times affair.) But who has ever heard Castellaneta utter one word? And who within any institution has ever asked Mr. Castellaneta about it?

Also silent is Gianni Letta. When the truth on the bogus Italian dossier surfaces, the Under-Secretary with intelligence clearance, despite what one reads in inaccurate government memos, invokes State secrecy. Letta maintains that no further documentation would be presented to Parliamentary scrutiny because Italian intelligence sources would be compromised. But what sources? Rocco Martino, the bad cop, the crooked spy, the double-crosser? Or would that be Antonio Nucera, the deputy director at the SISMI center in viale Pasteur offices who filches (or is compelled to filch) stale intelligence from the division archives to assemble the package?

Now that the frittata has been turned out of the mould, they obviously have to come up with something after their long silence. Pollari makes his move in the summer of 2004. Once taciturn, he all of a sudden he becomes talkative. He even opens the doors to his modest office in Palazzo Baracchini. We find him in a darkened office behind a desk with papers piled high. Papers here, papers there, papers everywhere. To his left, there is another desk covered with dossiers like so many pebbles on the beach. On August 5th, 2004, he tells La Repubblica: I can’t trust anyone. I have to read all the papers myself! Pollari seems agitated. He feels the hot breath of the reporters from Atlantic Monthly. He’s turns an interview request from CBS Television received through the Italian Embassy in Washington in his hands. He asks us: What do these people want of me? Who’s talking to them? The CIA? The FBI? A CIA leaker? An enemy of the FBI? He knows that Rocco Martino has been contacted by a producer for 60 Minutes and he’s afraid of what Martino might confess in front of the microphones--turing it into a personal catastrophe for him. Pollari has to find an exit from the impasse he’s in and it seems that he’s found one. He tells La Repubblica: It was the French of the Direction Générale de la Sécurité Extérieure who tried to dupe the Americans. We are not involved in any way. He pulls out from a folder an item that looks like it belongs in a Power Point presentation. (It’s yellow, red, purple, blue and green). The document purports to prove the “role of French intelligence in the Niger affair.” But it is not convincing. Today, it falls flat. Time has shown the substantial groundlessness of a connection to the French. That bird has flown the coop. In fact, as the US Senate report shows, two weeks prior to the invasion, on March 4th, 2003, the French informed Washington that that the documents were forged because as it transpired, they were the same documents that Rocco Martin had previously pawned off on Paris.

But no document was every pulled out of an Italian file to put a stop to Dick Cheney’s impetuosity. Like the Italian government, SISMI knows that its intelligence on Iraq was complete hogwash. There is silence as if the entire Italian power establishment has been stricken mute. Silence on the part of [Berlusconi's] majority is understandable but must the opposition be silent in the face of manipulations that led to war? The only act on record is a request by a commission of inquiry presented by L’Unione [Romano Prodi’s leftist coalition--Nur]. But it turns out that it was merely bureaucratic ass-covering, because once issued, it was promptly forgotten. Meanwhile, in the United States, three independent investigations have been launched into CIA-gate, Niger-gate and a conspiracy headed by Larry Franklin, an official inside the Office of Special Plans. But in Italy not even a leaf flutters in the breeze. If you are enterprising enough to arrange a meeting with Rome Public Prosecutor Franco Ionta to discover, just out of curiosity, what ever became of the investigation of Rocco Martino, he’ll tell you: Yes, I investigated Martino. A fraudster. It took me half an hour to take his deposition. But just what did you expect him to tell me? I put in a request to close the case with the Giudice per le indagini preliminare [judge handing the preliminary investigation]. It was just lot of buffoonery. . Yes indeed, but Italian buffoonery that is going to die in silence, ignored by the politicians, the intelligence community and the judiciary. That’s how things work in Italy.

:::End of series:::

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Yellowcake Dossier Not the Work of the CIA

Update: A translation of an attempt by Rocco Martino to sell the cooked up yellowcake intelligence to Panorama reporter Elisabetta Burba may be found here.

English translation cleaned up and republished on 30 October 2005--Nur

Part Two of the investigative series by Carlo Bonini and Giuseppe d'Avanzo of La Repubblica.

INVESTIGATION / SISMI Director General Nicolò Pollari travels to the States to corroborate the purchase of nuclear material by Saddam Hussein.

Pollari travels to Washington to present his version of "the truth"
The Yellowcake Dossier was not the work of the CIA.

For SISMI Director Nicolò Pollari, the rules of his profession are very clear. He tells La Repubblica: I am an intelligence chief and my only institutional partner in conversation following 9-11 was CIA Director George Tenet in Washington. Obviously, I held my conversations solely with him.... But is it really true that our cloak-and-dagger people worked solely with the CIA? Or did they work as part of the clandestine effort within the parallel intelligence conduit ["Stovepipe"--Nur] created by Dick Cheney and Paul Wolfowitz within the Iraq War Group, the Pentagon’s Office of Special Plans and the office of the National Security Advisor—all avidly determined to produce the evidence for “regime change" in Baghdad.

It is a known fact that on the eve of the war on Iraq and under the guidance of Palazzo Chigi Diplomatic Advisor Gianni Castellaneta (today Italian Ambassador to the United States), SISMI chief Pollari organizes his appointment book in Washington with the help of the staff of Condoleezza Rice, who was then serving as National Security Advisor. La Repubblica has documented the dual course pursued by the Italian government and by Italian intelligence. According to intelligence sources, in at least one of the backdoor meetings in which Pollari participated, the the creation of a conduit took place marshalling together government, security agencies and intelligence.

Brief synopsis: Pollari’s SISMI wants to give credence to the story of acquisition of uranium ore for the purpose of building a nuclear bomb. The gameplan is transparent. The “authentic” papers concerning an attempt to acquire uranium in Niger (stale Italian "intelligence" left over from the 80’s) are a legacy of a former SISMI Deputy Chief in Rome, Antonio Nucera. They are bundled up together with other worthless documents hastily forged after a simulated burglary of the Niger Embassy (embassy letterhead and stamps are taken). The documents are exhibited by Pollari’s men to the CIA Station Chief in Rome while SISMI’s "postman", a certain individual by the name of Rocco Martino, delivers a copy to Richard Dearlove’s MI6 in London.

That was the first installment. We’ll now provide the second chapter of the Great Italian Yellowcake Scam orchestrated in Italy to build up the necesary pretext for the invasion of Iraq. We reintroduce Greg Thielmann, former director of the US Department of State's intelligence bureau, who encounters the "Italian" report on the uranium on his desk. He does not recall the precise date.

Thielmann recounts the events of autumn 2001 in generalities. But the precise date may prove noteworthy: it is October 15, 2001. On that date three events are woven together to produce an astounding coincidence: Nicolò Pollari, nominated by the goverment on September 27 after serving as Number Two at CESIS (a coordinating intelligence agency at Palazzo Chigi), assumes control at SISMI. Silvio Berlusconi is finally invited to the White House by George W. Bush. October 15 marks the date of the first CIA report on the evidence in the possession of the Italians. It’s impossible to say if all this is coincidence, but one cannot ignore the context: The Italians have a burning desire to be useful. After his unfortunate outburst on the Clash of Civilizations, Berlusconi is encountering problems in getting an invitation from the White House, under fire from moderate Arab regimes. Pollari is eager to quickly get in step with Premier and the new course of action. The new chief at the SISMI section concerned with WMD, Colonel Alberto Manenti (direct superior of Antonio Nucera), wants to put himself on the same page as the new SISMI director. It is a known fact that Bush shows the West Wing’s Rose Garden to Berlusconi and the CIA acknowledges, as reported by [investigative reporter] Russ Hoyle (who devoted himself to a year-long analysis of the conclusions of the Senate Investigation Committee) that Italian intelligence has some neatly prepackaged information bedecked with a pretty bow: Negotiations (between Niamey and Baghdad) on the purchase of uranium have been ongoing since the start of 1999; the sale [of uranium to Baghdad] was approved by the Niger Supreme Council in 2000. No documentary evidence is offered to show that any shipment of uranium has transpired. CIA analysts consider the report to be “somewhat limited” and “lacking in necessary detail”. Intelligence and Research analysts at the US Department of State qualify the intelligence as “highly suspect.”

The initial contact with the American intelligence community is not particularly gratifying for Pollari but suffice it to say that it is still highly useful. The SISMI director, who is no fool, quickly surveys the landscape and the players of the ongoing behind-the-scenes battle in the US Administration between those who stress caution and pragmatism (the US Department of State and the CIA) and those who are looking for an excuse to start a war (Cheney and the Pentagon), which is already on the drawing board. However, upon returning to Italy, the SISMI director finds a similar battle underway in Rome. Gianni Castellaneta advises Pollari to look in other directions, while Defense Minister Antonio Martino suggests that Pollari arrange an appointment to meet an old friend of Italy. This old friend is Michael A. Ledeen, the old fox of American parallel intelligence conduits, who had once been declared persona non grata by Rome during 1980s. [Likely because of kidnapping of Abu Abbas, orchestrated by Ledeen and Oliver North, and the attempted "extraordinary rendition" of Abbas through Italy--Nur.]

Ledeen is in Rome at the behest of the Office of Special Plans, created at the Pentagon by Paul Wolfowitz to collect intelligence supporting a war on Iraq. A source at Forte Braschi [Italian equivalent to Langley, VA, the headquarters of the CIA--Nur] tells La Repubblica: On the subject of intelligence collected on the uranium purchase, Pollari gets the cold shoulder from CIA Station Chief Jeff Castelli. Apparently, Castelli has dropped the matter entirely. Taking a hint, Pollari discusses the matter with Michael Ledeen.... No one knows what prompts Ledeen to return to Washington but at the beginning of 2002, Paul Wolfowitz convinces Dick Cheney that the uranium trail intercepted by Italian intelligence should be explored in depth. As the United States Senate Select Committee on Intelligence relates, a a very determined Vice President repeats a request to the CIA to take another look into “the possible acquisition of Niger uranium." During a meeting, Dick Cheney explicitly states that a crucial piece of intelligence is held by “a foreign intelligence agency”.

The parallel intelligence conduit ["Stovepipe"--Nur] over at the Pentagon circulates “new information” according to which there exists an agreement between Niger and Iraq for the supply of 500 tons of uranium per year. The technicians at the Department of State raise an eyebrow at the report--500 tons of uranium! A vastly exaggerated quantity! The report is manifestly devoid of all plausibility. Every independent report ordered following the circulation of the "Italian memorandum" indicates that the Niger uranium mines at Arlit and Akouta can yield at most 300 tons per year. But time is growing short. George Tenet, stung by the intelligence gaps of 9-11, grins and bears it but becomes incredibly unreceptive when State Department intelligence controverts him, recounts Greg Thielmann to La Repubblica, by saying that the intelligence collected in Rome is inconsistent, that the uranium story is phony and that a bunch of things contained in the report are fabricated.

Pollari is a very clever man, they say at Forte Braschi, and so he understands that to pursh the uranium story in Washington he cannot deal with the CIA alone. He must work with, suggest Palazzo Chigi and the Italian Defense Minstry, the Pentagon and National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice. The affirmation might have been meant as malicious (in the world of espionage, that's often the case), but we can confirm the "alternate conduit" which Pollari creates in Washington through a snapshot and a meeting.

This is the snapshot. Pollari is in Washington. He arranges a meeting with George Tenet and, as happens frequently, his presentation is to be given in a reserved conference room at a hotel close to Langley. An attendee at the meeting tells La Repubblica: Pollari’s English must not have been very polished, so a female interpreter is placed between him and Tenet. There’s an embarrassing upshot. In the course of exchanging pleasantries, George reveals some information from al-Qaeda concerning Italy which the Agency has gathered from prisoners at Guantanamo. Tenet expects at least a smile or possibly a nod of gratitude. A stone-faced Pollair looks back at him. If at first Tenet found Pollari unpleasant, he now finds him positively untrustworthy. What what strikes everyone seated around the conference table is the absolute sidelining of Pollari's station chief in Washington. The bizarre treatment is intriguing. In 2002, the SISMI station chief in Washington is Admiral Giuseppe Grignolo. He possesses extensive background in WMD, an excellent relationship with the CIA and the respect of CIA Number 2, Jim Pavitt. A source at Forte Braschi recalls: The truth is that we did not want to keep the nose of the CIA out of our business but Pollari distrusted Grignolo, whom he believed was too cozy with Langley—so he blocked Grignolo’s every move. He forced him, so to speak, into the useless task of conductinjg background checks on SISMI new hires, who might have spent some time in the United States.....During those months, the most significant contacts take place elsewhere—through Gianni Castellaneta with Condoleezza Rice and through Ledeen with the Office of Special Plans run by Paul Wolfowitz and Doug Feith. It is Castellaneta who arranges a meeting for Pollari in the offices of the National Security Advisor at the White House. When did they meet and what did they discuss? What did you expect them to be talking about in the summer of 2002? Weapons of mass destruction! When did the meeting take place? That’s my business…but all you have to do is to is check the visitors' roster and archived flight plans between Ciampino [Rome’s military airport--Nur] and Washington.

Here in Rome, it’s difficult for us to access those flight plans. We had better luck in Washington. An Administration official told La Repubblica: I can confirm that on September 9, 2002, General Nicolò Pollari met with Stephen Hadley, deputy to National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice.

As was the case for October 15, 2001, September 9, 2002 was a day marked by several coincidences. On that day, the Italian magazine Panorama was coming up on the editorial deadline for its 12-19 September issue. As one might expect from Rocco Martino (the SISMI "postman" in the Yellowcake Affair), he contacts a woman reporter from the magazine (Carlo Rossella was Editor-in-Chief at the time) in October to sell her the documents inside the phony dossier. No one cares to recall that in the 12-19 September 2002 issue of Panorama, coinciding with Pollari’s secret meeting with Hadley, the magazine published a international scoop entitled, War with Iraq? It has already started. The Panorama article mentions “a delivery of a half-ton of uranium”: The men of Mukhabarat, the Iraqi intelligence agency, acquired the ore through a Jordanian middleman in far-away Nigeria, where a few traders succeeded in smuggling it after a heist from a nuclear depot in a republic of the former USSR. The cargo containing 500 kilograms of uranium was then docked at Amman and afterwards shipped overland in a 7-hour journey to its final destination: the al-Rashidiyah plant 20 km north of Baghdad, recognized as a site for the production and processing of fissile material. And further along in the article: The alarm concerns Germany, where in the past Iraq had attempted to purchase technology and industrial parts from the firm, Leycochem....and even the much sought-after aluminum tubes for gas centrifuges.

Although there is a discrepancy in the location (Nigeria and not Niger—a lapsus calami?) and the story is somewhat of a fairy-tale (contraband from the USSR is transported all the way to Africa by truck), what is essential here is to notice that in the Panorama article, the recipe (so to speak) has all the right ingredients needed for war: the 500 tons of uranium which make its way from Africa to Baghdad, and the aluminum tubes for nuclear centrifuges. One could accurately superimpose the story churned in Italy on the allegations made in the CIA-gate/New York Times affair. The government asks, the intelligence service produces, the media spreads the story and the goverment confirms what's in the media. It’s an old disinformation technique from the Cold War. Exaggerate the danger posed by the enemy. Terrorize and convince the public--and this time Italy is involved as an accessory. The magazine that spreads the poisonous disinformation is owned by PM Silvio Berlusconi, who has intelligence oversight in Italy and who wants to become and to be seen as the close ally of George W. Bush, impatient to declare war.

You could say that with the terrain prepared in advance, Pollari is able concentrate on another essential aspect of the operation: the promotion of himself and SISMI by cashing in on a year’s worth of cloak-and-dagger work, pulling the wool over the eyes of Parliament using carefully manipulated information and revelations which should have been subject to careful reconstruction accompanied by corroborating documentation--and not the wall of silence of the State (imposed by Gianni Letta on July 16, 2003).

Back from his secret meeting with Hadley, Pollari was debriefed by an Italian Parliamentary intelligence oversight committee. They summon him twice. In the first session, the SISMI director maintains: We do not have documentary proof, only information that a central African country sold uranium ore to Baghdad. Thirty days later, Pollari says: We had documentary proof of the acquisition by Iraq of uranium ore from a republice in central Africa. We also know of an Iraqi attempt to purchase centrifuges for uranium enrichment from German and possibly Italian manufacturers. Once out of the maw of Parliament, Pollari is still confronted with the problem of conveying the phony dossier to Washington without leaving fingerprints. Pollari stumbles into a lucky break. SISMI “postman” Rocco Martino, who has already left a package on the doorstep of MI6, contacts Panorama reporter Elisabetta Burba and attempts to sell her the dossier. But is it the snakeoil salesman’s idea —or that of Antonio Nucera— or is someone else behind it? Mrs. Burba rightly double-checks the information in Niger. She concocts a cover of an investigation dinosaur tracks—from Oranosaurus nigeriensis to Afrovenator abakensis.

In the meantime, she is approached by a reliable source. Elisabetta does what a reporter has to do—with rigor and tenacity. She concludes that the story is baseless and refrains from publishing a single sentence. But in reality her efforts were after-the-fact, because the magazine’s Editor-in-Chief, Carlo Rossella, entralled with the possibly having found—as he tells his staff--a smoking gun, has forwarded the documents to the US Embassy in Rome, which he regards as "the highest source of confirmation". Does Pollari notify Berlusconi’s publication, Panorama, which is patting itself on the back over the uranium scoop, that the information is bogus? It seems that he did not. And this is how Jeff Castelli and the CIA came to find on their plate the half-baked frittata of which they'd been refusing to partake for nearly a year. The documents are such crude forgeries that they must be hidden from scrutiny lest they rain on Dick Cheney’s parade. The arrival of the documents in Washington occurs by stealth. They are distributed on October 16, 2002, to the various intelligence agencies by State Department officials during a routine meeting at which four CIA officials were in attendance. Not one of those present at the meeting is able to recall actually taking the dossier into their possession. Mysteriously, the "Italian papers" are “misplaced” at Langley for three months and it is only after an internal audit ordered by the Inspector-General that they are found inside a safe in the Counterproliferation Section. This is the first Italian lunge-and-parry. The uranium hoax inflated with the aluminum tube chicanery. But that is another story.

To be continued...

Monday, October 24, 2005

Berlusconi Behind Fake Yellowcake Dossier

Edited for errors and omissions and republished on 14 November 2005.

Update 2 Nov 05: View the crude forgeries here.

La Repubblica's Carlo Bonini and Giuseppe d'Avanzo have been bird-dogging the phony yellowcake documents and they now have the goods on Silvio Berlusconi, who instructed Italian Military Intelligence to plant the evidence implicating Saddam in a bogus uranium deal with Niger. This is their story, printed in yesterday's on-line edition and translated by your friendly little blog owner.

All the Italians behind Nigergate were doublecrossers and dilletantes.

The military intervention in Iraq was justified by two revelations: (1)Saddam Hussein attempted to acquire unprocessed uranium (yellowcake) in Niger for enrichment with centrifuges built with aluminum tubes imported from Europe;(2)The fabricators of the twin hoaxes (there was never any trace in Iraq of unprocessed uranium or of centrifuges) were the Italian Government and Italian military intelligence. La Repubblica has attempted to reconstruct the who, where and why of the manufacture and handover of the dodgy dossier for war to British and American intelligence.

They are the same two hoaxes that Judith Miller, the reporter who betrayed her newspaper, published (together with Michael Gordon) on September 8, 2002. In a lengthy investigative piece for the New York Times, Miller reported that Saddam could have built an atomic weapon with those aluminum tubes. These were the goods that the hawks in the Bush administration were expecting.

The "war dance" which followed Judith Miller’s scoop seemed like "carefully-prepared theater” to an attentive media-watcher, Roberto Reale of Ultime Notizie (The Latest News). [Note: Roberto Reale is a TV news commentator for RAI-3 and a professor of Language and Media at the University of Padua--Nur]

Condoleezza Rice, who was then White House Security Advisor, said on CNN: We don’t want the smoking gun to look like a mushroom cloud. A menacing Dick Cheney delivers a bolus injection on Meet the Press that We know with absolute certainty that Saddam is using his technical and commercial capabilities to acquire the material necessary to enrich uranium needed build a nuclear weapon. This was the beginning of an escalation of fear.

26 September 2002: Colin Powell warns the Senate: The Iraqi attempt to acquire uranium is proof of its nuclear ambitions.

19 December 2002: The information on Niger and the uranium is included in the three-page President’s Daily Briefing prepared each day by the CIA and the Department of State for George W. Bush. The ambassador to the United Nations, John Negroponte, added his stamp of approval: Why is Iraq dissimulating its purchase of Niger uranium?

28 January 2003: George W. Bush pronounced the 16 words, which amountd to a declaration of war. The British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa.

The beans in that bag are Roman.
In the general haze of events which precede the invasion of Iraq, Italian involvement is prefigured by a single, grotesque protagonist: Rocco Martino, son of Raffaele and America Ventrici, born in Tropea (Province of Catanzaro) on September 20, 1938.

Unmasked by the British press (The Financial Times, The Sunday Times) in the summer of 2004, Rocco Martino spills the beans: It’s true, I had a hand in the dissemination of those (Niger uranium) documents, but I was duped. Both Americans and Italians were involved behind the scenes. It was a disinformation operation.

An incomplete confession but close to the truth.
Martino conceals the identify of the architects behind the “operation” and appears to be merely a pawn, like his partners in crime. So who is the puppeteer pulling the strings in their sordid adventure? To find out, we’ll start with that funny-looking fellow who came to Rome from Tropea...

Rocco Martino is a dishonest cop and a double-crossing spy. He’s got the aura of a rogue about him even if you are not familiar with his background. A captain of politico-military intelligence between 1976 and 1977, he was let go for unethical behavior. In 1985, he was arrested for extortion in Italy. In 1993, he was arrested in Germany in possession of stolen checks. Nevertheless, according to a Defense Ministry official, Martino worked for SISMI until 1999 as a double agent.

Martino rents a place at No. 3 rue Hoehl in Sandweiler, Luxemburg. He gets a fixed stipend from French intelligence and uses a consulting firm as cover: Security Development Organization. In other words, he also works for French intelligence. Serving two masters, Rocco tries his best. He sells information on the Italians to the French and information on the French to the Italians. That’s my job. I sell information.

In 1999, the pleasure-seeking Rocco is running out of cash. When he’s down to his last dime, he hatches a plot of his own. He's convinced that he’s got a brilliant and risk-free idea. What illuminates the light bulb is the problem the French are encountering in Niger.

In brief, between 1999 and 2000 the French realize that someone is working abandoned mines to generate a brisk clandestine trade in uranium. Who is purchasing the smuggled uranium? The French are looking for an answer and Rocco Martino senses an opportunity.

So he asks for help from an old colleague at SISMI: Antonio Nucera. A Carabinieri (cop) like Rocco, Antonio is the Deputy Chief of the SISMI center in viale Pasteur in Rome. He’s chief of the 1st and the 8th divisions (weapons and technology transfers and WMD counterproliferation, respectively, for Africa and the Middle East).

This section is very busy section at the end of the 1980s tailing the many agents whom Saddam has deployed around the world prior to the invasion of Kuwait. “With some success”, according to an Italian intelligence official who at the time worked for the division. The official recalls: We succeeded in getting our hands on Niger code books and a telex from Ambassador Adamou Chékou to the Niger Foreign Ministry informing Niamey that Wissam al-Zahawie, the Iraqi Ambassador to the Vatican, would be coming to Niger as a representative of Saddam Hussein.

But that wasn’t all. We confiscated maraging steel (ultra-high strength steel) in the port of Trieste. We thought it was destined for a series of centrifuges used to separate uranium. We exchanged information on Iraqi nuclear proliferation at the end of the eighties with the British of MI6—the cream of the crop. A sincere friend of Italy worked there: Hamilton MacMillan. MacMillan mentored Francesco Cossiga [Interior Minister, in charge during the kidnapping and murder of Aldo Moro by the Red Brigades] in Cossiga's introduction to the mysterious ways of espionage when he was "resident" in Rome.

Nucera decided to give a hand to his old friend, Rocco. Rocco quickly briefs him on his predicament. Isn’t there anything you can give me—Info? A good Niger contact? I’ll take anything you have! The French are as dry as trekkers lost in the desert. They want to know who is buying their uranium under the table. I’m prepared to pay well to find out.

In the archives of Nucera’s SISMI division, there are documents that could be useful in pawning off a half-baked frittata and earning some cash. There’s the telex from the Niger ambassador. Further needs might be met at the Niger Embassy at No. 10 via Baiamonte in Rome. SISMI director Nicolò Pollari confirms to La Repubblica: Nucera wanted to help out his friend. He offered him the use of an intelligence asset—no big deal, you understand--one who was still on the books but inactive--to give a hand to Martino. The asset worked at the Niger Embassy in Rome. She was in bad shape. She barely eked out a living in the back of the espionage shop. She didn't get a monthy stipend from Italian intelligence. In other words, she was a contractor.

Information and cash were exchanged. It was only chickenfeed—a few hundred thousand lira notes. But that was a lot of money in 2000, when Martino was really desperate. He was on a slow slide to destitution—nothing to spy on and nothing to sell.

We'll call her, La Signora.
You should have seen her, "La Signora". Sixty years old if she were a day! A face that once was pretty—now it looked a wrinkled prune. You could call her a gofer for the Niger Embassy. She looked like my old auntie. A French accent. A complicit wink. Always spoke in a whisper. Even when she said “hello”, her voice was like a tiny, mysterious flute, ready to reveal a thousand secrets. But even "La Signora" was in need of cash.

Nucera arranged the meeting. Rocco and La Signora don’t take long. He going to get what he came for. But wasn’t Nucera her official contact at SISMI? Then why wasn’t she supposed to know that it was SISMI who wanted the favor? And why was the item useful to the Agency?

With the blessing of Nucera, Rocco and La Signora, a pair of clever snake oil vendors, conclude a bargain. There would be a few sheets of paper available for sale. But the help of a Niger national was needed. La Signora points him to the right man. He’s First Embassy Counselor Zakaria Yaou Maiga. As Pollari told us, that Maiga spent six times more than he earned.

The gang of spendthrift bunglers, short on cash, is ready to go into action. Rocco Martino, La Signora, Zakaria Yaou Maiga. Nucera retreats into the shadows. They wait for the embassy to close its doors for the New Years 2001 holiday. They simulate a break-in and burglary. When on January 2, 2001, bright and early, the Second Secretary for Administrative Affairs Arfou Mounkaila reports the burglary to the Carabinieri of the Trionfale station, he has to admit with a grin that the burglars were half-asleep. A lot of trouble and effort for nothing. Mounkaila is unable to report missing what he doesn’t know is gone: Letterhead, and official stamps. In the hands of the snake oil vendors, useful stuff with which to assemble a dodgy dossier.

In fabricating the dossier, stale documents, such as code books, are extracted from the SISMI's division archives (where Nucera serves as deputy chief of section). To this are added the sheets of stolen letterhead that are used to fabricate letters, contracts and a memorandum of understanding between the Government of Niger and Iraq “concerning the supply of uranium on 5 and 6 July 2000 in Niamey”. The memorandum has a 2-page attachment entitled “Agreement”. Rocco hands over the “package” to agents from the French Direction Générale de la Sécurité Extérieure. They hand him some banknotes which he spends in Nice. Rocco loves the Côte d’Azur.

Up to this point, a caper worthy of Totò, Peppino and La Malafemmina [Translator's Note: The reference is to a 1956 comedy film about three Neapolitan hayseeds on a trip to Milan]. But it's an innocuous swindle. The French take the documents and pitch them in the rubbish. One of the agents remarks, Niger is a French-speaking place and we know how they do things there. But no one would have mistaken one minister for another in they way they did in that useless parcel of garbage.

Case closed, then? No! The burlesque imbroglio is transformed into a very grave matter—along comes September 11th and Bush immediately begins to ponder Iraq and requests proof of Saddam’s involvement in the attacks.

SISMI recalls the via Baiamonti squad to into action. A new director, Nicolò Pollari, arrives at Forte Braschi. And Col. Alberto Manenti, the new man on the job, is placed in charge of WMD. A well-prepared officer but completely incapable of saying "No" to a superior, says a SISMI official who worked with him. Col. Manenti had Nucera on his staff for a time and knew him well. Manenti, who knows that Nucera is about to retire, asks him to stay on as a consultant.

SISMI wants to make itself useful. It's got more room for maneuver than ever before in the history of the Italian republic. Berlusconi asks Pollari for a feat on the international stage which will catapult Italy to the first among US allies. A request along the same lines comes in from the CIA station chief in Rome, Jeff Castelli. News, information, useful scraps of intelligence are needed. Now! On the double! Washington is looking for proof to use against Saddam.

The White House (in particular, Cheney) puts pressure on the CIA to hop to it. The absence of proof isn’t proof of absence, philosophizes Rumsfeld at the Pentagon. In that kind of climate, with their phony dossier, the snake oil salesmen of via Baiamonti, (Rocco Martino and Antonio Nucera) would be useful. So what do they do in the fall of 2001? Rocco Martino describes it this way: At the end of 2001, SISMI handed the yellowcake dossier to the British of MI6.

They hand over a dossier devoid of scrutiny. They claim only that they got it from “a creditable source.” Then they make a small adjustment to their story: SISMI wanted to disseminate the Niger documents to allied intelligence but at the same time it did not want its role in the operation to be disclosed. These are allegations which Palazzao Chigi vehemently denies. But government told a bald-faced lie. After the invasion reveals the WMD chicanery, the Italian Government swears that no uranium dossier was handed over or instructed to be handed over to anyone, either directly or through intermediaries.

The next move was predictable. The Italian Government and SISMI build a dike between Forte Braschi and the tracks of the via Biaimonte squad. But its denial does not hold up. It is a known fact that in fall of 2001, SISMI monitored Rocco Martino’s every move in London. This is confirmed to La Repubblica by SISMI chief Nicolò Pollari. We monitored Martino and photographed his meetings in London. Would you like to see the pictures? So why didn’t Rome put the lie to its ex-agent and snake oil salesman? Especially since the information in the dossier was vouched for by Pollari to Jeff Castelli, CIA Station Chief. It is a known fact that a report on the bogus, made-in-Rome dossier ended up at the State Department's Bureau of Intelligence—in the Office of Strategic, Military and WMD Proliferation Affairs.

Strategic Affairs is not a big place. At the time, 16 analysts worked there under the direction of Greg Thielmann. Thielmann tells La Repubblica: I received the report in fall of 2001. We thought that Langley had acquired it from their field officer in Italy. The agent in the field reports that Italian intelligence permitted him see some papers documenting the attempt by Iraq to acquire 500 tons of uranium ore from Niger. So, SISMI purported the truth of documents it knew to be false to the CIA. There’s a second confirmation. At Langley, Ambassador Joseph C. Wilson is assigned the mission to verify the Italian “tale” of the 500 tons of uranium.

Says Wilson: The report was not very detailed. It’s not clear if the agent who signed the report materially saw the peddled documents or whether he heard it from another source.

We'll have to modify the sequence of events:

Fall 2001: General Pollari’s SISMI is in possession of a phony dossier assembled by Rocco Martino and Antonio Nucera. They show it to the CIA while Rocco Martino delivers it to Sir Richard Dearlove’s MI6. This is only the beginning of the Great Italian Yellowcake Scam.

To be continued...