May 1, 2005

New Rumor about the Niger Yellowcake Forgeries:

Former CIA officer Philip Giraldi writes in The American Conservative's (now available to electronic subscribers -- try five free issues here) May 23rd intelligence gossip column:

... a former CIA officer ... claims that he was present at discussions relating to the forgery of the incriminating document. Over drinks one evening, two very senior retired CIA Directorate of Operations officers who served extensively in the Middle East and Africa decided that it would be entertaining to make George Tenet, then the Director of Central Intelligence and a man they despised, look bad. This was the post-9/11 world, and they decided that the best way to make Tenet appear ridiculous would be to create a document tying Iraq to a nuclear-weapons program. They were convinced that Tenet, in their eyes the ultimate political sycophant, would jump at the information uncritically to feather his own nest with the White House, which badly wanted to devise a casus belli against Iraq. They hoped that Tenet would be humiliated and would be forced to resign after it was subsequently determined that the document was a fake.

Forging the document was easy, using authentic copies of documents from the government of Niger as models... The problem was introducing the forgery into the intelligence system in a credible way. One of the forgers was a close friend of a neoconservative Washington think-tank scholar who in turn had a long-established relation with the Italian military intelligence service, SISMI. The scholar, believed to have been on SISMI's payroll for many years, had access to place the false information. He also thought that the document might well serve his personal agenda to bring about a war against Iraq...

Unfortunately, the forgery was not transparent enough [although it was later disproved using that top-secret tool, Google, by showing that Niger cabinet ministers named on the document hadn't been in office for years] and the information was viewed as credible in some U.S. government circles that badly wanted to believe that Saddam Hussein was pursuing a nuclear device. This led to the statement in President Bush's State of the Union address accusing Saddam of seeking to buy the yellowcake uranium, which eventually became part of the justification for going to war against Iraq.

Interesting... I'm not sure if I believe it. Do all the pieces fit together? Would one of the hoaxers really use a "close friend" to pass on the forged document, thus exposing that international man of mystery to ridicule in columns like this? (Of course, that think-tanker always has the option of clearing his name by using his SISMI contacts to search, like OJ, for the real forgers.)

Still, the basic notion that the yellowcake fraud was an obvious hoax that was supposed to blow up before we marched off to war but the Bush Administration was too stupid and morally bankrupt to recognize makes a certain amount of sick sense.

My published articles are archived at -- Steve Sailer

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