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Niger Uranium Forgery Mystery Solved?

October 19, 2005
The Fitzgerald/Plame investigation goes in a new direction
By Justin Raimondo

Amid all the brouhaha over whether I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, Karl Rove, or any number of Bush administration insiders had a hand in leaking the name of covert CIA agent Valerie Plame, the essential crime at the core of the investigation – and its probable starting point – often gets lost in the shuffle. The "outing" of Plame was not an end in itself: the outers didn't just one day decide that they were going to go after her and Ambassador Joseph C. Wilson, her husband, because they were in a vindictive mood. They were out to get them because Wilson drew attention to the provenance of the infamous "16 words" uttered by President Bush in his 2003 state of the union address, in which Bush claimed that Iraq had sought out uranium to make a nuclear bomb in "an African country." Perhaps without knowing it, Wilson – in taking an interest in this subject – was getting too close to the enormous fraud at the center of the War Party's propaganda campaign.

The African country Bush spoke of is Niger, where much of the world's uranium is mined under the watchful eye of a French consortium – and where it would be extremely difficult, if not close to impossible, for the Iraqis to walk off with the tons of uranium required to produce weapons-grade materials. This accountability issue was no doubt a major reason for the skepticism the Niger uranium story engendered in Ambassador Wilson, who was sent to Niger by the CIA to check out the facts – and came back with a negative report. Wilson was therefore shocked to hear the president reiterate a claim that had been previously and definitively debunked, and went public with his mission and its results – but not before the source of that claim had been brutally and publicly refuted by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

In early October 2002, Italian journalist Elisabetta Burba, a writer for Italy's Panorama magazine, delivered some documents to the U.S. embassy in Rome: a cache of letters and other papers purporting to be correspondence between officials of the Niger government and the Iraqis relating to the acquisition of uranium "yellowcake." The documents soon found their way to Washington, D.C., where key administration officials were quick to incorporate them into their "talking points" for war with Iraq – and into Bush's Jan. 28, 2003 speech.

When the IAEA asked to see evidence of the administration's contentions, they were put off, until finally the Niger uranium documents were handed over. It took IAEA scientists just a few hours to demonstrate that the documents were not only forgeries, but were particularly crude ones at that – an amateur could have debunked them using Google. As the Washington Post reported, one administration official's response was "We fell for it."

And how! – but that wasn't the end of it, by any means. After all, someone had deliberately set up the American government with false information and badly embarrassed George W. Bush, who had taken the Niger uranium canard and run with it in a very public way. An investigation was launched just as Robert Novak's column outing Plame appeared – mid-July 2003. Whoever leaked Plame's name and CIA affiliation was trying to scare off any further inquiries into the whole Niger uranium funny business, underscoring the key question in all this: who was behind the Niger uranium forgeries?

Even as the FBI was following the trail of the forgers, the Italians were looking into the matter from their end. A parliamentary committee was charged with investigating, and they issued a heavily redacted report: now, I am told by a former CIA operations officer, the report has aroused some interest on this side of the Atlantic. According to a source in the Italian embassy, Patrick J. "Bulldog" Fitzgerald asked for and "has finally been given a full copy of the Italian parliamentary oversight report on the forged Niger uranium document," the former CIA officer tells me:

"Previous versions of the report were redacted and had all the names removed, though it was possible to guess who was involved. This version names Michael Ledeen as the conduit for the report and indicates that former CIA officers Duane Clarridge and Alan Wolf were the principal forgers. All three had business interests with Chalabi."

Alan Wolf died about a year and a half ago of cancer. He served as chief of the CIA's Near East Division as well as the European Division, and was also CIA chief of station in Rome after Clarridge. According to my source, "he and Clarridge and Ledeen were all very close and also close to Chalabi." The former CIA officer says Wolf "was Clarridge's Agency godfather. Significantly, both Clarridge and Wolf also spent considerable time in the Africa division, so they both had the Africa and Rome connection and both were close to Ledeen, closing the loop."

A veteran of the Iran-Contra scandal, Ledeen played an important role in the Iran-Contra "arms for hostages" scandal by setting up meetings between the American government and the Iranian arms dealer Manucher Ghorbanifar. Not all that unexpected coming from a self-proclaimedadvocate of Machiavelli's amoralism. Today, Ledeen is among the most visible and radical neoconservative ideologues whose passion for a campaign of serial "regime-change" in the Middle East is undiminished by the Iraqi debacle. Just as the Roman senator Cato the Elder finished his perorations with the command "Carthage must be destroyed," so Michael "Creative Destruction" Ledeen closes his hopped-up warmongering essays with "Faster, please!," an exhortation presumably addressed to his confreres in the Bush administration.

Ledeen has kept the neocon faith – and the same friends – for all these years. He's still buddies with Ghorbanifar. In December 2001, he had a meeting in Rome with Ghorbanifar in the company of the Pentagon's top Iran specialist, Larry Franklin, and Harold Rhode, assigned to the Office of Net Assessment, a Pentagon think tank. Also at the Rome conclave: a number of Ghorbanifar's Iranian friends, including a former senior official of the Revolutionary Guard. Rounding out the distinguished guest list, we have the Italian delegation, consisting of SISMI head honcho Nicolo Pollari, the head of Italy's military intelligence agency, and Italian Defense Minister Antonio Martino, a neocon favorite. Once again, Ledeen plays the middleman – but what kind of a deal was he trying to negotiate?

Franklin, we now know, was busy spying for Israel during this period, handing over classified information to AIPAC officials Steve Rosen and Keith Weissman: he has been indicted and has turned state's evidence: the trial is set to begin in January. To this day, Franklin maintains he was just trying to get AIPAC's assistance in moving a more pro-Israel agenda in policymaking circles.

Rhode is an ideologue of a similar coloration. Together with Franklin, Rhode helped set up the Defense Department's Office of Special Plans, which stove-piped phony "intelligence" provided by Ahmed Chalabi's Iraqi National Congress and hyped the case for war. Rhode and Franklin worked hand in hand with Chalabi, and, as United Press International intelligence correspondent Richard Sale reports, they had certain interests in common:

"According to one former senior U.S. intelligence official who maintained excellent contacts with serving U.S. intelligence officials in the Coalition Provisional Authority in Baghdad, 'Rhode practically lived out of (Ahmed) Chalabi's office.' This same source quoted the intelligence official with the CPA as saying, 'Rhode was observed by CIA operatives as being constantly on his cell phone to Israel,' and that the information that the intelligence officials overheard him passing to Israel was 'mind-boggling,' this source said. It dealt with U.S. plans, military deployments, political projects, discussion of Iraq assets, and a host of other sensitive topics, the former senior U.S. intelligence official said."

No wonder my source tells me that "Fitzgerald asked the Italians if he could share the report with Paul McNulty," the prosecutor in the AIPAC case. There are plenty of links between the two investigations: they are, in a sense, the same investigation, since many of the same people are involved. McNulty is delving into a single aspect of the cabal's activities, while Fitzgerald seems to have broadened his probe to include not only the outing of Plame, but also the origin of the Niger uranium forgeries and other instances of classified information leakage via the vice president's office.

I am hardly the first to implicate Ledeen in connection with the Niger uranium forgeries. Former CIA counterterrorism officials Vince Cannistraro and Larry Johnson have pointed the finger in Ledeen's direction. As the latter put it:

"Italy's SISME [sic] also reportedly had a hand in producing the forged documents delivered to the U.S. embassy in Rome in early October 2003 that purported to show a deal with Iraq to buy uranium. Many in the intelligence community are convinced that a prominent neocon with long-standing ties to SISME played a role in the forgery. The truth of that proposition remains to be proven. This much is certain, either SISME or someone with ties to SISME, helped forge and circulate those documents which some tried to use to bolster the case to go to war with Iraq."

Cannistraro, asked by an interviewer if Ledeen was involved with the forgers, said "you'd be very close."

The cast of characters involved in Niger-gate is like old home week in the government scandal sweepstakes. Aside from Ledeen, whose storied (or is that checkered?) history is well-known, we have Clarridge, first head of the Counterterrorism Center set up by Bill Casey under Reagan, who deserves a column all by himself. His close relationship with Ledeen dates from his time as chief of station in Rome in the late 1970s. Clarridge was indicted for lying to prosecutors during the Iran-Contra imbroglio, but given a presidential pardon. His book, A Spy for All Seasons, was the first real "tell-all" book about the Agency. During the Reagan administration, he purportedly was the intellectual author of the notorious "Psychological Operations in Guerilla Warfare," a CIA how-to manual instructing the Nicaraguan contras in the fine art of terrorism, including bombings, assassinations, and violence directed at noncombatants. It was Clarridge who came up with the bright idea of mining Nicaragua's harbors, which led to the unprecedented condemnation of the U.S. government's actions in the World Court. He was reportedly slated to become a top counterterrorism official in the National Security Council, but was nixed. He now lives in San Diego, Calif., and pursues a number of business and ideologicalinterests, including Dax Resources Corp., which runs a 24-hour Global Response Center and advertises its facility at kidnap prevention and counterterrorism, noting that "we can also undertake special operations, including technical countermeasures."

The Niger uranium forgeries surely qualify as "technical countermeasures," popping up as they did just as the administration's assertions about Iraq's alleged nuclear ambitions and capability were being questioned. As Seymour Hersh pointed out, CIA director George Tenet appeared at a crucial congressional briefing, on the eve of the vote on authorizing the war, and

"Declared, as he had done before, that a shipment of high-strength aluminum tubes that was intercepted on its way to Iraq had been meant for the construction of centrifuges that could be used to produce enriched uranium. The suitability of the tubes for that purpose had been disputed, but this time the argument that Iraq had a nuclear program under way was buttressed by a new and striking fact: the CIA had recently received intelligence showing that, between 1999 and 2001, Iraq had attempted to buy five hundred tons of uranium oxide from Niger, one of the world's largest producers."

The story of how the Niger uranium forgeries got past all the safeguards, how the actual documents were never seen by the CIA until after the president's 2003 speech, and who was pushing to include a reference to Saddam's alleged efforts to procure uranium in "an African nation" as one of the president's major talking points – these are all subjects of interest to a prosecutor attempting to prove charges of conspiracy to lie us into war. There must be a special law that covers government employees, including high officials, who transmit tainted information and poison the well of U.S. intelligence-gathering efforts. I'm sure Fitzgerald will have no trouble finding it.

Fitzgerald's reported interest in the Italian parliamentary report indicates just how his investigation is broadening. The forgeries, the lies fed to us by Ahmed Chalabi and his fellow "heroes in error," the leakage of vital U.S. secrets to the Iranians – all point to the existence of the conspiracy the prosecutor is tasked with uncovering. In the course of their campaign of deception, the conspirators not only outed a CIA agent who was working in the vital area of nuclear proliferation, they also passed on classified information to foreign nationals, including the Israelis and the Iranians. They committed forgery and God knows what other crimes.

Before Fitzgerald is done, we'll see the warlords of Washington hauled before a court of the people. We'll hear the whole sordid story of how a band of exiles, at leasttwo foreign intelligence agencies, and a cabal of neoconservatives inside the Pentagon and the vice president's office bamboozled Congress and the American people into going to war. As the indictments come down, so will the elaborate narrative so carefully constructed by the War Party in the run-up to war be exposed as a tissue of fabrication, forgery, and fraud.

–Justin Raimondo

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This is the organized cabal of which bush is only a figurehead, mouthpiece. Endless war means endless profits for these war makers. They wont give up the profits easily, regardless of what individuals are indicted or convicted. Nonetheless, this is the best hope we have had in years. Impeachment is appropriate to the crimes, but it will only happen with massive public support.

Slowly the American people are becoming aware of what has been going on for 4 1/2 years. The overwhelming truth is that the bush admin. is primarily a criminal enterprise with mutually inclusive goals of accumulating wealth and power. Period. Our democratic govt requires an organized, educated movement of citizens pressuring Congress to move towards inquiry and eventually Impeachment. We have momentum now and we must keep it going. Thank you for this website.

Probably the most organized crime syndicate in all of US history, right under our noses the whole time!

If Libby gets indicted, maybe, just maybe , the MSM will start reporting the PNAC!

They are responsible for fake intelligence which got us into a disaster war.

Great. Hope they all get rounded up and thrown in prison, then the Hague whenever the ICC starts up again.


and the bigger their fraudulent, malevolent, traitorous attack on America grows, the bigger the mess will be when it all blows up in their faces. Is it just me, or are we suddenly getting a lot closer to detonation?

The evil mission of these neocon scumbags makes Watergate look like a frivolous tea party.

John Perry

This is excellent investigative journalism! Truly wish other media outlets would publish such concise news, to inform the public of what is actually happening. Let's hope Fitzgerald indicts the bums!
Thanks and keep up the good work.

it seems that some mainstream media outlets connected to the so-called WHIG were part of the disinformation campaign itself. Hence, Judith Miller, Novak and Cooper's involvement in the grand jury testimony.

hopefully, more witnesses will turn and spill the beans on the other conspirators so this cancer can be rooted out of our government and military once and for all!

that Italian report is an interesting find. it figures that the neo-fascists in Washington would collude with the ex-fascists in Rome.

finally, plame's outing apparently is somewhat of an end in itself, despite wilson's expository work. plame was privy to a lot of the details of WMD proliferation as well as the disinformation campaign of the pro-war neocons. she had to be neutralized for the run-up to the war to go smoothly.

The only difficulty with liberal elite's thesis is that Plame was outed five months AFTER the war began, so the outing had nothing to do with making "the run-up to the war go smoothly."

Bush wanted to attack plame and wilson to discredit wilson's evidence that Bush was a bold and blatant liar.

If Fitzgerald can somehow tie together his investigation with McNulty's spying-for-Israel investigation, America might actually be forced to examine the entire underlying AIPAC-PNAC cabal that has been driving almost all recent geopolitical policies and activities of the United States. And that, in turn, might actually force some re-thinking of those policies and their relationships to worldwide turmoil, including some of terrorism's root causes.

Those possibilities, to a much greater extent than any jurisprudential outcome, could offer some hope for our collective future. That is, of course, provided that their timing outpaces the cabal's ongoing machinations for instigating a nuclear war. It's a longshot, but a small glimmer of light in the tunnel nonetheless.

(Good grief, that would make Watergate look like a two-bit burglary)

Most of the the plot itself has been in the public domain for a long time. The only significant omissions were some of the consequences, and most of them should have been quite obvious to anyone with the mental acuity of a hummingbird.

Nevertheless, thanks to the almost totally dysfunctional politics of the "best democracy in the world", our collective fate now seems to rest in the hands of one special prosecutor and a grand jury panel. We can only hope that they're up to the challenge.

Glad to see AFTER DOWNING STREET get back on track after its brief diversion with Cindy Sheehan. Cindy's anti-war stance is admirable BUT wont bring about the impeachment of Bush&CO. The Bush response to Wilson's telling the truth about the Niger uranium (non) deal can and most likely will be the central issue to bring about impeachment.

I have to say that I am somewhat amused and angered by "Softball's" Chris Matthews' using neocon talking points and outright lies about Rovegate the last few days.

She made the Downing Street Memos and PNAC "popular" and she brought in lots more numbers of people away from the blind "sheeple" !

Chris Matthews is one of the Neocons. He's attended those neocon dinners and rubbed asses with the rest of the murderous bunch. Chris Matthews has the blood of the American soldiers on his hands too. He supports this band of murder. He has no conscience.

Can the main architects of this illegal war be sued in a civil court of law for the deaths of our young American men and women who were lied to by their surviving families? It seems so....

I want to congratulate you on your big picture vision. Take a look at the media wondering if it's a crime to divulge Valerie's married name, was she under or over cover, etc. Thank you. AS

The recent revelations that Bush was angry with Rove for getting caught in outing Plame makes it obvious how intentional the entire lead up to invasion was. The neocons went to some trouble to manufacture the yellow cake forgeries and were angry when Wilson upset the plan. Only nukes could convince Americans Sadam was a threat.

This is treason of the highest order and is clearly a hanging offense for all involved.. especially for the men trusted to our highest offices. For the religiously inclined, this is treason on a biblical scale.

The sordid mess with Israeli counter intelligence proves that they are so twisted with intrigue that America can no longer trust them either.

If we are to truly control our own democracy we have to extract ourselves from the sleazy manipulations of any ideologues or nations. George Washington warned us about becoming too enamored of any other nation..

This is just the high quality of work regular readers of are accustomed to.

BUT---there is one critical aspect MISSING in this version from the original:

EVERYONE who read this and found it informative PLEASE go to the original, again:

And check out the CRITICAL LINKS in the text NOT AVAILABLE HERE;

in particular:

In regards the CRITICAL role of Elisabetta Burba who writes for the weekly Panorama which is owned by Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi.

Fairly clear copies of the documents in question available at:

An excellent and detailed discussion AND TRANSLATION may be found at:


---The Bikemessenger

I'm exited about the recent table-turning I've been seeing. I think of all the right-wing blowhards on the Internet the last couple years shouting down us Liberals for talking about an Impeachment that can never happen. Well I think I'm once again watching these things come around. Fizgerald's investigation will bring the whole thing back to the light, which had been previously swept away by an argument that basically said, "we know we were lied to but now its too late and we have to finnish what we started". When the American people are reminded by the coming trial of the scumbags who lied to our scumbag leaders about WMD's, and the treasonous exploits of the Vice President's office that are already quietly on trial are brought to the public eye, there will be a tsunami of demands for Impeachment. Good article Justin Raimondo. I always get a kick our of reading your stuff.

Davol White

Mr.Prosecutor FitzsGerald, I Do believe you have done some ""HARD WORK'' getting the Goods on This Cabal of Crooks we have in our GUVMT. Off with their HEADS ! I think Chalabi and Bush Must have had More than Their Heads together ...And That Bin Laden was There in between all of this hanky-pank that has brought so much devastation to this country and to the whole world...thousands of innocents` blood was shed, and for what "noble ' purpose ? My Dear Cindy... Thank you for all you are Doing to open up the eyes and Consciences of So many Brain dead people . Thank you Mr. FitzsGerald for Never Quitting ! You two make a Great Pair of Justice-Seekers. Veda GF

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