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American USSR: America's Lies and Deceptions: Yellow Cake
NIGERIAN YELLOW CAKE LIE
The classified documents detailing an Iraqi approach to purchase yellowcake uranium from Niger were considered dubious by some analysts in U.S. intelligence, according to news accounts. By early 2002, separate investigations by both the CIA and the US State Department had found the documents to be inaccurate. Days before the Iraq invasion, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) voiced serious doubt on the authenticity of the documents to the U.N. Security Council, judging them counterfeit.
"Sixteen Words" controversy in 2003 State of the Union
In his January 2003 State of the Union speech, U.S. President George W. Bush said, "The British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa." This single sentence is known now as "Sixteen Words". The administration later conceded that evidence in support of the claim was inconclusive and stated, "These sixteen words should never have been included." The administration attributed the error to the CIA. In mid-2003, the U.S. government declassified the 2002 National Intelligence Estimate, which contained a dissenting opinion published by the U.S. Department of State stating that the intelligence connecting Niger to Saddam Hussein was "highly suspect," primarily because State Department's intelligence agency analysts did not believe that Niger would be likely to engage in such a transaction due to a French consortium which maintained close control over the Nigerien uranium industry.
According to The Washington Post, when occupying troops found no evidence of a current nuclear program, the statement and how it came to be in the speech became a focus for critics in Washington and foreign capitals to press the case that the White House manipulated facts to take the United States to war. The Post reported, "Dozens of interviews with current and former intelligence officials and policymakers in the United States, Britain, France and Italy show that the Bush administration disregarded key information available at the time showing that the Iraq-Niger claim was highly questionable."  With the release of the 2002 NIE report, the Bush administration was criticized for including the statement in the State of the Union despite CIA and State Department reports questioning its veracity.
European and French intelligence reports
The front page of the June 28, 2004 Financial Times carried a report from their national security correspondent, Mark Huband, describing that between 1999 and 2001, three unnamed European intelligence services were aware that Niger was possibly engaged in illicit negotiations over the export of its uranium ore with North Korea, Libya, Iraq, Iran, and China. "The same information was passed to the US" but American officials decided not to include it in their assessment, Huband added in a follow up report.
French intelligence informed the United States a year before President Bush's State of the Union address that the allegation could not be supported with hard evidence.
The Sunday Times dated August 1, 2004 contains an interview with an Italian source describing his role in the forgeries. The source said he was sorry to have played a role in passing along false intelligence.
Although the claims made in the British intelligence report regarding Iraq's interest in yellowcake ore from Niger were never withdrawn, the CIA and Department of State could not verify them and are said to have thought the claims were "highly dubious".
Previously, in February 2002, three different American officials had made efforts to verify the reports. The deputy commander of U.S. Armed Forces Europe, Marine General Carlton W. Fulford, Jr., went to Niger and met with the country's president, Tandja Mamadou. He concluded that, given the controls on Niger's uranium supply, there was little chance any of it could have been diverted to Iraq. His report was sent to the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Richard Myers. The U.S. Ambassador to Niger, Barbro Owens-Kirkpatrick, was also present at the meeting and sent similar conclusions to the State Department. CNN reported on 14 March 2003 (before invasion) that the International Atomic Energy Agency found the documents to be forged.
Wilson and Niger
In late February 2002, the CIA sent Ambassador Joseph Wilson to investigate the claims himself. Wilson had been posted to Niger 14 years earlier, and throughout a diplomatic career in Africa he had built up a large network of contacts in Niger. Wilson interviewed former prime minister of Niger, Ibrahim Assane Mayaki, who reported that he knew of no attempted sales to Iraq. Mayaki did however recall that in June 1999 an Iraqi delegation had expressed interest in "expanding commercial relations", which he had interpreted to mean yellowcake sales. Ultimately, Wilson concluded that there was no way that production at the uranium mines could be ramped up or that the excess uranium could have been exported without it being immediately obvious to many people both in the private sector and in the government of Niger. He returned home and told the CIA that the reports were "unequivocally wrong". The CIA retained this information in its Counter Proliferation Department and it was not passed up to the CIA Director, according to the unanimous findings of the bipartisan Senate Intelligence Committee's July 2004 report.
Former Ambassador Wilson had claimed that he found no evidence of Saddam Hussein ever attempting or buying yellowcake uranium from Niger on his trip to Niger.
The Senate Select Committee on Intelligence suggested that the evidence Wilson found could be interpreted differently:
Wilson has responded to criticism by observing that uranium was not actually discussed at the 1999 meeting. On Meet the Press, for example, Wilson stated:
In early October 2002, George Tenet called Deputy National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley to ask him to remove reference to the Niger uranium from a speech Bush was to give in Cincinnati on October 7. This was followed up by a memo asking Hadley to remove another, similar line. Another memo was sent to the White House expressing the CIA's view that the Niger claims were false; this memo was given to both Hadley and National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice.
Wilson and Plame
Retired ambassador Joseph C. Wilson wrote a critical op-ed in The New York Times in which he explained the nature of the documents and the government's prior knowledge of their unreliability for use in a case for war. Shortly after Wilson's op-ed, in a column by Robert Novak, in pondering why a State Dept employee was dispatched rather than a trained CIA agent, the identity of Wilson's wife, CIA analyst Valerie Plame, was revealed. The Senate Intelligence Committee report and other sources confirm that Plame "offered his name up" to her superiors.
The Senate Select Committee on Intelligence Report also claimed that when Wilson briefed the CIA on his trip to Niger, CIA analysts felt the claim that Iraq sought WMD from Africa was further substantiated, though the State Department thought Wilson's findings refuted the claim. But the CIA had warned the President in March 2002 that Wilson's trip had concluded the claims were unsubstantiated.
The actual words President Bush spoke: "The British Government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa" suggests that his source was British intelligence and not the forged documents.
However, George Tenet has admitted that making the claim was a mistake stating "The president had every reason to believe that the text presented to him was sound. These 16 words should never have been included in the text written for the president."
Further, in March 2003, the Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) released results of his analysis of the documents. Reportedly, it took IAEA officials only a matter of hours to determine that these documents were fake. Using little more than a Google search, IAEA experts discovered indications of a crude forgery, such as the use of incorrect names of Nigerien officials. As a result, the IAEA reported to the U.N. Security Council that the documents were "in fact not authentic". The UN spokesman wrote:
Foreign Affairs Committee
The first British investigation into this matter was conducted by the House of Commons Foreign Affairs Select Committee (FAC). The committee comprises fourteen Members of Parliament from government and opposition parties, and has permanent cross-party support. They examined and tested several key claims in the September Dossier, Iraq's Weapons of Mass Destruction: The Assessment of the British Government, including the topic of uranium acquisition.
In June and July, British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw testified that the claim in the dossier rested on separate evidence to the fraudulent documents, and that this specific intelligence, obtained from a foreign government, was still under review and had not been shared with the CIA. In written evidence to the same committee, Straw further disclosed that the separate intelligence information upon which the British Government had based its conclusion, was also briefed to the IAEA by a foreign intelligence service that owned the reporting, shortly before IAEA Director General Dr. Mohamed ElBaradei's statement to the UN Security Council on March 7, 2003. This was further confirmed in a Parliamentary answer to Lynne Jones MP. Lynne Jones subsequently contacted the IAEA to question whether a third party had discussed or shared separate intelligence with them and, if so, what assessment they made of it. IAEA spokesman Mark Gwozdecky responded to Jones in May 2004:
After talking with numerous witnesses and considering much evidence, the committee judged the evidence that Iraq was trying to procure uranium was not sufficiently strong enough to justify absolute terms.
The Butler Report failed to advance any specific evidence to support its conclusion, critics argue.
In January 2006, The New York Times revealed the existence of a memo which stated that the suggestion of uranium being sold was "unlikely" because of a host of economic, diplomatic and logistical obstacles. The memo, dated March 4, 2002, was distributed at senior levels by the office of former Secretary of State Colin L. Powell and by the Defense Intelligence Agency.
Statements by Wilson
In a July 2003 op-ed, Ambassador Wilson recounted his experiences and stated "I have little choice but to conclude that some of the intelligence related to Iraq's nuclear weapons program was twisted to exaggerate the Iraqi threat". Although the president had cited "The British Government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa", British intelligence have failed to show any other source of information.
Wilson told The Washington Post anonymously in June 2003 that he had concluded that the intelligence about the Niger uranium was based on the forged documents because "the dates were wrong and the names were wrong." However, the relevant papers were not in CIA hands until eight months after Wilson made his trip. Wilson had to backtrack and said he may have "misspoken" on this.  The Senate intelligence committee, which examined pre-Iraq war intelligence, reported that Wilson "had never seen the CIA reports and had no knowledge of what names and dates were in the reports."
Origin - who forged the documents?
No one has been convicted of forging the documents. Various theories have been reported on how they were produced, distributed, and where pressure was applied to keep their fraudulent nature a secret.
Funneled through former Italian intelligence agent
By late 2003, the trail of the documents had been partially uncovered. They were obtained by a "security consultant" (and former agent of the precursor agency to SISMI, the SID), Rocco Martino, from Italian military intelligence (SISMI). An article in The Times (London) quoted Martino as having received the documents from a woman (Italian word translates to Lady)(Milan station chief at the time was Robert S. Lady) on the staff of the Niger embassy (located in a tiny apartment in Rome), after a meeting was arranged by a serving SISMI agent. Martino later recanted and said he had been misquoted, and that SISMI had not facilitated the meeting where he obtained the documents. It was later revealed that Martino had been invited to serve as the conduit for the documents by Col. Antonio Nucera of SISMI, the head of the counterintelligence and WMD proliferations sections of SISMI's Rome operations center.
Martino, in turn, offered them to Italian journalist Elizabetta Burba. On instructions from her editor at Panorama, Burba offered them to the U.S. Embassy in Rome in October, 2002. Burba was dissuaded by the editors of the Berlusconi-owned Panorama from investigating the source of the forgeries.
An August 2004 Financial Times article indicated French officials may have had a role in the forged documents coming to light. The article states:
The Times article also stated that "French officials have not said whether they know Mr Martino, and are unlikely to either confirm or deny that he is a source".
Current or former United States Executive Branch employees
It is as yet unknown how Italian intelligence came by the documents and why they were not given directly to the U.S. In 2005, Vincent Cannistraro, the former head of counterterrorism operations at the CIA and the intelligence director at the National Security Council under Ronald Reagan, expressed the opinion that the documents had been produced in the United States and funneled through the Italians: "The documents were fabricated by supporters of the policy in the United States. The policy being that you had to invade Iraq in order to get rid of Saddam Hussein ...."
According to a 2003 article in The New Yorker by Seymour Hersh, the forgery may have been a deliberate entrapment by current and former CIA officers to settle a score against Cheney and other neoconservatives. Hersh recounts how a former officer told him that "somebody deliberately let something false get in there." Hersh continues:
In an interview published April 7, 2005, Cannistraro was asked by Ian Masters what he would say if it were asserted that the source of the forgery was former National Security Council and State Department consultant Michael Ledeen. (Ledeen had also allegedly been a liaison between the American Intelligence Community and SISMI two decades earlier.) Cannistraro answered by saying: "you'd be very close". Ledeen has denied this in an article which mentions, though, that he has worked for the aforementioned Panorama magazine.
In an interview on July 26, 2005, Cannistraro's business partner and columnist for the "American Conservative" magazine, former CIA counter terrorism officer Philip Giraldi, confirmed to Scott Horton that the forgeries were produced by "a couple of former CIA officers who are familiar with that part of the world who are associated with a certain well-known neoconservative who has close connections with Italy." When Horton said that must be Ledeen, he confirmed it, and added that the ex-CIA officers, "also had some equity interests, shall we say, with the operation. A lot of these people are in consulting positions, and they get various, shall we say, emoluments in overseas accounts, and that kind of thing".
In a second interview with Horton, Giraldi elaborated to say that Ledeen and his former CIA friends worked with Ahmad Chalabi and the Iraqi National Congress. "These people did it probably for a couple of reasons, but one of the reasons was that these people were involved, through the neoconservatives, with the Iraqi National Congress and Chalabi and had a financial interest in cranking up the pressure against Saddam Hussein and potentially going to war with him." 
Current and former Italian intelligence employees
The suggestion of a plot by CIA officers is countered by an explosive series of articles in the Italian newspaper La Repubblica. Investigative reporters Carlo Bonini and Giuseppe d'Avanzo report that Nicolo Pollari, chief of Italy's military intelligence service, SISMI, brought the Niger yellowcake story directly to the White House after his insistent overtures had been rejected by the Central Intelligence Agency in 2001 and 2002. SISMI had reported to the CIA on October 15, 2001, that Iraq had sought yellowcake in Niger, a report it also plied on British intelligence, creating an echo that the Niger forgeries themselves purported to amplify before they were exposed as a hoax.
Pollari met secretly in Washington on September 9, 2002, with then–Deputy National Security Advisor Stephen Hadley. Their secret meeting came at a critical moment in the White House campaign to convince Congress and the American public that war in Iraq was necessary to prevent Saddam Hussein from developing nuclear weapons. What may be most significant to American observers, however, is La Repubblica's allegation that the Italians sent the bogus intelligence about Niger and Iraq not only through traditional allied channels such as the CIA, but seemingly directly into the White House. That direct White House channel amplifies questions about the 16-word reference to the uranium from Africa in President Bush's 2003 State of the Union address—which remained in the speech despite warnings from the CIA and the State Department that the allegation was not substantiated.
In March 2003, Senator Jay Rockefeller, vice-chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, agreed not to open a Congressional investigation of the matter, but rather asked the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) to conduct the investigation.
In 2003, unidentified "senior officials" in the administration leaked word to columnist Robert Novak that Wilson's wife, Valerie Plame, was a CIA operative. The CIA requested an investigation into whether this public disclosure was illegal, thus the Niger uranium controversy spawned an on-going legal investigation and political scandal.
In September 2004, the CBS News program 60 Minutes decided to delay a major story on the forgeries because such a broadcast might influence the 2004 U.S. presidential election. A CBS spokesman stated, "We now believe it would be inappropriate to air the report so close to the presidential election." This decision closely followed the Killian documents controversy.
The Los Angeles Times reported on December 3, 2005, that the FBI reopened the inquiry into "how the Bush administration came to rely on forged documents linking Iraq to nuclear weapons materials as part of its justification for the invasion." According to the Times, "a senior FBI official said the bureau's initial investigation found no evidence of foreign government involvement in the forgeries, but the FBI did not interview Martino, a central figure in a parallel drama unfolding in Rome."
Removal of known yellowcake
In 2008, the United States facilitated shipping yellowcake (refined uranium ore) out of Iraq. This yellowcake had been stockpiled prior to the first Gulf War, and was declared to the International Atomic Energy Agency and under IAEA safeguards. More than 550 tons of yellowcake was removed from Iraq and eventually shipped to Canada.
Documents and those who relied on them
Joseph Wilson and Valarie Plame
United States Administration statements, speeches, plans
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