Monday, April 10, 2006

Niger forgeries, again

The 'new' story on the Niger forgeries is that they were manufactured by the Niger consul to Italy and the embassy employee known as 'La Signora'. As Josh Marshall points out, the story is hardly new, and appears to be more spinning from the same Italian intelligence sources in SISMI who have been obfuscating this story from the very beginning. He wonders why the Italians have arrested no one for the forgeries if they know who made them, and why the 'new' story contradicts the original chain-of-custody story, where the documents came to the Americans directly from Italian intelligence (see also here).

The reason that the forgeries were discovered so quickly was that the information in them was inconsistent with the diplomatic and political history of Niger. You might think that the Niger consul to Italy would also be familiar with this history! He is quoted as saying:
"If you really want the truth you must look somewhere else. You should deepen your inquiries elsewhere."

So let's look elsewhere.

My best guess is that Michael Ledeen, Ahmad Chalabi and their mutual friends in SISMI had a delicious meal in a Jewish restaurant in Rome, where it was decided that one of Chalabi's associates, a guy who had escaped from Iraq with some old stationery, would whip up some documents to provide support for the Iraq nuclear threat story. He didn't know anything about recent Niger history, but was familiar with the Niger names from Saddam's dealings with Niger in the 1980's, and so used all the wrong names on the forgeries (neither the Niger consul to Italy, nor SISMI itself, would make such an obvious mistake). While they were leaving, Ledeen winked and said that of course the whole conversation was hypothetical, as nobody would ever do such a thing, and everybody laughed. At their next meal, while they were eating the delicious artichokes, Chalabi slipped a brown envelope over to one of the SISMI guys, and in due time SISME passed the forgeries over to the Americans.

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