Skip to comments.Nigergate II: The Strange Case of the Burglar Who Didn’t Want Money
Posted on 04/09/2006 4:49:58 AM PDT by Kimberly GG
http://timesonline.typepad.com/mick_smith/2006/04/nigergate_ii_th.html (not sure if I'm posting correctly?)
The revelations in todays Sunday Times that two employees of the Niger embassy in Rome forged documents apparently proving Niger was selling uranium to Iraq are unlikely to end the conspiracy theories that swirl around the Niger Affair, and not just because the investigation into the Plamegate affair will run and run. There are still a number of minor mysteries that require further investigation, particularly two burglaries in Rome, one at the Niger embassy over the 2001 New Years holiday and one at the home of the Niger consul on January 31, 2001. Both break-ins baffled the Italian police, not least because the burglar didnt seem to be interested in taking any money.".........
(Excerpt) Read more at timesonline ...
The link seems to be incomplete.
I had trouble posting it, it kept being rejected. I was able to paste it at the top of the excerpted text so that it could be cut and paste. If you can advise how to fix it, I'd appreciate it. TIA Here it is again. (sorry, I don't post many new threads)
That one is fine.
Didn't Wilson say he KNEW these docs were FORGED even BEFORE the US govt received them???
I know this is a huge topic, but can anyone say how this compares, is it at odds or supportive of what folks like SBD and Fedora have worked so hard on and posted here?
Frances role in creating the Niger forgeries is currently a matter of speculation and debate. It is possible that Rocco Martino, the Italian-French double agent who distributed the forgeries in October 2002, was motivated by profit rather than political goals, which appears to be the current opinion of FBI investigators.66 Among theories proposing a political motivation, some have argued that the forgeries were intended to help Italian intelligence support Berlusconi and Bushs case for war. This theory faces several difficulties, such as explaining why the resources available to Italian intelligence were unable to design a forgery more convincing than one that was immediately suspected by even journalists who viewed it--as one French agent interviewed put it, Niger is a French-speaking place and we know how things are there. But nobody would have confused one minister with another they way they did in that useless piece of garbage.67 Alternative theories propose that the forgeries were intended to help French intelligence discredit Bush and his allies by making their case for war appear to rest on fabricated evidence.68 This theory is plausible as an explanation for how the forgeries were eventually put to use after they were created, a topic which will be discussed more in later paragraphs. But as an explanation for the origin of the forgeries, it faces the issue that according to Martino and intelligence sources interviewed by journalists, he initially tried to sell his forgeries to France, rather than to proponents of war against Iraq. It also faces the chronological issue that Martino first began manufacturing forgeries following a staged break-in to Nigers embassy in Rome on January 1, 2001, which was significantly before the Iraq debate between the US and France became heated (though it is unclear whether the specific forgeries Martino distributed in October 2002 were created at this time or later, as Martino is known to have distributed a number of different documents at different times, some authentic and some forged). These considerations seem to make the simplest hypothetical scenario one where Martino and his accomplices initially began creating forgeries for profit in early 2001, and someone only decided to use some of his forgeries as a political weapon after the debate over Iraq heated up in late 2002. Again this is only offered as a hypothetical scenario based on what is currently known, which is limited. The FBIs basis for its position has not yet been shared with the public.
Since writing this my general line of thought is essentially the same, but I would amend one bit, which is that I've come to think whatever the motive for the original break-in and forgeries was has some relationship to Wilson's earlier, less-publicized Niger trips during the Clinton administration, rather than relating to the controversy over Bush's Iraqi policy. I mention this also to address this point raised by the author of the article: "I have always found the blame the French argument suspicious. It has been put to me on a number of occasions and I have never used it, or indeed believed it. Certainly the break-ins took place long before any of the controversy over Iraqi WMD. Bush was barely in office in January 2001." Also he makes another point I have wondered about before that I feel is important to bear in mind: "some of the alleged Martino documents published in the Italian press appear to be different in a number of respects to the ones that were passed to the US embassy in Rome and eventually to the International Atomic Energy Authority which denounced them as fakes." I feel this is important to emphasize because some writers on the subject have tended to equate Martino's original documents with the ones he was trying to pass in fall 2002 and draw deductions from this premise, which is not necessarily a sound assumption.
fedora, this kind of legerdemain is way over my pay grade. I'm counting on you to figure it out. It does seem to me Wilson's tap dance about the forgeries daily grows more suspicious.
It's over my pay grade, too, LOL. But yes, Wilson's evasions are suspicious. Some of his previous self-defenses have at least made a pretense--albeit a poor one--of attempting a factual refutation of his critics; but of late he has descended into almost pure ad hominem, a sign of a desperate man clutching at straws.
But Martino did not "manufacture" the forgeries, they were given to him by someone at the Niger Embassy. Check out these interrogation transcripts.
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 New Years 2001. 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 doesnt know is gone: Letterhead, and official stamps. In the hands of the snake oil vendors, useful stuff with which to assemble a dodgy dossier.
The way events are described here seems to diverge on this point from Martino's testimony quoted on the link you cite; and within his testimony he also refers to conflicts in accounts that have been published, illustrating the difficulty with reconstructing what happened:
The woman gave me intelligence of various sorts, which I passed on to the French without informing Nucera (...). It was the woman, once again, who gave me the paperwork on the alleged uranium trafficking between Niger and Iraq. I took said documentation to by French secret services contact in Brussels. When it was ascertained that the documentation was phony, I demanded explanations of Mrs. (...), who, to tell the truth, was very evasive on that head. I know CBS journalist Matranga had two talks with the lady. In the first, Mrs. (...) reportedly said that I was to blame, whereas in the second, I understand she said that the phony documentation had been passed to her by Colonel Nucera (...). I know the content of the article signed by Nicholas Rufford and published on 1 August 2004 under the headline: "Italian Spies Altered the Saddam Papers." The content of that article in no way reflects the content of talks I held, with a view to an interview, with Nicholas Rufford in Brussels on 29 July 2004. I never told Rufford that I had been used by the SISMI to put the phony uranium trafficking records about. What I actually told Rufford was that someone who worked or had worked for the SISMI had passed the documentation in question on to me, via another person. I repeat that the documentation was given to me by Mrs. (...), and that I do not know who put the documentation in question together."
So just who was complicit here? I don't know. In any case, my point on the chronological issue was simply that whatever happened, all this occurred significantly before the Iraq debate that followed 9/11, indicating that the motive for the break-in involved something other than that debate.
Should we be looking at Colonel Nucera as the thief in the first burglary? If Nucera passed the documents to the lady, as she says and also introduced her to Rocco, as the other post implies then he would be the chief suspect. So the question is...what did he have to gain and who were his connections?
Italian ex-spy suspects security "parallel structure" behind "Nigergate" BBC Monitoring Europe - PoliticalSupplied by BBC Worldwide Monitoring November 9, 2005 Wednesday
Supplied by BBC Worldwide Monitoring
November 9, 2005 Wednesday
LENGTH: 1523 words
HEADLINE: Italian ex-spy suspects security "parallel structure" behind "Nigergate"
Rocco Martino, who said he was an agent of the Italian Military Intelligence and Security Service (SISMI), has broken his silence on his role in the "Nigergate" affair. According to press allegations, SISMI played a role in the presentation of fake documents on Iraq's alleged intention to acquire nuclear materials from Niger. Martino's "clarifications" contradict SISMI Director Nicolo Pollari's testimony and adds to the conviction "that the SISMI knew of the dossier's existence and declined to tell allied intelligence about its phoniness", Il Giornale says. "SISMI tailed him [Martino], photographed him and eavesdropped on him" - the paper says in quotation marks. Martino also spoke about "a parallel structure, an internal SISMI faction" whose purpose was murky, as the paper puts it. "His tale will not gladden the hearts of the architects of the hoped-for, highly provisional, childish cover-up", the paper says. The following is the text of report, with commentary, on an Il Giornale interview with former SISMI informer Rocco Martino: "Fresh suspicion on SISMI emerges from Martino's self-defence", published by Italian newspaper La Repubblica on 6 November:
Rocco Martino, the conman at the bottom of the "Nigergate" affair [alleged Italian secret service role in the presentation of fake documents on Iraq's alleged intention to acquire nuclear materials from Niger], has broken cover, in a few sentences bringing down the house of cards that, in the somewhat ingenuous intentions of both government and opposition, was miraculously supposed to conceal the murky business.
"My role in the episode is really small. It is true that I was working for the French. But I was also working for SISMI [(Italian) Military Intelligence and Security Service], Rocco Martino said. Just two days ago, Gianni Letta [prime ministerial undersecretary] (who wields political authority over Italian intelligence) and Nicolo Pollari (SISMI director) described him as the - sole - source behind the phoney dossier and the "postman" who had sent the cock-and-bull story around the world. Rocco Martino, with his wretched spy's life made up of scams that came to a sticky end, emerges from the government's account as a wizard of disinformation so smart that he pulled the wool over the eyes of the Americans in the CIA, the British in MI6, and the French in the DGSE [Foreign Security Headquarters], though not the SISMI, Pollari swears, which knew nothing at all about him.
Even without going into the bulk of the "Nigergate" story, it is really hard to believe such a yarn, and yet - despite the incongruencies, silences and omissions - the Parliamentary Supervisory Committee on the Intelligence Services [COPACO] agreed last Thursday [3 November] (with the sole exception of Giuseppe Caldarola) to swallow the unpalatable brew, pronouncing the SISMI's reconstruction "exhaustive" and the SISMI's and the government's conduct "correct". It was only to be expected that Rocco Martino should be unwilling to carry the cross on his own.
He has broken his silence and entrusted to Il Giornale a number of clarifications that contradict Nicolo Pollari's testimony, reopen the question of who cobbled the forgery together, and impart fresh thrust to the conviction that the SISMI knew of the dossier's existence and declined to tell allied intelligence about its phoniness, vouching, on the contrary, for its authenticity.
The SISMI director has always maintained that it was Rocco Martino who begged a friend of his, SISMI Colonel Antonio Nucero, for help, and that the generous colonel put him in touch with a SISMI source ("the lady") at the Niger Embassy. Rocco Martino's version of events was different. "I was a SISMI informer," he recounted. "My service contact was Colonel Antonio Nucera. One day, Nucera called me and said: 'Would you be interested in meeting a source who works at an embassy?'" Of course, Rocco Martino had no objection. He entered into contact with "the lady." They worked profitably together. They filched cipher books, messages, and 17 letters that Martino handed over to the DGSE agents (who were paying him a regular salary). This was prior to 11 September, when the Italian service was headed by Admiral Battelli and the centre-left was in government.
However, it was not until after the attack on the towers and the Pentagon that the phoney dossier took on deadly importance. Martino, too, was aware that, with the United States anxious for regime change in Baghdad, the papers in question had become as valuable as a blank check. He set to work, spreading the dossier about.
On whose behalf? If Il Giornale is right, SISMI missed not a move of Martino's. "From 1999 to the summer of 2004," the con man had "30 or so contacts with his (DGSE) minder, whose logistics base was at 65, Rue Ducale in Brussels": "SISMI tailed him, photographed him, and eavesdropped on him. Everything he handled was duplicated, microfilmed, and analysed." "Everything," of course, but never the phoney "Nigergate" dossier, sad to say.
Who, in Martino's shoes, would not feel used? By the French? "Maybe," Martino said, but that did not strike him as the real question: "I was used by the person who gave me the stuff ("the lady"), who was linked in some way to a SISMI guy (Colonel Nucera)." However, the "feeling" the con man had was that "Pollari had nothing to do with it."
Rocco Martino wondered who had put the documents in question together. "I did not put that stuff together," he said. "I did not even know where Niger was. What happened upstream and downstream from me I do not know."
The man suspected everyone. Could Antonio Nucero, the SISMI colonel, have put them together? "It was probably not he who put the forgery together, but I no longer trust anybody at this stage." Above all, he did not trust "a parallel structure, an internal SISMI faction." Rocco Martino did not say what structure, to whom it reported, or its purpose. He was just eager to repeat that "it is true, I was working for the French, and yet I was also working for the SISMI. Was I a double agent? All right, yes, it is true: double, triple, quadruple. It is all true. But at a particular juncture my Italian service contact told me: I can offer you someone who can help you, a source doing it out of a desire to earn more."
To recap, Rocco Martino was a SISMI informer. A SISMI colonel offered to put him in touch with a SISMI "source". The "source" handed him a telex and 17 forged letters: There was also a "memorandum of understanding" and an "agreement" that were supposed to provide documentary evidence to the effect that Saddam [Husayn] was getting his hands on 500 tonnes of uranium ore (yellowcake).
Rocco Martino, who was relentlessly tailed by the SISMI for five years, did not put the dossier together himself (indeed, had he done so, the SISMI, which was shadowing him, would have blown his cover as soon as the scandal broke). So who wrapped up the "package"? Martino did not know. All he knew was that his contacts belonged to the SISMI and that there was a "structure" within the SISMI whose purpose was murky.
The tale told to Il Giornale is interesting. It provides more than one confirmation of the La Repubblica report and reveals a detail or two that, in time, may prove crucial. Above all, however, it prevents the dust from vanishing under the carpet at the wave of a magic wand. Rocco Martino is the conman he is, and yet his tale will not gladden the hearts of the architects of the hoped-for, highly provisional, childish cover-up. The most prominent figures among them must necessarily be named.
Franco Ionta is the Rome prosecutor who is in charge of the probe into the phoney dossier. He questioned Rocco Martino in half an hour, as if he lacked the curiosity, the questions, and the will to do so. Quick as a flash, he filed for the case to be dropped, wreathing it in the Rome Public Prosecutor's Office fog. Palazzo Chigi [Italian prime minister's office] could (should) have demanded a judicial investigation on political and military espionage charges (Article 257 of the Criminal Code), but it lifted not a finger.
SISMI should, given the direct involvement of two pawns (a colonel and an informer) on its payroll, at least have set an internal inquiry in motion, not least to find out how a man can be shadowed, photographed, and eavesdropped on and everything he touches duplicated without it being noticed that what he is handling and distributing is a phoney dossier that is driving the whole Western intelligence community crazy.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation , some of whose high-ranking officers now claim to have had their work obstructed by the Italian authorities, although it is a fact that Rocco Martino travelled to the United States on two occasions without being questioned. The COPACO, or Parliamentary Supervisory Committee on the Intelligence Services, brought the curtain down on the case in a single session with a rash "political ruling", whereas the tale pieced together by the La Repubblica probe still seems to be in its early stages.
Source: La Repubblica, Rome, in Italian 6 Nov 05 pp 10-11
LOAD-DATE: November 9, 2005
What if "the lady" is really Wilson's ex-wife?
According to the sources, an official investigation believes Adam Maiga Zakariaou, the consul, and Laura Montini, the ambassadors assistant, known as La Signora, forged the papers for money.
From Slate Mag
Sorry everyone, but Iraq did go uranium shopping in Niger.
By Christopher Hitchens
Posted Monday, April 10, 2006, at 4:43 PM ET
In the late 1980s, the Iraqi representative to the International Atomic Energy AgencyIraq's senior public envoy for nuclear matters, in effectwas a man named Wissam al-Zahawie. After the Kuwait war in 1991, when Rolf Ekeus arrived in Baghdad to begin the inspection and disarmament work of UNSCOM, he was greeted by Zahawie, who told him in a bitter manner that "now that you have come to take away our assets," the two men could no longer be friends. (They had known each other in earlier incarnations at the United Nations in New York.)
At a later 1995 U.N. special session on the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, Zahawie was the Iraqi delegate and spoke heatedly about the urgent need to counterbalance Israel's nuclear capacity. At the time, most democratic countries did not have full diplomatic relations with Saddam's regime, and there were few fully accredited Iraqi ambassadors overseas, Iraq's interests often being represented by the genocidal Islamist government of Sudan (incidentally, yet another example of collusion between "secular" Baathists and the fundamentalists who were sheltering Osama Bin Laden). There was one exceptionan Iraqi "window" into the world of open diplomacynamely the mutual recognition between the Baathist regime and the Vatican. To this very important and sensitive post in Rome, Zahawie was appointed in 1997, holding the job of Saddam's ambassador to the Holy See until 2000. Those who knew him at that time remember a man much given to anti-Jewish tirades, with a standing ticket for Wagner performances at Bayreuth. (Actually, as a fan of Das Rheingold and Götterdämmerung in particular, I find I can live with this. Hitler secretly preferred sickly kitsch like Franz Lehar.)
In February 1999, Zahawie left his Vatican office for a few days and paid an official visit to Niger, a country known for absolutely nothing except its vast deposits of uranium ore. It was from Niger that Iraq had originally acquired uranium in 1981, as confirmed in the Duelfer Report. In order to take the Joseph Wilson view of this Baathist ambassadorial initiative, you have to be able to believe that Saddam Hussein's long-term main man on nuclear issues was in Niger to talk about something other than the obvious. Italian intelligence (which first noticed the Zahawie trip from Rome) found it difficult to take this view and alerted French intelligence (which has better contacts in West Africa and a stronger interest in nuclear questions). In due time, the French tipped off the British, who in their cousinly way conveyed the suggestive information to Washington. As everyone now knows, the disclosure appeared in watered-down and secondhand form in the president's State of the Union address in January 2003.
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