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Profile: Bureau of Intelligence and Research

 
  

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Bureau of Intelligence and Research actively participated in the following events:

 
  

October 15, 2001      Events Leading to Iraq Invasion

       Italy's military intelligence agency, SISMI, reportedly permits a CIA field agent in Rome to review some papers (It is not clear if these papers are the actual forgeries or a summary of the forgeries put together by SISMI) documenting a deal between Iraq and Niger for the purchase of a large quantity of uranium oxide, known as “yellowcake.” The agent, who is not permitted to duplicate the papers, writes a report and sends it to Langley. [New Yorker, 10/20/03; Knight Ridder, 11/4/2005; La Repubblica, 11/11/2005] The report, it is later learned, is based on a collection of mostly forged documents that were put together in Italy (see (Between Late 2000 and September 11, 2001)). [New York Times, 10/28/2005 Sources: Robb-Silberman report]
The allegations - The report includes four allegations:
The report states that Iraq first communicated its interest in purchasing uranium from Niger at least as early as 1999. [Sources: Report On The US Intelligence Community's Prewar Intelligence Assessments On Iraq] As blogger Steve Soto will conclude through his careful analysis of the scandal at TheLeftCoaster.Org [TheLeftCoaster [.org], 10/31/2005] none of the documents that are later provided to the US as the basis for these allegations provide actual proof of uranium negotiations in 1999. Two of the source documents for this allegation do mention a 1999 visit by Wissam Al-Zahawi to Niger, however no evidence has ever surfaced suggesting that there were any discussions about uranium during that visit (see February 1999). The first document (possibly authentic) is a letter, dated February 1, 1999, from the Niger embassy in Rome to Adamou Chekou, the Minister of Foreign Affairs in Niger, announcing Zahawie's trip. It does not mention uranium. Note that the SISMI report does not mention Al-Zahawi's trip, it only states that uranium negotations between the two countries began by at least 1999. [Sources: Forged Niger documents] The second document is a letter dated July 30, 1999 from the Niger Ministry of Foreign Affairs to his ambassador in Rome requesting that he contact Zahawie, concerning an agreement signed June 28, 2000 to sell uranium to Iraq. The letter is an obvious forgery because the letter (July 30, 1999) refers to an alleged event that is described as taking place 11 months later (June 28, 2000). [Sources: Forged Niger documents]
The SISMI report states that in “late 2000,” the State Court of Niger approved an agreement with Iraq whereby Niger would sell Iraq a large quantity of uranium. This allegation appears to be based on a forged document titled “Annex 1,” which was possibly an annex to the alleged uranium agreement. It is evident that this document was forged because it says that the state court “met in the chamber of the council in the palace ... on Wednesday, July 7, 2000.” But July 7, 2000 was, in fact, a Friday, not a Wednesday. One of SISMI's reports, possibly this one, actually includes this error. [TheLeftCoaster [.org], 10/31/2005 Sources: Forged Niger documents]
According to the report, Nigerien President Mamadou Tandja approved the agreement and communicated this decision to Iraqi President Saddam Hussein. The source for this is apparently a forged letter from the president of Niger to Saddam Hussein, in which the president refers to his authority under the country's obsolete 1966 constitution. At the time the letter was presumed to have been written, the constitution in effect would have been that of December 26, 1992, which was subsequently revised by national referendum on May 12, 1996 and again by referendum on July 18, 1999. [US Department of State, 9/2005; Reuters, 3/26/03 Sources: Forged Niger documents]
The report also alleges that in October 2000, Nigerien Minister of Foreign Affairs Nassirou Sabo informed one of his ambassadors in Europe that Niger had agreed to provide several tons of uranium to Iraq. [Sources: Forged Niger documents]
This is seemingly based on a forged letter that accompanied the alleged uranium sales agreement. The letter, dated October 10, 2000, is stamped as being received in Rome on September 28, 2000—nearly two weeks before the letter was presumably written. Unlike what is reported in the SISMI papers provided to the CIA, the actual letter is signed by Allele Elhadj Habibou, who left office in 1989. This indicates that someone must have corrected this information, replacing the name of Allele Elhadj Habibou with that of Nassirou Sabo (the minister in October 2000) in the SISMI report provided to the CIA. [TheLeftCoaster [.org], 11/2/2005]
Distribution within US intelligence community - After recieving the report from its fied agent in Rome, the CIA distributes it to other US intelligence agencies. The SSCI will say in its report: “CIA, Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA), and Department of Energy (DOE) analysts considered the reporting to be ‘possible’ while the Department of State's Bureau of Intelligence and Research (INR) regarded the report as ‘highly suspect,’ primarily because INR analysts did not believe that Niger would be likely to engage in such a transaction and did not believe Niger would be able to transfer uranium to Iraq because a French consortium maintained control of the Nigerien uranium industry.” [Sources: Report On The US Intelligence Community's Prewar Intelligence Assessments On Iraq] Sources later interviewed by New Yorker's Seymour Hersh portray US intelligence analysts' assessment of the report in slightly harsher terms, saying that they “dismissed [it] as amateurish and unsubstantiated.” [New Yorker, 10/20/03] Langley asks for further clarification from Rome [La Repubblica, 11/11/2005] and recieves a response three days later (see October 18, 2001).
People and organizations involved: Saddam Hussein, Nassirou Sabo, Bureau of Intelligence and Research, Mamadou Tandja, US Department of Energy, Central Intelligence Agency, Defense Intelligence Agency, Wissam al-Zahawie, SISMI
          

November 14, 2001      Events Leading to Iraq Invasion

       The State Department's Bureau of Intelligence and Research (INR) says in a report, according to INR official Greg Thielmann, that “there is no persuasive evidence that the Iraqi nuclear program is being reconstituted.” [New Yorker, 10/20/03 Sources: Greg Thielmann]
People and organizations involved: Bureau of Intelligence and Research
          

February 5, 2002      Events Leading to Iraq Invasion

       The CIA Directorate of Operations (DO) issues a second intelligence report from SISMI, Italy's military intelligence service. This report provides additional details on the alleged agreement described in the October 15 report (see October 18, 2001), which reported that Iraq had struck a deal with Niger on the purchase of several tons of uranium. A later Senate Intelligence investigation will report that this report from SISMI includes a “verbatim text” of the accord, but the Senate Intelligence report does not say precisely which of the orginal documents the “verbatim text” is a trascription of. The purported agreement, signed by Iraqi and Niger officials during meetings held July 5-6, 2000, reportedly stated that Niger would sell Iraq 500 tons of uranium per year. [Knight Ridder, 11/4/2005 Sources: Report On The US Intelligence Community's Prewar Intelligence Assessments On Iraq] The SISMI report also draws attention to a 1999 trip to Niger made by Wissam al-Zahawie (see February 1999), Iraq's former ambassador to the Vatican, and alleges that its mission was to discuss the future purchase of uranium. This is the first report from SISMI that names al-Zahawie and refers directly to his 1999 trip. (SISMI's previous report had only stated that negotiations had begun by at least 1999.) This report, as well as the previous report, are likely based on two documents, one of which is definately a forgery (see October 18, 2001). [TheLeftCoaster [.org], 11/3/2005; New Yorker, 10/20/2003 Sources: Wissam al-Zahawie, Unnamed US intelligence sources, Report On The US Intelligence Community's Prewar Intelligence Assessments On Iraq] Analysts at the CIA and the DIA are more impressed with the detail and substance of this second report, but analysts at the Department of State's Bureau of Intelligence and Research (INR) remain skeptical of the report's allegations noting that it was unlikely that Niger would sell uranium to Iraq because the Nigeriens would have considered the risk of being caught too great. An INR analyst asks the CIA if the source of the report would submit to a polygraph. A CIA analyst who also asks about the source is told by the DO that the source is “very credible.” [Sources: Report On The US Intelligence Community's Prewar Intelligence Assessments On Iraq]
People and organizations involved: Defense Intelligence Agency, Central Intelligence Agency, Bureau of Intelligence and Research
          

February 19, 2002      Events Leading to Iraq Invasion

       The CIA's Directorate of Operations (DO) Counterproliferation Division (CPD) holds a meeting with former ambassador Joseph Wilson, intelligence analysts from both the CIA and State Department's Bureau of Intelligence and Research (INR), and several individuals from the DO's Africa and CPD divisions. The purpose of the meeting is to discuss the merits of sending Wilson to Niger. An INR analyst's notes indicate that the meeting is “apparently convened by [Wilson's] wife [Valerie Plame] who had the idea to dispatch [him] to use his contacts to sort out the Iraq-Niger uranium issue.” According to Plame, she leaves the meeting about three minutes after introducing her husband. The INR analyst's meeting notes, as well as e-mails from other participants, indicate that INR expresses skepticism that the alleged uranium contract could have taken place, noting that it would have been very difficult to conceal such a large shipment of yellowcake and because “the French appear to have control of the uranium mining, milling and transport process, and would seem to have little interest in selling uranium to the Iraqis.” INR also says that the embassy in Niger has good contacts and is thus in a position to get to the truth on the matter and therefore believes the proposed trip to Niger would be redundant. Others attending the meeting argue that the trip would probably not resolve the matter because the Nigeriens would be unlikely to admit to a uranium sales agreement with Iraq. An e-mail from a WINPAC analyst to CPD following the meeting notes, “[I]t appears that the results from this source will be suspect at best, and not believable under most scenarios.” CPD concludes that sending Wilson would be worth a try. [Sources: Report On The US Intelligence Community's Prewar Intelligence Assessments On Iraq]
People and organizations involved: Bureau of Intelligence and Research, US Embassy in Niger, Joseph C. Wilson, Valerie Plame, Counterproliferation Division
          

March 1, 2002      Events Leading to Iraq Invasion

       The State Department's Bureau of Intelligence and Research (INR) publishes an intelligence assessment, titled “Niger: Sale of Uranium to Iraq Is Unlikely,” that disputes recent Italian intelligence reports (see October 15, 2001) (see February 5, 2002) suggesting that Iraq attempted to purchase uranium from Niger. The assessment reiterates INR's view that France controls the uranium industry and “would take action to block a sale of the kind alleged in a CIA report of questionable credibility from a foreign government service.” It adds that though “some officials may have conspired for individual gain to arrange a uranium sale,” Nigerien President Mamadou Tandja's government would have been unlikely to risk relations with the US and other key aid donors. “A whole lot of things told us that the report was bogus,” Greg Thielmann, a high-ranking INR official, later explains to Time Magazine. “This wasn't highly contested. There weren't strong advocates on the other side. It was done, shot down.” The assessment, drafted in response to interest from the vice president's office (see (February 12, 2002)), is sent to the White House situation room and Secretary of State Colin Powell. [Time Magazine, 7/21/03 Sources: Greg Thielmann, Report On The US Intelligence Community's Prewar Intelligence Assessments On Iraq]
People and organizations involved: Bureau of Intelligence and Research, Colin Powell
          

October 1, 2002      Events Leading to Iraq Invasion

       The National Intelligence Council, a board of senior analysts who prepare reports on crucial national security issues, completes a National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) on Iraq. The purpose of an NIE is to provide policy-makers with an intelligence assessment that includes all available information on a specific issue so that they can make sound policy decisions. The formal document is supposed to be the result of a collaborative effort of the entire intelligence community and is supposed to be untainted by political interests. The decision to produce the assessment on Iraq followed criticisms that the administration had already decided to invade Iraq without having received—or even called for—an assessment from its multi-billion dollar intelligence apparatus on the supposed threat posed by Iraq. Congress wanted the NIE completed prior to voting on a bill authorizing the President to use force against Iraq and was formally requested by Senator Bob Graham. NIEs such as this usually take months to prepare, however this document took a mere three weeks. The person in charge of preparing the document was weapons expert Robert Walpole. According to the Independent of London, Walpole has a track record of tailoring his work to support the preconceived conclusions of his superiors. “In 1998, he had come up with an estimate of the missile capabilities of various rogue states that managed to sound considerably more alarming than a previous CIA estimate issued three years earlier,” the newspaper will report. “On that occasion, he was acting at the behest of a congressional commission anxious to make the case for a missile defense system; the commission chairman was none other than Donald Rumsfeld ....” [Independent, 11/3/03; New York Times, 10/3/2004]
Summary of NIE Conclusions - After the document is completed, two different versions will be released. An abridged declassified version is posted on the CIA's website for the public, while the classified version is disseminated within the administration and to Congress (see (8:00pm) October 1, 2002). The two versions portray the threat posed by Saddam Hussein very differently. The classified version of the NIE on Iraq provides a far less alarmist view of the threat allegedly posed by Iraq than that which is presented in the public version of the document. According to US intelligence and congressional sources who read the classified document, the intelligence estimate contains “cautionary language about Iraq's connections with al-Qaeda and warnings about the reliability of conflicting reports by Iraqi defectors and captured al-Qaeda members about the ties.” And notably, the second paragraph of the “key judgment” section states that the estimate lacks “specific information” on Iraq's alleged arsenal of weapons of mass destruction. Though the document does say that Iraq probably has chemical and biological weapons, it also says that US intelligence analysts believe that Saddam Hussein would only launch an attack against the US if he felt a US invasion was inevitable. The intelligence estimate also concludes that Saddam would only provide terrorists with chemical or biological agents for use against the United States as a last resort in order to “exact vengeance by taking a large number of victims with him.” A senior intelligence official will later tell the Washington Post in June 2003: “There has always been an internal argument within the intelligence community about the connections between Saddam Hussein and al-Qaeda. The NIE had alternative views.” The NIE also concludes that Iraq does not have nuclear weapons. The public version of the report—which is presented to Congress before it votes on a resolution conditionally authorizing Bush to use military force against Iraq—contains language that is far less qualified and nuanced than the classified version. [Washington Post, 6/22/03; Agence France Presse, 11/30/03 Sources: Stuart Cohen, US intelligence and congressional sources, INR's alternative view in the 2002 National Intelligence Estimate on Iraq]
Iraqi attempts to obtain uranium from Africa - The document makes a reference to the allegation that Iraq has sought to procure uranium from Africa. “A foreign government service reported that as of early 2001, Niger planned to send several tons of ‘pure uranium’ (probably yellowcake) to Iraq. As of early 2001, Niger and Iraq reportedly were still working out arrangements for this deal, which could be for up to 500 tons of yellowcake. We do not know the status of this arrangement. Reports indicate Iraq also has sought uranium ore from Somalia and possibly the Democratic Republic of the Congo.” But the alternative view—endorsed by the State Department's Bureau of Intelligence and Research (INR)—says that it is doubtful Iraq sought to procure uranium from Africa. “(T)he claims of Iraqi pursuit of natural uranium in Africa are, in INR's assessment, highly dubious,” it reads. [Washington Post, 7/19/03; US Government, 10/02 Sources: Wissam al-Zahawie]
Iraqi attempts to obtain aluminum tubes - The document provides a very misleading assessment of the tubes case. For instance, it includes a chart which compares the dimensions of the aluminum tubes sought by Iraq with those that would be needed for a “Zippe-type” centrifuge. The comparison makes the two tubes appear similar. However, the chart fails to note that the aluminum tubes are an exact match to those used in Iraq's 81-millimeter rocket. The estimate also claims that the tubes are not suitable for rockets. The assertion ignores the fact that similar tubes are used in rockets from several countries, including the United States. [New York Times, 10/3/2004] In addition to the assessment's misleading statements about the tubes, there are interesting differences between the classified and declassified versions of the NIE with regard to the tubes. The declassified, public version of the NIE states: “Iraq's aggressive attempts to obtain proscribed high-strength aluminum tubes are of significant concern. All intelligence experts agree that Iraq is seeking nuclear weapons and that these tubes could be used in a centrifuge enrichment program. Most intelligence specialists assess this to be the intended use, but some believe that these tubes are probably intended for conventional weapons programs. Based on tubes of the size Iraq is trying to acquire, a few tens of thousands of centrifuges would be capable of producing enough highly enriched uranium for a couple of weapons per year.” However the classified version of the document presents a more nuanced assessment. In the main text of the document, it says that the Energy Department “agrees that reconstitution of the nuclear program is underway but assesses that the tubes probably are not part of the program.” At the bottom of the page, in a lengthy footnote by the State Department's INR, the alternative view states that the agency agrees with the DOE's assessment that the tubes are not meant for use in a gas centrifuge. The footnote reads: “In INR's view Iraq's efforts to acquire aluminum tubes is central to the argument that Baghdad is reconstituting its nuclear weapons program, but INR is not persuaded that the tubes in question are intended for use as centrifuge rotors. INR accepts the judgment of technical experts at the US Department of Energy (DOE) who have concluded that the tubes Iraq seeks to acquire are poorly suited for use in gas centrifuges to be used for uranium enrichment and finds unpersuasive the arguments advanced by others to make the case that they are intended for that purpose. INR considers it far more likely that the tubes are intended for another purpose, most likely the production of artillery rockets. The very large quantities being sought, the way the tubes were tested by the Iraqis, and the atypical lack of attention to operational security in the procurement efforts are among the factors, in addition to the DOE assessment, that lead INR to conclude that the tubes are not intended for use in Iraq's nuclear weapon program.” [Washington Post, 7/19/03; US Government, 10/02; USA Today, 7/31/03 Sources: Wissam al-Zahawie]
Reconstituted nuclear weapons programs - The intelligence estimate says that “most” of the US' six intelligence agencies believe there is “compelling evidence that Saddam [Hussein] is reconstituting a uranium enrichment effort for Baghdad's nuclear weapons program.” The classified version of the document includes the dissenting position of the State Department's Bureau of Intelligence and Research (INR) which states: “The activities we have detected do not, however, add up to a compelling case that Iraq is currently pursuing what INR would consider to be an integrated and comprehensive approach to acquire nuclear weapons. Iraq may be doing so, but INR considers the available evidence inadequate to support such a judgment. Lacking persuasive evidence that Baghdad has launched a coherent effort to reconstitute its nuclear weapons programs, INR is unwilling to ... project a timeline for the completion of activities it does not now see happening.” It is later learned that nuclear scientists in the Department of Energy's in-house intelligence office were also opposed to the NIE's conclusion and had wanted to endorse the State's alternative view. However, the person representing the DOE, Thomas Ryder, silenced the views of those within his department and inexplicably voted to support the position that Iraq had reconstituted its nuclear weapons program (see September 2002). The DOE's vote was seen as critical, since the department's assessment was supposed to represent the views of the government's nuclear experts. [Knight Ridder, 2/10/04; Knight Ridder, 2/10/04; US Government, 10/02; Washington Post, 7/19/03 Sources: Wissam al-Zahawie]
Chemical and Biological Weapons - The classified version of the estimate uses cautionary language to conclude that Iraq probably does have chemical and biological weapons. It states: “We judge Iraq has some lethal and incapacitating BW agents and is capable of quickly producing and weaponizing a variety of such agents, including anthrax, for delivery by bombs, missiles, aerial sprayers, and covert operatives.” But the document also highlights the belief that it is unlikely that Iraq has any intention to use these against the US. “... Baghdad for now appears to be drawing a line short of conducting terrorist attacks with conventional or CBW [Chemical/Biological Weapons] against the United States, fearing that exposure of Iraqi involvement would provide Washington with a stronger case for making war.” Iraq would probably only use such weapons against the United States if it “feared an attack that threatened the survival of the regime were imminent or unavoidable, or possibly for revenge.” [Sources: 2002 National Intelligence Estimate on Iraq] The last two observations are conspicuously absent from the declassified, public version of the estimate, which reads only, “Iraq has some lethal and incapacitating BW agents and is capable of quickly producing and weaponizing a variety of such agents, including anthrax, for delivery by bombs, missiles, aerial sprayers, and covert operatives, including potentially against the US Homeland.” [Washington Post, 2/7/03; Knight Ridder, 2/10/04]
Unmanned Aerial Vehicles - The NIE claims that Iraq has unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) which can be used to deploy biological and chemical weapons. “Baghdad's UAVs—especially if used for delivery of chemical and biological warfare (CBW) agents—could threaten Iraq's neighbors, US forces in the Persian Gulf, and the United States if brought close to, or into, the US Homeland.” [Sources: 2002 National Intelligence Estimate on Iraq] But this view is not held unanimously among the various intelligence agencies. Significantly, the Air Force's National Air and Space Intelligence Center disagrees with this assessment. The Center, which controls most of the American military's UAV fleet, says in a dissenting opinion that there is little evidence that Iraq's drones are related to the country's suspected biological weapons program. Current intelligence suggests that the drones are not capable of carrying much more than a camera and a video recorder. The Air Force believes that Iraq's unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) are for reconnaissance, like its counterparts in the US. The dissenting opinion reads: “... The Director, Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance, US Air Force, does not agree that Iraq is developing UAVs primarily intended to be delivery platforms for chemical and biological warfare (CBW) agents. The small size of Iraq's new UAV strongly suggests a primary role of reconnaissance, although CBW delivery is an inherent capability.” [Washington Post, 9/26/03; Associated Press, 8/24/03; Knight Ridder, 2/10/04 Sources: US Government officials and scientists] This important statement is not included in the public version of the document. [Knight Ridder, 2/10/04 Sources: 2002 National Intelligence Estimate on Iraq] Bob Boyd, director of the Air Force Intelligence Analysis Agency, will tell reporters in August 2003 that his department thought the allegation in the NIE “was a little odd,” noting that Air Force assessments “all along” had said that reconnaissance, not weapons delivery, was the purpose of Iraq's drones. “Everything we discovered strengthened our conviction that the UAVs were to be used for reconnaissance,” he will explain. “What we were thinking was: Why would you purposefully design a vehicle to be an inefficient delivery means? Wouldn't it make more sense that they were purposefully designing it to be a decent reconnaissance UAV?” [Washington Post, 9/26/03; Associated Press, 8/24/03 Sources: Bob Boyd] The NIE's conclusion is apparently also based on accounts from defectors and exiles as well as information suggesting that Iraq is attempting to obtain “commercially available route-planning software,” containing topographic data of the United States. According to the NIE, this data “could facilitate targeting of US sites.” But Air Force analysts were not convinced by the argument, noting that this sort of information could easily be retrieved from the Internet and other highly accessible sources. “We saw nothing sinister about the inclusion of the US maps in route-planning software,” Boyd will tell reporters. [Washington Post, 9/26/03 Sources: Bob Boyd] Analysts at the Pentagon's Missile Defense Agency are said to back the Air Force's National Air and Space Intelligence Center's position. [Associated Press, 8/24/03 Sources: US Government officials and scientists]
Aftermath - After the completion of the National Intelligence Estimate, the Bush administration will continue to make allegations concerning Iraq's weapons capabilities and ties to militant Islamic groups, but will include none of the qualifications and nuances that are present in the classified version of the assessment. After excerpts from the classified version of the NIE are published in the press in July of 2003 (see July 11, 2003) and the public learns that the document's conclusions had actually been much less alarmist than the public version, administration officials will claim that neither Bush, Rice, nor other top officials were informed about the alternative views expressed by the DOE, INR, and the Air Force intelligence agency. They will also assert that the dissenting views did not significantly undermine the overall conclusion of the NIE that Iraq was continuing its banned weapons program despite UN resolutions. [New York Times, 7/19/03; Washington Post, 7/27/03; Washington Post, 7/19/03] But this claim is later disputed in an article by The Washington Post, which reports: “One person who has worked with Rice describes as ‘inconceivable’ the claims that she was not more actively involved. Indeed, subsequent to the July 18 briefing, another senior administration official said Rice had been briefed immediately on the NIE—including the doubts about Iraq's nuclear program—and had ‘skimmed’ the document. The official said that within a couple of weeks, Rice ‘read it all.’ ” [Washington Post, 7/27/03 Sources: two unnamed administration officials] The official's account, will in fact be confirmed by Rice herself, who reportedly tells Gwen Ifill at the National Association of Black Journalists Convention in Dallas on August 7, 2003: “I did read everything that the CIA produced for the president on weapons of mass destruction. I read the National Intelligence Estimate cover to cover a couple of times. I read the reports; I was briefed on the reports. This is—after 20 years, as somebody who has read a lot of intelligence reports—this is one of the strongest cases about weapons of mass destruction that I had ever read..” [Gwenn Ifill, 8/7/2003 cited in Daily Howler, 8/11/2003] Additionally, senior CIA analyst Stuart Cohen, the acting chairman of the National Intelligence Council at this time, who helped write the document, will tell the Agence France Presse, “Any reader would have had to read only as far as the second paragraph of the Key Judgments to know that as we said, ‘we lacked specific information on many key aspects of Iraq's WMD program.’ ” [Agence France Presse, 11/30/03 Sources: Michael Hayden] A Senate Intelligence Committee investigation will determine in July 2004 that “Most of the major key judgments in the Intelligence Community's October 2002 National Intelligence Estimate (NIE), Iraq's Continuing Programs for Weapons of Mass Destruction, either overstated, or were not supported by, the underlying intelligence reporting.” [Sources: Senate Intelligence Report on Iraq, 7/2004]
People and organizations involved: Bureau of Intelligence and Research, US Congress, George W. Bush, Condoleezza Rice, Bob Graham, Stuart Cohen, Bob Boyd  Additional Info 
          

October 9-16, 2002      Events Leading to Iraq Invasion

       Italian Panorama journalist Elisabetta Burba goes to the US Embassy in Rome and gives US officials copies of the Niger documents that she had obtained two days before (see Early October 2002). [Agence France Presse, 7/19/03; Associated Press, 7/20/03; New Yorker, 10/20/03; The Washington Post, 7/20/03] The documents are then sent to Washington and distributed to the various intelligence agencies. The precise details are unclear, however, due to contradicting accounts.
In Rome - According to a senior US State Department official interviewed by the Agence France-Presse in July 2003, the documents are first vetted by “all the relevant agencies” in Rome before being sent to Washington. “[T]hey were immediately shared with all the appropriate agencies,” the sources will explain. “The embassy shared them with all the relevant agencies at post, and they were then shared again when they got back to Washington.” [Agence France Presse, 9/19/03; Mercury, 9/19/03 Sources: Unnamed US State Department official] But an unnamed former CIA official will tell Seymour Hersh that the papers were not looked at in Rome. “The Embassy was alerted that the papers were coming and it passed them directly to Washington without even vetting them inside the Embassy.” [New Yorker, 10/20/03 Sources: Unnamed former CIA official]
In Washington - After the documents arrive in Washington, they are reviewed by the State Department's Bureau of Intelligence and Research (INR) and within days its analysts conclude that the papers might be fakes. On October 16, the INR distributes the documents to the CIA and several other US intelligence agencies with the caveat that the documents are of “dubious authenticity.” [The Washington Post, 7/20/03] Vince Cannistraro, former chief of counter-terrorism operations and analysis, will tell Seymour Hersh that the CIA did not immediately recognize that the documents were forged. [New Yorker, 10/20/03 Sources: Vincent Cannistraro] However, other sources will claim that like the INR, the CIA quickly saw that the documents were not authentic. A senior Central Intelligence Agency official will tell Knut Royce of Newsday that the CIA “had serious questions about [the claims] from day one.” The agency “had accounts [(see October 15, 2001) (see February 5, 2002) (see March 25, 2002)] of them [the letters] and that was close enough. We didn't take it that seriously to begin with. ... We didn't put a lot of stock in these reports from Niger. We didn't rush around to get the actual documents.” [Newsday, 7/11/03 Sources: Unnamed Senior CIA official] Likewise, a US intelligence official will tell the New York Times that CIA officials were always suspicious of the Niger documents. [New York Times 3/23/03] And Hersh's anonymous CIA source also says the papers were quickly assessed as fakes. “Everybody knew at every step of the way that they were false—until they got to the Pentagon, where they were believed.” [The Washington Post, 7/20/03]
People and organizations involved: Central Intelligence Agency, Bureau of Intelligence and Research, Vincent Cannistraro, Elisabetta Burba  Additional Info 
          

February 3, 2003      Events Leading to Iraq Invasion

       In a memo to Secretary of State Colin Powell, the State Department's Bureau of Intelligence and Research (INR) warns him against making certain claims in his presentation to the UN Security Council about the aluminum tubes Iraq attempted to import in July 2001 (see July 2001). The CIA had been arguing that the tubes were made to meet specfiications that far exceeded that for comparable rockets used by the US. But INR's memo explains that the claim is untrue. “In fact, the most comparable US system is a tactical rocket—the US Mark 66 air-launched 70-millimeter rocket—that uses the same, high-grade (7075-T6) aluminum, and that has specifications with similar tolerances.” Powell will ignore the memo's advice. [New York Times, 10/3/04; Financial Times, 7/29/03]
People and organizations involved: Colin Powell, Bureau of Intelligence and Research
          

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