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Key Events

Key events related to DSM (56)

General Topic Areas

Alleged al-Qaeda ties (83)
Politicization of intelligence (80)
Pre-9/11 plans for war (34)
Weapons inspections (122)
Alleged WMDs (99)
The decision to invade (104)
Internal opposition (29)
Motives (53)
Pre-war planning (30)
Predictions (19)
Legal justification (96)
Propaganda (23)
Public opinion on Iraqi threat (13)
Diversion of Resources to Iraq (8)
Pre-war attacks against Iraq (18)

Specific Allegations

Aluminum tubes allegation (59)
Office of Special Plans (24)
Africa-uranium allegation
Prague Connection (24)
Al Zarqawi allegation (10)
Poisons And Gases (5)
Drones (4)
Biological weapons trailers (18)

Specific cases and issues

Spying on the UN (8)
Outing of Jose Bustani (13)
Powells Speech to UN (13)
Chalabi and the INC (63)

Quotes from senior US officials

Chemical and biological weapons allegations (23)
Imminent threat allegations (5)
Iraq ties to terrorist allegations (15)
Nuclear weapons allegations (29)
WMD allegations (9)
Democracy rhetoric (33)
Decision to Invade quotes (16)
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Events leading up to the 2003 invasion of Iraq: Africa-uranium allegation (Forged Niger Documents)

 
  

Project: Inquiry into the decision to invade Iraq

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Between 1999 and 2000

       Intelligence reports suggesting that “rogue states” are trying to obtain uranium sparks concern within the French government about the security of France's uranium supplies in Niger, as well as the security of the two French consortiums that control Niger's uranium industry. [Financial Times, 8/2/04] France has reportedly learned that uranium is being extracted from abandoned mines and being sold on the international black market. [La Repubblica, 10/24/2005]
People and organizations involved: France
          

February 1999

       Wissam al-Zahawie, Iraq's ambassador to the Vatican, sets off on a trip to several African countries as part of an effort to convince African heads of state to visit Iraq. Saddam Hussein hopes that these visits will help break the embargo on flights to Iraq, and undermine the UN sanctions regime. Zahawie's first stop is Niger, where he meets with the country's president, President Ibrahim Bare Mainassara, for one hour. Mainassara promises that he will visit Baghdad the following April (He's assasinated before he has an opportunity to do this). [Sunday Herald, 7/13/2003; Time, 10/2/2003; New Yorker, 10/20/03; Independent, 8/10/03a Sources: Wissam al-Zahawie, Charles O. Cecil] Zahawie's visit is reported in the local newspaper as well as by a French news agency. The US and British governments are also aware of the trip but show no concern. No one suggests that the trip's motives have anything to do with acquiring uranium. At this time, Niger is actively seeking economic assistance from the United States. [New Yorker, 10/20/03 Sources: Charles O. Cecil, Wissam al-Zahawie] In early 2002, the Italian military intelligence service, SISMI, will allege in a report (see February 5, 2002) sent to the US that the motive behind the visit was to discuss the future purchase of uranium oxide, also known as “yellowcake” (see October 15, 2001). [New Yorker, 10/20/03 Sources: Wissam al-Zahawie, Unnamed US intelligence sources]
People and organizations involved: Ibrahim Bare Mainassara, Wissam al-Zahawie
          

(After June or July 1999)

       Rocco Martino, an Italian information peddler and former SISMI agent, provides French officials with documents suggesting that Iraq intends to expand its “trade” with Niger. It is not known from where he obtains these documents. The French assume the trade being discussed concerns uranium, Niger's main export. At French intelligence's request, Martino continues supplying them with documents. [Financial Times, 8/2/04; Sunday Times, 8/1/04]
People and organizations involved: France, Rocco Martino
          

June 1999

       A businessman reportedly approaches Nigerien Prime Minister Ibrahim Mayaki and insists that Mayaki meet with an Iraqi delegation to discuss “expanding commercial relations” between Niger and Iraq. Mayaki reportedly interprets “expanding commercial relations” to mean that Iraq is interested in discussing uranium sales. According to Mayaki, he does meet the delegation but avoids discussion of trade issues because of UN sanctions on the country. They reportedly never discuss what the businessman had meant when he said Iraq was interested in “expanding commercial relations.” [Sources: Report On The US Intelligence Community's Prewar Intelligence Assessments On Iraq]
People and organizations involved: Ibrahim Mayaki
          

2000

       In his book, Machiavelli on Modern Leadership, neoconservative Michael Ledeen measures modern leaders against Machiavelli's rules for leadership and concludes that “[e]ven after a half a millennium, Machiavelli's advice to leaders is as contemporary as tomorrow.” [Ledeen, 2000, pp 185] He laments that contemporary Western leaders, “like their counterparts in the rest of the world, have fallen short of Machiavelli's standards.” [Ledeen, 2000, pp 187] According to Ledeen, “[I]f new and more virtuous leaders do not emerge, it is only a matter of time before we are either dominated by our enemies or sink into a more profound crisis.” [Ledeen, 2000, pp 187] Such a situation, he explains, would put the US in the “same desperate crisis that drove Machiavelli to call for a new dictator to set things aright.” He adds, “In either case, we need Machiavellian wisdom and leadership.” [Ledeen, 2000, pp 188] Throughout the book Ledeen highlights certain qualities that he believes make strong leaders. A leader “must be prepared to fight at all times,” he writes, and must be of “manly vigor.” Women, he says, are rarely strong leaders because women generally cannot achieve virtue for they lack the “physical wherewithal and the passionate desire to achieve” military glory. To Ledeen, the ends may justify the means. In some situations, “[i]n order to achieve the most noble accomplishments, the leader may have to ‘enter into evil.’ ” [Ledeen, 2000, pp 90] According to Ledeen, the Christian god sanctions this view. Machiavelli, he notes approvingly, wrote: “I believe that the greatest good that one can do, and the most gratifying to God is that which one does for one's country.” Ledeen thus adds: “Since it is the highest good, the defense of the country is one of those extreme situation in which a leader is justified in committing evil.” [Ledeen, 2000, pp 117]
People and organizations involved: Michael Ledeen
          

Early 2000

       Antonio Nucera, deputy chief of the SISMI center in Viale Pasteur in Rome, telephones Rocco Martino, an Italian information peddler and former SISMI agent and tells Martino of a SISMI intelligence asset working in the Niger Embassy in Rome who is in need of money and who can provide him with documents to sell. [La Repubblica, 10/24/2005; Il Giornale, 11/6/2005; Il Giornale, 9/21/2004; Sunday Times, 8/1/04; Financial Times, 8/2/04 Sources: Antonio Nucera, Rocco Martino] According to Martino, “SISMI wanted me to pass on the documents but they didn't want anyone to know they had been involved.” [Financial Times, 8/2/04; Sunday Times, 8/1/04]
People and organizations involved: SISMI, Antonio Nucera, Rocco Martino
          

March 2000

       Rocco Martino, an Italian information peddler and former SISMI agent, meets with an Italian intelligence source who is an employee at the Niger embassy in Rome. The employee is a 60-year-old lady known only as “La Signora.” What happens next is not clear. [La Repubblica, 10/24/2005; Sunday Times, 8/1/04; Financial Times, 8/2/04; Talking Points Memo, 11/10/2005]
According to Rocco Martino - Over the next several months, La Signora provides Martino with numerous documents. First comes a “codebook,” then a dossier, which includes a mixture of fake and genuine documents, and then finally, a purported agreement between Niger and Iraq on the sale of 500 tons of uranium oxide, also known as “yellowcake.” [Talking Points Memo, 11/10/2005]

According to La Repubblica - With the blessing of Antonio Nucera, the deputy chief of the SISMI center in Viale Pasteur in Rome, Martino and La Signora hatch a plan to break into the Niger embassy (see January 2, 2001) to steal material that could be used to create a collection of forged documents that Martino would then sell to French intelligence. They reportedly solicit the help of Nigerien First Embassy Counselor Zakaria Yaou Maiga. [La Repubblica, 10/24/2005]

People and organizations involved: Zakaria Yaou Maiga, Antonio Nucera, Rocco Martino
          

After November 2000

       After the 2000 Presidential Election, Bush's White House political adviser, Karl Rove, tells neoconservative Michael Ledeen “Anytime you have a good idea, tell me.” From that point on, according to a Washington Post interview with Ledeen, every month or six weeks, Ledeen offers Rove “something you should be thinking about.” On more than one occasion, ideas faxed to Rove by Ledeen, “become official policy or rhetoric,” the Post reports. [Washington Post, 3/10/2003]
People and organizations involved: Karl Rove, Michael Ledeen
          

(Between Late 2000 and September 11, 2001)

       According to an October 2005 report by the Italian weekly La Repubblica, official stamps and letterhead stolen (see January 2, 2001) from the Niger embassy are used to fabricate a set of forged documents implicating Iraq in an attempt to purchase 500 tons of uranium oxide, also known as “yellowcake,” from Niger. [La Repubblica, 10/24/2005; Corriere della Sera, date unknown, cited in Talking Points Memo, 10/31/03; New Yorker, 10/20/03; Agence France Presse, 7/19/03; Reuters, 7/19/03 Sources: Unnamed Senior US intelligence officials] Material taken from real SISMI documents from the 1980s concerning Iraq's yellowcake purchases from Niger during that period are also incorporated into the set of forged documents. [La Repubblica, 10/24/2005; San Francisco Chronicle, 10/30/2005] It is not clear who precisely forges the documents. La Repubblica, in a 2005 article, seems to imply that the deed is done by Rocco Martino, an Italian information peddler, and Antonio Nucera, the deputy chief of the SISMI center in Viale Pasteur in Rome. [La Repubblica, 10/24/2005] An August 2004 report in the Financial Times, however, reports that according to Martino, “Italian foreign intelligence service, the SISMI, had forged the documents and had arranged for them to be passed to him by an official of Niger's embassy in Rome (see March 2000).” [Financial Times, 8/2/04]
People and organizations involved: Antonio Nucera, Rocco Martino, SISMI, France
          

January 2, 2001

       The Italian police discover that the Niger Embassy in Rome has been ransacked. It appears that the people involved in the break-in searched through the embassy's documents and files. [La Repubblica, 10/24/2005; Newsweek, 7/28/03]
          

Before September 11, 2001 or in October 2002

       Rocco Martino, an Italian information peddler reportedly sells a collection of mostly forged documents (though it is not clear precisely what documents these are) to the Direction G�n�rale de la S�curit� Ext�rieure (DGSE), France's intelligence agency, to whom he has been selling documents since 1999 (see (After June or July 1999)). The documents suggest Niger agreed to sell uranium to Iraq in 2000. SISMI, Italy's military intelligence service, is reportedly aware of the sale, and may have actually arranged it. French intelligence quickly determines the documents are not authentic. [Knight Ridder, 10/25/2005; La Repubblica, 10/24/2005; Sunday Times, 11/6/2005] It is not clear when, precisely, the documents are given to the French. According to the Italian La Repubblica, the transaction takes place before September 11. [La Repubblica, 10/24/2005] However according to the Sunday Times' sources, DGSE receives the documents in October 2002, long after the documents are reported to have been fabricated (see (Between Late 2000 and September 11, 2001)). [Sunday Times, 11/6/2005]
People and organizations involved: France, SISMI, Antonio Nucera, Rocco Martino
          

Shortly after September 11, 2001

       In the wake of the September 11 attacks, the CIA station chief in Rome, Jeff Castelli, reportedly asks SISMI to provide the US with any useful intelligence it might have. [La Repubblica, 10/25/2005]
People and organizations involved: Jeff Castelli, SISMI
          

Shortly after September 11, 2001

       Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi reportedly puts pressure on Nicolo Pollari, chief of SISMI, Italy's military intelligence service, to provide US with intelligence in an effort to please the Bush administration and make Italy a top US ally. [La Repubblica, 10/25/2005]
People and organizations involved: Nicolo Pollari, Bush administration, Silvio Berlusconi
          

(Late September 2001-Early October 2001)

       According to author James Bamford, SISMI passes on details of the alleged Iraq-Niger uranium deal “to the Executive Committee of the Intelligence and Security Services (CESIS), which in turn passe[s] it on to the Faresine, the Italian Foreign Ministry, and to Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi at his office in Rome's Palazzo Chigi. Only the Farnesina raise[s] ‘strong objection’ and ‘reservations’ about the report—primarily from the African Countries Directorate. They [are] greatly concerned about the reliability of the information.” [Bamford, 2004, pp 303]
People and organizations involved: Italian Foreign Ministry, Committee of the Intelligence and Security Services, Silvio Berlusconi, SISMI
          

(Mid-October 2001)

       Following a number of meetings in Rome and London between SISMI, Italy's military intelligence, and the British MI6 [Bamford, 2004, pp 303-304] , SISMI provides the British with an intelligence report on Iraq's alleged efforts to obtain uranium from Niger. The report—delivered by Rocco Martino under the surveillance of SISMI—is reportedly based on the collection of mostly forged documents put together in Italy (see (Between Late 2000 and September 11, 2001)). The MI6 will include this information in a report it sends to Washington saying only that it was obtained from a “reliable source.” Washington treats the report as an independent confirmation of the Italian report (see October 15, 2001) and French report (see November 22, 2002). [Independent, 11/6/2005; La Repubblica, 10/25/2005; La Repubblica, 10/24/2005; San Francisco Chronicle, 10/30/2005]
People and organizations involved: Rocco Martino, UK Secret Intelligence Service, SISMI
          

October 15, 2001

       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 “Eriposte” 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, Defense Intelligence Agency, Mamadou Tandja, US Department of Energy, Nassirou Sabo, Wissam al-Zahawie, Central Intelligence Agency, SISMI, Bureau of Intelligence and Research
          

(After October 18, 2001)

       According to Italy's Repubblica, Nicolo Pollari, chief of SISMI, is disappointed with his attempts to communicate with the American intelligence community. (It is not clear from the reporting what exactly Pollari is dissappointed about. It has been widely interpreted to have meant that Pollari is disappointed about US intelligence's refusal to take SISMI's October 15 report seriously) Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi had reportedly asked Pollari to do what he could to tighten relations with Washington (see Shortly after September 11, 2001). According to La Repubblica, the Prime Minister's diplomatic advisor, Gianni Castellaneta, advises Pollari to look in “other directions.” The Italian minister of defense, Antonio Martino, invites Pollari to meet with American neoconservative Michael Ledeen, which he does in December (see December 2001). [La Repubblica, 10/25/2005]
People and organizations involved: Michael Ledeen, Gianni Castellaneta, Antonio Martino, Nicolo Pollari
          

October 18, 2001

       Nicolo Pollari, chief of SISMI, Italy's military intelligence service, responds to the CIA's request for clarification regarding intelligence it has suggesting Iraq secured a deal with Niger to purchase a large quantity of uranium. Pollari's page and a half letter explains that “the information comes form a creditable source, La Signora,” who has in the past “given SISMI the cryptographic codes and memorandum ledgers from the Niger Embassy.” [Il Messagero cited in La Repubblica, 11/11/2005]
People and organizations involved: Central Intelligence Agency, Nicolo Pollari
          

October 18, 2001

       The CIA issues a senior executive intelligence brief (SEIB) summarizing a recent report from SISMI (see October 15, 2001), Italy's military intelligence service, which suggested that Iraq had struck a deal with Niger to purchase uranium. The CIA report, titled “Iraq: Nuclear-Related Procurement Efforts,” notes, “There is no corroboration from other sources that such an agreement was reached or that uranium was transferred.” [Sources: Report On The US Intelligence Community's Prewar Intelligence Assessments On Iraq] As blogger “Eriposte” of theleftcoaster.org will point out [TheLeftCoaster [.org], 11/4/2005] , there is a discrepancy between this report and the Italian intelligence report it is summarizing. In this report, the CIA states that the uranium purchase deal was approved by the State Court of Niger in “early 2001,” whereas the SISMI report had reported that the approval took place in “late 2000.” The document, upon which this reporting is presumably based, states that the deal was approved by the court on Wednesday July 7, 2000 (which was actually a Friday). [Sources: Forged Niger documents]
People and organizations involved: Report On The US Intelligence Community's Prewar Intelligence Assessments On Iraq
          

November 20, 2001

       The US Embassy in Niamey, Niger's capital, disseminates a cable summarizing a recent meeting between the US ambassador and the director general of Niger's French-led mining consortium. The director general reportedly explained that “there was no possibility” that the government of Niger could have diverted any of the 3,000 tons of uranium produced by the consortium's two mines. [Sources: Report On The US Intelligence Community's Prewar Intelligence Assessments On Iraq]
          

December 7, 2001

       Michael Ledeen, an avid admirer of Machiavelli, argues in a piece published by National Review Online that the US must be “imperious, ruthless, and relentless” against the Muslim world until there has been “total surrender.” Any attempt on the part of the US to be “reasonable” or “evenhanded” will only empower Islamic militants, he asserts. He writes: “We will not be sated until we have had the blood of every miserable little tyrant in the Middle East, until every leader of every cell of the terror network is dead or locked securely away, and every last drooling anti-Semitic and anti-American mullah, imam, sheikh, and ayatollah is either singing the praises of the United States of America, or pumping gasoline, for a dime a gallon, on an American military base near the Arctic Circle.” [National Review Online, 12/7/2001] The piece is republished in the Jewish World Review four days later. [Jewish World Review, 12/11/2001]
People and organizations involved: Michael Ledeen
          

December 9, 2001

       The Bush administration sends two defense officials, Harold Rhode and Larry Franklin, to meet with Iranians in Rome in response to an Iranian government offer to provide information relevant to the war on terrorism. The offer had been backchanneled by the Iranians to the White House through Manucher Ghorbanifar, an Iranian arms trader and a central person in the Iran-Contra affair, who contacted another Iran-Contra figure, Michael Ledeen of the American Enterprise Institute. Ledeen passed the information on to his friends in the Defense Department who then relayed the offer to National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley. Hadley expressed no reservations about the proposed meeting and informed George J. Tenet, the director of central intelligence, and Deputy Secretary of State Richard L. Armitage. According to officials interviewed by the New York Times, the United States Embassy in Rome was not notified of the planned meeting as required by standard interagency procedures. Neither the US embassy nor CIA station chief in Rome learns of the three-day meeting until after it happens (see December 12, 2001). When they do catch wind of the meeting, they notify CIA and State Department headquarters in Washington which complain to the administration about how the meetings were arranged. [Washington Post, 8/9/03; New York Times, 12/7/03; Newsday, 8/9/03] In addition to Ghorbanifar, Ledeen, Franklin, and Rhode, the meeting is attended by Nicolo Pollari, head of SISMI, and Antonio Martino, Italy's minister of defense. [Washington Monthly, 9/2004] According to the Boston Globe, either at this meeting, a similar one in June (see June 2002), or both, Ledeen and Ghorbanifar discuss ways to destabilize the Iranian government, possibly using the Mujahedeen-e Khalq, a US-designated terrorist group, as a US proxy. [Boston Globe, 8/31/2004] Additionally, according to an unnamed SISMI source, Pollari speaks with Ledeen about intelligence his agency has collected (see October 15, 2001) suggesting that Iraq made a deal with Niger to purchase several tons of uranium. SISMI already sent a report to Washington on the matter in mid-October (see October 15, 2001). Reportedly, Pollari has also approached CIA Station Chief Jeff Castelli about the report, but Castelli has since indicated he is not interested in the information. [La Repubblica, 10/25/2005]
People and organizations involved: Antonio Martino, Harold Rhode, Larry Franklin, Michael Ledeen, Manucher Ghorbanifar, Nicolo Pollari, George Tenet, Harold Rhode, Stephen Hadley
          

December 12, 2001

       The newly-installed US ambassador to Italy, Mel Sembler, learns during the course of a private dinner with Iran-Contra figure Michael Ledeen and Italian defense minister Antonio Martino about a secret backchannel meeting that took place three days before (see December 2001) involving US defense officials, former Iran-Contra figures, and Iranian government officials. After the dinner, Sembler immediately contacts the CIA station chief in Rome to find out if he knows about the meeting. But the station chief says he does not know anything either. “Soon both Sembler and the Rome station chief were sending anxious queries back to the State Department and CIA headquarters in Langley, Va., respectively, raising alarms on both sides of the Potomac” since all US government contact with foreign government intelligence agencies is supposed to be overseen by the CIA. [Washington Monthly, 9/2004 Sources: Unnamed US Government sources]
People and organizations involved: Michael Ledeen, Mel Sembler, Antonio Martino
          

January 30, 2002

       The CIA sends Congress an unclassified report stating, “Baghdad may be attempting to acquire materials that could aid in reconstituting its nuclear-weapons program.” [New Yorker, 10/20/03]
People and organizations involved: Central Intelligence Agency
          

January 30, 2002

       Stephen Hadley, Condoleezza Rice's chief deputy on the National Security Council, instructs former Iran-Contra figure Michael Ledeen and officials in Douglas Feith's office to cease their dealings (see December 2001) with Manucher Ghorbanifar. [Washington Monthly, 9/2004]
People and organizations involved: Manucher Ghorbanifar, Douglas Feith, Michael Ledeen, Stephen Hadley
          

February 5, 2002

       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 12, 2002)

       In response to questions from Vice President Dick Cheney (see (February 12, 2002)), CIA operative Valerie Plame and officials from the CIA's DO Counterproliferation Division (CPD) meet to discuss what the agency should do to determine the validity of recent Italian intelligence reports (see October 15, 2001) (see February 5, 2002) alleging that Iraq had sought to purchase uranium from Niger. During the meeting, Plame suggests sending her husband, Joseph Wilson, an Africa expert and former US diplomat, to Niger to investigate the reports. In a memo to the deputy chief of the CPD, Plame says, “[M]y husband has good relations with both the PM [prime minister] and the former Minister of Mines (not to mention lots of French contacts), both of whom could possibly shed light on this sort of activity.” [Sources: Report On The US Intelligence Community's Prewar Intelligence Assessments On Iraq]
People and organizations involved: Joseph C. Wilson, Counterproliferation Division, Valerie Plame
          

(February 12, 2002)

       Vice President Dick Cheney's morning intelligence briefer provides Cheney with a Defense Intelligence Agency report on a recent report sent to Washington by the Italians suggesting that Iraq attempted to purchase uranium from Niger. Cheney asks about the implications of the report [New Yorker, 10/20/03; Time Magazine, 7/21/03 Sources: Lewis ("Scooter") Libby, Cathie Martin, Report On The US Intelligence Community's Prewar Intelligence Assessments On Iraq] and is reportedly dissatisfied with the initial response. He asks the agency to take another look (see Shortly after February 12, 2002). [New Yorker, 10/20/03 Sources: Former high-level CIA official]
People and organizations involved: Richard ("Dick") Cheney
          

February 12, 2002

       The Defense Intelligence Agency issues a report summarizing the February 5, 2002 SISMI report (see February 5, 2002) that suggested that Iraq had struck an agreement with Niger to purchase 500 tons of uranium per year. The report, titled “Niamey signed an agreement to sell 500 tons of uranium a year to Baghdad,” concludes that “Iraq probably is searching abroad for natural uranium to assist in its nuclear weapons program.” It fails to mention the concerns shared by some US intelligence analysts about the credibility of the source. The report is included in a morning briefing to Vice President Dick Cheney (see (February 12, 2002)). [Sources: Report On The US Intelligence Community's Prewar Intelligence Assessments On Iraq]
People and organizations involved: Defense Intelligence Agency, Richard ("Dick") Cheney
          

February 13, 2002

       The CIA's DO Counterproliferation Division (CPD) sends a cable to an unnamed government office or official (the identity of which is redacted in the source document) requesting approval to send former ambassador Joseph Wilson to Niger to investigate Italian intelligence reports that Iraq has attempted to purchase uranium from that country. The cable also requests additional information from Italy regarding the matter. [Sources: Report On The US Intelligence Community's Prewar Intelligence Assessments On Iraq]
People and organizations involved: Counterproliferation Division, Joseph C. Wilson, Italy
          

Shortly after February 12, 2002

       The Director of Central Intelligence's (DCI) Center for Weapons Intelligence, Nonproliferation, and Arms Control (WINPAC) completes a “senior publish when ready” report, an intelligence assessment with limited distribution, which states, “[I]nformation on the alleged uranium contract between Iraq and Niger comes exclusively from a foreign government service report (see October 15, 2001) that lacks crucial details, and we are working to clarify the information and to determine whether it can be corroborated.” The report discusses the details of a recent foreign intelligence report (see February 5, 2002) issued by the CIA Directorate of Operations and says that “some of the information in the report contradicts reporting (see November 20, 2001) from the US Embassy in Niamey, Niger. US diplomats say the French government-led consortium that operates Niger's two uranium mines maintains complete control over uranium mining and yellowcake production.” The CIA sends a separate version of this assessment to Vice President Dick Cheney. Unlike the official version, the copy sent to Cheney names the foreign intelligence agency, which the New Yorker will later reveal is the Italian SISMI. [New Yorker, 10/20/03 Sources: Report On The US Intelligence Community's Prewar Intelligence Assessments On Iraq] Former CIA analyst Ray McGovern describes Cheney's receipt of this document as “odd.” “[I]n more than two years of briefing then-Vice President George H. W. Bush every other morning, not once did he ask a question about a DIA report or even indicate that he had read one,” McGovern will note. “That this particular report was given to Cheney almost certainly reflects the widespread practice of ‘cherry picking’ intelligence.” [AfterDowningStreet [.org], 7/25/2005]
People and organizations involved: Richard ("Dick") Cheney, Ray McGovern, Weapons Intelligence, Nonproliferation, and Arms Control
          

Shortly after February 13, 2002

       Midlevel CIA officials in the agency's Directorate of Operations (DO) Counterproliferation Division (CPD) decide to send former ambassador Joseph Wilson to Niger to investigate allegations that Iraq sought to procure uranium from that country. Wilson's wife, Valerie Plame, a CPD officer, relays the request to him explaining that “there's this crazy report” asserting that Iraq made a deal with Niger on the sale of a large quantity of uranium. [Sources: Report On The US Intelligence Community's Prewar Intelligence Assessments On Iraq]
People and organizations involved: Counterproliferation Division, Valerie Plame, Joseph C. Wilson
          

February 18, 2002

       The US embassy in Niger disseminates a cable reporting that the alleged Iraq-Niger uranium deal “provides sufficient detail to warrant another hard look at Niger's uranium sales. The names of GON [government of Niger] officials cited in the report track closely with those we know to be in those, or closely-related positions. However, the purported 4,000-ton annual production listed is fully 1,000 tons more than the mining companies claim to have produced in 2001.” The report says that US ambassador to Niger Barbro Owens-Kirkpatrick met with the Nigerien Foreign Minister to ask for an unequivocal assurance that Niger is not selling uranium to so-called “rogue states.” The cable also notes that in September 2001 Nigerien Prime Minister Mamadou Tandja had informed the US embassy that there were buyers like Iraq who had expressed willingness to pay more for Niger's uranium than France, but the Prime Minister assured them at that time that “of course Niger cannot sell to them.” However, the cable concludes that “we should not dismiss out of hand the possibility that some scheme could be, or has been, underway to supply Iraq with yellowcake from here.” [Sources: Report On The US Intelligence Community's Prewar Intelligence Assessments On Iraq]
People and organizations involved: Mamadou Tandja, US Embassy in Niger, Barbro Owens-Kirkpatrick
          

February 19, 2002

       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
          

February 20, 2002

       The CIA's Directorate of Operations (DO) Counterproliferation Division (CPD) provides former ambassador Joseph Wilson with talking points for his scheduled trip to Niger (see February 19, 2002). The points specify that Wilson should ask Nigerien officials if they have been approached, conducted discussions, or entered into any agreements concerning uranium transfers with any “countries of concern.” Wilson should also determine how Niger accounts for all of its uranium each year, the points say. [Sources: Report On The US Intelligence Community's Prewar Intelligence Assessments On Iraq]
People and organizations involved: Joseph C. Wilson, Counterproliferation Division
          

February 21, 2002-March 4, 2002

       The CIA sends Joseph C. Wilson, a retired US diplomat, to Niger to investigate claims that Iraq had sought to purchase uranium from that country. The trip is paid for by the CIA. But the identity of the party who requests the mission is later disputed. While Wilson will claim the trip was requested directly by Dick Cheney's office, other sources will indicate that the CIA had decided (see February 19, 2002) that a delegation to Niger was needed in order to investigate questions raised by one of Dick Cheney's aides. [Independent, 6/29/03; New York Times, 7/6/03; The Washington Post, 6/12/03; New York Times, 5/6/03 Sources: Unnamed senior officials, Report On The US Intelligence Community's Prewar Intelligence Assessments On Iraq, Joseph C. Wilson] Wilson arrives in Niger on February 26, two days after Marine General Carlton W. Fulford Jr.'s meeting (see February 24, 2002) with Nigerien officials. Wilson meets with US Ambassador to Niger Barbro Owens-Kirkpatrick who informs Wilson that she has already concluded that the allegations of uranium sales to Iraq are unfounded. She tells Wilson “she had already debunked them in her reports to Washington.” After spending eight days chatting with current government officials, former government officials, and people associated with the country's uranium business, Wilson concludes the rumors are false. He calls the allegations “bogus and unrealistic.” [The Washington Post, 6/12/03; Knight Ridder, 6/13/03; ABC News, 6/12/03; Independent, 6/29/03; CBS News, 7/11/03; New York Times, 7/6/03; Novak, 7/14/03; Vanity Fair, 5/2004, pg 282 Sources: Joseph C. Wilson]
People and organizations involved: Joseph C. Wilson, Barbro Owens-Kirkpatrick  Additional Info 
          

February 24, 2002

       Four-Star Marine General Carlton W. Fulford Jr., deputy commander of the US European Command, arrives in Niger on a scheduled refueling stop. At the request of US Ambassador to Niger Barbro Owens-Kirkpatrick, Fulford joins the ambassador at a meeting with Niger's President Mamadou Tandja and Foreign Minister Aichatou Mindaoudou. He explains the importance of keeping Niger's ore deposits secure. At the meeting, President Tandja assures the ambassador and General Fulford that Niger is determined to keep its uranium “in safe hands.” [Voce of America, 7/15/03; Vanity Fair, 5/2004, pg 282; The Washington Post, 7/15/03 Sources: Report On The US Intelligence Community's Prewar Intelligence Assessments On Iraq] After the meeting, Fulford is of the opinion that Niger's uranium is safely in the hands of a French consortium and that there is little risk that the material will end up in the wrong hands. These findings are passed on to General Joseph Ralston who provides them to General Richard B. Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. [Vanity Fair, 5/2004, pg 282; Voce of America, 7/15/03; The Washington Post, 7/15/03 Sources: Carlton W. Fulford] The Pentagon will later say that Donald Rumsfeld was not informed about the trip or its conclusions. [Voice of America, 7/15/03]
People and organizations involved: Barbro Owens-Kirkpatrick, Joseph Ralston, Richard B. Myers, Aichatou Mindaoudou, Mamadou Tandja, Carlton W. Fulford  Additional Info 
          

March 1, 2002

       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
          

March 5, 2002

       In response to a request from Vice President Dick Cheney for an update on the Niger uranium issue made a few days earlier, CIA WINPAC analysts provide an analytic update to Cheney's intelligence briefer stating that the government of Niger has said it is making all efforts to ensure that its uranium will be used for only peaceful purposes. The update says the foreign government service (Italian military intelligence agency, SISMI) that provided the original report “was unable to provide new information, but continues to assess that its source is reliable.” The update also notes that the CIA would “be debriefing a source who may have information related to the alleged sale on March 5.” [Sources: Report On The US Intelligence Community's Prewar Intelligence Assessments On Iraq]
People and organizations involved: Richard ("Dick") Cheney, Central Intelligence Agency
          

March 5, 2002

       Two CIA officers from the CIA's Directorate of Operations (DO) debrief former ambassador Joseph Wilson who returned from his trip to Niger the previous day (see February 21, 2002-March 4, 2002). The debriefing takes place in Wilson's home. Based on information provided verbally by the former ambassador, the DO case officer writes a draft intelligence report and sends it to the DO reports officer who adds additional relevant information from his notes. [Sources: Report On The US Intelligence Community's Prewar Intelligence Assessments On Iraq]
People and organizations involved: Central Intelligence Agency, Joseph C. Wilson
          

March 8, 2002

       The CIA sends a 1 1/2-page cable to the White House, the FBI, the Justice Department, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and the Defense Intelligence Agency, with news that a CIA source (Joseph Wilson) sent to Niger has failed to find any evidence to back claims that Iraq sought uranium from that country. [BBC, 7/8/03; ABC News, 6/12/03; BBC, 7/8/03; Knight Ridder Newspapers, 6/12/03; Knight Ridder, 6/13/03; The Washington Post, 6/13/03 Sources: senior CIA official, Report On The US Intelligence Community's Prewar Intelligence Assessments On Iraq] The report does not name the CIA source or indicate that the person is a former ambassador. Instead it describes the source as “a contact with excellent access who does not have an established reporting record” and notes that the Nigeriens with whom he spoke “knew their remarks could reach the US government and may have intended to influence as well as inform.” A later Senate report on the US' prewar intelligence on Iraq will state: “The intelligence report indicated that former Nigerien Prime Minister Ibrahim Mayaki was unaware of any contracts that had been signed between Niger and any rogue states for the sale of yellowcake while he was Prime Minister (1997-1999) or Foreign Minister (1996-1997). Mayaki said that if there had been any such contract during his tenure, he would have been aware of it.” Mayaki, according to the report, also acknowledged a June 1999 visit (see June 1999) by a businessman who arranged a meeting between Mayaki and an Iraqi delegation to discuss “expanding commercial relations” between Niger and Iraq. The intelligence report says that Mayaki interpreted “expanding commercial relations” to mean that the delegation wanted to discuss purchasing uranium. The meeting did take place, but according to the report, “Mayaki let the matter drop due to UN sanctions on Iraq.” The intelligence report also says that Niger's former Minister for Energy and Mines, Mai Manga, told Wilson that there have been no sales outside of International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) channels since the mid-1980s. Mai Manga is also reported to have described how the French mining consortium controls Nigerien uranium mining and keeps the uranium very tightly controlled from the time it is mined until the time it is loaded onto ships in Benin for transport overseas. Mai Manga said he believed it would be difficult, if not impossible, to arrange a special clandestine shipment of uranium to a country like Iraq. [Sources: Report On The US Intelligence Community's Prewar Intelligence Assessments On Iraq] Bush administration officials will later say in June 2003 that the cable left out important details of the trip. They will say it did not include the conclusions of the trip. And consequently, the Washington Post will report in June 2003, “It was not considered unusual or very important and not passed on to Condoleezza Rice, the president's national security adviser, or other senior White House officials.” [Knight Ridder, 6/13/03; The Washington Post, 6/13/03; The Washington Post, 6/12/03 Sources: senior administration official] But the CIA source who made the journey, Joseph Wilson, will find this explanation hard to believe. “Though I did not file a written report [he provided an oral briefing (see March 5, 2002)], there should be at least four documents in United States government archives confirming my mission,” he will later explain. “The documents should include the ambassador's report of my debriefing in Niamey, a separate report written by the embassy staff, a CIA report summing up my trip, and a specific answer from the agency to the office of the vice president (this may have been delivered orally). While I have not seen any of these reports, I have spent enough time in government to know that this is standard operating procedure.” [New York Times, 7/6/03 Sources: Joseph C. Wilson] According to intelligence analysts later interviewed by congressional investigators, the intelligence community does not believe the trip has contributed any significant information to what is already known about the issue, aside from the details of the 1999 Iraqi delegation. [Sources: Report On The US Intelligence Community's Prewar Intelligence Assessments On Iraq]
People and organizations involved: Mai Manga, Ibrahim Mayaki, Joseph C. Wilson, Central Intelligence Agency
          

March 25, 2002

       The CIA's Directorate of Operations (DO) issues a third and final intelligence report from Italy's military intelligence service, SISMI, on the alleged 2000 Niger-Iraq uranium purchase deal. The report does not provide any information about its source. A later Senate investigation will find that of the seven names mentioned by the Italian reports, “two were not the individuals in the positions described in the reports” and “one date, July 7, 2000, is said to be a Wednesday in the report, but was actually a Friday.” [Knight Ridder, 6/13/03; The Washington Post, 3/22/03; Knight Ridder, 11/4/2005 Sources: Unnamed US Intelligence Officials]
          

Before September 2002

       According to a senior intelligence official interviewed by the Associated Press in June of 2003, the CIA shares with Britain the results of Joseph Wilson's trip to Niger (see February 21, 2002-March 4, 2002), advising British intelligence that claims that Iraq attempted to procure uranium from Niger are unsubstantiated. But another report, by the Guardian in London the following month, contradicts this AP report. It cites a series of letters to the British Foreign Affairs Committee which show that the US had asked Britain not to use the Africa-uranium claim, but did not provide details about Wilson's mission to Niger. [Associated Press, 6/12/03; Observer, 7/13/03; Time Magazine, 7/21/03] In spite of this warning, Britain publishes a dossier in September which includes the claim.(see September 24, 2002)
People and organizations involved: Joseph C. Wilson
          

September 2002

       A member of the National Security Council staff speaks with a CIA analyst about the allegation that Iraq attempted to purchase uranium from Niger. The CIA analyst reportedly tells the NSC staff member that the claim should be removed from an upcoming speech (It is not known which speech this concerns). The CIA analyst later tells a Senate investigative committee that the NSC staff member said removing the allegation would leave the British “flapping in the wind.” [Sources: Report On The US Intelligence Community's Prewar Intelligence Assessments On Iraq]
People and organizations involved: France
          

September 4, 2002

       Neoconservative Michael Ledeen argues in a piece published by the Wall Street Journal that the US must not limit the next military strike to Iraq alone. Rather, according to Ledeen, the US “should instead be talking about using all our political, moral, and military genius to support a vast democratic revolution to liberate all the peoples of the Middle East from tyranny.” In addition to Iraq, he says, the governments of Iran, Syria, and Saudi Arabia must also be overthrown. “Stability is an unworthy American mission, and a misleading concept to boot. We do not want stability in Iran, Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, and even Saudi Arabia; we want things to change. The real issue is not whether, but how to destabilize.” [Wall Street Journal, 9/4/2002]
People and organizations involved: Michael Ledeen
          

September 9, 2002

       Nicolo Pollari, chief of SISMI, Italy's military intelligence service, meets briefly with US National Security Council officials. [Il Fogglio, 10/28/2005] Present at the meeting are National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice; her deputy, Stephen Hadley; and other US and Italian officials. [AGI online, 10/29/2005; American Prospect, 10/25/2005; Los Angeles Times, 10/28/2005; La Repubblica, 10/25/2005; La Repubblica, 10/26/2005 Sources: Unnamed high-ranking Italian SISMI source, Unnamed Bush administration official] This meeting is not reported until 2005, when Italy's La Repubblica reports that a meeting—arranged through a backchannel by Gianni Castellaneta, the Italian prime minister's diplomatic advisor—took place between Pollari and Hadley on this date. The report is refuted by Italy which insists it was actually a short meeting between Pollari and Rice. Hadley, Italy says, was present but not really part of the meeting. [AGI online, 10/29/2005] The Bush administration also insists the meeting was of little importance. Frederick Jones, a National Security Council spokesman, describes the meeting as a courtesy call of 15 minutes or less. He also says, “No one present at that meeting has any recollection of yellowcake [Uranium oxide] being discussed or documents being provided.” [New York Times, 10/28/2005] It is not clear from the reporting, however, if the meeting acknowledged by Italy and Washington, is in fact the same meeting reported by La Repubblica.
People and organizations involved: Condoleezza Rice, Stephen Hadley, Nicolo Pollari, Gianni Castellaneta
          

September 12, 2002

       Panorama, an Italian weekly owned by Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, reports that Iraq's intelligence agency, the Mukhabarat, obtained 500 tons of uranium from Nigeria [not Niger, as other reports at this time are alleging] through a Jordanian intermediary. [La Repubblica, 10/25/2005]
People and organizations involved: Panorama
          

September 24, 2002

       The British government releases its now-infamous white paper on Iraq's unconventional weapons capabilities. In the section discussing Iraq's alleged nuclear weapons program, the document notes: “[T]here is no definitive intelligence evidence that [the specialized aluminum] is destined for a nuclear program.” The dossier, however, insists that Iraq has attempted to purchase large quantities of uranium from Africa. “But there is intelligence that Iraq has sought the supply of significant quantities of uranium from Africa,” it states. “Iraq has no active civil nuclear power programme or nuclear power plants, and therefore has no legitimate reason to acquire uranium.” [British Government, 9/24/02] After it is revealed early the following year that US intelligence had relied on forged documents provided to it by a foreign intelligence agency (Italy's military intelligence agency, SISMI), the British will insist the allegations in the September dossier are still valid. Reports will suggest that the British allegations are based on a 1999 visit to Niger by Iraqi diplomat Wissam al-Zahawie (see February 1999). But according to US intelligence officials, this claim is universally regarded within intelligence circles as unsubstantiated. In fact, prior to the dossier's release, US intelligence warned the British against making this allegation (see Before September 2002). In early February 2003, the UN's International Atomic Energy Agency will report that there is no evidence that Iraq had attempted to purchase uranium from Niger (see June 12, 2003). Defending Britain's decision to include the claim in the September dossier, a British Foreign official will explain to the Independent in August 2003: “Niger has two main exports—uranium and chickens. The Iraqi delegation did not go to Niger for chickens.” But Al-Zahawie disputes this. “My only mission was to meet the president of Niger and invite him to visit Iraq,” he tells the Independent. “The invitation and the situation in Iraq resulting from the genocidal UN sanctions were all we talked about. I had no other instructions, and certainly none concerning the purchase of uranium.... I have been cleared by everyone else, including the US and the United Nations. I am surprised to hear there are still question marks over me in Britain. I am willing to cooperate with anyone who wants to see me and find out more.” [Independent, 8/10/03a; New Yorker, 10/20/03 Sources: Unnamed US intelligence sources, Wissam al-Zahawie] Later reporting will reveal that the source for the dossier is in fact an Italian intelligence report (see (Mid-October 2001)) that was based on the set of forged documents (see (Mid-October 2001)). [La Repubblica, 10/24/2005; La Repubblica, 10/25/2005]
          

September 24, 2002

       George Tenet briefs the Senate Intelligence Committee on the 2002 National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) on Iraq (see October 1, 2002). In his summary of the document, he includes the allegation that Iraq attempted to obtain uranium from Niger. He mentions that there are some doubts about the reliability of the evidence, but he does not say that the CIA had sent former diplomat Joseph C. Wilson as an envoy to Niger in February (see February 21, 2002-March 4, 2002) and that the former ambassador's conclusion had been that the claims were “bogus.” [The Washington Post, 6/12/03; ABC News, 6/16/03]
People and organizations involved: Joseph C. Wilson, George Tenet
          

(September 24, 2002)

       Joe Wilson, who had been sent to Niger by the CIA in February 2002 (see February 21, 2002-March 4, 2002) and who had determined that the allegations that Iraq had sought to obtain uranium from Niger were false, contacts the CIA and advises the agency to inform the British about the intelligence that had been acquired during his mission to Niger. The London Independent later reports, “When he saw ... claims [that Iraq had attempted to procure uranium from an African country] in Britain's dossier on Iraq last September, he even went as far as telling CIA officials that they needed to alert their British counterparts to his investigation.” [Independent, 6/29/03]
People and organizations involved: Joseph C. Wilson
          

October 1, 2002

       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 
          

Early October 2002

       Elisabetta Burba, a reporter for the Italian current affairs weekly Panorama, receives a phone call from Rocco Martino, an Italian information peddler and former SISMI agent. He tells her that he has some documents that might interest her. Burba has obtained information from Martino before and she considers him to be a reliable source. [Financial Times, 8/2/04; Corriere della Sera, 7/17/03, cited in Talking Points Memo, 10/31/03 Sources: Elisabetta Burba] They meet at a bar in Rome and he gives her copies of the documents, totaling some 22 pages, mostly in French, and offers to give her the originals for a sum of ten thousand dollars. Burba tells her source that she needs to verify the authenticity of the documents before her employer will agree to purchase the documents. [Corriere della Sera, date unknown, cited in Talking Points Memo, 10/31/03; New Yorker, 10/20/03; Agence France Presse, 7/19/03; Reuters, 7/19/03 Sources: Elisabetta Burba]
People and organizations involved: Elisabetta Burba
          

October 2, 2002

       Deputy Director of Central Intelligence John E. McLaughlin testifies before the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence. When asked by Senator Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) whether he has read the British white paper (see September 24, 2002) on Iraq and whether he disagrees with any of its conclusions he responds: “[T]he one thing where I think they stretched a little bit beyond where we would stretch is on the points about Iraq seeking uranium from various African locations. We've looked at those reports and we don't think they are very credible...” [Sources: Senate Intelligence Report on Iraq, 7/2004]
People and organizations involved: Jon Kyl, John E. McLaughlin
          

October 4, 2002

       Robert D. Walpole, National Intelligence Officer (NIO) for Strategic and Nuclear Programs, testifies before the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence. In response to a question from Senator Fred Thompson (R-Tenn.) regarding his assessment of Britain's recent white paper (see September 24, 2002) on Iraq, he says that the British “put more emphasis on the uranium acquisition in Africa than we would.” He added: “There is some information on attempts and, as we said, maybe not to this committee, but in the last couple of weeks, there's a question about some of those attempts because of the control of the material in those countries. In one case the mine is completely flooded and how would they get the material...” [Sources: Senate Intelligence Report on Iraq, 7/2004]
People and organizations involved: Fred Thompson, Robert Walpole
          

October 5, 2002

       The CIA's Associate Deputy Director for Intelligence [ADDI] sends a four-page memo to Bush administration officials, including Bush's deputy national security adviser, Stephen J. Hadley, and the chief speechwriter, Michael Gerson, expressing doubt over claims that Iraq had attempted to obtain uranium from Niger. On page 3 of the memo, the ADDI advises removing the allegation from the draft of Bush's upcoming speech in Cincinnati. “[R]emove the sentence because the amount is in dispute and it is debatable whether it can be acquired from the source. We told Congress that the Brits have exaggerated this issue. Finally, the Iraqis already have 550 metric tons of uranium oxide in their inventory.” [The Washington Post, 7/23/03] Despite the warning, draft seven of the speech, completed later in the day, contains the passage: “[T]he regime has been caught attempting to purchase substantial amounts of uranium oxide from sources in Africa.” [Sources: Senate Intelligence Report on Iraq, 7/2004] Stephen Hadley will later claim in July 2003 that he did not brief Condoleezza Rice on the memo. [The Washington Post, 7/27/03]
People and organizations involved: Stephen Hadley, Condoleezza Rice, Michael Gerson, Central Intelligence Agency
          

October 6, 2002

       The CIA's Associate Deputy Director for Intelligence [ADDI] receives draft seven of Bush's upcoming speech in Cincinnati and sees that the speech writers have failed to remove the passage on Iraq's alleged attempt to purchase uranium from Niger, as the CIA had advised the day before (see October 5, 2002). He informs Director of Central Intelligence George Tenet who personally calls White House officials, including Deputy National Security Advisor Stephen Hadley, with the CIA's concerns. The ADDI reportedly tells Tenet that the “president should not be a fact witness on this issue” because the agency's analysts consider the reporting “weak” and say it is based solely on one source. The allegation is finally removed from the speech. Later in the day, to press its point even further, the CIA faxes another memo, summarizing its position on the Africa-uranium claim. The memo states: “[M]ore on why we recommend removing the sentence about procuring uranium oxide from Africa: Three points (1) The evidence is weak. One of the two mines cited by the source as the location of the uranium oxide is flooded. The other mine cited by the source is under the control of the French authorities. (2) The procurement is not particularly significant to Iraq's nuclear ambitions because the Iraqis already have a large stock of uranium oxide in their inventory. And (3) we have shared points one and two with Congress, telling them that the Africa story is overblown and telling them this is one of the two issues where we differed with the British.” [The Washington Post, 7/13/03; The Washington Post, 7/23/03 Sources: Senate Intelligence Report on Iraq, 7/2004] The memo's recipients include National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice and her deputy, Stephen Hadley. [The Washington Post, 7/23/03]
People and organizations involved: Condoleezza Rice, Central Intelligence Agency, George Tenet, Stephen Hadley
          

October 8-9, 2002

       One day after receiving the Niger documents (see Early October 2002), Elisabetta Burba meets with her editors and expresses her concern that the documents might be fakes. She notes that the amount of uranium specified in the documents—500 tons—is very large. Moreover, the letters do not include details on how the uranium would be delivered. She proposes that she travel to Niger to determine the document's authenticity. [Corriere della Sera, 7/19/03, cited in Talking Points Memo, 10/31/03; Associated Press, 7/20/03 Sources: Elisabetta Burba] But Burba is instructed by the magazine's editor-in-chief, Carolo Rossella, who is “known for his ties to the Berlusconi government,” to hand them over to the American embassy in Rome for verification. [The Washington Post, 7/20/03; New Yorker, 10/20/03; Corriere della Sera, 7/19/03, cited in Talking Points Memo, 10/31/03 Sources: Elisabetta Burba]
People and organizations involved: Carlo Rossella, Elisabetta Burba
          

October 9-16, 2002

       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 
          

After October 9, 2002

       Elisabetta Burba travels to Niger to investigate the documents she received a few day earlier (see Early October 2002). In Niger, she quickly becomes convinced that the documents are not authentic. Seymour Hersh will later report: “She visited mines and the ports that any exports would pass through, spoke to European businessmen and officials informed about Niger's uranium industry, and found no trace of a sale. She also learned that the transport company and the bank mentioned in the papers were too small and too ill-equipped to handle such a transaction.” With all evidence indicating that the papers are bogus, Burba abandons the story. [New Yorker, 10/20/03; The Washington Post, 7/20/03; Associated Press, 7/20/03]
People and organizations involved: Elisabetta Burba
          

November 22, 2002

       The French Ministry of Foreign Affairs Director for Nonproliferation informs US State Department officials that France is in possession of intelligence suggesting that Iraq attempted to purchase uranium from Niger. He says that France has determined that the attempt was not successful. [Sources: Senate Intelligence Report on Iraq, 7/2004] The assessment is based on intelligence France obtained 1999, not the forged documents—which French intelligence know are fakes (see Before September 11, 2001 or in October 2002). [Sunday Times, 11/6/2005]
People and organizations involved: France, US Department of State
          

December 17, 2002

       Analysts with CIA's WINPAC unit produce a paper noting two omissions in Iraq's December 7 declaration (see December 7, 2002). The paper says that Iraq failed to explain its procurement of aluminum tubes and “does not acknowledge efforts to procure uranium from Niger, one of the points addressed in the UK. Dossier (see September 24, 2002).” The report is sent to the National Security Council. [Sources: Report On The US Intelligence Community's Prewar Intelligence Assessments On Iraq]
People and organizations involved: Weapons Intelligence, Nonproliferation, and Arms Control
          

December 19, 2002

       The State Department publishes a fact sheet titled “Illustrative Examples of Omissions From the Iraqi Declaration to the United Nations Security Council,” which states that in its December 2002 declaration (see December 7, 2002) to the UN, Iraq “ignores [its] efforts to procure uranium from Niger.” [US Department of State, 12/19/03; Associated Press, 6/12/03; Associated Press, 7/14/03] But at this time, there is no evidence that Iraq had in fact sought to obtain uranium from Niger. Prior to the fact sheet's publication, the CIA had warned the State Department about this and recommended that the phrase be removed—advice the State Department chose to ignore. [Associated Press, 6/12/03 Sources: Greg Thielmann]
          

December 23, 2002

       An Iraq nuclear analyst from the State Department's Bureau of Intelligence and Research (INR) sends an email to a DOE analyst indicating the analyst's surprise that INR's well-known alternative views on both the aluminum tubes and the uranium information were not included in a paper recently put together by the CIA's WINPAC unit (see December 17, 2002). The DOE analyst replies to the INR analyst in an e-mail, commenting, “It is most disturbing that WINPAC is essentially directing foreign policy in this matter. There are some very strong points to be made in respect to Iraq's arrogant non-compliance with UN sanctions. However, when individuals attempt to convert those ‘strong statements’ into the ‘knock out’ punch, the administration will ultimately look foolish—i.e. the tubes and Niger!” [Sources: Report On The US Intelligence Community's Prewar Intelligence Assessments On Iraq]
People and organizations involved: Weapons Intelligence, Nonproliferation, and Arms Control
          

January 23, 2003

       In a report titled “What Does Disarmament Look Like?” the White House says that Iraq failed to explain its “efforts to procure uranium from abroad for its nuclear weapons program” in its December 2002 declaration (see December 7, 2002) to the UN. [US President, 1/23/03; The Washington Post, 8/8/03 Sources: What Does Disarmament Look Like?]
          

January 23, 2003

       Criticizing Iraq's December 2002 declaration (see December 7, 2002) to the UN, Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz says in a speech before the Council on Foreign Relations: “There is no mention of Iraqi efforts to procure uranium from abroad.” [The Washington Post, 8/8/03]
People and organizations involved: Paul Wolfowitz
          

January 23, 2003

       The New York Times publishes an op-ed piece written by Condoleezza Rice, titled, “Why we know Iraq is Lying,” in which the National Security Council advisor writes that “Iraq has filed a false declaration to the United Nations that amounts to a 12,200-page lie,” [New York Times, 1/23/03] citing among other things, its failure “to account for or explain Iraq's efforts to get uranium from abroad.” [New York Times, 1/23/03] She says that Iraq has reneged on its commitment to disarm itself of its alleged arsenal of weapons of mass destruction. Instead of full cooperation and transparency, Iraq has “a high-level political commitment to maintain and conceal its weapons,” she claims. Iraq is maintaining “institutions whose sole purpose is to thwart the work of the inspectors,” she adds, asserting that the country is not allowing inspectors “immediate, unimpeded, unrestricted access” to the “facilities and people” involved in its alleged weapons program. [New York Times, 1/23/03]
People and organizations involved: Condoleezza Rice
          

A day or two days before January 28

       Robert G. Joseph, director for nonproliferation at the National Security Council (NSC), telephones senior CIA official Alan Foley and argues that the Africa-uranium claim should be included in Bush's upcoming State of the Union address. When Foley warns that the allegation has little evidence to support it, Joseph instead requests that the speech include a remark saying that the British had learned that Iraq was seeking uranium in Africa, leaving out the bit about Niger and the exact quantity of uranium that was allegedly sought. [Time Magazine, 7/21/03; The Washington Post, 7/27/03; New York Times, 7/17/03; The Washington Post, 7/17/03; New York Times, 7/17/03 Sources: Two unnamed senior administration officials interviewed by Time, Alan Foley] Joseph claims he does not recall the discussion and White House communications director Dan Bartlett calls Foley's version of events a “conspiracy theory.” [The Washington Post, 7/27/03]
People and organizations involved: Robert G. Joseph, Alan Foley, Dan Bartlett
          

January 26, 2003

       Secretary of State Colin Powell, in a speech before the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, asks: “Why is Iraq still trying to procure uranium and the special equipment needed to transform it into material for nuclear weapons?” [Washington Post, 8/8/03, pp A10]
People and organizations involved: Colin Powell
          

January 28, 2003

       A White House report to Congress titled “A report on matters relevant to the authorization for use of military force against Iraq,” complains that Iraq did not report in its December 2002 declaration (see December 7, 2002) to the UN that it had attempted “to acquire uranium and the means to enrich it.” [The Washington Post, 8/8/03; US President, 1/28/03 Sources: A report on matters relevant to the authorization for use of military force against Iraq]
People and organizations involved: US Congress, Bush administration
          

January 28, 2003

       Bush gives his State of the Union address, making several false allegations about Iraq. [US President, 1/28/03]
He says, “The British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa. Saddam Hussein has not credibly explained these activities.... He clearly has much to hide.” [US President, 1/28/03; Independent, 6/5/03; White House website]
The British allegation cited by Bush concerns a SISMI (Italy's military intelligence) report (see (Mid-October 2001)) based on a set of forged documents. Months after the speech, with evidence mounting that the statement was completely false, the administration will retract this claim (see July 11, 2003). [Independent, 8/10/03a Sources: Wissam al-Zahawie]
Bush alleges that a shipment of aluminum tubes imported by Iraq were intended to be used in the country's alleged nuclear weapons program. “Our intelligence sources tell us that he has attempted to purchase high-strength aluminum tubes suitable for nuclear weapons production. Saddam Hussein has not credibly explained these activities. He clearly has much to hide.” [US President, 1/28/03]

Bush accuses Iraq of having enough material “to produce over 25,000 liters of anthrax—enough doses to kill several million people ... more than 38,000 liters of botulinum toxin—enough to subject millions of people to death by respiratory failure ... as much as 500 tons of sarin, mustard and VX nerve agent.” [Washington Post, 1/28/03]

Bush alleges: “Iraqi intelligence officers are posing as the scientists inspectors are supposed to interview. Real scientists have been coached by Iraqi officials on what to say.” [White House, 1/28/03]
But Hans Blix, the chief UNMOVIC weapons inspector, tells the New York Times in an interview that he knows of no evidence supporting that claim. [New York Times, 1/31/03] Bush says, “We know that Iraq, in the late 1990s, had several mobile weapons labs . . . designed to produce germ warfare agents and can be moved from place to a place to evade inspectors,” citing “three Iraqi defectors” as sources of the information. One of the defectors referred to by Bush is “Curveball,” whom the CIA station chief in Germany warned was not reliable the day before (see January 27, 2003). Another source for the claim was Mohammad Harith, whom the Defense Intelligence Agency had labeled a “fabricator” the previous May (see May 2002).
People and organizations involved: Hans Blix, George W. Bush  Additional Info 
          

January 29, 2003

       Donald Rumsfeld says at the beginning of a press conference that Saddam's “regime has the design for a nuclear weapon; it was working on several different methods of enriching uranium, and recently was discovered seeking significant quantities of uranium from Africa.” [The Washington Post, 8/8/03]
People and organizations involved: Donald Rumsfeld
          

February 5, 2003

       After months of delay, the US State Department provides the UN's International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) with the Niger documents . The State Department includes the following caveat with the documents: “We cannot confirm these reports and have questions regarding some specific claims.” French nuclear scientist Jacques Bautes, head of the UN Iraq Nuclear Verification office, quickly determines they are fakes. [Independent, 7/10/03; The Washington Post, 7/20/03] Several months later, Melissa Fleming, a spokeswoman for the IAEA, will describe to reporters the ease with which the documents' authenticity was determined. “These were blatant forgeries. We were able to determine that they were forgeries very quickly.” [Independent, 6/5/03] When Jacques Bautes asks for an explanation from the US, there is no response. “What do you have to say? They had nothing to say,” Baute will later say in an interview with Seymour Hersh. [New Yorker, 3/31/03] There are numerous indications that the documents are forgeries.
Several of the names and titles of officials mentioned in the documents are incorrect. For example, one of the letters is purportedly signed by Niger's President Tandja Mamadou. The signature is said to be an obvious forgery. An unnamed IAEA official will tell Reuters, “It doesn't even look close to the signature of the president. I'm not a (handwriting) expert but when I looked at it my jaw dropped.” [Globe and Mail, 3/8/03; Reuters, 3/26/03; New Yorker, 3/31/03; Knight Ridder, 6/13/03; Reuters, 3/26/03 Sources: Forged Niger documents]
Another, dated October 10, 2000, is signed “Alle Elhadj Habibou” —Niger's foreign minister who had not been in office since 1989. [New Yorker, 3/31/03; Reuters, 3/26/03; Knight Ridder, 6/13/03 Sources: Forged Niger documents] Another letter includes the forged signature and seal of Wissam al-Zahawie, Iraq's former ambassador to the Vatican. When Mr. Al-Zahawie is interviewed by the IAEA, he informs the agency that it was standard procedure for all diplomatic notes to be initialed and sealed, while letters were only to be signed—with no seal. He explains that correspondences were never both signed and sealed. [Independent, 8/10/03a Sources: Forged Niger documents]
In addition to problems with signatures and seals, there are other problems as well. One letter is on the wrong letterhead. [Knight Ridder, 6/13/03]
The “letterhead was out of date and referred to Niger's ‘Supreme Military Council’ from the pre-1999 era—which would be like calling Russia the Soviet Union,” reports Reuters [Reuters, 3/26/03 Sources: Forged Niger documents]
Yet another letter, purported to be from the president of Niger, refers to his authority under the country's obsolete 1966 constitution. [Reuters, 3/26/03 Sources: Forged Niger documents]

Also, in some letters, French words are misspelled and dates do not match the day of the week. [Mercury News, 3/18/03]

The IAEA also points out that the amount of uranium which Iraq is purportedly interested in purchasing is unrealistic. Seymour Hersh, writing for the New Yorker, explains: “The large quantity of uranium involved should have been another warning sign. Niger's ‘yellow cake’ comes from two uranium mines controlled by a French company, with its entire output pre-sold to nuclear power companies in France, Japan, and Spain. ‘Five hundred tons can't be siphoned off without anyone noticing,’ ... [an] IAEA official told me.” [New Yorker, 3/31/03 Sources: Unnamed senior official from the IAEA]

People and organizations involved: Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity, Alle Elhadj Habibou, Jacques Bautes, Mohamed ElBaradei, Mamadou Tandja, Wissam al-Zahawie  Additional Info 
          

March 4, 2003

       France informs the US that an earlier French intelligence assessment concluding that Iraq had attempted to procure uranium from Niger had been based on the same forged documents the US provided to the International Atomic Energy Agency. [Sources: Senate Intelligence Report on Iraq, 7/2004]
People and organizations involved: United States, France
          

March 7, 2003-July 7, 2003

       After the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) reports that the Niger documents are not authentic (see March 7, 2003), the US and British governments stand behind their claim that Iraq had sought uranium from an African country. The two countries maintain that they have additional evidence—from multiple sources—but do not elaborate. Pressed by journalists and inspectors to reveal their evidence, the two governments refuse. The IAEA tells Reuters that when it asked the US and Britain whether or not they have additional evidence that Iraq had tried to procure uranium, the answer was “no.” [Reuters, 3/26/03] Additionally, an informed UN official tells the Washington Post that the US and Britain were repeatedly asked for more information. Neither government, the official explains, “ever indicated that they had any information on any other country.” [The Washington Post, 3/22/03] An unnamed Western diplomat tells the Independent: “Despite requests, the British Government has provided no such evidence. Senior officials at the agency think it is involved in an information black-out.” [Independent, 7/17/03 Sources: Unnamed Western diplomat] The British will hold to their story even after top US officials admit (see July 11, 2003) that Bush should not have included the claim in his State of the Union speech.(see January 28, 2003) [New York Times, 7/8/03; Independent, 7/20/03]
People and organizations involved: Jacques Bautes  Additional Info 
          

Before March 19, 2003

       According to a senior intelligence official interviewed by ABC News, “The CIA conducted more than 20 briefings on the Hill and elsewhere in the run-up to the war and in none of those did we offer up the yellowcake allegations.” [ABC News, 6/16/03 Sources: Senior US intelligence official]
          

March 25, 2003

       During a conference held at the American Enterprise Institute, an audience member asks the panel of guests—made up of James Woolsey, Richard Perle, and Michael Ledeen—where they see “the level of acceptance of US society in terms of casualties, not only on the US side, but as well on the Iraqi side, and in terms of duration of the operation?” Ledeen responds: “I think the level of casualties is secondary. I mean, it may sound like an odd thing to say, but all the great scholars who have studied American character have come to the conclusion that we are a warlike people and that we love war. ... What we hate is not casualties but losing. And if the war goes well and if the American public has the conviction that we're being well-led and that our people are fighting well and that we're winning, I don't think casualties are going to be the issue.” [American Enterprise Institute, 3/25/2003]
People and organizations involved: James Woolsey, Richard Perle, Michael Ledeen
          

May 6, 2003

       New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof, citing unnamed sources, breaks the story of former US diplomat Joseph Wilson's February 2002 trip to Niger (see February 21, 2002-March 4, 2002). The major source for the story is later revealed to be Wilson himself. [New York Times, 5/6/03; Vanity Fair, 5/2004, pg 282]
People and organizations involved: Joseph C. Wilson, Nicholas Kristof
          

June 8, 2003

       Asked why a claim previously deleted from a presidential speech (see October 6, 2002) at the urging of CIA director, George Tenet, was reinserted for Bush's State of the Union Address (see January 28, 2003), National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice claims to have “other sources” which support her contention that Hussein was determined to obtain “yellow cake” from somewhere in Africa. “At the time that the State of the Union address was prepared, there were also other sources that said that they were, the Iraqis were seeking yellow cake, uranium oxide from Africa.” [ABC News, 6/8/2003, cited in Carnegie Endowment for Peace, 1/8/03; Iraq on the Record database, 3/16/04]
People and organizations involved: Condoleezza Rice
          

June 9, 2003-July 6, 2003

       Former ambassador Joseph Wilson is infuriated by Condoleezza Rice's June 9 claim (see June 9, 2003) that top officials were unaware of doubts over the Niger uranium claim. He contacts friends in the government and asks them to pass on the message that if Rice does not correct the record, he will (see 2:28 p.m. May 29, 2003). [Vanity Fair, 5/2004, pg 282]
People and organizations involved: Joseph C. Wilson, Condoleezza Rice
          

June 9, 2003

       Responding to the public fury that follows the revelation (see May 6, 2003) of former diplomat Joseph Wilson's 2002 trip to Niger (see February 21, 2002-March 4, 2002), Condoleezza Rice says during an appearance on “Meet the Press,” “Maybe someone knew down in the bowels of the agency, but no one in our circles knew that there were doubts and suspicions that this might be a forgery.” [Washington Post, 6/13/03; Knight Ridder, 6/13/03; ABC News, 6/12/03]
People and organizations involved: Condoleezza Rice, Joseph C. Wilson  Additional Info 
          

June 12, 2003

       Sean McCormack, spokesman for the National Security Council, admits the Niger documents were forged but insists the US has other evidence to support its allegations that Iraq had attempted to purchase uranium from Niger. “We have acknowledged that some documents detailing a transaction between Iraq and Niger were forged and we no longer give them credence,” he says. “They were, however, only one piece of evidence in a larger body of evidence suggesting Iraq attempted to purchase uranium from Africa. The issue of Iraq's pursuit of uranium in Africa is supported by multiple sources of intelligence. The other sources of evidence did and do support the president's statement.” [Associated Press, 6/13/03; Washington Post, 6/13/03]
          

July 6, 2003

       Former ambassador Joseph Wilson writes an op-ed piece in the New York Times describing in detail his 2002 visit to Niger (see June 9, 2003). He makes it very clear that he believes his findings had been “circulated to the appropriate officials within ... [the] government.”. [New York Times, 7/6/03]
People and organizations involved: Joseph C. Wilson
          

July 7, 2003

       The White House releases the following statement in reference to a claim made in Bush's State of the Union address that Iraq had attempted to procure uranium from Africa: “There is other reporting to suggest that Iraq tried to obtain uranium from Africa. However, the information is not detailed or specific enough for us to be certain that attempts were in fact made.” [New York Times, 7/7/03]
People and organizations involved: Bush administration
          

July 9, 2003

       Facing criticisms that the Bush administration lacked accurate and specific intelligence about Iraq's alleged aresenal of illicit weapons, US Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld provides the Senate Armed Services Committee with a new reason for why it was necessary for the US to invade Iraq. “The coalition did not act in Iraq because we had discovered dramatic new evidence of Iraq's pursuit of weapons of mass murder,” he says. “We acted because we saw the evidence in a dramatic new light, through the prism of our experience on 9/11.” [BBC, 7/9/03; Washington Times, 7/10/03; USA Today, 7/9/03] When asked when he learned that the reports about Iraq attempting to obtain uranium from Niger were false, Rumsfeld replies, “Oh, within recent days, since the information started becoming available.” [Slate, 7/10/03; Worldnet Daily, 7/15/2003] He later revises his statement twice, first saying that he had learned “weeks,” and then “months,” before. [Worldnet Daily, 7/15/2003]
People and organizations involved: Donald Rumsfeld
          

July 11, 2003

       Referring to Bush's 2003 State of the Union address, CIA director George Tenet says in a written statement, “These 16 words should never have been included in the text written for the president.” But Tenet denies that the White House is responsible for the mistake, putting the blame squarely on his own agency. And comments by Condoleezza Rice also blame the CIA, “If the CIA: the director of central intelligence, had said, ‘Take this out of the speech,’ it could have been gone, without question. If there were doubts about the underlying intelligence, those doubts were not communicated to the president, to the vice president or to me.” Another senior White House official, defending the president and his advisors, tells ABC news: “We were very careful with what the president said. We vetted the information at the highest levels.” But an intelligence official, also interviewed by ABC, dismisses the claim. [CNN, 7/11/03; The Washington Post, 7/12/03; New York Times, 7/12/03 Sources: Unnamed intelligence official] Following Tenet's statement, a barrage of news reports citing unnamed CIA officials reveal that the White House had in fact been explicitly warned not to include the African-uranium claim. These reports indicate that at the time Bush delivered his State of the Union address, it had been widely understood in US intelligence circles that the Africa-uranium claim had little evidence supporting it. [Knight Ridder Newspapers, 6/12/03; Boston Globe, 3/16/03; New York Times, 3/23/03; Associated Press, 6/12/03; The Washington Post, 7/20/03; Newsday, 7/12/03; Associated Press, 6/12/03; Knight Ridder, 6/16/03; Knight Ridder, 6/13/03] For example, CBS News reports, “CIA officials warned members of the president's National Security Council staff the intelligence was not good enough to make the flat statement Iraq tried to buy uranium from Africa.” And a Washington Post article cites an unnamed intelligence source who says, “We consulted about the paper [September 2002 British dossier] and recommended against using that material.” [CNN, 7/10/03; CBS News, 7/10/03; The Washington Post, 7/11/03 Sources: Unnamed intelligence official] White House officials respond that the dossier issued by the British government contained the unequivocal assertion: “Iraq has ... sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa” and that the officials had argued that as long as the statement was attributed to the British Intelligence, it would be technically true. Similarly, ABC News reports: “A CIA official has an idea about how the Niger information got into the president's speech. He said he is not sure the sentence was ever cleared by the agency, but said he heard speechwriters wanted it included, so they attributed it to the British.” The same version of events is told to the New York Times by a senior administration official, who claims, “The decision to mention uranium came from White House speechwriters, not from senior White House officials.” [New York Times, 7/19/03; New York Times, 7/14/03; CBS News, 7/10/03; ABC News, 6/12/03 Sources: Unnamed administration official, Unnamed CIA official] But according to a CIA intelligence official and four members of the Senate Intelligence Committee who are investigating the issue, the decision to include the Africa-uranium claim was influenced by the people associated with the Pentagon's Office of Special Plans (see September 2002). [Information Clearing House, 7/16/03 Sources: four members of the Senate's intelligence committee, Unnamed CIA official]
People and organizations involved: George Tenet, Richard ("Dick") Cheney, George W. Bush, Condoleezza Rice  Additional Info 
          

July 11, 2003

       Despite receiving two separate memos from intelligence agencies that warn of the story's inaccuracy, National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice persists in asserting there is underlying truth to the Niger document even though it has proven to be a forgery “And there were other attempts to, to get yellow cake from Africa.” [White House, 7/11/03; Iraq on the Record database, 3/16/04]
People and organizations involved: Condoleezza Rice
          

July 15, 2003

       An unnamed Western diplomat close to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) tells Reuters that the agency believes that Britain's Africa-uranium claim is based on the same alleged transaction referred to in the forged Niger documents. “I understand that it concerned the same group of documents and the same transaction,” the source says. [Agence France Presse, 7/15/03; Associated Press, 6/13/03; Reuters, 7/14/03 Sources: Unnamed Western diplomat close to the IAEA]
          

(12:10 p.m.) July 21, 2003

       President George Bush and National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice Meet with Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi in Crawford, Texas. [ABC News, 7/21/03; White House, 7/21/2003]
People and organizations involved: Silvio Berlusconi, Condoleezza Rice, George W. Bush
          

July 26, 2003

       Challenged to explain why the president was permitted to say in his 2003 State of the Union address (see January 28, 2003) that Iraq had reportedly attempted to purchase uranium from Africa, National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice tries shifting the responsibility to CIA director, George Tenet “My only point is that, in retrospect, knowing that some of the documents underneath may have been—were, indeed, forgeries, and knowing that apparently there were concerns swirling around about this, had we known that at the time, we would not have put it in. ...And had there been even a peep that the agency did not want that sentence in or that George Tenet did not want that sentence in, that the director of Central Intelligence did not want it in, it would have been gone.” [Washington Post, 7/26/03; White House, 7/30/03; Iraq on the Record database, 3/16/04]
People and organizations involved: Condoleezza Rice
          

July 26, 2003

       When confronted with evidence that should have warned that the Italian and British intelligence reports suggesting Iraq had attempted to obtain uranium from Niger were suspect, National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice suggests her assistant, Steve Hadley, who earlier received both memos from the CIA (see October 5, 2002) (see October 6, 2002), had left her and the president “out of the loop.” “The intelligence community did not know at that time or at levels that got to us that this, that there was serious questions about this report.” [World Net Daily, 7/29/03; Washington Post, 7/26/03; ABC This Week, 6/8/03; Iraq on the Record database, 3/16/04]
People and organizations involved: Condoleezza Rice
          

December 14, 2003

       The London Telegraph reports that it has obtained a copy of a memo purportedly written to Saddam Hussein by Tahir Jalil Habbush al-Tikriti, the former head of the Iraqi Intelligence Service, describing a three-day “work program” Atta participated in at Abu Nidal's base in Baghdad. The memo, dated July 1, 2001, also includes a report about a shipment sent to Iraq by way of Libya and Syria. The Telegraph asserts that the shipment is “believed to be uranium.” [Telegraph, 12/14/2003]
People and organizations involved: Saddam Hussein, Abu Nidal, Tahir Jalil Habbush al-Tikriti
          

Summer 2004

       Rocco Martino, an Italian information peddler, reportedly admits his involvement in the forged Niger documents scandal: “It's true, I had a hand in the dissemination of those [forged Niger] documents, but I was duped. Both Americans and Italians were involved behind the scenes. It was a disinformation operation.” [La Repubblica, 10/25/2005]
People and organizations involved: Rocco Martino
          

April 3, 2005

       Journalist and radio host Ian Masters asks former CIA operative Vincent Cannistraro during an interview, in reference to the question of who forged the Niger documents , “If I were to say the name Michael Ledeen to you, what would you say?” Cannistraro replies, “You're very close.” After the radio show, Ledeen denies in a statement that he has any connection to the documents. [KUCR, 4/3/2005]
People and organizations involved: Vincent Cannistraro, Michael Ledeen
          

October 31, 2005

       After meeting with President George Bush in Washington, Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi tells Italian reporters, “Bush himself confirmed to me that the USA did not have any information [about alleged uranium sales from Niger to Iraq] from Italian [intelligence] agencies.” [Think Progress, 11/2/2005]
People and organizations involved: George W. Bush, Silvio Berlusconi
          

November 3, 2005

       Italian lawmaker Senator Massimo Brutti states that in January 2003 Italy's military intelligence service, SISMI, warned the United States that its reporting (see March 25, 2002) (see October 15, 2001) (see February 5, 2002) on Iraq's purported attempts to procure uranium from Niger were wrong. Brutti says he is not sure whether this warning was sent before or after President Bush's 2003 State of the Union address (see January 28, 2003). “At about the same time as the State of the Union address, they (Italy's SISMI secret services) said that the dossier doesn't correspond to the truth,” Sen. Massimo Brutti tells journalists after he and other lawmakers on a parliamentary commission were briefed by SISMI's head, Nicolo Pollari, and Gianni Letta, a top aide to Premier Silvio Berlusconi. [Associated Press, 11/3/2005 (B)] Shortly after making the statement, Brutti calls the Associated Press and says his earlier comments were made in error. There was no warning in January 2003, he says. He also says lawmakers were told during the briefing that Italian intelligence did not have “a role in the dossier that was supposed to have demonstrated that Iraq was in an advanced phase of possession of enriched uranium.” [Associated Press, 11/3/2005 (B); Reuters, 11/3/2005]
People and organizations involved: SISMI, Central Intelligence Agency
          


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