10/21/2005

Yellowcake forgery - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The term yellowcake forgery refers to falsified documents which appeared to depict an attempt by Iraq's Saddam Hussein regime to purchase yellowcake uranium from the country of Niger, in defiance of United Nations sanctions. These documents were cited as evidence by the United States and United Kingdom governments during the Iraq disarmament crisis that Iraq had attempted to procure nuclear material for the purpose of creating "weapons of mass destruction." This claim was part of the political basis for the 2003 invasion of Iraq.

The documents had long been suspected as frauds by U.S. intelligence. By early 2002, investigations by both the CIA and the State Department had found the allegations to be baseless. Days before the invasion, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) told the U.N. Security Council that the documents were "in fact not authentic." A FBI investigation into the provenance of these documents is ongoing, though critics suspect that a U.S. government agency—ostensibly the White House Iraq Group —may itself have produced them.

The reference to the Yellowcake documents in U.S. President George W. Bush's 2003 State of the Union speech (in which he made a case for war with Iraq) became the focus of the first important public criticism of the plan to invade Iraq. Retired ambassador Joseph C. Wilson wrote a critical op-ed in The New York Times in which he explained the nature of the documents, and the governments prior knowledge of their unreliability for use in a case for war. Days later, in a column by Robert Novak, the covert identity of Wilson's wife, CIA agent Valerie Plame was exposed. The ensuing Plame affair" (aka. "CIA leak scandal") is an ongoing political scandal and criminal investigation into the source of the leak which "outed" Plame.

Origin

By late 2003, the trail of the documents had been partially uncovered. They were obtained by a "security consultant" (and former agent of the precursor agency to SISMI, the SID), Rocco Martino, from Italian military intelligence (SISMI). An article in The Times (London) quoted Martino as having received the documents from a woman on the staff of the Niger embassy, after a meeting was arranged by a serving SISMI agent. ("Tracked down," by Nicholas Rufford and Nick Fielding, Sunday Times (London), Aug. 1, 2004.) Martino later recanted and said he had been misquoted, and that SISMI had not facilitated the meeting where he obtained the documents.

Martino, in turn, offered them to Italian journalist Elizabetta Burba. On instructions from her editor at Panorama, Burba offered them to the U.S. Embassy in Rome in October, 2002. [6]

It is as yet unknown how Italian intelligence came by the documents and why they were not given directly to the U.S. In 2005, Vincent Cannistraro, the former head of counterterrorism operations at the CIA and the intelligence director at the National Security Council under Ronald Reagan, expressed the opinion that the documents had been produced in the United States and funneled through the Italians: "The documents were fabricated by supporters of the policy in the United States. The policy being that you had to invade Iraq in order to get rid of Saddam Hussein ...." [7]

In an interview published April 7, 2005, Cannistraro was asked by Ian Masters what he would say if it was asserted that the source of the forgery was former National Security Council and State Department consultant Michael Ledeen. (Ledeen had also allegedly been a liaison between the American Intelligence Community and SISMI two decades earlier.) Cannistraro answered by saying: "you'd be very close." [8]

In an interview on July 26, 2005, Cannistraro's business partner and columnist for the "American Conservative" magazine, former CIA counter terrorism officer Philip Giraldi, confirmed to Scott Horton that the forgeries were produced by "a couple of former CIA officers who are familiar with that part of the world who are associated with a certain well-known neoconservative who has close connections with Italy." When Horton said that must be Ledeen, he confirmed it, and added that the ex-CIA officers, "also had some equity interests, shall we say, with the operation. A lot of these people are in consulting positions, and they get various, shall we say, emoluments in overseas accounts, and that kind of thing." [9]

In a second interview with Horton, Giraldi elaborated to say that Ledeen and his former CIA friends worked with Ahmad Chalabi and the Iraqi National Congress. "These people did it probably for a couple of reasons, but one of the reasons was that these people were involved, through the neoconservatives, with the Iraqi National Congress and Chalabi and had a financial interest in cranking up the pressure against Saddam Hussein and potentially going to war with him." [10]
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Aftermath

In March 2003, Senator Jay Rockefeller, vice-chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, agreed not to open a Congressional investigation of the matter, but rather asked the FBI to conduct the investigation. As of September 2004, the FBI had not yet interviewed Martino, claiming they were awaiting permission from the Italian government to do so. [11] However, Martino is known to have been in New York in August 2004. [12]

In September 2004, the CBS News program 60 Minutes decided to delay a major story on the forgeries because such a broadcast might influence the 2004 U.S. presidential election. A CBS spokesman stated, "We now believe it would be inappropriate to air the report so close to the presidential election." [13]
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See also

Yellowcake forgery - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

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