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Catfish and Cod
Wednesday, July 16, 2003
Professor, something doesn't add up here.
(Link path: King of the Blogs, Times of London)

Multiple questions arise on the question of the Niger documents. Everyone now knows about the false documents that started the entire row. Whatever one may say about Slate's opinion pieces on the affair, their investigative reporting has been well done. A perusal of past articles assembled by Jack Shafer makes the origin of the false documents clear:

1) In November, 2001, the forged documents (probably produced at Niger's embassy in Rome) made their way to the Italian intelligence service.

2) The Italians, who are fooled by the forgery, write up a summary and deliver it to several other governments' intelligence agencies, including the CIA (USA) and MI6 (Britain). The DGSE (France) may also have been informed at this time.

3) At some point, US European Command is informed of these developments, perhaps via the CIA, perhaps not. General Fulford is dispatched to investigate. Making official inquiries in association with the embassy, he finds the uranium mines overseen by a French-led consortium who reports to the IAEA. Satisfied, he returns to Europe and reports to Gen. Myers, head of the Joint Chiefs.

4) The CIA, noting inconsistencies, is dubious about the documents' veracity. It dispatches Ambassador Wilson, who makes the same inquiries as the General did several weeks earlier, and receives the same answers. His report to the CIA confirms in their minds that no Niger uranium sales took place.

5) The Office of the Vice-President and the NSC, seeking material against Iraq, enquire to the CIA about proof of uranium sales. They receive a negative response. As a result, the uranium claim is removed from the October speech.

6) Between October and January, the OVP or the NSC learn that Britain continues to stand by their claim that uranium sales did, in fact, take place. Faced with such a report, and due to extreme pressure by OVP and NSC, the CIA reluctantly agrees to allow the British uranium claim to remain in the State of the Union address.

However, a serious question remains. Of all the intelligence services that have spoken on the issue (US, Britain, Italy), only Britain continues to support the truth of the uranium claims. They state that additional, more trustworthy evidence of the sales exist. However, they have not revealed their evidence to other countries, at French behest, it is believed.

Now, the question arises: what evidence do the British have? All we know is that MI6 believes it, it probably came from France, and the French are probably blocking access to it. Speculation in the Blogosphere currently holds that the evidence implicates the French themselves. But if the French are the sole villians in this drama, why would they hand damning evidence to MI6?

A more likely scenario is possible: the French are covering for someone else. According to Ambassador Wilson, multiple other countries have interests in the mines: Spain, Germany, Japan, and Nigeria. Is it implausible to think that one of these countries might sneak uranium out for third-party sale? Especially a certain country that has been known, in recent years, to make other sub-rosa agreements with France?