Thursday, July 17, 2003

While the blogosphere continues to argue over the identity of Tony Blair's 'secret source' for the intelligence linking Iraq and African uranium, nobody has seemed to have picked up the strong rebuttal in the Italian daily La Repubblica to the Italian government's denial that it is the source.

The General doesn't read Italian but does read French, so this comes through Le Monde (excuse my translation):
An anonymous source from SISMI [the Italian Military Secret Service -- ed.] confirms with the newspaper [La Repubblica -- ed.] that a diplomat came into contact with Italian intelligence services and offered documents concerning correspondence regarding a supply contract to transfer uranium to Iraq. SISMI believed it to be authentic. The salesman [i.e. the diplomat -- he sold the documents to SISMI for several thousand dollars] used a little trick. Knowing that the Nigerien embassy was under the surveillance of the secret service, he conspicuously placed a telex to Rome on February 1, 1999 in the dossier. It announced an official visit, in the name of Saddam Hussein, to Niger of the Iraqi ambassador at the Vatican. The telex had already been intercepted at the time by the Italians. The trip had actually taken place, thus the remainder of the dossier was regarded as legitimate. . . .

The Italians transmitted the file to the UK's MI6. The anonymous SISMI source explains this as normal collaboration between allies. This is at the end of 2001 and the beginning of 2002. It reaches the Americans. The CIA sent an ambassador on a mission to Niger [Joe Wilson -- ed.] who returned convinced the dossier was a fake. It isn't spoken about again until September 24, the day when Tony Blair announced that Iraq had sought to purchase uranium from an African country.

La Repubblica's story turns mischevious. According to certain members of SISMI, the newspaper writes, it was Silvio Berlusconi himself who revived the false dossier during a telephone conversation with George Bush, three days before it was mentioned in the State of the Union address, when Bush spoke the words on uranium which has today landed him in the hot seat.
Adam from "The Likely Story" has blogged this story as well after a tip from the General. Check out his analysis.

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