Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Niger-gate: Part three of the La Repubblica investigation

The invaluable Nur al-Cubicle is translating (even as you read these very words!) the third part of La Repubblica's series on Nigeer-gate. (Here's the original.) He hasn't finished yet, but here's what he has so far. As before, I've corrected a few obvious typos and added one or two extra paragraph breaks. (For some reason, Italian journalists tend to like really long 'graphs.) Nur tends to drop quotation marks present in the original; I've put them back in.

THE INVESTIGATION : Nicolò Pollari knew that the equipment purchased by Saddam Hussein was not destined for nuclear use. But when he is at the White House, he avoids mentioning it.

Nigergate: The Great Nuclear Centrifuge Scam

The bizarre Panorama scoop is accepted as fact and included in the dodgy dossier.

The story of the Italian involvement in manipulating the justifications for war against Iraq is one of dates on the calendar. We have already looked at of a few of them. And it is a date once again that unravels and reveals Chapter Two of the Great Scam.

The date is September 9, 2002. That day, in the rooms of the National Security Council, a very strange (if you believe in the principle of institutional transparency) and secret meeting takes place.

Why is the director of Italian national intelligence meeting a White House Administration official? It would be natural for Nicolò Pollari to meet with the Director of the Central Intelligence Agency. It would be quite an ordinary event if the director of SISMI were meeting with Italian administration officials but very bizarre indeed if turns out to be administration officials of a foreign country, even if an ally. In this meeting there were Cabinet officials and under secretaries. So, just what is discussed with Stephen Hadley?

Stephen Hadley is no third-rate underling in the White House. Today he is National Security Advisor. In 2002, he is deputy to Condoleezza Rice and a node in the parallel intelligence conduit ["Stovepipe"--Nur] desired by Dick Cheney to justify the war on Saddam Hussein. He is the man who, among other things, is responsible for the sixteen words pronounced by George W. Bush in his January 28, 2003 State of the Union Address announcing the basis for on Iraq.

We know that Hadley, together with Pollari, does a lot of thinking about weapons of mass destruction. And it's reaonable to ask exactly what Pollari does know on the score of the Niger uranium on the 9th of September 2002. As he himself admits, Pollari knows everything. He has been apprised of sordid adventure of Rocco Martino. His own men were up to their necks in it. He is familiar with the role played by SISMI deputy chief Antonio Nucera, who lends a hand to snake oil salesman Martino.

On this day, Pollari is facing a choice for which he has all the elements: To tell Rice's deputy that the White House had better forget about the uranium story because it's a hoax, and that the Martino-Nucera duo are imposters -- or to reinforce the convictions of the American ally through a little shrewd silence. So what does Pollari choose to do? To find out, we had better take a look at Pollari's comportment relative to a different subject of conversation with Hadley: The nuclear centrifuge dossier.

Barely 24 hours before, on September 8, 2002, Judith Miller reports on the nuclear threat posed by Baghdad on the front page of the New York Times. In the last 14 months, writes the reporter, Iraq has sought to acquire aluminum tubes which, according to US officials, are destined to be used as rotor sheathing for centrifuges used for uranium enrichment.

On September 9, 2002, seated in front of Stephen Hadley, Pollari has the means to address even this aspect of the issue. SISMI claims that it has documentary proof of the acquisition of aluminum tubes by Iraq. But let's take a look what he’s talking about.

These are 7075-T6 aluminum tubes. This is the preferred material for low-cost missile systems (each tube costs approximately $17.50). There are made with an extremely hard alloy which makes them suitable as rotors for a centrifuge capable of separating fissile uranium from non-fissile uranium. It is not simple process because thousands of centrifuges (16 thousand) are needed and they must withstand synchronous rotation as extremely high speed.

As we now know, the CIA and the very cautious Secretary of State, Colin Powell, are convinced that dual use material is employed in Iraq's nuclear program. Powell draws on his military experience. He says: "I am not an expert in centrifuges, but as a military veteran, ask yourself this: why are the Iraqis are so busy in acquiring these tubes which, if they were rockets, would disintegrate soon after launch?"

Incredibly, the objection remains un-cross-examined even after the scientists at Oak Ridge National Laboratory (where uranium for the US nuclear arsenal is enriched using centrifuges) annihilate Powell's theory. The Oak Ridge people say that the tubes are too narrow, to heavy, too long and likely to split if used as centrifuge components. They conclude: "Those tubes are used for manufacturing a specific type of artillery shell."

So on September 8, 2002, Judith Miller portrays the aluminum tubes as "a smoking gun." The next day, Pollari is seated in front of Stephen Hadley. So what does he tell him? Pollari keeps his mouth shut. He doesn't reveal what he knows about the aluminum tubes, which are the source of so much concern (or even enthusiasm) for the Bush Administration.

To read the rest, hit "Permalink" below

And here's the rest:

The shame is that those 7075-T6 tubes, 900 millimeters long, 81 millimeters in diameter, 3.3 millimeters thick, are well-known hardware to the Italian Army. They are 81-mm rocket artillery shells used in the Medusa air-to-ground missile system installed on Italian Army and Navy helicopters. In reality, the Iraqis are merely attempting to reproduce weaponry with which they became familiar during the long years of economic, military and nuclear cooperation between Rome and Baghdad. (Iraq's top army and air force officers trained in Italy during the 1980’s). Saddam's General Staff needs to duplicate them, so to speak, because their inventory is stockpiled outdoors and is now corroded. That was the reason behind the new anodized aluminum tube purchases.

Why does Pollari not utter a word? If you ask Greg Thielmann, ex-chief of the State Department Intelligence Service, he’ll tell you: "But seriously, haven’t you yet understood why the chief of Italian military intelligence did not provide us with any indication that would have allowed us to definitively discard the notion that the tubes would be used in someone's nuclear program? Well, I have an idea for you. SISMI, like the CIA and the entire Anglo-Saxon intelligence community, is ready and willing to satisfy the hawks in the US Administration." Thielmann’s assertion echoes like a shotgun blast. And the dates will yield solid confirmation.

September 8, 2002: Judith Miller casts the first stone.

September 9, 2002: Hadley meets Pollari

September 11, 2002: Stephen Hadley’s office contacts the CIA for authorization to allow the President of the United States to use the information on the sale of Niger uranium in a public address.

Specifically, as the report by the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence relates, the request made to the CIA at the behest the National Security Council asks George Tenet in writing if George W. Bush is authorized to say, "Iraq has made several attempts to acquire aluminum tubes for use in its uranium enrichment centrifuges. We also know that over the last few years, Iraq has restarted its attempts to acquire large quantities of uranium oxide, known as yellowcake -- the necessary component for enrichment processing." The CIA gives its permission, but on October 7th in Cincinnati, Ohio, the authorized words are not found in the President's speech.

The day before the address, Langley recommends that the statement be expunged. The intelligence is weak. One of the mines mentioned in the intelligence source as a site used for the extraction of uranium is flooded. The other mine is under the control of the French authorities.

What the devil was Pollari up to? The twisted yellowcake affair and now the centrifuges are tangled up around Rocco Martino's phony documents. Who did what to whom and where and why?

To get to the bottom of it, we have to address these questions and take another look at the words quoted above. The Italians know that Rocco Martino is a creep. They are aware that the only authentic papers in the dossier are stale intelligence pulled out of SISMI’s WMD archives. Pollari takes the lie off the leash and lets it spread around the globe. He does not have Rocco Martino "busted" when knocks on the door of MI6. Instead, Pollari credits Martino as "a reliable source." He does not put the damper on the enthusiasm of Michael Ledeen and the Pentagon’s Office of Special Plans. He simply sits there in silence as the imbroglio simmers. In fact, when he does open his mouth, he neither extinguishes nor disappoints American desires.

This is what happened in the case of the aluminum tubes. Following a "brilliant operation," SISMI enters into material possession of the tubes. It's a military intelligence victory. But even the lowest grunt would understand that the tubes must be Italian -- they are shells from the Medusa-81 aircraft missile defense system. SISMI is well aware of this. Yet on September 9, 2002, Pollari maintains a reserved silence in the presence of Handley. And he does more than that.

On September 12, 2002, Panorama magazine hits the newsstands. In a lengthy article titled War with Iraq? It has already started, decisive yet unverified revelations on Iraqi nuclear rearmament are made to the world. So far, no one has started talking about uranium, let alone 500 tons of the ore.

It will be Tony Blair who mentions it first, but not until September 24, 2002 -- two weeks following the meeting between Pollari and Hadley and twelve days after Panorama's scoop. Inside the 50-page British government document, London affirms that Iraq has attempted to acquire uranium from Africa. Blair insists that Iraq has attempted to purchase significant quantities of uranium from an African nation despite the fact that he has no civilian nuclear program which would require it. Even today, Foreign Secretary Jack Straw continues to repeat that the "Italian dossier" was not the basis behind Blair’s words and that MI6 is in possession of previously acquired intelligence. Yet such intelligence "evidence" has never been produced. If it were to come out -- a source at Forte Braschi tells La Repubblica -- it would be easily discovered with a little sleuthing that that the “evidence” is in fact stale Italian intelligence collected by SISMI at the end of the 1980s and shared with our friend, Hamilton Mac Millan.

So there has been no loose talk which might reveal Italian responsibility in the yellowcake affair. Only silence. We’ve seen how SISMI maintains silence.

But poor SISMI is not alone. Although perfectly informed, none of the protagonists in this sordid affair talks. Panorama clams up. When the editorial board of Panorama, owned by the Italian head of government, is called upon to reconstruct its contacts with Rocco Martino (who tried to sell the hoax to Segrate), it omits the recollection that the information contained in the bogus dossier was already published a month earlier. The Editor-in-Chief of the weekly magazine inexplicably shares the documents only with the US Embassy in Rome and not with the Italian government. He does not bother to verify the document with the excellent resources of the Italian intelligence agency which, as September's scoop shows, has access to it. He has no interest in relating, as a second possible worldwide scoop, that the evidence on which the war is based is false.

As you would expect, Palazzo Chigi is silent. The role of Silvio Berlusconi's diplomacy advisor, Gianni Castellaneta, has been key in mediating the relations between Italy with the parallel conduit ["Stovepipe"—Nur] that Dick Cheney creates with financing from Ahmed Chelabi's Iraqi National Congress to funnel intelligence "edited" by the Office for Special Plans which is then distributed to the media by the "Iraq Group," which sees action in the Judith Miller-New York Times affair. But has anyone heard Castellaneta utter one word? And who has ever offered Mr. Castellaneta a public forum to allow him to do so?

Also silent is Gianni Letta. When the truth on the bogus Italian dossier surfaces, the Deputy Secretary of Intelligence, contrary to what one reads in inaccurate government memos, invokes state secrecy. Letta insisted that no documentation would be forthcoming for Parliamentary scrutiny because Italian intelligence sources would be compromised. But what sources? Rocco Martino, the bad cop, the crooked spy, the double-crosser? Or would that be Antonio Nucera, the deputy director at SISMI's viale Pasteur offices who filches (or is compelled to filch) stale intelligence from the division archives to assemble the package?
He hasn't finished yet, but here's what he has so far.

just a quibble, but I'm pretty sure Nur is female.
Nur is a female name?

Of course. Nur. Say it loud and there's music playing. Say it soft and it's almost like praying. If I actually made a mistake -- my SECOND major error this week! -- I apologize profusely. Especially since Nur, whoever he or she is, has done the English-speaking world such a remarkable service.
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