Kevin Drum notes that the sections of the Senate report dealing with the Iraq-Niger forgery are a mass of redactions. It’s not all redacted, however, and I did pick something up that I hadn’t seen before. Page 58 states:
The INR [that’s State Department intelligence] nuclear analyst told the Committee staff that the thing that stood out immediately about the [forged] documents was that a companion document — a document included with the Niger documents that did not relate to uranium — mentioned some type of military campaign against major world powers. The members of the alleged military campaign included both Iraq and Iran and was, according to the documents, being orchestrated through the Nigerien [note: that’s not the same as Nigerian] Embassy in Rome, which all struck the analyst as “completely implausible.” Because the stamp on this document matched the stamp on the uranium document [the stamp was supposed to establish the documents bona fides], the analyst thought that all of the documents were likely suspect. The analyst was unaware at the time of any formatting problems with the documents or inconsistencies with the names or dates.
So that’s how INR first got on the scent. Now unlike formatting problems, this isn’t the kind of thing a forger would do by mistake.
And as we see, trying to include evidence of an Iran-Iraq plot degraded the credibility of the uranium forgery. One must concluded, then, that the forger was trying to get people to believe in the existence of an Iran-Iraq conspiracy. A completely implausible theory indeed, though one Michael Ledeen’s been peddling for years. And Ledeen seems to get a lot of his “information” on this front from Italy. See my previous post on this. And Laura Rozen noted in response that while Italian Military Intelligence (SISMI) “provides to its friends [in America] little snippets of intelligence that confirms what its friends want to hear” the Italian government is, in fact, extremely soft on Iran and is aware of “several alleged front companies for Iran to acquire” dual-use technology while doing nothing to crack down on them. Interesting times….
UPDATE: As Josh Marshall reports here the Niger documents are not only something the US got its hands on in Italy, but something the US was interested in because of information supplied by Italian intelligence which, in turn, was based on the same documents. Now the Iran-Iraq conspiracy document that tipped off the INR is a pretty obvious giveaway here if you ask me, so you’ve got to ask yourself why Italian intelligence was passing this along to its allies. Sadly, it can’t be discerned from Josh’s post whether the Italian agency in question was the aforementioned SISMI or else some other agency, and I certainly don’t know anything about the organization of the Italian intelligence community.