by de Gondi
Fri Oct 28th, 2005 at 10:39:36 AM EST
Bush-Berlusconi cabal update - from the diaries ~ whataboutbob
The previous instalment (Monday, October 24th) ended with Nicolò Pollari, head of the SISMi offering the reporters photographic evidence that it was Rocco Martino who passed the Niger forgeries to Richard Dearlove of the M16. If we are to believe Pollari, it was the French Italian informant, Martino, who was responsible for the hoax.
Or was Rocco Martino set up and framed, perhaps forced to be a pawn in a far greater game?
The second instalment illustrates the crucial role of Pollari and the Berlusconi entourage in the willful "stovepiping" of bogus information in collusion with American elements. Pollari, in what appeared to be an attempt at damage control once declared to la Repubblica:
"I'm the director of intelligence and my only institutional interlocutor after September 11th, is the director of the CIA, George Tenet. It's obvious that I only speak with him..."
Quite to the contrary, it now appears that the CIA wasn't his only interlocutor.
"It's a fact that just before the war in Iraq, under the supervision of the diplomatic advisor of Palazzo Chigi [office of the Prime Minister, NdT], Gianni Castellaneta (now ambassador to the USA), the director of the Sismi organized his agenda in Washington with the staff of Condoleeza Rice, then head of the NSC. La Repubblica is able to document this double binary of the Italian government and its Intelligence Service. At least in one of these "not very institutional" meetings, Pollari, as secret agents say, "put up a network" that combined Government, Intelligence, and Information."
But let's go back to page one to see how the Italians contributed to the necessity to go to war with Iraq.
Greg Thielmann, ex director of the State Department Bureau of Intelligence finds the "Italian" Uranium report on his desk. He doesn't remember the exact date. He places it in autumn 2001. But the exact day could be relevant. October 15th, 2001. On that date, three events happen with surprising coincidence. Nicolò Pollari, nominated by the government September 27th, assumes the direction of the Sismi after having been number two at Cesis (Palazzo Chigi's organism for the coordination of intelligence.) Silvio Berlusconi is finally received at the White House by George Bush. The first CIA report on the Italian evidence dates October 15th. Nothing can be said of this coincidence except to acknowledge that the Italians are hell-bent to do anything. After his speech on the "clash of civilizations," it was difficult for Berlusconi to be received at the White House, ever mindful of moderate Arab reactions. Pollari had the ambition to work in tune with the prime minister and his new agenda. The new chief of the WMD unit at SISMi, Colonel Alberto Manenti (Antonio Nucera's superior), is eager to collaborate with the new director. It is a fact that while Bush is showing Berlusconi the rose garden in the West Wing, the CIA acknowledges, as Russ Hoyle points out [...], that Italian Intelligence has stunning news: "Negotiations (Niamey/Bagdad concerning the acquisition of Uranium are underway since 1999, and the sale has been authorized by the State Court of Niger in 2000."
But the CIA and the INR consider the report unsubstantiated and "highly suspect."
Pollari quickly caught on that there was a fracture between the traditional US Intelligence Services and the Bush administration hardliners, a situation that was no different in Italy.
A SISMi source told Repubblica,
"Pollari, for his information on Uranium, got the cold shoulder from the Rome CIA station chief, Jeff Castelli. Castelli apparently kept dropping the story. Pollari took the hint and discussed it with Michael Ledeen..."
But why drag Ledeen in? Gianni Castellaneta had advised Pollari to "look in other directions" while the Minister of Defense, Antonio Martino, invited him to receive "an old friend of Italy," a debateable qualification since many of Ledeen's past actions in Italy have not been so crystalline. According to la Repubblica, Ledeen was on mission in Italy at the time for Wolfowitz's Office for Special Plans. Ledeen's role is still unclear- he characterized himself in a previous Bonini article as a passionate bridge player who gets together with his friend Pollari for an occasional game. This appears to contrast with the Marshall, Rozen, Glastris article on his activities in Rome with Ghorbanifar, Franklin and Rhode in December 2001.
What Ledeen may have done back in Washington is mere speculation, but it appears that by the beginning of 2002, Wolfowitz had convinced Cheney that the Italian Niger-Iraq report needed further investigation.
Update [2005-10-26 1:37:1 by de Gondi]:
The vice president, according to the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, asked the CIA once again with insistence to find out more about the "possible acquisition of Nigerien Uranium." In that meeting, Dick Cheney explicitly refers to this shred of intelligence as coming from "a foreign service."
has put up a translation of the first installment and promises the second. (It appears there's a bug. Can no longer "paste." Too long? Drop me a suggestion and have a nice day.)
Update [2005-10-27 5:16:52 by de Gondi]:
While Frederick Jones confirms that Stephen Hadley met Nicolò Pollari on September 9th, 2002, for the LA Times and The American Prospect, Palazzo Chigi continues to deny the evidence, and menaces legal reprisals.
In a communiqué issued yesterday afternoon (October 26th)
Iraq: the last two articles published on the daily 'La Repubblica' fully confirm the government position firmly expressed and reiterated by Palazzo Chigi in the last communiqué diffused on October 24th, when once again it was reaffirmed that the government, and especially the SISMI, had utterly nothing to do with the “ false dossier on Nigerien Uranium” with regards to any hypothesis that directly or indirectly implicates the government. Although gripping and suggestive, the inquiry pays for quoting groundless and not detailed sources, which cannot be considered as reliable only because they're well reported. Truth itself expresses the powerful and indestructible force that fears no scrutiny or verification, but to the contrary can only come out with renewed vigour and, if ever, with a far more vast and acclaimed diffusion. The facts narrated, as well as the circumstantial elements concerning time, place, mode, and the people involved are not only false, but are disproved by punctual references, and ,certainly, what counts most, incontrovertible documentation.
If there are conditions of serious concern which unfortunately exists, Palazzo Chigi finds it in the diffusion of information, other than being groundless, risks to gratuitously create serious damage to primary interests, which does not appear lawful nor correct to jeopardize only in an attempt to fantasize. The image of our nation in the world, the credibility of our institutions that watch over the political correctness and the legitimacy of the Executive, and the stability of international relations are not arguments on which we are disposed to indulge. Just as we strongly avert [our] duty to safeguard the security and safety, as well as the dignity, of the SISMI functionaries exposed with sudden carelessness to grave risk both for their person and for their relations in a way charged with insidious deceit and dangers. That said, with calm and sober serenity, comforted by the awareness of acting in the tracks of authentic and straightforward truth, Palazzo Chigi is evaluating with responsibility the prospects of legally protecting its interests.
In a long letter to Berlusconi, the former Italian president and senator-for-life, Francesco Cossiga, heatedly argued against the last phrase of the communiqué in which Palazzo Chigi reserves the right to denounce the authors of the articles. He also advised the government that it would be opportune to substitute Pollari.