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More on la Repubblica's Niger scoop

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.

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."
Update [2005-10-26 1:37:1 by de Gondi]: Nur-al Cubicle 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.

Thank you, keep us informed of further updates...it's a hot story....

"Once in awhile we get shown the light, in the strangest of places, if we look at it right" - Hunter/Garcia
by whataboutbob on Wed Oct 26th, 2005 at 03:16:05 AM EST
As I've pointed out, there seems to be a technical glitch. I write in Word 2003 and copy-paste. For some reason it won't update beyond three lines. Has never happened before. There are a few sites putting up translations at the moment, such as Nur-al Cubicle, Laura Rozen and Crooked Timber. The essentials are on line except the amusing first encounter between Pollari and Tenet, as testified by an American witness.

This is the scene. Pollari is in Washington. He meets George Tenet, and as often in these cases, there first meeting is sanctified in a reserved room in a hotel near Langley. Who assisted the meeting told la Repubblica: "Pollari must not have had much confidence in his English because he placed a female interpreter between the CIA director and himself. It was slightly embarrassing. George, in order to break the ice, revealed some information about Al Qaeda and Italy gleaned from prisoners in Guantanamo. Tenet expected at the least a smile or thanks. But all he got was a stone face. At the beginning he was disappointed. But that turned to suspicion. But what really struck everybody... was the way Pollari marginalized the Italian station chief in Washington."

This was very interesting. In 2002, the SISMI station chief in Washington was Admiral Giuseppe Grignolo. He was an expert in the proliferation of WMDs and had an excellent working relation with the CIA, above all the esteem of the CIA second in command, Jim Pavitt. A source at Fort Braschi [SISMI headquarters]: "Actually, we wanted to keep the CIA off of our work and Pollari didn't trust Grignolo. He thought he was too close to Langley. So he kept him in the dark. Let's say he forced him to handle menial jobs like looking into the criminal records of new Service recruits who had spent some time in the States... The most important contacts in those months were elsewhere. Through Gianni Castellaneta together with Rice, and through Ledeen with Wolflowitz's  and Feith's Office of Special Plans. It was Castellaneta who fixed the rendezvous with the NSC offices in the White House." When and what did they talk about. "What do expect that they talk about in the summer of 2002? Weapons of mass destruction." And when was this? "I'll keep that to myself... Anyway all you have to do is control CAI flight records from Ciampino to Washington."

In Rome it's hard to obtain flight plans. Better luck in Wahington. A functionary of the Administration told la Repubblica: "I can confirm that it was September 8th, 2002. General Nicolò Pollari met Stephen Hadley..."

by de Gondi (publiobestia aaaatttthotmaildaughtusual) on Wed Oct 26th, 2005 at 04:11:25 AM EST
[ Parent ]
La Repubblica has just posted the third installment on line. I apologize, but am late for work and cannot do much at the moment. I'll be back on line in about ten hours.
by de Gondi (publiobestia aaaatttthotmaildaughtusual) on Wed Oct 26th, 2005 at 04:22:30 AM EST
Nur-al Cubicle has diligently translated all of the three articles, much to our overtaxed relief. She is still putting up the third instalment at her site.

With this out of the way we can sit back, reflect and comment on one of the most tragic and remunerative rip-offs in modern history. The tragedy is ours. The payoffs for a very distinct minority.

by de Gondi (publiobestia aaaatttthotmaildaughtusual) on Wed Oct 26th, 2005 at 05:13:02 PM EST
could I please suggest that one of you crosspost this and/or translations of the article at DailyKos?

It will hit a US audience there and may be read by some journalists as well. Not too many US journalists read Italian, so the translation will give them the ability to go to editors with some story ideas.

by gradinski chai on Thu Oct 27th, 2005 at 03:03:00 AM EST

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