Welcome to European Tribune. It's gone a bit quiet around here these days, but it's still going.

Niger Uranium Forgeries- Documents, Part I

by de Gondi Sun Mar 5th, 2006 at 08:48:28 PM EST

Three pages of the forged Niger dossier published by Panorama in their July 31, 2003 issue have not been put on the web. Taking a glance at the meat-world edition of Panorama it seems apparent why no one bothered to re-elaborate them for the web. One of them is practically illegible and very small while the other two consist of number-coded texts. The three unpublished pages are however catalogued on the Cryptome site as well as The Left Coaster.

Further, it is worth noting that one of the pages published by Panorama has a "receipt" stamp that does not appear in the Repubblica set of eight pages sent to NBC. The Panorama variant has not been put on the web.

In this series I will post the three pages with descriptions and observations as well as the Panorama variant of the Repubblica document. Since eRiposte's system of cataloguing is the most recent and  comprehensive, I will use his numbering and comments. In order to avoid misunderstandings I have blocked out everything but the relevant page.

Ms. Burba asserts that she initially received 17 pages from "Mr. Patacca," later identified as Rocco Martino. This may be an oversight on her part, since the pages don't add up if we follow her account to the letter. There are effectively 17 + 1 pages, or 16 + 2 as I will attempt to demonstrate, yet two of the pages were received after she went to the US Embassy. That would make 19 pages instead of 18. I do not feel this slight mathematical error is of particular importance but it does help establish how many pages she actually turned over to the US Embassy in Rome: sixteen at the most but likely less.

I. Documents that refer to Ambassador al-Zahawie's trip to Niger in 1999

This is one of the pages that has not been put on the web. It is catalogued as Doc(iii) by eriposte.


Doc (iii): A telex published by Panorama, partially visible and illegible, dated February 5, 1999.

Probable text:

[......................]/02/99 [..........]
[ ......] DE L'IRAK [....] ARRIVÉE [....]


[..............................]/02/99 [......]
[........] to issue an entry visa for Niger to
[........] of Iraq [..........] arrived [............]

Description: The page is a telex with a Niger embassy "receipt" stamp dated February 5, 1999. The original reproduction is partially covered by the telex copy announcing Ambassador Wissam al-Zahawie's imminent official visit to Niger on February 5, 1999 (TLC doc 1).

My tentative conclusion is that it is an authentic telex sent in response to the Rome embassy telex announcing the official visit of Mr. Zahawie, the Iraqi ambassador to the Holy See. Since it has a Niger Embassy receipt stamp it presumably came from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Niamey.

There are therefore four authentic documents that refer to Ambassador al-Zahawie's 1999 visit to Niger.

  1. TLC doc 1. The telex copy of the letter from the Niger embassy in Rome to the Foreign office announcing Ambassador al-Zahawie's planned visit. This document is also part of the Repubblica set of eight pages.
  2. TLC doc 1A. The plain letter version of telex. This document was only published by Panorama.
  3. TLC NIGER DOC (i)  This document was only published by Panorama.

A letter in Italian from the Iraqi ambassador to the Holy See received by the Niger embassy on February 1, 1999, confirming Mr. Zahawie's forthcoming trip to Niger. Probably authentic. [niger-doc-001]

 4. TLC doc iii, described above.

In both the Repubblica article and the Panorama article it is noted that the letter announcing Wissam al Zahawie's trip to Niger was presented as the first page of the dossier on two different occasions, a minor psychological ploy to induce the prospective buyer into being favourably disposed towards the rest of the dossier.

To Elisabetta Burba by Rocco Martino (bold mine):

The first document is dated February 1, 1999. It is a letter from the Embassy of Iraq to the Vatican addressed to the Embassy of Niger in Rome. It announces that His Excellency Mr. Wissam al-Zahawie, Ambassador of the Republic of Iraq to the Holy See, would travel to the capital of Niger as Representative of His Excellency Saddam Hussein. But...Why is the letter written in Italian? The Iraqis speak English and the Nigerois, French." Italian is their "lingua franca", explains Mr. "Patacca".

Panorama, July 31, 2003. English version by Nur al-Cubicle

Allegedly to the SISMI and/or MI6 by an "African diplomat" (bold mine):

When play is halted, one can see where the foul occurred. The diplomat who sells the documents is perfectly aware of eavesdropping (phone calls, fax, telex) by Italian intelligence at the Embassy of Niger. He therefore inserts as the first document in the bundle which he is to sell, telex No. 003/99/ABNI/Rome, addressed to the Niger Foreign Ministry. The telex reads:I should like to bring to your attention that the Iraqi Embassy to the Holy See informs me that His Excellency Wissam al- Zahawie, Iraqi Ambassador to the Vatican, will make an official visit to our country in his capacity as the personal representative of Saddam, President of the Republic of Iraq. His Excellency will be arriving in Niamey....

Repubblica, July 16, 2003. English version by Nur al-Cubicle

From this group of documents one false document (TLC NIGER DOC (ii)) was derived. The false document dated September 3, 2001, is an exact copy of the Iraqi letter to Niger ambassador announcing a trip on September 5, 2001. It does not bear a receipt stamp.

II. The case of the missing receipt stamp

(Bold mine)

We spend the evening studying the papers laid out on the kitchen table. I grasp a few things that had escaped me in the restaurant. Above all, the text of the purchase agreement is missing, there's only the cover letter. Groan.... But that's not all. The letter which is supposed to accompany the agreement, dated Niamey, October 10, 2000, is received in Rome on September 28, 2000. Is it only an oversight?

Panorama, July 31, 2003. English version by Nur al-Cubicle

If it were for the web alone, this passage would appear puzzling. The document it refers to is published in the Repubblica set of forgeries yet there is nothing in the document that refers to the date September 28th, 2000. The Panorama version which I publish here has the receipt stamp dated September 28, 2000.

What is now puzzling is why are there two versions of this page? Close scrutiny of the Repubblica variant shows what appears to be the angle of a white page just below the seal and signature on the right border of the page, as if the bungled receipt stamp had been covered up to make a new photocopy. For the sake of argument, there is another possibility. Rather than being covered up, the bungled receipt stamp could have been added subsequently.

There is similar case of re-engineered documents- or falsely reported documents- as discussed by eriposte. According to his reconstruction, a foreign intelligence service (now identified as the Italian SISMI)  had deliberately referred the correct name instead of the erroneous name that appeared on a document to American authorities in a cable dated October 15, 2001(bold in original):

In the first Niger intel report from the CIA dated 10/15/01, the following claim was included per the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence (SSCI) Report (bold text is my emphasis):

The report also indicated that in October 2000 Nigerien Minister of Foreign Affairs Nassirou Sabo informed one of his ambassadors in Europe that Niger had concluded an accord to provide several tons of uranium to Iraq. [SENTENCE DELETED] [page 36]

As I showed in Part 1, this particular claim was based on Niger Document 4 (TLC numbering)- another alleged letter. But look who this "letter" is actually signed by in that document:

Allele Elhadj Habibou

Not Nassirou Sabo, but Allele Elhadj Habibou (I mentioned this previously sometime ago). ... Considering that the letter was dated October 2000, Habibou could not have been the Foreign Minister of Niger at that time. Who was the actual Foreign Minister of Niger in October 2000? Nassirou Sabo.

Well, we're talking about the same document, but the name hasn't been changed yet. Perhaps it never was changed. Reporting the correct name may have sufficed. But then, by eliminating the bungled receipt stamp the job was only half done.

The name of Nassirou Sabo however does appear on the forged document erroneously dated "30 JUIL 1999" with a dater (corrected date, deduced from text and inner logic of the forgeries: "30 JUIN 2000"). Nassirou Sabo was sworn in as the Niger Minister of Foreign Affairs on January 5, 2000.

I will discuss the Niger-China uranium transaction in Part II.

de Gondi,

Nice work finding the "receipt stamp". I've always wondered about that. I'd assumed that Repubblica had gotten its copies of the Niger docs from Panorama. But the fact that the receipt stamp was covered up suggests their source was someone else.

After reading your post, I checked if there were any other differences between Panorama's Doc 4 and Repubblica's Doc 4. There appears to be a "telltale splotch", I guess you could call it, on Panorama's Doc 4. It's a third of the way down the page on the right-hand margin. In fact, the same mark appears in the same position on all of Panorama's Niger docs but on none of Repubblica's. Like the receipt stamp, the telltale splotch seems to have been removed from Repubblica's copies.

Could you post the rest of the Panorama versions of the Niger docs that aren't already online? I'd like to see if there are any other differences with Repubblica.

Thanks. :)

by FMJ on Tue Mar 7th, 2006 at 08:34:27 AM EST
Nice to see you here at Eurotrib. I much appreciate your comments over at TLC. I will be posting all the documents that aren't on the web with comments.

The blob on the right on all of the documents in Panorama appears to be a stamped signature. Where it is clear it seems to read "A Bulba" but is most likely "A Burba" as in "for/to Burba" or "E Burba" which stands for Elisabeta Burba.

It either means it's her property or story inside the Panorama office, so she, or someone else, stamped it with an ID.

I can't come up with another explanation, but I don't think it's too important.

According to her account and the Martino secret tapes, she received the docs outside her office. Presumably she kept a lid on the story in the office.

by de Gondi (publiobestia aaaatttthotmaildaughtusual) on Tue Mar 7th, 2006 at 03:33:53 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Ah I gotcha. So the splotch is something Panorama (or Burba) might have added rather than something that was removed for Repubblica. Still, it indicates that Repubblica's source was someone outside Panorama. Someone who would want to cover up Doc 4's most obvious error. Martino perhaps? Or someone in Sismi?
by FMJ on Tue Mar 7th, 2006 at 05:41:43 PM EST
I don't think Martino did it. Probably someone close to SISMI or in SISMI. The usual riff-raff that gravitates around services.
by de Gondi (publiobestia aaaatttthotmaildaughtusual) on Wed Mar 8th, 2006 at 01:27:46 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Another possibility is the IAEA. If the IAEA was the source and they got their docs from the US, it would seem to confirm eR's theory that the CIA had a "non-Burba" source for the Niger docs.
by FMJ on Wed Mar 8th, 2006 at 11:05:07 PM EST
I agree with eRiposte. The IAEA received a document signed by Wassam al-Zahawie, dated July 6, 2000. Burba did not have it. It is not known which version of the forgeries the IAEA received: the Repubblica version, Panorama version or yet another. Nor exactly how many pages.

Since there are differences in the two known sets, a US Representative could possibly ask the question.

There is still the problem of exactly when US IS's started receiving some Niger reports based on an original attempt at forgery. Possibly before 9/11 as eRiposte points out.

by de Gondi (publiobestia aaaatttthotmaildaughtusual) on Thu Mar 9th, 2006 at 01:58:37 AM EST
[ Parent ]

Go to: [ European Tribune Homepage : Top of page : Top of comments ]