Yellowcake forgery

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In the push for the 2003 war with Iraq, Bush administration officials, including President George W. Bush himself in his State of the Union 2003 speech, cited evidence that Saddam Hussein had attempted to buy 500 tons of yellowcake uranium from the African nation of Niger.

However, Mohamed ElBaradei of the United Nations International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) looked at the evidence and stated that it was obviously forged and a year earlier the CIA found the evidence to be unreliable. [1][2]


Seymour M. Hersh wrote in the March 24, 2003, The New Yorker Magazine:

"Then the story fell apart. On March 7th, Mohamed ElBaradei, the director-general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, in Vienna, told the U.N. Security Council that the documents involving the Niger-Iraq uranium sale were fakes. 'The I.A.E.A. has concluded, with the concurrence of outside experts, that these documents . . . are in fact not authentic,' ElBaradei said."
"One senior I.A.E.A. official went further. He told [Hersh], 'These documents are so bad that I cannot imagine that they came from a serious intelligence agency. It depresses me, given the low quality of the documents, that it was not stopped. At the level it reached, I would have expected more checking.'"

"Congressmen Henry A. Waxman, who approved Bush's war initiative, expessed concern that such a mishap could have occurred. 'It is hard to imagine how this situation could have developed,' he stated in a letter to the President. 'The two most obvious explanations — knowing deception or unfathomable incompetence — both have immediate and serious implications.' Waxman added, 'These facts raise troubling questions. It appears that at the same time you, Secretary Rumsfeld, and State Department officials were citing Iraq's efforts to obtain uranium from Africa as a crucial part of the case against Iraq, U.S. intelligence officials regarded this very same evidence as unreliable. If true, this is deeply disturbing: it would mean that your Administration asked the U.N. Security Council, the Congress, and the American people to rely on information that your own experts knew was not credible.'" [3]

The Bush administration has failed to provide adequate explanation for this situation, and the national media has failed to pursue the matter.

On March 14, 2003, Senator John D. Rockefeller IV asked the FBI to investigate the origin of the documents. Rockefeller expressed concern that the forgeries "may be part of a larger deception campaign aimed at manipulating public opinion and foreign policy regarding Iraq."

"If ... you want one piece to bring you fully up to date on the Niger forgery flap, check out Neil Mackay's "Niger and Iraq: the war's biggest lie?" in the Glasgow Sunday Herald ("One senior western diplomat told the Sunday Herald: 'There were more than 20 anomalies in the Niger documents -- it is staggering any intelligence service could have believed they were genuine for a moment.'")., July 2003.

La Repubblica Expose

In late October 2005, left of center Italian Newspaper La Repubblica published a three-part series which alleged that the Italian Intelligence Service SISMI played a large role in obtaining the the forged Niger Documents and distributing them to Western Governments. Rocco Martino, formerly a dishonest policeman as well as a former SISMI double agent, is identified as the documents source, and he pitched them to SISMI, who in turn handed them over to the CIA station head in Rome. The documents were reportedly identified by the Italian embassy's intelligence personnel as probable forgeries and were refused. The La Repubblica expose then claims that SISMI Director Nicolò Pollari, at the behest of Italian Prime Minister, Silvio Berlusconi, did an end run around the CIA and delivered the documents by hand in Washington D.C. to White House National Security Council (NSC) staff.

If this expose is true, it has stark implications for many people in the Bush Administration as they vocally blamed the CIA for the false claims of Iraq's acquisition of Niger Uranium, and George J. Tenet accepted the blame. Chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee Pat Roberts would also be cast in a dark hue, as either an accomplice or unknowing dupe, since he vehemently attacked the Agency at the same time.

A good translation of the La Repubblica series was done by a blogger, "Nur al-Cubicle", and has been mirrored at Shadow-Media dot org:

  1. Carlo Bonini and Giuseppe d'Avanzo, "Berlusconi Behind Fake Yellowcake Dossier", La Repubblica, October 23, 2005.
  2. Carlo Bonini and Giuseppe d'Avanzo, Yellowcake Dossier Not the Work of the CIA", La Repubblica, October 25, 2005.
  3. Carlo Bonini and Giuseppe d'Avanzo, "Nigergate: The Great Nuclear Centrifuge Scam", La Repubblica, October 26, 2005.

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Web Series

  • Jack Shafer, "Follow That Story: The Nuclear Whodunit," Slate:
Part 1: "Who bamboozled the United States?", March 14, 2003.
Part 2: "Who forged the documents that bamboozled the U.S.?", March 17, 2003.
Part 3: "CIA analysts do a CYA, telling the press, Don't blame the phony nuke docs on us!", March 23, 2003.
Part 4: "Who forged the uranium documents that bamboozled the U.S.? A chronology," July 14, 2003.