Talking Points Memo
Josh Marshall gives a few more hints on his big story about the Niger-Iraq forgeries, and one big promise. The forged papers were given to the American government by an Italian journalist. She got them from a source, a security consultant, who was accused recently of being the actual forger.
This isn't true. The security consultant, a former Italian intelligence agent, recieved the document from an current Italian military intelligence agent, whom Josh promises to name in his upcoming article. I'll bet that guy isn't too happy right now.
The agent had hooked the consultant up with a source in the Nigerian Embassy in Rome. In fact, the agent had only established this relationship with the consultant in order to pass the forgeries to him. The agent then gave the forged documents to the embassy source, who provided them to the consultant in the course of their business.
Furthermore, these documents were used by Italian intelligence to create the widespread impression that Iraq was trying to purchase yellowcake uranium. Italian intelligence must have known the documents to be forgeries - wherever they got the documents from, they would have checked up on the veracity of the information, and the documents reveal themselves to be forgeries very easily. Why did they use them to create the widespread impression that Iraq was trying to buy yellowcake? Why did they work carefully to get these documents into American hands?
Why did Italy want us to invade Iraq?
Seymour Herch has already reported on a source that told him the documents were forged by former CIA agents to sting a stovepiping of intelligence info by the Vice President's office. In this case, they would only have wanted the Italian intelligence agency to pass the documents onto the stovepipe as quickly as possible.
So did they pass the documents onto Italian military intelligence directly? Could they have given actual instructions or did they foist the documents onto the Italians the same way the Italians foisted them off onto the security consultant?
I think the second is the most likely. Choosing the first means that Italy definitely knew the documents were forgeries, yet used them throughout Europe to flog the idea of Iraqi attempts to buy uranium in Africa, finally leaking copies of the documents themselves to the Italian press. Could that have been the intent of the CIA forgers? I don't think so: for their stated objective, all they would want is the documents to get into Cheney's hands as soon as possible.
Yet if the documents came into Italian hands as though authentic, then can we speculate that Italy didn't factcheck the document? Seymour Hersch lays the groundwork for saying yes:
One former senior C.I.A. official told me that the initial report from Italy contained no documents but only a written summary of allegations. “I can fully believe that SISMI would put out a piece of intelligence like that,” a C.I.A. consultant told me, “but why anybody would put credibility in it is beyond me.”The investigative diligence of the Italian military intelligence leaves something to be desired, evidently. Coming upon these documents, they did more than the forgers expected. They gave details of the documents to other European countries, so that when Cheney got those documents, they were riding a wave of complementary reports from other countries.
So the Administration seized on these documents and pumped the information long and loud. From the Hersch article:
The State of the Union speech was confounding to many members of the intelligence community, who could not understand how such intelligence could have got to the President without vetting. The former intelligence official who gave me the account of the forging of the documents told me that his colleagues were also startled by the speech. “They said, ‘Holy shit, all of a sudden the President is talking about it in the State of the Union address!’ They began to panic. Who the hell was going to expose it? They had to build a backfire. The solution was to leak the documents to the I.A.E.A.”This is why Josh is using the techtonic plate imagery in regard to this story: the CIA's version of an interoffice prank became a serious part of the Administration's case for going to war. And when the Administration became aware of the forgery, they burned a CIA deep cover agent in retaliation.
That, I think, is what Josh is getting at. Valerie Plame was burned, not to punish Joe Wilson alone, but the CIA as well. This administration bypassed important vetting procedures in order to find any pretext to invade Iraq. They obtained some forged documents and used them indiscriminately as part of the evidence they needed. And when their folly was exposed, they struck out at an important part of America's national security process out of spite.
They aren't fit to govern.