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Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Second Installment of La Repubblica story on SISMI and Nigerien Uranium.

Yesterday's article was fairly critical of SISMI but this one starts out firing both barrels. Nicola Polari is director of SISMI, roughly the Italian CIA.

CARLO BONINI e GIUSEPPE D'AVANZO quote Nicola Polari, the director of SISMI,
"Sono il direttore dell'intelligence e il mio solo interlocutore istituzionale, dopo l'11 settembre, è stato a Washington il direttore della Cia, George Tenet. Come è ovvio, io parlo soltanto con lui..."
"I am the intelligence director and, after September 11, my only official contact in washington has been George Tenet, the director of the CIA. As is obvious I speak only with him."

Then they argue that he is lying. Thus open war between La Repubblica and Polari. They also quote un-named secret agents that Polari set up a non institutionale (impropoer) co-ordination with the Berlusconi administration and and the media.

Bonini and D'Avanzo, who, in my opinion, are relatively reliable as Italian journalists go, claim that SISMI was determined to help the Bush administration find excuses to invade Iraq and didn't care about the truth.

Reviewing their earlier article they make their accusations very clear. Today they definitely claim that SISMI as an organisation was in on the fraud from the beginning. they ingnor anonymous sources' assertions that it was4 crooks trying to cheat the French. This is a worrying pattern as the same evidence supports stronger conclusions when summarized than when analysed in detail (very common at La Repubblica).

Breve riepilogo. Il Sismi di Nicolò Pollari vuole accreditare l'acquisto iracheno di uranio grezzo per fabbricare una bomba nucleare. Lo schema del gioco è alquanto trasparente. Le carte "autentiche" su un tentativo di acquisto in Niger (vecchia "intelligence" italiana degli anni Ottanta) le porta in dote il vicecapo del Centro Sismi di Roma (Antonio Nucera). Vengono affastellate con altra cartaccia costruita alla bell'e meglio con un furto simulato nell'ambasciata del Niger (se ne ricavano carta intestata e timbri). I documenti vengono mostrati dagli uomini di Pollari agli agenti della stazione Cia di Roma mentre un "postino" del Sismi, un tale di nome Rocco Martino, li consegna a Londra al MI6 di sir Richard Dearlove.

that is

Brief summary. Nicolo' Pollari's SISMI wants to support the claim that Iraq bought raw Uranium to make an atomic bomb. The scheme is quite transparent. The "authentic" papers on an attempt to buy in Niger (old Italian intelligence from the 80s) is given to the vice director of the Rome SISMI office (Antonio Nucera). They are combined with other paper amateurishly constructed using a fake burglary at the Nigerien embassy (with which they obtained letterhead and seals). The documents are shown to SISI, to agents at the CIA station in Rome while a "mailman" of SISMI named Rocco Marino, gives them in London to MI6 directed by Richard Dearlove."

SISMI as an institution is identified with Nucera and Pollari. This might be excessive counterspin.

Now my quick summary of the article.

October 15 2001 Pollari is begins working as director of SISMI (he had worked on intelligence in Palazzo Chigi roughly the Italian White House). On the same day SISMI reports, without details, that in 2000 Niger agreed to sell Uranium to Iraq. Berlusconi (after great effort) Visited the White House (this is all the same day).

The CIA is unconvinced by a claim without evidence and State Department INA is very unconvinced.

The CIA station chief in Rome is unreceptive so Pollari talks to Michael Ledeen.

Pollari keeps the SISMI station chief in Washington completely in the dark as he is considered to friendly with the CIA. Instead, according to Italian sources, he talks with Rice and Ledeen. Us sources say

"Un funzionario dell'Amministrazione dice a Repubblica: "Posso confermare che il 9 settembre del 2002, il generale Nicolò Pollari incontrò Stephen Hadley, il vice dell'allora consigliere per la Sicurezza nazionale, Condoleezza Rice". "

that is

A dependent of the administration told La Repubblica " I can confirm that on September 9 2002, general Nocolo' Pollari met Stephen Hadley, then vice director of the NSA."

Josh Marshall notes that Laura Rosen confirms this important claim (which shows that Pollari lied to La Repubblica). Rosen writes "National Security Council spokesman Frederick Jones confirmed the meeting to the Prospect on Tuesday." Note the nonymity.

Pollari reported twice to parliament fall 2002. In the second but not the first report he claimed SISMI had documentary proof.

One amusing twist "Panorama" a not very reputable weekly which belongs to Silvio Berlusconi reported in Sept 2001 that Iraq had bought 500 kilograms of Uranium from Nigeria. Probably a good faith effort to report the SISMI story marred by extreme incompetence.

As has been widely reported the documents were given to Elisabetta Burba who concluded the story was bogus. They were also given to the US embassy and sent to Washington. Bonini and D'Avanzo claim that the CIA ignored them for 3 months (it has been unclear to me if the CIA said they were fake no way the CIA could have failed to notice).

So the claim's in substance are that Pollari is a liar and the very strong suggestion (presented with little evidence) is that he was in on the forgery from the beginning. There is no real evidence that SISMI did more than pretend to believe unreliable sources (the 4 crooks). The theory however is that Berlusconi was eager to help Bush get his war on and that Pollari is totally dishonest and willing to give Berlusconi whatever fake intel he wants.

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