In an explosive series of articles appearing this week in the Italian newspaper La Repubblica, investigative reporters Carlo Bonini and Giuseppe d’Avanzo report that Nicolo Pollari, chief of Italy’s military intelligence service, known as Sismi, brought the Niger yellowcake story directly to the White House after his insistent overtures had been rejected by the Central Intelligence Agency in 2001 and 2002. Sismi had reported to the CIA on October 15, 2001, that Iraq had sought yellowcake in Niger, a report it also plied on British intelligence, creating an echo that the Niger forgeries themselves purported to amplify before they were exposed as a hoax.Go read! For additional context, see this Gordon Prather article in AntiWar.com today. From Fixing and Forging :
Today’s exclusive report in La Repubblica reveals that Pollari met secretly in Washington on September 9, 2002, with then–Deputy National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley. Their secret meeting came at a critical moment in the White House campaign to convince Congress and the American public that war in Iraq was necessary to prevent Saddam Hussein from developing nuclear weapons. National Security Council spokesman Frederick Jones confirmed the meeting to the Prospect on Tuesday.
Pollari told the newspaper that since 2001, when he became Sismi’s director, the only member of the U.S. administration he has met officially is his former CIA counterpart George Tenet, but the Italian newspaper quotes a high-ranking Italian Sismi source asserting a meeting with Hadley. La Repubblica also quotes a Bush administration official saying, “I can confirm that on September 9, 2002, General Nicolo Pollari met Stephen Hadley.”
In late 2001, the Italian Military Intelligence and Security Service had informed the CIA that the Iraqi ambassador to the Vatican had reportedly attempted on a visit to Niger to arrange the purchase of yellowcake.
There was, at that time, no documentation.
In February 2002, Wilson and others went to Niger and reported back that the Italian report was without foundation.
Hence, in early October 2002, CIA Director Tenet asked that a reference to the alleged purchase of yellowcake by Iraq be removed from a speech President Bush was to give on Oct. 7.
Guess what happened next.
The “documentation” for the arranged purchase of yellowcake by Iraq from Niger was delivered to the U.S. embassy in Rome on Oct. 9.
The next day, Congress approved the Joint Congressional Resolution Authorizing the Use of U.S. Armed Forces Against Iraq.
And Bush, Cheney, and Condi Rice began referring to the Niger documents as proof that Saddam Hussein was reconstructing his nuclear weapons program.
The documents were provided to the International Atomic Energy Agency in March 2003, and within hours were determined to be forgeries.
Days later, Bush invaded Iraq.
UPDATE: Henry at Crooked Timber has done a translation of the actual La Repubblica article.