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British lies

dp | 25.01.2007 11:45 | Anti-militarism

Scooter Libby is today on trial for lying to Congress and is blaming his old boss Karl Rove - and indirectly implicating Bush. The 'original lie' was that Saddam was buying uranium from Niger to make WMD. That lie was used to justify the Iraq war and can be traced back to Tony Blair. Tony Blair is now the only person on the planet who has yet to admit it was a lie and this will be a major part of his prosecution WHEN he is tried for war crimes.

This is a chapter from Neil Mackays excellent book 'The War On Truth'. Neil is the journalist who first broke the PNAC 'Rebuiling Americas Defences' story. It is copyright to himself but he does encourage folk to 'stick bits of it up on the Internet'.

How to get ruined by the Bush White House for proving the Prez lied over Iraqi nukes

How did a man like Ambassador Joseph C Wilson IV - a man who George Bush Senior called an all-American hero - end up Public Enemy Number One in the eyes of George W Bush's administration? And why did Wilson's wife, an undercover CIA agent, end up having her life put at risk by someone very, very close to Dubya inside the White House? You must be able to guess what the answer is by now, surely? It's quite simple really: the Wilsons proved that Bush and his mob were a bunch of liars, and in return got one almighty kicking from the White House.

The story of how the Bush administration tried to destroy two of the most patriotic servants of America in the country today goes back, as everything does in this tale, to the wild and ridiculous claims about Saddam's WMD capabilities that were pouring out of Whitehall and the White House in the run-up to war. In this case, the claim centred on Iraq trying to buy 500 tonnes of uranium from the African state of Niger _ that's enough to make 50 nukes.

It all begins in February 1999. It was then that Wissam al-Zahwaie, the Iraqi ambassador to the Holy See in Rome, set off on a series of rather unglamorous diplomatic jaunts to a number of African countries including Niger - a nation known for its prodigious exports of goats, onions and ... uranium.

Sometime after the Iraqi ambassador's trip to Niger, Italy's Military Intelligence and Security Service, SISMI, came into possession of some highly suspect documents purporting to show that Saddam was after Niger uranium. Details of Iraq's attempt to buy yellowcake (uranium ore) and copies of the documents were handed by SISMI to Britain's MI6 which in turn passed them to America's CIA, some time after September 11, 2001 but before the end of October of the same year. The information was pure gold and soon caught the eye of arch chicken hawk Dick Cheney. These totally unsubstantiated claims 'proved' in Cheney's eyes that Saddam was trying to reconstitute his nuclear weapons programme. Or, at least, in the VP's opinion, the dubious allegations might convince the average blue-collar American that that was what Saddam was up to. And if that's what Saddam really was up to, well then who could possibly disagree with the Brits and Yanks blowing the daylights out of his country? There was just one hitch, though. The entire claim that Saddam was trying to buy uranium was balderdash of the highest order and the documents were childish forgeries. Concerns were raised about the intelligence almost immediately, with the CIA thinking it was totally without credibility, and analysts over at the State Department's Bureau of Intelligence and Research equally sceptical.

Do you think that worried Bush and Blair, though? Not a chance. Here's what Blair's infamous dossier called Iraq's Weapons of Mass Destruction: !he Assessment of the British government, said on September 24, 2002: 'There is intelligence that Iraq has sought the supply of significant quantities of uranium from Africa. Iraq has no active civil nuclear power programme of nuclear plants and, therefore, has no legitimate reason to acquire uranium.' The only reason that Blair did not directly name Niger as the source country for the uranium was that the CIA told him that its spooks were uneasy with the value of the Italian intelligence. Jack Straw, the British Foreign Secretary until mid-2006, has confirmed that the CIA 'expressed reservations to us about the [Niger] element in the September dossier'. Hard as it may be to believe this, Blair - the last man standing as ever - still claims that Iraq sought uranium from Niger. It's not yet clear if the Prime Minister still believes in Father Christmas or babies being delivered by storks but it's quite likely given his track record. Britain has said that it has separate intelligence to back up the Niger-Iraq claim. So far, it hasn't been produced.

A highly placed source in the International Atomic Energy Agency - the IAEA, which is the UN's nuclear inspection team - told me: 'As far as I know, the only other evidence Britain has about the Niger connection is based on intelligence coming from other western countries which saw the same forgeries. Blair's claim that he has other evidence is nonsense. These foreign intelligence agencies are basing their claims on the same forgeries as the Brits.' The Foreign Office has admitted that the other evidence to support the Niger connection does not include 'any UK-originated material'. In other words, the Brits are claiming that reports compiled by foreign intelligence services - probably Italy's SISMI - on the fake Niger documents, are fresh evidence to support the Niger connection. It's pitiful and mad ... and dangerous. And it should be criminal.

A few months after the British dossier slithered into public view, the US government reiterated the claim in a fact sheet dated December 19,2002. It was headed Illustrative Examples of Omissions from the Iraqi Declaration to the United Nations Security Council, and in it, under the heading 'Nuclear Weapons', it reads: 'The declaration ignores efforts to procure uranium from Niger. Why is the Iraqi regime hiding their uranium procurement?' Yet, just a few months earlier, in October 2002, a classified national intelligence estimate from the State Department's Bureau of Intelligence and Research said: 'Finally, the claims of Iraqi pursuit of natural uranium in Africa are, in (our) assessment, highly dubious.'

Nevertheless, George W Bush took the lunatic allegations into the stratosphere when he uttered these now infamous 16 words during his State of the Union address, on January 28,2003: 'The British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa.' Bush didn't stop there, though. Oh no. He went on to say that there would be 'mushroom clouds' unless Saddam was stopped. Senior CIA officers tried to prevent Bush making these ridiculous comments, in what one British intelligence source described to me as 'a wise attempt at an ass-saving manoeuvre'. In fact, on October 6,2002, the CIA faxed the White House stating: 'The Africa story is overblown.' George Tenet, the CIA director, stopped Bush mentioning Niger during a speech in Ohio, and even told the Deputy National Security Advisor that the President 'should not be a fact witness on this issue ... (as) the reporting was weak'. But in the end, under pressure from the politicians, the spineless and whipped CIA decided to sign-off on the text. The best the CIA chiefs could do was tell themselves that if they got rumbled then what Bush had said could be blamed on the stupid Brits. After the inevitable rumbling, that's precisely what happened. The CIA, said George Tenet, 'concurred that the text in the speech was factually correct, ie that the British government report said that Iraq sought uranium from Africa'. Tenet added: 'This did not rise to the level of certainty which should be required for presidential speeches, and the CIA should have ensured that it was removed.' The poor bastards in the CIA were going to get a whuppin' whatever they did. If they tried to get the claim taken out, then they were lily-livered cowards and failures as spies; but if they left it in then it was Tenet and his boys and girls over at Langley who'd carry the can for the catastrophic cock-up. The CIA had a little more success warning Secretary of State, Colin Powell, not to include claims about Iraq getting uranium from Niger in his spectacularly stupid address to the UN in February 2003 on the threat posed by Saddam. You must remember that address - Powell sure didn't make any comments about Niger but you might recall him waving pretend vials of anthrax about and showing us satellite images of Saddam's non-existent WMD on the move.

Bush's 16 slippery words were a beautiful exercise - nay, a master class in double-speak. 'The British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa.' The phraseology kept US intelligence out of the picture, the sentence didn't refer to those dodgy documents or any evidence at all - just British speculation _ and yet the comment still got the threat out there big-style. The phrasing of the sentence meant that the lie could be told that Saddam was after African uranium with the President avoiding any blame for the lie. In fact, to make it even more perfect, all the blame would go to his little sidekick over in Downing Street, London.

Now these wild Niger claims by Bush and Blair gave a few people some pause for thought - not least the International Atomic Energy Agency The IAEA had said that Saddam was nuke-free - basing its claim on the fact that Britain and America bombed Iraq's nuclear facilities into dust during the First Gulf War. In October 1997, the !AEA issued a report stating: 'There are no indications that there remains in Iraq any physical capability for the production of amounts of weapon-grade usable nuclear material of any practical significance.'

Someone else who was a little taken aback by the State of the Union address was Ambassador ]Joseph C Wilson IV. You see, he'd taken a trip to Niger on behalf of the CIA to investigate the uranium claim and discovered that it was total nonsense.

Between 1976 and 1998, Wilson was a career diplomat. In 1990, he was the last US diplomat to confront Saddam before the start of the First Gulf War. He was an ambassador in West Africa under Bush Senior and helped direct policy on Africa for Clinton in the National Security Council. So he wasn't exactly some partisan leftie with a grudge against his country and a penchant for despotic regimes and mad moustachioed tyrants.

'In February 2002, I was informed by officials at the Central Intelligence Agency that Vice-president Dick Cheney's office had· questions about a particular intelligence report,' he recounted. 'While I never saw the report, I was told that it referred to a memorandum of agreement that documented the sale of uranium yellowcake by Niger to Iraq in the late 1990s. The agency official asked in would travel to Niger to check out the story so they could provide a response to the Vice-president's office.'

Remember all those trips Cheney was taking to the CIA in the run-up to the war? And how he was harassing the spooks to give him the facts he wanted to hear? Well, the uranium claim was just music to Dick's ears and he wanted to push the allegations as far as possible. Enter Wilson, who undertakes to go to Africa in an attempt to make the Niger claim stand up for the Vice-president. Incidentally, Wilson took on the job free of charge as a public service to his country; all the US government had to do was pick up his expenses: costs like his flights, food and hotels.

When he arrived in the Niger capital, Niamey, in late February 2002, Wilson's first port of call was the office of the US Ambassador, Barbra Owens-Kirkpatrick. 'The ambassador told me that she knew about the allegations of uranium sales to Iraq and that she felt she had already debunked. them in her reports to Washington.' The claims had also been kicked into the gutter by high-ranking members of the US military.

Wilson then 'spent the next eight days drinking sweet mint tea and meeting with dozens of people: current government officials, former government officials, people associated with the country's uranium business. It did not take long to conclude that it was highly doubtful that any such transaction had ever taken place.

'Given the structure of the consortiums that operated the mines, it would be exceedingly difficult for Niger to transfer uranium to Iraq. Niger's uranium business consists of two mines, Somair and Cominal, which are run by French, Spanish, Japanese, German and Nigerian interests. If the government wanted to remove uranium from a mine, it would have to notify the consortium, which in turn is strictly monitored by the International Atomic Energy Agency. Moreover, because the two mines are closely regulated, quasi-governmental entities, selling uranium would require the approval of the Minister of Mines, the Prime Minister and probably the President. In short, there's simply too much oversight over too small an industry for a sale to have transpired.'

I should point out that at the time Wilson set out on his trip in February 2002, he had no idea that the documents - as I'll show you later - were pathetic forgeries. He was working on the assumption that they were genuine.

In early March, Wilson was back stateside. He told the CIA, which had been asked to get to the bottom of the whole Niger-uranium allegations, that the claims were rubbish - that Iraq just couldn't have got uranium from Niger. \Wilson's gave the same report to the State Department. You can understand, then, why Wilson was more than a little confused when Blair in September 2002 and Bush in January 2003 went out of their way to say that Saddam was buying uranium from Africa. The allegation was repeated in March 2003 by Dick Cheney. Wilson said: 'If ... the information [which he provided on there being no bid by Iraq to buy uranium from Niger] was ignored because it did not fit certain preconceptions about Iraq, then a legitimate argument can be made that we went to war under false pretences.' Just to make the import of what the ambassador is saying perfectly clear, remember that Bush had said that Iraq was trying to get uranium from Africa almost a year after Wilson came back from Africa saying the claim was nonsense. The Prez was telling a big, fat, hairy spider of a lie.

Wilson says that, based on his 'experience with the administration in the months leading up to the war, I have little choice but to conclude that some of the intelligence related to Iraq's nuclear weapons programme was twisted to exaggerate the Iraqi threat'. Understandably, Wilson added: 'It begs the question 'what else are they lying about?'

Within days of Wilson going public on July 6, 2003 about what had really gone on during his trip to Niger, the neocons in the White House decided to ruin him and his family. After Wilson spoke out on the pages of the New York Times, the White House, through gritted teeth, conceded that the Niger claim should never have been included in the State of the Union address. "The Director of the CIA, George Tenet, had to stagger blinking into the media glare to take the whipping for his boss Mr Bush. By the time Tenet resigned to tend his garden in 2004, the ex-CIA Director must have had calluses on his ass the size of walnuts after all the beatings he took to save Bush's own sorry behind. Tenet, in full mea culpa mode, said the CIA was to blame far the inclusion of the 16-word whopper and hadn't properly warned the White House that the Niger allegation was 'highly dubious' in the eyes of agency analysts. No-one seemed to have the sense to point out that Tenet was fat less culpable than Bush and was obviously taking the fall for his boss. The White House - remember - was fully conversant with the tact that the uranium claim was rubbish because Wilson had scotched the allegation after being dispatched by the CIA on behalf of Dick Cheney to Niger. Tenet - as you can see - drank the poisoned Kool-Aid a long time ago. He was Bush's prize bitch.

Wilson was now a marked man. He'd dared to question the neocons.

His pay-back came just a week after an extensive article by him appeared in the New York Times' op-ed section saying his travels in Niger on behalf of the Bush administration had uncovered proof that Iraq couldn't have acquired uranium from the little African nation. Pay-back came in the form of a syndicated column on July 14, 2003 - just over a week after Wilson publicly refuted the Niger-uranium claims - by the right-wing pundit Robert Novak. It came out, quoting anonymous government sources, saying that Wilson's wife, Valerie Plame, was a CIA officer and she'd got her husband the Niger gig. "The implication was that Wilson had only got the job because his wife was in the CIA and that he wouldn't have had the credentials to get picked for the task without her. The sub-text was that he was incompetent for the assignment and his findings and theories therefore couldn't be trusted. The column was an ugly attempt to smear Wilson with the dirt of nepotism. It was, however, a pretty pathetic effort to undermine his credibility given that Wilson's CV reads like the track record of a high-achieving polymath and uber-patriot.

The attack on Wilson should, by rights, have died away. This was a man, after all, who had had praise heaped on him by two former presidents. But the sneaky little neocons had been a little too overweening this time. This slur wasn't going to go away, because by impugning Wilson's name they'd also, as a by-product of their scheming, exposed the identity of his wife - and it is a criminal offence in the US to 'out' a serving undercover CIA officer. Whoever it was in the White House who exposed Plame's name and revealed her job, they'd broken the 1982 Intelligence Identities Protection Act and that carries with it a fine of up to $50,000 and ten years in jail. Ten years! What a wonderful prospect! At least two senior White House officials, it is now known, spoke to six Washington journalists - including slimy Novak - to dribble poison in their ears about Wilson and Plame. Wilson was nothing short of a traitor, ran the spin from the White House. He was a liar, the real liars lied.

Someone was going to get their balls fried for this one. Wanna hear the clincher to this shoddy affair? Valerie Plame was a spy whose job it was to monitor the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. In fact, Valerie Plame was a so-called N OC - a spy who works in 'non-official cover'. That means she doesn't work out of an embassy pretending to be diplomatic staff in order to conceal her true identity as a spy. Rather what NOCs do is build a cover by pretending to be a student, a journalist, a visiting professor, a business executive - that kind of thing. It costs the CIA up to $1 million to build a doc's cover. A NOC is also at real risk of being killed or arrested since unlike the spies based in embassies they have no diplomatic immunity. You can see why Valerie was known to be something of a crack shot with an AK-47.

So, let's get this straight. To discredit Wilson, a man whose only crime, so far as I can see, was to do something for free for his country and then tell the truth about it, the White House ruined his wife's career. Cool. Not only that, but Team Bush risked the national security of America by endangering any sources or informants Plame might have had overseas. To top it all, they put her life at risk too. Great guys. The White House stooge who squealed on Plame 'compromised an entire career of networks, relationships and operations', Wilson said, referring to his wife's history as a high-flying CIA officer. Plenty of al-Qaeda inspired terrorists would love to whack a CIA spy - even if she did happen to be married to a man who wanted to stop the invasion of Iraq. Don't forget that CIA station chiefs in Beirut and Greece have been assassinated. Mentioning her name in public was enough to put this woman's life in grave danger.

'I have been subjected - along with my wife, Valerie Plame to a partisan Republican smear campaign,' said Wilson. 'I've been accused of being a liar and, worse, a traitor ... Administration sources leaked to the media that my wife was an undercover CIA operative - an unprecedented betrayal of national security and a possible felony ... It was a malicious act meant to keep others from crossing a vindictive administration.'

Wilson named a number of men he believed were behind the leaks, including Karl Rove, Bush's Brain, aka the President's Political Advisor. He claimed that a meeting was called in the White House in March 2003 - around the time that Wilson was beginning to make it discreetly known to the administration that he felt Bush should 'fess up to putting that 16 word lie about African uranium in his January 2003 State of the Union address. The meeting centred on Wilson and how to damage him. Wilson says: 'Either the Vice-president himself or, more likely, his Chief of Staff, Lewis Libby, chaired a meeting at which a decision was made to do a work-up on me.'

A work-up, according to Wilson, meant that the White House 'basically mounted an intelligence operation to find out everything they could on me and my habits and everything else. Which in and of itself I find rather appalling ... Somebody decided that his or her political agenda was more important than the national security of my country and that this person was prepared to betray a national security asset [his wife, Plame) to defend that agenda.' In Wilson's words, those people at that meeting decided to 'drag my wife into the public square and administer a beating on her'. It was a shot across his bows, and the bows of other whistle-blowers, Wilson believed. It was a clear message, he added: 'If you talk, we'll take your family and drag them through the mud.'

Wilson was called partisan and labelled a Democrat, even though he'd given money to Bush's 2000 presidential campaign and his mission to Niger had been undertaken for Bush's own administration. 'I brought back a report which, if it had been accepted by my government, would have kept the President of the United States from actually lying to the American people,' he said.

It's frightening to think that some of the most powerful men in the world would sit around a table and devise ways to make another man's life a misery. There is no higher good in these corridors of power- just good old-fashioned revenge and dirty tricks. 'Destroy the messenger' - that was the battle-cry of these guys - at whatever cost. Team Bush was out to out-Nixon Nixon. Don't forget, Watergate was just about a petty break-in and nasty Nixon trying to get himself re-elected; Yellowcake-gate, Niger-Gate, Plame-Gate, whatever you want to call it, was a crime of massive deception played out against the American people which also ruined the career of a top US spy.

According to Wilson, the policy decided at the meeting was to deflect attention away from the lie in the State of the Union address by launching a personal campaign against Wilson designed to humiliate him and destroy his credibility. His wife, it seemed, was a legitimate target in this plan. Karl Rove, according to Wilson, then circulated information from the work-up on him within the administration after making it clear that Valerie Plame. was 'fair game'. Hardly surprising then that Wilson said: 'At the end of the day, it's of keen interest to me to see whether or not we can get Karl Rove frog-marched out of the White House in handcuffs. And trust me, when I use that name, I measure my words.' I just love that quote. The mental image conjured up is nothing short of beautiful.

Of course, the White House came out and defended Rove, with Press Secretary Scott McClellan saying: 'He wasn't involved '" The President knows he wasn't involved ... It's simply not true.' If I was to use the same kind of reductive, biased reasoning that Team Bush and the Blairites used to justify this war, then from that above sentence, I could conclude, without question, that Bush was part of the criminal conspiracy to out Plame. If Bush 'knows' that Rove isn't involved, then logically he must know who is. Ergo Bush is concealing the identity of whoever leaked Plame's name to the press in the plot to ruin Wilson and his wife. It's the same clumsy logical tripe as saying 'we know Saddam has weapons of mass destruction, but Saddam will not hand over those weapons. Therefore Saddam is hiding the weapons and we must as a consequence invade Iraq to take the weapons from him'.

Those neocons were about as low as a flea on a rat's belly thanks to their scam to destroy Wilson and Plame. But their ugly machinations left Wilson free to moonwalk on the moral high ground. 'Valerie and I realised that for all the hardship it may have imposed on us, the real crime was the crime against the national security of this country,' Wilson said. 'We have tried to avoid giving the impression that we thought of ourselves as victims. We thought that the country was the victim.'

Ouch! Killer comments like that must be some kick in the gonads for Bush and Co. Wilson piled on the pressure saying that after Valerie was 'outed', her colleagues 'made it very clear that there had been a breach of trust between the clandestine service of the CIA and the White House'. The Wilson-Plame-Niger-Yellowcake affair made Bush look like the real enemy of the state. To Wilson, the US government came after him 'either because they wanted to discourage other people from stepping forward and telling the truth, or out of simple revenge ...It was truly un-American. It was a betrayal of the country ... It was treasonous.' Ouch again, Ambassador Wilson! With all those put-downs, you are spoiling us.

'This is my country,' said Wilson, skewering the Bush administration with its own patriotism, 'and it is a great country, and the American people have every right to know what their government is doing and what their government has done with the false pretences under which this government launched this war on Iraq.'

While this disgusting display of bullying, character assassination and treachery to America was unfolding within Team Bush, the truth was also emerging about what was really in those Niger-uranium documents which started the whole wild goose chase in the first place. The IAEA had been begging to see proof that Iraq was seeking to get uranium from Niger since the British government dossier was published in September 2002. When the papers were finally handed over on February 4, 2003, a senior IAEA official told me that it took them just a few hours to figure out that the documents were 'total bullshit'. They were childish forgeries - so childish that one tell-tale mistake was flagged up by a simple Google search. 'There were more than 20 anomalies in the Niger documents,' the IAEA official told me. 'It's staggering any intelligence service could have believed they were genuine for a moment.'

So, just how easy is it to tell a fake contract for nuclear material from an impoverished African country to a tin-pot dictatorship? Actually, it seems pretty easy indeed. In one of the documents - there were 17 pages in all, written in French - which was a letter from the President of Niger, a reference is made to the constitution of May 12, 1965, which is a pity, given that the constitution is dated August 9, 1999.

A three-page accord agreeing the uranium sale was accompanied by another letter, dated October 10,2000 and signed by the Foreign Minister Allele Elhadj Habibou. However, Habibou stopped being Foreign Minister in 1989. 1he heading of this letter also referred to the Conseil Militaire Supreme, a body which was abolished in May 1989. In another, an obsolete government letterhead is used, including the wrong symbol for the office of the president. References to state bodies like the Council for National Reconciliation don't match with the dates on the letters. One letter bearing the obviously faked signature of Niger's president Tandja Mamadou was so woefully executed it looked like it'd been done on an Etch-a-Sketch.

The day after the IAEA discovered the documents were completely cooked up, Colin Powell, then US Secretary of State, made his case before the UN Security Council for war against Iraq. Significantly, Powell didn't mention Niger. IAEA director, Mohamed El Baradei, tried again to bring reason to the table on March 7 when he told the UN Security Council - just before Iraq was invaded - that his team and 'outside experts' had worked out that 'these documents ... are in fact not authentic'. But it was to no avail. The lie had been told, vast swathes of the American population believed that Saddam was a nuclear threat and that was all that was needed to green-light the invasion of Iraq in the eyes of the Bush administration.

A senior lAEA official told me: 'I know that we told Britain and America, two weeks before El Baradei made his statement to the UN in March, that the documents were forgeries. At that point, the lAEA gave them a chance - they asked the US and UK if they had any other evidence to back up the claim apart from the Niger forgeries.

'Britain and America should have reacted with shock and horror when they found that the documents were fake but they did nothing. The IAEA had said that it would follow up any other evidence pointing towards a Niger connection. If the UK and US had such evidence they could have forwarded it and shut the IAEA up - El Baradei would never have gone public if that had happened. My analysis is that Britain has no other credible evidence.

'If I was prosecuting someone in a court of law and I brought in what I knew to be forgeries in an attempt to get a conviction, the case would be thrown out immediately and it'd be me in the dock. The case wasn't thrown out against Iraq, however, and what we are left with is an ominous sense of the way intelligence was treated to promote war. There are only two conclusions: one, is that Britain has intelligence but kept it from the weapons inspectors, which they should not have done under international law, or that they don't have a thing. If they did have intelligence, then why not show it to the world now that [the invasion] is over?'

The IAEA and El Baradei, he said, were bitter and humbled - just as were Hans Blix and his UN weapons inspectors in UNMOVIC - after their experiences at the hands of the Bush administration, 'but perhaps now we may have some solace as the truth seems to be coming out. It's obvious that we could have done this without war - but the evidence shows war would have happened regardless of what the inspectors could have done as that was the wish of Bush and Blair. Everyone, it seems, was working for peace - except them. 'The British government's claim that it had additional intelligence which proved that Saddam was seeking uranium from Niger was a blatant lie. Just have a look at this April 2003 letter from the State Department to the Democrat House of Representatives member Henry Waxman, who'd been demanding answers about what the hell all this Iraq-Niger stuff was about. The letter says that the US received intelligence from the UK and another 'western European ally' - which many believe to be Italy - that Iraq was trying to buy yellowcake from Niger. But it adds: 'Not until March 4 did we learn that, in fact, the second western European government had based its assessment on the evidence available to the US that was subsequently discredited.'

In other words, as one intelligence source told me: 'Italian intelligence had based its reports on the same crap the British used.' That's no surprise since it was the Italians who gave the British the faked-up documents in the first place. The junk intelligence that the Brits and the Italians had was then happily sucked up as Holy Scripture by Team Bush. Everyone was using everyone else's intelligence - but it was all based. on the same forged. documents. It was a merry-go-round of lies and disinformation between the Brits, the Yanks and Berlusconi's boys in SISMJ. Given that this letter to Democratic representative Henry \XJ;'1Xman was' dated April 29, 2003, it kind of makes you wonder why the White House didn't admit that the Niger claim was rubbish until early July 2003 -' after Wilson went public and revealed that allegations of Saddam trying to buy uranium in Africa were completely bogus. Of course, by the time the Bush administration finally admitted the allegations were false, the March 2003 invasion of Iraq was completed.

Then El Baradei came out and rained on the war party's parade by telling the world that the documents supporting Bush and Blair's t theory on uranium supplies to Iraq from Niger were a bunch of crap, he was given the usual treatment that the neocons mete out to anyone with a Middle Eastern-sounding name who contradicts or stands up to them. Cheney gave it to that awkward Arab, shock-and-awe style. 'I think Mt El Baradei frankly is wrong,' Cheney said, as his nose grew all the way down to his ankles. '[The IAEA] has consistently underestimated or missed what it was Saddam Hussein was doing. I don't have reason to believe they're any more valid this time than they've been in the past.' Even the word of the UN's chief expert on nuclear weapons wouldn't suffice for Cheney. If he said it was so, then it was so, despite what the CIA, the IAEA or anyone else said or did. That's not a man of self, confidence and assured leadership, that's a plain old-fashioned autocrat.

Quite how Dick squared these comments about El Baradei with the fact that an internal CIA memo from June 17,2003 said 'we no longer believe there is sufficient other reporting to conclude that Iraq pursued uranium from abroad', is beyond me, but then being weird, contradictory and confusing seems to be something of a badge of honour in the Bush White House.

Here's another weird, contradictory and confusing aside in the Niger-Iraq uranium story. From December 2001, the State Department's Bureau for Intelligence and Research had been saying that Iraq didn't have a nuclear programme. So why would Colin Powell, the man in charge of the State Department, tell the House International Relations Committee in February 2002 that 'with respect to the nu cleat programme, there is no doubt that the Iraqis are pursuing it'?

It's also interesting to note that prior to Bush uttering the infamous 16-word lie in his January 2003 State of the Union address, the State Department's Bureau for Intelligence and Research had concluded that the documents were 'clearly a forgery'. So, that means Bush knew before making his bogus claim that Saddam was after uranium, that the papers backing this allegation had been labelled as fake - yet he still went ahead and spouted that Iraq had sought uranium from Africa. If that's not telling a downright lie, then you can smear my ears with honey and tie me to an anthill. On April 5, 2003, not long before the March invasion, the National Intelligence Council issued a memo that stated: 'We judge it highly unlikely that Niger sold uranium yellowcake to Baghdad in recent years.'

I should also point out that getting 500 tonnes of yellow cake from Niger to Iraq is a little more difficult than getting your weekly supermarket shopping home after late night opening on Thursday. 'There's the small matter of taking 500 tonnes - which is a lot of tonnes by the way - across the Sahara Desert and then getting it shipped from West Africa to Iraq. After that it's just a small matter of transporting it from one of Iraq's southern ports to Baghdad. That should be pretty easy given that before the invasion Iraq was the most surveyed nation on earth - so it's not as if the UK or US would have spotted this illicit trade in yellowcake from the satellites we had zooming in on every camel that took a dump in the Iraqi desert.

Where in fact did these forged documents come from which started the whole made-up Niger claim in the first place? One theory is that either Italian intelligence, or Italian intelligence working with MI6, cooked up the whole thing themselves with the full backing and support of American intelligence. There's also a suspicion that the spooks were assisted by a disgruntled or easily bribed diplomat or office worker from Niger at the country's embassy on Via Antonio Baiamonti in Rome who passed over documents like forgeable letterheads and official stamps. "The documents could also have been doctored versions of papers relating to a real attempt by Iraq to buy uranium from Niger in the late 1980s - when the US and UK were arming him, as you'll remember. Perhaps, the dates of papers were altered by western spooks to make it look as if the attempted trade took place much later.

The visit by Wissam al-Zahwaie, the Iraqi ambassador to the Holy See in Rome, to Niger was just a serendipitous trip which made the entire scam look more plausible. Incidentally, today al-Zahwaie says that his mission to Africa was to invite statesmen to Baghdad so that they could be persuaded to speak out against UN sanctions. 'I had no other instructions,' he says, 'and certainly none concerning the purchase of uranium.'

Whatever happened, there was certainly a break-in at the Niger embassy in Rome in December 2000 - and all that was stolen was a cheap watch and a few bottles of perfume. Rocco Martino, a shady operator who once worked for SISMI, the Italian intelligence agency; says SISMI forged the papers in late 2000 and early 2001. If this is true, then God help Italy. If this nation relies on an intelligence agency which can't even get the right name for Niger's Foreign Minister on a forged document that they are trying to pass off as proof that Saddam bought yellowcake from Niger, then the country is even more screwed than we thought. But then I suppose a country's intelligence services come to resemble a country's leader just the way a dog comes to look like its master. Under Blair's watch, Operation Rockingham turned UK spying into a slithery, slimy craft built on carefully constructed lies; Bush turned the OSP into a swaggering, macho operation that lied blatantly and for the hell of it; and under Silvio Berlusconi, it appears, the Italian spooks became even dumber and more bumpkin-like than they'd ever been before - and that's saying something.

'The forged documents then surfaced publicly in Italy in October 2002, when Elisabetta Burba - a reporter for Panorama, an Italian news magazine owned by - ba-da-bing. - none other than former Italian premier Silvio Berlusconi - got a call from Martino in which he said he had information about Saddam trying to buy uranium in Africa. When they met, he offered to sell her the Niger documents for about $10,000. The paper's editor-in-chief, Carlo Rossella, who had close ties to Berlusconi's administration, ordered Burba to hand the documents over to the US Embassy. She did just that. Burba herself later checked the documents out and quickly concluded that they were a faked-up pile of steaming dung. They really are hiring the wrong people in the intelligence services these days, aren't they? I mean if one solitary reporter could work out that the Niger papers were fake, it just makes you wonder, doesn't it, why all those British, Italian and American spies couldn't for the life of them see the same thing? You'd almost imagine that they were deliberately not looking. The Niger-uranium saga unveils one of the key strategies of the Bush and Blair governments: allowing information which the administrations knew to be fake and phoney to be aired in order to convince the US Congress, the British Parliament and the people of the UK and America, that they should support war. The truth about this massive con job finally began to sink in, even to Washington insiders on bodies like the Senate Intelligence Committee. One of its members, Senator Jay Rockefeller, who voted for the war after having the daylights scared out of him by the President, just like most other American citizens, says now: 'There is a possibility that the fabrication of these documents may be part of a larger deception campaign aimed at manipulating public opinion and foreign policy regarding Iraq.'

With the image of British and American spooks and their political masters looking utterly ridiculous and sinister around the world after these events, George Tenet at least tried to salvage a little credibility and decency for himself by calling on the Justice Department to investigate the leaking of Plame's name and her covert role in the CIA to the press - well, what else could he do? She was a CIA officer and he was her boss, so he did have a duty of care to help her.

Lousianas Democrat Senator, Mary Landrieu, said: 'This betrayal by someone or some people in the administration has reached a new low. There's an unwritten rule in politics that no matter how rough the politics gets, families are off-limits, particularly spouses and children.'

It took more than two months - until the end of September 2003 - for the Bush administration to order an inquiry. In the meantime, people like Scott McClellan, the White House spokesman, kept saying things like: 'I'm telling you, that is not the way the White House operates ... No-one was certainly given any authority to do anything of that nature.' Dick Cheney even said: 'I don't know Joe Wilson.' Cheney, if you need to be reminded, was Defense Secretary under George Bush the Elder during the First Gulf War. As the acting US Ambassador in Baghdad in the weeks before the war, it was Wilson who helped evacuate thousands of foreigners from Kuwait and negotiated the release of more than 100 US hostages whom Saddam had taken prisoner. Wilson also sheltered some 800 US citizens in the American Embassy. For his trouble, Dubyas father wrote to Wilson saying: 'Your courageous leadership during this period of great danger for American interests and American citizens has my admiration and respect. I salute, too, your skillful conduct of our tense dealings with the government of Iraq. The courage and tenacity you have exhibited throughout this ordeal prove that you are the right person for the job.' In a cable to Baghdad, Bush Senior told Wilson: 'What you are doing day in and day out under the most trying of conditions is truly inspiring. Keep fighting the good fight.' So, sure, Dick Cheney, had never heard of Wilson. Wilson likes to pick up that last quote from Daddy Bush - the one about fighting the good fight - and turn it on Baby Bush. 'I guess,' says Wilson, referring to Bush the Elder, 'he didn't realise that one of these days I would carry that fight against his son's administration.'

The investigation into the leaking against Plame was eventually opened but nor before Dick Cheney told America on the news show Meet the Press that the claim in the British dossier of September 2002 stating Saddam had been seeking uranium in Africa was 'revalidated'. The man is unbelievable in his ability to tell stonking big lies and think he can get away with it. Cheney was saying this in September 2003 - while weapons inspectors across newly occupied Iraq were wandering around, scratching their heads and wondering where all those lovely big WMD had gone to that they thought they would find just lying around in palaces or propped up against a palm tree at a desert oasis.

Anyway, back to that investigation into the outing of Pia me. It was opened by the justice Department, then under the command of John Ashcroft, Bush's Attorney-General. This is a man who believes he sits at God's right hand; he's a Christ-bothering warrior for the Lord and the kind of guy who you could well imagine thinks quite fondly of Margaret Atwood's vision of an America run by crazed theocratic patriarchs in A Handmaid's Tale.

But hang on a minute, here, isn't getting Ashcroft to investigate an alleged White House leak simply a case of one nasty little apparatchik investigating another? Having Bush's top lawman in charge of an inquiry into shenanigans by those in the President's inner circle is a bit like getting me to investigate my best mate. The justice Department gave whoever leaked Plame's name a head-start to cover their tracks. Ashcroft's minions informed the White House on the evening of Monday September 29, 2003 that the investigation was about to begin - effectively the justice Department might as well have said, 'OK guys, we'll be round tomorrow first thing to get going on this investigation.' Of course, what that meant was that the White House leaker or leakers had an entire night to clean out the closet.

The White House totally opposed the appointment of a special independent prosecutor. Scott McClellan - the Voice of Bush - told reporters that an independent investigation just wasn't appropriate, and besides, he said, 'the President believes leaking classified information is a very serious matter'. Well, that's alright then - if the President says that he's really upset about Plame's life being put at risk then everything must be fine. Nothing to worry about, citizens. Go back to sleep.

Wasn't Clinton impeached for simply dissembling about a bit of harmless hanky-panky behind the back of his missus? For saying .'1 never had sex with that woman' when he kinda had? Wasn't the investigation into whatever it was that Clinton did - if my memory serves, it was getting a little oral love from some chick at the office and then lying about it - undertaken by a special independent prosecutor rather than a partisan pro-administration justice Department? Ashcroft took more than a passing interest in the Plame investigation. His aides regularly briefed him on the progress of the inquiry, passing him the identities of those who'd been interviewed. I'm sure Mr Ashcroft kept all the~e details completely to himself and would never have thought of relaying information to Bush or Cheney or any of his other friends, mentors and bosses.

Eventually, even the Bush team had to relent, and in December the justice Department handed the investigation over to Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald. US grand jury investigators have interviewed Bush, Cheney and Powell, as well as the White House Weasel-in-Chief, Scott McClellan, the press spokesman. Although all grand juries are secret, it's leaked out that witnesses allegedly told the grand jury that Bush knew about, but took no action to stop, the release of Plame's identity. Bush has already got himself an outside lawyer to deal with the coming fall-out from any investigation.

Finally, the truth began to stagger into sight in the summer of 2005.

That's two years after the whole scandal broke - enough time to make sure that America had forgotten about the affair, got bored and moved on to discussing which actress had the nicest hooters in Desperate Housewives.

After threats, harassment, bullying, general ass-kicking and nipple-tweaking, information about Time magazine reporter Matt Cooper's off-the-record briefings regarding Wilson's wife with none other than a certain Mr Karl 'Brain of Baby Bush' Rove made its way to the grand jury. Cooper, . as any decent journalist would, had fought tooth-and-nail to protect his source. To a journalist, even Karl Rove has to be protected - no matter what _ and Cooper had faced the threat of jail over his attempts to respect the pact between reporter and source. He was saved from jail when his bosses at Time went over his head and handed his emails, relating to secret discussions with Rove, to the grand jury. Cooper also agreed to testify. Another reporter, Judith Miller from the New York Times, was jailed for not talking. Ironically, Miller had been a complete ra-ra girl for the war from the get-go, pedalling all sorts of bogus Chalabi-inspired rubbish about Saddam's mighty arsenal of WMD on the front pages of her newspaper in the lead up to war.

As an aside, you might like to know that when Cooper first met Bush - at a time when the reporter was staring into the maw of a possible spell in the can for protecting one of the lizards on Bush's West Wing - the President gallantly said: 'Cooper! I thought you'd be in jail by now.'

One of the emails which Cooper was forced to give up is just great. Not only does it appear to indicate that Rove was part of a criminal and treacherous conspiracy to out Plame, but it also contains a pretty cool reference to the John Belushi movie Animal House. See if you can spot it. It's just perfect when you think about the frat boys currently running America.

Here it is, in all its ungrammatical, badly punctuated and misspelled glory:

Spoke to Rove on double super secret background for about two mins before he went on vacation ... it was, KR said, Wilson's wife, who apparently works at the agency on wmd issues, who authorized the trip. not only the genesis of the trip is flawed ans suspect but so is the report. he implied strongly there's still plenty to implicate Iraqi interest in acquiring uranium from Niger ... some of this is going to be declassified in the coming days, KR said. don't get too far out in front he warned. then he bolted.

(In case you are wondering, 'double super secret background' is the line taken from Animal House.)

Let's be clear about this - that email proves Rove told Cooper that Wilson's wife worked for the CIA. At the time of the discussion, July 11, 2003, less than a week after Wilson revealed publicly that the Niger-uranium claims were nonsense, and just a few days before Plame was first named and 'outed' as a spy in the press - all any reporter had to do to find out the identity of Joe Wilson's wife was Google 'ambassador Joseph c Wilson iv + wife' and the result would be - bingo! - Valerie Plame. Little Karl was playing a deeply nasty game called jigsaw identification, and by doing so he leaked the identity of a national security asset.

Dubyas daddy once called people who unmasked spies 'the most insidious of traitors'. Baby Bush promised to sack the leakers. Karl Rove sure looks like he is one of the leakers. Does that not mean that Karl Rove is a traitor and should be sacked? Yet still he remains ... It is also a criminal offence to identify a spy. But Karl Rove seems to have identified a spy. Shouldn't he be in jail? Yet still he remains ...

Just for the record, Rove's claim to Cooper that it was Plame who authorised the trip to Niger is another lie. A declassified Senate Intelligence Committee report, dated July 7, 2004, reveals that it was the Deputy Chief of the CIA's counter-proliferation division who gave the Niger expedition the green light. It also appears that once Plame's ID was out in the public domain this presented foreign intelligence services with something of a heyday. Spooks from around the world started to piece together the life of Valerie Plame in order to work out just how the CIA might be operating in their countries. Well, there's a real boon to US national security courtesy of White House apparatchiks.

Satan loves his own. So far, Rove has been lucky and it looks like he is sure to avoid having his collar felt by the long arm of the law, although he and other White House officials are still facing a lawsuit filed by Wilson and Plame. Dame Fortune however, has not smiled quite so kindly on Rove's crony, Lewis 'Scooter' Libby, Vice-president Dick Cheney's Chief of Staff.

On October 28, 2005, Patrick Fitzgerald, the US attorney in Chicago who was appointed Special Counsel in the CIA leak investigation, revealed that a federal grand jury had returned a five-count indictment against Libby. He was charged with one count of obstruction of justice, two counts of perjury and two counts of making false statements.

Note that no-one has as yet been charged with leaking Plame's name - Libby has just been charged with lying his ass off - allegedly - to the investigating grand jury. There may well yet come a time when other senior figures in the Bush administration face the music over outing Plame. Libby is just the first casualty in what will turn out to be a very lengthy and bloody war of attrition for the Bush regime.

Here is how Libby shafted himself, according to Fitzgerald. In October 2003, the FBI interviewed Libby, and what he essentially told the Feds was this: he was at the end of a long chain of phone calls with the press. He spoke to one journalist, Tim Russert, who Libby claimed told him: 'Hey, do you know that all the reporters know that Mr Wilson's wife works at the CIA?'

Fitzgerald goes on: 'He [Libby] told the FBI that he learned that information as if were new, and it struck him. So, he took this information from Mr Russert and later on he passed it on to other reporters ... He told the FBI that when he passed the information on [to other reporters] ... that he passed it on the understanding that this was information he had gotten from a reporter; that he didn't even know if it was true.' Libby went to the grand jury twice in March 2004 and said the same thing under oath. But that, in the eyes of the grand jury, was just a pack of lies. 'It would be a compelling story,' Fitzgerald said, 'if only it were true. It is not true.' In fact, as Patrick Fitzgerald explained, Libby had first learned from Dick Cheney - in June 2003 and prior to his conversation with Russert -- who Joe Wilson's wife was. Libby later claimed to have forgotten this chat with his boss, the Vice-president.

In all, Libby had 'discussed the information about Valerie Wilson at least half a dozen times before the conversation with Mr Russert ever took place, not to mention that when he spoke to Mr Russert, Mr Russert and he never discussed Valerie Wilson or Wilson's "\fife,' Fitzgerald revealed. "The indictment alleges that Libby 'learned the information about Valerie Wilson at least three times in June 2003 from government officials'.

Libby, Fitzgerald discovered, had actually had at least seven discussions with a number of government officials about Valerie Plame all before the date when he said he'd learned about her and her CIA role from the reporter 'rim Russert. Libby had also, apparently, spoken to Karl Rove and to White House Press Secretary, Ari Fleischer, and even went so far as to testify that he had told reporters he 'did not even know if Mr Wilson had a wife'.

Here's Fitzgerald's take on Libby: 'He was at the beginning of the chain of phone calls, the first official to disclose this information outside the government to a reporter, and then he lied about it afterwards, under oath and repeatedly. '
The damage of revealing Plame's identity, said Fitzgerald, 'wasn't to one person. It wasn't just Valerie Wilson. It was done to all of us ... anyone who would go into a grand jury and lie, obstruct and impede the investigation has committed a serious crime.' He added: 'For people who work at the CIA ... they have to expect that when they do their jobs, that information about whether or not they are affiliated with the CIA will be protected ... they have to make sure that they don't run the risk that something bad is going to happen to them from something done by their own fellow government employees.'

Fitzgerald has sworn not to 'end the investigation until I can look anyone in the eye and tell them that we have carried out our responsibility sufficiently to be sure we've done what we could'.

Bush is on shaky ground, too. Libby said in court papers that he had been told by Dick Cheney in July 2003 .- after Wilson publicly announced that the Niger-uranium claim was rubbish that he had President Bush's authority to discuss classified material with journalists. Team Bush says that even if this is true no harm's been done as Bush has the power to declassify information and order its release. Which is about as logical as saying 'Bush can do what the hell he wants as he's the president'.

Court papers have also revealed hand-written notes - written prior to Plame's identity being leaked- by Cheney in the margin of Wilson's newspaper column which dismissed claims that Saddam was seeking uranium from Niger. Cheney's note reads: 'Have they [the CIA] done this sort of thing before? Send an Amb. [ambassador] to assess a question? Do we ordinarily send people out pro bono to work for us? Or did his wife send him on a junket?'

Incidentally, Libby could face up to 50 years in prison if found guilty.

We can only dream that justice comes for him and an the other toads who are up to their warty necks in this deceitful game. But experience tells us that is doubtful.

There are few men who know what real political bastards are like, but John Dean, the former Nixon White House Counsel, is one of them. He has written: 'To put it bluntly, if Bush has taken Congress and the 'nation into war based on bogus information, he is cooked. Manipulation or deliberate misuse of national security intelligence data, if proven, could be a "high crime" under the Constitution's impeachment clause. It would also be a violation of federal criminal law, including the broad federal anti-conspiracy statute, which renders it a felony "to defraud the United States, or any agency thereof in any manner or for any purpose".'

And then, after pausing to think about the 'work-up' exacted on Wilson and Plame, Dean added: 'If I thought I had seen dirty political tricks as nasty and vile as they could get at the Nixon White House, I was wrong ... Nixon never set up a hit on one of his enemies' wives.'

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Display the following 5 comments

  1. Lawyer Ends Up Dead After Taking On Rove — Kurt Nimmo
  2. The Mafia — Don
  3. The nobility of syphilis — dp
  4. Britains guilt... — Guenter Monkowski
  5. Bushs brain subpoenaed — dp
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