Now that Romano Prodis

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Now that Romano Prodi’s election in Italy appears to have been confirmed, many readers have written in to ask whether I think the impending change of government in Italy is likely to shake free any of the secrets about the Niger forgeries.

A colleague and I spent the better part of two years working on the forgeries story. In fact, we still are. As recently as a couple months ago we were meeting with US government officials about the US government’s intentionally moribund investigation into the forgeries’ origins.

In any case, much of my reporting on the case amounted to an education of just how little I knew about the inner-workings of Italian politics. We learned a lot. And much of it I’ve reported in these pages.

One might imagine that since the Italian center-right is implicated in the forgeries scandal, that the center-left would be eager to get all the facts out. But that wasn’t our experience at all. We found fairly consistently that there was a surprising amount of collusion across the ideological spectrum when it came to keeping the wraps on this affair. For that reason, I would not be expecting any sudden revelations just because voters now appear to have turned Berlusconi out.

That is not necessarily the end of the story though. The international situation is quite different than it was in 2004 — when we did the majority of our reporting. President Bush was riding high. And his reelection campaign was underway. Also, in recent months, I’ve picked up some hints that elements in the Italian government wanted to get this whole mess behind them, and that the election was what had everyone frozen in place. Once the election was out of the way, whoever won, but especially if Prodi did, things might change.

These two points, I know, rather contradict each other. But they are the sum of what I know. Will things change? Maybe. There are some hints of it. But I remain skeptical.

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