The name of Stephen J. Hadley (first term Deputy National Security Advisor and now National Security Advisor) has come up again and again in the Niger-uranium story.
In early 2002 Hadley was tasked with shutting down the unauthorized meetings Harold Rhode, Larry Franklin and Michael Ledeen were holding with Iraqi and Iranian exiles, and Italian intelligence figures including the head of SISMI, Nicolo Pollari, in Rome in late 2001.
On September 9th, 2002, Hadley met with Pollari in Washington. According to the Italian daily La Repubblica Pollari was there to press the details of the Niger-uranium story. The NSC has now confirmed that the meeting took place but claims it was a brief meeting and that no one present remembers the yellowcake story coming up.
In other words, it's a quite hazy denial if it's even a denial at all.
Less than a month later Hadley and others at the NSC tried but failed to get the Niger story into President Bush's October 7th WMD speech in Cincinnati, Ohio.
Days later copies of the forgeries surfaced in Rome.
Three months later Hadley and the same colleagues at the NSC succeeded in getting the Niger story included in the president's 2003 State of the Union address.
In July, Hadley took personal responsibility for allowing the bogus claim to be included in the State of the Union address and apologized publicly to the president.
Much of what I've just laid out here has been known for some time. But Hadley is doing a press briefing tomorrow afternoon at the White House to discuss the president's upcoming visit to Latin America.
It would certainly be welcome to get some clarification directly from Mr. Hadley about just what he discussed with Pollari at that September 2002 and whether the claims contained in the La Repubblica article is in fact false.