"I am extremely concerned that someone familiar with Defense Department classified reporting has forged this document and given it to the press in the hope that it would be reported as genuine. Such an action raises deeply troubling questions about the integrity of the department's processes and raises the possibility of an organized effort to intimidate me as a journalist."
That's a clip from a letter military analyst Bill Arkin recently sent to Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. And Arkin was right to be troubled.
Arkin found out about the document when he got a call from Washington Times national security reporter Bill Gertz, who sent him a copy. The phoney cable suggested that he, Arkin, had worked as a spy in the pay of Saddam Hussein.
I want to make very clear that no one is suggesting that Gertz either participated in the production of this document or knew that it was bogus. Indeed, from what I can tell from this piece from the Post last week, he did just what a reporter should have done in this case: he went to the person in question and asked for comment.
It soon became clear that the document was bogus -- a point that no one seems to question, including DOD spokesmen. Gertz declined requests for comment from the Post.
But someone was behind this. And given Arkin's role in uncovering various unpleasant facts about those in power, the motive doesn't seem particularly hard to figure out. Yet Larry DiRita says an investigation into the source of the forged document is "not likely."
We still don't know who forged the bogus Niger documents, even though we now know that their circuitous path into US hands was set in motion by a member of Italian military intelligence. (Any on-going -- such as it was -- investigation into this caper was finally ended earlier this month when Sen. Roberts shut down the promised second half of the investigation into pre-war intelligence on Iraq.)
Add this to the trove of phoney documents which have flowed out of Iraq in the last two years and you end up with a lot of phoney documents whose origins have never been explained.