I mentioned yesterday that the Italian daily La Repubblica ran a story reporting alleged new details about the origins of the Niger/uranium forgeries. Today they followed up with a second part of their report which, if accurate in its particulars, could rock the foundations of official Washington.
Let me note first, as I did yesterday, that the article is of course written in Italian. And it has not yet had a professional translation. What I'm about to discuss comes from a conversation I had this morning with a colleague in Italy who related the substance of the article to me. I'm confident of the substance of what I'm going to describe; but I wanted to add that caveat. Keep in mind also that what I'm relating comes from this particular article. I can't vouch for it based on reporting of my own. And there are reasons to be skeptical on a few different points.
Nicolo Pollari is the head of Italian military intelligence, SISMI. The Repubblica article claims that over the course of 2002 Pollari -- knowing the documents were fakes -- made repeated attempts to get them into the DC information stream by going around the CIA, which discounted them as fakes. This was to satisfy the expressed needs of Bush administration officials who were searching for some information to validate their claims about an Iraqi nuclear program.
Remember, too, that Pollari attended the secret Rome meetings in late 2001 arranged by Michael Ledeen and attended by Manucher Ghorbanifar, Larry Franklin and Harold Rhode.
Pollari's efforts were apparently in concert with the man who is now the Italian ambassador to the United States. And, perhaps most explosively, Pollari apparently arranged a secret meeting with Stephen Hadley -- then deputy National Security Advisor, and now National Security Advisor -- to discuss the documents.
The alleged date was September 9th, 2002.
The context here is important. The source of endless suspicion about when the documents first surfaced has been the timing and how that related to what was then happening in Washington. They surfaced just after the White House and the CIA had had a roundhouse battle over whether the President could make the Niger accusation in a speech in Cincinnati, Ohio. The CIA eventually prevailed, at least winning that round. The documents surfaced in Italy a couple days later. And the president eventually succeeded in levelling the claim in his subsequent State of the Union address.
That White House-CIA argument was happening in late September 2002. The speech, if memory serves, was to be given on October 7th.
That puts the alleged Hadley-Pollari meeting only a week or so earlier.
I'll try to elaborate this timeline and add other details in a subsequent post.
Late Update: In an article just posted at the Prospect, Laura Rozen has now confirmed that the September 9th Hadley-Pollari meeting did in fact take place.