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Monday, October 24, 2005

Is the Smoking Gun Turning Into a Mushroom Cloud?

Last week, Justin Raimondo at AntiWarcom ran a story that said Patrick Fitzgerald's investigation had expanded to include looking into the Niger forgeries. From October 19, 2005:
Even as the FBI was following the trail of the forgers, the Italians were looking into the matter from their end. A parliamentary committee was charged with investigating, and they issued a heavily redacted report: now, I am told by a former CIA operations officer, the report has aroused some interest on this side of the Atlantic. According to a source in the Italian embassy, Patrick J. "Bulldog" Fitzgerald asked for and "has finally been given a full copy of the Italian parliamentary oversight report on the forged Niger uranium document," the former CIA officer tells me:
"Previous versions of the report were redacted and had all the names removed, though it was possible to guess who was involved. This version names Michael Ledeen as the conduit for the report and indicates that former CIA officers Duane Clarridge and Alan Wolf were the principal forgers. All three had business interests with Chalabi."
Now UPI seems to be backing up Raimondo's claims in a story that ran this morning:
NATO sources have confirmed to United Press International that Fitzgerald's team of investigators has sought and obtained documentation on the forgeries from the Italian government.

Fitzgerald's team has been given the full, and as yet unpublished report of the Italian parliamentary inquiry into the affair, which started when an Italian journalist obtained documents that appeared to show officials of the government of Niger helping to supply the Iraqi regime of Saddam Hussein with Yellowcake uranium. This claim, which made its way into President Bush's State of the Union address in January, 2003, was based on falsified documents from Niger and was later withdrawn by the White House.
If true, as UPI notes, this "opens the door to what has always been the most serious implication of the CIA leak case, that the Bush administration could face a brutally damaging and public inquiry into the case for war against Iraq being false or artificially exaggerated."

Emptywheel has long believed that the Niger uranium forgeries were something Fitzgerald had in his sights, and has argued that Judy Miller might have been involved in them somehow. You'll remember that Judy's subpoena contained this language:
seeking documents and testimony related to conversations between her and a specified government official “occurring from on or about July 6, 2003, to on or about July 13, 2003, . . . concerning Valerie Plame Wilson (whether referred to by name or by description as the wife of Ambassador Wilson) or concerning Iraqi efforts to obtain uranium. (my emphasis)
This differed from Matt Cooper's subpoena, which contained no language about uranium. While Miller maintains she successfully got Fitzgerald to exclude testimony on this matter, this NATO information indicates that he might well have got what he needed elsewhere.

Every day I wake up and this thing gets bigger and Fitzgerald's inquiry appears to be more bold and audacious than even I imagined.

Quite possibly the worst moment leading up to the 2004 election happened when 60 Minutes pulled their piece on the Niger forgeries and replaced it with (*shudder* -- yeah, you remember) their story on Bush in the Air National Guard and the TANG documents. Will CBS now locate its testicles and run the piece?

And maybe now we'll finally get the inquiry that corrupt old Pat Roberts has successfully stonewalled by the Senate Select Intelligence Committee's "Phase II" investigation into intelligencee prior to the Iraq war. In the mean time, if you'd like to have a look at an excellent and succinct rundown of what is known about the Niger forgeries, see eRiposte's piece at the Left Coaster here.

Haloscan Working Now: I know everyone with HaloScan is having a problem. If you go into Haloscan settings, click on the Beta Features, and turn off Enable Redirect in Spam Filters it should fix it. Appears to be a glitch in HaloScan but some techie posted a fix-it on the message boards. Seems to be working fine for me now.

Update Mark Kleiman: "If you're holding your breath anticipating that Fitzgerald is going to walk down the Yellowcake Road, exhale. He's going to charge people with exposing Valerie Plame Wilson's connection to the CIA and with trying to cover up that act of exposure, or he's going to charge the coverup but not the original act, or (least likely in my view) he's going to fold up his tent and go home. "

Josh Marshall: "It's been variously reported and rumored that Patrick Fitzgerald has either cooperated with, received critical information from or even taken over Paul McNulty's Franklin/AIPAC investigation in Northern Virginia. My reporting and intuition tells me there's real reason for skepticism on each of those counts. Yet I hear versions of these claims and allegations from more and more seemingly knowledgable sources. So I'm trying to keep an open mind."

Billmon: "For the Bushaviks, McNulty's appointment may be too little, too late. By the time he takes office, Fitzgerald will have either handed down indictments or gone home. On the other hand, if charges are brought, a long, drawn-out prosecution presumably will present plenty of opportunities for the Justice Department to make its influence felt. And, if worse comes to worse, I suspect McNulty would be perfectly willing to play the role of Robert Bork in the new Saturday Night Massacre, and fire Fitzgerald -- and probably with more alacrity than Bork, who had to be talked out of resigning by Elliot Richardson."