Wednesday, January 18, 2006
2002 Memo Doubted Uranium Sale Claim
By ERIC LICHTBLAU
Published: January 18, 2006
WASHINGTON, Jan. 17 - A high-level intelligence assessment by the Bush administration concluded in early 2002 that the sale of uranium from Niger to Iraq was "unlikely" because of a host of economic, diplomatic and logistical obstacles, according to a secret memo that was recently declassified by the State Department.
Among other problems that made such a sale improbable, the assessment by the State Department's intelligence analysts concluded, was that it would have required Niger to send "25 hard-to-conceal 10-ton tractor-trailers" filled with uranium across 1,000 miles and at least one international border.
The analysts' doubts were registered nearly a year before President Bush, in what became known as the infamous "16 words" in his 2003 State of the Union address, said that Saddam Hussein had sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa.
The White House later acknowledged that the charge, which played a part in the decision to invade Iraq in the belief that Baghdad was reconstituting its nuclear program, relied on faulty intelligence and should not have been included in the speech. Two months ago, Italian intelligence officials concluded that a set of documents at the center of the supposed Iraq-Niger link had been forged by an occasional Italian spy.
The public release of the State Department assessment, with some sections blacked out, adds another level of detail to an episode that was central not only to the debate over the invasion of Iraq, but also in the perjury indictment of I. Lewis Libby Jr., the former chief of staff to Vice President Dick Cheney.
A four-star general, Carlton W. Fulford Jr., was also sent to Niger to investigate the claims of a uranium purchase. He, too, came away with doubts about the reliability of the report and believed Niger's yellowcake supply to be secure. But the State Department's review, which looked at the political, economic and logistical factors in such a purchase, seems to have produced wider-ranging doubts than other reviews about the likelihood that Niger would try to sell uranium to Baghdad.
The review concluded that Niger was "probably not planning to sell uranium to Iraq," in part because France controlled the uranium industry in the country and could block such a sale. It also cast doubt on an intelligence report indicating that Niger's president, Mamadou Tandja, might have negotiated a sales agreement with Iraq in 2000. Mr. Tandja and his government were reluctant to do anything to endanger their foreign aid from the United States and other allies, the review concluded. The State Department review also cast doubt on the logistics of Niger being able to deliver 500 tons of uranium even if the sale were attempted. "Moving such a quantity secretly over such a distance would be very difficult, particularly because the French would be indisposed to approve or cloak this arrangement," the review said.
The memo, dated March 4, 2002, was distributed at senior levels by the office of Secretary of State Colin L. Powell and by the Defense Intelligence Agency.
GOI: Hmmm, looks like "someone" didn't get the memo? This is all quite interesting given that the State Department memo went out to all senior officials a year before the President's "16 words" address. So how come the intelligence agencies later said they had passed on "faulty intelligence" (allegedly without their knowledge that it was faulty) when this memo went out to all senior officials a FULL YEAR before those 16 words ended up "mysteriously" in the President's address? Surely "senior officials" included the former director of the CIA George Tenet wouldn't you think??
This whole thing still stinks like a big pile of shit.
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