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By Carlo Bonini and Giuseppe d'Avanzo
Translation Provided By Nur-al-Cubicle [Nur-al-Cubicle Blog]
October 24, 2005
Double-Crossers and Dilettantes - the Men Behind Nigergate Were All Italians
The military intervention in
They are the same two hoaxes that Judith Miller, the reporter who betrayed her newspaper, published (together with Michael Gordon) on September 8, 2002. In a lengthy investigative piece for The New York Times, Miller reported that Saddam could have built an atomic weapon with those aluminum tubes. These were the goods that the hawks in the Bush administration were expecting.
The "war dance" which followed Judith Miller's scoop seemed like "carefully-prepared theater" to an attentive media-watcher, Roberto Reale of Ultime Notizie (The Latest News). [Note: Roberto Reale is a TV news commentator for RAI-3 and a professor of Communications and Media at the University of Padua]
Condoleezza Rice, who was then White House Security Advisor, said on CNN: We don't want the smoking gun to look like a mushroom cloud. A menacing Dick Cheney told Meet the Press that We know with absolute certainty that Saddam is using his technical and commercial capacities to acquire the material necessary to enrich uranium to build a nuclear weapon. This was the beginning of an escalation of fear.
26 September 2002: Colin Powell warns the Senate: The Iraqi attempt to acquire uranium is proof of its nuclear ambitions.
19 December 2002: The information on
28 January 2003: George W. Bush pronounced
the 16 words, which amountd to a declaration of
war. The British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought
significant quantities of uranium from Africa."
THE BEANS IN THAT BAG ARE ROMAN
In the general haze of events which precede the invasion of
Unmasked by the British press (The Financial Times, The Sunday
Times) in the summer of 2004, Rocco Martino spills the beans: It's
true, I had a hand in the dissemination of those (
AN INCOMPLETE CONFESSION OF THE TRUTH
Martino conceals the identify of the architects behind the "operation" and appears to be merely a pawn, like his partners in crime. So who is the puppeteer pulling the strings behind their sordid adventure? To find out, we'll start with that funny-looking fellow who came to Rome from Tropea...
Rocco Martino is a dishonest cop and a crooked spy. He's got the aura of
a rogue about him even if you don't know his background. A captain of politico-military
intelligence between 1976 and 1997, he was let go for "conduct unbecoming".
In 1985, he was arrested for extortion in
Martino rents a place at No. 3 rue Hoehl in Sandweiler, Luxemburg. He gets a fixed salary from French intelligence and uses a consulting firm as cover: Security Development Organization. In other words, he also works for French intelligence. Serving two masters, Rocco tries his best. He sells information on the Italians to the French and information on the French to the Italians. That's my job. I sell information.
In 1999, the pleasure-seeking Rocco is running out of cash. When he's
down to his last dime, he hatches a plot of his own. He's convinced that
he's got a brilliant and risk-free idea. What illuminates the light bulb
is the problem the French are encountering in
In brief, between 1999 and 2000 the French realize that someone is working abandoned mines to generate a brisk clandestine trade in uranium. Who is purchasing the smuggled uranium? The French are looking for an answer and Rocco Martino senses an opportunity.
So he asks for help form an old colleague at SISMI: Antonio Nucera. A Carabinieri (cop) like Rocco, Antonio is the Deputy Chief of the SISMI center in viale Pasteur in Rome. He's chief of the 1st and the 8th divisions (weapons and technology transfers and WMD proliferation counterespionage, respectively, for Africa and the Middle East.
This section is very busy section at the end of the 1980s tailing the many
agents whom Saddam has deployed around the world prior to the invasion
But that wasn't all. We confiscated maraging steel
(ultra-high strength steel) in the port of Trieste. We thought it was destined for a series of centrifuges
used to separate uranium. We exchanged information on Iraqi nuclear proliferation
at the end of the eighties with the British of MI6—the cream of the crop.
A sincere friend of
Nucera decided to give a hand to his old friend,
Rocco. Rocco quickly briefs him on the job. Isn't there anything you can
give me—Info? A good
In the archives of Nucera's SISMI division, there
are documents that could be useful in pawning off a half-baked frittata and
making a few bucks. There's the telex from the
Information and cash were exchanged. It was only chickenfeed - a few hundred thousand lira notes. But that was a lot of money in 2000, when Martino was really desperate. He was on a slow slide to destitution - nothing to spy on and nothing to sell.
You should have seen her, "La Signora". Sixty years old if she
was a day! A face that once was pretty—now it looked a crinkled leaf. You
could call her a gofer for the
Nucera arranged the meeting. Rocco and La Signora don't take long. He going to get what he came for. But wasn't Nucera her official contact at SISMI? Then why wasn't she supposed to know that it was SISMI who wanted the favor? And why was the item useful to the Agency?
With the blessing of Nucera, Rocco and La Signora,
a pair of clever snake oil vendors, conclude a bargain. There would be a
few sheets of paper available for sale. But the help of a
The gang of spendthrift bunglers, short on cash, is ready to go into action. Rocco Martino, La Signora, Zakaria Yaou Maiga. Nucear retreats into the shadows. They wait for the embassy to close its doors for New Years 2001. They simulate a break-in and burglary. When on January 2, 2001, bright and early, the Second Secretary for Administrative Affairs Arfou Mounkaila reports the burglary to the Carabinieri of the Trionfale station, he has to admit with a grin that the burglars were half asleep. A lot of trouble and effort for nothing. Mounkaila is unable to report missing what he doesn't know is gone: Letterhead, and official stamps. In the hands of the snake oil vendors, useful stuff with which to assemble a dodgy dossier.
Old documents are extracted from the SISMI division's archives where Nucera is deputy chief of section: code books, letters, contracts
and a memorandum of understanding between the government of
Up to this point, a caper worthy of Stan Laurel, Goofy and Cruella deVille. But it's an innocuous swindle. The French take the documents and toss them in the dumpster. One of the agents remarks,
Case closed, then? No! The burlesque imbroglio is transformed into a very grave matter—along comes September 11th and Bush immediately starts to think about Iraq and requests proof of Saddam's involvement in the attacks.
SISMI recalls the via Baiamonti squad to into action. A new director, Nicolò Pollari, arrives at Forte Brasco. And Col. Alberto Manenti, the new man on the job, is placed in charge of WMD. A well-prepared officer but completely incapable of saying "No" to a superior, says a SISMI official with whom he worked. Col. Manenti had Nucera on his staff for a time and knew him well. Manenti, who knows that Nucera is about to retire, asks him to stay on as a consultant.
SISMI is straining at the bit. It's got room for maneuver like it's never
had before in the history of
The White House (in particular, Cheney) puts pressure on the CIA to hop to
it. The absence of proof isn't proof of absence, philosophizes Rumsfeld at the Pentagon.
In that kind of climate, with their phony dossier, the snake oil salesmen
of via Baiamonti, (Rocco Martino and Antonio Nucera)
would be useful. So what do they do in the fall of 2001? Rocco Martino
describes it this way: At the end of 2001, SISMI handed the yellowcake
dossier to the British of MI6.
They hand over a dossier devoid of scrutiny. They claim only that they got it from "a reliable source." Then they make a small tweak: SISMI wanted to disseminate the
The next move was predictable. The Italian Government and SISMI build a dike between Forte Braschi and the footprints of the via Biaimonte squad. But its denial does not hold up. It is a known fact that in fall of 2001, SISMI monitored Rocco Martino's every move in London. This is confirmed to La Repubblica by SISMI chief Nicolò Pollari. We monitored Martino and photographed his meetings in London. Would you like to see the pictures? So why didn't Rome put the lie to its ex-agent and snake oil salesman? Especially since the information in the dossier was vouched for by Pollari to Jeff Castelli, CIA station chief. It is a known fact that a report on the bogus, made-in-Rome dossier ended up at the State Department's Bureau of Intelligence—in the Office of Strategic, Military and WMD Proliferation Affairs.
Strategic Affairs is not a big place.
At the time, 16 analysts worked there under the direction of Greg Thielmann. Thielmann tells La Repubblica:
I received the report in fall of 2001. We thought that Langley acquired it from their field officer in
Says Wilson: The report was not very detailed. It's not clear if the agent who signed the report materially saw the peddled documents or whether he heard it from another source.
We'll have to modify the sequence of events:
Fall 2001: General Pollari's SISMI is in possession of a phony dossier assembled by Rocco Martino and Antonio Nucera. They show it to the CIA while Rocco Martino delivers it to Sir Richard Dearlove's MI6. This is only the beginning of the Great Italian Yellowcake Scam.
Pollari travels to Washington to present his version of "the truth"
The Yellowcake Dossier was not the work of the CIA.
For SISMI Director Nicolò Pollari, the rules of his profession are unequivocal. He tells La Repubblica: I am an intelligence chief and my only institutional partner in conversation following 9-11 was CIA Director George Tenet in Washington. Obviously, I held conversations solely with him. But is it really true that our cloak-and-dagger people worked solely with the CIA? Or did they work as part of the clandestine effort undertaken by the parallel intelligence conduit ["Stovepipe"--Nur] created by Dick Cheney and Paul Wolfowitz within the Iraq War Group, the Pentagon's Office of Special Plans and the office of the National Security Advisor—all determined to produce the evidence for "regime change" in Baghdad.
It is a known fact that on the eve of the war on
Brief synopsis: Pollari's SISMI wants to give credence
to the story of acquisition of uranium ore for the purpose of building a
nuclear bomb. The scheme is transparent. The "authentic" papers concerning
an attempt to acquire uranium in
That's the baseline snapshot. We'll now provide the second chapter of the Great
Italian Yellowcake Scam orchestrated in
Thielmann recounts the events of autumn 2001 in generalities. But the precise date may prove revealing: it is October 15, 2001. On that date three events are woven together to produce an astounding coincidence: Nicolò Pollari is appointed to head SISMI by the Italian government on September 27, after serving as Number Two at CESIS (a coordinating intelligence agency at Palazzo Chigi). Silvio Berlusconi is finally invited to the White House by George W. Bush. October 15 marks the date of the first CIA report on the evidence assembled by the Italians. It's impossible to say if all this is coincidence, but one cannot ignore the context: The Italians possess a burning desire score a win. After his bungling remarks on the Clash of Civilizations and under fire from moderate Arab regimes, Berlusconi is encountering problems in getting an invitation from the White House. Pollari is eager to quickly get in step with Premier and the new course of action. The new chief at the SISMI section in charge of WMD, Colonel Alberto Manenti (direct superior of Antonio Nucera), wants to put himself on the same page as the new SISMI director. It is a known fact that Bush shows the West Wing's Rose Garden to Berlusconi and the CIA acknowledges, as reported by Russ Hoyle (who has been analyzing the conclusions of the US Congressional Investigation Committee) that Italian intelligence has some neatly prepackaged information with a pretty bow on the box: Negotiations (between Niamey and Baghdad) on the purchase of uranium have been ongoing since the start of 1999; the sale [of uranium to Baghdad] was approved by the Niger Supreme Council in 2000. No documentary evidence is offered to show that any shipment of uranium has occured. CIA analysts consider the report to be "somewhat limited" and "lacking in necessary detail". Intelligence and Research analysts at the US Department of State qualify the intelligence as "highly suspect."
The first contact with the American intelligence community is not particularly
gratifying for Pollari but it is still highly
useful. The SISMI director, who is no fool, surveys the landscape and
the players of the ongoing behind-the-scenes battle in the American Administration
between those who stress caution and pragmatism (the US Department of
State and the CIA) and those who are looking for an excuse to start a
war (Cheney and the Pentagon), which is already on the drawing board.
However, when the SISMI director returns to
This old friend is Michael A. Ledeen,
a veteran of American parallel intelligence conduits, who had been previously
non grata by Rome during 1980s. [Likely because
of kidnapping of Abu Abbas, orchestrated by Ledeen and Oliver North, and the attempted "extraordinary
rendition" of Abbas through
The parallel intelligence conduit ["Stovepipe"--Nur]
over at the Pentagon circulates "new information" according to which there
exists an agreement between
Pollari is a very clever man, they say at Forte Braschi, and so he understands that to work the uranium story in Washington he cannot go to the CIA alone. He has to go through, suggest Palazzo Chigi and the Italian Defense Minstry, the Pentagon and National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice. The hint might have been meant as malicious (in the world of espionage, that's often the case), but we can confirm the "alternate conduit" which Pollari creates in Washington through a snapshot and a meeting.
This is the snapshot. Pollari is
Washington. He arranges a meeting with George Tenet and, as
happens frequently, his presentation is to be given in a reserved conference
room at a hotel close to Langley. An attendee at the
meeting tells La Repubblica: Pollari's English
must not have been very polished, so a female interpreter is used between
him and Tenet. There's an embarrassing upshot. In the course of exchanging
pleasantries, George reveals some information from al-Qaeda concerning
Here in Rome, it's difficult for us to access those flight plans. We had better luck in Washington. An Administration official told La Repubblica: I can confirm that on September 9, 2002, General Nicolò Pollari met with Stephen Hadley, deputy to National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice.
As with October
15, 2001, September
9, 2002 was a day marked by several coincidences. On that day, the Italian magazine Panorama was
coming up on the editorial deadline for its 12-19 September issue. As one
might typically expect from Rocco Martino (the SISMI "postman" in
the Yellowcake Affair), he contacts a reporter from the magazine (Carlo Rossella was Editor-in-Chief at the time) in October to sell
him the phony dossier. No one seems to remember that in the 12-19 September
2002 issue, coinciding with Pollari's meeting with Hadley, Panorama publishes
a planetary scoop entitled, War with
Although there is a discrepancy in the location (Nigeria and not Niger—a lapsus calami?) and
the story is somewhat of a fairy-tale (contraband from the USSR is transported
all the way to Africa by truck), what is essential here is to notice that
in the Panorama article, the recipe (so to speak) has all the right
ingredients needed for war: the 500 tons of uranium which make its way from
Africa to Baghdad, and the aluminum tubes for nuclear centrifuges. One could
reasonably conclude that the scam churned in
You could say that with the terrain prepared in advance, Pollari is able concentrate on another essential aspect of the operation: promoting himself and SISMI by cashing in on a year's worth of cloak-and-dagger work and pulling the wool over the eyes of Parliament by carefully manipulating information and revelations which should have been subject to careful reconstruction accompanied by corroborating documentation--and not the wall of silence of the State (which Italian PM Gianni Letta lamented on July 16, 2003).
Back from his secret meeting with Hadley, Pollari was
debriefed by an Italian Parliamentary intelligence oversight commission.
They summon him twice. In the first session, the SISMI director maintains: We
had no documentary proof; only information that a central African nation
sold uranium ore to Baghdad. Thirty days later, Pollari says: We had documentary proof of the acquisition
In the meantime, a reliable source comes along. Elisabetta does what a reporter has to do—with rigor and tenacity. She concludes that the story is baseless and refrains from publishing a single sentence. But unknown to her, it's already out of her hands--because the magazine's Editor-in-Chief, Carlo Rossella, entralled with the possibly having found—as he tells his staff--a smoking gun, has forwarded the documents to the US Embassy in Rome, which he regards as the best source of confirmation. Does Pollari notify Berlusconi's publication, Panorama, which is patting itself on the back over the uranium scoop, that the information is bogus? It appears that he did not. And this is how Jeff Castelli and the CIA came to find on their plate the half-baked frittata which they have been refusing to eat for nearly a year. The documents are such crude forgeries that they must be hidden from scrutiny lest they rain on Dick Cheney's parade. The arrival of the documents in Washington occurs through the back door. They are distributed on October 16, 2002, to the various intelligence agencies by the US Department of State during a routine meeting which four CIA officials attend. But not one of the CIA men is able to recall how they came into possession of the documents or how they came to know of them. Mysteriously, the Italian forgeries are "misplaced" at Langley for three months and it is only after an internal audit ordered by the Inspector-General that they are found inside a safe in the Anti-Proliferation Section. This is the first Italian lunge-and-parry. The uranium hoax inflated with the aluminum tube chicanery. But that is another story.
THE INVESTIGATION : Nicolò Pollari knew that the equipment purchased by Saddam Hussein was not destined for nuclear use. But when he is at the White House, he avoids mentioning it.
NIGERGATE: THE GREAT NUCLEAR CENTRIFUGE SCAM
The bizarre Panorama scoop is accepted as fact and included in the
The story of the Italian involvement in manipulating the justifications for war against
The date is September 9, 2002. That day, in the rooms of the National Security Council, a very strange (if you believe in the principle of institutional transparency) and secret meeting takes place.
Why is the director of Italian national intelligence meeting a White House Administration official? It would be natural for Nicolò Pollari to meet with the Director of the Central Intelligence Agency. It would be quite an ordinary event if the director of SISMI were meeting with Italian administration officials but very bizarre indeed if turns out to be administration officials of a foreign country, even if an ally. In this meeting there were Cabinet officials and under secretaries. So, just what is discussed with Stephen Hadley?
Stephen Hadley is no third-rate underling in the White House. Today he is
National Security Advisor. In 2002, he is deputy to Condoleezza Rice
and a node in the parallel intelligence conduit ["Stovepipe"--Nur] desired by Dick Cheney to justify the war on Saddam
Hussein. He is the man who, among other things, is responsible for the
sixteen words pronounced by George W. Bush in his January
28, 2003 State of the Union Address announcing the
basis for on
We know that Hadley, together with Pollari, does a lot of thinking about weapons of mass destruction. And it's reaonable to ask exactly what Pollari does know on the score of the Niger uranium on the 9th of September 2002. As he himself admits, Pollari knows everything. He has been apprised of sordid adventure of Rocco Martino. His own men were up to their necks in it. He is familiar with the role played by SISMI deputy chief Antonio Nucera, who lends a hand to snake oil salesman Martino. On this day, Pollari is facing a choice for which he has all the elements: to tell Rice's deputy that the White House had better forget about the uranium story, because it's a hoax and that the Martino-Nucera duo are imposters, or to reinforce the convictions of the American ally through a little shrewd silence. So what does Pollari choose to do? To find out, we had better take a look at Pollari's comportment relative to different subject of conversation with Hadley: The nuclear centrifuge dossier.
Barely 24 hours before, on September 8, 2002, Judith Miller reports on
the nuclear threat posed by Baghdad on the front page
of the New York Times. In the last 14 months, writes
On September 9, 2002, seated in front of Stephen Hadley, Pollari has the means to address even this aspect of the issue. SISMI claims that it has documentary proof of the acquisition of aluminum tubes by Iraq. But let's take a look what he's talking about.
These are 7075-T6 aluminum tubes. This is the preferred material for low-cost missile systems (each tube costs approximately $17.50). There are made with an extremely hard alloy which makes them suitable as rotors for a centrifuge capable of separating fissile uranium from non-fissile uranium. It is not simple process because thousands of centrifuges (16 thousand) are needed and they must withstand synchronous rotation as extremely high speed.
As we now know, the CIA and the very cautious Secretary of State, Colin Powell,
are convinced that dual use material is employed
Incredibly, the objection remains un-cross-examined even after the scientists at Oak Ridge National Laboratory (where uranium for the US nuclear arsenal is enriched using centrifuges) annihilate Powell's theory. The Oak Ridge people say that the tubes are too narrow, to heavy, too long and likely to split if used as centrifuge components. They conclude with: Those tubes are used for manufacturing a specific type of artillery shell.
So on September 8, 2002, Judith Miller portrays the aluminum tubes as "a smoking gun." The next day, Pollari is seated in front of Stephen Hadley. So what does he tell him? Pollari keeps his mouth shut. He doesn't reveal what he knows about the aluminum tubes, which are the source of so much concern (or even enthusiasm) for the Bush Administration. The shame is that those 7075-T6 tubes, 900 millimeters long, 81 millimeters in diameter, 3.3 millimeters thick, are well-known hardware to the Italian Army. They are 81-mm rocket artillery shells used in the Medusa air-to-ground missile system installed on Italian Army and Navy helicopters. In reality, the Iraqis are merely attempting to reproduce weaponry with which they became familiar during the long years of economic, military and nuclear cooperation between Rome and Baghdad. (Iraq's top army and air force officers trained in Italy during the 1980's). Saddam's General Staff needs to duplicate them, so to speak, because their inventory is stockpiled outdoors and is now corroded. That was the reason behind the new anodized aluminum tube purchases.
Why does Pollari not utter a word? If you ask Greg Thielmann, ex-chief of the State Department Intelligence Service, he'll tell you: But seriously, haven't you yet understood why the chief of Italian military intelligence did not provide us with any indication that would have allowed us to definitively discard the notion that the tubes would be used in someone's nuclear program? Well, I have an idea for you. SISMI, like the CIA and the entire Anglo-Saxon intelligence community, is ready and willing to satisfy the hawks in the US Administration. Thielmann's assertion echoes like a shotgun blast. And the dates will yield solid confirmation.
September 8, 2002: Judith Miller casts the first stone.
September 9, 2002: Hadley meets Pollari
The day before the address, Langley recommends that the statement be expunged. The intelligence is weak. One of the mines mentioned in the intelligence source as a site used for the extraction of uranium is flooded. The other mine is under the control of the French authorities.
What the devil was Pollari up to? The twisted yellowcake affair and now the centrifuges are tangled up around Rocco Martino's phony documents. Who did what to whom and where and why? To get to the bottom of it, we have to address these questions and take another look at the words quoted above. The Italians know that Rocco Martino is a creep. They are aware that the only authentic papers in the dossier are stale intelligence pulled out of SISMI's WMD archives. Pollari takes the lie off the leash and lets it trot around the globe. He does not have Rocco Martino "busted" when he knocks on the door of MI6. Instead, Pollari credits Martino as "a reliable source". He does not put the damper on the enthusiasm of Michel Ledeen and the Pentagon's Office of Special Plans. He simply sits there in silence as the imbroglio simmers. In fact, when he does open his mouth, he neither extinguishes nor disappoints American hopes. This is what happened in the case of the aluminum tubes. Following a "brilliant operation", SISMI enters into material possession of the tubes. It's a military intelligence victory. But even the lowest grunt would understand that the tubes must be Italian—they are shells from the Medusa-81 aircraft missile defense system. SISMI is well aware of this. Yet on September 9, 2002, Pollari maintains a reserved silence in the presence of Hadley. And he does more than that.
On September 12, 2002, Panorama magazine hits the newsstands. In a lengthy article titled, War with Iraq? It has already started, decisive yet unverified revelations on Iraqi nuclear rearmament are made to the world. So far, no one has started talking about uranium, let alone 500 tons of the ore. It will be Tony Blair to mention it first, but not until September 24, 2002--two weeks following the meeting between Pollari and Hadley and twelve days after Panorama's scoop. Inside the 50-page British government document, London affirms that Iraq has attempted to acquire uranium from Africa. Blair insists that Iraq has attempted to purchase significant quantities of uranium from an African nation despite the fact that he has no civilian nuclear program which would require it. Even today, Foreign Secretary Jack Straw continues to repeat that the "Italian dossier" was not the basis behind Blair's words and that MI6 is in possession of previously acquired intelligence. Yet such intelligence "evidence" has never been produced. If it were to come out--a source at Forte Braschi tells La Repubblica, it would be easily discovered with a little sleuthing that that the "evidence" is in fact stale Italian intelligence collected by SISMI at the end of the 1980s and shared with our friend, Hamilton Mac Millan.
So there has been no loose talk which might reveal Italian responsibility
in the yellowcake affair. Only silence. We've seen how SISMI maintains
silence. But poor SISMI is not alone. Although perfectly informed, none
of the protagonists in this sordid affair talks. Panorama clams up. When
the editorial board of Panorama, owned by the Italian head of government,
is called upon to reconstruct its contacts with Rocco Martino (who tried
to sell the hoax to Segrate), it omits the recollection that the information
contained in the bogus dossier was already published a month earlier.
The Editor-in-Chief of the weekly magazine inexplicably shares the documents
only with the US Embassy in Rome but not with the Italian government.
He does not bother verify the document with the excellent resources of
the Italian intelligence agency which, as September's scoop shows, has
access to it. He has no interest in relating, as a second possible worldwide
scoop, that the evidence on which the war is based is false. As you would
expect, Palazzo Chigi is silent. The role of Silvio Berlusconi's
diplomacy advisor, Gianni Castellaneta, has
been key in mediating the relations between Italy with the parallel conduit
["Stovepipe"—Nur] that Dick Cheney creates
with financing from Ahmed Chalabi's Iraqi National
Congress to funnel intelligence "edited" by the Office for Special Plans
which is then distributed to the media by the "Iraq Group," which is
seen in action in the Judith Miller-New York Times affair. But
has anyone heard Castellaneta utter one word? And who has ever offered Mr. Castellaneta a public forum to allow him to do so?
Also silent is Gianni Letta. When the truth on the bogus Italian dossier surfaces, the Deputy Secretary of Intelligence, contrary to what one reads in inaccurate government memos, invokes state secrecy. Letta insisted that no documentation would be forthcoming for Parliamentary scrutiny because Italian intelligence sources would be compromised. But what sources? Rocco Martino, the bad cop, the crooked spy, the double-crosser? Or would that be Antonio Nucera, the deputy director at SISMI's viale Pasteur offices who filches (or is compelled to filch) stale intelligence from the division archives to assemble the package?
Now that the cat is out of the bag, they obviously have to come up with something after such a long silence. Pollari makes his move in the summer of 2004. Once taciturn, all of a sudden he becomes loquacious. He even opens the doors to his modest office in Palazzo Baracchini. We find him in a darkened office behind a desk with papers piled high. Papers here, papers there, papers everywhere. To his left, there is another desk covered with dossiers like so many pebbles on the beach. On August 5th, 2004, he tells La Repubblica: I can't trust anyone. I have to read all the papers myself! Pollari seems agitated. He feels Atlantic Monthly reporters breathing down his neck. He's holding in his hand an interview request from CBS Television received through the Italian Embassy in Washington. He asks us: What do these people want of me? Who's talking to them? The CIA? The FBI? A CIA leaker? An enemy of the FBI? He knows that Rocco Martino has been buttonholed by a producer for 60 Minutes and he's afraid that Martino might confess in front of the microphones--provoking a personal catastrophe for him. Pollari has to find an exit from the impasse he's in and it seems that he's found one. He tells La Repubblica: It was the French of the Direction Générale de la Sécurité Extérieure who tried to dupe the Americans. We are not involved in any way. He pulls out from a folder an item that looks like it belongs in a Power Point presentation. (It's yellow, red, purple, blue and green). The document purports to prove the "role of French intelligence in the Niger affair." But it is not convincing. Today, it falls flat. Time has shown the substantial groundlessness of a connection to the French. That bird has flown. In fact, as the US Senate report shows, two weeks prior to the invasion, on March 4th, 2003, the French informed Washington that that the documents were forged because it transpired that they were the same documents that Rocco Martin had previously pawned off on Paris.
But no document was every pulled out of an Italian file to put a stop to Dick Cheney's impetuosity. Like the Italian government, SISMI knows that its intelligence on Iraq was complete hogwash. Silence - as if the entire Italian government establishment has been stricken mute. Silence on the part of the majority is understandable but must the opposition be silent in the face of manipulations that lead to war? The only recorded act is a request by a commission of inquiry presented by L'Unione [Romano Prodi's leftist coalition--Nur] but it was merely bureaucratic ass-covering, because once issued, it was promptly forgotten. Meanwhile, in the United States, three independent investigations have been launched into CIA-gate, Niger-gate and a conspiracy led by Larry Franklin, an official inside the Office of Special Plans. But in Italy there's not even a trembling leaf in the breeze. If you are enterprising enough to arrange a meeting with Rome Public Prosecutor Franco Ionta to discover, just out of curiosity, what ever became of the investigation of Rocco Martino, he'll tell you: Yes, I investigated Martino. A fraudster. It took me half an hour to take his deposition. But what did you expect him to say to me? I put in a request to close the case with the Giudice per le indagini preliminare [judge handing the preliminary investigation]. It was just a lot of buffoonery. Yes indeed, but Italian buffoonery, which means it will die in silence, ignored by the politicians, the intelligence community and the judiciary. That's how things work in Italy.