Source of Forged Niger-Iraq Uranium Documents
By ELAINE SCIOLINO and ELISABETTA POVOLEDO
York Times" -- -- ROME, Nov. 3 - Italy's spymaster
identified an Italian occasional spy named
Rocco Martino on Thursday
as the disseminator of forged documents that described efforts by
Iraq to buy uranium ore from Niger for a nuclear weapons program,
three lawmakers said Thursday.
The spymaster, Gen. Nicoḷ Pollari, director of the Italian military
intelligence agency known as Sismi, disclosed that Mr. Martino was
the source of the forged documents in closed-door testimony to a
parliamentary committee that oversees secret services, the lawmakers
Senator Massimo Brutti, a member of the committee, told reporters
that General Pollari had identified Mr. Martino as a former
intelligence informer who had been "kicked out of the agency." He
did not say Mr. Martino was the forger.
The revelation came on a day when the Federal Bureau of
Investigation confirmed that it had shut down its two-year
investigation into the origin of the forged documents.
The information about Iraq's desire to acquire the ore, known as
yellowcake, was used by the Bush administration to help justify the
invasion of Iraq, notably by President Bush in his State of the
Union address in January 2003. But the information was later
revealed to have been based on forgeries.
The documents were the basis for sending a former diplomat, Joseph
C. Wilson IV, on a fact-finding mission to Niger that eventually
exploded into an inquiry that led to the indictment and resignation
last week of Vice President Dick Cheney's chief of staff, I. Lewis
Mr. Martino has long been suspected of being responsible for
peddling the false documents. News reports have quoted him as saying
he obtained them through a contact at the Niger Embassy here. But
this was the first time his role was formally disclosed by the
Neither Mr. Martino nor his lawyer, Giuseppe Placidi, were available
Senator Brutti also told reporters that Italian intelligence had
warned Washington in early 2003 that the Niger-Iraq documents were
"At about the same time as the State of the Union address, they said
that the dossier doesn't correspond to the truth," Senator Brutti
said. He said he did not know whether the warning was given before
or after President Bush's address.
He made the claim more than once, but gave no supporting evidence.
Amid confusing statements by various lawmakers, he later appeared to
backtrack in conversations with both The Associated Press and
Reuters, saying that because Sismi never had the documents, it could
not comment on their merit.
There had long been doubts within the United States intelligence
community about the authenticity of the yellowcake documents, and
references to it had been deleted from other presentations given at
Senator Luigi Malabarba, who also attended Thursday's hearing, said
in a telephone interview that General Pollari had told the committee
that Mr. Martino was "offering the documents not on behalf of Sismi
but on behalf of the French" and that Mr. Martino had told
prosecutors in Rome that he was in the service of French
A senior French intelligence official interviewed Wednesday in Paris
declined to say whether Mr. Martino had been a paid agent of France,
but he called General Pollari's assertions about France's
General Pollari also said that no Italian intelligence agency
officials were involved in either forging or distributing the
documents, according to both Senator Brutti and the committee
chairman, Enzo Bianco.
Committee members said they were shown documents defending General
Pollari, including a copy of a classified letter from Robert S.
Muller III, the director of the F.B.I., dated July 20, which praised
Italy's cooperation with the bureau.
In Washington, an official at the bureau confirmed the substance of
the letter, whose contents were first reported Tuesday in the
leftist newspaper L'Unità. The letter stated that Italy's
cooperation proved the bureau's theory that the false documents were
produced and disseminated by one or more people for personal profit,
and ruled out the possibility that the Italian service had intended
to influence American policy, the newspaper said.
As a result, the letter said, according to both the F.B.I. official
and L'Unità, the bureau had closed its investigation into the origin
of the documents.
The F.B.I. official declined to be identified by name.
After the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, Italy's military intelligence
service sent reports to the United States and Britain claiming that
Iraq was actively trying to acquire uranium, according to current
and former intelligence officials.
Senator Brutti told reporters on Thursday that indeed Sismi had
provided information about Iraq's desire to acquire uranium from
Niger as early as the 1990's, but that it had never said the
information was credible.
Thursday's hearing followed a three-part series in La Repubblica,
which said General Pollari had knowingly provided the United States
and Britain with forged documents. The newspaper, a staunch opponent
of Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, also reported that General
Pollari had acted at the behest of Mr. Berlusconi, who was said to
be eager to help President Bush in the search for weapons in Iraq.
Mr. Berlusconi has denied such accounts.
La Repubblica said General Pollari had held a meeting on Sept. 9,
2002, with Stephen J. Hadley, then the deputy national security
adviser. Mr. Hadley, now the national security adviser, has said
that he met General Pollari on that date, but that they did not
discuss the Niger-Iraq issue.
"Nobody participating in that meeting or asked about that meeting
has any recollection of a discussion of natural uranium, or any
recollection of any documents being passed," Mr. Hadley told a
briefing on Wednesday in Washington. "And that's also my
At the time, Mr. Hadley took responsibility for including the faulty
information in Mr. Bush's State of the Union address.
David Johnston contributed reporting from Washington for this
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