Italy's top spymaster on Thursday identified an occasional spy for Italy named Rocco Martino as the source of forged documents stating that Iraq was buying tons of uranium ore from Niger that could be used in a nuclear weapons program, two Italian lawmakers said.
General Nicolò Pollari, the director of the Italian military intelligence agency known as Sismi, made his remarks in exceptional closed-door testimony to a parliamentary commission that oversees secret services, the lawmakers said.
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 that described Iraq's efforts to buy a uranium concentrate known as yellowcake.
The F.B.I. reasons for closing the investigation?
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.
There are so many things wrong with this, I don't even know where to start, and so will save my indepth analysis for the larger post. First and foremost, however, is how the FBI, if it has just been revealed that Rocco Martino is the source, decided the reason for the production of the documents was soley for personal profit.
It appears there are problems abound at the Bureau. (Paging Muller...Paging Scully)
I will add, however, that it's ironic that, according to Juan Cole, Amad Chalabi, who even the NYTimes speculated might be involved in the production of the false documents, is meeting today in Washington with Condi Rice and Stephen Hadley.
And to add a bit more intrigue, this time from the AP story on the subject, throw this into the mix:
Bianco said the officials denied that SISMI, Italy's secret service, ''ever had a role in the dossier that was supposed to have demonstrated that Iraq was in an advanced phase of possession of enriched uranium."
The United States and Britain used the claim that Hussein was seeking uranium in Africa to bolster their case for war. The intelligence supporting the claim was later deemed unreliable.
Commission member Senator Massimo Brutti told reporters after the closed-door session that the commission was told that the Italian secret services warned the United States in January 2003 that the dossier was fake.
But later, the senator called the Associated Press to retract that statement. He said that the commission was not told that the Italians had warned the Americans.
Brutti said he was confused by the barrage of reporters' questions when the lawmakers emerged from the briefing.
Brutti said what he meant to say was that the commission was told that a SISMI official, contacted by the International Atomic Energy Agency in Vienna about the dossier, told the UN agency that ''those documents didn't come from SISMI, they weren't produced nor supplied by SISMI."
Reopen the investigation, Director Mueller. Today.