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The Procura of Rome has decided to reopen the investigation into the Niger forgeries scam following closely in the steps of the FBI, la Repubblica reports today, December 8th. Recent developments in the story has been recounted in my diaries at Booman this past month based primarily on the on-going scoops of Carlo Bonini and Giuseppe D'Avanzo, top investigative reporters with the Roman daily. A full translation of today's article is below the fold.

There have been invaluable contributions by bloggers in the United States. I'd like to point out the exceptional work done by eRiposte at LeftCoaster, the solid craftsmanship of Josh Marshall and Laura Rozen that has contributed far more to the unravelling of this mystery than most mainstream reporting. It is perhaps for that reason that they are object of close scrutiny by the Italian rightwing press, as alluded to below and in my previous diary and comments.

The current Italian rightwing campaign against Bonini and D'Avanzo as well as the "American liberal blogosphere" postulates a suggestive network of conspirators who share an aversion for the "Three B's" (read Bush, Blair and Berlusconi, but essentially Berlusconi). Rather than arguing their case, we are served suggestive links, innuendos, unverifiable top secret leaks, ad personam attacks, and an extraordinary scenario of interconnected cabalists in a regression into the absurd that would make Daniel Pipes blush. In the end one feels that there may be a deliberate attempt to confuse readers with sensory overload. Or that conservative Italian reporters along with their Sismi and government deep throats haven't quite figured out what to do with all their evocative interconnecting threads.

What is certain is that the lesser fool would want the Niger forgeries to be true. Just like the infernal Hank Quinlan in "Touch of Evil" who always knew intuitively who the culprit was- and fabricated the evidence to prove it.

"Nigergate, Rome Investigation of False Dossier Reopened"

By Carlo Bonini and Giuseppe D'Avanzo

La Repubblica, December 8, 2005

Rome. Dismissed little more than a month ago, the so-called `Nigergate' inquiry (Proceedings # 33402/04 I) has been reopened. The Italian prosecutor's office in Rome will hear Alain Chouet, ex-Number Two of the Direction Generale de la Securité Exterieure(Dgse), the French counterespionage agency. Following the news of the FBI's fresh investigation, the Italian magistracy is also stirring. The version/reconstruction [of events] detailed by the director of the `Intelligence and Security Department' has reshuffled both the protagonists and the contents of the fake documents as far as timing, events and places are concerned. During the first investigation, the three witnesses - Rocco Martino, `Signora Laura' (the Sismi source in the Niger Embassy in Rome), Antonio Nucera (the Sismi colonel)- had witheld [this evidence].

What did Chouet reveal  to la Repubblica (December 1st 2005)? Basically three circumstances:

    1.Already in the summer of 2002, the CIA was in possession of at least some of the false documents.

    2.Rocco Martino, who approached the Service de Renseignement de Sécurité for the first time that same summer, offered the French that same dossier for 100 thousand dollars.

    3.In the course of a second meeting, again in the summer of 2002, the French told Martino that the documents were a forgery and, at the same time, warned the Bundesnachrichtendienst (Bnd), the German counter-espionage, to whom the Italian "ex-intelligence-agent-turned-con-artist" had tried to pass off the bogus dossier.

The three circumstances have convinced public prosecutor Franco Ionta to resume the investigation.

This is how things have been told up to now after the conclusion of the preliminary investigation. Through Sismi Colonel Antonio Nucera's good offices, and thanks to the connivance of Zakaria Yaou Maiga, a Niger diplomatic official, Rocco Martino managed to get from `Signora Laura' the papers of a non-existent agreement for the sale of 500 tons of uranium ore per year between Niger and Iraq. In the first phase of the investigation, Rocco Martino appeared astounded when confronted with the coincidental statements of the other witnesses. Forged documents? I didn't know. Nor did `Signora Laura.'

Not even Colonel Nucera [knew]. It was Zakaria Yaou Maiga who put together the rotten goods. All by himself. Unfortunately, Maiga cannot be prosecuted because he is protected by diplomatic immunity. End of the story. Case dismissed. So then, three gullible Italians have been swindled by a young official from Niger who pocketed his money and set off for home in Niamey.

Now- reasons the public prosecutor's office - after Alain Chouet's story, the script concocted by the three Italians - and also acknowledged by the first reconstruction the FBI prepared for the US Senate - doesn't hold water anymore. At least since the summer of 2002, Rocco Martino has known that those documents were forged (the French told him so). This notwithstanding, he tried again to pass them off as `solid'.

At the end of September 2002, we find him again trying to contact a journalist from Panorama. He offered to sell her the documents which Carlo Rossella, the editor of the weekly magazine, even assumed might be the `smoking gun' that would dismiss any doubts about the danger of  Saddam Hussein. In this first phase, of course, the public prosecutor's office will have to ascertain the contradictions of Rocco Martino's evidence, confronted with that of Chouet. Once confirmed, public prosecutor Franco Ionta will decide whether to ask the judge for the original dossier or to press for a new investigation under the hypothesis of a [different] criminal offence.

Rocco Martino's lies might open a new horizon in the investigation in the months to come. The same task the FBI has. What was the driving force behind the con artist? Just a lust for easy money or is there, behind his moves, someone who is manoeuvring him for political and military intelligence reasons which could be construed as "an influence operation" or rather, as US democratic Senator J. Rockefeller has said, as a "war of disinformation"?

It's a fact that the resumption of the Roman judicial inquiry disposes of some of the inaccuracies spread by the government and by the Sismi in the last few days. In the customary press release (December 3rd), Sismi anonymous sources heralded a `joint investigation' with the FBI. Actually, the secret services cannot question anybody neither autonomously nor as proxy for the judiciary. Neither can they join in the interrogations by the Bureau's officials. Collaboration with non-European investigative bodies has its conventions [laws and norms].

If the FBI, as was disclosed by the Los Angeles Times and confirmed by spokesman Richard Kolko to Repubblica, must question Rocco Martino at last, they will be allowed to do so only with the collaboration of the Italian investigative police and the consent of the public prosecutor's office in Rome which is now proceeding against the same protagonists for identical facts.

In the last few weeks, both the Italian government and intelligence have shielded themselves from the many inconsistencies of an affair which, as told in Rome, doesn't hang together. In  several official statements, Palazzo Chigi [the Council President's office]  has hidden behind the results of the FBI's first investigation and the judge's dismissal in Rome. Daringly, on December 5th last, the government said that "the non-involvement of Italian institutions emerges from the results of the investigations of the public prosecutor's office in Rome, as well as of the work of the Butler committee, the US Senate and the FBI investigations, whose findings remain intact, neither questioned nor revoked by any doubts whatsoever".

The two shelters are full of holes now. The Italian government's version dangerously relies on the attacks of manipulation and disinformation launched by the Sismi against those cracks of light which  witnesses of the affair have let filter through. So, we have seen them attack `the CIA', `branches of the CIA', `ex CIA officials', `American reporters,' and then defend `the CIA' and `branches of the CIA,' only to attack `the Dgse' and `ex Dgse officials'. Raising a dust cloud helps to cover up what Forte Braschi [Sismi] did (or did not do) between October 2001 and spring 2003, when the war had already started (the night between March 19th and 20th). There is no evidence that the Copaco of Cicchitto (Fi) and Bianco (Dl), of Brutti (Ds) and Gasparri (An) will join in the curiosity of the FBI and the public prosecutor's office in Rome. An oversight committee- even though it has no power to investigate- the Copaco doesn't seem able to assume its responsibilities by asking a few questions firmly enough to get an answer. Up to now, the Copaco remains the only body which has acquitted those involved in the Nigergate after a five hours' hearing and no investigation. A truth with no verification.

Originally posted at Eurotrib by de Gondi.

Originally posted to rom wyo on Thu Dec 08, 2005 at 04:27 PM PST.

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