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[casi] Blair ignored CIA warning over forged documents

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The Independent (UK)
June 13, 2003
Blair ignored CIA warning over forged documents on
Saddam's nuclear capability
Government still used intelligence months later to
justify action against Iraq
By John J Lumpkin, AP
The CIA warned Britain that claims Iraq had tried to
get uranium from Niger were false, months before the
Government published the allegation in an intelligence
dossier justifying military action against on Iraq.
The US intelligence agency asked a retired diplomat to
investigate reports from Britain and Italy that Saddam
had sought uranium for possible use in a nuclear
weapon. The diplomat went to Niger in February 2002 and
spoke to officials who denied having any uranium
dealings with Iraq.
That information was shared with British officials, and
was reported widely within the US government, a senior
intelligence official in Washington told the Associated
But the British government still included their
information in a public statement on 24 September last
year, citing intelligence sources, which said that Iraq
"sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa."
That same day, an American intelligence official
expressed doubts about the truth of the uranium reports
during a closed session of the Senate Foreign Relations
Early this year, UN inspectors announced that the
uranium reports were based primarily on forged
documents initially obtained by European intelligence
The Washington Post, quoting unidentified US officials,
reported today that the CIA did not pass on the
detailed results of its investigation to the White
House or other government agencies.
However, the US intelligence official who spoke to the
AP, said the CIA's doubts were made known to other
federal agencies through various internal
communications, starting more than a year before the
war began.
The reports first surfaced around the end of 2001, when
the British and Italian governments told the United
States they had intelligence that Iraq was seeking
uranium from Niger. That uranium, once fully processed,
could be used in a nuclear weapon.
At the time, the allies did not describe their sources,
which turned out to be a series of letters purportedly
between officials in Niger and Iraq, the intelligence
official said.
The CIA distributed the Europeans' information to the
rest of the government in early 2002 and noted that the
allegations lacked "specifics and details and we're
unable to corroborate them," the senior intelligence
official said.
The CIA then asked the retired diplomat to investigate.
Other, fragmentary US intelligence also pointed to an
Iraqi effort to acquire uranium in Africa. But the
forged letters remained the key source, although it is
unclear how much the CIA knew at this point about the
original letters acquired by the European agencies.
A public report, gleaned from the classified
intelligence estimate and published by the CIA in early
October, made no mention of the specific uranium
allegation. The CIA did not think the report was
reliable enough to be included, the intelligence
official said.
A former intelligence official at the State Department,
Greg Thielmann, said the Niger uranium claim was long
regarded with scepticism. Thielmann retired in
September 2002.
However, the uranium report was published in a State
Department fact sheet that was put out last December to
cast doubt on Iraq's declaration to the UN that it had
no prohibited weapons. The CIA tried unsuccessfully to
have it edited out of the fact sheet before it was
published, the official said.
It was omitted from future statements by State
Department officials, including Secretary of State
Colin Powell's address to the United Nations in
February this year.
 2001 Independent Digital (UK) Ltd[1]

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