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Roman scandal Bogus evidence from a bogus reporter By Michael Young http://www.reason.com/hod/my072403.shtml It was with perverse pleasure that I learned over the weekend that an Italian journalist named Elisabetta Burba had admitted to turning over counterfeit documents to the US embassy in Rome last year suggesting that Iraq had sought to buy uranium from Niger. It was based on these that President George W. Bush made his faulty allegation in his 2003 State of the Union address about Iraq's nuclear weapons capability. According to wire reports, Burba, who works for the Silvio Berlusconi-owned magazine Panorama, received the documents from a source who "in the past proved to be reliable," and whose identity Burba did not disclose. She told the Milan daily Corriere della Sera in an interview published Saturday: "I realized that this could be a worldwide scoop, but that's exactly why I was very worried." Burba went on to tell the newspaper that she traveled to Niger to verify the authenticity of the documents. She said she "was suspicious because the documents spoke of such a large amount of uranium—500 tons—and were short on details on how the uranium would be transported and arrangements for final delivery." Upon returning from her trip, Burba declared that the documents were probably fake, approving Panorama's decision not to publish them. BUT THEN WHAT DID THE "WORRIED" BURBA DO? Under normal circumstances she could have published a story on the documents, asking who was behind the forgeries; or she could have put the papers through a shredder. Burba did neither. She took the documents to the US embassy where they were shown to the CIA, sent to the State Department in Washington, and later used as evidence for President Bush's claim. Despite the fact that she and Panorama considered the Niger documents forgeries, Burba still handed them over to the Americans and then avoided mentioning the story when Bush made use of her material. [skip] More bluntly, Burba provided forgeries to the Americans, kept quiet later on when she knew the Bush administration was using the documents to substantiate a falsehood, and is today trying to cover up the whole thing by claiming that she always doubted the Niger documents were real anyway. That's not shoddy journalism; that's Nixonian deceptiveness. Observers will surely bring up the Berlusconi link to ask whether Panorama was doing the bidding of the Italian prime minister, its owner, when it gave the US administration evidence it was happy to later manipulate. Up to now there is no evidence of this. However, Burba's behavior hardly enhances the magazine's credibility or an impression that it is politically independent. [more] Michael Young a Reason contributing editor, writes from Lebanon. This story originally appeared in the Beirut Daily Star. His weblog can be read at www.beirutcalling.blogspot.com. _______________________________________________ Sent via the discussion list of the Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq. To unsubscribe, visit http://lists.casi.org.uk/mailman/listinfo/casi-discuss To contact the list manager, email firstname.lastname@example.org All postings are archived on CASI's website: http://www.casi.org.uk