How Fitzgerald Might Expose the Niger Forgery Scandal through His Plame Investigation

I’ve said on multiple occasions that I don’t think Fitzgerald has evidence yet from the Plame investigation pertaining to the Niger forgeries. I’ve said that Fitzgerald needed to flip Bolton and not just Judy to get to the Niger forgeries. But I think I was wrong. I think Fitzgerald may be able to get to the Niger forgery scandal too. Here’s how.

Judy’s discovery of a possible uranium forgery

As I described twice in my Judy series, on her ridiculously staged Indiana Jones expedition into the depths of the Mukhabarat, Judy "found" a document detailing a potential deal between Iraq and a Ugandan businessman to buy uranium. Here’s the description she gives of that memo:

Of even greater interest to MET Alpha was a ”top secret” intelligencememo found in a room on another floor. Written in Arabic and dated May20, 2001, the memo from the Iraqi intelligence station chief in anAfrican country described an offer by a ”holy warrior” to selluranium and other nuclear material. The bid was rejected, the memostates, because of the United Nations ”sanctions situation.” But thestation chief wrote that the source was eager to provide similar helpat a more convenient time.

Note, this paragraph is a logical non-sequitur in the story. The paragraph before describes all the wacky items they find suggesting Iraq wanted to attack Israel. And the paragraph following reads:

The discoveries, which American military officers called significantbut which did not by themselves offer documentary evidence of directIraqi links to terror attacks on Israel, were the serendipitousbyproduct of one of the strangest missions ever conducted by MET Alpha.

I wonder, now, whether Judy managed to slip that paragraph in after it had been edited. Either that, or the NYT is just an even shittier newspaper than I had thought. Both equally possible, I guess…

One more important detail. Whether or not this really is a forgery, this discovery was almost certainly staged. I say that partly because of the sheer asburdity of the circumstances through which it was discovered (read this post if you want to see what I mean). But also, we know the INC had already cleared truckloads of documents out of Mukhabarat. From a May 6 article:

In an interview today, he said his supporters had seized as much as 60tons of documents from the Baath Party and Iraqi secret police andintelligence services. The files document Mr. Hussein’s relationshipwith Arab leaders and foreign governments, he said.

But then, that’s what you’d do with a forged document, right?Stage the discovery of it in a place where it might plausibly be found?

Finally, one more reason I think this is a forgery, rather than a legitimate, unsuccessful attempt to sell uranium to Saddam. Known forger Ahmed Chalabi and suspected forgery planter Harold Rhode were with Judy in Baghdad at the time she wrote this story. Not good enough evidence to admit into court, I know. But a remarkable coincidence nevertheless, don’t you think?

  1. marky says:

    Very interesting speculation, and with the tie-in to the court motions, it looks very solid. Kudos.

  2. manyoso says:

    emptywheel, i love your writing/theorizing/reporting!

    oh, if it is true… this will be the biggest bombshell. can you even imagine if Fitz is able to uncover the conspiracy to defraud and forge WMD evidence?

    that would permanently discredit the Republicans on foreign policy for generations i think… :=)

  3. emptywheel says:

    No, not the Lingberg baby. But I saw someone who looked a lot like Fitz sniffing around Jimmy Hoffa’s old stomping grounds the other day.

  4. emptywheel says:

    Actually, seriously, I did double check and make sure it wasn’t uranium claims that got David Kelly in such trouble (it wasn’t–it was BW and CW). Because, given Judy’s close relationship with him, that might be something she and Libby would have discussed that week.

  5. emptywheel says:

    I don’t know. I half suspect there are two sets of notes that have been supplied to Fitz about the June 25 meeting, Judy’s and Jill’s. If he has Jill’s, then I suspect he will at least interview her. I don’t think her assertions that the content of Judy’s conversation with Libby was published in June 20, in the newspaper, would be admissable. But if she had made the same claim in a prior interview…

  6. Anonymous says:

    EW, did you catch Sid Schamberg’s flash in the Village Voice that Disco Bolton went to visit Judy twice in jail? He links to the WaPo article, but that article explicitly refers to Bolton’s â€visit.â€

    Just struck me as odd. Good post, BTW. I sure hope Fitzgerald is after the forgeries.

  7. emptywheel says:


    Wow. I hadn’t seen that. He could be assuming the visit Arianna scooped is different than the visit the WaPo confirmed. Because he says, â€it was reported,†not that he had done his own reporting. But you’re right. It’s pretty interesting.

  8. jonnybutter says:

    EW, I hope you have an agent about getting you a book contract, because whatever the denouement, I know which book about this caper I want to read.

  9. Anonymous says:

    Just for the entertainment of anyone who might care, here’s my same-night debunking of that May 7, 2003 article by Judith Miller. One of my favorite early posts, back when my co-bloggers and I were the only ones reading Needlenose.

  10. kim says:

    Please excuse my cluelessness (what should I blame first?) but what on earth are BW and CW?

    Clueless me

  11. kim says:

    BW – biological weapons?
    CW – chemical weapons?

    Ah well, I should have deciphered this more quickly on my own. Blame cooking as a distraction.

    You’re getting around to my central question however, do you think that Plame and Miller are enemies? Would Judy aid Libby et al in outing Plame?

    Diverging a bit from my theme, would Judy betray Kelly? (cynically, I’d guess you’d agree)

    I’m just not in a position to believe this today. Convince me?

  12. Anonymous says:

    kim – yep BW – biological weapons and CW – chemical weapons.

    re plame & miller, the other day billmon wondered aloud whether maybe plame had earlier been a source for miller. that’d be interesting.

  13. Sara says:

    Complications inside of Complications.

    Emptywheel, Let’s explore Norm Coleman’s reasons for taking on Kofi Annan and his rather minimal exposure in Oil for Food.

    I’ll begin with my bias. I detest Norm Coleman — and I am a long time Resident of Minnesota. I know who he is back to the 8th grade (in Brooklyn NY).

    Coleman converted from DFL-ism to Republican ism because he got an offer he could not refuse. Rudy Boschwitz (the Senator whom Paul Wellstone defeated) in a campaign that was about â€who is the better Jew†in a state with less than 1% Jewish population (the 1990 Campaign) is a classic. Boschwitz (who actually did represent the Likud and what we now cal Neo-Con in the Senate — also called Rabbi of the Senate), came back in 96, and lost by a larger margin. It was then that he adopted Coleman (who had chaired 2 Clinton Campaigns) and converted him to Republicanism. With Wellstone dead, it was Coleman who survived.

    What so many folk cannot comprehend is the whole historical back story on this. Lets begin with Annan — he arrived in St. Paul in 1961 as part of the first African Airlift of promising students — and he was sent to Macalster. Kofi Annan’s host family as the first African student at Mac — Joan and Walter Mondale — he was then running for the office of State Attorney General.
    And they arranged an internship for Kofi in Washington DC — with Hubert Humphrey. This was the life young Kofi moved into as a result of the African Student Airlife (totally opposed by all the then sitting Republican Senators and Richard Nixon then VP.)

    Kofi’s school (he holds an honors degree) is one of the leading liberal arts colleges in the US today, in some measure because they inherited the Readers’ Digest fortune. But it is also a Presbyterian College — along with places like Princeton and Columbia — that have very old arrewngements with the Arab Middle East. For instance, the American Univeristy in Cairo and American U in Beruit are Presbyterian supported — and were created when the Sultan of the Ottoman Empire sold land for the establishements in the 1870;’s. As with Columbia and Princeton — Mac has a long term commitment to education in the Arab Middle East. There are, in the US, a vast number of people who would like to destroy these relationships — or at least make them useless. Rudy Boschwitz (Currently UN Human Rights Commission Delegate at the UN) in persuit of the Likud interests was one of these — and Coleman has picked up the banner — even though Mac is in the city for which he was formerly Mayor.

    This post is not specific to Judy — it is a tiny aspect of the Neo-Con agenda and all the rest. Kofi actually has connections to several influential elite circles in Egypt and Lebanon, and there are folk about who want to destroy these — or their importance. And yes, it matters that the ownership of campuses goes back to the 19th century.

  14. emptywheel says:


    Thanks for that. I hadn’t known that.

    I do know that back when it first became clear Rove was going to be implicated in this in July, Coleman was the first and loudest defender (this was around the time Galloway smacked him down). I was thinking of that when I wrote the Oil for Food stuff yesterday.

    I can’t help but think that the Oil for Food was planned right from the start, when Chalabi seized all the documents. Which is telling. Was it part of the plan for Iraq, or was the fake scandal based on real scandal planned after the UN didn’t approve our little adventure in Iraq?

  15. DrBB says:

    Sara–a â€tiny aspect,†maybe, but highly fascinating. As a native (but no longer resident, alas) Minnesotan, I rank Coleman high on the list of Republicans I Abhor. I had no idea there was this whole back-story to the anti-Annan vendetta. Thanks for posting this.

  16. lemondloulou54 says:

    NY Times published another correction today:
    Missing notes conversation between Lewis and Miller took place on June 23, not June 25. . . .

  17. emptywheel says:

    Re: the date change. There’s a theory two pieces of evidence were turned over to Fitz, Judy’s notes (referenced in the WaPo and Reuters stories) and a different notebook that references the Judy Libby meeting (referenced in Isikoff’s story).

    I wonder if the second notebook is where they discovered the date?

  18. yam says:

    An article at At The Carpetbagger Rerport has a report of the legal aspects of lieing to the President:

    As a constitutional matter, the president of the United States is ultimately responsible for executing federal law. In this sense, Rove didn’t just lie to his boss, he misled the government’s top law enforcement official about an alleged crime that was (and is) under investigation. This, in an of itself, is legally problematic.

    â€The president is the top law enforcement official of the executive branch,†said Rory Little, a professor of law at the University of California and a former federal prosecutor and associate attorney general in the Clinton administration. â€It is a crime to make a false statement to a federal agent. If the president was asking in that capacity, and the statement was purposely false, then you might have a violation of law.â€

    But Little pointed out another possibility. If Bush had asked Rove about Plame in an informal manner-speaking to his adviser as a longtime friend rather than in his official capacity as president-the obstacles to bringing a criminal case under false-statement statutes would be higher, making such a case unlikely.

    But Randall Eliason, a former chief of the public corruption section for the U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia and currently an adjunct law professor at American University, said that if Rove purposely misled the president, the FBI, or the White House press secretary, a reasonable prosecutor might construe such acts as â€overt acts in furtherance of a criminal plan.â€

    Added Gillers: â€Misleading the president, other officials of the executive branch, or even the FBI might not, in and of themselves, constitute criminal acts. But a prosecutor investigating other crimes-such as obstruction of justice or perjury-might use evidence of any such deception to establish criminal intent. And a lack of candor might also negate a claim of good faith or inadvertent error in providing misleading information to prosecutors.â€

    This should prove to be an interesting side show, huh?

  19. Anonymous says:

    Judy’s meeting w/Fitz now rather than testifying because she’s all about being â€On the bus†now. Meaning, once she’s decided to cooperate w/Fitz to avoid prison she’s not going to be holding anything back and not going to require Fitz to jump through any big hoops to get what he needs from her, I don’t care what she says publicly to the contrary. She’s â€one of them†now and whatever they need, she’ll give. Her recent public statements: that she got Fitz to limit his inquiries were just â€face-saving†for her; they were a way, albeit weak, to explain her changed position on testifying to the public without admitting that in fact, nothing at all had really changed except her desire to get out of jail. Remember, she can always exceed her own self-imposed limitations on her cooperation, and she will, IMHO because Fitz is holding over her head her own potential criminal liability as a co-conspirator. If she permits them to debrief her about more than what she has publicly said she would talk about, in order to comply with a deal w/Fitz not to indict her as a co-conspirator, how would we know now? Why would anyone believe her statements that she is limiting her cooperation? I think that’s just a PR strategy.

  20. landreau says:

    Things are getting hotter (from TIME 10/10/05):

    But the investigation has taken a toll on White House aides, many of whom now fear that the special counsel, Patrick Fitzgerald, is intent on issuing indictments.

    â€Fitzgerald’s office, although very professional, has been very aggressive in pursuing people,†the adviser said. â€These guys are bullies, and they threaten you.â€…..;

  21. obsessed says:

    >â€These guys are bullies, and they threaten you.â€

    Ironic, eh? Coming from the folks whose motto is â€f&*# ’em like they’ve never been f&*#edâ€.

  22. emptywheel says:


    I almost wonder whether that’s not coming from Susan Ralston, the Abramoff minion turned Karl minion. After she testified there was a piece somewhere about how onerous this was for the poor staffers who had to get lawyers, basically an attempt to accuse Fitzgerald of overreach.

  23. baked potato says:

    Aggressive prosecutors! Aggressive reporters! Don’t these people know that the Third Reich, um I mean, the Republican Party has destiny on its side and will crush them under its boot heel?!!!

  24. Tenochtitlla says:

    Hi Emptywheel, Do you think Larry Franklin had a bigger role in this saga (beyond this)?
    According to The New York Times, in December 2001, a few months after the CIA first heard the Niger claims, Ledeen flew to Rome with Manucher Ghorbanifar, a former Iranian arms dealer, and two officials from OSP, one of whom was Larry Franklin. In Rome they met the head of Sismi.

  25. Anonymous says:

    ew – the most interesting thing about that Ralston â€poor me†article, was that Norquist claimed that he didnt even know that Ralston had testified – this was 6 weeks after she testified. At the time i wrote a post called â€why is norquist lying?â€. Does anyone think Grover may be in more trouble than is generally thought?

  26. emptywheel says:

    Tenochtitla (great moniker–are you mexican?)

    I think Franklin is one degree removed from Rhode who is one degree removed from Bolton. Who will get to Rhode and the rest of the forgers first? I don’t know. Frankly, I haven’t heard what happened to the Chalabi spy case, but that one could be the gold mine.


    Yeah, Grover’s in trouble. But not on Plame. Abramoff will bring HIM down.

    (Geez, I think I should do a speculative board: â€Which GOP Scandal will bring down which GOP thug??†You think I could interest Las Vegas in it??)

  27. Anonymous says:

    You should also read the detailed legal analysis on treasongate by citizenspook in the archives of


    This is a very detailed legal analysis, and points to the fact that this could potentially be a CAPITAL crime.

  28. Anonymous says:

    i have a nagging suspicion that any ’complete’ telling of the niger/uranium story will include the rathergate/TANG episode. 60Minutes had been working on the niger story for months, only to bump it at the last minute for the ’fake’ TANG story. Was that Rove’s finest double-play?

  29. Sara says:

    Terrible having odd bits in your notes without citations — but I have a note that when the UN — IAEA analysis of the Niger documents went public, there was a referral to the FBI to seek the origin of same. Then, After Fitzpatrick was appointed, I have a note that he was including the FBI investigators into his own effort. Does anyone else have more specific information with citations? Perhaps the thing to do is inquire what happened to the initial FBI effort? Laura Rozen and Josh Marshall tried to interview the Italian who apparently know something about the transmittal of the Niger documents — were they working with the CBS effort? Seymour Hersh (New Yorker) also reported he heard that Retired CIA had produced them as a joke that backfired — rumor he gathered at a DC Xmas Party.

    If Fitzpatrick absorbed the FBI effort, that would explain why nothing more has been leaked.

  30. Anonymous says:

    sara, re your FBI investigation, josh marshall said: â€The truth, though, the dirty little secret, is that there’s never been any real investigation into where those documents came from. Don’t look for status updates on it because it doesn’t exist.â€

    and re the josh/martino interview: â€My colleagues and I have known the guy’s name since late spring. And at least three European intelligence agencies knew who he was well before we found out. In fact, twice this summer we brought him to New York for interviews. Both time he travelled under his own name, Rocco Martino.â€
    (both quotes from here)

    i’m not sure if josh worked with cbs on the piece, but i remember him saying that he has seen it.

    re the documents, cannistraro (and giraldi) fingered Leeden, ’but’ he categorically deniedit recently.

  31. emptywheel says:


    There was a WaPo or NYT article from January 2004 that basically, mid Plame Affair story, said the FBI story had been advancing. Which suggests some connection. (In fact, it may have been a Mike Allen byline, which would add to its credibility.)

    But, as others have pointed out, the FBI didn’t interview the probable key link in the chain when he came here for the 60 minutes interview.

  32. DoDi says:

    I have a question… since Fitzgerald is interviewing jounalists about who they spoke with in the government vis-a-vis the Plame outing, I wanted to know if Fitzgerald has interviewed Robert Maginnis? According to Larry Johnson (on TPM Cafe, see: ’Mambo Italiano and Plame Gate’

    15 January 2003: An op-ed by Robert Maginnis reveals that the Defense Department was providing classified information to private citizens to advance its campaign to go to war with Iraq. Maginnis wrote about Saddam, â€He also failed to explain why Iraq manufactures fuels suited only for a class of missile that it does not admit to having and why it sought to procure uranium from the African nation of Niger.†[DOD, specifically Don Rumsfeld, Paul Wolfowitz, Doug Feith, and others, provided regular background briefings to TV pundits like Maginnis. Despite being discounted by the intelligence community, the pundits were being briefed that Iraq was trying to acquire uranium from Niger.

    So it would be interesting to know who specifically was continuting to feed people like Maginnis the disinformation about Niger yellowcake after it had already been established as phoney.

    And it would be interesting to know if Fitzgerald has interviewed Maginnis, since that would be an indicator that he is investigating the Niger forgery.

    Plus… I’d love to learn whether Fitz has some calls to Italy on his phone bill…

  33. CuriosityKilledTheCat says:

    A picture is worth a thousand words: why not have a diagram which shows the players, the events, the times, with little photos of the players …
    Sure would help a lot of people connect the dots as this diagram flew through the blogosphere.