Rocco and the Rome connection

· Edgewise, Paleoblogs, Yellowcake!

The U.S. Senate Select Intelligence Committee inquiry may be going nowhere but thankfully we have the Italian Parliament to help us in our journey to enlightenment in the Yellowcake! story. And I have Nur-al-Cubicle to thank for providing a lucid summary of La Repubblica‘s reportage on the government investigation of “The Niger Documents”.
The Story, Part I: Rocco Goes to Rome
The Setting: New Year’s Day 2001, the Niger Embassy, Rome
The Players:
Rocco Martino, a “retired” Italian spy and double-agent for France in need of cash
Antonio (Tony) Nucera, a SISMI (Italian Military Intelligence) division chief and friend of Martino
La Signora, an aging contract spy in the Niger embassy in Rome in need of cash
Yaou (Adam) Maiga Zakaria, First Embassy Counselor for Niger (Rome) in need of cash
(the following scene is imagined but the outcome is fact):
Nucero (on his cell): “Rocco. It’s Tony. The company documents are in the mail, the numbers and the telex. You got the key contact. You’re set to go. Ciao buddy.”
An espreso stand somewhere in Rome:
Rocco: “Look Doll. I’ve told you, this isn’t a home operation. Tony’s just helping me out. You’ve got the dough. Now we need somebody on the inside to get us in. Tonight.
La Signora (whispering): “Ok Rocco but I need another thousand for Adam. He’s in but he’s got an obligation to take care of right away.”
Rocco: “Merda woman, I’m not the CIA! Ok. Another thou. When is the shop closing?”
La Signora (melifluously): “Be there at 7. It will be dark by then and Adam can let you in. Have the cash with you.”
Later that evening at the Niger Embassy:
Rocco: “Adam, I want some sheets of official letterhead and the seal stamp.”
Zakaria: “No problem. Don’t you want to mess the place up a little?”
The next morning, January 2, an official at the Niger embassy notifies the police of a break-in although he can’t say what, exactly, was stolen. Rocco goes back to his apartment in Luxemburg with the stolen letterhead and official stamp and puts together a package of documents. The package contains both the real Niger documents from the late 1980s that his friend Nucero supplied him with, and the fake documents that Rocco created. The fake papers, dated July 5 and 6, 2000, are designed to solve a mystery for the French intelligence agents–they want to know who has been purloining uranium ore from a couple of inactive mines in their former colony, Niger. The papers document a deal between the Niger government and Saddam Hussein to supply Iraq with 500 tons of pure uranium oxide (yellowcake) per year–a main ingredient for the manufacture of nuclear weapons.
The French agents immediately recognize the documents are fakes (among other things, the official names are the wrong ones for the time period, and Niger uranium mines are incapable of producing anywhere near 500 tons of yellowcake in a year) and dispose of them. Rocco, however, decides to try and re-sell the Niger documents and contacts a reporter at Panorama, the Italian newspaper owned by Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi.
The Panorama reporter, Elisabetta Burba, declines the offer from Martino (for a suggested $10k) and does not write about the incident. What happens next is murky. Either Burba’s Editor in Chief, Carlo Rosella, passes the bogus documents on to the U.S. Embassy in Rome or he does not. Either Rocco Martino himself gives (sells?) the fake documents to MI6 in London or he does not. Either SISMI, in person of new Director, Niccolò Pollari, passes the fake information on to the CIA or he does not. We only know for sure that the fake dossier purporting to show that Saddam Hussein was importing significant quantities of weapons-grade uranium ore from Niger, lands on the desk of U.S. State Department Bureau of Intelligence and Research official, Greg Thielmann, in the fall of 2001. At about the same time, the phony dossier also is received by British Intelligence in London.
This is the story as many have told it. There are also stories, or speculations about other possible “authors” of the fake yellowcake papers, for instance, Michael Ledeen, a former Reagan National Security Counsel consultant, or ex-CIA officers Duane Claridge and Alan Wolf (deceased) working for or in collaboration with Ledeen. The only certainty, however, is that the Iraq-Niger yellowcake papers are a hoax, a scam, fake, phony, bogus and a lie. But the yellowcake hoax will not die. In fact, it soon begins a new life in the Bush administration’s busy “policy” backrooms.
The Documents: http://cryptome.org/niger-docs.htm
Take your own Yellowcake journey:
Seymour Hersh
[The New Yorker, October 21, 2003]
Talking Points Memo
Martin Walker at UPI
Part II: Yellowcake Goes to America