Follow the Yellowcake Road

We cannot wait for the final proof, the smoking gun that could come in the form of a mushroom cloud.
—GW Bush, Oct. 7, 2002

Remember Michael Ledeen, that National Review columnist and AEI fellow key player in Iran-Contra? Remember the forgeries that were the basis for Bush's 16-word claim in the 2002 State of the Union that Saddam had purchased yellowcake from Niger? the claim that Joseph Wilson bitch-slapped da Prez for making and that subsequently led to Robert Novak revealing Wilson's wife as a CIA operative? Well, guess who might've forged them. From First Draft:
VINCENT CANNISTRARO [former CIA head of counterterrorism operations and intelligence director at the National Security Council under Reagan]: ...It isn't that anyone had a good source on Iraq - there weren't any good sources. The Italian intelligence service, the military intelligence service, was acquiring information that was really being hand-fed to them by very dubious sources. The Niger documents, for example, which apparently were produced in the United States, yet were funneled through the Italians.

QUESTION: Do we know who produced those documents? Because there's some suspicion...

VINCENT CANNISTRARO: I think I do, but I'd rather not speak about it right now, because I don't think it's a proven case...

QUESTION: If I said 'Michael Ledeen'?

VINCENT CANNISTRARO: You'd be very close...
An intriguing answer, which fuels even more speculation. According to this little article from Al Jazeera (yeah, yeah), Ledeen's involvement would be
...consistent with the theory that the documents are the work of Iraqi dissidents associated with Ahmed Chalabi's Iraqi National Congress. [Remember "Curveball"? -ed.]

The documents would have flowed from Chalabi to Ledeen to SISME [SISMI -ed.], and thus would have been laundered to make them appear as legitimate products discovered by a legitimate intelligence agency.

This sophistication in the use of foreign intelligence agencies appears to be part of the modus operandi of the neocons, and may derive from the particular expertise of Ledeen and Richard Perle, developed in various shenanigans going back to the 1970's in particular the Iran-Contra affair.
And lest we miss the connection with current events, John "Loose Cannon" Bolton, Bush's nominee for dom ambassador to the UN, helped push said bogus claim in the State Department when he wasn't busy intimidating functionaries.

The source of the forgery-author speculation, Ian Masters' interview with Vincent Cannistraro, is here. It's worth reading, esp. if you're interested in recent intelligence distortions failures.

Scary Michael Ledeen quotes here. I cannot vouch for context, since I don't have the book Machiavelli on Modern Leadership, but here are three quotes worth checking out:
"Paradoxically, preserving liberty may require the rule of a single leader—a dictator—willing to use those dreaded 'extraordinary measures, which few know how, or are willing, to employ.' (p. 173)

"Machiavelli's favorite hero...Moses exercised dictatorial power, but that awesome power was used to create freedom." (p. 174)

"We should not be outraged by Machiavelli's call for a temporary dictatorship as an effective means to either revivify or restore freedom." (p. 174)
UPDATE: LNS told me that a friend of his told him that Ferris passed out at 31 Flavors last night the Niger forgeries were written in French. While I have found nothing about this and have better things to do than spend hours trolling the Internet for—no, wait. Anyway, it makes sense, since the language of Niger is, you know, French, it being a former French colony. According to The Financial Times, Rocco Martino, the Italian huckster businessman to whom the forgeries were traced, gave the documents to French intelligence (the DGSE?). The same article says that, "according to senior intelligence officials [UK, presumably; it's not clear], the forged documents were produced with the involvement of people familiar with Niger, and were created in 2000." I'll leave it there for now. If you find a story that mentions the documents were written in French, please let me know and I'll post it.

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