In the Italian media battle over the Niger forgeries both the Sismi and the government try to get mileage out of the FBI’s closing of  the case, as well as FBI Director Robert Mueller’s July letter that exonerated Italian officials of involvement in the scam.

As reported by the LA Times, the FBI has reopened the investigation. The Sismi quickly announced that they welcomed further investigation and that they would be happy to collaborate. The communiqué concludes:

“There is already a [documented] mass of punctual confirmations available that should lead to the exact identification and the attribution of specific responsibilities of individuals of various nationalities, not excluding Americans.”

According to a
new article
published today, December 5th, in la Repubblica by Carlo Bonini and Giuseppe D’Avanzo, the FBI may not be too eager to have the Sismi as an investigative partner. When asked about the possible collaboration, the Bureau spokesperson Richard Kolke replied that it would be inappropriate to comment on an ongoing investigation.

But how can the FBI investigate the case in Italy? These are the possibilities:

It is still not possible in Italy, in broad daylight, for secret agents of the national intelligence [Sismi and Sisde] to “invite” Italian citizens in “covered apartments” or State offices in order to allow the FBI to interrogate them. Judiciary collaboration has its rules. The Bureau can take two steps. Request a rogatory through the Minister of Justice indicating what type of activity they wish to carry out on our territory and which witnesses they would like to hear. Or they can ask for the collaboration of our judiciary police (Carabinieri, Guardia di Finanza, State police) who can act under authorization of the Minister of the Interior.

The authors list the key players in the scandal with relevant questions:


Our intelligence, then, is preparing a “massive dossier” that should accuse the French of being Rocco Martino’s puppetmasters. Rocco Martino is the con artist who disseminated the forgeries in the autumn of 2001. Nicolò Pollari’s Company has raised a dust storm, asserting they have been “feverishly busy” (four years after the facts and two and a half years after the discovery of the forgeries), but they still haven’t clarified what was going on in a specific period. This can be summarized with the following questions: What did the Sismi do between October 2001 and March 2003? Rocco Martino, who was is contact with a Sismi source in the Nigerien Embassy in Rome and a colonel of the Sismi [Antonio Nocero], was very active. Was Pollari’s Company aware of their traffic? [As of] when? And was the American ally informed of the groundlessness of the documents the three were distributing?

There has yet to be an answer to these questions. Only, informally, behind anonymous leaks to the press, the Sismi lays the responsibility with the French. It is undeniable that the French are on stage in this show.

What is exactly the role of the French? Until a few days ago very little had come out of French officialdom, a standard practice for most intelligence services. After all, for what reason would the French services have to render account to their authorities and the French public if they are not behind the affair, much less to an Italian and English smear campaign?

Yet the French have still not made an official statement. However, the ex top functionary of the DGSE, Alain Chouet, had his say on the matter the other day.

Undoubtedly, Chouet has an advantage in the French chapter of this story. He has furnished a public and personal reconstruction of the facts. He offered for those who would like to know more, such as the FBI, possible independent confirmation [of events.] He says that in the summer of 2002, the DGSE warned Langley of the scam. He adds that Rocco Martino offered the bogus dossier to the Germans and asserted that the DGSE revealed the fraudulent nature of the papers to German intelligence (Bnd). It would be a kids’ game for the FBI to find out from the Germans if Chouet is telling the truth or lying. If the Frenchman’s memory is exact, we would have a double confirmation that the French and the Germans already knew in the summer of 2002, that an Italian was making the rounds with false documents. “In any case,” a French intelligence source tells la Repubblica, “the DGSE had figured out, in conversations with Martino, which were ongoing through 2004, his relations, who had sent him around with the dossier, and why.” Even this will be an interesting chapter for the FBI, if ever the DGSE, like the Sismi, wants to reveal the contents of their dossier. Anyway, it is time that the Quai d’Orsay goes public with what they have.

That would be useful information for the Italian magistracy, the third protagonist of this new chapter.

So let’s see at what point the Procura of Rome is in all of this. When the story broke in July 2003, the investigative hypothesis was reportedly for “sabotage against the State,” a fairly serious crime. It has turned out to be a more modest “falsification of documents.”
Since it is believed that the actual forger is an Niger embassy functionary, Zakaria Yaou Maiga, it’s a question of diplomatic immunity. Mr. Maiga will have to affront matters in his own country for the forgeries, if ever charges are pressed. As for the Italians, Rocco Martino, the anonymous woman and Antonio Nucera there is no substantial violation of the law if they were in good faith. So the case has been archived, which means there is not enough evidence according to investigators to press a case before a preliminary court. Of course, there is the obstacle of state secrecy. But apparently, not only.

Unfortunately, at the moment, the files of the investigation for some sort of hitch have been misplaced for several weeks now in the Hall of Justice. And for another accidental glitch, nobody can figure out the name of the judge of the preliminary investigation who signed the writ to archive the case (naturally, we hope the matter will be cleared up in the next few hours.)

Anybody who has lived in Italy and is familiar with the Roman Procura, otherwise known as “the Gates of Hell,” knows what that could imply. Misplaced files have always doped trials in Italy, especially when the powerful are involved. So let’s just hope it’s a coincidence.

Now the Sismi lets us know through the press that they are going to send a “voluminous dossier” to the Procura on French responsibility for Rocco Martino’s actions and on the role of  “those subjects who have attempted, unsuccessfully, to accredit responsibility to our Nations’ damage” (that is, ex-CIA agents and American reporters.) The initiative puzzles the Procura. The Procura reasons that it’s doubtful intelligence is going to make that move. A similar step would warrant the hypothesis of a very grave crime (espionage) committed by Italian citizens, in collaboration with foreign governments or citizens, to damage “the security of the State or its political interests, both internal and international.” (article 257 of the Criminal Code)

The supposed crime is that there had been “diffusion of information that should have remained secret and in the possession of our Nation.” Therefore, one could advance the hypothesis of a collaboration between a government and/or foreign citizens, Rocco Martino and “double agents,” let’s say, within our secret services. With an amused hint, the Roman Procura remarks: “Do you really believe that the Sismi has all that interest to hand over the pot’s lid [Pandora’s box] to the magistracy?”

But possible sarcasm aside, there are inquiries that have yet to find an answer since the beginning of this story: Who gave the documents to Rocco Martino? To evoke the poor Nigerien functionary or the [anonymous] Signora, at this point, would offend a numbskull. Maybe the only one who would be satisfied is the last protagonist: the Parliamentary Oversight Committee of the Services (Copaco).

So now let’s hear it for that off-limits room where only embedded reporters may occasionally venture, the hapless and largely useless Copaco.

It could have been one of the protagonists of this story. It would have been an institutional duty (control intelligence activity.) But it renounced to do so, immediately and in a rush. Allowing itself to be outstripped, improvident, by the U.S. Senate Commission, the FBI and even the Sismi, who just as anonymous sources within intelligence reveal to reporters, are not going to send the “voluminous dossier” put together by Forte Braschi [Sismi] to Palazzo San Macuto [Copaco].

So it’s really not necessary to take into account what the government protectors (Cichetto and Gasparri) do nor what the inconclusive and very timid representatives of the opposition do (Bianco, Brutti and Malabarba).

Update [2005-12-5 19:13:49 by rom wyo]:

Now readers who are familiar with story of the Niger forgeries may be led to assume that when the Sismi mentions possible involvement of American citizens, they might be alluding to Vincent Cannistraro’s cryptic remark that it might be someone close to Michael Ledeen. Or the recent story that Fitzgerald has an uncensored version of the Copaco hearings that also point to Duane Clarridge and Alan Wolf.

It’s not the case.

In the past month the Berlusconi press has been cooking up a new version that puts responsibility at the door of the French DGSE, the CIA Vips and the American left. Yes, if we are to take these innuendos and slurs and toss them together, we’ve got a cosy little lefty conspiracy that implicates Waxman, the Rockefellers, prominent left wing bloggers and the liberal press out to sway public opinion and frame the “Three B’s”.

The “voluminous dossier” purportedly contains a good deal of this. The Sismi has been following Martino all these years to discover that…yes, folks, the DGSE put it together and masterminded all the moves. The saga of a con artist trying to place his (periodically updated) goods is slapstick comedy at times. According to the reconstruction in
 il Giornale
at the end of July 2004, Martino had a rendezvous with two reporters from the Sunday Times. 33 people turned up for the meeting: 14 Italian spies, 12 French spies, 4 photographers, 2 reporters and Rocco. There was a showdown between the spies and the French retreated. Rocco noticed nothing.

And the leftist cabal? After all, isn’t Vincent Cannistraro a professor at the Institute of Criminology at Paris II, just like Alain Chouet? What more proof do you need? How could the Vips have known about the AIEA report results on the 6th of March 2003, in a German televised interview a day before El Baradei released them? You guessed it, Jacques Baute and David Albright are in cahoots. And did you know that the Rockfellers have shares in the Cogema, the company that mines uranium in Niger of all places? Or that Lyndon LaRouche is behind Waxman? That Josh Marshall tried to pilot Rocco Martino’s answers in the infamous CBS interviews?

And there is more. In the past few days the Berlusconi Giornale has published a series of scoops (here and here) purportedly based on leaks from the secret services. Yet the documents that are cited have not been published in any way. Are they false, too? Are they part of the “voluminous dossier?” Do they really exist? These new documents detail the international movements and the alleged traffic of Abdul Qadeer Kahn throughout the Muslim world from Southeast Asia to Africa in the 90’s. Kahn is the father of the Pakistani atomic bomb, apparently financed or supported by Saudi Arabia, Iran, Egypt and just about any nation that’s on the neocon hit list. Of course, Kahn’s favourite watering post in the years 1999- 2000 in Africa was, take a guess, Niger. Probably to sip tea with Jay and Joseph the fourth at the Grand Hotel. But that will be for their next instalment.

Original version posted at Eurotrib by de Gondi.

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