NIGER FORGERY UPDATE….One of the million dollar questions at the heart of Plamegate is: where did those forged Niger documents come from, anyway? The short answer is that they came from Italian intelligence. And another question: why, in June 2003, was the White House seemingly so afraid of further publicity about those documents, which had been exposed as forgeries months before without doing them any real damage? Laura Rozen puts a few more puzzle pieces together over at the American Prospect today:

In an explosive series of articles appearing this week in the Italian newspaper La Repubblica, investigative reporters Carlo Bonini and Giuseppe d’Avanzo report that Nicolo Pollari, chief of Italy’s military intelligence service, known as Sismi, brought the Niger yellowcake story directly to the White House after his insistent overtures had been rejected by the Central Intelligence Agency in 2001 and 2002.

….Today’s exclusive report in La Repubblica reveals that Pollari met secretly in Washington on September 9, 2002, with then?Deputy National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley. Their secret meeting came at a critical moment in the White House campaign to convince Congress and the American public that war in Iraq was necessary to prevent Saddam Hussein from developing nuclear weapons. National Security Council spokesman Frederick Jones confirmed the meeting to the Prospect on Tuesday.

La Repubblica’s story suggests that the Italians pushed hard on the documents because they were eager to impress the Americans with their loyalty to the war cause. When the CIA and the State Department didn’t bite, they went straight to the White House. Read Laura’s entire piece for all the details.

There are plenty of questions still open, of course. Whose idea were the documents in the first place? Did Sismi know they were fake when they handed them over? Did Hadley? And why did everyone ignore the State Department’s conclusion, rendered almost immediately after Sismi turned over the documents, that they were obvious forgeries?

So many questions. So few answers. I don’t think Patrick Fitzgerald is going to answer them, but perhaps we’re getting a bit closer to someone else figuring it out.

UPDATE: Josh Marshall answers one of my questions. He says that La Repubblica’s story reports that Nicolo Pollari knew the documents were fake at the time he was peddling them to the CIA and the White House.

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