NIGER UPDATE….Henry Farrell has translated portions of Tuesday’s La Repubblica article about the forged Nigerien documents, and this bit provides a surprising answer to the question of where the documents came from:
The game-plan was rather transparent. “Authentic” documents relating to an attempted acquisition in Niger (old Italian intelligence from the 1980?s) were the dowry of the second-in-command of SISMI?s Roman headquarters (Antonio Nucera). They were bundled together with another fabricated document…through a simulated burglary on the Nigerien embassy (from which they had gotten headed notepaper and seals).
Isn’t that fascinating? If I’m reading this right, La Repubblica’s story is that the document regarding the sale of uranium yellowcake was actually genuine ? except that it was from the 1980s. That certainly explains why the names and dates didn’t check out. Then a second document was added to the first one that was forged on genuine Nigerien notepaper. The Italians got this notepaper from an asset inside the Nigerien embassy, but their story to the Americans was that both documents had been burglarized.
(I should add that this second document was a genuinely strange affair, and it’s never been clear why the forgers wasted their time creating it. For what it’s worth, Matt Yglesias has an entertaining theory here.)
Some of the other stuff in the La Repubblica story I didn’t quite get, which might be because the article is unclear or because the translation is unclear. Or just because the whole thing is outlandishly baroque. One thing’s for sure, though: a bunch of people have some explaining to do.