Blair ignored CIA warning over forged documents on Saddam's nuclear capability
Government still used intelligence months later to justify action against Iraq
By John J Lumpkin, AP 
13 June 2003

The CIA warned Britain that claims Iraq had tried to get uranium from Niger were 
false, months before the Government published the allegation in an intelligence 
dossier justifying military action against on Iraq.

The US intelligence agency asked a retired diplomat to investigate reports from 
Britain and Italy that Saddam had sought uranium for possible use in a nuclear weapon. 
The diplomat went to Niger in February 2002 and spoke to officials who denied having 
any uranium dealings with Iraq.

That information was shared with British officials, and was reported widely within the 
US government, a senior intelligence official in Washington told the Associated Press.

But the British government still included their information in a public statement on 
24 September last year, citing intelligence sources, which said that Iraq "sought 
significant quantities of uranium from Africa."

That same day, an American intelligence official expressed doubts about the truth of 
the uranium reports during a closed session of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

Early this year, UN inspectors announced that the uranium reports were based primarily 
on forged documents initially obtained by European intelligence agencies.

The Washington Post, quoting unidentified US officials, reported today that the CIA 
did not pass on the detailed results of its investigation to the White House or other 
government agencies.

However, the US intelligence official who spoke to the AP, said the CIA's doubts were 
made known to other federal agencies through various internal communications, starting 
more than a year before the war began.

The reports first surfaced around the end of 2001, when the British and Italian 
governments told the United States they had intelligence that Iraq was seeking uranium 
from Niger. That uranium, once fully processed, could be used in a nuclear weapon.

At the time, the allies did not describe their sources, which turned out to be a 
series of letters purportedly between officials in Niger and Iraq, the intelligence 
official said.

The CIA distributed the Europeans' information to the rest of the government in early 
2002 and noted that the allegations lacked "specifics and details and we're unable to 
corroborate them," the senior intelligence official said.

The CIA then asked the retired diplomat to investigate.

Other, fragmentary US intelligence also pointed to an Iraqi effort to acquire uranium 
in Africa. But the forged letters remained the key source, although it is unclear how 
much the CIA knew at this point about the original letters acquired by the European 

A public report, gleaned from the classified intelligence estimate and published by 
the CIA in early October, made no mention of the specific uranium allegation. The CIA 
did not think the report was reliable enough to be included, the intelligence official 

A former intelligence official at the State Department, Greg Thielmann, said the Niger 
uranium claim was long regarded with scepticism. Thielmann retired in September 2002.

However, the uranium report was published in a State Department fact sheet that was 
put out last December to cast doubt on Iraq's declaration to the UN that it had no 
prohibited weapons. The CIA tried unsuccessfully to have it edited out of the fact 
sheet before it was published, the official said.

It was omitted from future statements by State Department officials, including 
Secretary of State Colin Powell's address to the United Nations in February this year.
   14 June 2003 05:06

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