Sunday, August 01, 2004

questions on Niger forgeries

Re Josh Marshall's Niger post today: YAY that this story is finally coming out. I'd begun to think it, whatever it was, had passed its sell by date.

[BTW--absolutely do not spend money to read the London Times report. Josh's post is longer and contains infinitely more information. The only piece of new info is that the "security consultant" calls himself "Giacomo".]

One issue I hope gets cleared up is the timing. As far as I can tell, based on Josh's information and the Senate IC report, here's the timeline:

late 2000
SISMI sets up link between "Giacomo" and Niger embassy contact.
late 2001
SISMI gives forgeries to Niger embassy contact to pass to "Giacomo".
SISMI also summarizes the info in the forgeries and disseminates to other countries including US & Britain.
Oct. 2002
"Giacomo" gives the forgeries to Elizabetta Burba.
My questions:

1. When the SISMI set up the Niger embassy contact in late 2000, was it specifically to funnel these forgeries? If so, why the year-long lead time? Unless there is some much larger plan of which the forgeries are only a small part, this seems excessive. Especially considering how bad the forgeries reportedly are--could SISMI really not see this for themselves? (Unanswerable question, of course.)

1b. A related question: what possible long-term use would a Nigerien conduit have for the SISMI--that is, what amount of useful information could credibly originate from a Nigerien Embassy employee? At first glance, it seems obvious that the conduit was set up specifically for the forgeries. On the other hand, "Giacomo" couldn't possibly know about the forgeries, and he was willing to pay ~$500 a month for info. So what's the context behind these relationships? (I am trying to point out that some serious questions come up here when evaluating plausibility from the point of view of a specific individual and point in time.)

2. When did the Niger conduit give the forgeries to "Giacomo"?

3. Why did an entire year pass between when the Niger conduit gave the forgeries to "Giacomo" and when he gave them to Burba?

4. What prompted "Giacomo" to pass them to Burba at the exact moment he did?