Wednesday, October 26, 2005
Well, the Italian businessman who served as an intermediary in the surfacing of those bogus papers now has now gone on the record:
The Italian businessman at the centre of a furious row between France and Italy over whose intelligence service was to blame for bogus documents suggesting Saddam Hussein was seeking to buy material for nuclear bombs has admitted that he was in the pay of France.
The man, identified by an Italian news agency as Rocco Martino, was the subject of a Telegraph article earlier this month in which he was referred to by his intelligence codename, "Giacomo".
His admission to investigating magistrates in Rome on Friday apparently confirms suggestions that - by commissioning "Giacomo" to procure and circulate documents - France was responsible for some of the information later used by Britain and the United States to promote the case for war with Iraq.
Italian diplomats have claimed that, by disseminating bogus documents stating that Iraq was trying to buy low-grade "yellowcake" uranium from Niger, France was trying to "set up" Britain and America in the hope that when the mistake was revealed it would undermine the case for war, which it wanted to prevent.
Two fairly obvious conclusions flow from this interesting factoid. First, France under Chirac may not be an enemy, but it is surely not an ally and definitely an adversary.
Second, Joseph Wilson obviously didn't learn a lot about black operations from his wife, because he fell for France's black op like a ton of bricks, even if months after the fact. Had he gone public in February instead of July, he might have turned France's operation into a huge success. (There is insight here into the character of Joseph Wilson, who might have written his op-ed piece before March 20 if it were genuinely his intention to prevent the war. Instead, he waited until the only impact other than on American morale would be partisan.)
Meanwhile, Mr. Martino is apparently at least a little afraid of what the French might do to him for flipping, as well he should be:
Mr Martino is said by diplomats to have come forward of his own accord and contacted authorities in the Italian capital following the earlier article in the Telegraph. They said he had written a letter of resignation to the French DGSE intelligence service last week...
"After being exposed in the international press, French intelligence can hardly be amused or happy with him," one western diplomat said. "Martino may have thought the safest thing was to hand himself over to the Italians."
UPDATE: Joshua Micah Marshall has an interesting post (via Screwy Hoolie) that touches on this subject tangentially: what was the nature of the relationship of Italy's intelligence service with Doug Feith's Office of Special Plans, and why did the latter bypass the CIA and the State Department to meet with Iranian intelligence in the run-up to the war in Iraq? One possible answer (speculation alert), of course, is that the policy disagreements between the Bush administration (as reflected in the appointed civilian leadership of the DoD), on the one hand, and State and CIA on the other hand, were so acute that the former felt that it could not trust the latter. This atmosphere of distrust led the DoD to do a lot of stupid things, including relying on intelligence sources that the CIA had already concluded were unreliable.
On this topic - Have you read the latest at Talking Points Memo?