"Get your facts first, and then you can distort them as much as you please." (Mark Twain)

Wednesday, September 29, 2004

Forging Ahead 

You may have heard that CBS made room for Dan Rather's story about the Empty Flight Suit's desertion from his Air National Guard post - that is, the story that didn't really work out so well, all things considered - by spiking Ed Bradley's piece on the forged Nigerien uranium documents that sent us to war. And you may also have heard that Bradley's reporting will now remain spiked, at least through the election, owing to CBS's icy cold feet. But, if you're like me, you were wondering what, exactly, Bradley's story involved.

Well, wonder no more! Over at MyDD, they've got the goods. Here's a taste:
The report contains little new information, but it is powerfully, coherently and credibly reported. It features the first on-camera interview with Elisabetta Burba, the Italian journalist who received the fake Niger documents in 2002 and passed them on to the U.S. embassy in Rome. Burba tells how she traveled to Niger and concluded that Iraq could not have purchased uranium from the tightly controlled French-run mines in Niger and that therefore the documents must have been faked.

According to Newsweek, CBS also interviewed Burba's source for the documents, a shadowy Roman businessman named Rocco Martino with reputed connections to European intelligence agencies, especially Sismi, the Italian intelligence service. The producers flew Martino to New York for an on-camera interview, but footage of the interview was not included in the final version of the report. It is unclear why Martino was cut; perhaps it was because, as Burba told Newsweek, Martino had lied to her in the past and was not someone she considered reliable.

According to a knowledgeable source, the lead producer of the report, David Gelber, had toyed with using Martino to delve into another intriguing angle: why has the Federal Bureau of Investigation apparently done little to fulfill a request by Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., the top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, for an investigation into the origins of the forged Niger documents? Martino, a central figure in the affair, should be of keen interest to the FBI. But, as of late last week, investigators had still failed to interview him. A U.S. law enforcement source told Newsweek the bureau was waiting for the Italian government to grant permission.

That strange explanation raises the question of whether the right-wing government of Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi had helped manufacture evidence that his ally, Bush, could use to persuade Americans to support an invasion. Burba passed on the documents to the U.S. embassy in Rome at the instruction of her editor at Panorama, a news magazine owned by Berlusconi. An alternative theory, floated in corners of the conspiracy-minded European press, is that Martino was working for the antiwar French, who hoped to discredit the Bush administration by getting American officials to swallow obviously forged documents.

Whatever the case, the CBS producers apparently decided to concentrate on what could be nailed down: the Bush administration had, either intentionally or with breathtaking credulity, relied on patently false intelligence to make the case for invading Iraq.

Re-read that last bit, and remember - that's just "what could be nailed down." Either the flying monkeys were lying through their crooked, stinking teeth, or they got played like starry-eyed rubes sitting down for their first game of three card monte, and that's just "what could be nailed down."

It's breathtaking, isn't it?




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