Nov 09 2005

Wilson’s French Connection

Published by at 12:26 pm under All General Discussions,Plame Game

Major Update:

Tom Maguire has been pounding Kristof’s behind the Pay Pal wall at Times Select (which I select not to buy). Today, he finds an interesting tidbit about Valerie Plame:

And the fact is that his wife’s career at CIA has been destroyed; she’s never going to be Rome Station Chief.

Interesting. The Iraqi trade envoy who visited Niger in 1999, after the coup d’etat, was based in Rome. That was the year and time when Valerie sent Joe on his first CIA/Business trip to Niger (see link below). And that is where the source material for the Niger forgeries came from – supposedly.

If Kristof keeps leaking like this we should see the Wilson trial start up soon.


There has been a lot of movement in the media to focus on the Wilson’s and just what could have been the true motive behind the Niger trips for Joe and Valerie (I cannot see a 1999 trip setting the stage for 2003 events). This American Spectator article is one that has been hitting the blogosphere, with some interesting points. But first I need to point out an error or two:

There are just too many anomalies in the Wilson mission to Niger to believe that anyone who wasn’t planning to bash the president could possibly have chosen Wilson for the task. He had no expertise in WMD, hadn’t been in Niger since the 1980s, and had no intelligence training.

This is, in fact, wrong. Wilson went to Niger in 1999 at the behest of the CIA and Valerie. 1999 is a very interesting year because it seems to be the only year Valerie’s Brewster & Jennings cover existed.

The other ‘inaccuracy’ is that he did know one area of WMD – the uranium market. The author does remind us of one key fact in Wilson’s 2002 trip, provided Wilson himself

In his July 6, 2003 NYT op-ed, Wilson said, “The mission I undertook was discreet but by no means secret. While the CIA paid my expenses (my time was offered pro bono), I made it abundantly clear to everyone I met that I was acting on behalf of the United States government.” You tell everyone you’re speaking to that you’re in the government’s employ so they can feed you whatever line of baloney they want the U.S. government to hear? Wilson’s “mission,” in short, was a pathetic joke and not an intelligence mission by any definition.

Very true. I wonder why Wilson would want to make a point of his government role? Was it to tip off people? Not to what Joe was doing, but to the fact the US had turned its attention to Niger and the Uranium trade? We highlighted Wilson’s apparent role as a paid international trade consultant to Niger – a country with only one really important product. In that post we pointed to a Financial Times article found by Flopping Aces (and now being discussed by Mac Ranger) that again pulls us back to 1999

However, European intelligence officers have now revealed that three years before the fake documents became public, human and electronic intelligence sources from a number of countries picked up repeated discussion of an illicit trade in uranium from Niger. One of the customers discussed by the traders was Iraq.

The Financial Times has now learnt that three European intelligence services were aware of possible illicit trade in uranium from Niger between 1999 and 2001. Human intelligence gathered in Italy and Africa more than three years before the Iraq war had shown Niger officials referring to possible illicit uranium deals with at least five countries, including Iraq.

This intelligence provided clues about plans by Libya and Iran to develop their undeclared nuclear programs. Niger officials were also discussing sales to North Korea and China of uranium ore or the “yellow cake” refined from it: the raw materials that can be progressively enriched to make nuclear bombs.

The raw intelligence on the negotiations included indications that Libya was investing in Niger’s uranium industry to prop it up at a time when demand had fallen, and that sales to Iraq were just a part of the clandestine export plan. These secret exports would allow countries with undeclared nuclear programs to build up uranium stockpiles.

Information gathered in 1999-2001 suggested that the uranium sold illicitly would be extracted from mines in Niger that had been abandoned as uneconomic by the two French-owned mining companies-Cominak and Somair, both of which are owned by the mining giant Cogema-operating in Niger.

Cogema of Oil For Food scandal fame. And this information was not based on forgeries

When the intelligence gathered in 1999-2001 was thrown into the diplomatic maelstrom that preceded the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, it took on new significance. Several services contributed to the picture.

The Italians, looking for corroboration but lacking the global reach of the CIA or the U.K. intelligence service MI6, passed information to the U.S. in 2001 and to the U.K. in 2002.

The U.K. eavesdropping center GCHQ had intercepted communications suggesting Iraq was seeking clandestine uranium supplies, as had the French intelligence service.

The Italian intelligence was not incorporated in detail into the assessments of the CIA, which seeks to use such information only when it is gathered from its own sources rather than as a result of liaison with foreign intelligence services.

To get an idea of how entangles this uranium trade can be, check out the comment left by SBD on this post near the end. Running down those names will take some time – to say the least.

But getting back to Wilson and mining, Mac Ranger reminds us about this section of the Wilson Op-Ed

Given the structure of the consortiums that operated the mines, it would be exceedingly difficult for Niger to transfer uranium to Iraq. Niger’s uranium business consists of two mines, Somair and Cominak, which are run by French, Spanish, Japanese, German and Nigerian interests. If the government wanted to remove uranium from a mine, it would have to notify the consortium, which in turn is strictly monitored by the International Atomic Energy Agency.

Which is answered by the FT article:

Information gathered in 1999-2001 suggested that the uranium sold illicitly would be extracted from mines in Niger that had been abandoned as uneconomic by the two French-owned mining companies-Cominak and Somair, both of which are owned by the mining giant Cogema-operating in Niger.

“Mines can be abandoned by Cogema when they become unproductive. This doesn’t mean that people near the mines can’t keep on extracting,” a senior European counter-proliferation official said.

He added that there was no evidence the companies were aware of the plans for illicit mining.

Well, that explains how that could work Mr Wilson! So, to finish tying the French knot we go to Wilson’s second wife, prior to Valerie. First here:

Also in Burundi, Wilson met his second wife, then the cultural counselor at the French Embassy there. They spent a year back in Washington on a congressional fellowship, during which time he worked for Al Gore, then a senator from Tennessee, and Tom Foley, then House majority whip.

More on the second wife later. I leave you with this interesting post with more pre-Novak shenanigans by the Wilsons.

11 responses so far

11 Responses to “Wilson’s French Connection”

  1. MaidMarion says:

    I’ve come across some very interesting comments Joe Wilson made on March 25, 2003 regarding Iraqi WMD…

    The CFR had a panel discussion entitled “Crossing the Rubicon: A Status Report on Operation Iraqi Freedom”. (link)

    Wilson was one of the panelists, as was Gen Tom McInerney. Seems to me that Wilson, at a minimum, made no claim that Saddam did NOT have WMD. To the contrary, he seems to leave the impression that he thinks Saddam had chemical and biological weapons. Makes no comment at all about nuclear stuff. Keep in mind that the “forged Niger documents” and uranium issue publically broke about March 8, 2003:

    Question (Robert Orr): Based on what you just said, that he’s (Saddam) probably looking at this as his last battle and a chance to make his statement for posterity, some of the military analysts have said that if he uses weapons of mass destruction it’s likely to be potentially in the next few days, with respect to preserving the Medina division. Do any of you have thoughts on whether or not this is accurate analysis, or whether Saddam would be likely to use them at this time?

    Answer (Joe Wilson): Well, both and Tariq Aziz told me, when I was there in the nineties that they reserved the right to use every weapon in their arsenal to defend themselves against invaders. Now I interpret every weapon in their arsenal to be weapons of mass destruction if they have them, and are capable of using them. And I don’t think that the Arab world would be as revolted as we would be by their use of weapons of mass destruction to defend their territorial integrity against what they’re portraying as an invasion of their country.

    Answer (Tom McInerney): Well, I don’t think that we’d be revolted. I mean, I think we all … I hope most Americans understand that he has them, and that he’s going to use them if he has the opportunity. The successful part of this campaign which we … I think is brilliant and so many things that work is that he has not used them when he had the best opportunity, when we were still massed. Now he’s in a position to try to have to use them from an artillery position when he’s being engaged by air bombardment and ground bombardment, et cetera, in the most difficult time. But I do still think he’ll try to use them, but he’s going to use them when we are best prepared. He’s going to use them at our strength, and so I would expect in the next day or two, Joe, that if he’s going to use them, he’ll use them.
    Question (Brian Katoolis(?): There seems to be a consensus on the panel, and I think the conventional wisdom is that Saddam won’t use chemical weapons. My question is, for the generals, what are the plans for securing weapons of mass destruction and destroying them, and is there a danger in destroying his command and control structures, that some of these weapons may … the borders may become more porous, I mean given that we had senior Iraqi officials sneak across the border, much to the surprise of a lot of people, is there a serious danger in greater proliferation resulting immediately after this war?

    Answer (Joe Wilson): Just for the record, it’s my full expectation that, based on what they have told me, that they will use every weapon in their arsenal and that would include chemical weapons and biological weapons, if they can.

    End extract

    Isn’t Joe clever! Only about five weeks later, after he attended the Democract Policy Committee conference, he becomes Kristof’s unattributed source for a May 6, 2003 article and starts pushing the “Saddam didn’t have a nuclear program” meme, which immediately transforms into the Dem’s “Bush Lied” campaign slogan. All of a sudden, chem/bio weapons are no longer WMD…?

    Someone needs to ask Joe why he thought Saddam had chem/bio weapons. Perhaps because Valerie told him so.

  2. Plame Game – Kristof and the VIPS on the same scr

    In investigating the web which is the Plame Game there are several facets, and if one tried to cover them all it would be nearly impossible.

  3. mary mapes says:

    Jimminy Christmas Maid Marion, you are very industrious. I get Most of what you are pointing out, but wanted to ask…

    Are you pointing out that he made a leap in distinction on the WMD. That because he could say with confidence– having tipped off Nigerians the US’s interest in the Iraq/Uranium issue—that the uranium problem was fixed…so he morphed Nuclear to mean all WMD?

    If this what you are saying, then this fits with AJ’s suspicion that Wilson was really sent as a warning.

    AJ I’d say that is a great theory. The panic that set in…can’t likely ask the sitting ambassador to deliver that kind of message. I’d be interested to see his talking points vs. Fulfords (may me mute, if it was a wink wink venture)

  4. MaidMarion says:

    Mary Mapes,

    I’ve been following AJ’s theory, but my previous comments weren’t posted with that theory in mind. I just wanted to get Wilson’s 25 March 2003 CFR comments out on the table , but whether they dovetail with AJ’s theory or not remains to be seen.

    My main point with Wilson is this. After the invasion, on 25 March 2003, he appeared to still believe Saddam had chemical and bio weapons. This was the same belief the Bush Administration held…i.e., they didn’t lie.

    That he was silent about nuc weapons or a nuc program during the CFR meeting is a curiosity, especially since he has let it be known that he was very upset when he heard “the 16 words” in the SOTU.

    In my opinion, the “forged Niger documents” = “no nuc program” = “no WMD” = “Bush Lied” demagoguery was a Democrat orchestrated disinformation campaign meant to deceive Americans into believing Bush fooled us into a needless war.

  5. MaidMarion says:

    Was Wilson perhaps involved with Niger’s uranium sales to Libya, i.e., the sales Libya fronted for Saddam’s secret Libyan-based nuc program?

  6. […] AJStrata @ The Strata-Sphere Wilson’s French Connection […]

  7. mary mapes says:

    Here is a recent article (11/07/05) –Sorry if you have seen this, but it doesn’t look like it, that details a recent TV appearance of Rocco Martino.

    In light of your post today, it states:

    Rocco Martino, a one-time spy with Italian military intelligence agency Servizio per le Informazioni e la Sicurezza Militare (SISMI), told La 7 television on Monday that when he unveiled the information that seemed to indicate that then-Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein had tried to acquire uranium in Nigeria, it appeared to be accurate.

    Enzo Bianco, chairman of an oversight committee on Italy’s secret services, said on 3 November that SISMI had played no role in passing on the bogus information.

    But Martino – known in the Italian media by his intelligence code name “Giacomo” – has not been shy to confirm that he was the man who picked up the information from the Nigerian embassy in Rome.

    Once he had the information in hand, he turned to Italian news magazine Panorama to publish an article based on part of it, and then he sold the entire dossier to US intelligence officials after first shopping it to Italy, Britain, France, and a US television network.

    He said he had no inkling the dossier had been forged.

    “There was no indication that the information [in the documents] was false, or that it was not corroborated by other sources,” Martino said.

    In October, it was first revealed publicly that the documents were forged, though that had been rumored for more than a year.

    It is still unclear who forged them, though the Italian media has alleged that the French themselves may forged them as a way to undermine Washington, and that part of the plan was for Martino to pass them on. Martino has denied that charge…

    …Martino has been vague and sometimes contradictory in explaining his role in the affair.

    In 2003, he reportedly indicated he was under contract with SISMI. Then, in October 2004, he did not contradict reports that he was working with French intelligence, allegedly to help build a case that could discredit US plans to invade Iraq – which was based on Hussein’s reported capacity to build a nuclear bomb.

    However, on Monday, he said he was working as a freelancer and that he simply sought to sell the information he had to the highest bidder.”

    Is this news to only me?

    I had not known that Rocco PICKED up the documents from the NIGERIAN embassy.

    Which begs the question…why would the Nigerian Embassy hand over forgeries that detailed an illegal trade arrangement of their OWN country? That is just unbelievable.

    Since this so obviously incredible, Rocco would not say something so easily questionable.

    Furthermore, why would they give them to someone to spread around?

    Unless they wanted the documents to intentionally get passed around and since they were given to Rocco by the Nigerians…that explains why he would believe they were genuine. (particularily if the French intellegence agency he was working tipped him off to them)

    I remember reading something in which he said that he realized that he was used by some force bigger they he was aware of (at the time), this scenario would surely back that up.

  8. mary mapes says:

    Also AJ

    the source for this story appears to be somewhat reputable

    “Based in Zurich, Switzerland, at the Center for Security Studies (CSS) at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH Zurich), the ISN’s dedicated team – drawn from various disciplines, including the humanities, the social sciences, and information and communication technology – engage in research projects and education activities, provide news stories and in-depth analyses, and develop technologies for information sharing and for creating and supporting e-learning.

    The ISN has close relationships with leading international partner institutes – research institutes, think tanks, and government and non-governmental organizations. The ISN supports its ever-increasing partner network by organizing conferences and seminars, bringing together experts and policy-makers, and fostering the electronic exchange of information.”

  9. woodeye18 says:

    Wilson and Kristoff insist that it was “impossible” for Niger to export Uranium to Iraq, because of the oversight of French company Cogema (right, Oil for Food) and the industry structure. Wilson must know Cogema well. Was he intimately aware of the previous exports to Iraq and a number of other Rogue nations. Impossible? No one has explained how huge metal parts from Iraqi rockets ended up in a scrap metal yard in the Netherlands less than a year after they were tagged by UNSCOM in Iraq. Experts believe they made their way west into Syria along with Saddams henchmen carrying French passports with fresh ink. Impossible? Shocked! Shocked! I tell you that gambling goes on in Casablanca.

    Wilson was ambassador to Gabon, another Uranium exporter. In 1999 (that year again), Cogema ended its Uranium extraction. For years Cogema had been dumping tailings into the nearby creek. After years of enviromental negligence was discovered the EU paid for certain sizable aspects of the cleanup. Nobody really knows why the EU would pay for the enviromental hazard a private French company had produced. What did Cogema do for the French government or the EU? We know Saddam was paying bribes as high up as Chiracs chief of staff. If Saddam wanted Yellowcake and the French government was mopping up nuclear messes for Cogema, how hard would it be for Cogema to look the other way for a few days. And anyway, who guards the mine when Cogema leaves Gabon in 1999. If Wilson had been intimately involved in “every French speaking country”, as he put it, in Africa, how could he not know about Cogema’s enviromental indifferance and the French government’s ability to bail them out when they get busted. Cogema has also been criticized for dumping radioactive material into the sea off La Hague. The Criticizing came from South Carolina legislators worried about Cogemas reputation as the French company planned ventures for their state. Wilson’s 1999 trip is also significant because it was about a year after inspections in Iraq were terminated by Operation Desert Fox. The French were rolling in Saddam’s oil money. Wilson’s “impossible” statement implies that the French or Cogema or the UN are worried about Saddam getting what he wants. The French were the creators of the political movement to lift sanctions on Saddam in the 90s. Wilson looks kind of pathetic as a former this and that, and his wife giving him “make work” missions that seem to go nowhere in 1999 and 2002. Then his apparent disbelief that the Vice President wasn’t sitting by the window of the Naval Observatory waiting for his Niger report. I remember in Sunset Strip, “I am STILL Big, It’s the movies that got small”. I can picture a retired Wilson kicking around the house assuming that his phony mission was the center of the world, saying “I’m still big, It’s our foreign policy that got small”. Maybe a Useful idiot if you speak french and drink tea?

  10. […] The Plame Game has been bursting with new information and new players (as well as the Able Danger Story) so keeping in straight can be difficult. Sometime you just have to reread things to see dots that need connecting. Recently Tom Maguire noted Nick Kristof’s (accidental?) disclosure that Valeries was CAI station chief in Rome at one time. I noted at that time the coincidence of how the Niger forged documents were based on material supposedly stolen from the Niger embassy in Rome. I forgot, until I read it, the the Niger forgeries were delivered to the CIA station in Rome – where Valerie must have known a lot of people if she was truly the station Cheif there previously. My mind was jogged on this fact reading a post by our reader Mary Mapes. […]

  11. […] Mac Ranger teases us some more with his still pending analysis of the Niger/Africa uranium trade, the Wilson trips to Niger, and the forgery scam clumsily used to try and win Joe Wilson a seat on the Kerry campaign. I have posted on this same theory here (with links to other posts) and continue to suspect the Niger trips were for some other purpose than assumed so far. […]