Nov 12 2005

Rome + Forgeries = Valerie Plame?

Published by at 11:12 pm under All General Discussions,Plame Game

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.

So, many Niger CIA issues lead back to the CIA station in Rome, which leads to Valerie Wilson….


Tom has a more complete excerpt from Kristof, which when read in context, leads me to see the quote as possibly a future post lost. Maybe as some of the comments hint here, she was once stationed there, and she was hoping to be station chief. It is not clear, in the full context, what Kristof was trying to say.

16 responses so far

16 Responses to “Rome + Forgeries = Valerie Plame?”

  1. mary mapes says:


    Mac today writes about the National Review and excepts this….

    Claim No. 1: In May 2003, Wilson began telling reporters that he knew that Saddam did not purchase uranium from Niger because the documents that occasioned his inquiry were forgeries. These reporters wrote that a “former ambassador” had reported the forged documents to the CIA after his trip in early 2002. But Wilson could not have known the documents were forged in early 2002. The United States did not receive them until late 2002 — eight months after Wilson’s trip. During an inquiry into pre-war intelligence, Wilson told the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence that he may have “misspoken.” He has since said that he never claimed to have reported the forged documents to the CIA.”

    Now this has all been out there, but when I read this it made me think….

    ROCCO didn’t try and pedal these docs until SPRING 2002! (That is when he tried to take them to the Rome CIA station) Wilson’s trips was in FEB 2002… in essence Wilson’s trip IS BEFORE most intel BOUGHT THEM FROM ROCCO. –I can’t believe the US was last on his list, and even if he did go to others first, it couldn’t have been too long after…This trip and these things were just too tight a timeline.

    Doesn’t this seem to be a bit odd? I mean by all reports the Ital. Intel reporting DID not detail forgeries only the Iraqi trip and at the MOST just floated out a suggestion that he could have been going there to talk about uranium.

  2. reg jones says:

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

    “Recently Tom Maguire noted Nick Kristof’s (accidental?) disclosure that Valeries was CAI station chief in Rome at one time. “[Strata]

    Going=Was …….[?]

    For whatever reason, much of the recent Wilson/Plame analysis seems either factual speculative or just out and out wrong. I expect this from the left. I expect more from the right. We do Wilson a favor when we over reach.

  3. mary mapes says:

    Sorry AJ..kinda on a roll here, but

    Pretty sure Rocco approached Rome CIA in April ’02–

    Also, if Rocco had sold them to Britain and France in the same timeframe (and/or Italy, this makes no sense to me, why would they but something they supposedly had a hand in making??) also (awfully quick reporting no?)

    And if they (Br. and Fr. and It.) did generate reports that detailed these documents, why wouldn’t the US not at ask at least Britain to forward some copies? Why would it not be until October when the Italian Journalist took them to the Embassy that we finally got ahold of them?

    See this is the thing that has been just perplexing me. Wilson waxes all the time about the foreign intel reporting and this is what generated all this movement…but no one appears to have even had them in time and if they did the US would not ask for copies but sit idlliy by until FINALLY Rocco sold them to a reporter who finally decides to take them to the Embassy(and oh by the way our guys in Rome told him to go away 6 months earlier)???

  4. mary mapes says:

    from Hersh

    “Who produced the fake Niger papers? There is nothing approaching a consensus on this question within the intelligence community. There has been published speculation about the intelligence services of several different countries. One theory, favored by some journalists in Rome, is that [the Italian intelligence service] Sismi produced the false documents and passed them to Panorama for publication.

    Um…then why were other coubtries —FR and BR reporting this too? ??? It appears the left wants this Rocco transaction all ways. Or Hersh was told the original theory by the ones who concocted the hoax…her Hersh…this how it happened. These guys have really done a job on Italy.

    ‘“Another explanation was provided by a former senior C.I.A. officer. He had begun talking to me about the Niger papers in March, when I first wrote about the forgery, and said, ‘Somebody deliberately let something false get in there.’

    He became more forthcoming in subsequent months, eventually saying that a small group of disgruntled retired C.I.A. clandestine operators had banded together in the late summer of last year and drafted the fraudulent documents themselves.”


    •2) bases his assumptions on a Dec 2001 Ledeen meeting, when Cannistraro himself was in Rome in Nov 2001, which would make him just as suspect.

  5. mary mapes says:

    Maid Marion, that last post was for you—

  6. mary mapes says:


    Valerie Plames covert-ness was compromised by Aldrich Aames

    I believe AJ is basing “Rome” on:

    Ames, meanwhile, applied for a CIA opening in Rome because he wanted to distance himself from CIA headquarters …

    Ames had just about finished his tour in Rome, meanwhile, and was preparing to move back to headquarters…e U.S. in the fall of 1989…

    On February 21, 1994, Aldrich Ames was arrested and charged with violating US espionage laws and spying for the former Government of the Soviet Union and …

    ……. Per Dun & Bradstreet, the company was set up in May of 1994, a well-known year for spychasers – Aldrich Ames was arrested in February of 1994 for betraying agents and assets to the Soviets, and many US agents learned that they may have been compromised…

    betraying more than 100 U.S. intelligence operations…and IN 1994,

    Among the 11 reprimanded by Director James Woolsey, but not named was Alan Wolf, the CIA station chief in Rome when Ames’s drinking problems and security violations were overlooked.

    Since Ames career only led him to Mexico, New York and then Rome, then back to Langley…I think that AJ is concluding that Plame was stationed in Rome.

    Station chief at the time may be a leap, but making the leap that she was stationed in Rome isn’t.

  7. mary mapes says:


    Why is that whenever Michael Leeden (NeoCon), Italians, Chalabi or maybe Alan Wolf (CIA Rome Chief that has since passed away, convenient?) is blamed for the forgeries it always seems to attributed to Vincent Castranno and Larry Johnson, however when you read LCJ’s blog he mentions he distances himself, and attributes the rumor to “others” or “many” that he just passing on–

    I think the key to the whole thing is the loud mouth that for 21/3 years has been running interference for Val and Joe.

    “Even as the FBI was following the trail of the forgers, the Italians
    were looking into the matter from their end. A parliamentary committee
    was charged with investigating, and they issued a heavily redacted
    report: now, I am told by a former CIA operations officer, the report
    has aroused some interest on this side of the Atlantic. According to a
    source in the Italian embassy, Patrick J. “Bulldog” Fitzgerald asked for
    and “has finally been given a full copy of the Italian parliamentary
    oversight report on the forged Niger uranium document,” the former CIA
    officer tells me:

    “Previous versions of the report were redacted and had all the names
    removed, though it was possible to guess who was involved. This version
    names Michael Ledeen as the conduit for the report and indicates that
    former CIA officers Duane Clarridge and Alan Wolf were the principal
    forgers. All three had business interests with CHALABI.”

    Alan Wolf died about a year and a half ago of cancer. He served as chief
    of the CIA’s Near East Division as well as the European Division, and
    was also CIA chief of station in Rome after [Duane] Clarridge. According
    to my source, “he and Clarridge and Ledeen were all very close and also
    close to CHALABI.” The former CIA officer says Wolf “was Clarridge’s
    Agency godfather. Significantly, both Clarridge and Wolf also spent
    considerable time in the Africa division, so they both had the Africa
    and Rome connection and both were close to Ledeen, closing the loop.”

    I found this blog:

  8. […] Come to think of it, you know another story you’re suddenly reading nothing about? Plamegate! No more Joe Wilson! He was all over the place, and now, suddenly – poof! He’s gone. I don’t mind, I frankly couldn’t bear to look at his smug countenance, but it must be noted: Ever since people began asking serious questions about the role of the CIA in the whole Wilson/Plame non-crime-non-scandal-non-lied-into-war-is-this-connected-to-Able-Danger Playlet, (as AJ Strata notes: “So many Niger CIA issues lead back to the CIA station in Rome, which leads to Valerie Wilson…”) and ever since some have suggested Joe Wilson was the initial and ultimate “leakee”, and ever since some started taking serious looks at whether Sandy Berger’s theft of Top Secret Documents might deserve a special investigation, and at exactly where Tim Russert stands in all of it, and what precisely Andrea Mitchell said, then didn’t say, then maybe said but out of context, and ever since someone leaked REAL National Security information about CIA “prisons,” suddenly, all the sound and fury about the “grave” crime of outing a non-covert CIA agent reveals itself to signify nothing. Except, of course, Scooter Libby may go to jail for 30 years, for – apparently – talking to the press. […]

  9. AJStrata says:


    The Ledeen angle is thin. BTW, I am not the one speculating Valerie was Station Chief of Rome, that was posted by Nick Kristof of the NY Times.

  10. mary mapes says:


    I didn’t think you were (speculating), I was defending you from Reg Jones comment above.

    I think your conclusion was right actually. I think Kristof was drawing from his own knowledge–She once worked in Rome and that was compromised by Aldrich Ames–and therefore when he pivoted to be against the investigation he was only offering the truth…”It’s not like she is going to work in Rome again, Aldrich mucked that up”–so this investigation is silly.

    I am sorry you interpreted me differently.

    Also, I think the Leeden thing outrageous propaganda put out by Johnson and Cannistraro out of sheer convenience…see point at bottom.

    I was just commenting that this rumor (is a CYA to cast suspicion to someone else) always seem to lead back to these two…but when they actually comment from there own mouths they act as if they are just passing a rumor passed to them (in other-words, they started this egregious rumor but act like they know nothing of it’s truthfulness)

    2) bases his assumptions on a Dec 2001 Ledeen meeting, when Cannistraro himself was in Rome in Nov 2001, which would make him just as suspect.

  11. MaidMarion says:

    Mary Mapes,

    Congrats on your new blog! I tried posting this there but for some reason can’t log in. I had computer problems yesterday so am now just reading up on things.

    Regarding Vincent Cannistraro’s reference to Michael Ledeen, he made that claim at some time after Hersh’s 20 Oct 2003 article. Ledeen is a Bush supporter, so this doesn’t make any sense at all and actually calls attention to Cannistraro’s original claim and why he subsequently changed his tune.

    On the Niger docs, I’ve been watching the discussion over at AJ’s but haven’t really “concentrated” on the forgery timelines. I have to reread all the dates again because I’m coming up with perhaps a different conclusion…but won’t know until I sift through this again.

    Briefly, this is how the puzzle is developing for me (although once I look at the details of the timeline I may change my mind):

    1.) In 1999, contact occurred between Niger officials and Saddam’s officials or representatives. This fact was reported in open press.

    2.) We do not know what analysis or actions, if any, the CIA took back in 1999, as a result.

    3.) In Oct 2001, the Italians unearth this “old” piece of information and bring it to the attention of US intelligence, and probably other foreign intel services.

    4.) Word most likely reaches Saddam, Niger, the French (?), and all the concerned middlemen who would have been involved in the 1999 contact/deal that US intelligence was investigating the purpose of the 1999 contact.

    5.) Feb 2002, Wilson goes to Niger. (My scenario is based on the assumption that he was directly or indirectly involved in the 1999 deal or its subsequent cover-up.)

    6.) Wilson reports back from his trip but does not succeed in putting to bed the purpose of the 1999 Niger/Iraq contact. Those nasty neo-cons inside the Pentagon just aren’t convinced.

    7.) Around this same timeframe, the forged Niger document is created and inserted into the system to soon (hopefully) “prove” that the rumors of the Niger sale or Saddam’s pursuit of uranium were false.

    8.) Whether the document had its intended effect on CIA analysts vis-à-vis stopping further investigation into the purpose of the 1999 Niger/Iraqi contact, we have no way of knowing. But what we do know is that at least some analysts did ultimately use the fake document to conclude that “There is no EVIDENCE that Saddam attempted to acquire uranium from Niger.” and “There is no EVIDENCE Saddam had a nuclear program.”

    9.) Bush gives his January 2003 SOTU speech and speaks the magic 16 words, which I believe were proper. Unfortunately, the 16 words also gave the Dems the opening they needed to play political games and attempt a last ditch effort to help the U.N. prevent the invasion.

    10.) Flash forward to October 20, 2003. Seymour Hersh publishes an article in which two sources, an unnamed “retired senior-level CIA official” and Vincent Cannistraro, claim that the Niger document was forged by disgruntled, former CIA guys who were angry with Doug Feith’s office, and wanted to setup the Bush Administration. Cannistraro himself was perhaps one of the disgruntled retirees. Don’t forget that the story being pushed by the Democrats in the October 2003 timeframe was “Bush Lied” when he took us to war, and the fake Niger doc proves it. Hersh’s article helped to peddle along the Dem’s story, moreover it ALSO established to the world that Cannistraro could finger the retired CIA forgers. Why did this bombshell fizzle…?

    11.) By the time of Hersh’s article, however, the “Outing of Valerie Plame” story was just getting wings and better traction in the press than the forged Niger doc. On October 24, 2003, the Democrat Policy Committee conducted their “photo-op” committee hearing, and witnesses included Cannistraro and Larry Johnson. The Dems successfully achieved a grand jury investigation into “the CIA leak” and finding out “who” forged the Niger documents took a back seat to finding out “who” outed Plame.

    12.) No sooner had the special prosecutor concluded his “who” leaked Plame’s name, but that the Dems resurrect the “who” forged the Niger document question again.

    Someone needs to interview Vincent Cannistraro to ask him why he said what he did to Seymour Hersh back in October 2003, and why he later changed his tune and started accusing Bush supporters. Here’s my tentative answer, and as I say above, I need to shift through the timeline on the forged doc to see if it jives:

    If the original purpose of the forged Niger document was to stop the US government’s investigation of the 1999 Niger/Iraq meeting, the forgers were in a world of hurt when their forgery gained international attention in March 2003. Cannistraro’s October 2003 claim to Hersh provided the forgers their much needed out. It was a perfect cover. The forgers could now say “We forged those docs to embarrass Bush.”

    Here’s a new question: Why didn’t Joe Wilson pick up and peddle Cannistraro’s “disgruntled CIA retirees” claim?

  12. sbd says:

    This is from the news section on the CTC International Group, Inc. website where Plame’s former supervisor, Frederick W. Rustmann, sits on the Executive Comittee.

    NOC NOC. Who’s There? A Special Kind of Agent
    Time Magazine
    Michael Duffy and Timothy J. Burger
    October 27th, 2003

    It’s not every woman who runs a background check on a guy who’s asking her out on a date. But if you were a secret agent working undercover, you would be extra careful too. In 1997 Valerie Plame was being courted by a man who had served as a U.S. diplomat in nine countries, many in Africa, and possessed about as high a security clearance as any spy could hope for, but Plame was taking no chances. It was only after several months of dating Ambassador Joseph Wilson that Plame, supposedly a private energy analyst, revealed the name of her true employer: the CIA. Hearing this, Wilson had a question for his future wife: “Is Valerie your real name?”

    Security agencies all over the world are now quietly running Plame’s name through their data banks, immigration records and computer hard drives as the White House leak scandal continues to percolate. Officials with two foreign governments told TIME that their spy catchers are quietly checking on whether Plame had worked on their soil and, if so, what she had done there. Which means if one theme of the Administration leak scandal concerns political vengeance — did the White House reveal Plame’s identity in order to punish Wilson for his public criticism of the case for war with Iraq? — another theme is about damage. What has been lost, and who has been compromised because of the leak of one spy’s name? And who, if anyone, will pay for that disclosure?

    Officials in George W. Bush’s Administration were able to show progress by the Justice Department into who might have leaked Plame’s name to syndicated columnist Robert Novak back in July — whether they really wanted to get to the bottom of the matter or not. Government sources tell TIME that the FBI has interviewed more than two dozen officials in several Washington offices, including White House press secretary Scott McClellan and Bush political adviser Karl Rove as well as other West Wing aides. The FBI has obtained desk diaries and phone records and is examining the network server that handles White House e-mail. So far, the initial face-to-face interviews, which are typically not done under oath, have been somewhat informal. In a sign of high-level interest in the leak case, several of the interviews were conducted by veteran G-man John Eckenrode, the lead FBI official on the investigation. Agents asked interviewees to keep mum about their chats so as not to disclose the government’s strategy. Both McClellan and Rove declined to comment on the probe.

    Plame was outed as part of a longtime dispute between Bush moderates and hard-liners over the strengths and shortcomings of the agency’s prewar intelligence on Saddam Hussein. Wilson, who had been sent by the CIA to Niger in 2002 to check out rumors that Saddam was seeking nuclear fuel there, went public with his skepticism about that charge in a New York Times op-ed piece in July. Because Wilson’s article was the first deep dent in the Bush team’s claims about the justification for war, Administration officials were soon working quietly behind the scenes, steering reporters away from his conclusions, dismissing his work as shoddy and charging that he got the Niger mission only because his wife worked on proliferation issues at the CIA. It was that last detail — and the added fact that his wife worked undercover — that sparked a federal criminal probe into disclosing a covert officer’s name.

    Some Bush partisans have suggested that the outing of Plame is no big deal, that she was “just an analyst” or maybe, as a G.O.P. Congressman told CNN, “a glorified secretary.” But the facts tell otherwise. Plame was, for starters, a former NOC — that is, a spy with nonofficial cover who worked overseas as a private individual with no apparent connection to the U.S. government. NOCs are among the government’s most closely guarded secrets, because they often work for real or fictive private companies overseas and are set loose to spy solo. NOCs are harder to train, more expensive to place and can remain undercover longer than conventional spooks. They can also go places and see people whom those under official cover cannot. They are in some ways the most vulnerable of all clandestine officers, since they have no claim to diplomatic immunity if they get caught.

    Plame worked as a spy internationally in more than one role. Fred Rustmann, a former CIA official who put in 24 years as a spymaster and was Plame’s boss for a few years, says Plame worked under official cover in Europe in the early 1990s — say, as a U.S. embassy attache — before switching to nonofficial cover a few years later. Mostly Plame posed as a business analyst or a student in what Rustmann describes as a “nice European city.” Plame was never a so-called deep-cover NOC, he said, meaning the agency did not create a complex cover story about her education, background, job, personal life and even hobbies and habits that would stand up to intense scrutiny by foreign governments. “[NOCs] are on corporate rolls, and if anybody calls the corporation, the secretary says, ‘Yeah, he works for us,'” says Rustmann. “The degree of backstopping to a NOC’s cover is a very good indication of how deep that cover really is.”

    For decades, a varying number of NOCs (the exact figure is classified) have been installed abroad in big multinational corporations, small companies or bogus academic posts. The more genteel rules of traditional espionage do not apply to NOCs. When the Soviets caught a diplomat doing spy work during the cold war, they roughed him up a little and sent him home. Unmasked NOCs, on the other hand, have met with much harsher fates: CIA officer Hugh Redmond was caught in Shanghai in 1951 posing as an employee of a British import-export company and spent 19 years in a Chinese prison before dying there. In early 1995 the French rolled up five CIA officers, including a woman who had been working as a NOC under business cover for about five years. Although the NOC caught in Paris in 1995 was simply sent home, “it might not have been so easy in an Arab country,” says a former CIA official familiar with the matter. “[NOCs] have no diplomatic status, so they can end up in slammers.”

    A NOC’s ability to run silent and deep has led Ohio Republican Mike DeWine, a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, to press the CIA to invest more heavily in NOC officers, adding that the CIA’s traditional spies, posing as diplomats and trained to infiltrate governments, are not well positioned to penetrate stateless gangs of terrorists who don’t go to embassy parties. DeWine called for a larger NOC program in a report issued by Congress in July — and many ex-spooks were surprised when the CIA cleared the document for public consumption. But the agency has resisted such efforts before, arguing that NOCs are too expensive and too dangerous to expand the program by much.

    Though Plame’s cover is now blown, it probably began to unravel years ago when Wilson first asked her out. Rustmann describes Plame as an “exceptional officer” but says her ability to remain under cover was jeopardized by her marriage in 1998 to the higher-profile American diplomat. Plame all but came in from the cold last week, making her first public appearance, at a Washington lunch in honor of her husband, who was receiving an award for whistle blowing. The blown spy’s one not-so-secret request? No photographs, please.


  13. mary mapes says:

    •The night of August 1, (1990) Wilson had dinner with someone he describes as “Saddam’s principal arms buyer in Paris. It was so hot the air was literally shimmering right in front of the windshield. I get to this guy’s house, and it had been chilled to 45, 50 degrees … roaring fire in the fireplace and over in a corner a white baby grand piano and a guy playing classical music on it. The guy looks like a Pancho Villa figure, Mexican bandito…. We sat down to dinner, just him, myself, my wife, and five bodyguards-armed.”

  14. sbd says:

    Well, well, well, look at what we have here!!

    France to expel US ‘spy’ diplomats
    Evening Standard (London)
    February 22, 1995

    SECTION: Pg. 23

    LENGTH: 467 words

    HEADLINE: France to expel US ‘spy’ diplomats

    BYLINE: Jeremy Campbell

    FRANCE has accused four American diplomats and a fifth US citizen of political and economic spying and has ordered them to leave the country, Le Monde newspaper has reported.

    Interior Minister Charles Pasqua wrote to President Francois Mitterrand that the five worked for the CIA and were guilty of “acts of interference”, including attempts to recruit aides to Cabinet ministers, the newspaper said. The letter reportedly said the five were uncovered in a “long, detailed investigation” by France’s counter-intelligence service. It was not immediately clear whether France had set a deadline for them to leave. The State Department would not comment today on the expulsion but former deputy assistant Secretary of State Ernest Preeg, who ran the White House Economic Policy Group, said the action seems unnecessarily dramatic and may have an ulterior motive. “It looks as if this may be just a little hanky-panky around the edges,” he said.

    ‘Every country has people trying to get intelligence one way or another. It’s standard practice, even among allies. You don’t do anything as sensational as expelling five Americans unless there is something else going on.” Mr Preeg added: “It is well known that the French are doing a lot of espionage in America, most of it commercial.”

    Other sources suggest the motive for CIA recruitment of French officials may be political. France’s recent relations with Iran and Iraq have been worrying to Washington, which has focused a great deal of intelligence activity on the two governments.

    One of the five, a woman, worked with “clandestine cover” outside the embassy, said Le Monde. One is considered the head of the CIA’s Paris operations and a second his deputy. The other two, a man and a woman, also have diplomatic status, said the paper.

    How do you ask for an investigation into “the investigation” of an already “outed” CIA agent that was recently just was “re-outed”??
    Is the CIA and the Democratic Party that dumb as to use an already “outed” CIA agent as the basis for impeachment to get the President?


  15. MaidMarion says:


    Was this Valerie?

  16. sbd says:

    The way the NOC NOC story is told sure gives that impression.

    The quotes by Rustmann
    “Plame worked under official cover in Europe in the early 1990s — say, as a U.S. embassy attache”

    “— before switching to nonofficial cover a few years later. ”

    Mostly Plame posed as a business analyst or a student in what Rustmann describes as a “nice European city.”

    the quote by ” a former CIA official familiar with the matter.”

    In early 1995 the French rolled up five CIA officers, including a woman who had been working as a NOC under business cover for about five years.

    Although the NOC caught in Paris in 1995 was simply sent home, “it might not have been so easy in an Arab country,”

    All of the above leads me to believe that it was Valerie.
    That Russman did not put his name to the quote as being familiar with the matter is suspect. The writer had to go to a different source for just that one little section of the story. A 24 year veteran of the CIA who was already being interviewed was not familiar with that case when a few paragraphs prior he was declaring Plame was a NOC.

    My guess is that this little fiasco was when the media first learned about Valerie Plame. Another interesting thing to note is that the whole CIA spy fiasco was very helpful to the Chirac campaign. Chirac’s opponent was accused of outing the whole incident to the news media to divert attention from his wire tapping scandal. In reality, the Interior Minister Charles Pasqua went public two months after the Clinton Administration was informed and the Clinton Administration refused to recall the CIA agents. Pasqua claims that the US actually made the whole matter public and was the source of the leak. Pasqua was accused of playing politics by not quietly informing the US as the US had previously in French spy cases.

    Sound familiar!!

    CIA agents in France were ‘more Clouseau than Bond’ The Times March 7, 1995, Tuesday

    SECTION: Overseas news

    LENGTH: 425 words

    HEADLINE: CIA agents in France were ‘more Clouseau than Bond’

    BYLINE: Adam Sage in Paris

    THE CIA emerges as ham-fisted and ill-informed from a leaked French account of its vain attempts to spy in Paris.

    American agents asked the most basic questions, fell into the most obvious traps and committed a series of gaffes as they sought access to the workings of the French Government, according to the newspaper, Le Figaro.

    The disclosures come a fortnight after Paris confirmed that five alleged US spies had been asked to leave France, sparking a diplomatic crisis between the two countries. According to the DST, the French counter-espionage agency, the CIA wanted information on the agricultural and cultural issues that dominated arguments between France and the US during the 1993 General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade negotiations.

    But the American operation appears to have owed more to Inspector Clouseau than James Bond. One of the CIA agents, named as Mary-Ann Baumgartner, thought she had a direct line to the French state when she made friends with ”Henri”, an adviser to Edouard Balladur, the Prime Minister, according to Le Figaro. In fact, Henri had been alerted to Mrs Baumgartner’s undercover role by the French Interior Ministry and told to act as bait.

    Resigning as M Balladur’s adviser just 12 days after his appointment in April 1993, Henri explained to Mrs Baumgartner that he had decided to concentrate on his own political career. She, apparently, believed his story and asked him to meet the ”head of the Minnesota cereal lobby” in a hotel near Charles de Gaulle airport. Henri obliged, answered the ”lobbyist’s” questions and was given 5,000 francs (about Pounds 600).

    There were four more interviews between Henri and the man from Minnesota, named as Pastor, who took to arriving with a questionnaire. Each time, Henri filled in the answers which he gleaned from the French press or made up, Le Figaro says. In January last year, Pastor introduced Henri to a woman described as ”the big boss”. She, at least, earned a measure of respect from her French counterparts, making it difficult for them to photograph her and revealing little about herself.

    Nevertheless, she was identified as a ”high-ranking” CIA analyst. Among other things, she asked Henri why France was so worked up about cultural issues when ”a majority of films on French television are American” a curious question from a Minnesotan agricultural lobbyist.

    Henri was pulled out of his counter-espionage role at that stage; however, Le Figaro says, it is not clear why this should be made public 13 months later.