Read the “The Stovepipe - How the intelligence system got off course,” by Seymour M. Hersh, in the October 27 issue of “The New Yorker” magazine.
The article suggests that those Niger documents dealing with the sale of “yellowcake” might have been forged by disgruntled CIA retirees.
It was intended to make the Administration look like assholes. I must hasten to say that Hersh carefully notes, “Who produced the fake Niger papers? There is nothing approaching a consensus.” And he suggests other countries’ intelligence agencies, including SISMI (Italy’s CIA equivalent) as possibilities. But then he says:
Another explanation was provided by a former senior C.I.A. officer. He had begun talking 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 C.I.A. clandestine operators had banded together in the late summer of last year and drafted the fraudulent documents themselves.
“The agency guys were so pissed at Cheney,” the former officer said. “They said, ‘O.K., we’re going to put the bite on these guys.’” My source said that he was first told of the fabrication late last year, at one of the many holiday gatherings in the Washington area of past and present C.I.A. officials. “Everyone was bragging about it - ‘Here’s what we did. It was cool, cool, cool.’” These retirees, he said, had superb contacts among current officers in the agency and were informed in detail of SISMI intelligence.
“They thought that, with this crowd, it was the only way to go - nail these guys who were not practicing good tradecraft and vetting intelligence,” my source said. “They thought it’d be bought at lower levels - a big bluff.” The thinking, he said, was that the documents would be endorsed by Iraq hawks at the top of the Bush Administration, who would be unable to resist flaunting them at a press conference or an interagency government meeting. They would then look foolish when the intelligence officials pointed out that they were obvious fakes. But the tactic backfired, he said, when the papers won widespread acceptance within the Administration. “It got out of control.”
(SISMI is Italy’s CIA)