New York, N.Y. – Vanity Fair writer Craig Unger interviews nine former intelligence and military officials who have served in the C.I.A., the State Department, the Defense Intelligence Agency, and the Pentagon, all of whom say, on the record, that they believe the Niger documents were part of a campaign to deliberately mislead the American public. Some of the officials refer to the Niger documents as “a disinformation campaign,” “black propaganda,” or “a classic psy-ops campaign.”
The complete article can be found on Vanity Fair’s website at http://www.vanityfair.com/features/general/articles/060606fege02
Unger reports that the U.S. may have gone to war with Iraq not because of intelligence failures but because of an extraordinary intelligence success, specifically an effective campaign of disinformation which led the White House, the Pentagon, Britain’s M.I.6 intelligence service, and thousands of outlets in the American media to promote the falsehood that Saddam Hussein’s nuclear-weapons program posed a grave risk to the United States.
"To me, there is no benign interpretation of this," Melvin Goodman, a former C.I.A. and State Department analyst, tells Unger. "At the highest level it was known the documents were forgeries. [Then deputy national security adviser] Stephen Hadley knew it. [Then national security adviser] Condi Rice knew it. Everyone at the highest level knew it." (Hadley and Rice declined to comment.)
Unger talks with Milt Bearden, a 30-year C.I.A. veteran, who tells him the intelligence gathering with regard to the Niger claim “wasn’t an accident. This wasn’t 15 monkeys in a room with typewriters.”
Unger cites at least 14 instances prior to the 2003 State of the Union address in which analysts at the C.I.A., the State Department, or other government agencies who had examined the Niger documents or reports about them raised serious doubts about their legitimacy—only to be rebuffed by Bush-administration officials who wanted to use the material.
“They were just relentless,” Larry Wilkerson, former chief of staff to Colin Powell, tells Unger. “You would take it out and they would stick it back in. That was their favorite bureaucratic technique—ruthless relentlessness.”
Unger talks with former C.I.A. officer Philip Giraldi about the meeting between SISMI head Nicolò Pollari and Hadley. “It is completely out of protocol for the head of a foreign intelligence service to circumvent the C.I.A.,” Giraldi tells Unger. “It is uniquely unusual. In spite of lots of people having seen these documents, and having said they were not right, they went around them.” (Hadley has confirmed that he met Pollari, but declines to say what was discussed. He claims it was a courtesy call and that he has no recollection of any discussion of natural uranium or any documents being passed.)
Patrick Lang, who served as defense intelligence officer for the Middle East, South Asia and terrorism in the Defense Intelligence Agency, and later as Director of HUMINT (Human intelligence) for the D.I.A., tells Unger: "There’s no doubt in my mind that the neocons had their eye on Iraq. This is something they intended to do, and they would have communicated that to SISMI or anybody else to get the help they wanted.”
Lang also tells Unger that SISMI would have been keenly aware that the hard-line neoconservatives were finally coming into power. He says that SISMI would also have wanted to ingratiate itself with the incoming administration. “These foreign intelligence agencies are so dependent on us that the urge to acquire I.O.U.’s is a powerful incentive by itself,” he says.
The July issue of Vanity Fair hits newsstands in New York and Los Angeles on June 7 and nationally June 13.