Plame Game - Following Yellow Cake Road

Exploring the “French Connection”, it’s is now apparent that the French were behind the forgeries. This not withstanding the Libyan dissagreement below. Nevertheless, James first brought this to light in this earlier article, and at this point it’s the easiest answer to the issue.

Now according to the newly released FBI report on the Niger Forgeries, it cites “money” as the motivation. No surprise there. "The love of money is the root of all evil...."

Yet, the story of illicit mining operations isn't new at all as last year the link was made in a series of articles by Mark Hubard, a corospondent for the London Financial Times.

I referenced, the one of the articles in this post.

Yet in a second article, 'Evidence of Niger uranium trade 'years before war' also published in June of 2004, Mr. Hubard got even more precise, as it details some of the history of the Niger forgeries, yet contains this important information key to the story:

“The FT has now learned 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.

One nuclear counter-proliferation expert told the FT: "If I am going to make a bomb, I am not going to use the uranium that I have declared. I am going to use what I acquire clandestinely, if I am going to keep the program hidden."

This may have been the method being used by Libya before it agreed last December to abandon its secret nuclear program. According to the IAEA, there are 2,600 tons of refined uranium ore - "yellow cake" - in Libya.

However, less than 1,500 tons of it is accounted for in Niger records, even though Niger was Libya's main supplier.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.

When the intelligence gathered in 1999-2001 was thrown into the diplomatic maelstrom that preceded the US-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 UK intelligence service MI6, passed information to the US in 2001 and to the UK in 2002.

The UK eavesdropping centre 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. But five months after receiving it, the US sent former ambassador Joseph Wilson to Niger to assess the credibility of separate US intelligence information that suggested Iraq had approached Niger.

Mr Wilson was critical of the Bush administration's use of secret intelligence, and has since charged that the White House sought to intimidate him by leaking the identity of his wife, Valerie Plame, as a CIA agent.

But Mr Wilson also stated in his account of the visit that Mohamed Sayeed al-Sahaf, Iraq's former information minister, was identified to him by a Niger official as having sought to discuss trade with Niger.

As Niger's other main export is goats, some intelligence officials have surmised uranium was what Mr Sahaf was referring to."

Noted this article seems to release Cogema unaware of the operation, but then those at the top will never admit they do. Then again, it could very well be that 'someone else' was working the abandoned mines...hmmm.

However, as I'm scanning the 630 plus pages of the Oil for Food Scandal Report, the links back to Cogema - indeed the French Government are astounding. Fact is that France kept such tight control of it's operations in Niger that I find it impossible that Cogema could claim ignorance. Again, the most glowing detail shows that a lot of people were getting rich.

Note the connection to Libya's intelligence services. Again, everyone can profit from a rogue yellow cake operation.

Which brings us back to Joe Wilson 'company' JC Wilson International that dealt specifically in specializing in Strategic Management and International Business Development, in the region, as well as Plame's cover company, Brewster Jennings and Associates who covered the same ground. I am still amazed at the "connectivity" and similiarities of the two 'businesses'.

But more, this paragraph rom Wilson's oped which -which incidently gets funnier every time I read it - there is this 'oops' moment:

"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. Moreover, because the two mines are closely regulated, quasi-governmental entities, selling uranium would require the approval of the minister of mines, the prime minister and probably the president. In short, there's simply too much oversight over too small an industry for a sale to have transpired."

The question I have is how could an 'expert' with 'lots of contacts' and 'experience in Africa', miss what was so obvious to us now?

Unless of course you were just sitting around drinking sweet mint tea and shooting the breeze with crooked ex Nigerian politicians, or simply trying to "cover it up".

But these articles are key to Wilson's 1999 trip, which was rooted in '98, for as we know:

"Wilson was a principal architect of President Bill Clinton's historic trip to Africa in March 1998 and a leading proponent of the Africa Trade Bill." (Sourcewatch).

Which is why he and wife Valerie were the 'toast of the town!"

As Mr. Lewis said, "Hang on to your hat!"

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