Editor's Note: Another brick in the wall here. After Powell's use of a plagiarized British dossier, and after Hans Blix's refutation of virtually every piece of 'evidence' offered by the United States regarding Iraqi weapons, there is now this. Decide for yourself how solid the case for war is at this point. - wrp
FBI Probes Fake Evidence of Iraqi Nuclear Plans
By Dana Priest and Susan Schmidt
Thursday 13 March 2003
The FBI is looking into the forgery of a key piece of evidence linking Iraq to a nuclear weapons program, including the possibility that a foreign government is using a deception campaign to foster support for military action against Iraq.
"It's something we're just beginning to look at," a senior law enforcement official said yesterday. Officials are trying to determine whether the documents were forged to try to influence U.S. policy, or whether they may have been created as part of a disinformation campaign directed by a foreign intelligence service.
"We're looking at it from a preliminary stage as to what it's all about," he said.
The FBI has not yet opened a formal investigation because it is unclear whether the bureau has jurisdiction over the matter.
The phony documents -- a series of letters between Iraqi and Niger officials showing Iraq's interest in equipment that could be used to make nuclear weapons -- came to British and U.S. intelligence officials from a third country. The identity of the third country could not be learned yesterday.
The forgery came to light last week during a highly publicized and contentious United Nations meeting. Mohamed ElBaradei, director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), told the Security Council on March 7 that U.N. and independent experts had decided that the documents were "not authentic."
ElBaradei's disclosure, and his rejection of three other key claims that U.S. intelligence officials have cited to support allegations about Iraq's nuclear ambitions, struck a powerful blow to the Bush administration's argument on the matter.
To the contrary, ElBaradei told the council, "we have to date found no evidence or plausible indications of the revival of a nuclear program in Iraq."
The CIA, which had also obtained the documents, had questions about "whether they were accurate," said one intelligence official, and it decided not to include them in its file on Iraq's program to procure weapons of mass destruction.
The FBI has jurisdiction over counterintelligence operations by foreign governments against the United States. Because the documents were delivered to the United States, the bureau would most likely try to determine whether the foreign government knew the documents were forged or whether it, too, was deceived.
Iraq pursued an aggressive nuclear weapons program during the 1970s and 1980s. It launched a crash program to build a nuclear bomb in 1990 after it invaded Kuwait. Allied bombing during the Persian Gulf War in 1991 damaged Iraq's nuclear infrastructure. The country's known stocks of nuclear fuel and equipment were removed or destroyed during the U.N. inspections after the war.
But Iraq never surrendered the blueprints for its nuclear program, and it kept teams of scientists employed after U.N. inspectors were forced to leave in 1998.
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