While I’m posting transcripts … this was on last night’s Countdown, which was guest hosted by Lisa Daniels:
DANIELS: Many thanks for joining us tonight. We appreciate it. Your article is so detailed, Iâ€˜m going to start off with a hard one. Can you sort of give us an abridged version of how the forged documents made it all the way into the presidentâ€˜s speech without anybody throwing them out? Just boil it down for us.
PHILIP GIRALDI, FORMER CIA OFFICER: Well, basically, what happened was that the normal procedures whereby intelligence that comes into the United States government is checked over before it goes to the policymakers, this procedure was called vetting, was circumvented. And it was essentially circumvented as you described it by the Office of Special Plans in the Pentagon, which had been set up basically to circumvent that it felt was not answering the needs of the policymakers.
So it was kind of a circular process whereby the fabricated information was introduced into the system from the bottom, up to the top, without being checked out along the way.
DANIELS: Now, you make a very important allegation, a big allegation in your article that the Niger documents might have been forged in collusion with the Pentagonâ€˜s Office of Special Plans which you in your article say would explain why the administration went after Ambassador Joe Wilson. What evidence do you have supporting that?
GIRALDI: Well, thereâ€˜s not a whole lot of solid evidence. But the fact is that if you consider people at the top level of the administration going after somebody who ostensibly was just a critic, it doesnâ€˜t really make sense unless there was a much bigger agenda that was being hidden. And thatâ€˜s what Iâ€˜m suggesting.
And it is also true that the Italian who actually passed the documents that wound up in Washington, a guy named Rocco Martino, he later said to The Financial Times in London that he was engaged in what was a much bigger scheme that was a disinformation operation being carried out by the Italian government and also the American government.
DANIELS: But maybe it isnâ€˜t bigger. Perhaps your critics would say, it is actually simple. I mean, are you sure that this isnâ€˜t just one huge conspiracy theory that your article is sort of perpetuating?
GIRALDI: I donâ€˜t think so. Thereâ€˜s certainly considerable evidence that this was going on, that the intelligence was circumventing the system to create a case for war against Iraq which otherwise might not have been made.
And also, the whole question comes down to, was this bad intelligence?
I think everybody would agree that there was a lot of bad intelligence. Was it done through stupidity or through maliciousness? And this is really the question. Were people conscious that they were providing false and misleading intelligence or was it just a process that was something that was handled very clumsily?
DANIELS: Let me ask you this, Philip, do you think it is possible, feasible that the administration actually believed on some level that the documents were real?
GIRALDI: No. I donâ€˜t think so. Because these documents went through several steps before they wound up at the administration and analysts at both CIA and NASA and the State Department pronounced them to be dubious.
The thing to bear in mind here is that unless accountability is established in this case, this kind of thing could happen again.
DANIELS: You know, we all remember when the former CIA Director George Tenet accepted responsibility for the uranium reference getting into the presidentâ€˜s State of the Union Address. But from your research from your article, it almost appears that the CIA had very little to do with getting that faulty intelligence into the country, let alone into the speech.
GIRALDI: They were in fact completely out of the loop. Thatâ€˜s a correct assessment, yes.
DANIELS: And why do you say that?
GIRALDI: Well, because the documents were not seen by people at CIA until very late in the process, after they were already in the hands of the policymakers at the National Security Council and in the vice presidentâ€˜s office.
DANIELS: OK. So itâ€˜s been nearly three years since it took for this truth, if it is the truth, to come out about the Niger documents. Why did it take so long?
GIRALDI: Well, I think thereâ€˜s a considerable reluctance on the part of both the media and the politicians to deal with issues that come out of Iraq. Essentially, the media did not fulfill its own responsibilities to be skeptical in the beginning. And the Democratic Party got on board of the Iraq war very quickly for its own reasons.
And as a result, I think that people in all areas are embarrassed now and are unwilling to confront the quite bad reality of what is Iraq.
DANIELS: Philip Giraldi, a contributing editor with The American Conservative magazine, also a former CIA agent. Thanks for your time. Iâ€˜m curious to see what the reaction will be to the article.
GIRALDI: Thank you very much.
Here is the article Giraldi wrote for The American Conservative, “Forging the Case for War.” Concluding paragraphs:
At this point, any American connection to the actual forgeries remains unsubstantiated, though the OSP at a minimum connived to circumvent established procedures to present the information directly to receptive policy makers in the White House. But if the OSP is more deeply involved, Michael Ledeen, who denies any connection with the Niger documents, would have been a logical intermediary in co-ordinating the falsification of the documents and their surfacing, as he was both a Pentagon contractor and was frequently in Italy. He could have easily been assisted by ex-CIA friends from Iran-Contra days, including a former Chief of Station from Rome, who, like Ledeen, was also a consultant for the Pentagon and the Iraqi National Congress.
It would have been extremely convenient for the administration, struggling to explain why Iraq was a threat, to be able to produce information from an unimpeachable â€œforeign intelligence sourceâ€ to confirm the Iraqi worst-case.
The possible forgery of the information by Defense Department employees would explain the viciousness of the attack on Valerie Plame and her husband. Wilson, when he denounced the forgeries in the New York Times in July 2003, turned an issue in which there was little public interest into something much bigger. The investigation continues, but the campaign against this lone detractor suggests that the administration was concerned about something far weightier than his critical op-ed.