Another lie by George W. Bush during his propaganda campaign to fool the American public into supporting his invasion of Iraq. He failed to tell us that French intelligence had been warning him for years that the story about Iraq trying to buy uranium from Niger was fraudulent.
“The British Government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa .” - George W. Bush SOTU Address 2003
At the time, Bush knew that French intelligence had debunked that claim. A lie by omission is still a lie.
France had warned CIA on bogus Iraq-nuclear link
Secret advisories preceded speech by Bush, ex-officials say
By Tom Hamburger, Peter Wallsten and Bob Drogin, Tribune Newspapers: Los Angeles Times
Published December 11, 2005
PARIS -- More than a year before President Bush declared in his State of the Union speech that Iraq had tried to buy nuclear weapons material in Africa, the French spy service began repeatedly warning the CIA in secret communications that there was no evidence to support the allegation.
The previously undisclosed exchanges between the U.S. and France, described by the retired chief of the French counter-intelligence service and a former CIA official during interviews last week, came on separate occasions in 2001 and 2002.
The French conclusions were reached after extensive on-the-ground investigations in Niger and other former French colonies, where the uranium mines are controlled by French companies, the former official said. He said the French investigated at the CIA's request.
The account of the former intelligence official, Alain Chouet, was "at odds with our understanding of the issue," a U.S. government official said. The U.S. official declined to elaborate and spoke only on condition that neither he nor his agency be named.
However, the essence of Chouet's account--that the French repeatedly investigated the Niger claim, found no evidence to support it, and warned the CIA--was extensively corroborated by a former CIA official and a French government official.
The repeated warnings from France's Direction Generale de la Securite Exterieure, DGSE, did not prevent the Bush administration from making the case aggressively that then-Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein was seeking nuclear weapons materials.
The French opposed U.S. policy on Iraq and refused to support the 2003 invasion that toppled Hussein. But whether or not that made top U.S. officials skeptical of the French report on Niger, intelligence officials from both countries said they cooperated closely during the prewar period and continue to do so. And the French conclusions on Niger were supported by some in the CIA.
The CIA requested French assistance in 2001 and 2002 because French companies dominate the uranium business internationally.
The French-U.S. communications were detailed to the Los Angeles Times last week by Chouet, who directed a 700-person intelligence unit specializing in weapons proliferation and terrorism. Chouet said the cautions from his agency grew more emphatic over time as the Bush administration bolstered the case for invading Iraq by arguing that Hussein had sought to build a nuclear arsenal using uranium from Niger.
Chouet recalled that his agency was contacted by the CIA in the summer of 2001--shortly before the Sept. 11 attacks--as intelligence services in Europe and North America became more concerned about chatter from known terrorist sympathizers. Then twice in 2002, he said, the CIA contacted DGSE for its help to check on uranium stockpiles.
Chouet dispatched a five- or six-man team to Niger to double-check any reports of a sale or an attempt to purchase uranium. The team found none.
He and his staff noticed that the details of the allegation matched those in fraudulent documents that an Italian informant had earlier offered to sell to the French and which eventually were provide to U.S. authorities by an Italian journalist.
"We told the Americans, `Bull .... It doesn't make any sense,'" Chouet said.
He said that an Italian intelligence source, Rocco Martino, had tried to sell the forged documents to the French.