Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Michael Ledeen - 4

Jihad Khazen Al-Hayat - 13/07/06

Knowing the background of Michael Ledeen I suspected from day one that he is somehow connected with the forged Niger documents about Iraq’s attempt to buy uranium (yellow cake) from Niger. I have no proof so I do not level any accusations against him but rather offer the reader a summary of the material available on the subject.

There have been long-standing allegations that Ledeen was tied to the Italian P2 Masonic Lodge. This right-wing organisation was involved in a number of terrorist attacks in Italy in the 1970s and 1980s. It has been noted that Ledeen was working as a consultant to Italian intelligence on terror issues in the late 1970s.

In an interview published on the Raw News website on March 7 2006, Ledeen denied any involvement with P2. Ledeen said: , “There’s no truth to the P2 charges. In fact I didn’t believe in its existence, even though various Italians, including Pazienza, were pushing me to interview Licio Gelli, who was the head of it. I was New Republic correspondent at the time, and it probably would have been a good story, but I thought it was just another of the endless conspiracy theories that one ran into every day.”

The Raw Story interviewer Larisa Alexandrovna asked Ledeen how he met the current head of SISMI (the Italian military intelligence and security agency), Nicollo Pollari. When she said “You are good friends, no?” Ledeen insisted “Pollari isn’t a good friend; he’s a person I met occasionally at bridge games in Rome.”

Alexandrovna reminded Ledeen that when she had talked to him before, he had indicated that he did used to do work for SISMI around 1980. “What was the nature of the work?”

Ledeen replied “I think in the late seventies, when I was invited to participate in a desktop exercise dealing with how to communicate with friendly countries. What to ask, what not to ask; who to ask, who not to ask; how to ask, how not to ask. An exercise in bureaucratic communication.”

Ledeen played a part in the meetings in Rome in 2001 between Larry Franklin, Harold Rhode in Rome in 2001, Ledeen told Raw Story in an interview published on March 7, 2006 that he was in Rome at “my own expense, as a private citizen” for meetings between American officials from the Pentagon (Larry Franklin and Harold Rhode) and Iranians who had information about the mullahs’ plans to attack Coalition forces in Afghanistan.

Ledeen denied that Iraq had been discussed. “There was no discussion of Iraq at all”, he said. He was told the meeting had been authorised by the State Department, the Defense Department, the CIA and the NSC, and he personally briefed the US ambassador before and after the meetings. “They were very good meetings by the way. They produced information that saved American lives in Afghanistan.”

When asked if Menushahr Ghorbanifar was at the meeting, he said: “Ghorbanifar helped arrange the meeting. “

The Raw Story interviewer, Larisa Alexandrovna, commented: “You know the old saying of the appearance of impropriety? So imagine a regular US citizen watching this unfold. You have two highly visible Iran Contra figures meeting in Rome during a time of war. Iran is declared part of the axis of evil. And that one of the members of the party, Larry Franklin, a DIA analyst, has now pled guilty for passing classified information to Israel and Iran, and possibly false intelligence on Iran to the US.”

The interviewer continued that “another member of the party Harold Rhode, working as a consultant for the Pentagon, went on to have meetings with Ghorbanifar in Paris, despite being asked to stop. Add to that the Niger forgeries began to make their rounds in the form of transcripts only a short time later. So you can understand why there is scepticism?”

Ledeen merely replied: “As for ‘looking bad’, it looks pretty good to me, since it saved American lives in Afghanistan.

When he was asked why Rhode and Franklin were brought along, he said: “They were selected by the Pentagon because they were very knowledgeable bout Iran.”

Raw Story asked who selected them. “Both worked for Undersecretary of Defense Doug Feith, so did Feith select them?

Ledeen answered “I don’t know. I never discussed it with him.

There has been constant speculation that Ledeen had a role in the Niger forgeries. It has been reported that the Italian Parliament in June 2005 concluded its own investigation and named four men including Ledeen as suspects in the creation of the forged documents. The other three men are Dewey Clarridge, Ahmed Chalabi and Francis Brookes.

The online encyclopaedia Wikipedia amasses some of the speculation in its eight-page entry assessing the evidence about the Yellowcake forgery. It does not mention the naming of the four men by the Italian Parliament.

One of the items Wikipedia quotes, and that has been widely quoted by others, is an interview in 2005 with Vincent Cannistraro, the former head of counterterrorism operations at the CIA and the intelligence director at the National Security Council under Ronald Reagan.

Cannistraro maintained the forgeries had been produced in the US and funnelled through the Italians. In an interview published on April 7 2005 Cannistraro was asked by Ian Masters what he would say if it was asserted that the source of the forgery was Ledeen (who had allegedly been a liaison between the American intelligence community and SISMI two decades earlier).

Cannistraro answered: “you’d be very close”.

Ledeen has reacted furiously to this. In the interview with Raw Story published on May 20, 2006 he said “it’s outrageous to be accused – by the likes of Vince Cannistraro – of being involved in the Niger forgeries, which is totally groundless. People just make up things, and then I’m supposed to defend myself against their fantasies.”

Cannistraro’s business partner and columnist for the “American Conservative” former CIA counter terrorism officer Philip Giraldi has made similar allegations. He told Scott Horton that the forgeries were produced by “a couple of former CIA officers who are familiar with that part of the world who are associated with a certain well-known neoconservative who has close connections with Italy.” He confirmed it was Ledeen when asked.

In a second interview with Scott Horton, Giraldi said Ledeen and his former CIA friends had worked with Ahmed Chalabi and the Iraqi National Congress.

But Wikipedia points out that suggestion of a plot by CIA officers is countered by “an explosive series of articles” that Nicolo Pollari, the chief of Italy’s military intelligence service, SISMI, brought the Niger yellowcake story directly to the White House after the CIA had rejected his insistent overtures. Pollari met the then deputy National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley.

I don’t know who forged and who didn’t, but I know a hundred thousand Iraqis and over 2500 American soldiers have been killed in Iraq so far. We may have to wait until the next American administration to find out the guilty party or parties.


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