LA Times: Administration busted on Niger intelligence yet again
From the AJC, an LA Times story from Hamburger and Wallsten: "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 warning the CIA repeatedly in secret communications that there was no evidence to support the allegation.
The previously undisclosed exchanges between the United States and the French --- described by the retired chief of the French counterintelligence service and a former CIA official during interviews last week --- came on separate occasions in 2001 and 2002.
The French reached their conclusions after extensive on-the-ground investigations in Niger and other former French colonies, where the uranium mines are controlled by French companies, said the former intelligence official, Alain Chouet. He said the French investigated at the CIA's request.
Chouet's account was at odds with the U.S. understanding of the issue, an American government official said.
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 aggressively making the case that Saddam Hussein was seeking nuclear weapons materials.
It was not the first time a foreign government tried but failed to warn U.S. officials off of dubious prewar intelligence. In the well-known 'Curveball' case, an Iraqi who defected to Germany claimed to have knowledge of Iraq's biological weapons. Bush and other U.S. officials repeatedly cited Curveball's claims even as German intelligence officials argued that he was unstable, unreliable and incorrect."