Press Box

Follow That Story: The Forged Nuke Documents

Who bamboozled the United States?

The Bush administration could bake an omelet large enough to feed a small city with the egg deposited on its face in the last week—specifically, news that the United States was duped by poorly forged documents that allegedly proved Iraq’s nuclear ambitions. The administration and the British government presented the documents to U.N. inspectors as proof that Iraq shopped in Niger for uranium, presumably for a bomb. The inspectors noisily dismissed the docs as crude forgeries.

Forged by whom? And for what reason? That’s the story I’d like to see the pack chase.

“I’m sure there’s a lot of people who would be delighted to malign Iraq,” International Atomic Energy Agency head Dr. Mohamed ElBaradei said in the New York Times. “It could range from Iraqi dissidents to all sorts of other sources.”

The Washington Post explored the forgery whodunit yesterday on Page A-17 with “FBI Probes Fake Evidence of Iraqi Nuclear Plans.” The Post’s arresting lede indicates the U.S. government might have a good idea of the provenance of the forged documents:

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. [Emphasis added.]

According to the Post, the United States and Britain received the documents from the intelligence agency of an unnamed third country. The Post also reports that the CIA doubted the documents’ veracity and declined to include them in its Iraq file. Today, CNN cites U.S. officials who say the third country is not Israel—one country that would benefit from such a forgery. But officials still won’t name the country that bamboozled the United States and Britain with the phony documents. ( Newsweek’s administration sources say the Brits, not the United States, were taken in by the uranium story.)

If ever there was a time for the press to flood the zone with saturation coverage, this is it. Whodunit, and why’d they do it? And is the national security establishment asleep? Stupid? Corrupt?


Send your national security secrets to