Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Josh Marshall goes deep in "The Italian Connection"

Until recently, Josh Marshall's hints and bits about the Niger document forgeries have been maddeningly vague. Finally, it looks like he is ready to tell the story.
Ever since ElBaradei had exposed the documents as forgeries in March 2003, Burba had wanted to pursue the story behind the forgeries. But her editors at Panorama and then higher up in the Berlusconi publishing empire had warned her not to pursue the story. By December 2003, however, she had began reporting out the story on her own.

She confronted Martino and demanded to know where he had gotten the documents. She threatened him with exposure, telling him she had no responsibility to preserve his anonymity since he had deceived her.

Burba told us that Martino seemed genuinely afraid for his life. And now, in response to her demands, he began to describe a murky story involving an Italian intelligence officer and a woman working at the Embassy of Niger in Rome.

Rocco Martino was an information peddler, a former member of Italian military intelligence (SISMI) who, after retiring from SISMI in the early 1980s, had worked as a supplier of information and sometimes agent-for-hire for other intelligence agencies in Europe and the Middle East. His specialty, he would later tell us, was work on Islamic fundamentalist groups around the southern Mediterranean. He recounted trips over the years to countries across the Arab Middle East and North Africa.

The story began, Martino told Burba, when a former SISMI colleague had approached him with a proposition. The man’s name was Antonio Nucera, a SISMI colonel. The two had remained in professional contact over the years since Martino had left the service.



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