"A thought, after re-reading Unger's piece. Could it be that the forgeries were purposely badly done so that they could use the plausible deniability gambit? It's not a very good ruse, but then they are stoooopid and arrogant. Still, they got their war and Halliburton is mega rich from it. With the Supreme Court nicely stacked in their favor now, who gives a damn if it comes out that the Niger documents are fake? They don't. All the right people were duped and that's all that counts."this possibility does arise in Unger's piece - but I still can't quite accept it (though I acknowledge that just about everyone can & does). The problem with the plausible deniability argument in this case is that for the documents to have any chance of achieving their purported goals, there has to be a corresponding plausible acceptability - and as far as i can tell, that simply didn't exist. Unger says:
Vanity Fair has found at least 14 instances prior to the 2003 State of the Union in which analysts at the C.I.A., the State Department, or other government agencies who had examined the Niger documents or reports about them raised serious doubts about their legitimacy.I suspect there were probably many more than 14 other instances in the USG (and countless others around the world) where the documents would necessarily run into road-blocks - because they simply weren't plausibly acceptable. And presuming that the forgers were trying to start/justify a war in iraq, there is a downside to having really bad intel in the intel stream - it could be expected to undermine the case for war, because it would tip off intelligence agencies to the fact that people were trying to fraudulently create/justify a war - which ought to have resulted in a heightened level of diligence (and probably a higher bar) regarding any other intel which happened to point in the same direction.
Yes, I acknowledge that my entire argument completely falls apart when we observe the actual history of the forgeries, and the iraq invasion - but still, looking forward, the forgers could hardly have predicted the easy path the documents received.
The specific problems with the forgeries actually aren't very well documented, amazingly. People often point to the fact that they refer to the wrong constitution, and the wrong minister, and the wrong stamp, but those problems are among the more obscure, and explainable, and more difficult to uncover for anyone not versed in Nigerien history, and/or a penchant for proving the documents were false. Those are 'errors' that might be planted for plausible deniability - but there were other egregious 'errors' that could be uncovered by anyone, without even the help of google (let alone eriposte or emptywheel.)
" Its September 28 postmark indicated that somehow the letter had been received nearly two weeks before it was sent. "and
"One of the letters was dated July 30, 1999, but referred to agreements that were not made until a year later."These sort of mistakes aren't made by people who are too clever by half, or are trying to build in some plausible deniability, while still trying to thread the needle of possible plausibility in order to meet their presumed goal. I'd be more careful than that if I was trying to concoct a story about why I couldn't make xmas dinner with my family.
I still don't know why these documents were forged - but the accepted wisdom still seems incorrect.