The LA Times is reporting that the FBI has reopened their investigation into the source of the Niger Forgeries, documents which allegedly led to the famous "16 Words" uttered by the President during his 2003 State of the Union despite the objections of George Tenet and Former Ambassador Joe Wilson.
WASHINGTON -- The FBI has reopened an inquiry into one of the most intriguing aspects of the pre-Iraq war intelligence fiasco: how the Bush administration came to rely on forged documents linking Iraq to nuclear weapons materials as part of its justification for the invasion.
The documents inspired intense U.S. interest in the buildup to the war -- and they led the CIA to send a former ambassador to the African nation of Niger to investigate whether Iraq had sought the materials there. The ambassador, Joseph C. Wilson IV, found little evidence to support such a claim, and the documents were later deemed to have been forged.
Apparently the FBI had already investigated and closed this case claiming that the forgeries were part of a money-making scheme, not a plan to affect U.S. Foreign policy, but apparently their feeling about the money-scheme is - not so much.
The FBI's decision to reopen the investigation reverses the agency's announcement last month that it had finished a two-year inquiry and concluded that the forgeries were part of a moneymaking scheme -- and not an effort to manipulate U.S. foreign policy.
Those findings concerned some members of the Senate Intelligence Committee after published reports that the FBI had not interviewed a former Italian spy named Rocco Martino, who was identified as the original source of the documents. The committee had requested the initial investigation.
"This is such a high-profile issue for a lot of reasons, and we think it's important to make sure there aren't lingering questions," said an aide to Sen. John D. Rockefeller IV (D-W.Va.), vice chairman of the Intelligence Committee. "There's always a chance that you do a little more investigating and you uncover something you hadn't seen before or you hadn't realized."
Not mentioned in the article, is the fact that Sen Rockefeller was the one who originally referred this case to the FBI for investigation following the conclusions of the Senate Intelligence Report. Sen Rockefeller is ranking Democratic Member of the Commitee.
A senior federal law enforcement official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the investigation, confirmed late Friday that the bureau had reopened the inquiry.
Federal officials familiar with the case say investigators might examine whether the forgeries were instigated by U.S. citizens who advocated an invasion of Iraq or by members of the Iraqi National Congress -- the group led by Ahmad Chalabi that worked closely with Bush administration officials in the buildup to the war.
But the senior federal official said, "I don't expect the results to be any different. I think the answer is going to be that [Martino] wasn't acting in behalf of any government or intelligence agency. This guy was trying to peddle this to whoever he could."
Until now, the FBI's inquiry had been limited to probing whether foreign governments were involved in the forgeries, despite a broader request from Rockefeller that the FBI look into whether the forgeries reflected a "larger deception campaign aimed at manipulating public opinion and foreign policy regarding Iraq."
"I was surprised that [the FBI] ever closed it without coming to a conclusion as to the source," said former Sen. Bob Graham (D-Fla.), who was chairman of the Intelligence Committee when the Niger uranium claims first surfaced in the U.S. "It looks as if it's a fairly straightforward investigation trail to who the source was. And I'm glad the FBI has resumed the hunt."
Almost as interesting as who the original source of these document may be -- is the fact that the FBI had decided to give up looking for them in the first place, only to now - reverse themselves.