"Evidence of Niger uranium trade 'years before war'
...European intelligence officers have now revealed that three years before the fake documents became public, human and electronic intelligence sources from a number of countries picked up repeated discussion of an illicit trade in uranium from Niger. One of the customers discussed by the traders was Iraq.
These intelligence officials now say the forged documents appear to have been part of a "scam", and the actual intelligence showing discussion of uranium supply has been ignored.
And why is this news arriving now? Josh Marshall has a glamorous explanation (OK, Glenn R calls it "cloak and daggerish", which is probably more accurate). His gist, presented as a hypothetical - the evildoers are hearing the footsteps of some intrepid reporters, and are desperately attempting to pre-emptively muddy the waters.
Well, every party needs a crashing bore, and here I am. The Guardian, also from Sunday, reports that:
Butler inquiry targets Niger uranium claim
The man charged with investigating British intelligence failures in the build-up to the Iraq war is focusing on Tony Blair's assertion that Saddam Hussein tried to secure uranium from Niger.
The revelation that Lord Butler, the former cabinet secretary in charge of the inquiry, is homing in on this issue could cause problems for Blair.
Well. An alternative (but not mutually exclusive) hypothesis to the Marshall theory is the more prosaic guess that the Blair side has put their story into the press in anticipation of the Lord Butler effort. (Geez, am I arguing that the Butler did it?). Now, that doesn't mean that Marshall is wrong, and heaven knows there is plenty of room in this script for evildoers of many nationalities. However, the reporting on the Butler investigation (with a report due by the end of July) suggests that the timing of these stories is not being driven exclusively by a band of intrepid investigative journalists. OTOH, if the intrepid journalists have gotten the inside track on Lord Butler's investigation, and have persuaded him to adjust his agenda, that would be a story...
And while on the subject of seemingly buried ledes, Josh Marshall recommends, on the subject of the forged Niger documents, this New Yorker account be Sy Hersh, which I excerpt here. The buried bombshell is the theory that disgruntled ex-CIA officers prepared the forgeries. If Josh Marshall is endorsing that, and is about to confirm that, I can not imagine how it will be presented as a Bush-basher (but it will be!).
Meanwhile, the timing question is secondary to the main point, which is, was Niger selling uranium under the table or off the books? Today the FT says yes; a year ago, the Telegraph said no, and made it sound like one for the Impossible Missions team.
MORE: I admire Matt Yglesias' pith.