ROME - The Italian newspaper La Repubblica has published an exposé alleging that the nation's military intelligence agency SISMI provided bogus intelligence in the run up to the Iraq war with the knowledge of Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi. The charge follows a parliamentary report released in July concerning the forged
The July report named four men as the likely masterminds - Michael Ledeen, Dewey Clarridge, Ahmed Chalabi, and Francis Brookes - and suggests that the plan was conceived at December 2001 meeting in Rome involving Ledeen and SISMI chief Nicolò Pollari.
Ledeen, a neo-conservative columnist and former employee of the Pentagon, State Department and National Security Council, was involved in the Iran-Contra affair. Clarridge, another Iran-Contra participant, directed the mining of
Chalabi, leader of U.S.-funded Iraqi National Congress and primary source of misleading pre-war stories circulated by New York Times reporter Judith Miller, is current an Iraqi deputy prime minister. And Brookes was a member of the Rendon Group, a public relations body formed by the Pentagon to promote Chalabi and his organization.
In August 2004, Rocco Martino, a former Italian intelligence officer, admitted in interviews with
Concerned about Ledeen's efforts, the CIA reported him to Condoleezza Rice's deputy on the National Security Council, Stephen J. Hadley, who instructed Douglas Feith to terminate the operation. But the talk about documents proving Iraqi attempts to revive a nuclear program continued, leading to Vice President Cheney's request for a CIA investigation. As a result, Joseph Wilson was sent to
The CIA disagreed, and director George Tenet prevented Bush from including a reference to the supposed
Berlusconi, who once supported the war, has recently changed his position, stating on Italian TV, "It would have been better to avoid military action [in