Alberto Nisman, the prosecutor who accused Argentina's president of a cover-up plot over the 1994 bombing of a Jewish center before being found shot to death, met repeatedly with the US embassy in Buenos Aires during his investigation, leaked diplomatic cables show.
Nisman gave US officials advanced notice on his procedural moves and was apparently coached by the embassy in "improving" his requests for arrest warrants for Iranians that Nisman suspected of carrying out the deadly attack against the Argentine Israeli Mutual Association, or AIMA, according to cables published by Wikileaks.
"Embassy can now more logically approach the [government of Argentina] about [its] anticipated next steps and ways we might be able to coordinate outreach to other governments [...] to bring attention to the warrants and pressure to bear on Iran and Hezbollah," says one US cable dated November 1, 2006, after a meeting with Nisman.
The revelations are adding fodder to the entangled scandal over the AIMA center bombing, Nisman's mysterious death, and the reactions of President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner and her government loyalists.
The president and her supporters have piled doubt on Nisman's investigation, suggesting he didn't himself write the inquiry accusing Kirchner of a cover-up deal with Iran, and that he was influenced by foreign agents in his claims. Kirchner said this week that Nisman was manipulated and double-crossed by government spies plotting against her.
'We know this was not your decision. We are sure that this was made by others.'
Nisman on January 16 told VICE News he had proof that Kirchner sought a back-channel deal with Iran — swapping Iranian oil for Argentine grain — in exchange for abandoning efforts to prosecute former Iranian diplomats in connection to the Jewish center bombing.
Eight-five people were killed in the terror attack, which remains unsolved. Survivors and opposition forces are now blaming Kirchner's government for Nisman's death.
Nisman was buried at a Jewish cemetery in Buenos Aires on Thursday. His ex-wife, the judge Sandra Arroyo Salgado, directed herself to Nisman during the funeral, saying: "We know this was not your decision. We are sure that this was made by others."
The prosecutor, who was found dead the night before making his blockbuster claim against Kirchner and her foreign minister in Argentina's Congress, is mentioned in 46 leaked US cables.
In the cable from November 2006, Nisman informed US officials of the likelihood that a judge would follow his recommendations to seek charges against Iranian suspects for the bombing. American embassy officials discussed plans to inform "other governments" ahead of time, in an apparent push to make the case against the Iranians an international matter.
Another cable, dated January 19, 2007, suggests the US embassy had a hand in shaping Nisman's warrant requests with Interpol, the international diplomatic police force. The cable shows US officials thought Nisman's work was shoddy and needed help.
Before the Justice Department's Office of International Affairs intervened in the warrant applications, the cable says, Nisman's paperwork contained "statements that were presumptuous conclusions of guilt."
Nisman took on the case of the AIMA center bombing in 2004, at the request of the then-President Nestor Kirchner, Cristina Fernandez's late husband. In his interview with VICE News — perhaps his last with a foreign news organization — Nisman denied connections with any foreign spy agencies.
"You won't find reports from the CIA, Mossad, or the MI5 in my files. I have no doubt that there is a link between them and the Argentine intelligence agency, but I never dealt with any foreign intelligence agencies," Nisman said, two days before he was found dead.
The US embassy in Buenos Aires declined to discuss its officers' interactions with Nisman. "We will not comment on the contents of these alleged cables that purport to include classified information," an embassy spokesman told VICE News.
The relationship was apparently so involved that Nisman apologized for not letting then-ambassador Earl Anthony Wayne know that he would call for the arrest of former president Carlos Menem in relation to the case.
"AMIA Special Prosecutor Alberto Nisman called the Ambassador on May 23 to apologize for not giving the Embassy advance notice of his request for the arrest of former President Menem and other [government of Argentina] officials for their alleged roles in the cover up of the 'local connection' in the 1994 terrorist bombing of the AMIA Jewish community center," says a cable from May 2008.
The prosecutor also apologized that the judicial order coincided with a visit to Argentina from the former deputy director of the FBI, John Pistole, adding it was "completely unintentional," the cable shows.
"He noted that he was very sorry and that he sincerely appreciates all of the [US government's] help and support and in no way meant to undermine that," the cable continues.
The cable also notes that US officials "have for the past two years recommended to Nisman that he focus on the perpetrators of the terrorist attack and not on the possible mishandling of the first investigation."
Santiago O'Donnell, author of two books based on the cables released by Julian Assange, said in an interview that the leaked cables show the US influenced Nisman throughout his work on the AIMA bombing investigation.
"The embassy gave instructions to the prosecutor Nisman for him to follow the Iranian lead, and not follow other leads, like the Syrian lead, or the local connection, because that would detract from the terrorist image that the US was trying to impose on Iran," O'Donnell said.
President Kirchner this week proposed in a nationally televised address to disband and reform the government's intelligence agency. In doing so, she said rogue government spies were responsible for Nisman's death.
Opposition voices, meanwhile, said the reform plan for the Secretaría de Inteligencia, or SI, would further politicize the work of the embattled spy agency and make it more responsive to the president's political whims.
Follow Gaston Cavanagh on Twitter @gastoncavanagh.