In October 2001, Italian intel started circulating reports on this alleged Niger deal. In February 2002, they put out a report which included a transcription of the documents. Cheney asked for more information, and the CIA responded by dispatching Wilson to discreetly investigate the claims.
Now, there's some room here to assert that Wilson's report confirmed the notion that Iraq may have been looking to buy yellowcake, but one thing which seems to have been clear to everyone was that not only had this transaction almost certainly never been discussed, it was unlikely that such a transaction could take place at all.
In October 2002, the forgeries themselves landed in the hands of the US Embassy in Italy, and were passed on to the CIA. That same month, the Department of State warned that it had serious doubts as to the documents' authenticity. Those warnings seem to have been completely disregarded for several months.
For whatever reason, the documents weren't turned over to the IAEA until March 2003, at which time that body "immediately" recognized them as forgeries, and the CIA agreed when it finally examined them itself the following month.
The above, by the way, is the official story as presented in the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence's Report on the US Intelligence Community's Prewar Intelligence Assessments on Iraq and the Report of the Commission on the Intelligence Capabilities of the United States Regarding Weapons of Mass Destruction.
A comedy of errors, so to speak. At every turn the story seemed less and less credible, and yet somehow those sixteen words still made it into Bush's State of the Union Address. The idea that the Italian gov't may have tried to warn us in January 2003 that the documents were fake would only add to the sit-com tenor of the whole mess.
Incidentally, the Italian poli who made this statement has now recanted, saying that he was confused by a barrage of questions. What he meant to say was that the Italian intel service -- which distributed the transcriptions of the forgeries in October 2002 -- responded to an inquiry from the IAEA in January 2003 by saying that it had never seen the documents and therefore could not comment on their authenticity. Which is interesting, since our official narrative says the IAEA didn't get the documents until two months later.
Placed in context, it strikes me as completely unimportant whether Italy told us the documents were forged or not.
We already knew.