Susan Schmidt of the WaPo (who Atrios hates) bludgeons my man Joe, who just celebrated the first anniversary of his famous "What I Didn't Find In Africa". Oh, I waited too long for this (as did the eerily prescient Pejman). And yes, there is still an investigation underway, although if I were managing the news, I would consider this to be a great time to announce that no indictments will be forthcoming.
Meanwhile, let's go through Ms. Schmidt's list while I take a tasteless, deplorable victory lap:
Former ambassador Joseph C. Wilson IV, dispatched by the CIA in February 2002 to investigate reports that Iraq sought to reconstitute its nuclear weapons program with uranium from Africa, was specifically recommended for the mission by his wife, a CIA employee, contrary to what he has said publicly.
We had evidence for that in October 2003, but not as fully as documented here. The WSJ had a memo describing a meeting where Ms. Plame nominated her hubby for the trip; Ms. Schmidt tells us of a follow-up memo, and an earlier trip by Joe Wilson to Niger at his wife's suggestion.
As to what the Ambassador has said publicly on this point, he has said many things. In Sept. 2003, in an interview with Josh Marshall, we noted Wilson's cutesiness - saying that his wife wasn't in the room with the people who briefed him on the trip, for example, is not a denial of her involvement. However, Ms. Schmidt busts him for what he put in his book: "Valerie had nothing to do with the matter," Wilson wrote in a memoir published this year. "She definitely had not proposed that I make the trip."
More from Ms. Schmidt:
The panel found that Wilson's report, rather than debunking intelligence about purported uranium sales to Iraq, as he has said, bolstered the case for most intelligence analysts.
Well, we suspected that Wilson's report debunked nothing even before we read Tenet's letter on July 11, 2003.
Yesterday's report said that whether Iraq sought to buy lightly enriched "yellowcake" uranium from Niger is one of the few bits of prewar intelligence that remains an open question.
That is the British story too, according to the FT.
Plame's role could be significant in an ongoing investigation into whether a crime was committed when her name and employment were disclosed to reporters last summer.
Administration officials told columnist Robert D. Novak then that Wilson, a partisan critic of Bush's foreign policy, was sent to Niger at the suggestion of Plame, who worked in the nonproliferation unit at CIA. The disclosure of Plame's identity, which was classified, led to an investigation into who leaked her name.
The report may bolster the rationale that administration officials provided the information not to intentionally expose an undercover CIA employee, but to call into question Wilson's bona fides as an investigator into trafficking of weapons of mass destruction. To charge anyone with a crime, prosecutors need evidence that exposure of a covert officer was intentional.
The report said Plame told committee staffers that she relayed the CIA's request to her husband, saying, "there's this crazy report" about a purported deal for Niger to sell uranium to Iraq. .
The "crazy report" line ties in to Howard Fineman's theory about a see-no-evil CIA failing to take this investigation seriously.
The report also said Wilson provided misleading information to The Washington Post last June. He said then that he concluded the Niger intelligence was based on documents that had clearly been forged because "the dates were wrong and the names were wrong."
"Committee staff asked how the former ambassador could have come to the conclusion that the 'dates were wrong and the names were wrong' when he had never seen the CIA reports and had no knowledge of what names and dates were in the reports," the Senate panel said. Wilson told the panel he may have been confused and may have "misspoken" to reporters. The documents -- purported sales agreements between Niger and Iraq -- were not in U.S. hands until eight months after Wilson made his trip to Niger.
Wilson said that a former prime minister of Niger, Ibrahim Assane Mayaki, was unaware of any sales contract with Iraq, but said that in June 1999 a businessman approached him, insisting that he meet with an Iraqi delegation to discuss "expanding commercial relations" between Niger and Iraq -- which Mayaki interpreted to mean they wanted to discuss yellowcake sales. A report CIA officials drafted after debriefing Wilson said that "although the meeting took place, Mayaki let the matter drop due to UN sanctions on Iraq."
Something like that was alluded to in Tenet's letter, and eventually Wilson 'fessed up a bit, both in an interview with Josh Marshall and in his book.
Still, it was the CIA that bore the brunt of the criticism of the Niger intelligence. The panel found that the CIA has not fully investigated possible efforts by Iraq to buy uranium in Niger to this day, citing reports from a foreign service and the U.S. Navy about uranium from Niger destined for Iraq and stored in a warehouse in Benin.
The agency did not examine forged documents that have been widely cited as a reason to dismiss the purported effort by Iraq until months after it obtained them. The panel said it still has "not published an assessment to clarify or correct its position on whether or not Iraq was trying to purchase uranium from Africa."
Howard Fineman's "see-no-evil CIA" again. Which becomes part of the rationale for the White House telling reporters that the Wilson op-ed is a phony, and that his investigation was not an appropriately serious effort.
Tim Noah at Slate had perhaps the most vigorous denunciation of Wilson when he shoved a Whopper in Wilson's chubby cheeks.
And another puzzle has been answered - at one time, Wilson wondered out loud to a reporter about who might play his wife in the movie. Although we can't answer that, we can suggest that the movie be filmed by Michael Moore.
UPDATE: Josh Marshall thinks that the great American public should be worried about the credibility of Susan Schmidt. Good luck. And Dr. M ought to read the NY Times, which excerpts the report and presents a similar conclusion to Ms. Schmidt:
19. Even after obtaining the forged documents and being alerted by a State Department Bureau of Intelligence and Research analyst about problems with them, analysts at both the Central Intelligence Agency and Defense Intelligence Agency did not examine them carefully enough to see the obvious problems with the documents. Both agencies continued to publish assessments that Iraq may have been seeking uranium from Africa. In addition, C.I.A. continued to approve the use of similar language in administration publications and speeches, including the State of the Union.
21. When coordinating the State of the Union, no Central Intelligence Agency analysts or officials told the National Security Council to remove the "16 words" or that there were concerns about the credibility of the Iraq-Niger uranium reporting. A C.I.A. official's original testimony to the committee that he told an N.S.C. official to remove the words "Niger" and "500 tons" from the speech, is incorrect.
Hey, I'm surprised too, as I am sure the Senate staffers were, since I recall a lot of ink being splashed on this. But let's not blame Sue.
Kevin Drum is troubled, although he (correctly) points out that Wilson's credibility has no legal effect. Ahh, but from a PR perspective, if Wilson is a liar (and has lied to the WaPo and the NY Times), who will howl when charges are not filed? Let me quote Atrios here - "A source lies to you, and you find it out, you burn him. Period."
And is Wilson still an advisor to the Kerry campaign?
STILL MORE: Ari Fleischer explaining the 16 Words.