Fans of the Joe Wilson story will find this post to be astonishing. Kevin seems to be speculating that the timing of Wilson's leaks and public statements were driven by information held only inside the CIA and passed to him by his wife.
Whoa. Any hopes I had for the crown of "Most Extreme Wilson Critic" have been dashed.
And this speculation will not hearten Wilson's supporters; clearly, his wife's involvement in his trip and its aftermath becomes important if we seriously think she may have been feeding CIA info to the media through him while hiding behind her covert status (not to mention press protection and spousal immunity). Those agent protection statutes are meant to be a shield, not a sword.
MORE: Let's add this from the Senate Report, p. 25:
The Committee does not fault the CIA for exploiting the access enjoyed by the spouse of a CIA employee traveling to Niger. The Committee believes, however, that it is unfortunate, considering the significant resources available to the CIA, that this was the only option available.
We don't criticize you, but we do.
And to put a few more logs on the fire - the Senate investigators were curious about what Wilson knew, and how he knew it (p. 44):
...Second, the former ambassador said that he discussed with his CIA contacts which names and signatures should have appeared on any documentation of a legitimate uranium transaction. In fact, the intelligence report made no mention of the alleged Iraq-Niger uranium deal or signatures that should have appeared on any documentation of such a deal. The only mention of Iraq in the report pertained to the meeting between the Iraqi delegation and former Prime Minister Mayaki. Third, the former ambassador noted that his CIA contacts told him there were documents pertaining to the alleged Iraq-Niger uranium transaction and that the source of the information was the XXX intelligence service. The DO reports officer told Committee staff that he did not provide the former ambassador with any information about the source or details of the original reporting as it would have required sharing classified information and, noted that there were no "documents" circulating in the IC at the time of the former ambassador's trip, only intelligence reports from XXXXX intelligence regarding an alleged Iraq-Niger uranium deal.
Meeting notes and other correspondence show that details of the reporting were discussed at the February 19, 2002 meeting, but none of the meeting participants recall telling the former ambassador the source of the report .
Fine, so no one remembered or was willing to 'fess up. Maybe it's that simple. But there is a question about who recommended him; no one signed him to a confidentiality agreement; his anonymous leaks to the press were "misleading", his explanation to the Senate staff was comical, and he has subsequently changed his story in appearances with Wolf Blitzer and Paula Zahn.
A cautious prosecutor might follow Kevin Drum's lead and catch a whiff of rat here. Who wouldn't?
A Late Note: Matthew Continetti of the Weekly Standard has been pursuing the press angle; Walter Pincus of the WaPo is non-responsive, but Nick Kristof stands by his story, for now.
Excerpts from Kevin's post below:
LATE UPDATE: More grist for Kevin's mill - Wilson's story is that he didn't object to the SOTU at the time because he thought maybe the African country is question was not Niger. But this State Dept. chat sheet identified Niger in December 2002, as noted by Seymour Hersh in March 2003. Maybe something else influenced Wilson's timing...
Here's the question: the first time that Wilson directly charged that the African uranium story was false — and that George Bush had known it when he delivered his State of the Union address — was in anonymous comments to Nick Kristof published on May 6. Why did he wait until then? And why did he wait until July 6 to talk openly about it (in an op-ed in the New York Times)?
Here's a frankly speculative guess: it was because he didn't know until May that the CIA had concluded that the African uranium story was false. He knew that his own trip had produced no evidence, and he also knew there were other negative pieces of reporting, especially at the State Department, but he didn't know for sure what other evidence the CIA had. So he wasn't completely certain that the Africa uranium story had been conclusively debunked.
...This [June 17] CIA memorandum is a key document (and one that's never been publicly released). After taking into account all the bits and pieces of data floating around, the CIA's final judgment was that there was no good evidence that Iraq had sought uranium "from abroad" — not from Niger and more generally not from Africa either. And since Wilson's wife worked in the WMD section of the CIA, it's possible that she saw a draft of this memo in May and mentioned its conclusion to Wilson. This in turn might have convinced him that it was safe to flatly tell Kristof that the uranium story was bogus.