The LA Times overcomes past headline problems (see 7/7) and shows their awareness of both the "16 Words" story and Joe Wilson:
They then recount the saga of Bush's 16 Words, Amb. Wilson's trip to Africa, and the hullabaloo he created.
...the controversy led to a criminal investigation after an administration official leaked the name of an undercover CIA officer to a newspaper columnist in an apparent attempt to discredit the operative's husband, a prominent critic of the administration.
Well, the motive is open to interpretation - maybe the goal was to discredit the CIA, for failing to take this seriously by sending a trained agent.
In February 2002, the CIA sent Wilson to Niger to investigate reports that Iraqi officials had sought to buy uranium. Wilson reported that "there was nothing to support allegations either that Iraq had tried to obtain or succeeded in purchasing uranium from Niger."
Huh? Later in the story they reverse course on that, but still...
Novak said his information had come from "two senior administration officials."
The Senate committee report questioned Wilson's account on several issues. Wilson has maintained that his wife did not suggest him for the mission to Niger, but the committee found that she did, noting that another CIA official said Plame had "offered up his name."
"That's just false," Wilson said in a telephone interview Wednesday. He said he was preparing a written rebuttal to the Senate report.
A senior intelligence official said the CIA supports Wilson's version: "Her bosses say she did not initiate the idea of her husband going…. They asked her if he'd be willing to go, and she said yes," the official said.
Well. Wilson said many things about his wife's involvement. Sometimes he said that he couldn't discuss his wife; or, he offered non-denial denials; other times, that she wasn't in the room; other times, a qualified "not involved", as in his book. Tim Graham provides more outtakes.
So hold on to those goal posts before they move too much! The new standard seems to be that she did not "initiate" it. What happened to "not involved"? What happened to this:
In an interview with TIME, Wilson, ...angrily said that his wife had nothing to do with his trip to Africa. "That is bulls__t. That is absolutely not the case," Wilson told TIME. "I met with between six and eight analysts and operators from CIA and elsewhere [before the Feb 2002 trip]. None of the people in that meeting did I know, and they took the decision to send me. This is a smear job."
"Nothing to do sith [it]"; "Bulls**t"; "Absolutely not the case". We can only imagine what might have come next - calming, the Ambassador explained that she was in the room briefly, so she mostly wasn't; that she wrote some memos, but everyone writes memos ocassionally; and she may have discussed it in another meeting, but so what? Right. (But see EVEN MORE, below).
And why is Wilson preparing a written response, and what does it mean - is he under oath, willl it add to the investigation, does it address issues they refused to discuss with him, what? We are delighted to hear more from the Ambassador, but he had plenty of time to talk to the Senate staff one might think; the staff also had access to evidence that we lack, so how are we to challenge his next version of events?
The Senate report also accused Wilson of exaggerating his knowledge of forged documents that purported to be evidence of an Iraqi purchase of uranium. Wilson acknowledged that he might have "misspoken" on that issue.
The committee found that intelligence analysts recalled Wilson's report on his mission to Niger as ambiguous and unimpressive, not as the conclusive refutation he has sometimes described.
This, near the end, is meant to refute (I suppose) their earlier assertion noted above.
Soundbite - this article is not the right wing flame I would produce. But considering the source, it is pretty good.
MORE: Yes, if I had any personal pride, I would roar through the Wall Street Journal editorial. Good Point!
EVEN MORE: "They asked her if he'd be willing to go, and she said yes," the official said.
This is, arguably, consistent with Novak's original account, which said that "The CIA says its counter-proliferation officials selected Wilson and asked his wife to contact him."
It's arguable. If they asked her whether he was the right man for the job, and she could have vetoed it, she is involved. OTOH, if they simply said to her, "Look, your husband is the right guy, can you arrange a meeting", well, one might say she is merely a conduit.
An obvious problem - it is likely that she was senior enough that they weren't simply going to "tell" her that her husband was going - if she had reservations, she presumably could have killed it ("He can't go next month, he's due at Betty Ford").
Leaving us in a permanent gray area, where the Ambassador's cries of "Bulls**t" ring false.