With a Sunday piece titled "New Reports Again Question Whether Iraq Sought Uranium in Niger", Richard Stevenson and David Johnston of the NY Times tiptoe up to the issue of the Times reporting on the President's "16 Words".
Our question, as noted previously - will the Times report on the news contained in the Senate report that Mr. Wilson gave "misleading information" in anonymous leaks to the Washington Post, and by extension Nick Kristof of the NY Times? Will they discuss his flawed (but famous) op-ed piece, which the NY Times was surely pleased to have run?
Some of Mr. Wilson's credibility problems are cited. However, the Times remains sphinx-like on the Senate report finding, undisputed by Mr. Wilson in his letter to the Post [but see the next post], that the Ambassador gave "misleading information" in anonymous leaks to the Washington Post and by extension, Nick Kristof of the NY Times.
And this passage from the Times could have been torn from the pages of Pravda:
The new reports also raised questions about one of the White House's chief critics over the issue, Joseph C. Wilson IV, a former ambassador sent to Niger in 2002 to investigate whether Iraq had tried to purchase uranium there. Among other things, the report pointed out that Mr. Wilson's official account to the C.I.A. noted that a former prime minister of Niger had told him that he had been approached in 1999 about meeting with an Iraqi delegation interested in "expanding commercial relations" between Niger and Iraq. The former prime minister told Mr. Wilson that he interpreted the approach to mean the Iraqis were interested in acquiring a form of uranium.
"Raised questions"? Would these two very talented reporters care to hint at just what questions were raised? I would need a decoder ring to know that this refers to Mr. Wilson's famous "What I Didn't Find In Africa" op-ed piece that ran in the NY Times a year ago.
And since, in the matter of the Iraqi trade delegation, George Tenet made the same point about the deficient Wilson op-ed in a statement released on July 11, 2003, and Wilson confirmed his faulty memory in subsequent interviews, just what new "questions" did the Senate report raise on this point? OK, I know what question it raised for me - is the Times finally going to cover this - but what questions did it raise for them?
We also note that the Times gives one sentence to the Senate finding that Wilson lied about his wife's involvement, and four sentences to Wilson's response, thereby giving space to Wilson to rebut a case the Times barely presents. Bah.
Much as we would like to credit the InstaPundit, we infer that the Times was stung by this:
Referring to Mr. Bush and Mr. Blair, The Wall Street Journal's editorial page on Thursday said, "It now appears that both leaders have been far more scrupulous in discussing this and related issues than much of the media in either of their countries, which would embarrass the journalistic profession, if that were possible."
On the broader question, the article is interesting and insightful on the question of why the Bush White House is not trumpeting this news from the Senate and Butler reports.
Excerpts of the portions related to Wilson appear below.
UPDATE: Just a note about story placement in the Dead Tree version - this appears on p. 14 of the Sunday Times main news section in a featue called "Washington Memo". Their front page section, "Inside", which highlights other stories, does not mention it, nor does the page 2 "News Summary" feature.
As a bonus, we find this on the bottom of the Wek in Review editorial page: "Decoding the Senate Intelligence Committee Investigation on Iraq" by Andrew Rosenthal. Mr. Rosenthal describes the impact of the senate report in quite unflattering terms; perhaps I lack a decoder ring, but he makes no mention of the "16 Words".
For contrast, here is what the NY Times placed in the Week in Review one year ago - "How Powerful Can 16 Words Be?" by Christopher Marquis.
NOTE: Careful readers of InstaPundit will note that this version has been slightly revised. Think of it as a director's cut - I decided to give more emphasis to the "raised questions" passage.
...The new reports also raised questions about one of the White House's chief critics over the issue, Joseph C. Wilson IV, a former ambassador sent to Niger in 2002 to investigate whether Iraq had tried to purchase uranium there. Among other things, the report pointed out that Mr. Wilson's official account to the C.I.A. noted that a former prime minister of Niger had told him that he had been approached in 1999 about meeting with an Iraqi delegation interested in "expanding commercial relations" between Niger and Iraq. The former prime minister told Mr. Wilson that he interpreted the approach to mean the Iraqis were interested in acquiring a form of uranium.
...Mr. Bush's re-election prospects rest to some degree on whether he is perceived to have led the nation into the war on the basis of flawed or false intelligence. And the White House remains to some degree at risk from a federal criminal investigation into whether administration officials leaked to a newspaper columnist the fact that Mr. Wilson's wife is a covert C.I.A. officer.
The reports did not affect the criminal inquiry into whether anyone at the White House violated a law that makes it a crime to disclose the name of an undercover officer.
But Mr. Wilson has been left on the defensive by the Senate Intelligence Committee's report, which found that, contrary to what he has said, his wife, Valerie Plame, appeared to have had a role in the decision to send him to Niger.
In a letter this week to the chairman and the vice chairman of the intelligence committee, Mr. Wilson disputed the assertion that the plan to send him to Niger was suggested by his wife. Mr. Wilson said the comments she made about his background in a letter to her boss a week before he visited the C.I.A. to discuss the trip were intended to establish his bona fides and did not constitute a recommendation. Mr. Wilson also cited news accounts last year quoting unidentified intelligence officials as saying that Ms. Plame had not proposed Mr. Wilson for the trip. And he took exception to criticism by the committee's chairman, Senator Pat Roberts of Kansas, and other Republicans, who said he had gone on a media blitz to convince the world that Mr. Bush had lied.
There may be more revelations to come. The British and American reports contained still-classified information about Iraq's dealings with Niger. Beyond that, Patrick Fitzgerald, the federal prosecutor examining the leak of Ms. Plame's identity, is expected to announce in a matter of weeks whether he will prosecute anyone.