Evidently the NY Times is not able to report honestly and accurately on stories involving White House leaks and/or Joseph Wilson. Presumably this is a consequence of their glorious history as publishers of the James Risen NSA warrantless eavesdropping story last December and the Joseph Wilson op-ed from July 6, 2003.
Let's check their breathless coverage of the latest:
Cheney's Aide Says President Approved Leak
WASHINGTON, April 6 — Vice President Dick Cheney's former chief of staff testified that he was authorized by President Bush, through Mr. Cheney, in July 2003 to disclose key parts of what until then was a classified prewar intelligence estimate on Iraq, according to a new court filing.
The testimony by the former official, I. Lewis Libby Jr., cited in a court filing by the government made late Wednesday, provides an indication that Mr. Bush, who has long criticized leaks of secret information as a threat to national security, may have played a direct role in authorizing disclosure of the intelligence report on Iraq.
Oh, the hypocrisy! President Bush, who has criticized some leaks as a harming national security, does not seem to believe that all "leaks" (including authorized disclosures) harm national security. Inconceivable!
The reporters let us catch our breath in paragraph four, reminding us that "The president has the authority to declassify information".
More air is let out of the balloon in paragraph six:
Mr. Libby did not assert in his testimony to a grand jury, first reported on the Web site of The New York Sun, that Mr. Bush or Mr. Cheney had authorized him to reveal the name of an undercover C.I.A. officer, Valerie Wilson.
That is a wildly significant point. However, the Times fails to cover the comment made by Special Counsel Fitzgerald (p. 27 of his filing), which is even stronger than a failure by Libby to assert something in testimony:
During this time, while the President was unaware of the role that the Vice President’s Chief of Staff and National Security Adviser [i.e., Libby, who had both jobs] had in fact played in disclosing Ms. Wilson’s CIA employment...
That is not just Libby asserting that the President was uninvolved in Libby's leaks of the Plame info; it is Fitzgerald saying so too.
And the balloon is fully deflated in the eleventh paragraph:
A little more than a week later, under continuing pressure, the White House published a declassified version of the executive summary of the estimate, in an effort to make the case that Mr. Bush's statement had been justified by the intelligence community's best judgment.
So Bush authorized an informal release of some part of the NIE to one reporter a week before portions were made public. Commence impeachment hearings!
The Times relates this to the Wilson trip to Niger, and, hmm, misinforms their readership about the material presented in their own paper:
The leak was intended, the court papers suggested, as a rebuttal to an Op-Ed article in The New York Times on July 6, 2003, by Joseph C. Wilson IV, a former United States ambassador and the husband of Ms. Wilson. Mr. Wilson wrote that he traveled to Africa in 2002 after Mr. Cheney raised questions about possible nuclear purchases by Iraq. Mr. Wilson wrote that he concluded it was "highly doubtful" Iraq had sought nuclear fuel from Niger.
At Mr. Cheney's office, the Op-Ed article was viewed "as a direct attack on the credibility of the vice president (and the president) on a matter of signal importance: the rationale for the war in Iraq," according to the court papers filed by the prosecutor, Patrick J. Fitzgerald.
Well. "Mr. Wilson wrote that he concluded it was "highly doubtful" Iraq had sought nuclear fuel from Niger" is, presumably, an intentional mis-characterization of the Wilson op-ed. The relevant sentence from Wilson's op-ed is this:
It did not take long to conclude that it was highly doubtful that any such transaction had ever taken place.
Regardless of his doubts about whether such a "transaction had ever taken place", Mr. Wilson's report to the CIA included a hint that Iraq had, in fact *sought* uranium from Niger. Here is George Tenet responding to Joe Wilson's op-ed on July 11, 2003:
He reported back to us that one of the former Nigerien officials he met stated that he was unaware of any contract being signed between Niger and rogue states for the sale of uranium during his tenure in office. The same former official also said that in June 1999 a businessman approached him and insisted that the former official meet with an Iraqi delegation to discuss "expanding commercial relations" between Iraq and Niger. The former official interpreted the overture as an attempt to discuss uranium sales.
The Senate Select Committee on Intelligence also covered this in their 2004 report - one wonders how the Times reporters could have missed it:
(U) Conclusion 12. Until October 2002 when the Intelligence Community obtained the forged foreign language documents9 on the Iraq-Niger uranium deal, it was reasonable for analysts to assess that Iraq may have been seeking uranium from Africa based on Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) reporting and other available intelligence.
Conclusion 13. The report on the former ambassador's trip to Niger, disseminated in March 2002, did not change any analysts' assessments of the Iraq-Niger uranium deal. For most analysts, the information in the report lent more credibility to the original Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) reports on the uranium deal, but State Department Bureau of Intelligence and Research (INR) analysts believed that the report supported their assessment that Niger was unlikely to be willing or able to sell uranium to Iraq.
As to whether the op-ed was a direct attack on the credibility of the Vice-President and President, here is Wilson's lead:
Did the Bush administration manipulate intelligence about Saddam Hussein's weapons programs to justify an invasion of Iraq?
Based on my experience with the administration in the months leading up to the war, I have little choice but to conclude that some of the intelligence related to Iraq's nuclear weapons program was twisted to exaggerate the Iraqi threat.
Not a hard call.
Out thoughts on this latest revelation are here.
MORE: Props to the Times for including links to the Fitzgerald filing and the Wilson op-ed.