I have received, by email, an excerpt from a column which appeared in the Wednesday Wall Street Journal. Gabriel Schoenfeld was reviewing a new book by BBC security reporter Gordon Corera, Shopping For Bombs, which is about the nuclear network put together by Pakistan's A.Q. Khan. The excerpt:
By the close of the 1990s, the CIA started to scrutinize [A. Q.] Khan's activities and travels, still without realizing their full importance. One of the more curious details in Mr. Corera's book is that the agency turned to Joe Wilson, the husband of CIA officer Valerie Plame, to investigate some of Khan's African visits. To this end, Mr. Wilson traveled to uranium-rich Niger in 1999, a full three years before he went there to investigate Saddam Hussein's possible attempts to buy "yellowcake" uranium. Mr. Wilson found nothing worrisome in Niger either time.
There is news here, for me anyway - the SSCI told us that the CIA sent Joe Wilson to Niger in 1999 (at his wife's suggestion) but found nothing to report. This is from p. 49 (of 521) of the .pdf SSCI report, with redactions:
The former ambassador had traveled previously to Niger on the CIA's behalf |xxxxxxx|. The former ambassador was selected for the 1999 trip after his wife mentioned to her supervisors that her husband was planning a business trip to Niger in the near future and might be willing to use his contacts in the region |^ ^ ^ ^ | . Because the former ambassador did not uncover any information about |xxxxx| during this visit to Niger, CPD did not distribute an intelligence report on the visit.
Christoper Hitchens recently pounded the table with the news that Saddam sent a nuclear ambassador to Niger in 1999. And the story of Khan going to Niger came out in 2000. However, the notion that Wilson was sent to Niger in 1999 to investigate a Khan connection is news to me.
The SSCI is redacted but may have addressed this (p. 48):
Several analysts interviewed by Committee staff also pointed out that information in the second intelligence report matched ^ ^ ^ H ^ ^ m ^ ^ l B H ^ ^ H H I ^ ^ ^ I • m ^ l reporting from 1999 which showed that an Algerian businessman, Baraka, was arranging a trip for the Iraqi Ambassador to the Vatican, Wissam al-Zahawi, to visit Niger and other African countries in early February 1999.
The Baraka visit was in February; Joe Wilson noted a June 1999 contact in his report (p. 53):
[Former Nigerien Prime Minister Ibrahim] Mayaki said, however, that in June 1999, | ^ ^ ^ H ^ H | ^ m ^ | ^ | businessman, approached him and insisted that Mayaki meet with an Iraqi delegation to discuss "expanding commercial relations" between Niger and Iraq. The intelligence report said that Mayaki interpreted "expanding commercial relations" to mean that the delegation wanted to discuss uranium yellowcake sales. The intelligence report also said that "although the meeting took place, Mayaki let the matter drop due to the UN sanctions on Iraq."
What does it mean? I would like to start by getting a bootleg copy of the Gabriel Schoenfeld piece before I hazard a guess.