From yesterday's USA Today:
Plame called on to explain varied accountsWASHINGTON — Former CIA officer Valerie Plame should explain "differences" in her various accounts of how her husband was sent to the African nation of Niger in 2002 to investigate reports Iraq was trying to buy uranium there, the vice chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee said.
Plame's differing versions have furthered "misinformation" about the origins of the case that roiled official Washington beginning in July 2003, said Sen. Kit Bond, R-Mo. Plame gave those accounts to the CIA's inspector general, Senate investigators and a House committee in March.
A February 2002 CIA memo released last week as part of a study of pre-Iraq-war intelligence shows that Plame suggested her husband, former State Department official Joseph Wilson, for the Niger trip, Bond said. That "doesn't square" with Plame's March testimony in which she said an unnamed CIA colleague raised her husband's name, Bond told USA TODAY.
Here are Plame's three versions of how Wilson was sent to Niger, Bond said:
•She told the CIA's inspector general in 2003 or 2004 that she had suggested Wilson.
•Plame told Senate Intelligence Committee staffers in 2004 that she couldn't remember whether she had suggested Wilson.
•She told the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee in March that an unidentified person in Vice President Cheney's office asked a CIA colleague about the African uranium report in February 2002. A third officer, overhearing Plame and the colleague discussing this, suggested, "Well, why don't we send Joe?" Plame told the committee.
CIA officials have been unable to verify Plame's March version, Bond said. Paul Gimigliano, a CIA spokesman, said the "public record on the matter is extensive, and, at this point, I can't add anything to it."
The report forwarded below has prompted me to send this on to you and request your comments and opinion. Briefly, it seems that Niger has signed a contract with Iraq to sell them uranium. The IC [Intelligence Community] is getting spun up about this for obvious reasons. The embassy in Niamey has taken the position that this report can't be true — they have such cozy relations with the GON [Government of Niger] that they would know if something like this transpired.
So where do I fit in? As you may recall, [redacted] of CP/[office 2] recently approached my husband to possibly use his contacts in Niger to investigate [a separate Niger matter]. After many fits and starts, [redacted] finally advised that the station wished to pursue this with liaison. My husband is willing to help, if it makes sense, but no problem if not. End of story.
Now, with this report, it is clear that the IC is still wondering what is going on… my husband has good relations with both the PM and the former minister of mines, not to mention lots of French contacts, both of whom could possibly shed light on this sort of activity. To be frank with you, I was somewhat embarrassed by the agency's sloppy work last go-round, and I am hesitant to suggest anything again. However, [my husband] may be in a position to assist. Therefore, request your thoughts on what, if anything, to pursue here. Thank you for your time on this.
The new Senate report is here. Not a lot of MSM coverage of this Plame angle yet (or probably, ever) - here are the UPI/Wash Times and the TPM Daily Muckraker. The TPM notes the story and tells us that NBC News also has it.
MORE: This is quite an impressive aggregator for the Plame commentary, even if it does put me near the top.
LESS CRYPTIC: Patterico notes that "the idea that [Fitzgerald] should have dropped his investigation as soon as he “found out Valerie Plame wasn’t covert” just took a pretty big hit." Well, OK. Jeff, posting at firedoglake, has an expanded version of that argument:
[Fitzgerald's new filings mean] that, whatever Toensing herself or anyone else thinks about Plame's covertness, those pursuing the investigation determined that she was covert under the statute. (And note that Fitzgerald told the Court of Appeals in August 2004 that his attorneys from the USA office in Illinois had participated in analyzing the relevant statutes.) And the basis for this judgment is no great mystery, now that Fitzgerald has released the unclassified summary of Plame's post-2001 CIA career and cover history. Fitzgerald prepared it in response to an order from Reggie Walton back in June 2006 to give to the defense, after Walton determined that the disclosure of the classified materials bearing on Plame's CIA employment would cause serious if not grave damage to national security, a substitution for that classified material.
Interesting - a document prepared by Fitzgerald in June 2006 is now the basis for Fitzgerald's assertion that "[I]t was clear from very early in the investigation that Ms. Wilson qualified under the relevant statute (Title 50, United States Code, Section 421) as a covert agent"? How does that work? Wouldn't it be a bit more convincing if Fitzgerald could demonstrate that some research into Ms. Plame's status had been done and a good faith determination had been made in 2003, or at least, "very early in the investigation"? By June 2006, Fitzgerald was well aware of the challenges being made to his investigation.
Oh, well - I have more fulminations on this point in the "MORE" addendum to yesterday's post, but let me recycle it:
...just how strong was the good faith determination that Ms. Plame was covered by the statute? Did the DoJ run their opinion past CIA Counsel, or anyone? Or did they calculate that it was in their interest to assume the statute was relevant and simply proceed, figuring they would do the work to justify charges under the statute only if more facts emerged to support a charge? In his Oct 2005 press conference Fitzgerald did spend a lot of time on the improbable claim that investigators investigate facts, not statutes, and only open the statute books after the facts are in. Made no sense, but that was his position then. Now we are supposed to believe it was "clear from very early in the investigation", and presume they did the work to support it. Work the CIA Counsel has yet to complete. Hmm.
Well. IMHO, the original investigators did proceed in good faith, confident that until they had established some basic facts they could not rule in or out charges under the IIPA, the Espionage Act, or maybe something else.