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September 28, 2003

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Emma

Tom, as this thing explodes, I'll remember that you were the first and most dogged blogger covering the story. If there were blogger Pulitzers, you'd be up for one. As usual, your analysis is cogent and relevant. Now that I've read your piece, I'll go see what Mark, Kevin, and Josh have to say. Oh, and point my several readers here.

Thanks.

Economia

Smile away, you won't be smiling for long.

This story ran on page A01 of the Washington Post. If the "senior Administration official" was trying to bury the story, he failed. The WP knows the names of the two officials and still used the phrase two "top White House officials." These aren't third level staffers.

There is going to be a serious quesiton of whether the White House conducted their own investigation. If not why not and if so who was punished? Does the President condone this sort of behavior?

Further, "truth" is no defense. The law doesn't say that you can out covert operatives as long as you have something you, in truth, don't like about them.

Condi Rice offered a absolutely no denial of the seriousness of all this on the AM programs.

Smile away.

Jon H

My guess (though I won't bet) is that it'll be Rove and Bartlett, who go way back together and with Bush, and who have no real career apart from their decade+ of work for Bush.

Plus Bartlett's young, and it's not unheard of for young, bright, overconfident people to do really stupid criminal things.

Jon H

Interesting tangential tidbit from that Contrarian Review link:

"he took the view that going to war with Iraq would have more public support if people thought that it was involved with the September 11 attack and that if officials said it often enough, the public would believe it. In fact, one poll published shortly before the war began showed that 42 percent of the American people believe that Iraq was involved in the attack. "

So the number of people who thought Iraq was involved in 9/11 actually increased, dramatically, from before the war to after the war?!?!?

Hatcher

Solely for what it's worth... a former boss of Plame tells me that she was never under cover to the best of his knowledge. I wasn't there, so I can't vouch for it, but I've no reason to contradict, either.

Jon Henke

"So the number of people who thought Iraq was involved in 9/11 actually increased, dramatically, from before the war to after the war?!?!?"


- - -Not according to the Washington Post, whose polling data indicated that the public belief that Saddam was involved actually fell.
Unlike the ContrarianReview, you can even check me up on that.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/politics/polls/vault/stories/data082303.htm

Not to mention the fact that Bush never DID actually connect the two, except to say they were both part of the general war on terror.

Oh, and there was the time that he said "What IF those 19 attackers had Saddams WMDs"? (not verbatim)

Hard to argue that he tried to connect them when he specifically implied that they were not connected.

TM

As to my question about whether the truth is a defense, man, take away my drolleries and all I will be left with is jibes at the Red Sox. Which may be enough for a few more weeks, actually.

Obviously, if the agent you out is truly an agent, it is hardly a defense to say that it's true. My point, obscured by my own inanity, was that, IF there are no national security implications, the aides can argue that, in their opinion, the public was entitled to know the circumstances under which the Ambassador was selected.

I happen to think it is a weak argument, but it would be helped a teeny bit by being true - dragging Ms. Wilson into the mix raises this from "lying smear" to "true but irrelevant smear", which, the way this story is going, is a huge upgrade.

Jesurgislac

According to a British news source, "After Ms Plame was named, the CIA launched a widescale investigation to ascertain whether any of her overseas contacts had been put at risk. That investigation continues." Yeah. I bet it does.

I'd guess the timeline goes something like this:

1. Novak blows Plame's cover.
2. The CIA start a widescale investigation into Plame's overseas contacts,
3. and (I'd guess) an internal investigation to establish the facts to *their* satisfaction.
4. Having completed (3) and got as far with (2) as practicable, the CIA invite the Justice Department to investigate the White House.

That would go far to explain the considerable delay between Novak's leak and the CIA's first public move: the CIA wanted to make sure they had everything solid before they took it public. George Tenet understands that this is the kind of scandal that brings down administrations.


Tom Bowler

My suspicion tells me that Hatcher has it right, Plame was not undercover. But aside from that, this whole situation is truly weird, and I wonder that it hasn't been put to bed. Here are some of the things that bug me about it.

The controversial statement was that "British intelligence has learned" the Hussein "sought" uranium. The press refers to this as the "now discredited claim", and that the administration has "backed away" from it.

1. But, according to Tony Blair, the British stand by their intelligence, so how is it the "16 words" are "discredited"?
2. The administration has said the "16 words" shouldn't have been in the SOTU, but not that they comprise an untrue statement. This suggests to me that "backing away" means they should not have used what might be considered "hearsay" from foreign intelligence, but used only things that could be confirmed by our own intelligence.
3. In Ambassador Wilson's op-ed, he says he found "no such transaction took place". At that time he seemed not to address the issue Iraqi "attempts" to procure uranium, only whether or not they were able to get it. So, his op-ed statement on its face doesn't contradict the SOTU "16 words".
4. It has been only recently that news reports on Ambassador Wilson's story changed from "no such transaction took place" to "he found no evidence" of Iraqi attempts to acquire uranium. Was he looking for evidence of Iraqi attempts to procure? Is that what he was asked to do?

It looks to me like a lot of sensationalism. Are we being persuaded that Ambassador Wilson has cleared Iraq of the charge of trying to procure uranium in Africa, and that he was able to do this on an eight day trip to Niger much of which he says he spent drinking tea with old friends? Which is the more credible source, Blair or Wilson?

TM

Actually, Wilson misrepresented his report when he first came to fame in the NY Times on July 6 - he said that he demonstrated that Niger could not have sold uranium. However, the CIA seized on something else he mentioned to them (but not to Times readers) - agents of Saddam (brr, sinister!) were sniffing around Niger trying to purchase uranium.

The CIA and the Brits (later) took this news and said, well, we're glad he didn't buy any, but we're also concerned that he is trying.

So the latest characterization of the Wilson report is actually flat out false.

Let's see, I can't do links today for some reason, but this is mentioned at the top of my July 22 timeline. George Tenet, July 11, IIRC.

Swopa

Tom Bowler and TM, your characterizations don't match what Wilson said in his TPM interview.

Sounds like you're reading oversimplifications from biased sources, and believing them.

Please double-check your claims against http://talkingpointsmemo.com/sept0304.html#092203920pm

TM

uhh, Swopa, could you be more specific? I actually have read (and posted about) that interview. If you have a specific point, I would love to respond to it.

TM

Just to support the point I made, here is Wilson's NY Times debut, "What I Didn't Find in Africa"; here is George Tenet's response; and here is British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw.

I'll just excerpt Tenet:

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 former officials also offered details regarding Niger's processes for monitoring and transporting uranium that suggested it would be very unlikely that material could be illicitly diverted. There was no mention in the report of forged documents -- or any suggestion of the existence of documents at all.

Because this report, in our view, did not resolve whether Iraq was or was not seeking uranium from abroad, it was given a normal and wide distribution, but we did not brief it to the President, Vice-President or other senior Administration officials.

Now, find that in the NY Times account!

Tom Bowler

Swopa,
My comments were about Ambassador Wilson's July 6, 2003 NYT op-ed, not his interview with TPM. In it he says, "Vice President Dick Cheney's office had questions about a particular intelligence report. While I never saw the report, I was told that it referred to a memorandum of agreement that documented the sale of uranium yellowcake". Then he says, "It did not take long to conclude that it was highly doubtful that any such transaction had ever taken place."

That says to me, his purpose in going over was to check out a particular transaction, not rule out the possibility the Iraq was seeking uranium Africa. It strikes me as highly plausible that what Ambassador said was true, and what British intelligence found was true. You are perfectly free to believe that Tony Blair was lying when he said he stands by the British intelligence reports that Bush referenced in the SOTU. I happen to think he was telling the truth. What I don't see is how one person could spend eight days chatting with friends and drinking tea, and be able to say with a degree of certainty there were no attemtps by Iraq to acquire uranium anywhere in Africa.

Swopa

TM, here's the link:

http://talkingpointsmemo.com/sept0304.html#092203920pm

The relevant info is in Wilson's first three answers (skip to the end of the first one).

He describes (1) an Iraqi emissary meeting with Niger officials, but uranium never being discussed, and (2) a Niger official declining an offer to meet with an Iraqi delegation, but guessing (in talking to Wilson) that maybe they would have discussed uranium.

So, although Wilson also says, "I've spent enough time there not to be so naive as to believe that the Iraqis were interested in Niger for its millet, sorghum production," it's still stretching the evidence to say they was a definite attempt to purchase uranium -- and especially so to call any other characterization "flat out false."

Mr. Bowler, if you have the courage to read the TPM interview (including the first installment), you'll see exactly what Wilson was looking into and the extensiveness of his research. If you're afraid of challenging your comfortable preconceptions, fine.

Wilson looked into whether Iraq could have acquired uranium from Niger. Has Britain ever identified another specific country Iraq supposedly sought uranium from?

TM

Look, I have read several attempts by the Ambassador to downplay the signifance of that conversation - TIME had another - but he (and you) really ought to take that up with the CIA. The fact is, based on Tenet's statement, the CIA found that news to be significant, regardless of how Wilson felt about it, and regardless of how he now thinks they should have done their job.

Swopa

Thanks, but I don't think I need to take anything up with the CIA. :-) At least we're in the right ballpark now, talking about the CIA's interpretation of what Wilson reported to them, rather than the absolute fact you presented it as.

Do I really need to point out that the CIA's interpretation of intelligence information isn't exactly looking flawless these days?

Tom Bowler

Swopa,

"It's of keen interest to me to see whether or not we can get Karl Rove frog-marched out of the White House in handcuffs. And trust me, when I use that name, I measure my words."
- Joseph C. Wilson 8/21/03

Then on Good Morning America
http://www.newsmax.com/archives/ic/2003/9/29/143328.shtml
'But he told ABC's "Good Morning America" on Monday that he got "carried away" and made up the Rove allegation out of thin air.

"In one speech I gave out in Seattle not too long ago, I mentioned the name Karl Rove," Wilson told GMA. "I think I was probably carried away by the spirit of the moment."

Wilson then confessed, "I don't have any knowledge that Karl Rove himself was either the leaker or the authorizer of the leak."'

He measured his words? Out of all the people involved in this controversy, Wilson is the one who is most credible to you? Talk about preconceived notions. The one thing he said that we can be sure of that he has this "keen interest" to get Karl Rove.

Jon Henke

"At least we're in the right ballpark now, talking about the CIA's interpretation of what Wilson reported to them, rather than the absolute fact you presented it as."


- - -Swopa, nothing in Wilsons refutation was "fact".....it was all his opinion.
Valid enough, as far as opinion goes in these cases.

However, one of the FACTS that he reported was that a a Niger official DID report that he believed Iraq may have been trying to seek uranium.

It is NOT a fact that Iraq was trying to seek uranium...it IS a fact that a Niger official believed such *might* be the case.

Perhaps you are simply confused about the difference between the opinions Wilson presented and the facts.

Swopa

Tom B.,

I think Wilson did measure his words -- he just didn't realize they would be circulated so widely over the Internet. When that happened, he backed off from a charge for which he didn't have firsthand evidence.

Wilson has, however, explained that some of the reporters who called him about the Plame leak mentioned Rove's name. So he didn't "make it up out of thin air."

Moreover, remember that several journalists and people in WH know exactly who the guilty parties are. In yesterday's press session, the reporters were very agressive in asking about Rove's involvement -- and WH spokesman McClellan was

(Jon H., I'm not sure what point you're making. I agree with your middle two sentences, for whatever that's worth.)

Swopa

LOL, well, that got messed up. (Note to self: The "preview" button is your friend!) To pick up where I left off:

... WH spokesman McClellan was visibly nervous in answering their questions (for an excerpt, see http://www.needlenose.com/pMachineFree2.2.1/weblog.php?id=P479). You do the math.

Incidentally, if your wife was a CIA employee, and I blew her cover as part of an attempted political smear, you'd have a "keen interest" in seeing me punished for it, too.

barry

Makes for interesting reading. I live in thge midwest and try to keep up on current events,but this is scary stuff.I hope the irresponible parties are dealt with. I think the presidentand some of his top people have too much power since 9/11,and power can corrupt.

Meban

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