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September 29, 2003

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William

Hi Tom,

If you read the big interview with Joseph Wilson at Talking Points Memo, http://talkingpointsmemo.com/docs/wilson.interview.pdf, you'll see that he isn't too impressed by the "attempt" to buy uranium. The money quote (top of page 17) is:

The fact that there was a meeting that was not taken, that was not held, but had it been held, one of the participants opines that perhaps uranium might have been one of the things that this guy might have wanted to discuss, does not suggest uranium sales or significant quantities of uranium from Niger to Iraq. So, those were both--I thought those were both really red herrings.

I agree with you that "no evidence" of any attempt is a bit strong. But it's true to say that Wilson found no evidence that any attempt had got past the casual, exploratory stage. The NYT should have got it right, but I don't think that sentence is seriously misleading.

IceCold

I can hardly believe it -- someone is actually dealing in a careful and serious way with the underlying issue!

To this day, the routine phrase used by major media in reference to the SOTU Sixteen is "discredited reports" of Iraqi uranium shopping. Of course this is completely and indefensibly inaccurate. As your post and the first comment remind us, the assessment made by the UK (and apparently another intel service) on the matter is, at most, "disputed."

Since none of us have access to the original reporting or analysis on which the President's SOTU statement was based, and the CIA has not divulged the reasons for their doubts, we're left to wonder. But on currently public info, no one has any basis for calling the assessment referenced in the SOTU "discredited." And Wilson's reporting didn't change the UK's position on the matter.

Amusingly, today's WaPo article on the intel issues related to the Wilson thing -- in its very last paragraph -- reports yet another British reaffirmation of their assessment:

"As for the information provided by the other British source, the committee said that after questioning the SIS 'about the basis of its judgment,' it had determined the dossier statement on Iraq seeking uranium in Africa was "reasonable."

(This was the very last paragraph. Typcial. Imagine a WaPo or NYT or Reuters article pointing out that the UK stood by its assessment, with this sort of info in the lead, and a headline like "UK Still Backs Bush Uranium Reference". OK, I was just kidding, it's unimaginable.)

And of course PM Blair publicly reaffirmed his confidence in the assessment during his summer visit to Washington.

I'll bet many people who read the WaPo story (all the way through, of course) will be shocked to learn that the President's famous SOTU passage is far from being based on "discredited" intel.

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