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October 12, 2003

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Nick

we have an Admin official calling reporters to discredit Wislon and his report without mentioning the wife.

How exactly did this Admin official manage to tell the WaPo reporter that Wilson's trip was "set up as a boondoggle by his wife" without mentioning his wife?

The Kid

Nick –

Braille.

"Edward"

If you're interested, I've posted the actual text of the statute in question, along with some comments. After reading the statute, I think one conclusion is certain -- setting aside whether it was morally or ethically correct to leak Plame's ID -- it was not illegal.

Alex Parker

Edward,

You've got a point, but other sources suggest she may have worked abroad within the last five years.

The Washington Post human interest piece claimed that the Wilson's neighbors said she travels a lot on business. She's been married to Wilson for five years--the math fits.

Also, the Kristof piece does say she was moving into State Department cover---wouldn't that be for traveling abroad? Not conclusive, I know, but does suggest she has kept up contacts, etc., abroad.

TM

Nick - re: "How exactly did this Admin official manage to tell the WaPo reporter that Wilson's trip was "set up as a boondoggle by his wife" without mentioning his wife?"

Beats me. Looks like I picked a bad morning to give up crystal meth.

I had been thinking of the non-mention of the wife's name (and actually said so at the start of that paragraph) - Amb. Wilson had specifically said that mentioning her maiden name was especially damaging, and other critics have pointed to it as evidence of sinister intent.

Evidently, I couldn't hold that thought to the end of the paragraph. Bummer.

furious

Amb. Wilson outed his own wife's maiden name in his bio at some Middle-East think-tank:

(scroll to the end):
http://www.mideasti.org/html/bio-wilson.html

The copyright at the bottom of the page says "2002".

Swopa

Gee, furious, if that Web page mentioned that his wife was a CIA employee, you might have something there.


Oh, and TM, for all the sneering you do with regard to Wilson's comments about his wife's maiden name, the White House seems to have taken them quite seriously. To quote this morning's Washington Post:

On July 22, Wilson appeared on NBC's "Today" show and said that disclosing the name of a U.S. intelligence officer would be "a breach of national security," could compromise that officer's entire network of contacts and could be a violation of federal law.

Wilson said that brought an immediate halt to the reports he had been getting of anonymous attacks on him by White House officials.

Kind of like how the White House officially admitted it shouldn't have used the "16 words" the day after Wilson's NYT op-ed.

For a guy you don't find very credible, Wilson sure knows how to make the WH jump when he talks. How would you explain that discrepancy?

Paul Zrimsek

The most remarkable information in the story to me was Wilson's claim that it was "present and former senior administration officials" who told him to go public with his beef. If true, it's a blow to the rather lame tu quoque defense which holds that Wilson was the real villain of the piece for taking them up on their advice.

Ratherworried

If someone broke the law they should go to jail...that said...

This story gets lamer as time goes on. Wilson's wife has gone from a super secret cloak and dagger operative (read some of the early stories about this!), to a CIA analyst and now to something in between sort of 'in transition' to the State's Department...you know, in order for someone to actually get convicted of a crime, there needs to be no reasonable doubt...also a crime helps.

Not the sort of defense you republicans probably want to make, but the facts would seem to leave some reasonable doubt as to her actual status. It is probably only the Bush administrations' desire to catch the leakers that has turned this into an 'investigation' at all.

Comparisons to Agee are now completely off the mark and downright absurd. He was exposing active operatives *in the field* not former CIA operatives 10 years ago who were riding a desk at Langley when they were outed. Please do not demean the lives of the CIA employees he put in danger to this current almost completely manufactured 'scandal'.

Like so many previous stories and scandals this is probably going to fade as the smoke doesn't lead to a fire but to a bunch of democrats with a smoke machine...

TM

Swopa: If you are asking me whether Amb. Wilson has a flair for the dramatc exaggeration, I agree - we are still waiting for Karl Rove to be frog marched out of the White House; although Wilson claimed to have chosen his words with care when said that, he later retracted it.

He also dramatically claimed to the NY Times readership that Bush's 16 words were wrong; the CIA had not found his report nearly as conclusive, and had focussed on his mention of an Iraqi trade mission looking for uranium, but I guess he forgot about that when he wrote his op-ed piece.

SO, yes, if we can believe him, the phone calls may have stopped after his television appearance; and if we can believe him, the administration may have suggested he go public.

Given his track record, I am not in a hurry to take him at his word. In any case, if he had a confidentiality agreement with the CIA (and why wouldn't he?), surely he got more than a verbal release from an NSC staffer fed up with getting his phone calls?

TM

Oh, and "RatherWorried" is RatherFunny. Where there's smoke...

Swopa

TM's version:

He also dramatically claimed to the NY Times readership that Bush's 16 words were wrong . . .

Reality:

Then, in January, President Bush, citing the British dossier, repeated the charges about Iraqi efforts to buy uranium from Africa.

The next day, I reminded a friend at the State Department of my trip and suggested that if the president had been referring to Niger, then his conclusion was not borne out by the facts as I understood them. He replied that perhaps the president was speaking about one of the other three African countries that produce uranium: Gabon, South Africa or Namibia. At the time, I accepted the explanation. I didn't know that in December, a month before the president's address, the State Department had published a fact sheet that mentioned the Niger case.

Those are the facts surrounding my efforts. The vice president's office asked a serious question. I was asked to help formulate the answer. I did so, and I have every confidence that the answer I provided was circulated to the appropriate officials within our government.

The question now is how that answer was or was not used by our political leadership. If my information was deemed inaccurate, I understand (though I would be very interested to know why). If, however, the information was ignored because it did not fit certain preconceptions about Iraq, then a legitimate argument can be made that we went to war under false pretenses.

Mark Amerman

Swopa,

Are you aware of this?

Quote:

"In an effort to inquire about certain reports
involving Niger, CIA's counter-proliferation experts,
on their own initiative, asked an individual with
ties to the region to make a visit to see what he
could learn. 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 person speaking above is George Tenet, director
of the CIA. Joseph Wilson is the "individual with ties
to the region."

As you know this contradicts with what Wilson said and
implied in the New York Times op-ed.

TM

Swopa is well aware of this, and seems to enjoy re-hashing this subject on every comment thread I have open. He will keep up his criticism unless I get exactly the correct phrasing to satisfy his point. However, what his point is eludes me - there seems to be no doubt that Wilson's NY Times op-ed was misleading.

But I guess this time, I was not exactly right in my phrasing of where Wilson went wrong - well done, Swopa!

So, although the piece was titled "What I Didn't Find In Africa", and it included the thought that "If, however, the information was ignored because it did not fit certain preconceptions about Iraq, then a legitimate argument can be made that we went to war under false pretenses", it would be wrong, wrong, wrong to suggest that Wilson said or implied that the "16 Words" were wrong.

There are a lot of relevant links in this post.

Cecil Turner

Wilson has now been identified as a source for two stories which directly contradict his later account:

“that envoy reported to the C.I.A. and State Department that the information was unequivocally wrong and that the documents had been forged.” Nicholas Kristof, New York Times, May 6

“After returning to the United States, the envoy reported to the CIA that the uranium-purchase story was false, the sources said. Among the envoy's conclusions was that the documents may have been forged because the "dates were wrong and the names were wrong," the former U.S. government official said.” Walter Pincus, Washington Post, June 12

In his op-ed, Wilson stated he never saw the documents. These are bald-faced lies on a central issue, and IMO the most telling indicators of Wilson's veracity.

Swopa

Ahh, TM, always so graceful when you're wrong about something. Thanks!

And actually, I don't believe I've "re-hashed" the subject of Tenet's spin since this thread, where I asked you this question:

. . . the CIA's differing evaluation, which you call Wilson dishonest for not citing, was issued in the Tenet statement five days AFTER Wilson's NYT op-ed. Is Wilson a phony because he hasn't mastered time travel?

As far as I know, you never got around to answering that. Care to take a swing at it now?

BTW, the comment by "William" in the thread that TM links to debunks his complaints in that thread. For further explanation on that, as well as Mark and Cecil's objections, I'll defer to Wilson himself (in the interview that William links to).

On the incident cited by Tenet:

One of my interlocutors said that on the fringes of an international conference he was attending, he was approached by a Niger businessman who asked him to meet with an Iraqi delegation. He said that because of alarm bells going off in his mind about UN sanctions and everything else, he declined to take the meeting, and then, rather pensively, he looked up--and sort of plumbing the depths of his mind--

TPM: This when he's talking to you?

WILSON: This is when he was talking to me. He said, "Gee, maybe he would have wanted to talk about uranium." Now, I reported all of that because it seemed to me that I'd been asked to report on everything I'd found out, and that this was just sort of one of these other little tidbits. It never constituted in my mind--it was even thinner gruel than what I had found out about how the process could work. The fact that there was a meeting or a visit in which uranium was not discussed does not translate into purchased a significant quantities of uranium. 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.

On how his trip implied that the documents he hadn't seen were forged:

Again, it comes down to, the question was, Could Iraq purchase significant quantities--a quantity, 500 tons--of uranium from Niger without anybody knowing about it? Was it feasible? I came back and said, the business side of it says no and the government side of it says, because people told me--not because people told me but because this is the way that the procedure is--the government side suggests that, if there was going to be a memorandum of sale, that document would have to have the Minister of Mines, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, and the Prime Minister's signature on it. If that document did not have those signatures, then that document could not be authentic.

I look forward to further quibbles.

Cecil Turner

I suppose it is just barely possible Wilson intuited the documents were forgeries, and the CIA never checked them for a year after being told by Wilson they were forgeries. (Though in that case, Ms Plame's outing is no big deal, because she and everyone in her section is desperately incompetent.) But if he told the CIA the documents were forgeries, why didn't he say that in his op-ed?

And how can you possibly reconcile him reporting to the CIA that the "dates were wrong and the names were wrong" with "As for the actual memorandum, I never saw it. But news accounts have pointed out that the documents had glaring errors — they were signed, for example, by officials who were no longer in government — and were probably forged"? And again, why in the latter statement does he claim news accounts say they were probably forged and make no mention of telling the CIA debriefer about it?

I’ll also note that you and Wilson continue to conflate “sought” with “bought.” The President asserted the former (nobody claimed the latter), so a mountain of evidence that sales never took place, or that it’s impossible to sneak 500 tons of uranium out of the mines, is completely irrelevant.

Swopa

if he told the CIA the documents were forgeries, why didn't he say that in his op-ed?

The rather obvious possibility here is that Kristof overstated what Wilson told him. The subsequent Pincus article is very close to Wilson's own account -- i.e., he investigated the timing of Iraq-Niger contacts and the process needed to establish a memorandum of sale, and the information was inconsistent with what appeared on the forged documents (which he could have been told about without being shown the documents).

I’ll also note that you and Wilson continue to conflate “sought” with “bought.”

But I would also note from Wilson's account that in the encounter that Tenet stretches to define as "an attempt to discuss uranium sales," (1) there was never any meeting of any sort between an Iraqi and a Niger government official, and (2) the word "uranium" never crossed anyone's lips.

If you tried really hard, could you manage to spin that into an attempt by Iraq to purchase uranium from Niger? Sure. And that's exactly the kind of exaggeration which, piled on top of dozens of similar exaggerations, leads to invading a country to quash its supposed nuclear threat only to find that it hasn't had an active nuclear program in years.

Mark Amerman

Swopa,

One thing your forgetting here is that the White House
likely didn't even know that Joseph Wilson went to
Niger. They had requested that the CIA look into it.
What the CIA reported back to the White House, insofar
as it had any thing to do with Wilson, would have
been something similar to George Tenet's account.

Joseph Wilson as many have noted couldn't even be
bothered to write a report to the CIA of what he
discovered. The "TPM" interview would have been
considerably after the event. On the other hand
he spoke to the CIA immediately after returning
from Niger and of course they transcribed what he
said.

I'll bet George Tenet's account is closer to
the spirit of what he said to the CIA than the "TPM"
interview which is after he's been caught in a
deception on this precise issue. Of course he's going
to strive to minimize this!

But it doesn't change things that much anyway. If
Joseph Wilson writes an op-ed to the New York Times
claiming in effect that he found no evidence that
Iraq sought uranium from Niger and he doesn't mention
this, directly from his own experience, then he's
deceiving us all.

Mark Amerman

Actually it isn't a question of who to believe: Joseph
Wilson or the CIA. Because if you go back and compare
the two statements they amount to the same thing.

The CIA statement is a concise statement of what Wilson
said happened, minus the probably only in the TPM interview
Wilsonian histronics that this is too minor to matter,
something that he should be forgiven for having left
out of his account in New York op-ed -- despite the
fact that it contradicts the op-ed.

Here's Wilson in the TPM interview:

"One of my interlocutors said that on the fringes of
an international conference he was attending, he was
approached by a Niger businessman who asked him to
meet with an Iraqi delegation. He said that because
of alarm bells going off in his mind about UN sanctions
and everything else, he declined to take the meeting,
and then, rather pensively, he looked up--and sort of
plumbing the depths of his mind--

TPM: This when he's talking to you?

WILSON: This is when he was talking to me. He said,
"Gee, maybe he would have wanted to talk about uranium."


Here's what the CIA reported Wilson told them:

"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."


By the way, is it reasonable for Wilson's source to imagine
the Iraqi delegation exploring "commercial relations"
was about uranium?

Well, yes, given that Niger's main export is yellowcake,
and aside from that they export livestock, cowpeas, onions
and a small amount of cotton, and, yes, given that this
particular Niger official's domain covered yellowcake
transactions, it would be surprising if he thought it
were about anything else.

I also have trouble imagining Saddam Hussein sending
a delegation out to the middle of africa to buy
livestock, cowpeas or onions. That's not exactly a
rationale economic move, even with UN sanctions
which by the way did not cover food.


Wilson's TPM interview gives the additional datum that the
'businessmen' was a Niger businessman. And that raises
a question: Did Wilson seek to find this Niger businessmen
who obviously is going to know more about the Iraqi
delegation? Did Wilson even ask his source who the Niger
businessman was, so that others could pursue this?

TM

From Swopa:

. . . the CIA's differing evaluation, which you call Wilson dishonest for not citing, was issued in the Tenet statement five days AFTER Wilson's NYT op-ed. Is Wilson a phony because he hasn't mastered time travel?

As far as I know, you never got around to answering that. Care to take a swing at it now?

Interestingly, earlier in the thread, in a comment responding to you, I had said:

"He [Wilson] then tells people "I didn't find anything". What he means is, "I found something that, evidently, the CIA thought was important, but I disagree with their assessment". Not the same at all, and a very reasonable point for a WH staffer to point out."

Would it help if I repeated that? Does it only count as an answer if I say it three times? Or, put another way, why am I wasting my time responding to you?

And on the subject of unaddressed issues, I had said this:

"on the short list of constructive suggestions, Swopa - you have a blog. Take a moment to articulate your concerns, and post them. I have linked to you before, and the odds are I will do so again, probably in an update to this post."

Cecil Turner

Swopa,

The Pincus piece has the "dates were wrong and the names were wrong," statement. It’s hard to see how Wilson would know that without looking at the documents. ISTM that one is more damaging, not less.

And Kristof’s June 13 article goes even farther: “First, the documents seemed phony on their face — for example, the Niger minister of energy and mines who had signed them had left that position years earlier.” Which is again inconsistent with Wilson’s later article.

Tenet said “There was no mention in the report of forged documents -- or any suggestion of the existence of documents at all.” Which is perfectly consistent with the fact that they’d just made the major embarrassing mistake of providing the IAEA with “crude forgeries.”

Somebody here is lying. And it sure looks to me like it’s Wilson. It’s telling that he prevaricates when he’s an anonymous source, and then has to recant when he writes his own article. It also matches his later “Rove in handcuffs” pattern of making an exaggerated claim and then having to back off.

Back to “sought,” the point of the African uranium claim is not that Iraq was close to producing a weapon. Even if they had managed to buy the uranium, and had an enrichment method, they were still many months from producing the required fissile material—and nobody ever claimed otherwise. The point of trying to buy uranium was that it violated UN sanctions and showed intent. David Kay’s discoveries of secret labs and stashes of documents and equipment in scientists’ homes confirm that intent beyond any reasonable doubt.

Swopa

"He [Wilson] then tells people "I didn't find anything". What he means is, "I found something that, evidently, the CIA thought was important, but I disagree with their assessment". Not the same at all, and a very reasonable point for a WH staffer to point out."

Would it help if I repeated that? Does it only count as an answer if I say it three times? Or, put another way, why am I wasting my time responding to you?

At least you're not wasting much time reading my words before you respond to them. :-)

How could Wilson know what "the CIA thought was important" when Tenet's statement came out five days AFTER Wilson's NYT op-ed?


And on the subject of unaddressed issues, I had said this:

"on the short list of constructive suggestions, Swopa - you have a blog. Take a moment to articulate your concerns, and post them. I have linked to you before, and the odds are I will do so again, probably in an update to this post."

In fact, I have quite a few Plame posts over the last several days. I thought you'd been reading, but I guess not. :-)

Cecil Turner

Swopa

On the original point, Wilson doesn't have to be prescient to anticipate Tenet's view, because he provided the source information. If he truly thought it was "nothing," he wouldn't have brought it up in his debriefing. Obviously he did--which is not the same thing.

On the response thing, TM is not obligated to respond to your posts. Though I bet he'd be more likely to if he weren't constantly getting insulted. Implying he can't read is nonsensical. Smiley faces at the end don't help. (It is better than calling him a liar, so improvement is noted.) But again, if you really want a response, lose the ad-hominems.

However, that piece you quoted is a response (which I believe was his point--not that the advice contained therin is currently operative). You then commit the same sin you accuse him of, pretending he could foresee your posts when he wrote it.

Swopa

Wilson doesn't have to be prescient to anticipate Tenet's view, because he provided the source information. If he truly thought it was "nothing," he wouldn't have brought it up in his debriefing. Obviously he did--which is not the same thing.

I think objective people considering this subject can grasp the difference between a verbal debriefing (which is not limited in length) and an op-ed in the New York Times (which is).

If you cannot, I don't think I can help you.

Cecil Turner

I think most of us can grasp the concept of a lie, as well. Like "I told them the documents had been forged," followed by "I never actually saw the documents."

This is another in the same vein. It's damaging to his "there wasn't anything there" case, so he left it out. If it were a peripheral point, it'd be excusable. It's not.

The comments to this entry are closed.

Wilson/Plame