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October 06, 2003



I found Wilson’s campaign contribution patterns interesting. Here they are.

Pre-trip contributions:
3/26/99 $2,000.00 to Gore 2000 Inc
4/22/99 ($1,000.00) to Gore 2000 Inc (refund of overage)
4/22/99 $1,000.00 to Gore 2000 Inc (from spouse)
5/13/99 $1,000.00 to Kennedy For Senate 2000
5/20/99 $1,000.00 to Bush For President Inc
2/10/00 $500.00 to Rangel for Congress
2/13/02 $1,000.00 to HILLPAC - Hillary Clinton (must have brought the checkbook along on the Niger trip)

Post-trip contributions:
From this http://www.commondreams.org/news2002/0914-02.htm "> press release

“Press release 9/15/2002 7:26 PM
“A Message to the Iraqi National Assembly from the Honorable Nick Rahall
WASHINGTON - September 15 - I want to thank you for the traditional Iraqi hospitality that our delegation has received since coming to Baghdad.
“We are all aware of the grave crisis presently facing our two countries, the United States and Iraq. I am concerned about the effects that a new war would have on both our countries. For that reason I come as an advocate of peace through dialogue.”

On 9/25/02 Wilson, Joseph C. IV, self employed, contributed $250.00 to Rahall’s campaign. (Rahall won with 70% of the vote – he’s been in the House since 1976.)

On 9/20/02 Wilson gave $500.00 to Alan Blinken’s (D) doomed campaign against Idaho’s Larry Craig. Blinken, a transplanted Wall Street investment banker was the ambassador to Belgium during the Clinton administration, a top Gore fundraiser in 2000, and top Clinton fundraiser in 1992.

On 6/25/00, 6/28/01 and 6/12/02, Wilson gave $500 to the reelection campaign of R-CA representative Ed Royce, Chair of International Relations Subcommittee - Africa. Must be good for bidness.


What strikes me about the Wilson-was-unqualified attack is that it presupposes that the intelligence deserved serious investigation. To the best of my limited knowledge, all information that has emerged about the tip Wilson was sent to investigate indicates that it based on a certain memo, supposedly confiming a yellow cake sale and signed by a Nigerian oil minister. The memo was first dug up by an Italian tabloid, but never run by them, because it was widely considered an incredibly incompetant forgery --- one of its many mistakes being that it was signed by an oil minister who had retired five years before the memo was dated. The tabloid passed it along to Italian intelligence for confirmation, whence it made its way to the British and then to the C.I.A. The C.I.A. considered it an incredibly incompetant forgery from the first, and only sent Wilson to investigate after outside prompting. That was why Wilson was sent, publicly and openly, not a NOC. His mission was less "thouroughly investigate this seemingly legitimate claim" and more "check to see if this is even possible the way our soure is telling it." To which he replied that it wasn't, for a number of technical reasons. (He says in his op-ed that he never saw the actual memo himself). Seymour Hersh first broke this in the New Yorker in March. It may be possible that Wilson was not the best person to send --- though I find it hard to parse how his opposition to a war a year in future disqualified him --- but it ought to be remembered that the intell was bad in the first place, and the C.I.A. knew it from the start.

Or so it woud seem. I get all my info from annoymousl leakers.

Cecil Turner

The CIA never figured out the MOA documents were forgeries (probably because they never checked). The IAEA explained it to them in March.

And it makes mores sense to send someone who might believe something to check on it. His negative report would be much more believable. Otherwise why bother?

But I don't think any of this is the real issue on Wilson's qualifications or whether he was properly assigned. He's obviously not the WMD expert in the family . . . his wife is. The real issue is whether or not he's airing her opinions in the NYTimes. If so, she's entirely relevant to the conversation. His qualifications (professional, not political) are part of the picture, as are the details of how and why he was sent to Niger.


... is Amb. Wilson, former Clinton NSC staffer, unqualified? Mr. Drum may not think so; former Sec'y of State James Baker may not think so; but a disgruntled Iraq hawk might very well think so.

Why should the opinions of neocon hawks be treated like they carry any serious intellectual weight?

They'd question the qualifications of Derek Jeter to play shortstop if it suited their political ends.

Jim Glass

I have a no-doubt stupid question about this whole thing. And I'm not being argumentative or rhetorical, I really don't know the answer as there's been so much printed I haven't had been able to read anywhere near all of it. So it may well be stupid.

We know this: Novak printed what he printed and said he went to his sources to get it, they didn't come to him. We also know that this created no major scandal.

And we know that the scandal didn't erupt until *another* leak occured -- from a "counter leaker" -- claiming the WH had peddled the Wilson & Wife thing to six press sources who didn't use it before resorting to going to Novak.

And *then* the scandal arose because now it appears that an overt program was orchestarted by the WH to out a covert agent for political purposes, and that the program kept going and going until it suceeded.

My simple question is: how do we *know* that the claim that that someone peddled the story to six differrent journalists is true?

The source is just one anonymous leaker, AFIK. Is that right? None of the six alleged targets of the peddlers have confirmed it. Is there any other confirmation that I don't know of?

I mean I hate to be so cynical as to imagine that somebody in State or CIA or a democratic government could be sufficiently Machiavellian, but supposed such a person with enemies on one side of the Administration said "You know, I could call a journalist and *say* the WH peddled this to six journalists who didn't use it, that would surely put some fire under this. And because journalists never give up their sources, everyone will believe it -- with every journalist thinking the peddlees were someone else. And as long as my journalist doesn't give up me, there will be no way in the world for anyone to prove it isn't true."

If that were the case we'd be back to the non-scandal situation where somebody who Novak went to said too much inadvertantly (or on purpose), but there was no active peddling of the info.

Now I'm willing to believe the info was peddled to the six journalists, but is there any second source confirmation of this that I don't know about? Or is it possible that the pedding didn't happen? (And that a single anonymous leaker could be innacurate?)

Like I said, I'm not arguing, just asking in order to get up to speed on things.

Cecil Turner

Mr Glass,

If it's a stupid question, I'll fail the IQ test with you. AFAICT, the only source for that story is the WaPo, and it was from a source who knew of it second-hand (with no explanation of how). Also, the leak came well after the initial revelation.

However, that sort of leak is usually borne out. I'd have expected one of the six to come forward by now at least to say they'd been contacted--but there are legal issues with that, since there may be subpoenas (Instapundit has a couple of good posts on the legal ramifications). I assumed it was true initially. I still think it probably is, but am having some second thoughts.


My simple question is: how do we *know* that the claim that that someone peddled the story to six different journalists is true?

Uhhh ... because the FBI has opened a full-scale criminal investigation, which is only done if they have specific and credible evidence that a crime has been committed?

Because the White House refuses to deny that Karl Rove, Scooter Libby, and/or others talked to reporters about Wilson's wife -- only denying that they "leaked classified information"?

Hang on to your fantasies as long as you want, guys, but you can bet your house or car that this happened.

Cecil Turner


ISTM that one leak (even if it happened exactly as Novak said) could just as eaily generate the reactions you mention.

I tend to agree it probably happened, but I'd use the historical accuracy of insider leaks as the basis. And I'm still perplexed why none of the "six journalists" will come forward.



They won't come forward because they were leaked the information on the condition that they not identify the source.

If the journalists break that promise in this case, potential future sources may not trust them.

Of course, there is a solution -- the White House could require Karl Rove and other staffers to announce that they are releasing journalists from any pledges of confidentiality with regard to conversations about Valerie Wilson (a/k/a Valerie Plame). Then the journalists would be free to come forward, without breaking any promises.

If Bush really does want "to get to the bottom of this" and really does hate anonymous leaking, like he claims, then that's what he'll do. But he won't.

Cecil Turner

Coming forward to admit only that they'd been contacted would not identify the source. And at this point it's newsworthy.

And I doubt they'd consider a forced statement from the leaker as a legitimate release. I wouldn't, in their shoes.


An investigation doesn't mean anyone was called, sorry... we don't know and you don't know. The endless speculation is getting tiresome.


Re: Libby:

McClellan firmly ruled out any involvement in the leak by Vice President Dick Cheney's chief of staff, I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby.

Jon H

The problem with the "Wilson was unqualified" theory is that he was right.

Another problem is that the neocons think Ahmad Chalabi is a fine upstanding guy and excellent source of intelligence, and he's fed us an unremitting stream of bullshit. State and CIA doubted the INC's sources, and, what do you know, the INC's sources were wrong.

So, basically, here's a Neocon job interview:"
" Are you a patsy? Are you a person of no integrity?"

And the required answer is "YES, SIR!"

And Joseph Wilson's problem is that he's a man of integrity and not a patsy. So, therefore, he, his wife, and any intelligence assets she was in contact with, are expendable pieces of meat.

Jon H

Cecil Turner writes: "The real issue is whether or not he's airing her opinions in the NYTimes."

Uh, dummy, he didn't write her opinion. He described his trip. If she didn't go (highly likely since she has young twins), then he can't be airing her opinions.

Oh, yeah. And David Kay agrees with Wilson, only Kay was looking for evidence in Iraq. Didn't find any evidence of Iraq seeking uranium in Africa.

If you don't think Wilson was right, then you've got to throw away David Kay's report, too.


I'm pretty sure we don't need to be calling anyone a dummy.

Now, I have a recollection that one of the reporters called the WaPo (off the record). I don't recall if it was one of the Insidery Six, or someone who was called after Novak published, which would make a big diff.

As noted, the opening of an investigation can occur because there is a credible *allegation* that a crime ocurred - Novak's article was clear evidence that someone leaked something.

Whether that someone had intent (required under the statute) would not be something the folks filing the referral could establish; hence, the investigation.

And the referral was not filed on the basis of six attempted leaks.

So, hmm, not a bad question.

Cecil Turner

Dummy? Come on, Jon.

Wilson says:
"Based on my experience with the administration in the months leading up to the war, I have little choice but to conclude that some of the intelligence related to Iraq's nuclear weapons program was twisted to exaggerate the Iraqi threat." And goes on to say he didn't find anything in Niger. It's hard to see how he draws the conclusion from his visit. He surely didn't rule out the SOTU statement about Iraq having "sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa."

He goes on to question "the selective use of intelligence to justify the war in Iraq," which is far more general than the narrow issue of Nigerian uranium, and something he could only have a very peripheral knowledge of. But just happens to be his wife's area of expertise . . . and she is by all reports a world-class expert. Bit of a coincidence, eh?

Finally, assuming there were Iraqi agents trying to buy uranium, I'm not sure what Kay would have found. You'd think the minimal documentation would be in one of the compartmented intelligence services--and in files that would be high priority for destruction. How failing to find it would discredit the rest of his investigation eludes me.


With emphasis added, this is from the WaPo, Dana Milbank, Sept 30:

Another journalist yesterday confirmed receiving a call from an administration official providing the same information about Wilson's wife **before** the Novak column appeared on July 14 in The Post and other newspapers.

The journalist, who asked not to be identified because of possible legal ramifications, said that the information was provided as part of an effort to discredit Wilson, but that the CIA information was not treated as especially sensitive. "The official I spoke with thought this was a part of Wilson's story that wasn't known and cast doubt on his whole mission," the person said, declining to identify the official he spoke with. "They thought Wilson was having a good ride and this was part of Wilson's story."



"The problem with the 'Wilson was unqualified' theory is that he was right."

Except he was "right" about a straw man... Bush didn't say uranium was sold in Niger, he said there were attempts of transactions in Africa.

Bruce Hayden

Well, with everyone supposedly knowing
everything about this, except for of
course, the public, I am a little
suspicious. How about a second or
third hand leak. Oh, wait, Rove was
fingered, then retracted, with the
claim of him leaking being apparently
politically motivated.

I am at the point right now where if I
don't start seeing credible names both
of the leakers and the leakees, I am
going to start assuming that this is
entirely contrived to blemish the
Bush Administration.

Michael Ham

Wilson, as I recall, said that there was no evidence that Iraq had bought yellowcake from Nigeria or sought to buy it. David Kay said the same thing. Wilson was correct in his report, so it does seem the administration got a good report, though one they might not have wanted.


Cecil and HH,

You might want to take up your Niger-versus-Africa issues with Ari Fleischer:

MR. FLEISCHER: . . . The President's statement was based on the predicate of the yellow cake from Niger. The President made a broad statement. So given the fact that the report on the yellow cake did not turn out to be accurate, that is reflective of the President's broader statement, David. So, yes, the President' broader statement was based and predicated on the yellow cake from Niger.

Q So it was wrong?

MR. FLEISCHER: That's what we've acknowledged with the information on --

Q The President's statement at the State of the Union was incorrect?

MR. FLEISCHER: Because it was based on the yellow cake from Niger.

This was the day after Wilson's op-ed, and it led to the famous "16 words" retraction.

Cecil Turner

The "16 words" are based on a British Intelligence report of uranium ore from Africa. The details weren't passed to the US. George Tenet isn't the expert on the subject, let alone Ari Fleischer. If you want to dispute the SOTU, you have to use the wording in the SOTU. The quote is "Africa" not "Niger."


In a bold attempt to split the difference here, my recollection is that the final, fully parsed WH retraction was not that the "16 Words" were "wrong", but that they did not rise to the level of accuracy and conviction required of a SOTU speech.

At this point, my understanding is that we don't know what the Brits have, but they stand by their report.

Cecil Turner

I think you have it precisely correct. Tenet says in his statement:
"From what we know now, Agency officials in the end concurred that the text in the speech was factually correct - i.e. that the British government report said that Iraq sought uranium from Africa. This should not have been the test for clearing a Presidential address. This did not rise to the level of certainty which should be required for Presidential speeches, and CIA should have ensured that it was removed."

It's probably worth noting here that when the Brits came out with their "dossier" initially (last September), the CIA warned them we had no evidence to support the African connection. The Brits responded they did. News stories at the time were mostly focused on the Congo (including one where 5 Iraqi men were arrested in Kenya trying to travel there on fake passports). ("War-torn Congo is target in Baghdad's hunt for uranium" ,Telegraph, 9/29/02)

For those who say David Kay's report contradicts those claims, here's a passage of interest:
"At least one senior Iraqi official believed that by 2000 Saddam had run out of patience with waiting for sanctions to end and wanted to restart the nuclear program. The Iraqi Atomic Energy Commission (IAEC) beginning around 1999 expanded its laboratories and research activities and increased its overall funding levels." Which seems to mesh well with the other reports.


The details weren't passed to the US. George Tenet isn't the expert on the subject, let alone Ari Fleischer.

How delightful that you know more about the U.S. government's motivations than authorized spokesmen for the U.S. government.

Spin truly knows no bounds, I suppose.

the final, fully parsed WH retraction was not that the "16 Words" were "wrong", but that they did not rise to the level of accuracy and conviction required of a SOTU speech.

Specifically, the problem is/was that standing behind a British claim about which the U.S. has zero information is tantamount to passing along gossip.

The reason it was allowed was that the U.S. thought there was some measure of independent confirmation via the Niger "evidence."

Wilson's point about "selective use of intelligence" is that the government had reason to know earlier (as the controversy over Bush's October speech showed) that the Niger claim was BS.


BTW, as far as I could tell in some quick research, the Congo doesn't have a functioning uranium mine. They have one mine that is flooded and hasn't been used for years.


Somalia has a mine that might fit the rebel theory, if I recall.


I also checked on Somalia -- uranium is listed as one of their natural resources, but as far as I can tell they don't have any mines.


I (are you ready) dug it up a while back. It didn't jump out of google, it took some coaxing.

Let's see, Somalia's mine, my old post, and what appears to be an excerpt from the NIE, as sneak-previewed in the WSJ:

In the next paragraph, the NIE goes on to say that "reports indicate Iraq also has sought uranium ore from Somalia and possibly the Democratic Republic of the Congo." It then adds that "we cannot confirm whether Iraq has succeeded in acquiring uranium ore and/or yellowcake from these sources."

That old post ranks among the wildest goose chases I ever took - the WSJ had an early look at the NIE excerpts released the next day, which I tried to reconcile with Tenet's statement from July 11.

And, props to Cecil, our man in the Congo.

Cecil Turner

Going to the Press Secretary for intelligence information might make sense, if the DCI wasn't talking. But he was, and his statement contradicts Fleischer's. Spin that as you like--the President never claimed anything about "Niger." CNN says:" Sources have said early drafts of the address cited U.S. intelligence about Niger and uranium -- but that intelligence officials urged removal of that line" and it was replaced with the Brit "Africa" claim. That's clearly inconsistent with the meaning of the statements being identical.

You seem to be adamant the President shouldn’t cite British Intelligence information in the SOTU unless the CIA can independently verify it. I agree. Apparently the President, Ms Rice and Mr Tenet do, too.

At any rate, this is much ado about nothing. The “Wilson was right” meme would have us believe that since Wilson didn’t find anything:
1) it must not have been there
2) so Iraq’s WMD must not have been a threat
3) so the President must have lied to get us into war
These are all logical fallacies. Wilson’s not finding it doesn’t mean it’s not there (even if we were just discussing Niger). Yellowcake shopping is a small part of the nuclear program, which was the least advanced of Iraq’s WMD programs (well behind chemicals and biologicals). And “Bush lied” requires you to show he knowingly misrepresented intelligence information. (Which Plame might be qualified to discuss, but Wilson could only have second-hand knowledge of.)

Cecil Turner

Thanks. There was some speculation about Congolese rebels trying to sell uranium, but most analysts didn't think they could deliver (and the situation there has been getting more stable). There were also reports of C.A.R. selling mineral rights (including uranium) to Libya. But that wouldn't be near-term, and was hotly denied.

The Guardian had a good roundup article, including allegations the DPRK was trying to reopen the Shinkolobwe mine:


And it makes mores sense to send someone who might believe something to check on it. His negative report would be much more believable. Otherwise why bother?

Hmmm. I'm afraid I really don't follow you there. It seems to me like it makes the most sense to send someone who starts out with no opinion either way, and relies on the evidence alone to convince them. If one starts out leaning toward belief, then very little evidence might convince one. If one starts out leaning against belief, then much evidence might not. If one starts out leaning toward belief, but there is so little evidence that one cannot even then be convinced, then you're right, Cecil, one's negative report will be taken more seriously. But I don't think that means that one _ought_ to start out with a pro-belief bias, because the danger of being too easily convinced far outweighs the potential gain of being hard to keep doubtful. (Sorry for the rather fey use of "one" but it got confusing using "you.")

However, in real life, we're all human and all biased. And in the case in particular, the question is whether Wilson was biased, and if so, whether that bias led him to an incorrect conclusion. Wilson certainly seems to have Democratic leanings. But he also served with distinction under Republican presidents. And no one is suggesting that if he had found evidence that Iraq was actively seeking uranium in Niger, that he would have failed to report this threat to his country out of partisan political leanings. He seems to have honestly believed his conclusions. And in pure factual terms, it seems that his conclusions were correct --- due to the way the urnaium mines were owned and the pre-existing deals to purchase their products, it would have been very difficult to spirit away 500 tons of uranium, and certainly could not have been done the way the C.I.A.'s lead suggested. And he so reported to the C.I.A., in February of 2002.

Wilson has certainly made many rash and intemperate statements recently. But that proves little about his biases a year and a half ago, a full year before the war in Iraq, and about 6 months before it that war became more than a glimmer in policymaker's eyes (that happend in August of 2002, when a rash of op-eds and speeches came out that were the beginning of making the case for war.)

I understand it is true that the C.I.A. claimed it was fooled by the forged docs. I personally find this difficult to believe. If they recieved any such documents making such an explosive charge, why would they not investigate them? After all, if the documents' are authentic, then they're of great help to you, not only in proving the case that Iraq is a threat, but in potentially providing a glimpse in Iraq's secret weapons programs and procurement strategies. Any spy agency which didn't try and find out more about those docs --- who produced them, how they got them, what else they know --- would not merely be remiss, they'd be failing in their most basic functions. The IAEC says it was able to figure out the docs were fake in a matter of hours. I cannot believe that the C.I.A. had possession of the docs for weeks yet did so little spadework with them they didn't discover the same blatent impossibilities that the IAEC found in an afternoon.



Here's the line from your link about Somalia:

Somalia also has some large uranium deposits in the Galguduud and Bay regions, and in 1984 work began to develop them.

It doesn't say anything about actual mining (which is specifically mentioned regarding other resources). Also, the information appears to be 10 years old.

If that's the only "evidence" that Somalia may have a functioning mine, given how things have gone in that country over the past decade, I daresay they don't have one.

I find it a sign of the CIA's slipshod, soft-on-Saddam intelligence work that they failed to credit the rumors that Iraq was seeking to obtain uranium from the moon.

Cecil Turner


In this case, we're not analyzing evidence, but looking for something. The only way to get proof positive is to find it. If you do, it's proven. If not, you're not sure. A positive bias guy is better for searching. You can always give his findings to a negative bias analyst to debunk. But if nothing is found (as apparently happened here), he has nothing to analyze. And we're still not sure.

As to the MOAs, Tenet said (referring to the time of the SOTU) "the documents related to the alleged Niger-Iraqi uranium deal had not yet been determined to be forgeries." And that admission obviously doesn't make him or his agency look good. I agree it's hard to believe they failed that badly, especially since they were suspicious of the "fragmentary" nature of the related intelligence, but it sure looks like that's what happened.

I'd also note that it was about that time the pressure started building on the CIA handling of intelligence on Iraq's WMDs (bolstered shortly afterward by inconsistent reports of actual findings during and after the war). You'd think that would make WMD analysts at CIA unhappy--and maybe want to vent a little. Worth looking into?

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