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July 13, 2004


The Kid

It seems to me that the Wilson / Plame soap opera should make the newspapers rethink their sourcing standards. Most of the pieces you cite do have more than one unnamed source. But was the other source actually confirming what Wilson was asserting, or did the writer go with the Wilson spiel and use one or more other sources for ambience simply because the other sources could not confirm or deny Wilson’s assertions?


Kristof provides more background on his May 6 column in this June 13 column (saved at CNN; now I will look for old CNN stuff at the NY Times).

To help out Ms. Rice and Mr. Cheney, let me offer some more detail about the uranium saga. Piecing the story together from two people directly involved and three others who were briefed on it, the tale begins at the end of 2001, when third-rate forged documents turned up in West Africa purporting to show the sale by Niger to Iraq of tons of "yellowcake" uranium.

Italy's intelligence service obtained the documents and shared them with British spooks, who passed them on to Washington. Mr. Cheney's office got wind of this and asked the C.I.A. to investigate.

The agency chose a former ambassador to Africa to undertake the mission, and that person flew to Niamey, Niger, in the last week of February 2002. This envoy spent one week in Niger, staying at the Sofitel and discussing his findings with the U.S. ambassador to Niger, and then flew back to Washington via Paris.

Immediately upon his return, in early March 2002, this senior envoy briefed the C.I.A. and State Department and reported that the documents were bogus, for two main reasons. 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. Second, an examination of Niger's uranium industry showed that an international consortium controls the yellowcake closely, so the Niger government does not have any yellowcake to sell.

Officials now claim that the C.I.A. inexplicably did not report back to the White House with this envoy's findings and reasoning, or with an assessment of its own that the information was false. I hear something different. My understanding is that while Director of Central Intelligence George Tenet may not have told Mr. Bush that the Niger documents were forged, lower C.I.A. officials did tell both the vice president's office and National Security Council staff members. Moreover, I hear from another source that the C.I.A.'s operations side and its counterterrorism center undertook their own investigations of the documents, poking around in Italy and Africa, and also concluded that they were false — a judgment that filtered to the top of the C.I.A. ....

Some of that has not stood the test of time.

And the general conclusion - that reports of the forgeries circulated - is not borne out by the report, unless Kristof is considering a timeline that extends to early 2003.


Now Kristof is being sued by Hatfill. This is not his week.

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