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July 12, 2004

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Tom Bowler

"...But the committee's report has provided unexpected support for a controversial claim that even the administration of George W. Bush had backed away from: that Iraq had sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa."

Perhaps I'm being a tad nit-picky here, but I don't recall the administration backing away from that claim. I think what they said was that the CIA evidence for it didn't support its inclusion in the SOTU. They stand by the statement, the Brits stand by their intel, and the media cling to their distortions.

adaplant

A clever guy at MIT created a searchable copy of the original scanned (and therefore uncopyable or searchable) SSCI Report

TM

I don't recall the administration backing away from that claim.

Well, I provided a link to Ari's explanation. I hear what you are saying (and have said it myself), but the Admin sure didn't defend the 16 Words with any committment.

ADA - brilliant!

sym

Another unanswered question: If the "senior administration official" did nothing wrong, why is he denying the leak ever happened? Point taken that the fact that Plame got Wilson the job does probably mean the SAO was trying to innocently bash Wilson's qualifications, rather than intentionally screwing with US intelligence. But noone has fessed up at all. Why can't Libby (or whoever) come out and say "yeah, I leaked the name, it was a mistake, I found it difficult to resist Robert Novak's hypnotic charisma, but i didn't mean to hurt the CIA."
If the legal case really turns on the leaker's intentions, someone should come out and say their intentions were good. Otherwise, it still looks like they're covering something up.

IceCold

As I've been saying since the time of the original op-ed, the WH has badly mishandled the whole thing (I'm not dealing with the whole Plame aspect, just the underlying dust-up). They almost certainly had sufficient info in hand the day of the op-ed to come out and dismiss the op-ed (Niger wasn't in the Sixteen Words, Wilson didn't have a full picture of the intel -- next question, please). Instead, we had the bizarre finger-pointing exercise. Given that much of the rest of the WMD case was (inevitably, normally, properly, contrary to the make-believe world-view of the SSCI) based on diverse scraps of info of varying reliability, standing by a Brit assessment should not have bothered CIA, and certainly not the WH.

I could swear I read (without bookmarking) a statement by Tenet indicating that much of the reporting re Africa didn't even concern Niger, which would make sense, as there are other uranium sources. Perhaps someone out there knows what I'm referring to, and I'll be checking the SSCI report.

Bedeviling this entire discussion, as well as the whole WMD-Iraq intel review, is the insistence of all parties on pretending that intel perfection is the norm. Where were the reviews in the early 1990s, after the spectacular debacle of the pre-Gulf War intel failure? Not the invasion of Kuwait -- the partial "false negative" WRT Iraq's nukyler & chemical programs, and the complete whiff on the bioweapons program?

At least one mystery is pretty much resolved. It's unlikely Iraq will be seeking uranium in Africa -- Niger or anywhere else -- any time soon.

Patrick R. Sullivan

And, let's not hold our breath for another Krugman Korrection for this column of Oct. 3, 03:

"On July 14, Robert Novak published the now-famous column in which he identified Valerie Plame, the wife of former Ambassador Joseph Wilson, as a C.I.A. 'operative on weapons of mass destruction,' and said 'two senior administration officials' had told him that she was responsible for her husband's mission to Niger. On that mission, Mr. Wilson concluded — correctly — that reports of Iraqi efforts to buy uranium were bogus."

TM

Sym, you are a genius with your 'come forward" suggestion.

In fact, "SYM" might be code for "TPM":

Political impact is of course both subjective and unpredictable. So, though we might all venture opinions, there's very little way to know.

But, really, why argue?

If there's no legal case and no political problem, why don't the senior administration officials who leaked her identity just come forward?

If their rationale is a good one and they face no legal jeopardy, what's the problem?

It seems like a great opportunity to clear the air, settle the story, ascertain the facts and let the chips fall where they may.

Doing so will save much of the money being spent on the investigation Mr. Fitzgerald is running. They can save themselves a lot of attorneys' fees. And they can have a free opportunity to explain the rationale behind their decision and why they believed it was the right thing to do in the context.

Pretty good. You were earlier, BTW.

sym

Hehe. That damn Marshall fellow is always ripping me off (and mine had more jokes!).

Actually, I haven't read him in a while, as I was scared to see how these new revelations about his pet issue were affecting him. But hey, we make a good point, and I'd like to see someone answer it. Though of course, our point can be summarized as that hoary cliche "the cover-up is worse than the crime".

TM

Actually, I did answer it, but the computer ate my comment. No, really.

But the gist would be, the pre-conditions have not been met (From Marshall - If there's no legal case and no political problem, why don't the senior administration officials who leaked her identity just come forward?)

One story on A9 of the WaPo is hardly public exoneration for the political side of the scandal, or a turning of the conventional wisdom.

My response (this is maybe half speaking as a hypothetical Rep strategist, half as "me" - vague difference) - is that, until Wilson is clearly disgraced and disowned - out of the Kerry campaign, top Dems saying, hmm, maybe it wasn't the vicious Bush Brute Squad trying to intimidate and silence him, maybe there is no crime here - the political environment has not changed, the legal environment has not changed, and therefore we should let the process play out.

And why should the Bush side bring this up? The Dems will start screaming Denial! and Coverup! if Bush suggests that maybe there was no crime.

No, the Dems need to pave the path forward. And so far, even Marsahll is not saying that Wilson is discredited.

That is my answer, anyway (but Sym gave me a head start in thinking of one). I hope to post it in a few hours.

TM

Sym, I have a new post up, so you might want to beat me into submission over there.

Patrick R. Sullivan

Well...Martha Stewart is about to be sentenced to jail. Ken Lay is being led away in handcuffs. Neither broke any law (as far as I can determine)that's worthy of the name.

Thomas White was held up as a diabolical million dollar stock fraud artist by Paul Krugman, for selling stock at $15 a share--and under an agreement with congress--that he could have sold at $80.

No, if I were the senior administration official I wouldn't want to take my chances even if I was completely innocent.

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Wilson/Plame