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July 19, 2004
WaPo Ombudsman: Wilson, JMM Lied, Not Bush or SSCI

The Washington Post took the unusual action of offering criticism to a blogger, although one with journalistic credentials, in its ombudsman column yesterday on the Wilson/Plame portion of the SSCI and Butler reports. Seeing that the majority of criticism towards its coverage of the SSCI report and its implications referenced Joshua Micah Marshall's Talking Points Memo blog, the Post fisked Marshall in the grand tradition of blogging (via Belgravia Dispatch), as well as Joe Wilson himself:

Marshall takes issue with The Post's reporting that "contrary to Wilson's assertions . . . the CIA did not tell the White House it had qualms about the reliability of the African intelligence that made its way into the 16 fateful words in President Bush's January 2003 State of the Union address." Actually, the CIA fought hard, and successfully, to keep the material about Africa, aspects of which were a matter of dispute, out of a major speech Bush gave in October 2002. But the Senate study points out that in January 2003, the CIA, which still believed Iraq was probably seeking uranium from Africa, did not tell the White House to take out those 16 words from the State of the Union address and that then-CIA Director George Tenet had not even read the speech beforehand. ...

Wilson, in his letter, refers to "the Republican-written" report. It is a bipartisan report. Wilson says "the decision to send me to Niger was not made, and could not be made, by Valerie." Neither the report, nor the story, says she made "the decision." The story says Wilson was "specifically recommended for the mission by his wife." The report says "interviews and documents provided to the Committee indicate that his wife . . . suggested his name for the trip." A reports officer in her division told the committee she "offered up his name." There are other references as well to Plame's role.

Wilson takes issue with Schmidt's reporting that his report on the trip to Niger "bolstered the case" about purported uranium sales to Iraq. But the study concludes that Wilson's March 2002 report, which noted that the former prime minister of Niger said that in 1999 he was approached by a businessman insisting he meet with an Iraqi delegation (which he did not do), "lent more credibility to the original CIA reports on the uranium deal."

Note how the goalposts have moved on the Wilson/Plame issue, too. Originally, Wilson insisted that his wife had nothing to do with his assignment on the mission to Niger. Now, he's claiming that she didn't make the decision to send him. However, that was never an assertion, and the SSCI report makes clear that the original claim that Plame suggested her husband for the trip has been substantiated, an odd recommendation considering Wilson's ties to Saudi Arabia at the time. Belgravia Dispatch, meanwhile, focuses its sights on TPM:

Predictably, TPM's continued spinnin' would make Paul Begala blush. For instance, how can Josh say "most of the British judgement about uranium from Africa was based on the phony documents"? Take the September '03 UK Parliamentary Report Marshall is so enthused about.

TPM likes it so because it ostensibly makes plainer, as compared to the Butler report, that one of the British intel sources (assorted documentary evidence) was based on the forgeries. But that very same report states unequivocally:

The SIS stated that the documents did not affect its judgement of its second source and consequently the SIS continues to believe that the Iraqis were attempting to negotiate the purchase of uranium from Niger. We have questioned the SIS about the basis of its judgement and conclude that it is reasonable.

So that's two sources; one ostensibly FOPT tainted and the other not. From this, how does one divine that "most" of the British judgement was based on forgeries?

Depends on what the definition of "most" is, I guess.

Read the whole thing, as they say. Marshall has reached the tipping point on his credibility. If he continues to shill for Wilson, a completely exposed partisan and liar, he will share in Wilson's disgrace, and the blogosphere will not soon let him live it down.

Sphere It Digg! View blog reactions
Posted by Ed Morrissey at July 19, 2004 7:13 AM

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