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July 18, 2005
LA Times Still Can't Get Plame Facts Correct

The Los Angeles Times runs an article on the Plame leak today that manages to avoid advancing the story with any evidence and get the existing facts almost entirely incorrect, despite a number of revelations in the past few days from grand-jury leaks and the new article by Matt Cooper. Tom Hamburger and Peter Wallsten concoct their stew of "revelations" and bad fact-checking by relying on anonymous sourcing:

Top aides to President Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney were intensely focused on discrediting former Ambassador Joseph C. Wilson IV in the days after he wrote an op-ed article for the New York Times suggesting the administration manipulated intelligence to justify going to war in Iraq, federal investigators have been told.

Perhaps that springs from the fact that Wilson not only lied in that op-ed -- on which I have written extensively -- but also had begun leaking false versions of his adventures to people like Walter Pincus and Nicholas Kristof. If any administration had someone leaking misinformation about intelligence operations, I daresay they would be "intensely interested" in counteracting it. And misinformation is exactly what Wilson peddled, according to the SSIC report on pre-war intelligence, in the part of the report that got unanimous bipartisan approval.

Although lower-level White House staffers typically handle most contacts with the media, Rove and Libby began personally communicating with reporters about Wilson, prosecutors were told.

And yet Cooper says that he called Rove and Libby, not the other way around. Cooper also called Rove about another topic entirely, and then changed subjects to bring up Wilson. Hamburger and Wallsten didn't miss this; they include it in the same article, although the readers have to go past the jump to see it:

In an article in the latest issue of Time magazine titled "What I Told the Grand Jury," Cooper writes that the grand jurors investigated his interactions with Rove in "microscopic, excruciating detail."

He says he called Rove after Wilson's article appeared and asked about it. "I recall saying something like, 'I'm writing about Wilson,' before he interjected," Cooper writes. " 'Don't get too far out on Wilson,' he told me."

Again, how does that square with Rove and Libby getting unusually aggressive about attacking Wilson? Did Rove force Cooper to call him using telepathic orders, secretly controlling Cooper? (Heck, if he could do that, he wouldn't even have needed Cooper to call.) Hamburger and Wallsten make the same logical mistake that the entire Exempt Media does in arguing that Rove and the White House had embarked on a vendetta against Wilson. One does not conduct a vendetta by waiting for the phone to ring and hoping a conversation might get around to the subject at hand.

The writers also gracelessly gloss over one of the main points of issue with Wilson's editorial blasts at the administration, and one of the problems with his mission from the start. The Times refuses to acknowledge that Plame sent him to Niger and that Wilson lied about it:

Wilson, a career Foreign Service officer who served in Iraq and several African nations, was sent by the CIA in 2002 to investigate whether Iraq had attempted to purchase nuclear materials from Niger. His New York Times article declaring that he had found no credible evidence of such an attempt despite the administration's continued claims that there had been one unleashed charges from White House officials that he was a partisan.

White House officials contended that he had wrongly indicated that he was sent on his mission by Cheney. In fact, Wilson had said in the article that the trip was inspired by questions raised by Cheney's office.

Eight days after Wilson's article was published, a syndicated column by Robert Novak questioned the credibility of Wilson's trip, suggesting that it had been arranged with the help of Wilson's wife, Valerie Plame, at the CIA.

As the SSIC found, Novak had it right, and Wilson lied about it to everyone. Not only did Wilson lie about the source of his mission, he also lied about the results. His report confirmed that Iraq had attempted to start secret trade negotiations with Niger in 1999, an attempt the Nigerien government deducted was aimed at purchasing uranium. Since the only other commodities Niger exports are livestock, cowpeas, and onions, Iraqi interest in Niger could easily be deduced, and Niger told this to Wilson, who reported it to the CIA. Somehow, however, this information doesn't find its way into the Los Angeles Times, even though it can be found in the SSIC report for anyone wishing to actually research this topic.

Over the past few weeks, the media have made it very apparent that they will continue to spin this story in the worst possible way, ignoring facts and logic to attempt to maintain Wilson as a victim and the Bush administration in the worst possible light. The only fact proven by this coverage, however, is that the Exempt Media once again has an agenda and that the editorial boards of these papers have either allowed their reporters to inject their biases into the news sections, or the editors have done so themselves. The LA Times's preference for half-truths and pointless innuendo over well-researched facts ill serves the California communities who must rely on them for reporting.

ADDENDUM: Once again, the media completely misses the point of the Plame connection to Wilson's disinformation campaign. Why did Wilson insist on denying his wife's role in his selection after the Novak article? It's not that she was covert -- she had been an analyst inside the US for six years at that point, not a field agent, and apaerntly well-known as such within Washington's elite circles. Does it not appear odd that Wilson started leaking false versions of his report after the war -- a war which the CIA reportedly resisted? Could this have been the reason Plame wanted Wilson to handle the Niger mission in the first place?

Leaking false versions of his report and his assignment, first in the New York Times and Washington Post through other reporters and finally through an overt op-ed, smells suspiciously like a disinformation campaign. That possibility certainly makes Plame's involvement worthy of note, and yet the mainstream media haven't even bothered to ask that question despite the number of clear falsehoods revealed by the SSIC report.

Sphere It Digg! View blog reactions
Posted by Ed Morrissey at July 18, 2005 5:34 AM

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