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October 30, 2005
The Myth Of Dragging Wilson's Wife Into The Niger Case

Earlier today, I listened to "Late Edition" on CNN and heard Wolf Blitzer interviewing Gary Bauer about the Plame case. Normally that would cause me to either fall asleep from apathy or change the channel to something more interesting -- perhaps a re-run of pro bowling on ESPN XXIV. Before I reached the remote, however, I heard this exchange and my jaw hit the floor:

BLITZER: But even if there were no criminal -- if there was nothing criminal about the release of the Valerie Plame, was it appropriate for senior officials in the Bush -- Bush White House, Scooter Libby, Karl Rove, to be talking about Joe Wilson's wife instead of simply arguing with him over the merits of the case.

BAUER: Well, Joe Wilson's wife -- they have their own political agenda, which I think is fairly obvious as we have watched this unfold in recent months...

BLITZER: Well, we don't know what her agenda was, if any. We know what Joe Wilson's political views were. He wrote about them in the New York Times.

BAUER: But one of the things we may find out, however, as this unfolds and the trial is held and so forth, is what some of the agendas were of everybody involved...

BLITZER: But do you feel comfortable, do you feel comfortable with the very narrow issue of -- for example, some people that have problems with you, and they say, well, let's go to his -- let's see what his wife is up to, and we'll try to drag her into this?

BAUER: But, Wolf, in this case, his wife allegedly played a role in sending him on a mission that ended up in a very real way being used to undermine the president's desires in foreign policy areas...

BLITZER: So you don't have a problem dragging her into this?

BAUER: Well, I would have trouble attacking somebody's spouse if that spouse had nothing to do with the controversy. I'm arguing that in fact she did have something to do with the controversy. Look, this is a tough city...

BLITZER: I'm going to move on to Harriet Miers...

BAUER: Sure.

BLITZER: ... and the Supreme Court. So even if no criminal law was broken, the fact that Karl Rove and Scooter Libby spoke about Valerie Plame with reporters, that's O.K. as far as you're concerned?

"Dragging her into this?" Does Blitzer ever do any research or real reporting, or does he just read off of notecards at this point? The Senate Select Committee on Intelligence made this quite clear in their unanimous report on the use of intelligence leading up to the Iraq war. Plame didn't get dragged into this controversy by the Bush administration -- she initiated the entire event by getting her husband a job to investigate the Niger data, based on the CIA's curiousity about the British intelligence on the subject.

If anyone other than Plame bears responsibility for Plame's outing, it's her martyr-playing husband, Joe Wilson. As I've written before, Wilson repeatedly lied about how he got his assignment and why. The SSCI did not get fooled:

Some CPD officials could not recall how the office decided to contact the former ambassador, however, interviews and documents provided to the Committee indicate that his wife, a CPD employee, suggested his name for the trip. The CPD reports officer told Committee staff that the former ambassador's wife "offered up his name" and a memorandum to the Deputy Chief of the CPD on February 12, 2002, from the former ambassador's wife says, "my husband has good relations with both the PM [prime minister] and the former Minister of Mines (not to mention lots of French contacts), both of whom could possibly shed light on this sort of activity." This was just one day before CPD sent a cable DELETED requesting concurrence with CPD's idea to send the former ambassador to Niger and requesting any additional information from the foreign government service on their uranium reports. The former ambassador's wife told Committee staff that when CPD decided it would like to send the former ambassador to Niger, she approached her husband on behalf of the CIA and told him "there's this crazy report" on a purported deal for Niger to sell uranium to Iraq.

Wilson had told Nicholas Krystof and William Pincus, and later insisted publicly, that Dick Cheney had sent him. But it turns out that Cheney never asked the CIA to investigate the report, just to let him know what they had on the subject. That idea apparently originated within the CIA -- possibly with Plame herself. Her written memo makes it clear that she selected her husband for this mission, a strange idea unless she wanted to make sure she knew what kind of report would come back. The CIA, oddly, never required Wilson to sign a non-disclosure agreement, usually considered automatic when dealing with outsiders on agency missions.

And what did Wilson find? He found out that the Iraqis had indeed attempted to negotiate for yellowcake uranium, according to the Nigerien Prime Minister. Again, the SSCI report contradicts practically everything Wilson wrote or leaked after his return:

[Wilson's] intelligence report indicated that former Nigerien Prime Minister Ibrahim Mayaki was unaware of any contracts that had been signed between Niger and any rogue states for the sale of yellowcake while he was Prime Minister (1997-1999) or Foreign Minister (1996-1997). Mayaki said that if there had been any such contract during his tenure, he would have been aware of it. Mayaki said, however, that in June 1999,(REDACTED) businessman, approached him and insisted that Mayaki meet with an Iraqi delegation to discuss "expanding commercial relations" between Niger and Iraq. The intelligence report said that Mayaki interpreted "expanding commercial relations" to mean that the delegation wanted to discuss uranium yellowcake sales. The intelligence report also said that "although the meeting took place, Mayaki let the matter drop due to the UN sanctions on Iraq."

Niger exports four commodities: cowpeas, onions, livestock, and yellowcake uranium. The Iraqis would not need secret negotiations to purchase the first three from Niger, and the poverty-racked Nigeriens would gladly have worked on sales of those commodities.

None of this should consist of breaking news to anyone -- anyone, that is, except the addled Wolf Blitzer at CNN. I have plenty more at my earlier post explaining why Joe Wilson has absolutely no credibility on WMD or Niger, and how his wife played a key role, if possibly unwitting, in getting false information leaked to the press through her loudmouth husband. The notion of either of them as victims is laughably absurd.

UPDATE: For those who think the SSCI got it wrong, the indictment of Scooter Libby makes it clear that Plame got Wilson the mission to Niger (page 4, points 6 & 7, h/t CQ commenter ROA). The only argument that has come out from anyone saying anything different was a Washington Post article from August, which was anonymously sourced. Unfortunately for the "senior CIA officer" serving as that source, the SSCI has in their possession a written memorandum from Plame making the recommendation -- which, if you read the post above, you would already know.

Why isn't Wilson getting charged with lying to Congress in the SSCI investigation? Probably because he knew better than to lie about his assignment while under oath. The SSCI report makes that much clear as well; he admits that the Nigerien PM told him that the Iraqis tried to buy the yellowcake and elides the point about his wife as much as he can without committing perjury. Too bad Scooter Libby wasn't bright enough to do the same thing.

Sphere It Digg! View blog reactions
Posted by Ed Morrissey at October 30, 2005 5:43 PM

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