Monday :: Jul 7, 2003

NigerGate


by Mary

Australia, Britain and the United States are all roiling from Joseph Wilson's news yesterday. Here is a timeline showing the life of the charge that there was proof Saddam was restarting his nuclear program by trying to buy uranium from Niger.

The Timeline of the Niger Uranium Charge
Feb 2002: Ambassador Wilson is asked to investigate the Saddam-Niger nuclear charges. He reports back that there is absolutely no truth to this. Report submitted to Cheney's office.
Sep 2002: UK intelligence issues Sept dossier and includes this charge as proof of Saddam's perfidity. [Aside: So who provided it to the UK? Was it the CIA?]
Dec 19, 2002: CIA/State Department fact sheet published. (pdf) The Niger charge was explicitly mentioned:
This fact sheet was a joint product of the CIA and State Department and it included this phrase, "The declaration ignores efforts to procure uranium from Niger." [Thanks to Adam in MA for this tip.]
Jan 28, 2003: Bush uses the charge in the State of the Union, but says he got it from British intelligence.
Feb 4, 2003: Australian PM Howard uses same intelligence to charge that Saddam is getting nuclear material from Africa.
Feb 2003: Colin Powell is reportedly upset about the intelligence that he is supposed to use to represent the case for war before the UN.
At one point during the rehearsal, Powell tossed several pages in the air. "I'm not reading this," he declared. "This is bullshit." (US News Report June 9, 2003 -- now only available in the paid archive.)
Feb 5, 2003: Colin Powell's presentation before the UN does not have this charge:
"Only eight days later when Secretary [of State Colin] Powell made his presentation to the Security Council and didn't mention a word of it, I realised it must be that same piece of garbage we discredited some months earlier," Mr Theilmann said.

The Fallout
Today the US media was reporting the exoneration of Alastair Campbell as a vindication of Blair, but Robin Cook stepped in and said, not so fast:

Unfortunately, the intelligence served up by the government in its September dossier is now buckling under the strain...

This is not surprising, as the very first conclusion of the committee is that the United Kingdom was "heavily reliant on U.S. technical intelligence, on defectors and on exiles with an agenda of their own."

Blair continues to say they had "additional" information that they have not yet revealed, but now he is under even more pressure to show his cards.

Yesterday the Government stuck to its line that its September dossier was accurate, with the Foreign Office insisting that its information came from more than one source, and was received after the visit of a former United States diplomat to Niger to investigate the claims.

Yet, Ari Fleischer admits that Bush's reference in the SOTU was in regards to the forged Niger documents.

The President's statement was based on the predicate of the yellow cake from Niger. The President made a broad statement. So given the fact that the report on the yellow cake did not turn out to be accurate, that is reflective of the President's broader statement, David. So, yes, the President' broader statement was based and predicated on the yellow cake from Niger.

Ari is also saying that Bush didn't realize that the Niger evidence was bad and that Cheney never asked Ambassador Wilson to go to Niger to investigate. So obviously they were all out of the loop.

Much of what The New Republic reported is now being confirmed by the actual players, and it looks like the house of cards is starting to crumble.

So can we start calling it NigerGate?

Updated: Added publishing of fact sheet by the administration on Dec 19, 2002, to the timeline.

Mary :: 9:55 PM :: Comments (24) :: Digg It!