Sunday :: Jul 17, 2005

Sunday's Post Piece On Plame Story Misses Some Points

by Steve

Mike Allen and Jim VandeHeiís story in Sundayís Post somehow manages to paint the Vice President as a disinterested party early on surrounding the issue of whether or not Saddam tried to purchase yellowcake from Niger. In fact, Cheney specifically asked the CIA for their analysis of what the Agency was hearing from the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) and from foreign intelligence services on the matter on February 12, 2002, on the same day that Rummyís DIA said that Niger had recently agreed to sell Saddam 500 tons of yellowcake a year over four years. This DIA claim came after the Nigerien government had already denied this to our ambassador. (p. 38 of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence (SSCI) report).

After his meetings in Niger, Wilson provided a summary briefing to our Nigerien ambassador and a US official from our mission in Chad, possibly the ambassador, before he left for home. Cheney asked for an update on the Agencyís perspective on the Niger uranium sales issue in early March; the briefer was told by way of a March 5th status report from the Agency that there would be an update on this issue when the CIA debriefed a source (Wilson) later that day.

After the debriefing, the Agency disseminated a March 8th, 2002 intelligence report on Wilsonís trip without mentioning him by name, and the report was ďwidely distributed in routine channelsĒ without somehow making its way to the DIA, the NSC, or apparently Cheney's office (p. 43). The report on Wilsonís trip reflected that the former Nigerien officials Wilson met with confirmed that there were no uranium sales to Iraq as far back as 1996.

Youíll also recall that one of the frequent talking points used by the White House hatchet people of late is that Wilsonís trip and findings were (obviously) not credible because they generated nothing that had any impact on the subsequent narrative. There is a reason for why Wilsonís findings didnít seem to make a dent: whoever wrote the summary of his trip inside the Agency left out some of his findings.

After talking with former Nigerien ministers on his trip, Wilson refuted earlier DIA claims that Iraq had specifically approached Niger in 1999 to buy uranium. But according to page 44 of the SSCI report, this finding by Wilson for some reason never made its way into the March 8th, 2002 Agency summary of his trip. (The SSCI report notes that our Nigerien ambassador asked Wilson not to talk with current government officials, so Wilson consulted only with those in power during the late 1990ís). As a result, CIA and DIA analysts concluded that the report on Wilsonís trip contained nothing new, and the CIA therefore didnít see a need to inform Cheney of the March 8th report, even though he asked for an update (p. 46).

Wilsonís finding that the Nigeriens he met with denied any contracts or sales to Iraq, and that he refuted that the Iraqis had even met and discussed in 1999 a uranium sale with the Nigeriens was therefore washed out by whomever wrote the March 8th, 2002 report on his trip, and never made it into the subsequent narrative inside the intelligence community. This led to analyses claiming that Iraq was ďvigorouslyĒ trying to buy yellowcake from African nations that they had no means to process.

On December 24, 2002 in response to a State Department fact sheet that asserted that Iraq was trying to procure uranium from Niger, the Nigerien Prime Minister, president, and minister of mines publicly denied that Niger had sold uranium to Iraq, and also denied that Niger been approached by Iraq to do so since 2000 (p. 61).

And for those who are trashing Wilson's credibility now by using the SSCI report, they may want to look at the SSCI's Conclusion Number 14, which was that the CIA should have told Cheneyís office and other policy makers about Wilsonís findings (p. 74).

Steve :: 1:33 AM :: Comments (8) :: TrackBack (0) :: Digg It!