Thursday :: Oct 27, 2005

Treasongate: "...the dates were wrong and the names were wrong..."

by eriposte

I have been meaning to do a detailed post debunking the false allegations against Joseph Wilson but haven't had an opportunity to do so yet. So, let me point readers to a few [*fourth link added] of my previous posts where most of the key claims against Wilson are addressed/debunked/refuted:

I want to add one item to the list. In an article earlier this week in the Washington Post - that I briefly commented upon here - Dana Milbank and Walter Pincus said this (emphasis mine):

Wilson has also armed his critics by misstating some aspects of the Niger affair. For example, Wilson told The Washington Post anonymously in June 2003 that he had concluded that the intelligence about the Niger uranium was based on forged documents because "the dates were wrong and the names were wrong." The Senate intelligence committee, which examined pre-Iraq war intelligence, reported that Wilson "had never seen the CIA reports and had no knowledge of what names and dates were in the reports." Wilson had to admit he had misspoken.

This advanced one of the many shoddy passages in the Senate Report. I wrote to Mr. Wilson asking about this. Here's an extract from his email response this morning (emphasis mine):

I did not misstate the facts as Nick Kristof acknowledged in an email to me that is in the first chapter of the new edition (paperback) of the book. Pincus also acknowledged that to me in a telephone call in July 2004, and again just two days ago in an email. This is part of the misreporting that I tried to correct in my original article on July 6, 2003 in which I said clearly that I had never seen the documents. What motive would I have in saying something so demonstrably false since the USG did not even have the documents in question at the time I was asked to go to Niger. All discussion with both Kristof and Pincus was about information that al Baradai brought to the public in his March, 2003 testimony before the UN.

This is consistent with what he told Kevin Drum about the same allegations last year. I am just very troubled that Pincus would advance an untrue allegation about Wilson that was part of the egregious, whitewashed Senate (SSCI) report.

For the benefit of readers, this is not the only claim relating to the fake Niger documents on which Wilson was unfairly criticized. As Wilson noted at the time the Senate Report came out:

This conclusion states that I told the committee staff that I “may have become confused about my own recollection after the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) reported that the names and dates on the documents were not correct.” At the time that I was asked that question, I was not afforded the opportunity to review the articles to which the staff was referring. I have now done so.

Wilson explained this further, in an interview with me (emphasis mine):

TLC, Q4: The Senate report said:

[Wilson] also said he may have become confused about his own recollection after the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) reported in March 2003 that the names and dates on the documents were not correct and may have thought he had seen the names himself.

Do you have any comments on this claim in the report?

Amb. Wilson: That question was related to the Nick Kristof article in the NY Times that suggested that his source had claimed the documents were forgeries.  The question was asked over a year after I had first seen Kristof’s article and I was not given an opportunity to review exactly what had been written.  My answer was meant to be generic: that at the age of 55, I can become confused from time to time.  But when I did take another look at the article, I immediately recognized that what the question suggested was that I had been the source of the statement related to the forgeries in the Kristof article.  I confirmed with him in an exchange of emails that our recollection was the same and that I had never claimed to have seen the documents.  His email is reprinted in full in the prologue to the paperback edition of my book... 

In fact, here is what Wilson says about the corresponding claims in the Senate report, in the Preface (available online) to the paperback version of his book "The Politics of Truth" (pages lvii and lviii, emphasis mine):

The second conclusion of the “additional views” charged me with having included information in my statements about which I had no personal knowledge. This charge was a reference to unidentified sources in articles in the New York Times and the Washington Post which said that the documents that had precipitated my trip to Niger were obvious forgeries and that the source of the documents had been the Italian intelligence service. In both cases, the information had been in the public sector for over three months before I had ever spoken on background to any journalist. In the case of one Washington Post article that cited the Italian origin of the documents, I had not been a source for any part of that article.

The New York Times article in question had been authored by columnist Nicholas Kristof and indeed had included, in addition to the story of my trip,a badly worded reference to the documents as forgeries, creating the possible impression that I had claimed to have seen them. Nothing could have been further from the truth,and I had called Kristof the day his article appeared to remind him that I had never seen the documents. When I wrote my own Op-Ed article for the Times, published on July 6, 2003, I made a point of stating that I had never seen the documents in question. But there was no reference in the “additional views” to my own statements. And nobody from the staff had bothered to ask Kristof about the article in question. I did, however.

As soon as I saw the report, I sent an e-mail note to Kristof asking if he remembered our conversation. His response was:

Joe, thanks for that nice note. it finds me in salt lake city, where i’m driving through red states and talking to people about issues (here, they care about guns and abortion, but not about wsj attacks).

don’t worry. i remember you saying that you had not seen the documents. my recollection is that we had some information about the documents at that time—e.g. the names of people in them—but i do clearly remember you saying that you had not been shown them.

I said the same thing on page fourteen of this book. And the Senate staffers who interviewed me nearly a year after Kristof ’s article appeared made clear to me that they had read my book closely.

NOTE: In the book preface, Mr. Wilson also responds to other smears.

P.S. In response to another question about whether he released Walter Pincus from source confidentiality requirements, Mr. Wilson confirmed that he had:

I released Pincus from the confidentially pledge so he could talk to the special prosecutor. That may have been taken as a general release.

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