Feb 07 2007

Wilson-Plame Scam: Niger Not About Cheney Question

Published by at 1:13 pm under All General Discussions,Plame Game

There may yet be a criminal act at the center of the Plame Game – but not from Libby or Rove but from the Wilson-Plame duo. There has been much discussion on the blogs (this one for sure) about the fact the 2002 trip to Niger by Joe Wilson on behest of his wife was not the first such trip. The first trip was in 1999 right after a military coup d’etat left Niger and its yellowcake ore in questionable hands (or where they?). Surprisingly little concern seemed to come from the fact the a nuclear material producer was now being run by the military, leaving some ex-Ambassador to run to Niger for the CIA and convince the new leaders to give up their new state and let democracy work. It is not a leap of logic to wonder if the coup was actually a plan by some Western countries to remove an unstable dictator.

The point is that Niger was getting overtures from Iraq and Iraq had just expelled the UN inspectors. So it is amazing those in power were so willing to step aside after their dangerous derring-do and relinquish power to an elected government – all the request of one Joe Wilson (working for one Valerie Plame). Here is Joe’s self aggrandizing account from October 2003, and my two posts (here and here) analyzing his comments. Clearly the US was doing something to guide Niger and was pulling some strings. It is easy to see something involving the CIA and Niger was happening. It is little reported (but alluded to by Joe Wilson himself in his comments) that he actually returned one more time to Niger, and probably again by request of Plame and the CIA. He returned to celebrate the new democracy in Niger – which had no press whatsoever I can find. Strange that?

Speculation has been all along that Plame sent Wilson back to Niger in February 2002 to close up loose ends. If the CIA was behind the turmoil of 1999, and some payoffs where made to establish a democracy, then the new focus on Iraq and Niger had all the potential to uncover some very unpleasant truths about Niger, France, Iraq and the US. Was it Oil For Food bribes? Was it Yellowcake going to neighboring Libya to supply their nuke program as well as Saddam’s? Whatever, it seemed less like a fact finding mission (there were two others already on going at Niger) than an urgent run to talk to his buddies that were part of the 1999 coup d’etat.

I had assumed the interest by Cheney on these reports about Niger created the urgency that caused Plame and Wilson to act. But two new pieces of information now lead me to believe the second trip to Niger HAD NOTHING to do with Cheney’s request on reports about Iraq and Niger. The first is this stunning bit of testimony by Judy Miller recorded by Firedog Lake (which I will not be able to confirm until transcripts are available) clearly stating that the report that caused Cheney to ask questions was actually Wilson’s own report from 1999-2000:

M[iller]: [Libby] SAid plenty of info before Powell presentation was given, supporting Iraq hunting uranium, it had been shown that IRaq HAD acquired uranium in Africa, prior to 1st gulf war, in 80s IAEA stated taht Iraq had acquired, after that several different reports that Iraq in market again for uranium. 2 reports, for a long-term arrangement for large quantities, and then a shorter term amount, then referred to anohter report, a third report, the arrival of a delegation in 1999 this delegation was seeking a broader trade relationship, since Niger only had one export, officials had concluded that Iraq was interested in uranium, Author of this report was Joe Wilson. The report had gone up to the Hill. Talking about info provided to Hill, which had prompted VP questions.

F[itzgerald]: Did he indicate who provided this report

M[iller]: CIA

So the report that Wilson ‘debunked’ was his own report? Why wouldn’t Wilson just admit he changed his mind (beside the obvious reasons)? He could have answered any questions about his own early report simply by answering them. No need to go to Niger. But now we have another bit of evidence that shows thevWilson Niger trip was not in response to Cheney’s questions, but scheduled before Cheney was briefed and asked the question [H/T Reader “Dc”].

In particular, those Republicans have been poring over dozens of documents released as evidence in the case. Much of what they’ve seen is old stuff, things they’ve known about for years. But two documents are new, to most eyes at least, and they may significantly change our understanding of how the entire Joseph Wilson-Valerie Plame Wilson-Niger affair began.

The accepted version of events is that Vice President Dick Cheney got things started when he asked for information about possible Iraqi attempts to purchase uranium in Africa. After that request, CIA employee Valerie Plame Wilson suggested sending her husband to look into the question, and after that, the CIA flew Joseph Wilson to Niger to investigate. But the new documents suggest that Mrs. Wilson suggested her husband for the trip before the vice president made his request. In other words, Joseph Wilson’s visit to Niger, which everyone believes was undertaken at the behest of the vice president, was actually in the works before Dick Cheney asked his now-famous question. And if that is true, our current understanding of the chronology of events is wrong.

OK, so why did Wilson and Plame feel the urgency to get Joe to Niger prior to the pending war in Iraq (still a year away and not certain)? Why did Wilson and Plame LIE that the reason Joe was sent was to get answers to VP questions which had not yet been asked? Why is it Joe Wilson came back reporting the same thing he reported in 1999 (the interest of the Iraq trade delegation with the leaders of the coup d’etat – not 2 years out of power)? Why did the Wilsons tell everyone they trip debunked the Niger forgeries which did not surface until 8 months later (in the safe in Plame’s division at CPD). Why put out all these erroneous statements? Clearly any questions regarding Wilson’s 1999-2000 report regarding the Iraq trade delegation did not require a return trip. So we have two confirming bits of evidence Plame and Wilson had some completely different and unexposed reason for Joe to rush to Niger (on his own nickel, BTW). It should be interesting to see if this comes up under oath. But it should be investigated. Why did Plame and Wilson lie about this trip in so many ridiculous ways?

My biggest question? Why was Wilson debriefed at the Wilson home with only two CIA DO agents and Plame present? Why no report from Wilson? Why no contract with a Non Disclosure clause in it? Why no expense reports? If the trip was off the books and the meeting on the results was off base (outside the CIA) it sounds more and more like a roque operation to me. So who were the confirming sources for Wilson’s claims to Kristof and Pincus and others who claimed to be at the debriefing? With only Joe and Val and two others present the candidates of sources noted by both journalists is only 3 people deep. Hopefully this will be the next bombshell in the trial to come out.

Update: Don’t miss Clarice Feldman’s take on the new major discrepency in the discrepency ridden Wilson stories.

15 responses so far

15 Responses to “Wilson-Plame Scam: Niger Not About Cheney Question”

  1. Soothsayer says:

    No there there

    AJ, what does it matter if Wilson’s 1999 report on Niger prompted the Vice President’s question? If anything, this should improve Wilson’s credibility with respect to the possibility that Iraq had approached Niger with requests for yummy yellowcake.

    Similarly with Byron Yorks’ startling revelation that Plame’s e-mail suggesting Wilson re-visit Niger may have pre-dated by one day the CIA briefing to Cheney that prompted Wilson’s trip.

    Plame may well have suggested another trip based merely upon information circulating about the yellowcake document. Perhaps if Cheney had not made his inquiry the CIA would not have deemed the controversy important enough to warrant a special trip; ergo, although Plame had already made the suggestion, it was Cheney’s inquiry that actually triggered it. But – the point is – IT DOESN’T MATTER.

    It doesn’t matter with respect to the 16 words in the SOTU, because Tenet had debunked the yellowcake story months before.

    It doesn’t matter who or what prompted Wilson’s trip, because the simple underlying facts remain the same:

    1. Bush’s SOTY contained a story that was known to be false; and

    2. Libby lied to investigators and under oath to the Grand Jury in order to cover-up the anti-Wilson campaign launched and coordinated from Cheney’s office, and including Libby, Rove, McClellan and Fleischer.

    You are trying to play Gotcha! style journalism, but wiggle it around as you may, it doesn’t change the essentials of the sordid affair.

  2. dgfx says:

    Strata —

    Gotta agree with Sooth on this one. Makes no difference, either for the trial-at-hand, or for “the bigger picture”. (Quasi-)-interesting detail, perhaps, but apart from the question of arriving at a punctilious account of the history – it’s meaningless. (Didja even *read* the York piece ?)

  3. dennisa says:

    Soothsayer, neither (1) nor (2) in your comment have been demonstrated yet by any evidence. It isn’t true just because you say it.

  4. Soothsayer says:

    Beg to differ with you Dennisa:

    1. George Tenet advised Bush & Co. to remove the 16 words from an earlier speech because they were misrepresentative. Somehow, they found themselve back into the SOTU speech – slightly altered. It was not an unconscious mistake.

    2. When the Grand Jury indicted I. Lewis Libby, it found probable cause (i.e., more likely than not) that he had committed the crimes of lying to federal investigators, perjuring himself before said Grand Jury and obstructing justice. And the Grand Jurors looked at a whole lot of evidence before indicting.

    While it is true that he has not been found guilty beyond a reasonable doubt (as yet, anyway), my dictionary says:

    demonstrate: to show by reasoning; explain by example

    Arguably, Libby\’s crimes weredemonstrated by Patrick Fitzgerald to the Grand Jury.

  5. Plame Game – The amazingly disappearing timeline…

    American Thinker’s Clarice Feldman notes the crumbling timeline in the Plame Game:
    “From the outset, Joseph Wilson IV has insisted he was sent to Niger at the Vice President’s behest. As more facts about the trip became known and the …

  6. Dc says:

    Tangled webs and such.

    Of course…to the trial of Libby this has no bearing. But, it does present some pretty interesting questions don’t you think?
    Yes..what difference does it make that Wilson himself may have known all along that the VP’s office had nothing to do with why he was selected for this trip and that he himself knew that Iraqi’s had sought uranium? ROTFL.


    Do you disagree with them as well Soothsayer?

  7. Dc says:

    I told you before Soothsayer…that Tenet was not the one invovled with the Cinnci speech. (the only one where the language was pulled..they reworded it…tried to put it back in…but then..didn’t use it). The difference was the wording that Iraqi’s were “caught trying to buy” uranium. (as opposed to “sought” uranium).

    The only thing Tenet has said about the 16 words was…that the lang was cleared by people in the CIA. That at the time it was cleared, the language was factually accurate. But, that in hindsite this should not have been the test for inclusion in the President’s speech. The CIA backtracked on their own approval of the language..and the WH subsequently withdrew the statement. NONE of that supports the notion that people knew of the CIA concerns all along, were told it was debunked or that the language was not accurate..but used it anyway.

  8. sammy small says:

    Soothsayer…Probable cause as described by a prosecutor who has so poorly investigated the leak scenario that his case is crumbling under his feet. In fact we still don’t know what his marching orders were in regards to the investigation. I think he’s too embarrassed to release it. It would probably show what a sham his entire investigation was, including the fact that he knew Armitage was the original leaker to the media and how he morphed the investigation into a perjury trap for a selected victim.

  9. dgfx says:

    DC —

    Thanks for the factcheck link. Someone really oughta shoot them a note, because that particular piece is really substandard.

    A lotta different points could be made in this regard, but I don’t have the time now to do a bang-up job. You might, however, start with Tenet’s July 11 ’03 statement ( http://edition.cnn.com/2003/ALLPOLITICS/07/11/tenet.statement/), and e.g., the June 03 Ford Memo (at, e.g., http://www.truthout.org/docs_2006/printer_012307J.shtml).

    Personally, I’m not convinced that there’s any smoking guns re: Bush “knowing” that the “16 words” (for example) were false. This is partially because the whole concept of “Bush knowing” (anything) is somewhat problematical, since he really does seem to operate on Colbertian “truthiness” matrix.

    What is clear is that Bush, and his cohorts, were “curiously un-curious” about arriving at an accurate understanding of the WMD question, and in communicating a reasonably fair and accurate picture thereof to the American Public (for example). [For example, neither Bush nor Rice read the 2002 NIE, for heaven’s sake! These are the people at the top of the ladder, and any responsible exercise of their offices called for much more hands on involvement and pursuit of truth than was forthcoming; hell, this would be the case in circumstances considerably less profound than those that they were proffering up to the Country, its citizens and servicemen (not to mention the Iraqis) — that is – they were proposing to launch a campaign of mass killing (war). Doesn’t get much more serious than that, yet the Administration was interested in “selling” the policy (war), rather than actually justifying it/arriving at it, in good faith, and as a true “last resort”. Very sad.]

    (That’s not to say that there weren’t numerous “innocent” foul-ups and incompetencies at play, on a “non-political” level as well (e.g., in the intelligence agencies (the CIA especially)).
    Finally, tho I suspect (rightly or wrongly) that you’d be wholly uninterested in the following book, you might want to play devil’s advocate for a while, and afford yourself the opppotunity of reading Corn & Issikoff’s Hubris. Quite excelllent, overall.

  10. Old War Dogs says:

    Bill’s Nibbles– 2007.02.07 …

    Some Bill’s Bites posts, some things I excerpted and linked but I’m sending you to the original post. I may rearrange the order of the links within this post as I add new things that I think belong above the…

  11. dennisa says:

    Differ with me all you want. Just allow me to differ with you. I don’t know what Tenet meant if he indeed said that the statement was “misrepresentative” , whatever that means. But the famous 16 words were about a British report that Iraq was trying to obtain yellowcake uranium in Africa. In any event, misrepresentative doesn’t add up to a “story known to be false”, as you said in your original post.

    Point two, you have Libby trying to defend Cheney, Fleischer, Rove, and probably Laura Bush. Just because a grand jury found that Libby committed one act of perjury doesn’t mean that there was a big conspiracy to smear Wilson and Plame. And a grand jury indictment doesn’t mean that Libby is, in fact, guilty. So before you go overboard in your statements, pull in your horns a little bit. If evidence on a conspiracy does develope, I will be more than happy to agree with you.

  12. Dc says:

    …wondering if you have even read my posts here?

    I posted a link to Tenet’s actual press statement (the one quoted in the CNN article) a while back. (ie..the original one from the cia website). I used it, along with senate testimony, Tenets actual statements, etc..(including page numbers in some cases).

    The entire yellowcake issue…appears to have not only resonated with the admin in the runup to the war…but obviously with Wilson..and everyone else..who continues today..to lump “all” of our WMD issues with Iraq post 9/11…and after over a decade of dealing with him….into 16 words that Wilson debunked..therefore destroying the president’s case for war. As convenient as that is..it’s a ridiculous argument.

    In the SOTU, Bush covered “many” things. But, just for the record and review so we’ll have a reference point, this is the relevant portion on WMD in Iraq in the ’03 SOTU :

    The United Nations concluded in 1999 that Saddam Hussein had biological weapons sufficient to produce over 25,000 liters of anthrax — enough doses to kill several million people. He hasn’t accounted for that material. He’s given no evidence that he has destroyed it.

    The United Nations concluded that Saddam Hussein had materials sufficient to produce more than 38,000 liters of botulinum toxin — enough to subject millions of people to death by respiratory failure. He hadn’t accounted for that material. He’s given no evidence that he has destroyed it.

    Our intelligence officials estimate that Saddam Hussein had the materials to produce as much as 500 tons of sarin, mustard and VX nerve agent. In such quantities, these chemical agents could also kill untold thousands. He’s not accounted for these materials. He has given no evidence that he has destroyed them.

    U.S. intelligence indicates that Saddam Hussein had upwards of 30,000 munitions capable of delivering chemical agents. Inspectors recently turned up 16 of them — despite Iraq’s recent declaration denying their existence. Saddam Hussein has not accounted for the remaining 29,984 of these prohibited munitions. He’s given no evidence that he has destroyed them.

    From three Iraqi defectors we know that Iraq, in the late 1990s, had several mobile biological weapons labs. These are designed to produce germ warfare agents, and can be moved from place to a place to evade inspectors. Saddam Hussein has not disclosed these facilities. He’s given no evidence that he has destroyed them.

    The International Atomic Energy Agency confirmed in the 1990s that Saddam Hussein had an advanced nuclear weapons development program, had a design for a nuclear weapon and was working on five different methods of enriching uranium for a bomb. The British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa. Our intelligence sources tell us that he has attempted to purchase high-strength aluminum tubes suitable for nuclear weapons production. Saddam Hussein has not credibly explained these activities. He clearly has much to hide.

    Now..just for the record here..all of those things were in the NIE. I would like for you to just read that ..and recognize that every single one of those things…were WRONG. Dead wrong. Did Tenet issue a press release on why there was no 500 something tons of VX in Iraq, etc? Did he issue a press release on the fact that their alum tube theory was completely false? How about on the mobile labs? Bio toxins? No? Of course, the only reason Tenet had to write a full page press release about “yellowcake” and 16 words of this speech buried between tons of chem and bio and etc..is because of Wilson’s media campaign that it was a lie. That’s why.

    NONE of the other things turned out to be true either. If you want to talk about what a humiliating embarassment of the most massive intelligence failure in our history, the president’s curiosity and those 16 words..are the least of it. Some feel compelled to make an argument that is was in fact..the crux of the matter. Or that maybe..somehow..if those 16 words weren’t in that speech…we’d have not gone to war? Take a look at it yourself in context. It’s a ridiculous argument to make.

    I won’t even mention..as Tenet you have quoted/linked above outright says, that it was “his” and the intelligence communities job to give the president the best information they had. It was their responsiblity..not the presidents. And if they had concerns..it was “their” responsibility to see that the president was made aware of those concerns in the assesments that they gave him, (which they didn’t by Tenet’s own admission) and as reported and assessed by the senate hearing investigations.

  13. dgfx says:


    …wondering if you have even read my posts here?

    Could be, if by “here” you mean in some threads. I don’t recall. I definitely did read your post on this thread; but as to others, frankly, I haven’t bookmarked you, or postited myself to keep up to date on your musings. Was I supposed to?

    That said (and confessing I still haven’t rummaged around in other threads to see what you’ve written) I’m afraid I may not be following what your main points are, in this thread, in your recent lengthy posting. Still, we apparently agree that there were major intelligence community failures in the lead-up to the Iraq war. We disagree on the degree of culpability of Bush and his closest associates on their own failings (including the failure to reasonably inform themselves on matters of highest state importance). You apparently do not subscribe to the “the buck stops here” doctrine, or don’t take is seriously. So be it. It takes all kinds.

    Or that maybe..somehow..if those 16 words weren’t in that speech…we’d have not gone to war?

    Of course not, but more to the point, why would you suggest that I’d hold such a position? Did you not read my post (on this thread) ? Did you not see the words (e.g.) What is clear is that Bush, and his cohorts, were “curiously un-curious” about arriving at an accurate understanding of the WMD question, and in communicating a reasonably fair and accurate picture thereof to the American Public (for example).
    As you point out, many many aspects of the SOTU re: Iraq turned out to be total hogwash, and the hogwashisity of many of these was reflected in (for example) the NIE itself — in the “dissents”. The Administration, however, was not interested in sussing out the truth, but rather in taking the steps which seemed politically expedient to achieve its goal. That is, war with Iraq. The record really is remarkably clear.
    While many in the Bush camp are fond of favorably comparing GWB to Churchill, clearly Bush suffers greatly in any such excercise which is approached with even moderate rigor. He is a fundamentally dis-interested president, with (for example) marked-to-severe deficits in intellectual curiosity and rigor (and elsewhere). (Equally clearly he has his strengths, particularly in the realm of domestic politickin’ (tho how much of these strenghts is Bush and how much Rove is somewhat of an open question in my mind)).
    Anyhoo, in response to what is arguably one of the the most bollixed up intelligence failures in US History, and, indeed, with regards to one of the most mis-planned and unthought-thru invasions in our history, how does the man at the top deal with such failures ? Not well. The list is long, but its germ is reflected in Bush’s awarding the Medals of Freedom to Tenet and Franks. Talk about self-satire. Hilarious (at least if you keep the deaths and blood and destruction out of mind).
    Hopefully, sensible steps have been taken at bureaucratic levels to effectively address the institutional failings. As to the failings at the political level, well, I guess we’ll just have to wait and see what the electorate does next time around. (I see little evidence that in the current administration itself, any serious re-evaluation and re-adjustment of perspective or approach or seriousness has been undertaken in this regard.)
    And so it goes.

  14. Dc says:

    I apologize for the length of my last post. The inclusion of the relevant parts of the presidents SOTU speech on WMD made it hard to keep any resemblance of brevity. But, I felt it was necessary to at least be on the same page. As to my earlier references to Tenet, …yes…posted his statements in other “Plame/Libby” threads in these forums. Not accusatory…just poor choice of wording.

    You said: that we agree that there were intelligence failures in the leadup to the Iraq war.

    Just to clarify..from my end..there were intelligence failures on Iraq (and elsewhere) that went back well over a DECADE. It wasn’t just a failure in the “run up to the war”. The idea that Iraq had or was developing or hiding WMD was not an illusion created by BushJR to drum up support for a war against Iraq—if that’s the point you are implying with your “run up to the war” bit. The intelligence assesments that Iraq continued to have, hide and develop WMD was not “new” but ongoing, and was relyed on as well by prior admins.

    In that regard, I absolutely adhere to the Buck stops here doctrine in this…but for “everyone” and for the entire issues at hand. Not just Bush. I think there was a Buck for the UNSC, and more importantly..for Saddam. I disagree with you entirely that the president didn’t “make an attempt to reasonably inform himself” with intelligence on the matter…given the state of the intelligence that he had available to reasonably inform himself with. That point is expanded if you consider other nations intelligence on Iraq over the years and at the time..not to mention the intelligence that was used by preivous admins. I’m just making the point…that the intelligence that Saddam had WMD, continued to persue efforts to obtain WMD, had WMD progrms AND weapons that he was trying to conceal was not some “new” paradigm in intelligence that happened when Bush Jr took office.

    Nor is there any evidence you can point to..that some new paradigm shift in intelligence on Iraq appeared after Bush took office that had the president been mildly curious..he would have discovered. I take that as your opinion…(which is fine). However, pardon me if I do not take your opinion as fact that I have somehow overlooked… That’s just me 🙂

    We didn’t fly over Iraq, bomb it, then present our faulty intelligence as justification for it. There are plenty of BDS arguments based on this premise. The president brought a case through the UNSC backed by an authorization for use of force from the senate to hold Saddam and the UNSC feet to the fire under resolution 1441 to either settle these disarmament issues once and for all…or Saddam was going bye-bye. It was always understood that the US was coming into this with a resolution for use of force of it’s own. That wasn’t a secret. The charges against Saddam laid out in 1441 were also not new..nor somehow based on our “faulty” intelligence or J wilson’s trip to Niger. It was the same “old’ case.

    One can most certainly (and many did) argue that given the situation as it was during the inspections, etc..that it should have been allowed to continue …despite it not necessarily following what 1441 dictated..for any number of reasons. That we should have just changed our position and let things go on for a while. Others argued that this was the entire problem in the past and was the process and very reason every previous resolution and inspection process had failed to bring this to a close. That’s why 1441 language was explicit and why it was decided before ever going into it…that any deviation from those provisions would constitute a “breech” (it was written that way in the resolution).

    Now..it is ultimately the presidents call…whether or not to yank that chain..even though he was otherwise empowered and authorized to do so. The buck does stop right there. Any number of arguments could made on “that’ front. But, Blood for oil…Bush lied thousands died..etc..those are campaign slogans and mantras of the nutroots —not that we don’t have a few of them in congress too. I appreciate you not using them (although quoting Jason (Rove’s indicted) Leopold comes a close 2nd). 🙂

    As much as some people and/or nations wanted Saddam to be in compliance for this to get settled, etc….there was just no way to have someone else make Saddam do anything..nor do it for him. I won’t even mention here Oil for Food and other national interests in Iraq and UNSC voting on issues relating to Iraq. Saddam had to do it. And the Buck stopped there with him as well.

    If you’d like to discuss the resolution 1441 or the authorization for use of force…or the senate committe hearing, the ISG group findings or etc….I’m more than happy to oblige. I enjoy it actually.

  15. dgfx says:

    DC –
    Thanks for the reply. I think we understand each other’s position, in broad strokes, anyway. While we disagree on many fundamentals, and are unlikely to sway each other’s opinion (especially in a forum such as a blog), it’s somewhat heartening to have a civil interchange. (And by the bye, I didn’t quote Jason Leopold (tho I might have, without remorse, for all I know of him or his work) 😉 )