Reprinted from

Senators Rebuke Joe Wilson Claims

Kenneth R. Timmerman
Friday, June 1, 2007

 WASHINGTON -- In a rare rebuke of a public official by name, the Senate Select Intelligence Committee has issued a scathing report blasting former Ambassador Joseph Wilson IV.

 The report claims Wilson mislead the public and the intelligence committee about his trip to Niger in 2002 on behalf of the CIA to investigate claims that Iraq was seeking to purchase uranium in Africa.

 Best know as the husband of former CIA officer Valerie Plame, Ambassador Wilson was catapulted to the limelight after he published an Op-Ed in The New York Times on July 6, 2003, that accused the Bush administration of manipulating intelligence on Iraq to make the case for war.

 In his New York Times article, Wilson said that in February 2002 he was asked by the Central Intelligence Agency to travel to Niger to investigate "a particular intelligence report" that documented the sale of uranium to Iraq by the Niger government.

 The CIA wanted him to "check out the story so they could provide a response to the vice president's office," after Vice President Dick Cheney had raised questions about the purported uranium deals, he wrote.

 Once he arrived in Niger's capital, Niamey, Wilson says he met with U.S. Ambassador Barbro Owens-Kirkpatrick, then "spent the next eight days drinking sweet mint tea" and meeting with former government officials and others involved in the uranium business. "It did not take long to conclude that it was highly doubtful that any such transaction had ever taken place."

 And that is what he reported back to the CIA and to the State Department African Affairs Bureau, Wilson wrote. But according to the Senate Intelligence Committee investigation, released last Friday, much of what Wilson wrote in the article, and has said since, about the trip "is not true."

 Wilson wrote to the committee in July 2004 when they released an exhaustive investigation into the Niger uranium story that included the finding that he had been sent to Niger at the suggestion of his wife. Wilson claimed that was "not true."

 At the time, the Committee did not release the full text of the e-mail sent by Valerie Plame on Wilson to her superior that recommended him for the job, "thinking it was unnecessary in light of the other evidence" they had made public.

 But now, "considering the controversy surrounding this document," the Senate committee decided to make the full text available to the public. The Valerie Plame e-mail shows without any doubt that she recommended her husband for the mission in Niger.

 After recounting an earlier fact-finding mission he had carried out in Niger for the Agency, as well as his good contacts "with both the [prime minister] and the former minister of mines," she concluded by saying that her husband "may be in a position to assist. Therefore, request your thoughts on what, if anything to pursue here."

 In sworn testimony before the House committee on Oversight and Government Reform in March of this year, however, Plame denied categorically that she had suggested her husband's name. "I did not recommend him. I did not suggest him," she said.

 It was Valerie Plame's recommendation for the mission that caught the eye of Vice President Dick Cheney when Wilson's Op-Ed first appeared and ultimately led to the Special Counsel investigation into how her name — supposed classified — was "leaked" to the press.

 The committee found that internal intelligence community notes of meetings in which Valerie Plame participated "did not mark her name with a (C) as would be required to indicate that her association with the CIA was classified," as both Plame and her husband have said. These aren't the only instance where Wilson's account did not square with the facts, the senators found.

 Wilson has said in his book and in numerous public appearances that reports he reviewed from the U.S. ambassador to Niger, Barbro Owens-Kirkpatrick, "indicated that there was nothing to the Niger-Iraq uranium story . . . This too is untrue," the committee found. On the contrary, Owens-Kirkpatrick wrote a cable to the State Department which said that the initial CIA reporting of a Niger-Iraq uranium deal "provides sufficient details to warrant another hard look at Niger's uranium sales."

Although Nigerian officials insisted in meetings with the Americans that no uranium would be sold to rogue nations, "we should not dismiss out of hand the possibility that some scheme could be, or has been, underway to supply Iraq with yellowcake from here," she wrote.

 Perhaps the most damning conclusion of the Senate report has been known for nearly three years, but has remained classified until now. In the initial July 2004 report, the Senate committee reported that the intelligence community "used or cleared the Niger-Iraq uranium intelligence fifteen times before the President's State of the Union address and four times after, saying in several papers that Iraq was ‘vigorously pursuing uranium from Africa.'"

 Despite that finding, Democrats led by Michigan Sen. Carl Levin blasted President Bush for the "16 words" in the January 2003 speech that described Iraq's efforts to acquire uranium from Africa, calling them an effort to "cherry-pick" intelligence and to "mislead" the country and the world in a "rush to war."

 In fact, the U.S. intelligence community continued to believe in the veracity of the Niger uranium story for many months after the speech, and didn't call back its original reporting until June 2003 — well after the liberation of Iraq.

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