Oct 16 2005
Howard Kurtz has a round up of blogs on this subject, so I am linking to him to see if he finds any interest in my opinion that Kristof, and through him the NY Times, probably knew of the Wilsons in May 2003 and therefore become a reasonable source for the leaking.
Geez, I just got this thing pulled together and I saw something interesting. In this post, way down, I highlight the Wilson CIA debriefing as described in the Senate report – which was at the Wilson’s home with two DO analysts and Valerie acting as ‘hostess’. Then I saw a snippet of the early Kristof peice from May 6th 2003, prior to Wilson coming out.
I’m told by a person involved in the Niger caper that more than a year ago the vice president’s office asked for an investigation of the uranium deal, so a former U.S. ambassador to Africa was dispatched to Niger. In February 2002, according to someone present at the meetings, that envoy reported to the C.I.A.
BINGO! Kristof’s source is probably Plame, possibly Wilson himself (I doubt it) and maybe one of the DO analysts. But there were only four people there at the debriefing. I think Mac Ranger is on the right trail here. There is more:
The envoy reported, for example, that a Niger minister whose signature was on one of the documents had in fact been out of office for more than a decade. In addition, the Niger mining program was structured so that the uranium diversion had been impossible.
This is the gist of the DO anaylst debriefing report on the Wilson debriefing – from the Wilsons’ side! As you will see down below, the DO analysts’ report did not contain the information about the forged dcouments. This leaves Wilson and Plame – and possibly Miller- as sources. Did Kristof have his own connections to Plame and Wilson or did he go through Miller?
More importantly, does Fitzgerald know about this?
Sorry, I guess I should have spelled it out- Kristof’s source is the Wilson’s, I am confident of that because it is not the DO analysts who were the only other people there. That means the NY Times knew of Plame’s relationship to Wilson, i.e., husband and wife. That leaves Libby and Rove off the hook per the current timeline since the Miller ‘Flame’ notation could have come from Kristof’s work.
As I begin to go through the Judy Miller version of events, I see confirmation of my suspicions there as well. From her recollections of Jun 23rd with Libby:
But he added that the C.I.A. “took it upon itself to try and figure out more” by sending a “clandestine guy” to Niger to investigate. I told Mr. Fitzgerald that I thought “clandestine guy” was a reference to Mr. Wilson – Mr. Libby’s first reference to him in my notes.
This clearly indicates Libby never mentioned Wilson by name – but somehow Miller knew it was Wilson! She knew it, more than likely, because she helped Kristoff with his article. In fact, and possibly subconciously, the very next sentence is about Kristoff’s piece!
In May and in early June, Nicholas D. Kristof, a columnist at The Times, wrote of Mr. Wilson’s trip to Niger without naming him. Mr. Kristof wrote that Mr. Wilson had been sent to Niger “at the behest” of Mr. Cheney’s office.
And from here on, Miller’s notes and comments refer to the ‘clandestine guy’ as Wilson – as if Libby made the statement. Very Clintonesquely, Miller never says once Libby made this connection. And Miller again tips her hand be divulging a knowledge of Plame’s work that was not known at the time:
My notes indicate that Mr. Libby took issue with the suggestion that his boss had had anything to do with Mr. Wilson’s trip. “Veep didn’t know of Joe Wilson,” I wrote, referring to the vice president. “Veep never knew what he did or what was said. Agency did not report to us.”
Soon afterward Mr. Libby raised the subject of Mr. Wilson’s wife for the first time. I wrote in my notes, inside parentheses, “Wife works in bureau?” I told Mr. Fitzgerald that I believed this was the first time I had been told that Mr. Wilson’s wife might work for the C.I.A. The prosecutor asked me whether the word “bureau” might not mean the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Yes, I told him, normally. But Mr. Libby had been discussing the C.I.A., and therefore my impression was that he had been speaking about a particular bureau within the agency that dealt with the spread of nuclear, biological and chemical weapons.
I am not getting how ‘Agency’ equates to ‘Bureau’…
Boy, I hope Kristof and Miller did not perjure themselves by allowing this kind of subtle misdirection to become confused with fact. They are responsible for making sure there is no confusion as to events. If Miller tried to hide the fact she knew the name ‘Wilson’ from Kristof and not from Libby she is in deep trouble.
More from Maguire here.
But Fitzgerald’s intentions aren’t the only mystery. Another character in the drama remains unnamed: the original source for columnist Robert Novak, who wrote the first piece naming Plame. Fitzgerald, says a lawyer who’s involved in the case, “knows who it is–and it’s not someone at the White House.”
Listening to FoxNews Sunday this morning (the first time in a long time) I think I saw the end of TV news shows. I found the discussions on what was presented as a likely indictment of Libby and Rove more soap opera than fact. If you lool at what Libby is supposed to have said to Miller is simply they discussed her position at the CIA which related to the question of how was it Joe Wilson ended up in Niger drinking sweet mint tea.
Even Chris Mathews has stated on his show earlier this week that this is the essence of the complaint and does not represent a sufficient case for an indictment. And if you look at this Powerline post you will get the same impression I did, that it does more to vindicate Libby since Miller cannot recall who told her Plame’s actual name.
But the FoxNews pundits where all predicting indictments, and they were pontificating on whether the targets of the indictments will step down or resign. I know it is the opinion segment of the piece, but it seemed more like rampant fantasizing. I guess I could be wrong, but I have never seen Fitzgerald as a loose partisan canon who was willing to make his career that of a political hack verses a standard bearer of the law. There is no standing in the statute or the circumstances or the intent of Rove or Libby that warrants an indictment. I just do not see it coming down to flimsy indictments.
And you have to assume Fitzgerald has more information available to him than us bloggers. Information that calls into question the whole Plame/Wilson game. For example, in the Senate Iraq Report where the Wilson affair is discussed we find some gems of information showing this was a staged event by CPD (Plame’s CIA group).
First off, I have claimed and now have proof there was no reason to send Wilson since there were trained people in place to handle any queries about Niger’s yellow cake and Iraq. Now I have evidence this is in fact correct (page 49):
Officials from the CIA’s DO Counterproliferation Division (CPD) told Committee staff that in response to questions from the Vice President’s Office and the Departments of State and Defense on the alleged Iraq-Niger uranium deal, CPD officials discussed ways to obtain additional information. [Redacted] who could make immediate inquiries into the reporting, CPD decided to contact a former ambassador to Gabon who had a posting early in his career in Niger.
This clearly indicates the redacted area identified some local intel asset. The redacted section could read something like ‘Instead of agents in the embassy,’ – meaning there were better options available than Wilson. Options used in some cases.
We all know Plame made at least one, possibly two attempts to promote her husband to do the investigation and called the meeting to introduce him to the intelligence community. In parallel with this promotion of Wilson were new, stronger indications that there was some attempt on Iraq’s part to acquire yellowcake from Niger (page 52)
On February 18, 2002, the embassy in Niger disseminated a cable which reported that the alleged Iraq-Niger uranium deal “provides sufficient detail to warrant another hard look at Niger’s uranium sales. The names of GON [government of Niger] officials cited in the report track closely with those we know to be in those, or closely-related positions. However, the purported 4,000-ton annual production listed is fully 1,000 tons more than the mining companies claim to have produced in 2001.” The report indicated that the ambassador had met with the Nigerien Foreign Minister to ask for an unequivocal assurance that Niger had stuck to its commitment not to sell uranium to rogue states. The cable also noted that in September 2001 the Nigerien Prime Minister had told embassy personnel that there were buyers like Iraq who would pay more for Niger’s uranium than France, but the Prime Minister added, “of course Niger cannot sell to them.” The cable concluded that despite previous assurances from Nigerien officials 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.” The cable also suggested raising the issue with the French, who control the uranium mines in Niger, despite France’s solid assurances that no uranium could be diverted to rogue states.
What this establishes is an environment of escalating concern that there is an ongoing attempt on Iraq’s part to feed its nuclear power research. It also indicates contacts and fact finding using current assets without Wilson to track down the situation. This lays the stage for a most unusual set of events. In this following section, it is clear every other intelligence organization thought the idea of sending Wilson was ridiculous and a waste:
On February 19, 2002, CPD hosted a meeting with the former ambassador, intelligence analysts from both the CIA and INR, and several individuals from the DO’s Africa and CPD divisions. The purpose of the meeting was to discuss the merits of the former ambassador traveling to Niger. An INR analyst’s notes indicate that the meeting was “apparently convened by [the former ambassador's] wife who had the idea to dispatch [him] to use his contacts to sort out the Iraq-Niger uranium issue.” The former ambassador’s wife told Committee staff that she only attended the meeting to introduce her husband and left after about three minutes.
(U) The INR analyst’s meeting notes and electronic mail (e-mail) from other participants indicate that INR explained its skepticism that the alleged uranium contract could possibly be carried out due to the fact that it would be very difficult to hide such a large shipment of yellowcake and because “the French appear to have control of the uranium mining, milling and transport process, and would seem to have little interest in selling uranium to the Iraqis.” The notes also indicate that INR believed that the embassy in Niger had good contacts and would be able to get to the truth on the uranium issue, suggesting a visit from the former ambassador would be redundant. Other meeting participants argued that the trip would do little to clarify the story on the alleged uranium deal because the Nigeriens would be unlikely to admit to a uranium sales agreement with Iraq, even if one had been negotiated. An e-mail from a WFNPAC analyst to CPD following the meeting noted “it appears that the results from this source will be suspectat best, and not believable under most scenarios.” CPD concluded that with no other options, sending the former ambassador to Niger was worth a try.
Well of course this is all patently wrong. There were other options being used through the embassy and there was the option of the redacted asset. CPD – Plame’s group – simply decided to go ahead with the Wilson trip despite no outside support to the idea and no perceived value in any results. And the CPD effort was a rogue effort in that it was being launched in parallel with concurrent actions out of the US Embassy in Niger. In fact, two days prior to Wilson’s arrival the Ambassoder sent her own envoy with talking points to discuss uranium with Niger government officials. This led to the awkward situation of having to tell Wilson to not interfere with her efforts (page 52):
On February 26, 2002, the former ambassador arrived in Niger. He told Committee staff that he first met with Ambassador Owens-Kirkpatrick to discuss his upcoming meetings. Ambassador Owens-Kirkpatrick asked him not to meet with current Nigerien officials because she believed it might complicate her continuing diplomatic efforts with them on the uranium issue. The former ambassador agreed to restrict his meetings to former officials and the private sector.
So now Wilson’s trip even less worthy or of any value. The debriefing is also very strange. Only two CIA employees debrief Wilson at his home with his wife ‘playing hostess’ (page 53)
Later that day, two CIA DO officers debriefed the former ambassador who had returned from Niger the previous day. The debriefing took place in the former ambassador’s home and although his wife was there, according to the reports officer, she acted as a hostess and did not participate in the debrief.
This is allows for the control of information flow. If these two DO agents are like minded (cohorst?) to Wilson and Plame this allows for a very controlled selection and distribution of information back into the CIA. There are hints these individuals were aligned with Wilson and Plame (page 53)
The intelligence report based on the former ambassador’s trip was disseminated on March 8, 2002. The report did not identify the former ambassador by name or as a former ambassador, but described him as “a contact with excellent access who does not have an established reporting record.” The report also indicted that the “subsources of the following
information knew their remarks could reach the U.S. government and may have intended to influence as well as inform.” DO officials told Committee staff that this type of description was routine and was done in order to protect the former ambassador as the source of the information, which they had told him they would do.
It seems the report from the controlled debriefing of Wilson outside of the CIA had some unique qualities to it. It also has some strange notations that should raise flags in the intelligence world – but either did not or did not get into the Senate Report (page 54)
The intelligence report said that [Prime Minister] Mayaki interpreted “expanding commercial relations” to mean that the delegation wanted to discuss uranium yellowcake sales. The intelligence report also said that “although the meeting took place, Mayaki let the matter drop due to the UN sanctions on Iraq.”
This is not good. Why did the former PM allow a contact with Iraqi’s looking for uranium to go unreported to the US or French? If French and US patronage is as important as it sounds, then this would seem to be an easy way to curry favor. This is an intelligence ‘miss’ which should raise red falgs – but it doesn’t seem to. And then Wilson spills more detail than in the debriefing – another red flag that something is wrong with this chain of information flow
In an interview with Committee staff, the former ambassador was able to provide more information about the meeting between former Prime Minister Mayaki and the Iraqi delegation. The former ambassador said that Mayaki did meet with the Iraqi delegation but never discussed what was meant by “expanding commercial relations.” The former ambassador said that because Mayaki was wary of discussing any trade issues with a country under United Nations (UN) sanctions, he made a successful effort to steer the conversation away from a discussion of trade with the Iraqi delegation.
First off, this is a major discrepancy between the DO report on Wilson’s trip and Wilson’s own testimony and should have been raising all sorts of concern. The story changed in a not so subtle way. The PM did not let it drop, apparently, but kept up discussions and says he moved the discussion ‘away from trade’. To what then? What do you discuss with a trade delegation besides trade?
Is it not reasonable to assume the former PM is not a trustworthy source, and may be untruthful given this change in the story? The continued discussions should have been in the DO report from Wilson’s debriefing – it is important to credibility. Why weren’t they? Is this the problem when dealing with an untrained resource like Wilson? Or did Wilson withhold it and later spill the beans on himself?
This did not go unnoticed by the Senate Committee (page 54-55)
When the former ambassador spoke to Committee staff, his description of his findings differed from the DO intelligence report and his account of information provided to him by the CIA differed from the CIA officials’ accounts in some respects. First, the former ambassador described his findings to Committee staff as more directly related to Iraq and, specifically, as refuting both the possibility that Niger could have sold uranium to Iraq and that Iraq approached Niger to purchase uranium. The intelligence report described how the structure of Niger’s uranium mines would make it difficult, if not impossible, for Niger to sell uranium to rouge nations, and noted that Nigerien officials denied knowledge of any deals to sell uranium to any rogue states, but did not refute the possibility that Iraq had approached Niger to purchase uranium.
Wilson focuses on the contact, but the DO report makes very little mention at all? If the DO agents who generated the report were in league with Plame, they might make decisions on what to highlight and not. They might conclude the botched meeting between Iraq and Niger gave too much credence to the WMD arguments of the administration and therefore tried trivialized it. More likely, Wilson withheld it in the debriefing – the arranged by his wife to be at their house so she could help guide his answers. And there is more:
Second, the former ambassador said that he discussed with his CIA contacts which names and signatures should have appeared on any documentation of a legitimate uranium transaction. In fact, the intelligence report made no mention of the alleged Iraq-Niger uranium deal or signatures that should have appeared on any documentation of such a deal. The only mention of Iraq in the report pertained to the meeting between the Iraqi delegation and former Prime Minister Mayaki.
This is clearly knowledge that Wilson should not have had. It relates to details about a forgery that showed up well after his trip and debriefing.
Third, the former ambassador noted that his CIA contacts told him there were documents pertaining to the alleged Iraq-Niger uranium transaction and that the source of the information was the [redacted] intelligence service. The DO reports officer told Committee staff that he did not provide the former ambassador with any information about the source or details of the original reporting as it would have required sharing classified information and, noted that there were no “documents” circulating in the IC at the time of the former ambassador’s trip, only
intelligence reports from [redacted] intelligence regarding an alleged Iraq-Niger uranium deal. Meeting notes and other correspondence show that details of the reporting were discussed at the
February 19, 2002 meeting, but none of the meeting participants recall telling the former ambassador the source of the report [redacted] .
It is clear the information reported by DO as the ‘Wilson debrief’ is not consistent with his testimony or the actual events. Where is the source of this discrepancy? Did Plame manipulate the debrief to control who did it, where it was done and to coach her husband? Or were the DO debriefers in on the game? We definitely need to find out who was providing disinformation – another serious crime by the way. The major intelligence groups dismissed the report as a big nothing, and felt any Niger denials proved nothing since they would deny these acts in any case.
I will leave this with an interesting footnote (page 82):
In March 2003, the Vice Chairman of the Committee, Senator Rockefeller, requested that the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) investigate the source of the documents, [redacted], the motivation of those responsible for the forgeries, and the extent to which the forgeries were part of a disinformation campaign. Because of the FBI’s current investigation into this matter, the Committee did not examine these issues.
Why would the domestic law enforcement agency be requested to act in this manner? Yes, they do have jurisdiction to support Italian and Interpol investigations – where the forgeries surfaced. But interesting just the same. I wonder what happened with that investigation? I am also baffled by this conclusion:
Conclusion 15. The Central Intelligence Agency’s (CIA) Directorate of Operations should have taken precautions not to discuss the credibility of reporting with a potential source when it arranged a meeting with the former ambassador and Intelligence community analysts.
This hints at some real issues with the handling of Wilson and the flow of information to him.