News and events revolving around the ousting of CIA agent Valerie Plame.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Plamegate's real liar - Los Angeles Times

Max Boot

November 2, 2005

'SCOOTER" LIBBY'S indictment was not exactly good news for the White House, but it could have been a lot worse. Feverish speculation had been building that Karl Rove would soon be "frog-marched out of the White House in handcuffs," as Valerie Plame's bombastic hubby, Joe Wilson, had hoped. Or even that Dick Cheney would have to resign.

But with his investigation all but over, prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald has found no criminal conspiracy and no violations of the Intelligence Identities Protection Act, which makes it a crime in some circumstances to disclose the names of undercover CIA operatives. Among other problems, Plame doesn't seem to fit the act's definition of a "covert agent" — someone who "has within the last five years served outside the United States." By 2003, Plame had apparently been working in Langley, Va., for at least six years, which means that, mystery of mysteries, the vice president's chief of staff was indicted for covering up something that wasn't a crime.

Making the best of a weak hand, Democrats argued that the case was not about petty-ante perjury but, as Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid put it, "about how the Bush White House manufactured and manipulated intelligence in order to bolster its case for the war in Iraq and to discredit anyone who dared to challenge the president." The problem here is that the one undisputed liar in this whole sordid affair doesn't work for the administration. In his attempts to turn his wife into an antiwar martyr, Joseph C. Wilson IV has retailed more whoppers than Burger King.

The least consequential of these fibs was his denial that it was his wife who got him sent to Niger in February 2002 to check out claims that Saddam Hussein had tried to buy uranium. The Senate Select Committee on Intelligence later stated, in a bipartisan report, that evidence indicated it was Mrs. Wilson who "had suggested his name for the trip." By leaking this fact to the news media, Libby and other White House officials were merely setting the record straight — not, as Wilson would have it, punishing his Mata Hari wife.

Much more egregious were the ways in which Wilson misrepresented his findings. In his famous New York Times Op-Ed article (July 6, 2003), Wilson gave the impression that his eight-day jaunt proved that Iraq was not trying to acquire uranium in Africa. Therefore, when administration officials nevertheless cited concerns about Hussein's nuclear ambitions, Wilson claimed that they had "twisted" evidence "to exaggerate the Iraqi threat." The Senate Intelligence Committee was not kind to this claim either.

The panel's report found that, far from discrediting the Iraq-Niger uranium link, Wilson actually provided fresh details about a 1999 meeting between Niger's prime minister and an Iraqi delegation. Beyond that, he had not supplied new information. According to the panel, intelligence analysts "did not think" that his findings "clarified the story on the reported Iraq-Niger uranium deal." In other words, Wilson had hardly exposed as fraudulent the "16 words" included in the 2003 State of the Union address: "The British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa." In fact, the British government, in its own post-invasion review of intelligence, found that this claim was "well founded."

This is not an isolated example. Pretty much all of the claims that the administration doctored evidence about Iraq have been euthanized, not only by the Senate committee but also by the equally bipartisan Robb-Silberman commission. The latest proof that intelligence was not "politicized" comes from an unlikely source — Lawrence Wilkerson, Colin Powell's former chief of staff, who has been denouncing the hawkish "cabal" supposedly leading us toward "disaster." Yet, in between bouts of trashing the administration, Wilkerson said on Oct. 19 that "the consensus of the intelligence community was overwhelming" that Hussein was building illicit weapons. This view was endorsed by "the French, the Germans, the Brits." The French, of all people, even offered "proof positive" that Hussein was buying aluminum tubes "for centrifuges." Wilkerson also recalled seeing satellite photos "that would lead me to believe that Saddam Hussein, at least on occasion, was … giving us disinformation."

So much for the lies that led to war. What we're left with is the lies that led to the antiwar movement. Good thing for Wilson and his pals that deceiving the press and the public isn't a crime.


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