Gotta hand it to AJStrata and Macranger for their excellent detective work on the Plame story. They both have excellent pieces out today but first I want to get to Victoria Toensing outstanding article in the WSJ today about Joe Wilson’s involvement in the CIA coup against President Bush:
? First: The CIA sent her husband, former Ambassador Joseph Wilson, to Niger on a sensitive mission regarding WMD. He was to determine whether Iraq had attempted to purchase yellowcake, an essential ingredient for nonconventional weapons. However, it was Ms. Plame, not Mr. Wilson, who was the WMD expert. Moreover, Mr. Wilson had no intelligence background, was never a senior person in Niger when he was in the State Department, and was opposed to the administration’s Iraq policy. The assignment was given, according to the Senate Intelligence Committee, at Ms. Plame’s suggestion.
? Second: Mr. Wilson was not required to sign a confidentiality agreement, a mandatory act for the rest of us who either carry out any similar CIA assignment or who represent CIA clients.
? Third: When he returned from Niger, Mr. Wilson was not required to write a report, but rather merely to provide an oral briefing. That information was not sent to the White House. If this mission to Niger were so important, wouldn’t a competent intelligence agency want a thoughtful written assessment from the “missionary,” if for no other reason than to establish a record to refute any subsequent misrepresentation of that assessment? Because it was the vice president who initially inquired about Niger and the yellowcake (although he had nothing to do with Mr. Wilson being sent), it is curious that neither his office nor the president’s were privy to the fruits of Mr. Wilson’s oral report.
? Fourth: Although Mr. Wilson did not have to write even one word for the agency that sent him on the mission at taxpayer’s expense, over a year later he was permitted to tell all about this sensitive assignment in the New York Times. For the rest of us, writing about such an assignment would mean we’d have to bring our proposed op-ed before the CIA’s Prepublication Review Board and spend countless hours arguing over every word to be published. Congressional oversight committees should want to know who at the CIA permitted the publication of the article, which, it has been reported, did not jibe with the thrust of Mr. Wilson’s oral briefing. For starters, if the piece had been properly vetted at the CIA, someone should have known that the agency never briefed the vice president on the trip, as claimed by Mr. Wilson in his op-ed.
? Fifth: More important than the inaccuracies is the fact that, if the CIA truly, truly, truly had wanted Ms. Plame’s identity to be secret, it never would have permitted her spouse to write the op-ed. Did no one at Langley think that her identity could be compromised if her spouse wrote a piece discussing a foreign mission about a volatile political issue that focused on her expertise? The obvious question a sophisticated journalist such as Mr. Novak asked after “Why did the CIA send Wilson?” was “Who is Wilson?” After being told by a still-unnamed administration source that Mr. Wilson’s “wife” suggested him for the assignment, Mr. Novak went to Who’s Who, which reveals “Valerie Plame” as Mr. Wilson’s spouse.
? Sixth: CIA incompetence did not end there. When Mr. Novak called the agency to verify Ms. Plame’s employment, it not only did so, but failed to go beyond the perfunctory request not to publish. Every experienced Washington journalist knows that when the CIA really does not want something public, there are serious requests from the top, usually the director. Only the press office talked to Mr. Novak.
? Seventh: Although high-ranking Justice Department officials are prohibited from political activity, the CIA had no problem permitting its deep cover or classified employee from making political contributions under the name “Wilson, Valerie E.,” information publicly available at the FEC.[…]The CIA conduct in this matter is either a brilliant covert action against the White House or inept intelligence tradecraft. It is up to Congress to decide which.
Do the Democrats not ask the same questions as the rest of us or do they just pretend none of this stuff exists? As I eluded to at the beginning of this post, AJStrata did a great job highlighting some interesting information about Joe Wilson’s previous trip to Niger in 1999:
In a previous post I noted the strange coincidence that the Niger Forgeries were possibly made in the 1999-2000 timeframe (before Bush was even elected), which was also coincidental with the Iraqi trade commission trip to Niger, and Joe Wilson?s first trip to Niger for the CIA. Joe Wilson had just left the US government and started JCWilson International Ventures, Inc – which specialized in trade with African countries.
Countries including Niger, which only had one real product to export: uranium.
In that post I postulated that the Niger Forgeries would be a real good way to divert western intelligence services away from any nefarious activities by pointing them at international bad guy Saddam Hussein. I speculated that if – and this is a big if – Joe Wilson was working with rogue CIA elements to make some money on the side, covered by Valerie?s cover employer supposedly chartered to keep an eye on this kind of WMD trade, then the Niger Forgeries would be a classic CIA method of diversion away from an illegal money making scheme.
Some of this speculation was confirmed when these reports surfaced claiming that the Niger Forgeries were created by Libya to divert suspicions from a Libya-Iraq-Egypt alliance, where Libya purchased the yellowcake for Saddam and others.
New attempts are being made by officials from Niger to obfuscate the political picture with regard to the supply of Niger-originating uranium to Iraq. However, there is now a growing possibility that the reality that Niger supplied uranium to Libya, and that Libya hosted the Iraqi strategic weapons programs from about 1998 onwards, will be openly acknowledged by US and UK governments in the near future.
I have no clue to the veracity of these claims or where this group comes from. But the fact that we found a nuclear weapons capability in Libya shortly after Saddam?s regime fell is consistent with the scenario were we traced Saddam?s weapons to Libya and Libya gave up the ghost when we confronted them.
But how could this play with Wilson?
Here is an interesting timeline of events that is the most common chronology of events in 1999:
1999 ? Joseph Wilson takes a trip to Niger at the behest of the CIA to investigate ?uranium-related matters? separate from Iraq . (Wilson, Politics lv-lvi). According to the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence report on pre-war intelligence, Wilson ?was selected for the 1999 trip after his wife mentioned to her supervisors that her husband was planning a business trip to Niger in the near future and might be willing to use his contacts in the region.? (Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, Report on Prewar Assessment of Iraq Intelligence, 39, July 2004).
April 22, 1999 ? Valerie Wilson lists ?Brewster-Jennings & Assoc.??later revealed to be a CIA front company?as her employer when making a donation to the Gore campaign. ( Gore FEC filing).
June 1999 ? Niger ?s former prime minister Ibrahim Mayaki meets with an Iraqi delegation wanting to discuss ?expanding commercial relations.? Mayaki interprets this as an interest in uranium, Niger ?s main export, and later tells Wilson that he did not discuss it because Iraq remained under UN trade sanctions. (Senate Intelligence Cmte., Iraq 43-44, July 2004).
Nowhere was I able to find out when Joe Wilson went to Niger. If he went when the Iraqi delegation did, it would be truly interesting. To recap, Wilson was considered a candidate for the 2002 tea sipping trip to Niger because Valerie had proposed him once before for a CIA mission to Niger in 1999.
The committee found Wilson had made an earlier trip to Niger in 1999 for the CIA, also at his wife?s suggestion.
The entire story in 1999 was it made sense for him to assist because he was going to Niger for business anyway. But you would have to understand how crazy that should be – given Niger had just been through a coup d?etat in May 1999
The armed forces are maintaining their grip on power in Niger following the assassination of the country?s president, Ibrahim Bare Mainassara, on Friday.
The prime minister, Ibrahim Assana Mayaki, said the military would remain in power until the formation of ?a government of national unity? in a few days.
Details of the president?s assassination remain sketchy[…]
Yes, this is the same Mayaki Joe Wilson will name when he comes back in 2002 and report that Mayaki had been approached by the Iraqi delegation – which we can see from the above time line was June, only a month after a coup. It is safe to assume the new goverment needed money and possibly military support. So would you go to do business in a country just racked by a coup? Did he go before the coup?[…]Was Joe working a CIA front? Or were some of the folks at the CIA working a rogue effort in Niger? How is it the wife of a CIA WMD expert, charged with monitoring trade in uranium yellowcake, is married to someone who works for Niger establishing trade with that one-product country? Were the forged documents and the 2002 trip meant to cover tracks that could be discovered if Niger was investigated too deeply? Was there reason to be concerned about missing uranium in 1999 from Niger (there had been a coup d?etat)?
Another excellent article about Wilson’s contacts and previous trips to Niger can be found here.
But then Macranger comes in for the double whammy:
As I posted before, there is no doubt that Wilson went in 1999 (under the guise of investigating a 1998 deal), to broker what I believe were ongoing sales of Uranium from Niger to other rogue nations including Iraq. Of course detractors note that since France controlled the mines, this would be impossible, but the findings of the Oil for Food Scandal are shedding a differing light on COGEMA.
In essence, what you had was a “cake” laundering operation, and the “washing machine” was the cache located at Al Tuwaitha. So long as the amount remained the same, no one would ever know. This is so simple (crooked cops do it with cocaine in the evidence room), etc.
Of course there would be one caveat and this is key and not surprising. The IAEA would have had to have “blinked” once in a while. Scandelous? Yes, but that the IAEA might not have been so suspect if frustratated by the Bush Administration killing the Golden Goose, they showed their hand in October of 2004 by leaking the story of missing munitions at Al-Qaqaa. Make no mistake, the move was to defeat Bush and thus, get the ‘heat off” as a Kerry Administration would have canned any further scrutiny into the Oil for Food Scandal.
With the work of these two and a few (very few) reporters this story might have some legs. Just look at this 2004 article where they highlight Libya’s purchase of yellowcake:
When thieves stole a steel watch and two bottles of perfume from Niger’s embassy on Via Antonio Baiamonti in Rome at the end of December 2000, they left behind many questions about their intentions.
The identity of the thieves has not been established. But one theory is that they planned to steal headed notepaper and official stamps that would allow the forging of documents for the illicit sale of uranium from Niger’s vast mines.[…]Until now, the only evidence of Iraq’s alleged attempts to buy uranium from Niger had turned out to be a forgery. In October 2002, documents were handed to the U.S. embassy in Rome that appeared to be correspondence between Niger and Iraqi officials.
When the U.S. State Department later passed the documents to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the UN nuclear watchdog, they were found to be fake. U.S. officials have subsequently distanced themselves from the entire notion that Iraq was seeking buy uranium from Niger.
However, European intelligence officers have now revealed that three years before the fake documents became public, human and electronic intelligence sources from a number of countries picked up repeated discussion of an illicit trade in uranium from Niger. One of the customers discussed by the traders was Iraq.
These intelligence officials now say the forged documents appear to have been part of a “scam,” and the actual intelligence showing discussion of uranium supply has been ignored.
The fake documents were handed to an Italian journalist working for the Italian magazine Panorama by a businessman in October 2002. According to a senior official with detailed knowledge of the case, this businessman had been dismissed from the Italian armed forces for dishonorable conduct 25 years earlier.[..]The Financial Times has now learnt that three European intelligence services were aware of possible illicit trade in uranium from Niger between 1999 and 2001. Human intelligence gathered in Italy and Africa more than three years before the Iraq war had shown Niger officials referring to possible illicit uranium deals with at least five countries, including Iraq.
This intelligence provided clues about plans by Libya and Iran to develop their undeclared nuclear programs. Niger officials were also discussing sales to North Korea and China of uranium ore or the “yellow cake” refined from it: the raw materials that can be progressively enriched to make nuclear bombs.
The raw intelligence on the negotiations included indications that Libya was investing in Niger’s uranium industry to prop it up at a time when demand had fallen, and that sales to Iraq were just a part of the clandestine export plan. These secret exports would allow countries with undeclared nuclear programs to build up uranium stockpiles.
One nuclear counter-proliferation expert told the Financial Times: “If I am going to make a bomb, I am not going to use the uranium that I have declared. I am going to use what I acquire clandestinely, if I am going to keep the program hidden.”
This may have been the method being used by Libya before it agreed last December to abandon its secret nuclear program. According to the IAEA, there are 2,600 tons of refined uranium ore-“yellow cake”-in Libya. However, less than 1,500 tons of it is accounted for in Niger records, even though Niger was Libya’s main supplier.
This is getting more interesting with every passing day.
It seem’s to me that Harry Reid’s recent escapades on the Senate floor, demanding further inquiry into the Iraqi intelligence may come back to bite him in the ass. I have to believe all this information is in the Senate intelligence record somewhere.
I’ll end this with Zell Miller’s opinion piece published yesterday:
It’s like a spy thriller. Institutional rivalries and political loyalties have fostered an intelligence officer’s resentment against the government. Suddenly, an opportunity appears for the agent to undercut the national leadership. A vital question of intelligence forms the core justification for controversial military actions by the current leaders. If this agent can get in the middle of that question, distort that information and make it public, the agent might foster regime change in the upcoming election.
But the rules on agents are clear. They can’t purposely distort gathered intelligence, go public with secret information or use their position or information to manipulate domestic elections or matters without risking their job or jail.
But their spouse can!
The agent realizes her spouse can go out on behalf of the spy agency, can distort information, go public with classified information and use all this spy-agency-sponsored material and credentials to try to pull down the current government, and it is all perfectly legal.
Suppose the spouse adds just one more brilliant, well-aimed lie: claim your foremost political opponent put the spouse up to the trip. As your spouse uses your agency’s name to mount attacks, your enemy may fall into your trap. Will your enemy suffer your spouse’s lies or take the bait and try to clarify his non-role? If he tells the press he didn’t hire your spouse, the press will demand to know, “Then who did?”
Instead of you violating secrecy laws, it is your victim who is guilty because he tried to set the record straight. Heads, you win; tails, he loses.
It sounds unbelievable, a fiction, perhaps to be called “To Sting a King.” But it is no fiction. This is the story behind Valerie Plame, Joe Wilson and the Bush administration. And it appears that Plame and Wilson will get away with the biggest sting operation ever.
No one seems to care that our intelligence agency has crippled our president. Certainly not the media. They are determined to make Wilson a hero. Recall the dozens of times the Washington Post and The New York Times carried his lies on the front page, above the fold. The conclusive story discrediting Wilson was buried 6 feet deep, back by the obituaries.
To the media, it doesn’t matter that the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence says Wilson lied about what he did and with whom he met while investigating Iraqi attempts to purchase “yellowcake” uranium.
To the media, it doesn’t matter that the CIA says what Wilson did actually find supported that Iraq was attempting to buy the uranium ? a direct contradiction to Wilson’s public claims.
To the media, it doesn’t matter that he claimed the vice president assigned him to the uranium investigation when we all know now it was his wife.
Some absurdly claim that Plame had nothing to do with her husband’s political activities against President Bush. But let it be clear. Plame could not have done what Wilson did and gotten away with it. Wilson could not have done what he did without Plame giving him a way to do it.
Something has to be done. We can’t let the CIA become the domestic dirty tricks shop, with Republican and Democratic agents each trying to pull down their opposing presidents.
We need a Plame rule. Any family member of a CIA agent tapped to help out must live by the same rules regarding information disclosure and domestic political manipulations as those imposed on the agent. If the family member fails to live by those rules, the agent is terminated.
Clearly this will restrict the flexibility of the CIA. But who ever thought that the flexibility given to CIA agents would be misused to destabilize a U.S. president? No one ? until Valerie Plame.
It seem’s to me that Harry Reid’s recent escapades on the Senate floor, demanding further inquiry into the Iraqi intelligence may come back to bite him in the a**.