The Corner

Fact-Checking Valerie Plame Wilson, Pt. 1

The Senate Intelligence Committee has just released a new report as part of its continuing investigation into prewar intelligence.  In the report, the committee’s vice chairman, Republican Sen. Christopher Bond, has included a set of “additional views” in which he provides new evidence contradicting some of the public testimony Valerie Plame Wilson gave before the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform in March.

In that testimony, Mrs. Wilson flatly denied playing a role in choosing her husband, Joseph Wilson, for a fact-finding trip to Niger.  “I did not recommend him.  I did not suggest him,” she testified.  She said that an earlier Senate Intelligence Committee report, which concluded that she had indeed suggested her husband for the trip, was simply wrong. In particular, what she called a “quick e-mail” describing her husband’s qualifications for the trip was “taken out of context” by the committee to “make it seem as though I had suggested or recommended him.”

Now, Senator Bond has released the entire text of Mrs. Wilson’s February 12, 2002 memo.  In the memo, which was headlined “Iraq-related Nuclear Report Makes a Splash,” she referenced a February 5, 2002 CIA intelligence report about Niger, Iraq, and uranium that had been circulating in the previous week:

The report forwarded below has prompted me to send this on to you and request your comments and opinion.  Briefly, it seems that Niger has signed a contract with Iraq to sell them uranium.  The IC [Intelligence Community] is getting spun up about this for obvious reasons.  The embassy in Niamey has taken the position that this report can’t be true — they have such cozy relations with the GON [Government of Niger] that they would know if something like this transpired.

So where do I fit in?  As you may recall, [redacted] of CP/[office 2] recently approached my husband to possibly use his contacts in Niger to investigate [a separate Niger matter].  After many fits and starts, [redacted] finally advised that the station wished to pursue this with liaison.  My husband is willing to help, if it makes sense, but no problem if not.  End of story.

Now, with this report, it is clear that the IC is still wondering what is going on… my husband has good relations with both the PM and the former minister of mines, not to mention lots of French contacts, both of whom could possibly shed light on this sort of activity.  To be frank with you, I was somewhat embarrassed by the agency’s sloppy work last go-round, and I am hesitant to suggest anything again.  However, [my husband] may be in a position to assist.  Therefore, request your thoughts on what, if anything, to pursue here.  Thank you for your time on this.

The memo seems to show that Mrs. Wilson did indeed suggest her husband for the Niger mission.  And it sheds new light on why Mrs. Wilson was involved in the Niger uranium matter to begin with.  The conventional wisdom has always been that she suggested her husband’s name in response to an inquiry from Vice President Dick Cheney about the Iraq Niger uranium story.  But her memo, written on February 12, seems to show that she suggested her husband’s name before the vice president asked his question on February 13.  In addition, committee investigators found a cable in which Mrs. Wilson wrote that “both State and DOD have requested additional clarification” on the Niger matter.  She added that “indeed, the vice president’s office just asked for background information on the Niger report.”  The cable was dated February 13 at 3:42 p.m. — the day after she suggested her husband for the Niger mission.