Urbin Report

Thursday, November 03, 2005

More on Wilson

Via Curt at Flopping Aces, comes highlights from Victoria Toensing's WSJ article.

• 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.

From the Strata-Sphere comes more analysis:
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).

Curt has more that points out that it's Wilson who should be under investigation.