The trial record suggests a simple answer: The White House was worried that the CIA would reveal that it had been pressured in 2002 and early 2003 to support administration claims about Iraqi weapons of mass destruction, and that in the Niger case, the CIA had tried hard to resist this pressure. The machinations of Cheney, Libby and others were an attempt to weave an alternative narrative that blamed the CIA.
That documentary evidence, of course, is geared toward establishing what Scooter Libby knew and when he knew it. So that evidence wouldn't include the results of Senates' Select Committee on Intelligence's report on the subject. That only goes to the credibility of Ambassador Wilson.
Funny thing too that Ignatius missed it because two and a half years ago there was a nice article on the topic of that report featured in Ignatius's own paper, the Washington Post by Susan Schmidt.
Wilson's assertions -- both about what he found in Niger and what the Bush administration did with the information -- were undermined yesterday in a bipartisan Senate intelligence committee report.
The panel found that Wilson's report, rather than debunking intelligence about purported uranium sales to Iraq, as he has said, bolstered the case for most intelligence analysts. And contrary to Wilson's assertions and even the government's previous statements, the CIA did not tell the White House it had qualms about the reliability of the Africa intelligence that made its way into 16 fateful words in President Bush's January 2003 State of the Union address.
Yesterday's report said that whether Iraq sought to buy lightly enriched "yellowcake" uranium from Niger is one of the few bits of prewar intelligence that remains an open question. Much of the rest of the intelligence suggesting a buildup of weapons of mass destruction was unfounded, the report said.
In other words Wilson's a blowhard. The administration wasn't engaged in some sort of sneaky attempt to undermine Wilson or get at him through his wife. It was attempting to push back against a phony accusation that was undermining the administration's political credibility.
Yes I read what Schmidt wrote. She wrote that the Senate report found the issue of yellowcake was an open question. It was not refuted by Wilson.
So we begin to understand why the White House was worried about the CIA in the summer of 2003: It feared the agency would breach the wall of silence about the claims regarding weapons of mass destruction. Robert Grenier, a CIA official who was the agency's Iraq mission manager, told colleagues that he remembered "a series of insistent phone calls" that month from Libby, who wanted the CIA to tell reporters that "other community elements such as State and DOD" had encouraged Wilson's Niger trip, not just Cheney.
The Senate report here is very clear. The CIA attempting to answer the question from VP Cheney sent Wilson on his wife's recommendation.
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. 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.
( ) Some CPD officials could not recall how the office decided to contact the former ambassador, however, interviews and documents provided to the Committee indicate that his wife, a CPD employee, suggested his name for the trip. The CPD reports officer told Committee staff that the former ambassador's wife "offered up his name" and a memorandum to the Deputy Chief of the CPD on February 12, 2002, from the former ambassador's wife says, "my husband has good relations with both the PM [prime minister] 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." This was just one day before CPD sent a cable DELETED requesting concurrence with CPD's idea to send the former ambassador to Niger and requesting any additional information from the foreign government service on their uranium reports. The former ambassador's wife told Committee staff that when CPD decided it would like to send the former ambassador to Niger, she approached her husband on behalf of the CIA and told him "there's this crazy report" on a purported deal for Niger to sell uranium to Iraq.
It's hard to see how Ignatius is skeptical that it was the Vice President's office who was alone in pushing for the investigation. It states it very clearly that State and Defense also asked for the information. Libby wasn't calling around to cover things up but to set them straight.
It's nice that Ignatius has everything figured out. His narrative would be a lot more convincing if he included all the relevant information instead of doctoring the intelligence to arrive to his conclusion.
UPDATE: see memeorandumPosted by SoccerDad at February 2, 2007 2:26 AM