Jewish World Review July 21, 2004 / 3 Menachem-Av, 5764
Both the CIA and American journalism have serious problems
Joseph C. Wilson IV's shattered credibility illustrates much of what is
wrong with the CIA, and with "mainstream" journalism.
Wilson's 15 minutes of fame began July 6, 2003, when he accused President of
Bush of twisting the truth when he said in his state of the union address
that January: "the British government has learned that Saddam recently
sought significant quantities of uranium in Africa."
Wilson, a former ambassador to Gabon, said he knew this wasn't true because
in February, 2002, the CIA had sent him to Niger to determine whether that
African country had sold "yellowcake" (lightly enriched uranium ore) to
Iraq. After spending eight days "drinking sweet mint tea and talking with
dozens of people," he concluded that Niger had not.
Wilson's fame soared when columnist Robert Novak disclosed that a Bush
administration official told him that Wilson had been selected for the Niger
mission at the recommendation of his wife, CIA officer Valerie Plame. He
was a frequent guest on television news shows; the subject of a fawning
profile in Vanity Fair magazine; awarded a lucrative book deal, and made an
(unpaid) foreign policy adviser to Sen. John Kerry.
On July 9th, the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence issued its report
on the CIA's prewar intelligence on Iraq. The SSCI concluded that:
Wilson lied when he denied his wife had gotten him the Niger assignment.
"Interviews and documents provided to the Committee indicate that his
wife... suggested his name for the trip."
Wilson lied when he said his report "debunked" Bush's charge that Saddam
Hussein was seeking uranium from Africa. "For most analysts, the
information in (Wilson's) report lent more credibility to the original CIA
reports on the uranium deal."
Wilson lied when he told the Washington Post he knew the Niger
intelligence had been based on documents that had been forged. The CIA
didn't obtain the document alleged to be a forgery until eight months after
Wilson had returned from Niger. "Committee staff asked how the former
ambassador could have come to the conclusion that 'the dates were wrong and
the names were wrong' when he had never seen the CIA reports and had no
knowledge of what names and dates were in the reports."
On July 14, the Butler Commission issued its report on Britain's prewar
intelligence. It concluded there was ample evidence that Saddam tried to
buy uranium from Niger and other African countries, and that Bush's
statement to that effect in his state of the union address was "well
Wilson's charges against President Bush last year were big news. But the
fact that government investigations in two countries have concluded that it
was Wilson who was lying apparently isn't news at all.
NBC had Wilson on its Meet the Press and Today programs half a dozen times
when he was accusing President Bush of lying, but as of this writing, no
stories at all since the Senate Intelligence Committee and the Blair
Commission have issued their reports. Same for ABC and CBS, according to
the Media Research Center.
Wilson graced the cover of Time magazine's Oct. 13, 2003, issue, but Time
managed to write a story on the Senate Intelligence Committee report without
ever mentioning how it had savaged Wilson's credibility.
The Senate Intelligence Committee criticized the CIA's sloppy work in
investigating the Saddam/Africa/uranium connection. All of its information
came from foreign intelligence services. Aside from Wilson's tea-drinking
expedition, the CIA itself made little effort to gather information on this
potentially critical topic. When the Navy received a report from an African
businessman that uranium from Niger was being stored in a warehouse in
Cotineau, Benin, the CIA didn't bother to check it out.
Some in the CIA may have been more interested in dismissing reports of an
Iraq/Niger connection than in finding out if they were true. Valerie Plame
told Senate investigators she told her husband "there's this crazy report"
on a purported deal for Niger to sell uranium to Iraq.
If we're to win the war on terror, we need a CIA that is more interested in
finding out what is going on than in reinforcing the prejudices of some
analysts, and a news media that is more interested in finding the facts than
in shilling for the Democratic Party.
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JWR contributor Jack Kelly, a former Marine and Green Beret, was a
deputy assistant secretary of the Air Force in the Reagan
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