Walter Pincus revisits the Joe Wilson story to write about who really sent him to Niger, and continues to botch the separate issue as to whether Wilson disproved allegations that Iraq was seeking uranium there.
I've been harping about this since July 27, asking the paper (in unanswered emails to Post ombudsman Michael Getler and to the generic corrections box email address) to examine Susan Schmidt's story of July 10, 2004, and the Senate Intelligence Committee report that story was based on. I've been doing this because in a July 27 story, Pincus and Jim VandeHei state:
In a 2002 trip to Niger at the request of the CIA, Wilson found no evidence to support allegations that Iraq was seeking uranium from that African country and reported back to the agency in February 2002.
Thus are reputations, in this case Joe Wilson's, rehabiltated with a toss down the memory hole. But as Schmidt wrote last year:
The [Senate Intelligence Committee] 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.
The more I've looked into this, the more I've believed you can make a case that Schmidt overstated matters by saying "most" analysts believed it bolstered the case--you'd have to take a head count. But the Senate Intelligence Committee report--I mean, if you read it--states very clearly that some analysts saw things exactly as Schmidt reports.
Now we that know Pincus has read it, because he cites it today in Side Issue in the Plame Case: Who Sent Her Spouse to Africa? on A8. But for some super double secret reason, Pincus writes around what the committee said about Wilson.
Here, Pincus is in the middle of describing Bush Administration officials' saying that Plame sent him:
The Bush officials passing on this version were apparently attempting to undercut the credibility of Wilson, who on Sunday, July 6, 2003, said on NBC's "Meet the Press" and in The Washington Post and the New York Times that he had checked out the allegation in Niger and found it to be wrong.
Yes. He did say that, then, and often since. Pincus later says:
Two other sources appear to support the view that Wilson's wife suggested her husband's trip. One is a June 2003 memo by the State Department's Bureau of Intelligence and Research (INR). The other, which depends in good part on the INR document, is a statement of the views of Sen. Pat Roberts (R-Kan.), chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, and two other Republican members. That statement was attached to the full committee report on its 2004 inquiry into the intelligence on weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.
The INR document's reference to the Wilson trip is contained in two sentences in a three-page memo on why the State Department disagreed with the idea that Iraq was seeking uranium from Africa -- a view that would ultimately be endorsed after the Iraq invasion by the U.S. weapons hunter David Kay.
But INR's view wasn't the only one in town, because through official channels, Wilson has a little more to say, as the Senate Intelligence Committee report issued last summer states on page 46:
The CIA's DO gave the former ambassador's information a grade of "good," which means that it added to the IC's body of understanding on the issue, [blacked out]. The possible grades are unsatisfactory, satisfactory, good, excellent, and outstanding, which, according, to the Deputy Chief of CPD, are very subjective. [blacked out] The reports officer said that a "good" grade was merited because the information responded to at least some of the outstanding questions in the Intelligence Community, but did not provide substantial new informaton. He said he judged that the most important fact in the report was that the Nigerien officials admitted that the Iraqi delegation had traveled there in 1999, and that the Nigerien Prime Minister believed the Iraqis were interested in purchasing uranium, because this provided some confirmation of foreign government service reporting....
There's more along those lines about who believed what--check out the image. Now remember, this is from the bipartisan section of the report. It's simply bad journalism to suggest en passant that Wilson either found nothing to support the claims of Iraq seeking uranium there, or that Wilson "debunked" it, as Wilson has claimed repeatedly.
I leave to Tom Maguire at Just One Minute the task of dissecting what this means for the Plame investigation--Pincus refers briefly to his own role, mentioning the anonymous administration source we'd all like to know about.
I also sense a little backfilling in today's story. That July 27 file said the following:
They [Admnistration officials] said that his 2002 trip to Niger was a boondoggle arranged by his wife, but CIA officials say that is incorrect. One reason for the confusion about Plame's role is that she had arranged a trip for him to Niger three years earlier on an unrelated matter, CIA officials told The Washington Post.
Completely ignoring several references in the Senate Intelligence Committee report about Plame recommending Wilson for the trip. That just might be another source of the "confusion." Then there's Joe Wilson himself:
"Valerie had nothing to do with the matter," Wilson wrote in a memoir published this year. "She definitely had not proposed that I make the trip."
As noted by the Post's Schmidt last year, in the same story I've been quoting from. Funny how Pincus passes silently over anything that undermines Wilson.
Honestly, a lot of today's story seems to dwell on semantics--whether Plame "sent" Wilson, or "thought it would be a neat idea and might have mentioned it to somebody, not that this influenced anyone."