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Context of 'June 18, 2006: Freelance Journalist: Investigative Reporter Assumed His Identity for Phone Call to Rove Spokesman'

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A set of documents is forged implicating Iraq in an attempt to purchase 500 tons of uranium oxide, also known as “yellowcake,” from Niger. [Agence France-Presse, 7/19/2003; Reuters, 7/19/2003; New Yorker, 10/27/2003; Talking Points Memo, 10/31/2003; La Repubblica (Rome), 10/24/2005] It is possible that official stamps and letterhead stolen from the Niger embassy in Rome (see January 2, 2001) are used to fabricate the documents, though a subsequent police investigation suggests that the break-in may have been staged to provide a cover story for the origins of the documents. [Isikoff and Corn, 2006, pp. 88] Material gleaned from real Italian intelligence (SISMI) documents dating back to the 1980s concerning Iraq’s yellowcake purchases from Niger during that period are also incorporated into the set of forged documents. [La Repubblica (Rome), 10/24/2005; San Francisco Chronicle, 10/30/2005] But it is unclear who exactly is responsible for the forgeries. In August 2004, the Financial Times will report that according to Rocco Martino, the Italian information peddler who later tries to sell the documents, the documents are fabricated by SISMI, which passes them on to Martino through embassy employee Laura Montini, a paid SISMI asset. [Financial Times, 8/2/2004] In October 2005, the Italian newspaper La Repubblica will suggest the forgery is done by Montini and fellow embassy employee Zakaria Yaou Maiga under the guidance of Martino and Antonio Nucera, the deputy chief of the SISMI center in Viale Pasteur in Rome. [La Repubblica (Rome), 10/24/2005] In 2006, an official investigation will add support to this account, concluding that Montini and Maiga, motivated by money, were indeed the forgers of the documents. [Sunday Times (London), 4/9/2006] SISMI director Nicolo Pollari will later acknowledge that Martino had worked as a SISMI agent in the past, but deny any SISMI involvement in the Iraq-Niger affair. “[Nucera] offered [Martino] the use of an intelligence asset [Montini]—no big deal, you understand—one who was still on the books but inactive—to give a hand to Martino,” Pollari will explain. Author Craig Unger will observe that the issue is, if Pollari is to be believed, just one friend helping another friend by loaning him an intelligence asset to help disseminate forged documents. Martino has a different explanation: “SISMI wanted me to pass on the documents, but they didn’t want anyone to know they had been involved.” The information is quite contradictory. The Italian newspaper La Repubblica will call Martino “a failed carabiniere and dishonest spy,” and a “double-dealer” who “plays every side of the fence.” But Unger will later note that assets like him are valuable precisely because they lack credibility. “If there were a deep-cover unit of SISMI, it would make sense to hire someone like Rocco,” says former DIA analyst Patrick Lang. “His flakiness gives SISMI plausible deniability. That’s standard tradecraft for the agencies.” Until Martino stops talking to journalists in 2005, he will insist he believed the documents were authentic (see Summer 2004). “I sell information, I admit,” he will tell a London reporter. “But I only sell good information.” [Unger, 2007, pp. 236]

Entity Tags: Rocco Martino, Nicolo Pollari, Laura Montini, La Repubblica, Zakaria Yaou Maiga, Antonio Nucera, Craig Unger, SISMI, Patrick Lang

Timeline Tags: Niger Uranium and Plame Outing

James Bamford.James Bamford. [Source: PBS]According to author James Bamford, SISMI passes on details of the alleged Iraq-Niger uranium deal “to the Executive Committee of the Intelligence and Security Services (CESIS), which in turn pass[es] it on to the Faresine, the Italian Foreign Ministry, and to Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi at his office in Rome’s Palazzo Chigi. Only the Farnesina raise[s] ‘strong objection’ and ‘reservations’ about the report—primarily from the African Countries Directorate. They [are] greatly concerned about the reliability of the information.” [Bamford, 2004, pp. 303]

Entity Tags: Silvio Berlusconi, Italian Foreign Ministry, SISMI, Committee of the Intelligence and Security Services

Timeline Tags: Niger Uranium and Plame Outing

Italy’s military intelligence service (SISMI) provides Jeff Castelli, the CIA station chief in Rome, with papers documenting an alleged uranium deal between Iraq and Niger. Castelli, who is not permitted to duplicate the papers, writes a summary of them and sends the report to Langley. [New Yorker, 10/27/2003; Knight Ridder, 11/4/2005; La Repubblica (Rome), 11/11/2005]
The allegations - The report includes four allegations:
bullet The report states that Iraq first communicated its interest in purchasing uranium from Niger at least as early as 1999. [US Congress, 7/7/2004] As blogger ERiposte will conclude through his analysis at TheLeftCoaster.Org [ERiposte, 10/31/2005] , none of the documents that are later provided to the US as the basis for this allegation include actual proof of uranium negotiations in 1999. Two of the source documents for this allegation do mention a 1999 visit by Wissam Al-Zahawi to Niger; however, no evidence has ever surfaced suggesting that there were any discussions about uranium during that visit (see February 1999). The first document (possibly authentic) is a letter, dated February 1, 1999, from the Niger embassy in Rome to Adamou Chekou, the Minister of Foreign Affairs in Niger, announcing Zahawie’s trip. It does not mention uranium. (Note that the SISMI report does not mention Al-Zahawi’s trip, it only states that uranium negotiations between the two countries began by at least 1999.) The second document is a letter dated July 30, 1999 from the Niger Ministry of Foreign Affairs to his ambassador in Rome requesting that he contact Zahawie, concerning an agreement signed June 28, 2000 to sell uranium to Iraq. The letter is an obvious forgery because it refers to an event that it describes as taking place 11 months later. [Unknown, n.d.; La Repubblica (Rome), 7/16/2003]
bullet The SISMI report states that in “late 2000,” the State Court of Niger approved an agreement with Iraq whereby Niger would sell Iraq a large quantity of uranium. This allegation appears to be based on a forged document titled “Annex 1,” which was possibly an annex to the alleged uranium agreement. It is evident that this document was forged because it says that the state court “met in the chamber of the council in the palace… on Wednesday, July 7, 2000.” But July 7, 2000 was, in fact, a Friday, not a Wednesday. One of SISMI’s reports to the US, possibly this one, actually reproduces this error. [Unknown, n.d.; La Repubblica (Rome), 7/16/2003; ERiposte, 10/31/2005]
bullet According to the report, Nigerien President Mamadou Tandja approved the agreement and communicated this decision to Iraqi President Saddam Hussein. The source for this is apparently a forged letter from the president of Niger to Saddam Hussein, in which the president refers to his authority under the country’s obsolete 1966 constitution. At the time the letter was presumed to have been written, the constitution in effect would have been that of December 26, 1992, which was subsequently revised by national referendum on May 12, 1996 and again by referendum on July 18, 1999. [Unknown, n.d.; Reuters, 3/26/2003; La Repubblica (Rome), 7/16/2003; US Department of State, 9/2005]
bullet The report also alleges that in October 2000, Nigerien Minister of Foreign Affairs Nassirou Sabo informed one of his ambassadors in Europe that Niger had agreed to provide several tons of uranium to Iraq. [Unknown, n.d.; La Repubblica (Rome), 7/16/2003] This is seemingly based on a forged letter that accompanied the alleged uranium sales agreement. The letter, dated October 10, 2000, is stamped as being received in Rome on September 28, 2000—nearly two weeks before the letter was presumably written. Furthermore, there is a problem with the signature. Unlike what is reported in the SISMI papers provided to the CIA, the actual letter is signed by Allele Elhadj Habibou, who left office in 1989. This indicates that someone must have corrected this information, replacing the name of Allele Elhadj Habibou with that of Nassirou Sabo (the minister in October 2000), before the letter was included in this report. [ERiposte, 10/31/2005]
Distribution within US Intelligence Community - After receiving the report from its Rome station, the CIA distributes it to other US intelligence agencies. According to a later Senate investigation, the “CIA, Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA), and Department of Energy (DOE) analysts considered the reporting to be ‘possible’ while the Department of State’s Bureau of Intelligence and Research (INR) regarded the report as ‘highly suspect,’ primarily because INR analysts did not believe that Niger would be likely to engage in such a transaction and did not believe Niger would be able to transfer uranium to Iraq because a French consortium maintained control of the Nigerien uranium industry.” [US Congress, 7/7/2004] Sources later interviewed by New Yorker’s Seymour Hersh portray US intelligence analysts’ assessment of the report in slightly harsher terms, saying that they “dismissed [it] as amateurish and unsubstantiated.” [New Yorker, 10/27/2003] “I can fully believe that SISMI would put out a piece of intelligence like that,” a CIA consultant later tells Hersh, “but why anybody would put credibility in it is beyond me.” [New Yorker, 5/17/2004, pp. 227] Langley asks for further clarification from Rome and receives a response three days later (see October 18, 2001). [La Repubblica (Rome), 11/11/2005]
Repeated Dissemination - The documents and reports based on the documents are sent to the CIA at least three separate times. They are also sent to the White House, the US embassy in Rome, British and French intelligence, and Italian journalist Elisabetta Burba of the news magazine Panorama. Each recipient in turn shares the documents, or their contents, with others, creating what author Craig Unger later calls “an echo chamber that gives the illusion that several independent sources had corroborated an Iraq-Niger uranium deal.” [Unger, 2007, pp. 237]

Entity Tags: Bureau of Intelligence and Research, Central Intelligence Agency, Craig Unger, Defense Intelligence Agency, Mamadou Tandja, SISMI, Elisabetta Burba, Nassirou Sabo, Wissam al-Zahawie, Saddam Hussein, Jeff Castelli, US Department of Energy

Timeline Tags: Niger Uranium and Plame Outing

Greg Thielmann, director for strategic proliferation and military affairs at the State Department’s Bureau of Intelligence and Research (INR), reviews Iraq’s alleged WMD programs for Secretary of State Colin Powell. Thielmann’s review concludes that Italian reports of a possible uranium deal between Iraq and Niger (see Between Late 2000 and September 11, 2001, October 15, 2001, October 18, 2001, November 20, 2001, February 5, 2002, Late April or Early May 2002-June 2002, and Late June 2002) are completely false. Thielmann will later recall: “A whole lot of things told us that the report was bogus. This wasn’t highly contested. There weren’t strong advocates on the other side. It was done, shot down” (see March 1, 2002). [Unger, 2007, pp. 229]

Entity Tags: Bureau of Intelligence and Research, Colin Powell, Greg Thielmann, US Department of State

Timeline Tags: Niger Uranium and Plame Outing

The CIA Directorate of Operations issues a second intelligence report from SISMI, Italy’s military intelligence service, on Iraq’s alleged agreement with Niger to purchase 500 tons of uranium annually. This report provides details that were not included in Italy’s October 15 report (see October 15, 2001), including a “verbatim text” of the accord. (It is not clear what the source is for the “verbatim text”. [ERiposte, 3/6/2006] ) According to the report, the purported agreement was signed by Iraqi and Niger officials during meetings held July 5-6, 2000. [US Congress, 7/7/2004; Knight Ridder, 11/4/2005] The SISMI report also draws attention to a 1999 trip to Niger made by Wissam al-Zahawie (see February 1999), Iraq’s former ambassador to the Vatican, and alleges that its mission was to discuss the future purchase of uranium. This is the first report from SISMI that names al-Zahawie and refers directly to his 1999 trip. (SISMI’s previous report had only stated that negotiations had begun by at least 1999.) This report, as well as the previous report, is based on the forged Niger documents. [New Yorker, 10/27/2003; US Congress, 7/7/2004; ERiposte, 11/3/2005] Analysts at the CIA and the DIA are more impressed with the detail and substance of this second report, but analysts at the Department of State’s Bureau of Intelligence and Research (INR) remain skeptical of the report’s allegations noting that it was unlikely that Niger would sell uranium to Iraq because the Nigeriens would have considered the risk of being caught too great. An INR analyst asks the CIA if the source of the report would submit to a polygraph. A CIA analyst who also asks about the source is told by the DO that the source is “very credible.” [US Congress, 7/7/2004]

Entity Tags: Central Intelligence Agency, Bureau of Intelligence and Research, Defense Intelligence Agency

Timeline Tags: Events Leading to Iraq Invasion, Niger Uranium and Plame Outing

The Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) issues “a finished intelligence product” summarizing the February 5, 2002 SISMI report (see February 5, 2002). The report, entitled “Niamey Signed an Agreement to Sell 500 Tons of Uranium a Year to Baghdad,” states as irrefutable fact that Iraq intends to buy weapons-grade uranium from Niger (see Between Late 2000 and September 11, 2001, October 15, 2001, October 18, 2001, November 20, 2001, February 5, 2002, March 1, 2002, Late April or Early May 2002-June 2002, and Late June 2002). It concludes, “Iraq probably is searching abroad for natural uranium to assist in its nuclear weapons program.” It does not comment on the credibility of the sourcing. The report is sent directly to Vice President Dick Cheney. Within hours, Cheney directs the CIA (see February 5, 2002) to investigate the claims. According to the Senate Intelligence Committee’s 2004 report on Iraqi WMD (see July 9, 2004), CIA and DIA analysts find the subsequent reports more informative and believable than the first, more sketchy reports (see February 5, 2002). The CIA’s Directorate of Operations tells one agency analyst that the report comes from a “very credible source.” Analysts with the State Department’s Bureau of Intelligence and Research (INR) continue to find the reports unconvincing. [US Congress, 7/7/2004; Unger, 2007, pp. 239] Former CIA analyst Ray McGovern will later describe Cheney’s receipt of this document as “odd.” “[I]n more than two years of briefing then-Vice President George H. W. Bush every other morning, not once did he ask a question about a DIA report or even indicate that he had read one,” McGovern will note. “That this particular report was given to Cheney almost certainly reflects the widespread practice of ‘cherry picking’ intelligence.” [AfterDowningStreet (.org), 7/25/2005]

Entity Tags: Defense Intelligence Agency, Ray McGovern, Richard (“Dick”) Cheney

Timeline Tags: Events Leading to Iraq Invasion, Niger Uranium and Plame Outing

Joseph Wilson.Joseph Wilson. [Source: public domain]The CIA sends Joseph C. Wilson, a retired US diplomat, to Niger to investigate claims that Iraq had sought to purchase uranium from that country (see February 13, 2002). The CIA pays Wilson’s expenses for the trip, but does not pay him in any other respect. The identity of the party who requests the mission is later disputed. While Wilson will claim the trip was requested directly by Dick Cheney’s office, other sources will indicate that the CIA had decided (see February 19, 2002) that a delegation to Niger was needed in order to investigate questions raised by one of Dick Cheney’s aides (see (February 13, 2002)). [New York Times, 5/6/2003; Washington Post, 6/12/2003 pdf file; Independent, 6/29/2003; New York Times, 7/6/2003; US Congress, 7/7/2004]
Reason behind Request - Former CIA analyst Melvin Goodman will later note that “Wilson was asked to go to Niger for one specific purpose. It was the CIA’s idea to get Cheney off their backs. Cheney would not get off their backs about the yellowcake documents. They couldn’t get Cheney to stop pressing the issue. He insisted that was the proof of reconstitution of [Iraq’s nuclear] program.” [Dubose and Bernstein, 2006, pp. 214]
Normal Skepticism - Wilson goes into the situation with a healthy dose of skepticism. “My skepticism was the same as it would have been with any unverified intelligence report, because there is a lot of stuff that comes over the transom every day,” he will recall in 2006. Wilson knows nothing of the influence of the Pentagon neoconservatives (see July 8, 1996, January 26, 1998, July 1998, September 2000, Late December 2000 and Early January 2001, Shortly after January 20, 2001, and Shortly After September 11, 2001) or the growing rift in the intelligence community over the reports: “I was aware that the neocons had a growing role in government and that they were interested in Iraq,” he will recall. “But the administration had not articulated a policy at this stage.” He is not given a copy of the Niger documents before leaving for Africa, nor is he told of their history. “To the best of my knowledge, the documents were not in the possession of the [CIA] at the time I was briefed,” he will recall. “The discussion was whether or not this report could be accurate. During this discussion, everyone who knew something shared stuff about how the uranium business worked, and I laid out what I knew about the government in Niger, what information they could provide.” With this rather sketchy preparation, Wilson leaves for Niger. [Unger, 2007, pp. 240; Wilson, 2007, pp. 113] Wilson’s wife, senior CIA case officer Valerie Plame Wilson, will later write, “He figured that if the vice president had asked a serious and legitimate question, it deserved a serious answer and he would try to help find it.” [Wilson, 2007, pp. 111]
No Trouble Finding Information - Wilson, who knows the Nigerien government and many of its officials, has little trouble finding the information he needs in the following week. In 2006, he will recall: “Niger has a simplistic government structure. Both the minister of mines and the prime minister had gone through the mines. The French were managing partners of the international consortium [which handles Niger’s uranium]. The French mining company actually had its hands on the project. Nobody else in the consortium had operators on the ground.” Wilson also personally knows Wissam al-Zahawie, Iraq’s ambassador to the Vatican who supposedly negotiated the uranium deal with Niger (see February 1999). Wilson will later observe: “Wissam al-Zahawie was a world-class opera singer, and he went to the Vatican as his last post so he could be near the great European opera houses in Rome. He was not in the Ba’athist inner circle. He was not in Saddam [Hussein]‘s tribe. The idea that he would be entrusted with the super-secret mission to buy 500 tons of uranium from Niger is out of the question.” [Unger, 2007, pp. 240-241] Wilson meets with, among other officials, Niger’s former minister of mines, Mai Manga. As later reported by the Senate Intelligence Committee (see July 9, 2004), Manga tells Wilson “there were no sales outside of International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) channels since the mid-1980s,” and he “knew of no contracts signed between Niger and any rogue states for the sale of uranium.” Manga says a “French mining consortium controls Nigerien uranium mining and keeps the uranium very tightly controlled from the time it is mined until the time it is loaded onto ships in Benin for transport overseas,” and, “it would be difficult, if not impossible, to arrange a special shipment of uranium to a pariah state given these controls.” [CounterPunch, 11/9/2005]
Meeting with US Ambassador - Wilson arrives in Niger on February 26, two days after Marine General Carlton W. Fulford Jr.‘s meeting (see February 24, 2002) with Nigerien officials. Wilson first meets with US Ambassador to Niger Barbro Owens-Kirkpatrick, a veteran Foreign Service official, whom Wilson will later describe as “crisp” and well-informed. Over tea in the US Embassy offices in Niamey, Niger’s capital, Owens-Kirkpatrick tells Wilson that she has already concluded that the allegations of uranium sales to Iraq are unfounded. “She had already debunked them in her reports to Washington,” Wilson will later recall. “She said, yeah, she knew a lot about this particular report. She thought she had debunked it—and, oh, by the way, a four-star Marine Corps general had been down there as well—Carlton Fulford. And he had left satisfied there was nothing to report.” [Wilson, 2004, pp. 20-22]
Details of Alleged Uranium Production - Niger extracts uranium from two mines, both located in remote locations in the Sahara Desert. It takes well over a day to drive from the mines to Niamey. The mines are owned by a consortium of foreign companies and the Nigerien government, and managed by a French mining company, COGEMA. Because of a recent upswing in the production of Canadian uranium, Niger’s uranium is mined at a net loss, and its only customers are consortium members. Wilson will later write, “[T]he Nigerien government has sold no uranium outside the consortium for two decades.” If Iraq had bought 500 tons of uranium, as the story is told, that would have represented a 40 percent production increase. “There is no doubt,” Wilson will later write, “that such a significant shift from historic production schedules would have been absolutely impossible to hide from the other partners, and most certainly from the managing partner, COGEMA. Everyone involved would have known about it.” Any Nigerien government decision to produce such an amount of uranium would have involved numerous government officials and many well-documented meetings. Because the transaction would have been to a foreign country, Niger’s Foreign Ministry would also have been involved in the decision. To sell Iraq uranium during that time would have been a violation of international law and of UN sanctions against Iraq, a weighty decision that would have ultimately been made by the president of Niger in conjuction with the foreign minister and the minister of mines. Such a decision would have been published in the Nigerien equivalent of the Federal Register and would have dramatic tax and revenue implications. The unexpected huge infusion of cash from the sale would have had a strong impact on the Nigerien economy, and would have been much anticipated and talked about throughout the Nigerien business community. [Wilson, 2004, pp. 22-25]
Off-the-Books Production Virtually Impossible - It is conceivable that such an enormous operation could have been conducted entirely “off the books,” Wilson will write, but virtually impossible to pull off. True, a military junta was in power at the time of the alleged sale, one that felt no responsibility or accountability to the Nigerien people. But even a secret transaction would have been impossible to conceal. Such a transaction would have involved thousands of barrels of clandestinely shipped uranium, extensive and complex adjustments to shipping schedules, and other ramifications. “It simply could not have happened without a great many people knowing about it, and secrets widely known do not remain hidden for long. And again, COGEMA, as the managing partner, would have had to know and be complicit.” Add to that Niger’s dependence on US foreign economic aid and its unwillingness to threaten the loss of that aid by secretly shipping uranium to a country that the US considers a dangerous rogue nation. All told, Wilson concludes, the possibility of such a clandestine operation is remote in the extreme. [Wilson, 2004; Wilson, 2004]
1999 Meeting with Iraqi Official - While speaking with a US Embassy official, Wilson learns about a 1999 meeting between the embassy official and an Iraqi representative in Algiers, perhaps in concert with a similar meeting between Iraqi officials and Niger’s prime minister (see June 1999). [Wilson, 2004, pp. 27-28]
Confirmation that Allegations are Unrealistic - After spending several days talking with current government officials, former government officials, and people associated with the country’s uranium business, Wilson concludes the rumors are completely false. He will later call the allegations “bogus and unrealistic.” [Washington Post, 6/12/2003 pdf file; Knight Ridder, 6/13/2003; Independent, 6/29/2003; New York Times, 7/6/2003; CBS News, 7/11/2003; Vanity Fair, 1/2004; Wilson, 2004, pp. 20-28, 424; Vanity Fair, 5/2004, pp. 282; Wilson, 2007, pp. 113]

Entity Tags: Barbro Owens-Kirkpatrick, Wissam al-Zahawie, Carlton W. Fulford, COGEMA, Mai Manga, Valerie Plame Wilson, Muhammad Saeed al-Sahhaf, Melvin A. Goodman, Central Intelligence Agency, Richard (“Dick”) Cheney, Joseph C. Wilson

Timeline Tags: Events Leading to Iraq Invasion, Niger Uranium and Plame Outing

Italian Panorama journalist Elisabetta Burba goes to the US Embassy in Rome and gives US officials copies of the Niger uranium documents (see March 2000) that she had obtained two days before (see Afternoon October 7, 2002). [Agence France-Presse, 7/19/2003; Agence France-Presse, 7/19/2003; Washington Post, 7/20/2003; Associated Press, 7/20/2003; Agence France-Presse, 9/19/2003; New Yorker, 10/27/2003] Up till now, the embassy had only received reports of the documents. [Unger, 2007, pp. 261] It is likely that the so-called “Italian Letter,” a letter purporting to be from the president of Niger to Iraq’s Saddam Hussein confirming the Iraq-Niger uranium deal, is not in the bundle of documents Burba brings to the embassy. [ERiposte, 3/6/2006] Burba meets with the embassy’s press spokesman, Ian Kelly. Over coffee, she tells him that she has documents purporting to show that Iraq has signed a deal to buy uranium from Niger, and she needs his help to confirm their authenticity and accuracy. Kelly brings three others into the discussion—a political officer, one of his own staffers, and perhaps a US military official, as Burba will later recall—and moves the entire group into his office. The subsequent discussion is brief; Burba hands over the documents. Kelly tells her the embassy will look into the matter. The CIA station chief, Jeff Castelli, refuses to meet with Burba. [Washington Post, 4/3/2007] Castelli is told about Burba’s visit, but is not interested. As the CIA’s head of European operations, Tyler Drumheller, will later recall, Castelli says, “This is bullsh_t we don’t have time to waste on.” Castelli receives a copy of the documents but quickly forgets about them. According to Drumheller, Castelli is “not the most organized guy in the world. And his view was, ‘This is the least important thing that’s coming across my desk now.’ He just made a mistake.” [Isikoff and Corn, 2006, pp. 148; CBS News, 4/23/2006] Several newspapers cite sources (mostly unnamed, so it’s possible they are all relying on the same sources) that appear to support Drumheller’s account. [New York Times, 3/23/2003; Washington Post, 7/20/2003; New Yorker, 10/27/2003] For example, an unnamed senior CIA official will tell Knut Royce of Newsday in July of 2003 that the CIA “had serious questions about [the claims] from day one” (see July 21, 2003). The agency “had accounts (see October 15, 2001, February 5, 2002, and March 25, 2002) of them [the letters] and that was close enough. We didn’t take it that seriously to begin with.… We didn’t put a lot of stock in these reports from Niger. We didn’t rush around to get the actual documents.” [Newsday, 7/11/2003] The documents are faxed to the State Department on October 15 (see October 15, 2002), and its intelligence unit will quickly conclude that the papers are probably fakes. [Washington Post, 7/20/2003; Isikoff and Corn, 2006, pp. 148; Unger, 2007, pp. 261]

Entity Tags: Elisabetta Burba, Ian Kelly, Tyler Drumheller, Central Intelligence Agency, Jeff Castelli, Panorama, US Department of State

Timeline Tags: Events Leading to Iraq Invasion, Niger Uranium and Plame Outing

The US embassy in Rome faxes the Niger documents to the State Department’s Bureau of Nonproliferation, which then passes a copy of the documents to the Bureau of Intelligence and Research (INR), the State Department’s intelligence bureau. [US Congress, 7/7/2004, pp. 58] Simon Dodge, an INR nuclear analyst, receives a copy, and after a brief review of the documents immediately suspects that they are bogus. One particularly strange document that is included in the Niger papers describes a secret meeting that allegedly took place on June 14, 2002 at the home of the Iraqi ambassador in Rome. According to the document, the meeting was attended by military officials from Iraq, Iran, Sudan, Libya, and Pakistan. The purpose of the meeting was to form a coalition of Islamic nations against the West. They would seek “Global Support,” which would include backing from the “Islamic patriots accused of belonging to criminal organizations.” Dodge finds the scenario depicted in the document “completely implausible.” He notices that the document bears the same official seal that is stamped on the Niger documents. He concludes that the documents are probably all fakes, and he sends an email to other analysts in the intelligence community explaining this conclusion. [US Congress, 7/7/2004, pp. 58; Isikoff and Corn, 2006, pp. 162; CBS News, 4/23/2006] According to one unnamed CIA official, “Everybody knew at every step of the way that they were false—until they got to the Pentagon, where they were believed.” [New Yorker, 10/27/2003] Copies also go to nuclear experts at the DIA, the Department of Energy, and the NSA. Wayne White, the deputy director of the INR and the INR’s principal Iraq analyst, reviews the documents himself. Within 15 minutes he too begins doubting their authenticity (see Mid-October 2002). [Unger, 2007, pp. 261]

Entity Tags: Simon Dodge, National Security Agency, Bureau of Intelligence and Research, Central Intelligence Agency, US Department of Energy, Defense Intelligence Agency, Wayne White

Timeline Tags: Events Leading to Iraq Invasion, Niger Uranium and Plame Outing

Robert G. Houdek, national intelligence officer for Africa, concludes in a memo that allegations about Iraq attempting to obtain uranium from Niger are baseless. [Washington Post, 4/9/2006] The National Intelligence Council, the entity that oversees the US’s 15 intelligence agencies, issues Houdek’s report, which states in part, “The Niger story [of Iraq attempting to purchase Nigerien uranium—see Between Late 2000 and September 11, 2001] was baseless and should be laid to rest.” The memo immediately goes to President Bush and his top officials. [Unger, 2007, pp. 269]

Entity Tags: Robert G. Houdek, George W. Bush, Bush administration (43), National Intelligence Council, US Department of Defense

Timeline Tags: Events Leading to Iraq Invasion, Niger Uranium and Plame Outing

Jacques Baute, head of the UN Iraq Nuclear Verification office, returns to Vienna after having interviewed several current and former Iraqi officials in Baghdad. The Iraqis denied that their government had tried to obtain uranium from Niger, as has been alleged by the Bush administration. Baute does not believe the Iraqis were telling the truth and intends to confront them with the Niger documents after he has researched the details of the purported uranium purchase deal that is described in the documents. He is concerned to see that the documents contain a note from US intelligence officials that reads, “We cannot confirm these reports and have questions regarding some specific claims.” Baute conducts an initial Google search for a few keywords and phrases from the documents and quickly finds an inaccurate reference to Niger’s constitution. “At that point,” Baute later recalls, “I completely changed the focus of my search to ‘Are these documents real?’ rather than ‘How can I catch the Iraqis?’” [Isikoff and Corn, 2006, pp. 202-203; Unger, 2007, pp. 289] Several months later, Melissa Fleming, a spokeswoman for the IAEA, will describe to reporters how easy it was for Baute to determine that the documents were fakes. “These were blatant forgeries. We were able to determine that they were forgeries very quickly,” she says. [Independent, 6/5/2003] In another interview, Fleming adds: “It was very clear from our analysis that they were forgeries. We found 20 to 30 anomalies within a day.” [Los Angeles Times, 8/25/2005] When Baute asks for an explanation from the US, there is no response. “What do you have to say? They had nothing to say,” Baute will later recall in an interview with Seymour Hersh. [New Yorker, 3/31/2003] There are numerous indications that the documents are forgeries.
Erroneous Postmark - A letter dated October 10, 2000 bears a September 28 postmark, indicating it was received over two weeks before its supposed writing. [Dubose and Bernstein, 2006, pp. 212; Unger, 2007, pp. 236-237]
Names and Titles Incorrect - Several of the names and titles of officials mentioned in the documents are incorrect. For example, one of the letters is purportedly signed by Niger’s President Tandja Mamadou. Experts say the signature is an obvious forgery. An IAEA official will tell Reuters: “It doesn’t even look close to the signature of the president. I’m not a [handwriting] expert but when I looked at it my jaw dropped.” [Unknown, n.d.; Globe and Mail, 3/8/2003; Reuters, 3/26/2003; New Yorker, 3/31/2003; Knight Ridder, 6/13/2003] The incorrectly postmarked letter is signed “Alle Elhadj Habibou”—Niger’s foreign minister who had not been in office since 1989. [Unknown, n.d.; Reuters, 3/26/2003; New Yorker, 3/31/2003; Knight Ridder, 6/13/2003; Dubose and Bernstein, 2006, pp. 212; Unger, 2007, pp. 236-237] Another letter includes the forged signature and seal of Wissam al-Zahawie, Iraq’s former ambassador to the Vatican. When al-Zahawie is interviewed by the IAEA, he informs the agency that it was standard procedure for all diplomatic notes to be initialed and sealed, while letters were only to be signed—with no seal. He explains that correspondences were never both signed and sealed. [Unknown, n.d.; Independent, 8/10/2003]
Letterhead Erroneous - In addition to problems with signatures and seals, there are other problems. One letter is on the wrong letterhead. [Knight Ridder, 6/13/2003] The “letterhead was out of date and referred to Niger’s ‘Supreme Military Council’ from the pre-1999 era—which would be like calling Russia the Soviet Union,” reports Reuters. [Unknown, n.d.; Reuters, 3/26/2003]
Incorrect Citation of Constitution - Another letter, purported to be from the president of Niger, refers to his authority under the country’s obsolete 1966 constitution instead of the one enacted in 1999. [Unknown, n.d.; Reuters, 3/26/2003; Dubose and Bernstein, 2006, pp. 212; Unger, 2007, pp. 236-237]
Misspellings, Incorrect Dates - Also, in some letters, French words are misspelled and dates do not correspond to the correct days of the week. [Mercury News (San Jose), 3/18/2003] One of the letters is dated July 30, 1999, but refers to agreements not enacted until 2000. [Dubose and Bernstein, 2006, pp. 212; Unger, 2007, pp. 236-237]
Unrealistic Uranium Requests - The IAEA also points out that the amount of uranium which Iraq is purportedly interested in purchasing is unrealistic. Seymour Hersh, writing for the New Yorker, explains: “The large quantity of uranium involved should have been another warning sign. Niger’s ‘yellow cake’ comes from two uranium mines controlled by a French company, with its entire output pre-sold to nuclear power companies in France, Japan, and Spain. ‘Five hundred tons can’t be siphoned off without anyone noticing‘… [an] IAEA official told me.” [New Yorker, 3/31/2003] Furthermore, the purported agreement calls for the 500 tons of uranium to be transferred from one ship to another in international waters, a tremendously difficult undertaking. [Dubose and Bernstein, 2006, pp. 212; Unger, 2007, pp. 236-237]
Denial of Signature - Al-Zawahie is asked whether he had signed a letter on July 6, 2000 that concerned Nigerien uranium (see February 1999). Al-Zawahie will later recall telling the inspectors, “I said absolutely not; if they had seen such a letter it must be a forgery.” Al-Zawahie provides his signature to IAEA inspectors; he will later say, “[T]hose letters must have convinced the IAEA team that the document they had was a forgery.” [Independent, 8/10/2003]

Entity Tags: Mamadou Tandja, Melissa Fleming, Mohamed ElBaradei, Jacques Baute, Alle Elhadj Habibou, Wissam al-Zahawie, Seymour Hersh

Timeline Tags: Events Leading to Iraq Invasion, Niger Uranium and Plame Outing

Some of the documents turned over to the UN by Iraq.Some of the documents turned over to the UN by Iraq. [Source: CIA]United Nations Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission chief arms inspector Hans Blix provides a quarterly report to the UN Security Council on the progress of inspections in Iraq, as required by UN Security Resolution 1284 (1999). It is the twelfth such report since UNMOVIC’s inception. Blix’s report to the Council does not contain any evidence to support US and British claims that Iraq has weapons of mass destruction or the programs to develop such weapons. [United Nations, 3/7/2003 pdf file; CNN, 3/7/2003] International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Director General Mohamed ElBaradei also reports to the Council and says there are no signs that Iraq has reconstituted its nuclear weapons program. [United Nations, 3/7/2003 pdf file]
UNMOVIC Report by Hans Blix -
bullet There is no evidence that Iraq has mobile biological weapons factories, as was recently alleged by Colin Powell in his February 5 presentation (see February 5, 2003) to the UN. “Several inspections have taken place… in relation to mobile production facilities,” Blix says. “No evidence of proscribed activities has so far been found.” He further explains that his inspectors had examined numerous mobile facilities and large containers with seed processing equipment. [United Nations, 3/7/2003 pdf file; CNN, 3/7/2003; Agence France-Presse, 3/7/2003]
bullet The Iraqi government has increased its cooperation with inspectors since the end of January. It is attempting to quantify the biological and chemical weapons that it says were destroyed in 1991. [United Nations, 3/7/2003 pdf file; CNN, 3/7/2003; Los Angeles Times, 3/7/2003; Associated Press, 3/7/2003]
bullet Iraq’s destruction of several Al Samoud II missiles represents a real step towards disarmament. “The destruction undertaken constitutes a substantial measure of disarmament,” he says. “We are not watching the destruction of toothpicks. Lethal weapons are being destroyed.” [CNN, 3/7/2003; Los Angeles Times, 3/7/2003; Associated Press, 3/7/2003] Blix adds, “The destruction undertaken constitutes a substantial measure of disarmament—indeed, the first since the middle of the 1990s.” Major Corrine Heraud, the chief weapons inspector for UNMOVIC in this operation, calls the level of cooperation from the Iraqis “unprecedented,” something that she never would have expected and did not encounter during the 1996-98 inspections. [Middle East Policy Council, 6/2004]
bullet Blix says that the UN inspectors needed a few more months to finish their work. “Even with a proactive Iraqi attitude induced by continued outside pressure, it will still take some time to verify sites and items, analyze documents, interview relevant persons and draw conclusions,” he says, concluding, “It will not take years, nor weeks, but months.” [CNN, 3/7/2003; Los Angeles Times, 3/7/2003; Associated Press, 3/7/2003]
bullet Iraqi scientists have recently accepted inspectors’ requests to be interviewed without “minders.” “Since we started requesting interviews, 38 individuals were asked for private interviews, of which 10 accepted under our terms, seven during the past week,” Blix explains. [CNN, 3/7/2003]
bullet Some Iraqi scientists have agreed to interviews without “minders”—but more cooperation is needed. Blix says, “While the Iraqi side seems to have encouraged interviewees not to request the presence of Iraqi officials or the taping of the interviews, conditions ensuring the absence of undue influences are difficult to attain inside Iraq.” [CNN, 3/7/2003] Iraq needs to turn over more documents. “Iraq, with a highly developed administrative system, should be able to provide more documentary evidence about its proscribed weapons. Only a few new such documents have come to light so far and been handed over since we began.” [CNN, 3/7/2003] There is no evidence of underground weapons facilities. Blix says: “There have been reports, denied by Iraq, that proscribed activities are conducted underground. Iraq should provide information on underground structures suitable for the production or storage of weapons of mass destruction. During inspections of declared or undeclared facilities, inspectors examined building structures for any possible underground facilities. In addition, ground-penetrating radar was used in several locations. No underground facilities for chemical or biological production or storage were found.” [CNN, 3/7/2003]
IAEA report by Mohamed ElBaradei -
bullet There is no evidence that the aluminum tubes imported by Iraq in July 2001 were meant for a nuclear weapons program. ElBaradei says: “Extensive field investigation and document analysis have failed to uncover any evidence that Iraq intended to use these 81mm tubes for any project other than the reverse engineering of rockets.… Moreover, even had Iraq pursued such a plan, it would have encountered practical difficulties in manufacturing centrifuges out of the aluminum tubes in question.” [United Nations, 3/7/2003 pdf file; Los Angeles Times, 3/7/2003; Associated Press, 3/7/2003; Washington Post, 3/8/2003]
bullet There is no evidence that Iraq tried to obtain uranium from Niger. Documents provided to the International Atomic Energy Agency by the US were determined to be forgeries. The documents were a collection of letters between an Iraqi diplomat and senior Niger officials discussing Iraq’s interest in procuring a large amount of uranium oxide (see Afternoon October 7, 2002). “Based on thorough analysis, the IAEA has concluded, with the concurrence of outside experts, that documents which formed the basis for the reports of recent uranium transactions between Iraq and Niger are in fact not authentic,” ElBaradei explains. “We have therefore concluded that these specific allegations are unfounded” (see June 12, 2003). [United Nations, 3/7/2003 pdf file; Los Angeles Times, 3/7/2003; Associated Press, 3/7/2003; Washington Post, 3/8/2003; Globe and Mail, 3/8/2003; Guardian, 3/8/2003]
bullet The IAEA has yet to come across evidence of a nuclear weapons program. “After three months of intrusive inspections, we have to date found no evidence or plausible indication of the revival of a nuclear weapons program in Iraq,” ElBaradei states. “[T]here is no indication of resumed nuclear activities in those buildings that were identified through the use of satellite imagery as being reconstructed or newly erected since 1998, nor any indication of nuclear-related prohibited activities at any inspected sites.” [United Nations, 3/7/2003 pdf file; Los Angeles Times, 3/7/2003; Associated Press, 3/7/2003; Globe and Mail, 3/8/2003; Washington Post, 3/8/2003]
bullet In a direct response to allegations made by Colin Powell on February 5 (see February 5, 2003) related to the attempted procurement of magnets that could be used in a gas centrifuge, ElBaradei, says: “The IAEA has verified that previously acquired magnets have been used for missile guidance systems, industrial machinery, electricity meters, and field telephones. Through visits to research and production sites, reviews of engineering drawings, and analyses of sample magnets, IAEA experts familiar with the use of such magnets in centrifuge enrichment have verified that none of the magnets that Iraq has declared could be used directly for a centrifuge magnetic bearing.” [United Nations, 3/7/2003 pdf file]
bullet Iraq’s industrial capacity “has deteriorated” at the inspected sites because of lack of maintenance and funds. [United Nations, 3/7/2003 pdf file]
bullet ElBaradei concludes: “After three months of intrusive inspections, we have to date found no evidence or plausible indication of the revival of a nuclear weapons program in Iraq.… I should note that, in the past three weeks, possibly as a result of ever-increasing pressure by the international community, Iraq has been forthcoming in its cooperation, particularly with regard to the conduct of private interviews and in making available evidence that contributes to the resolution of matters of IAEA concern.” [Middle East Policy Council, 6/2004]
Inspections 'Fruitful,' Say French, Russians - Both sides claim that the reports give further support to each of their respective stances on the issue of Iraqi disarmament. French Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin tells the Council that the reports “testify to the progress” of the inspections. He states that France will not support another resolution because “we cannot accept any ultimatum, any automatic use of force.” Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov says that the reports demonstrate that inspections have been “fruitful.”
Inspections Not Working, US Claims - The Bush administration does not alter its position, despite statements by the two inspectors that Iraq is cooperating with inspections and complying with demands to disarm. Colin Powell, responding to the inspectors’ reports, reiterates the administration’s position that the inspections are not working and that Saddam is not cooperating. “We must not walk away,” Powell says. “We must not find ourselves here this coming November with the pressure removed and with Iraq once again marching down the merry path to weapons of mass destruction, threatening the region, threatening the world.” He claims that Iraq’s behavior is a “a catalog still of noncooperation” and repeats the administration’s allegation that the “Iraq regime continues to possess and conceal some of the most lethal weapons ever devised.” Back at the White House, Ari Fleischer tells reporters, “As the president has said, if the United Nations will not disarm Saddam Hussein, it will be another international organization, a coalition of the willing that will be made up of numerous nations that will disarm Saddam Hussein.” [CNN, 3/6/2003; CNN, 3/7/2003; Independent, 3/7/2003; US Department of State, 3/7/2003 pdf file]
Bush: Missile Destruction 'Meaningless' - Bush himself will call the destruction of Iraqi missiles “meaningless” and nothing more than an Iraqi “campaign of destruction,” shocking UNMOVIC inspectors: “We didn’t know what to make of [his words],” one inspector says afterwards. Former State Department official Patrick Lang will write: “In the final weeks of the countdown to war, the administration’s actions resembled nothing so much as some of the madder scenes from Alice in Wonderland. The fact that the documents the administration had used to ‘prove’ that Iraq was working on nuclear weapons were forged only led to greater insistence that Iraq was a danger. The absence of discovery of WMD by the UN inspectors was only further evidence that the Iraqis were the greatest deceivers in history and that they had succeeded in concealing their location. The destruction of the Al Samoud missiles was just more evidence of a ‘grand deception.’” [Middle East Policy Council, 6/2004]
Uranium Allegations 'Outrageous,' Says Former Ambassador - The Washington Post and Los Angeles Times do give the story front-page coverage, and on CNN, former ambassador Joseph Wilson (see July 6, 2003) calls the uranium allegation “outrageous,” adding that the claim “taints the whole rest of the case that the government is trying to build against Iraq.” The US government is “simply stupid” for not finding out the truth sooner: “a couple of phone calls” could have proven that such a deal between Iraq and Niger could not have happened: “All this stuff is open,” Wilson says. “It’s a restricted market of buyers and sellers.” [Rich, 2006, pp. 71]
IAEA Report 'Widely Ignored' - Author and media critic Frank Rich will later note, “With America’s March 17 deadline for war (see March 17, 2003 and March 17, 2003) dominating the news, ElBaradei’s pronoucements were widely ignored. The news of the forged uranium documents did not make any of the three network evening newscasts and did not appear in the following day’s New York Times. (It would turn up a day later, in a four-hundred word story on page A13.)” [Rich, 2006, pp. 71]

Entity Tags: Corrine Heraud, Ari Fleischer, Colin Powell, Dominique de Villepin, Patrick Lang, Frank Rich, Mohamed ElBaradei, International Atomic Energy Agency, Joseph C. Wilson, United Nations Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission, Igor Ivanov, Hans Blix

Timeline Tags: Events Leading to Iraq Invasion, Niger Uranium and Plame Outing

While many in the Bush administration continue to insist that the claims of Iraq attempting to buy uranium from Niger are valid (see March 7, 2003-July 7, 2003), even in the face of a thorough debunking by the International Atomic Energy Agency (see March 7, 2003), some officials are quietly admitting that the administration was duped. “We fell for it,” says one unnamed State Department official who reviewed the documents. Meanwhile, Secretary of State Colin Powell says that the administration has “new information” suggesting that Iraq continues to try to get nuclear weapons components such as the suspicious aluminum tubes (see October 6, 2002). David Albright of the Institute for Science and International Security retorts, “Despite being presented with the falseness of this claim, the administration persists in making misleading arguments about the significance of the tubes.” [Washington Post, 3/8/2003] Former ambassador Joseph Wilson will note that the administration “had chosen to ignore three reports that had been in their files for nearly a year: mine (see March 4-5, 2002) as well as two others—one submitted by the American ambassador to Niger, Barbro Owens-Kirkpatrick (see November 20, 2001) and the other by four-star Marine Corps General Carlton Fulford (see February 24, 2002), who had also traveled there. Instead, the administration chose to give credence to forgeries so crude that even Panorama, the Italian weekly magazine that first received them, had declined to publish (see October 9, 2002). The administration had ample evidence that there was nothing to the uranium charge but went ahead and placed the inflammatory claim in the State of the Union address anyway.” [Wilson, 2004, pp. 2-3]

Entity Tags: Colin Powell, US Department of State, David Albright, International Atomic Energy Agency, Barbro Owens-Kirkpatrick, Joseph C. Wilson, Carlton W. Fulford, Bush administration (43)

Timeline Tags: Events Leading to Iraq Invasion, Niger Uranium and Plame Outing

Syndicated columnist Robert Novak discusses former ambassador Joseph Wilson’s journey to Niger (see February 21, 2002-March 4, 2002) with Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage (see Late June 2003). Novak asks Armitage, “Why in the world did [the CIA] send Joe Wilson on this?” and Armitage answers by revealing what he has learned from a State Department intelligence memo (see June 10, 2003) that Wilson’s wife, Valerie Plame Wilson, is a CIA agent who works with the issue of weapons of mass destruction. “I don’t know,” Armitage says, “but his wife works out there.” Armitage also tells Novak that Plame Wilson “suggested” her husband for the Niger trip. [Fox News, 9/8/2006; Wilson, 2007, pp. 256; Marcy Wheeler, 2/12/2007] Novak has already learned of Plame Wilson’s CIA status from White House press secretary Ari Fleischer (see July 7, 2003). Either later this day, or sometime during the next day, Novak also learns of Plame Wilson’s CIA status from White House political adviser Karl Rove (see July 8 or 9, 2003). Novak will publicly reveal Plame Wilson’s CIA status in his next column, apparently as part of an effort to discredit her husband (see July 6, 2003 and July 14, 2003). [New York Times, 7/15/2005; New York Times, 7/16/2005]

Entity Tags: Valerie Plame Wilson, Karl C. Rove, Richard Armitage, Central Intelligence Agency, Joseph C. Wilson, Robert Novak

Timeline Tags: Domestic Propaganda, Niger Uranium and Plame Outing

White House political strategist Karl Rove returns a telephone call from conservative columnist Robert Novak. Rove has prepared for the call, assembling talking points and briefing materials (see July 7-8, 2003), some drawn from classified government personnel files provided by White House political director Matt Schlapp and other staffers. None of the materials directly involve Valerie Plame Wilson, the CIA agent who Novak will “out” in a soon-to-be-published column (see July 14, 2003). Instead, Rove is preparing to discuss Frances Fragos Townsend, the newly appointed deputy national security adviser for combating terrorism. It is unclear whether Rove speaks with Novak on the evening of July 8 or during the day of July 9. [National Journal, 12/16/2005; Marcy Wheeler, 2/12/2007]
Combating 'Rearguard' Effort to Undermine Townsend - President Bush has asked Rove to counter what he believes to be a “rearguard” effort within his own administration—led by senior members of Vice President Dick Cheney’s staff—to discredit Townsend and derail her appointment, perhaps because she was once a senior attorney in the Justice Department under then-President Clinton. Novak has been calling other White House officials about Townsend, and Rove intends to give him the White House slant on her: that President Bush, CIA Director George Tenet, and National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice all have full confidence in her. Part of the conversation is completely off the record, while other parts are on background, freeing Novak to quote Rove as a “senior administration official.” Novak will write his material on Townsend much as Rove lays it out for him. Reporter Murray Waas will later learn that opposition to Townsend within Cheney’s office is so intense that Cheney’s chief of staff, Lewis Libby, contemplates leaking damaging material about her to the press in an attempt to disrupt her appointment. Waas will write, “Libby’s tactics against Townsend appear to have paralleled those he took around the same period of time in attempting to blunt [former ambassador Joseph] Wilson’s criticism of the administration’s use of prewar intelligence.” Libby will indeed leak information on Townsend to selected Republicans in Congress, and they in turn will use that information to criticize her appointment. [National Journal, 12/16/2005]
Novak Broaches Subject of Plame Wilson - It is after they finish discussing Townsend that the submect of Valerie Plame Wilson comes up. Novak and Rove will both tell federal prosecutors that it is Novak who broaches the subject of Plame Wilson, saying he had heard that “Wilson’s wife” had been responsible for sending her husband on a CIA mission to Niger (see February 19, 2002, July 22, 2003, and October 17, 2003). According to later published accounts, Rove replies, “I heard that too.” Novak’s version of events will be slightly different, with him claiming Rove says, “Oh, you know about it.” Novak has already learned of Plame Wilson’s identity from White House press secretary Ari Fleischer (see July 7, 2003) and from Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage (see July 8, 2003). Novak tells Rove that he is still going to write a negative column on Townsend, but implies that he will also write about Wilson and his wife. “I think that you are going to be unhappy with something that I write,” he tells Rove, “and I think you are very much going to like something that I am about to write.” Novak’s July 10 column will attack Townsend as an “enemy within,” a Democratic partisan who will likely not be loyal to the Bush administration. Four days later, he will write his column exposing Plame Wilson as a CIA agent as part of his attack on Wilson’s credibility as a war critic. Investigators will be unable to independently verify that Novak, not Rove, first brought up the subject of Plame Wilson during their conversation; for his part, Rove will deny leaking Plame Wilson’s name to any reporter, and will deny even knowing who she is. [New York Times, 7/15/2005; New York Times, 7/16/2005; National Journal, 12/16/2005]

Entity Tags: Murray Waas, Joseph C. Wilson, Frances Townsend, Bush administration (43), Karl C. Rove, Matt Schlapp, Robert Novak, Richard (“Dick”) Cheney, Lewis (“Scooter”) Libby, Valerie Plame Wilson

Timeline Tags: Domestic Propaganda, Niger Uranium and Plame Outing

White House political adviser Karl Rove, leading the White House’s damage control operation to recoup the losses from Joseph Wilson’s recent op-ed about the fraudulent Iraq-Niger documents (see July 6, 2003), speaks to Time reporter Matthew Cooper. Rove has already discussed Wilson with columnist Robert Novak (see July 8, 2003).
Cooper Digging for White House Smear Details - According to Cooper’s notes, an e-mail from Cooper to his bureau chief, Michael Duffy, and Cooper’s later testimony (see July 13, 2005), Cooper is interested in the White House’s apparent smear attempts against Wilson (see March 9, 2003 and After and May 2003). “I’m writing about Wilson,” Cooper says, and Rove interjects, “Don’t get too far out on Wilson.” Rove insists that their conversation be on “deep background,” wherein Cooper cannot quote him directly, nor can he disclose his identity. Rove tells Cooper that neither CIA Director George Tenet nor Vice President Dick Cheney sent Wilson to Niger, and that, Cooper will later write, “material was going to be declassified in the coming days that would cast doubt on Wilson’s mission and his findings.”
Outing Plame Wilson - Rove says that it is Wilson’s wife Valerie Plame Wilson “who apparently works at the agency [CIA] on wmd issues who authorized the trip… not only [sic] the genesis of the trip is flawed an[d] suspect but so is the report. [Rove] implied strongly there’s still plenty to implicate iraqi interest in acquiring uranium fro[m] Niger.” Rove does not identify Plame Wilson, only calling her “Wilson’s wife,” but Cooper has no trouble learning her name. Rove ends the call with a cryptic teaser, saying, “I’ve already said too much.” Cooper will recall these words two years later when he testifies to the grand jury investigating the Plame Wilson identity leak (see January 2004). [Cooper, 7/11/2003 pdf file; New York Times, 7/16/2005; Time, 7/17/2005; Unger, 2007, pp. 311-312] Later, Cooper will write: “I have a distinct memory of Rove ending the call by saying, ‘I’ve already said too much.’ This could have meant he was worried about being indiscreet, or it could have meant he was late for a meeting or something else. I don’t know, but that sign-off has been in my memory for two years.” [Time, 7/17/2005] Cooper will later testify that Rove never told him about Plame Wilson’s covert status. [National Journal, 10/7/2005]
Call Not Logged - Rove asks his personal assistant, Susan Cooper, to ensure that Cooper’s call does not appear on the White House telephone logs. [CounterPunch, 12/9/2005]
Cooper E-mails Editor - After hanging up, Cooper sends an e-mail to his editors at Time about the conversation (see 11:07 a.m. July 11, 2003).
Conversation with Deputy National Security Adviser - After the conversation with Cooper, Rove sends an e-mail to Deputy National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley, saying he “didn’t take the bait” when Cooper suggested that Wilson’s criticisms had been damaging to the administration (see After 11:07 a.m. July 11, 2003).
White House Getting Message Across - Author Craig Unger later notes that while the conversation is on background, the White House is getting across its message that something about Wilson’s trip is questionable, and it has something to do with his wife. Unger writes, “And a White House press corps that relied heavily on access to high level administration officials was listening intently and was holding its fire.” [Cooper, 7/11/2003 pdf file; New York Times, 7/16/2005; Time, 7/17/2005; National Journal, 10/7/2005; Unger, 2007, pp. 311-312] Rove later testifies that his references to “Niger,” “damaging,” and Bush being “hurt” all referred to the potential political fallout from Wilson’s allegations. As for the statement that “If I were him I wouldn’t get that far out in front of this,” Rove will say he merely wanted to urge Cooper to use caution in relying on Wilson as a potential source. [National Journal, 10/7/2005]

Entity Tags: Valerie Plame Wilson, Stephen J. Hadley, Joseph C. Wilson, Matthew Cooper, Bush administration (43), Michael Duffy, Central Intelligence Agency, George J. Tenet, Craig Unger, Richard (“Dick”) Cheney, Karl C. Rove

Timeline Tags: Domestic Propaganda, Niger Uranium and Plame Outing

White House political strategist Karl Rove, upon concluding a phone conversation with Time reporter Matthew Cooper in which Rove divulged the CIA status of Valerie Plame Wilson (see 11:00 a.m. July 11, 2003), e-mails Deputy National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley about the conversation. “Matt Cooper called to give me a heads-up that he’s got a welfare reform story coming,” Rove writes. “When he finished his brief heads-up he immediately launched into Niger. Isn’t this damaging? Hasn’t the president been hurt? I didn’t take the bait, but I said if I were him I wouldn’t get Time far out in front on this.” According to the Associated Press, this is the first indication that an intelligence official knew Rove talked to Cooper before Cooper’s Time article about Plame Wilson and the White House effort to discredit her husband, war critic Joseph Wilson (see July 17, 2003). Rove will testify about the e-mail to the grand jury investigating the Plame Wilson leak in 2004 (see October 15, 2004 and October 14, 2005), telling the jury that he never intended to leak Plame Wilson’s identity, but rather wanted to warn Cooper about some of the allegations Wilson was making about the White House’s use of intelligence to bolster its case for war with Iraq. Rove is aware that conservative columnist Robert Novak, whom he has already spoken to about Plame Wilson (see July 8, 2003 and July 8 or 9, 2003), is planning an article on the Wilsons (see July 14, 2003). He also knows that CIA Director George Tenet is planning to take responsibility for the false Iraq-Niger uranium claims made by President Bush and other White House officials (see July 11, 2003 and 3:09 p.m. July 11, 2003). [Associated Press, 7/15/2005; Washington Post, 12/3/2005] In 2005, investigative reporter Jason Leopold will note that Rove’s version of the conversation as he recounts it to Hadley is substantially different from the material Cooper records in his notes. Most notably, Rove fails to tell Hadley about his outing of a CIA official. Leopold will write, “It is unclear whether Rove was misleading Hadley about his conversation with Cooper, perhaps, because White House officials told its staff not to engage reporters in any questions posed about Wilson’s Niger claims.” [CounterPunch, 12/9/2005]

Entity Tags: Matthew Cooper, Bush administration (43), Jason Leopold, Karl C. Rove, Valerie Plame Wilson, Stephen J. Hadley

Timeline Tags: Domestic Propaganda, Niger Uranium and Plame Outing

Referring to President Bush’s 2003 State of the Union address (see Mid-January 2003 and 9:01 pm January 28, 2003), CIA Director George Tenet says in a written statement: “I am responsible for the approval process in my agency.… These 16 words should never have been included in the text written for the president.” Tenet denies that the White House is responsible for the mistake, putting the blame squarely on himself and his agency. His statement comes hours after Bush blamed the CIA for the words making it into the speech (see July 11, 2003). [CNN, 7/11/2003; Central Intelligence Agency, 7/11/2003; New York Times, 7/12/2003]
CIA Chose to Send Wilson to Niger - Tenet also confirms that it was the CIA’s choice to send former ambassador Joseph Wilson to Niger (see February 21, 2002-March 4, 2002), apparently in an effort to rebut claims that Vice President Dick Cheney ordered the mission. Tenet states: “There was fragmentary intelligence gathered in late 2001 and early 2002 on the allegations of Saddam’s efforts to obtain additional raw uranium from Africa, beyond the 550 metric tons already in Iraq. In an effort to inquire about certain reports involving Niger, CIA’s counterproliferation experts, on their own initiative, asked an individual with ties to the region [Wilson] to make a visit to see what he could learn.” Tenet says that Wilson found no evidence to believe that Iraq had attempted to purchase Nigerien uranium, though this did not settle the issue for either the CIA or the White House. [Central Intelligence Agency, 7/11/2003]
Coordinated with White House - Tenet’s admission was coordinated by White House advisers for what reporter Murray Waas will call “maximum effect.” Deputy National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley, White House political strategist Karl Rove, and Cheney’s chief of staff Lewis Libby had reviewed drafts of Tenet’s statement days in advance; Hadley and Rove had suggested changes in the draft. [National Journal, 3/30/2006] Cheney rejected an earlier draft, marking it “unacceptable” (see July 11, 2003).
White House Joins in Blaming CIA - National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice also blames the CIA. Peppered with questions from reporters about the claim, she continues the White House attempt to pin the blame for the faulty intelligence on the CIA: “We have a higher standard for what we put in presidential speeches” than other governments or other agencies. “We don’t make the president his own fact witness. That’s why we send them out for clearance.” Had the CIA expressed doubts about the Niger claim before the State of the Union? she is asked (see January 26 or 27, 2003, March 8, 2003, March 23, 2003, April 5, 2003, Early June 2003, June 9, 2003, and June 17, 2003). “The CIA cleared the speech in its entirety,” she replies. “If the CIA, the director of central intelligence, had said, ‘Take this out of the speech,’ (see January 27, 2003) it would have been gone without question. If there were doubts about the underlying intelligence, those doubts were not communicated to the president, to the vice president or to me.… What we’ve said subsequently is, knowing what we know now, that some of the Niger documents were apparently forged, we wouldn’t have put this in the president’s speech—but that’s knowing what we know now.” Another senior White House official, defending the president and his advisers, tells ABC News: “We were very careful with what the president said. We vetted the information at the highest levels.” But another intelligence official, also interviewed by ABC, contradicts this statement. [CNN, 7/11/2003; White House, 7/11/2003; Washington Post, 7/12/2003; New York Times, 7/12/2003; Rich, 2006, pp. 99; McClellan, 2008, pp. 171-172] Tenet’s mea culpa is apparently enough for Bush; press secretary Ari Fleischer says, “The president has moved on.” [White House, 7/11/2003; Rich, 2006, pp. 99] White House press secretary Scott McClellan will later claim that at this point Rice is unaware that her National Security Council is far more responsible for the inclusion than the CIA. He will write that the news media reports “not unfairly” that Rice is blaming the CIA for the inclusion. [McClellan, 2008, pp. 171-172]
News Reports Reveal Warnings Not to Use Claim - Following Tenet’s statement, a barrage of news reports citing unnamed CIA officials reveal that the White House had in fact been explicitly warned not to include the Africa-uranium claim. These reports indicate that at the time Bush delivered his State of the Union address, it had been widely understood in US intelligence circles that the claim had little evidence supporting it. [Boston Globe, 3/16/2003; New York Times, 3/23/2003; Associated Press, 6/12/2003; Knight Ridder, 6/12/2003; Associated Press, 6/12/2003; Knight Ridder, 6/13/2003; ABC News, 6/16/2003; Newsday, 7/12/2003; Washington Post, 7/20/2003] For example, CBS News reports, “CIA officials warned members of the president’s National Security Council staff the intelligence was not good enough to make the flat statement Iraq tried to buy uranium from Africa.” And a Washington Post article cites an unnamed intelligence source who says, “We consulted about the paper [September 2002 British dossier] and recommended against using that material.” [CBS News, 7/10/2003; CNN, 7/10/2003; Washington Post, 7/11/2003]
Claim 'Technically True' since British, Not US, Actually Made It - White House officials respond that the dossier issued by the British government contained the unequivocal assertion, “Iraq has… sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa” and that the officials had argued that as long as the statement was attributed to the British intelligence, it would be technically true. Similarly, ABC News reports: “A CIA official has an idea about how the Niger information got into the president’s speech. He said he is not sure the sentence was ever cleared by the agency, but said he heard speechwriters wanted it included, so they attributed it to the British.” The same version of events is told to the New York Times by a senior administration official, who claims, “The decision to mention uranium came from White House speechwriters, not from senior White House officials.” [ABC News, 6/12/2003; CBS News, 7/10/2003; New York Times, 7/14/2003; New York Times, 7/19/2003]
Decision Influenced by Office of Special Plans - But according to a CIA intelligence official and four members of the Senate Intelligence Committee who are investigating the issue, the decision to include the Africa-uranium claim was influenced by the people associated with the Pentagon’s Office of Special Plans (see September 2002). [Information Clearing House, 7/16/2003]
Reactions - Rice says that the White House will not declassify the October 2002 NIE on Iraq (see October 1, 2002) to allow the public to judge for itself whether the administration exaggerated the Iraq-Niger claim; McClellan will write that Rice is currently “unaware of the fact that President Bush had already agreed to ‘selective declassification’ of parts of the NIE so that Vice President Cheney, or his top aide Scooter Libby, could use them to make the administration’s case with selected reporters” (see 8:30 a.m. July 8, 2003). [McClellan, 2008, pp. 171-172] Two days later, Rice will join Bush in placing the blame for using the Iraq-Niger claim solely on the CIA (see July 13, 2003). McClellan will later write, “The squabbling would leave the self-protective CIA lying in wait to exact revenge against the White House.” [McClellan, 2008, pp. 172]
Former Ambassador Considers Matter Settled - Former ambassador Joseph Wilson, who recently wrote an op-ed for the New York Times revealing his failure to find any validity in the claims during his fact-finding trip to Niger (see July 6, 2003 and February 21, 2002-March 4, 2002), is pleased at Tenet’s admission. According to his wife, CIA analyst Valerie Plame Wilson, “Joe felt his work was done; he had made his point.” [Wilson, 2007, pp. 140]

Entity Tags: George W. Bush, George J. Tenet, Central Intelligence Agency, Joseph C. Wilson, Condoleezza Rice, Ari Fleischer, Bush administration (43), Karl C. Rove, Lewis (“Scooter”) Libby, Murray Waas, Valerie Plame Wilson, ABC News, Stephen J. Hadley, Richard (“Dick”) Cheney, Scott McClellan, CBS News, Office of Special Plans

Timeline Tags: Events Leading to Iraq Invasion, Niger Uranium and Plame Outing

Robert Novak.Robert Novak. [Source: MediaBistro (.com)]Conservative columnist Robert Novak, after being told by Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage and White House political guru Karl Rove that Valerie Plame Wilson is a CIA officer (see July 8, 2003), writes a syndicated op-ed column that publicly names her as a CIA officer. The column is an attempt to defend the administration from charges that it deliberately cited forged documents as “evidence” that Iraq had tried to purchase uranium from Niger (see July 6, 2003). It is also an attempt to discredit Joseph Wilson, Plame Wilson’s husband, who had gone to Niger at the behest of the CIA to find out whether the Iraq-Niger story was true (see 11:00 a.m. July 11, 2003). Novak characterizes Wilson’s findings—that an Iraqi deal for Nigerien uranium was highly unlikely—as “less than definitive,” and writes that neither CIA Director George Tenet nor President Bush were aware of Wilson’s report before the president’s 2003 State of the Union address where he stated that Iraq had indeed tried to purchase uranium from Niger (see 9:01 pm January 28, 2003). Novak writes: “Wilson never worked for the CIA, but his wife, Valerie Plame, is an agency operative on weapons of mass destruction. Two senior administration officials [Armitage and Rove, though Novak does not name them] told me that Wilson’s wife suggested sending him to Niger to investigate the Italian report. The CIA says its counterproliferation officials selected Wilson and asked his wife to contact him. ‘I will not answer any question about my wife,’ Wilson told me.” Wilson’s July 6 op-ed challenging the administration’s claims (see July 6, 2003) “ignite[d] the firestorm,” Novak writes. [Town Hall (.com), 7/14/2003; Unger, 2007, pp. 312-313] Novak also uses the intelligence term “agency operative,” identifying her as a covert agent and indicating that he is aware of her covert status. Later, though, Novak will claim that he came up with the identifying phrase independently, and did not know of her covert status. [American Prospect, 7/19/2005]
Asked Not to Print Plame Wilson's Name - Novak will later acknowledge being asked by a CIA official not to print Plame Wilson’s name “for security reasons.” Intelligence officials will say they thought Novak understood there were larger reasons than Plame Wilson’s personal security not to publish her name. Novak will say that he did not consider the request strong enough to follow (see September 27, 2003 and October 1, 2003). [Washington Post, 9/28/2003] He will later reveal the CIA official as being agency spokesman Bill Harlow, who asked him not to reveal Plame’s identity because while “she probably never again will be given a foreign assignment… exposure of her agency identity might cause ‘difficulties’ if she travels abroad.” In 2008, current White House press secretary Scott McClellan will write: “This struck Novak as an inadequate reason to withhold relevant information from the public. Novak defended his actions by asserting that Harlow had not suggested that Plame or anybody else would be endangered, and that he learned Plame’s name (though not her undercover identity) from her husband’s entry in the well-known reference book Who’s Who in America.” [McClellan, 2008, pp. 173-174] McClellan will note, “Whether war, smear job, or PR offensive gone haywire, the CIA took the leak of Plame’s name very seriously.” [McClellan, 2008, pp. 174]
Plame Wilson Stricken - According to Wilson’s book The Politics of Truth, his wife’s first reaction is disbelief at Novak’s casual destruction of her CIA career. “Twenty years of loyal service down the drain, and for what?” she asks. She then makes a checklist to begin assessing and controlling the damage done to her work. She is even more appalled after totalling up the damage. Not only are the lives of herself and her family now endangered, but so are those of the people with whom she has worked for 20 years (see July 14, 2003). [New York Times, 5/12/2004] In 2005, Joseph Wilson will tell a reporter: “[Y]ou can assume that even if 150 people read the Novak article when it appeared, 148 of them would have been the heads of intelligence sections at embassies here in Washington and by noon that day they would have faxing her name or telexing her name back to their home offices and running checks on her: whether she had ever been in the country, who she may have been in contact with, etc.” [Raw Story, 7/13/2005]
Intimidation of Other Whistle-Blowers? - In 2007, author Craig Unger will write: “The implication from the administration was that the CIA’s selection of Wilson was somehow twisted because his wife was at the CIA. But, more importantly, the administration had put out a message to any and all potential whistle-blowers: if you dare speak out, we will strike back. To that end, the cover of Valerie Plame Wilson, a CIA operative specializing in WMD, had been blown by a White House that was supposedly orchestrating a worldwide war against terror.” [Unger, 2007, pp. 312-313]
Outing about Iraq, Not Niger, Author Says - In 2006, author and media critic Frank Rich will write: “The leak case was about Iraq, not Niger. The political stakes were high only because the scandal was about the unmasking of an ill-conceived war, not the unmasking of a CIA operative who posed for Vanity Fair. The real victims were the American people, not the Wilsons. The real culprits—the big enchilada, in John Ehrlichman’s Nixon White House lingo—were not the leakers but those who provoked a war in Iraq for their own motives and in so doing diverted finite resources, human and otherwise, from the fight against those who did attack America on 9/11, and had since regrouped to deadly effect.… Without Iraq, there never would have been a smear campaign against an obscure diplomat or the bungled cover-up [that followed]. While the Bush White House’s dirty tricks, like [former President] Nixon’s, were prompted in part by a ruthless desire to crush the political competition at any cost, this administration had upped the ante by playing dirty tricks with war.” [Rich, 2006, pp. 184]
Elevating Profile of Controversy - In 2008, McClellan will write, “By revealing Plame’s status, Novak inadvertently elevated the Niger controversy into a full-blown scandal.” [McClellan, 2008, pp. 173]

Entity Tags: Scott McClellan, Robert Novak, Valerie Plame Wilson, Richard Armitage, George J. Tenet, Joseph C. Wilson, Bill Harlow, Bush administration (43), Karl C. Rove, Central Intelligence Agency, Frank Rich, George W. Bush, Craig Unger

Timeline Tags: Domestic Propaganda, Niger Uranium and Plame Outing

Time magazine, in an article by Matthew Cooper and two other reporters, asks the question, “Has the Bush administration declared war on a former ambassador who conducted a fact-finding mission to probe possible Iraqi interest in African uranium?” Its answer: “Perhaps.” The ambassador is Joseph Wilson, who flew to Africa in February 2002 to find the truth behind the charges that Iraq had secretly attempted to purchase uranium from Niger (see February 21, 2002-March 4, 2002). Wilson found no evidence to back up those claims (see March 4-5, 2002), and recently wrote a New York Times op-ed blasting the administration’s use of those claims to justify invading Iraq (see July 6, 2003).
White House Says Wilson's Report Bolstered Claims - Cooper reports that since Wilson’s op-ed was published, “administration officials have taken public and private whacks at Wilson, charging that his 2002 report, made at the behest of US intelligence, was faulty and that his mission was a scheme cooked up by mid-level operatives.” CIA Director George Tenet and White House press secretary Ari Fleischer have both criticized Wilson and disputed his conclusion, even stating that his findings in Niger actually strengthened the administration’s claims of an Iraq-Niger connection, saying that he reported a meeting with a former Nigerien government official who discussed being approached by an Iraqi official in June 1999 who wanted to expand commercial relations between the two countries. According to government officials, Wilson interpreted that overture as an attempt to discuss uranium sales. Fleischer said: “This is in Wilson’s report back to the CIA. Wilson’s own report, the very man who was on television saying Niger denies it… reports himself that officials in Niger said that Iraq was seeking to contact officials in Niger about sales” (see February 1999). Wilson disputes the characterization, saying that he never interpreted the discussion in the way the White House claims he did: “That then translates into an Iraqi effort to import a significant quantity of uranium as the president alleged? These guys really need to get serious.”
Wilson and the Forged Documents - Tenet has blasted Wilson for never discussing the forged Iraq-Niger documents (see Between Late 2000 and September 11, 2001); for his part, Wilson said that he did not discuss the documents because he never saw them. And Fleischer says that Wilson erred in taking Nigerien officials at their word: “He spent eight days in Niger and he concluded that Niger denied the allegation. Well, typically nations don’t admit to going around nuclear nonproliferation.”
Claims that Wilson Sent at Behest of Wife - Other unnamed White House officials have insinuated that Wilson was sent to Niger at the behest of his wife, Valerie Plame Wilson (see February 13, 2002, February 13, 2002, Shortly after February 13, 2002, February 20, 2002, and February 21, 2002-March 4, 2002), whom Cooper identifies as “a CIA official who monitors the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction” (see (June 12, 2003)). Cooper learned of Plame Wilson’s CIA status from White House political adviser Karl Rove (see 11:00 a.m. July 11, 2003), though he does not cite Rove as his source in his article. Cooper writes, “These officials have suggested that she was involved in her husband’s being dispatched [to] Niger” (see February 19, 2002). Wilson, according to Cooper, angrily disputes the contention that his wife sent him to Niger, saying: “That is bullsh_t. That is absolutely not the case. I met with between six and eight analysts and operators from CIA and elsewhere [before the February 2002 trip]. None of the people in that meeting did I know, and they took the decision to send me. This is a smear job.”
Wilson Sent Due to Cheney's Pressure? - A source whom Cooper identifies as “close to the matter” confirms that Wilson was sent to Niger after Vice President Dick Cheney pressured the CIA to find out about the Iraq-Niger allegations (see Shortly after February 12, 2002), though both Tenet and Cheney’s office deny doing so (see (February 13, 2002)). Cooper quotes Cheney’s chief of staff, Lewis Libby, as saying: “The vice president heard about the possibility of Iraq trying to acquire uranium from Niger in February 2002. As part of his regular intelligence briefing, the vice president asked a question about the implication of the report. During the course of a year, the vice president asked many such questions and the agency responded within a day or two saying that they had reporting suggesting the possibility of such a transaction. But the agency noted that the reporting lacked detail. The agency pointed out that Iraq already had 500 tons of uranium, portions of which came from Niger, according to the International Atomic Energy Administration (IAEA—see 1979-1982). The vice president was unaware of the trip by Ambassador Wilson and didn’t know about it until this year when it became public in the last month or so.” Other administration officials, including National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice, claim they, too, heard nothing of Wilson’s report until recently. [Time, 7/17/2003]
Cooper to Testify about Sources - Cooper will eventually testify about his contacts with Rove and Libby during the investigation of the Plame Wilson identity leak (see May 21, 2004, August 24, 2004, July 6, 2005, and July 13, 2005).

Entity Tags: Valerie Plame Wilson, Joseph C. Wilson, George J. Tenet, Bush administration (43), Ari Fleischer, Karl C. Rove, Lewis (“Scooter”) Libby, Matthew Cooper, Richard (“Dick”) Cheney, Time magazine

Timeline Tags: Domestic Propaganda, Niger Uranium and Plame Outing

Shortly after the FBI launches its investigation into the Plame Wilson leak (see September 26, 2003), White House political strategist Karl Rove assures President Bush that he had no involvement in leaking Valerie Plame Wilson’s CIA identity to the press (see July 8, 2003 and 11:00 a.m. July 11, 2003). Rove also assures Bush that he had nothing to do with leaking information to the press concerning Plame Wilson’s husband, war critic Joseph Wilson. He does not tell Bush about his July 2003 conversation with Time magazine reporter Matthew Cooper, in which he identified Plame Wilson as a CIA agent, nor does he tell him that he told Cooper that Plame Wilson had arranged for her husband to go to Niger (see February 19, 2002, July 22, 2003, and October 17, 2003). According to a 2005 story in the National Journal, Rove will also fail to disclose this information in his upcoming interviews with FBI investigators. Because of Rove’s assurances, Bush will tell White House press secretary Scott McClellan that he vouches for Rove’s non-involvement in the Plame Wilson affair (see September 29, 2003), and will give special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald the same assurances (see June 24, 2004). [National Journal, 10/7/2005]

Entity Tags: Joseph C. Wilson, Federal Bureau of Investigation, George W. Bush, Matthew Cooper, Karl C. Rove, National Journal, Valerie Plame Wilson

Timeline Tags: Niger Uranium and Plame Outing

Conservative columnist Robert Novak, who outed Valerie Plame Wilson’s covert CIA status in a column in July (see July 14, 2003), is interviewed by FBI agents regarding the Plame Wilson leak. The interview takes place in the offices of Swidler Berlin, a law firm that is representing Novak. Novak’s attorneys, Lester Hyman and James Hamilton, have advised Novak that he has no certain constitutional basis to refuse to obey a grand jury subpoena, and that to do so could mean imprisonment and, Novak will later write, “inevitably result in court decisions that would diminish press freedom, all at heavy personal legal costs.” Novak discloses how he learned of Plame Wilson’s identity (see July 8, 2003), but, he will write, “the FBI did not press me to disclose my sources.” [Human Events, 7/12/2006]

Entity Tags: Valerie Plame Wilson, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Swidler Berlin, James Hamilton, Robert Novak, Lester Hyman

Timeline Tags: Domestic Propaganda, Niger Uranium and Plame Outing

White House political strategist Karl Rove testifies under oath to FBI investigators probing the Plame Wilson identity leak (see September 26, 2003). Rove says he did not speak to any journalists about Valerie Plame Wilson until after columnist Robert Novak outed her in his column (see July 14, 2003). Instead, Rove says, he circulated and discussed potentially damaging information about Plame Wilson with his colleagues within the White House as well as with outside political consultants and journalists. But he insists he was not the official who leaked Plame Wilson’s name to Novak. He only circulated that information about her after Novak’s column appeared, he says. He also claims that such dissemination was a legitimate means to counter criticism from Plame Wilson’s husband, Joseph Wilson.
Lying under Oath - Rove is lying about his role in the exposure of Plame Wilson to Novak and other journalists (see July 8, 2003, July 8 or 9, 2003, and 11:00 a.m. July 11, 2003). Rove and his lawyer, Robert Luskin, will later claim that Rove “forgot” about his discussions with at least one of the above journalists, Time’s Matthew Cooper, until he found an e-mail confirming their conversation (see After 11:07 a.m. July 11, 2003 and March 1, 2004). For reasons that are unclear, the e-mail in question does not turn up in an initial search for all documents and materials pertaining to the FBI investigation (see September 29-30, 2003). Additionally, Rove’s assistant, Susan Ralston, will later testify that Rove asked her not to log the call from Cooper (see July 29, 2005). [American Prospect, 3/8/2004; Raw Story, 10/31/2005; CounterPunch, 12/9/2005; National Journal, 5/25/2006]
Fails to Disclose 'Protection' Conversation with Reporter - Rove also fails to disclose a conversation with Novak, in which Novak promised to “protect” him during the investigation (see September 29, 2003). Rove was a source for Novak, who revealed Plame Wilson’s identity in his column (see July 14, 2003). [National Journal, 5/25/2006]
Claims to Have Learned Plame Wilson Identity from Reporter - During his testimony, Rove claims that he learned of Plame Wilson’s identity from a reporter, though he cannot remember who that reporter was. [American Prospect, 7/19/2005]
Discloses Names of Six White House Participants in Wilson Smear Campaign - Rove tells the FBI the names of at least six other White House officials involved in the smear campaign against Wilson (see June 2003, June 3, 2003, June 11, 2003, June 12, 2003, June 19 or 20, 2003, July 6, 2003, July 6-10, 2003, July 7, 2003 or Shortly After, 8:45 a.m. July 7, 2003, 9:22 a.m. July 7, 2003, July 7-8, 2003, July 11, 2003, (July 11, 2003), July 12, 2003, July 12, 2003, July 18, 2003, October 1, 2003, April 5, 2006, and April 9, 2006). He says he and his fellow White House officials believed the campaign was justified by Wilson’s “partisan” attacks on the White House’s Iraq policies. [American Prospect, 3/8/2004]

Entity Tags: Joseph C. Wilson, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Robert Luskin, Bush administration (43), Robert Novak, Karl C. Rove, Matthew Cooper, Valerie Plame Wilson

Timeline Tags: Niger Uranium and Plame Outing

Patrick Fitzgerald.Patrick Fitzgerald. [Source: US Department of Justice]Citing potential conflicts of interest, Attorney General John Ashcroft formally recuses himself from any further involvement in the investigation of the Valerie Plame Wilson identity leak (see September 26, 2003 and September 30, 2003). The Justice Department names Patrick Fitzgerald, the US attorney for the Chicago region, to handle the investigation. In a letter to Fitzgerald authorizing the position, Deputy Attorney General James Comey writes: “I hereby delegate to you all the authority of the attorney general with respect to the department’s investigation into the alleged unauthorized disclosure of a CIA employee’s identity, and I direct you to exercise that authority as special counsel independent of the supervision or control of any officer of the department.” Many believe that Ashcroft’s continued involvement has become politically untenable, and that the investigation has reached a point where his potential conflicts of interest can no longer be ignored. The White House steadfastly denies that any of its officials leaked Plame Wilson’s name to conservative columnist Robert Novak, who first outed Plame Wilson in his column (see July 14, 2003), or any other member of the press. The FBI has already spoken to White House political adviser Karl Rove, suspected of being one of Novak’s sources; Rove has close political ties to Ashcroft. Upon Ashcroft’s recusal, the investigation was given over to Comey, who immediately named Fitzgerald to head the investigation. Fitzgerald and Comey, himself a former Manhattan prosecutor, are close friends and colleagues. [Office of the Deputy Attorney General, 12/30/2003 pdf file; Associated Press, 12/30/2003; New York Times, 12/31/2003]
Appearance of Conflict of Interest - Comey tells the press: “The attorney general, in an abundance of caution, believed that his recusal was appropriate based on the totality of the circumstances and the facts and evidence developed at this stage of the investigation. I agree with that judgment. And I also agree that he made it at the appropriate time, the appropriate point in this investigation.” Comey says that while Ashcroft denies an actual conflict of interest exists, “The issue that he was concerned about was one of appearance.” White House officials say that President Bush had no role in the decision; some White House and law enforcement officials were surprised upon learning of Comey’s decision.
Investigation Reaching into White House? - Some Democrats believe that Ashcroft’s recusal is an indication that the investigation is moving into the White House itself. Senator Charles Schumer (D-NY) says of Comey’s decision, “This isn’t everything that I asked for, but it’s close.” In regards to Fitzgerald, Schumer says, “I would have preferred to have someone outside the government altogether, but given Fitzgerald’s reputation for integrity and ability—similar to Comey’s—the glass is three-quarters full.” Governor Howard Dean (D-VT), a leading Democratic contender for the presidency, says Ashcroft’s decision “is too little, too late.” For the last three months, the investigation has been run by John Dion, the Justice Department’s chief of counterespionage. Whether Fitzgerald will ask Dion or other Justice Department investigators to remain on the case remains to be seen. “I wouldn’t be surprised if he thought maybe he ought to keep some or all of the career folks involved,” says Comey. Fitzgerald has the authority to issue subpoenas and grant immunity on his own authority, Comey confirms. “I told him that my mandate to him was very simple. Follow the facts wherever they lead, and do the right thing at all times. And that’s something, if you know this guy, is not something I even needed to tell him.” [New York Times, 12/31/2003]
Fitzgerald's 'Impressive Reputation' - Fitzgerald has earned an “impressive reputation,” in Plame Wilson’s words, as a government prosecutor. In 1993, he won a guilty plea from Mafia capo John Gambino, and a conviction against Sheikh Omar Abdul-Rahman for his role in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing (see July 3, 1993). He put together the first criminal indictment against Osama bin Laden. In 2003 he indicted former Illinois Republican governor George Ryan on fraud and conspiracy charges; in 2005, he indicted several aides of Chicago Democratic mayor Richard Daley on mail fraud. He brought charges of criminal fraud against Canadian media tycoon Conrad Black. As Plame Wilson will write, “Fitzgerald was not easily intimidated by wealth, status, or threats.”
'Belated Christmas Present' - In 2007, Plame Wilson will write: “It was a belated but welcome Christmas present. Ashcroft had clearly given some thought to his extensive financial and personal ties to Karl Rove, who even then was believed to have had a significant role in the leak, and made the right decision.” She will also add that several years after the recusal, she hears secondhand from a friend of Ashcroft’s that Ashcroft was “troubled” and “lost sleep” over the administration’s action. [Wilson, 2007, pp. 174-175]

Entity Tags: Valerie Plame Wilson, Karl C. Rove, US Department of Justice, John Dion, Patrick J. Fitzgerald, James B. Comey Jr., Bush administration (43), Charles Schumer, Howard Dean, George W. Bush, John Ashcroft

Timeline Tags: Niger Uranium and Plame Outing

White House political strategist Karl Rove testifies before the grand jury investigating the Plame Wilson identity leak. Rove does not tell the jury that he discussed Valerie Plame Wilson’s CIA status with reporters other than columnist Robert Novak (see July 8, 2003 and July 8 or 9, 2003). At a minimum, Rove is failing to disclose conversations he has had about Plame Wilson with Time’s Matthew Cooper (see 11:00 a.m. July 11, 2003). [New York Times, 11/4/2005; New York Times, 2006; New York Times, 4/27/2006] There is some mystery about the date and content of Rove’s second testimony to the grand jury; in 2006, reporter Michael Isikoff will say that Rove testifies twice during February 2004. In neither appearance does he admit to leaking Plame Wilson’s CIA identity to reporters. [Newsweek, 5/8/2006]

Entity Tags: Valerie Plame Wilson, Bush administration (43), Karl C. Rove, Michael Isikoff, Matthew Cooper

Timeline Tags: Niger Uranium and Plame Outing

Columnist Robert Novak, who outed Valerie Plame Wilson’s covert CIA status in a column in July 2003 (see July 14, 2003), is questioned for a second time (see January 14, 2004) by Patrick Fitzgerald, the special prosecutor investigating the Plame Wilson leak (see December 30, 2003). As with the earlier interview, Fitzgerald interviews Novak at the law offices of Swidler Berlin, the firm representing him. In writing about this interview, Novak will not go into the specifics of his interrogation, but will state: “I declined to answer when the questioning touched on matters beyond the CIA leak case. Neither the FBI nor the special prosecutor pressed me.” [Human Events, 7/12/2006]

Entity Tags: Patrick J. Fitzgerald, Swidler Berlin, Valerie Plame Wilson, Robert Novak

Timeline Tags: Niger Uranium and Plame Outing

Robert Luskin, the lawyer for White House political strategist Karl Rove, has his client search White House records immediately after speaking with reporter Viveca Novak (see March 1, 2004). Luskin wants Rove to find any potential documentation of a July 2003 conversation between himself and Cooper. Rove finds an e-mail message from himself to Deputy National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley recounting the conversation between himself and Cooper (see After 11:07 a.m. July 11, 2003). Rove will later admit to the grand jury hearing evidence in the investigation that he had indeed spoken to Cooper about Plame Wilson (see October 15, 2004 and October 14, 2005). [New York Times, 12/2/2005; CounterPunch, 12/9/2005] (The Washington Post will later report that it was Luskin, not Rove, who actually found the e-mail, and that Luskin first shared it with Rove and then with special counsel Patrick Fitzgerald. [Washington Post, 12/3/2005] )

Entity Tags: Robert Luskin, Karl C. Rove, Bush administration (43), Patrick J. Fitzgerald, Stephen J. Hadley, Viveca Novak

Timeline Tags: Domestic Propaganda, Niger Uranium and Plame Outing

Columnist Robert Novak, who publicly outed CIA official Valerie Plame Wilson over a year ago (see July 14, 2003), testifies for a third time to FBI agents conducting an investigation into the Plame Wilson identity leak. Novak has already testified to the FBI concerning his sources for the information on Plame Wilson’s CIA status (see October 7, 2003 and February 5, 2004). According to an affidavit subsequently filed by special counsel Patrick Fitzgerald, Novak is testifying to clarify and add information to his earlier testimony regarding his conversations about Plame Wilson with Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage (see October 1, 2003). [US District Court for the District of Columbia, 9/27/2004 pdf file]

Entity Tags: Patrick J. Fitzgerald, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Richard Armitage, Robert Novak, Valerie Plame Wilson

Timeline Tags: Niger Uranium and Plame Outing

Deputy White House chief of staff Karl Rove, President Bush’s top political adviser, testifies for a third time before the grand jury investigating the Valerie Plame Wilson identity leak (see December 30, 2003). (The date of Rove’s second testimony to the grand jury is not publicly known, though Newsweek’s Michael Isikoff later says Rove testified twice in February 2004.) Rove tells the jury that he spoke with Time magazine reporter Matthew Cooper (see 11:00 a.m. July 11, 2003), a conversation he has failed to disclose in previous testimony both before the jury and when interviewed by FBI agents (see October 8, 2003 and February 2004). Rove now says he recalls speaking with Cooper, but cannot remember details of their conversation. His lawyer, Robert Luskin, says Rove “answered fully and truthfully every one of their questions,” and did not try to avoid answering questions on legal grounds. White House press secretary Scott McClellan says that Rove’s testimony shows he is “doing his part to cooperate” in the probe. Terry McAuliffe, the chairman of the Democratic National Committee, charges that Rove and other Bush aides are refusing to tell the public everything they know about the outing of Plame Wilson as a CIA official. “Karl Rove needs to come clean and tell us what he told the grand jury today,” McAuliffe says. Luskin claims that Rove has been informed he is not a target of the inquiry. [Time, 10/15/2004; New York Times, 10/16/2004; National Journal, 4/28/2006; Newsweek, 5/8/2006]
Names Libby - Rove informs the jury that he may have learned of Plame Wilson’s identity from former White House official Lewis Libby, the chief of staff to Vice President Dick Cheney. Almost a year later, the Washington Post will learn of Rove’s naming of Libby from “a source familiar with Rove’s account.” Days before Plame Wilson’s identity was publicly revealed (see July 14, 2003), Libby and Rove discussed conversations they had had with Cooper and other, unnamed reporters. Both Plame Wilson’s CIA identity and her husband, war critic Joseph Wilson, were discussed, Rove tells the jury. He says that his conversations with Libby were confined to information the two men heard from reporters. He also says he heard about Plame Wilson’s CIA identity from “someone outside the White House,” but cannot recall that person’s identity. [Washington Post, 10/20/2005]
Claim of Memory Failure - Rove has claimed not to remember the conversation between himself and Cooper, but has recently found an e-mail he sent to Deputy National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley confirming the conversation (see After 11:07 a.m. July 11, 2003). Rove and Luskin claim that Rove only recently found the e-mail and immediately turned it over to Fitzgerald’s investigators. They claim that Rove never intended to withhold evidence from the investigation. [New York Times, 11/4/2005]
Kerry Campaign Calls for Full Disclosure from White House - Joe Lockhart, the campaign spokesman for the presidential campaign of John Kerry (D-MA), says: “With two weeks to go before the election, the American people are still in the dark about how it is that their White House leaked the name of an undercover CIA operative to the press, jeopardizing the life of this agent and possibly violating federal law. Instead of hiding behind the lawyers he so often likes to criticize, George Bush should direct Karl Rove and anyone else involved to go to the White House briefing room and come clean about their role in this insidious act.” [Salon, 10/15/2004]

Entity Tags: Scott McClellan, Terry McAuliffe, Stephen J. Hadley, Matthew Cooper, Robert Luskin, Karl C. Rove, Bush administration (43), Federal Bureau of Investigation, Lewis (“Scooter”) Libby, Joe Lockhart, George W. Bush

Timeline Tags: Niger Uranium and Plame Outing

According to CounterPunch, the Italian Parliament releases a report on the forged Iraq-Niger uranium documents (see Between Late 2000 and September 11, 2001, Late September 2001-Early October 2001, October 15, 2001, December 2001, February 5, 2002, February 12, 2002, October 9, 2002, October 15, 2002, January 2003, February 17, 2003, March 7, 2003, March 8, 2003, and 3:09 p.m. July 11, 2003). The report names four people as the most likely forgers: neoconservative Michael Ledeen (see April 3, 2005), former CIA agent Duane Clarridge (see Late 1998), Iraqi National Congress (INC) head Ahmed Chalabi (see 1992-1996 and February 2002), and Chalabi’s close friend and colleague Francis Brooke, who belongs to the Rendon Group, a public relations group formed by the Pentagon in part to promote Chalabi and the INC (see May 1991 and Mid-December 2003). The report suggests the forgeries may have been planeed at a December 2001 meeting in Rome (see December 9, 2001) that involved Ledeen, head of the Italian intelligence service SISMI Nicolo Pollari (see September 9, 2002), and accused spy Larry Franklin (see December 9, 2001). [CounterPunch, 11/1/2005; CounterPunch, 11/9/2005] When the report is publicized in November 2005, Italian government officials will deny the existence of any such report, a denial bolstered by media reports. Journalist Laura Rozen will write that no such report was ever produced, nor was a parliamentary investigation into the Niger forgeries held by the Italian parliament at the time. “There is no parliamentary report,” a spokeswoman for Enzo Bianco, a member of Italy’s parliament, will say. Nor is there an unpublished report, the spokeswoman will say. Rozen will write that Bianco’s spokeswoman “does not just appear to be engaged in a cover up of a secret report. No one in Italy seriously investigating the Niger forgeries has heard of such a report.” The Italian newspaper La Repubblica will also report that no such parliamentary report was ever written. Former CIA officer Vincent Cannistraro, who will say he knew of rumors about such a report at one time, will also say that no such report exists. “There is no published report,” he will tell Rozen. “If there is a report, we might expect it would have some analysis and conclusions. There is no report, at least not a published report.… I think this stuff is just getting circulated.” [Laura Rozen, 11/3/2005]

Entity Tags: La Repubblica, Enzo Bianco, Duane Clarridge, Ahmed Chalabi, Francis Brooke, Italian Parliament, Nicolo Pollari, Iraqi National Congress, Vincent Cannistraro, Laura Rozen, Larry Franklin, Michael Ledeen

Timeline Tags: Niger Uranium and Plame Outing

Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) calls upon the White House to strip political adviser Karl Rove of his security clearance, referring to Rove’s involvement in leaking the CIA identity of Valerie Plame Wilson (see July 10, 2005). Reid says that the administration should have done so long ago, but instead has refused to discuss Rove’s involvement and attacked its critics. “This is what is known as a cover-up,” Reid says. “This is an abuse of power.” In response, Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-TN) accuses Democrats of resorting to “partisan war chants.” [Associated Press, 7/15/2005] Shortly after Reid’s statement, the progressive media watchdog organization Media Matters notes that Rove has, apparently, violated the strictures of the federal government’s Classified Information Nondisclosure Agreement (Standard Form 312), and that those strictures call for the removal of Rove’s security clearance. The organization goes on to note that with few exceptions, the mainstream media has repeated Democratic calls for Rove to lose his clearance without mentioning Rove’s violation of the Nondisclosure Agreement. According to the Agreement, “dissemination” or “confirmation” of classified information constitutes an “unauthorized disclosure,” even after that information has been published in a “public source.” [Media Matters, 7/19/2005] In October, Rove will admit to having leaked Plame Wilson’s name to two reporters (see October 14, 2005).

Entity Tags: Bush administration (43), Bill Frist, Harry Reid, Karl C. Rove, Media Matters

Timeline Tags: Niger Uranium and Plame Outing

Bloomberg News reports that Lewis Libby, Vice President Dick Cheney’s chief of staff, testified that he first learned of CIA official Valerie Plame Wilson’s identity from NBC bureau chief Tim Russert. Libby will make this claim a staple of his defense in his upcoming perjury trial (see January 16-23, 2007). He is referring to a conversation he had with Russert in July 2003 (see July 10 or 11, 2003). He testified to the claim when he was interviewed by special counsel Patrick Fitzgerald as part of the Plame Wilson identity leak investigation (see October 14, 2003 and November 26, 2003). Russert has told FBI investigators that he did not tell Libby of Plame Wilson’s identity (see November 24, 2003 and August 7, 2004). Similarly, White House political strategist Karl Rove has testified that he learned of Plame Wilson’s identity from columnist Robert Novak (see September 29, 2003, October 8, 2003, and October 15, 2004). Novak has told investigators that he learned of Plame Wilson’s identity from Rove, CIA spokesman Bill Harlow, and Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage (see October 7, 2003, February 5, 2004, and September 14, 2004). Fitzgerald has determined that both Libby and Rove may have deliberately lied to the FBI and to his investigations in making their claims (see October and November 2003). According to Rove’s attorney Robert Luskin, Rove told Fitzgerald’s grand jury that “he had not heard her name before he heard it from Bob Novak.” Senator Charles Schumer (D-NY) says that the White House should suspend Libby and Rove’s security clearances (see July 13, 2005), and that President Bush should fire anyone involved in the leak, presumably meaning Libby and Rove. [Bloomberg, 7/22/2005; Washington Post, 7/23/2005]

Entity Tags: Richard Armitage, Karl C. Rove, Charles Schumer, Bill Harlow, Lewis (“Scooter”) Libby, Richard (“Dick”) Cheney, Robert Luskin, Robert Novak, Valerie Plame Wilson, Tim Russert, Patrick J. Fitzgerald

Timeline Tags: Domestic Propaganda, Niger Uranium and Plame Outing

Karl Rove (right) and his lawyer, Robert Luskin.Karl Rove (right) and his lawyer, Robert Luskin. [Source: Doug Mills / The New York Times]White House deputy chief of staff Karl Rove testifies for a fourth time before the grand jury investigating the Valerie Plame Wilson identity leak (see December 30, 2003). [Washington Post, 10/15/2005; Washington Post, 7/3/2007] Rove amends and clarifies his earlier testimony, most notably his failure to remember outing Plame Wilson to Time reporter Matthew Cooper (see 11:00 a.m. July 11, 2003). Special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald spends a large portion of Rove’s session focusing on the omission. In earlier testimony, Rove attempted to claim that he had only a “hazy recollection” of hearing Plame Wilson’s name (see October 15, 2004) before reading Robert Novak’s column which publicly outed her as a CIA agent (see July 14, 2003). He now testifies that he informed Cooper of her status as a CIA agent days before the article appeared, and his memory apparently failed him during his earlier statements to the grand jury. Rove testifies that his recollection was prompted by the discovery of an e-mail message to Stephen Hadley, then the deputy national security adviser, that he wrote after talking to Cooper (see March 1, 2004). [National Journal, 10/7/2005; New York Times, 10/15/2005] He insists that he never identified Plame Wilson by her name, but “merely” as the wife of former ambassador Joseph Wilson, and did not intentionally reveal her as a covert CIA official because he did not know of her clandestine status. [Washington Post, 10/15/2005] He says he may have learned of Plame Wilson’s CIA identity from fellow White House official Lewis Libby, and says that both he and Libby learned of her CIA employment status from reporters. He says someone else outside the White House also told him of Plame Wilson’s identity, but he cannot remember who that was. [Washington Post, 10/20/2005] Previously, Rove insisted that he learned of Plame Wilson’s identity from reporters, and not the other way around, as many reporters and others have already testified. Rove has said that one of the reporters who told him that Plame Wilson was a CIA official was Novak, a statement Novak has contradicted (see October 7, 2003, February 5, 2004, and September 14, 2004). Rove also testified that he never told Cooper Plame Wilson’s name, but merely identified her as the wife of former ambassador Joseph Wilson. [Associated Press, 7/15/2005]
Rove's Testimony No Distraction, White House Officials Claim - White House spokesman Scott McClellan says Rove’s testimony has not distracted the administration from its usual affairs: “[W]hile there are other things going on, the White House doesn’t have time to let those things distract from the important work at hand.” [New York Times, 10/15/2005] White House chief of staff Andrew Card concurs. “Well, obviously we’re all human beings and we know that there are external activities that impact the environment you’re working in,” he says. “It is something that is there, but it is something that we don’t talk about because it would be inappropriate.… I haven’t found anyone that is distracted because of the ongoing investigation, but we all know that it’s taking place and we’re all working to cooperate with the investigators.” [Washington Post, 10/15/2005]
Lawyer: Rove 'Always Honest' with FBI, Jury, President - Rove’s lawyer, Robert Luskin, says that his client “has always attempted to be honest and fully forthcoming” to anyone “he has spoken to about this matter, whether that be the special prosecutor or the president of the United States. My client would not hide anything, because he has nothing to hide. It would not be to his benefit to do so.” Previously, Rove had failed to disclose his discussion with Cooper to either the FBI or to President Bush (see After September 26, 2003). [National Journal, 10/7/2005] “The special counsel has not advised Mr. Rove that he is a target of the investigation and affirmed that he has made no decision concerning charges.” [Washington Post, 10/15/2005]
Fitzgerald Mulling Criminal Charges against Rove - Sources close to the Fitzgerald investigation say Rove’s statements to Bush and to the FBI are at the heart of the decision whether or not to charge him with making false statements to investigators, or with obstruction of justice. Lying to the president could in itself be worthy of charges. Law professor Rory Little, a former federal prosecutor and assistant attorney general in the Clinton administration, says: “The president is the top law enforcement official of the executive branch. It is a crime to make a false statement to a federal agent. If the president was asking in that capacity, and the statement was purposely false, then you might have a violation of law.” However, if Bush had discussed the matter with Rove in a more informal capacity, then, Little says, a case for making false statements to a federal agent would be more difficult to prove. Law professor Randall Eliason says that if Rove deliberately lied to the president, a prosecutor could construe the lie as an “overt act… in furtherance of a criminal plan.” Law professor Stephen Gillers notes: “Misleading the president, other officials of the executive branch, or even the FBI might not, in and of themselves, constitute criminal acts. But a prosecutor investigating other crimes—such as obstruction of justice or perjury—might use evidence of any such deception to establish criminal intent. And a lack of candor might also negate a claim of good faith or inadvertent error in providing misleading information to prosecutors.” [National Journal, 10/7/2005]

Entity Tags: Lewis (“Scooter”) Libby, Joseph C. Wilson, Valerie Plame Wilson, Bush administration (43), Karl C. Rove, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Central Intelligence Agency, Stephen J. Hadley, Andrew Card, Scott McClellan, Randall Eliason, Stephen Gillers, Matthew Cooper, Robert Luskin, Patrick J. Fitzgerald, Rory Little, Robert Novak

Timeline Tags: Niger Uranium and Plame Outing

According to a United Press International (UPI) report, special counsel Patrick Fitzgerald has sought and received documentation on the Iraq-Niger forgeries (see Between Late 2000 and September 11, 2001, Late September 2001-Early October 2001, October 15, 2001, December 2001, February 5, 2002, February 12, 2002, October 9, 2002, October 15, 2002, January 2003, February 17, 2003, March 7, 2003, March 8, 2003, and 3:09 p.m. July 11, 2003) from the Italian government. UPI reports, “Fitzgerald’s team has been given the full, and as yet unpublished report of the Italian parliamentary inquiry into the affair, which started when an Italian journalist obtained documents that appeared to show officials of the government of Niger helping to supply the Iraqi regime of Saddam Hussein with [y]ellowcake uranium.” (In November, that parliamentary report will be shown not to exist—see July 2005.) According to reporter Jason Leopold, the information about the Iraq-Niger documents being provided to Fitzgerald comes from NATO sources. Leopold’s reporting will later be shown to be less than reliable (see June 19, 2006). [Raw Story, 10/24/2005; Global Research, 10/29/2005; CounterPunch, 11/9/2005]

Entity Tags: Patrick J. Fitzgerald, United Press International, Jason Leopold

Timeline Tags: Niger Uranium and Plame Outing

Special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald is narrowing his focus on the potential criminal actions of White House political strategist Karl Rove. According to lawyers involved in the Lewis Libby perjury investigation, Fitzgerald is abandoning inquiries into whether Rove lied to a grand jury about his role in the Plame Wilson identity leak, and his characterization of the involvement of President Bush in the leak. Now Fitzgerald is focusing on whether Rove tried to conceal from the grand jury a conversation he had with Time reporter Matthew Cooper in the week before Valerie Plame Wilson’s identity was revealed (see 11:00 a.m. July 11, 2003 and October 15, 2004). Fitzgerald is not sure Rove was fully forthcoming about the belated discovery of an internal e-mail in which he described the conversation with Cooper (see After 11:07 a.m. July 11, 2003 and March 1, 2004), and some within the investigation speculate that Rove may have perjured himself. White House officials have said that Rove will not be asked to leave the administration if he is not indicted. Democratic leaders in Congress have renewed their call for him to resign, reminding Bush of his pledge to demand the “highest ethical standards” from the members of his administration. [New York Times, 11/4/2005] Rove’s lawyer, Robert Luskin, will point to a casual conversation between himself and journalist Viveca Novak as proof that Rove did not deliberately lie about the conversation with Cooper (see March 1, 2004). However, a source familiar with the case tells reporters that Rove had informed Luskin about the Cooper conversation even before his first testimony to the grand jury in February 2004 (see February 2004). Rove then told the jury that he did not remember speaking with Cooper about Plame Wilson. According to the source, Fitzgerald finds it suspicious that Rove did not find the e-mail until after he had subpoenaed Cooper to testify before his grand jury (see May 21, 2004). [Washington Post, 12/3/2005]

Entity Tags: Patrick J. Fitzgerald, George W. Bush, Bush administration (43), Karl C. Rove, Matthew Cooper, Robert Luskin, Valerie Plame Wilson, Lewis (“Scooter”) Libby, Viveca Novak

Timeline Tags: Niger Uranium and Plame Outing

Viveca Novak.Viveca Novak. [Source: Annenberg Public Policy Center]The New York Times learns that a conversation between the lawyer for White House official Karl Rove and Time magazine reporter Viveca Novak led Rove to change his testimony to the grand jury investigating the Plame Wilson identity leak (see October 14, 2005). Novak told Rove’s lawyer, Robert Luskin, that her colleague at Time, Matthew Cooper, had possibly learned of Valerie Plame Wilson’s CIA status from Rove (see March 1, 2004). Special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald has summoned Novak to testify before his grand jury about the Luskin conversation. Sources say Fitzgerald is still determining whether Rove has been truthful and forthcoming in his multiple testimonies before the jury, and whether he altered his testimony after learning that Cooper might identify him as a source (see October 15, 2004). Previously, Rove testified that he only spoke to columnist Robert Novak (no relation to Viveca Novak) about Plame Wilson’s secret CIA identity (see July 8, 2003), and failed to disclose his similar leak to Cooper (see 11:00 a.m. July 11, 2003). Rove testified that he simply forgot about his conversation with Cooper during previous testimony. [Washington Post, 11/29/2005; New York Times, 12/2/2005] Progressive media watchdog organization Media Matters notes that Novak never disclosed her conversation with Luskin to Fitzgerald, and failed to inform her readers of her contacts and her knowledge of the case in several articles she wrote about the investigation subsequent to her conversation with Luskin. Media Matters also notes that Novak “provid[ed] Luskin with information that might prove crucial to Rove’s defense in the case.… Novak, an experienced journalist working for a prestigious publication, disclosed to Rove’s lawyer information that she did not give to her readers and that Cooper would zealously try to withhold for more than a year on the basis of the purportedly sacrosanct anonymity agreement between a reporter and a source.… Novak may have affirmatively helped Rove—a source the magazine covers and will continue to cover—beat a perjury rap, not by exonerating him through a story in the course of her job, but by providing his lawyer with information in a private conversation.… Novak apparently felt free to disclose to Rove’s lawyer that Cooper might be compelled to testify before a grand jury about the conversation between Cooper and Rove, but she did not accord Time readers the same privilege.” [Media Matters, 12/2/2005] The Washington Post notes that Luskin and Novak are friends. [Washington Post, 11/29/2005]

Entity Tags: Valerie Plame Wilson, Media Matters, Matthew Cooper, Karl C. Rove, Patrick J. Fitzgerald, Robert Novak, Viveca Novak, Robert Luskin

Timeline Tags: Niger Uranium and Plame Outing

Time magazine reporter Viveca Novak writes an article discussing her recent testimony to the grand jury investigating the Plame Wilson identity leak. Novak was asked to testify (see December 2, 2005) after special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald learned of her conversation with Robert Luskin, the lawyer for White House official Karl Rove. Rove is a primary focus of the leak investigation. In 2004, Novak alerted Luskin that her colleague, Matthew Cooper, had learned of Valerie Plame Wilson’s CIA identity from Rove (see March 1, 2004). That information prompted Luskin to have Rove “alter” his testimony before Fitzgerald’s grand jury, and admit that he had leaked Plame Wilson’s identity to Cooper (see October 14, 2005). Novak defends her conversation with Luskin, admitting that she and Luskin had been casual friends since 1996, and she had used him as a source for several years. Luskin, Novak recalls, informed her in late October 2005 that he had told Fitzgerald of their 2004 conversation, and that Fitzgerald might want to subpoena her to testify. Novak writes that she never considered refusing to testify, since there was no need to try to protect Luskin as a source, and Luskin wanted her to testify anyway. Novak hired a lawyer but did not inform her editors at Time of the upcoming testimony. She spoke with Fitzgerald on November 10 (see November 10, 2005) and testified a month later (see December 8, 2005). Novak notes that Luskin is displeased about her decision to write about their conversation, but, she writes, “I feel that he violated any understanding to keep our talk confidential by unilaterally going to Fitzgerald and telling him what was said. And, of course, anyone who testifies under oath for a grand jury (my sworn statement will be presented to the grand jury by Fitzgerald) is free to discuss that testimony afterward.” After this article is published in Time, the magazine announces, “By mutual agreement, Viveca Novak is currently on a leave of absence.” [Time, 12/11/2005]

Entity Tags: Valerie Plame Wilson, Karl C. Rove, Matthew Cooper, Patrick J. Fitzgerald, Viveca Novak, Robert Luskin, Time magazine

Timeline Tags: Niger Uranium and Plame Outing

Karl Rove discusses his testimony with his lawyers outside the grand jury chambers.Karl Rove discusses his testimony with his lawyers outside the grand jury chambers. [Source: CNN / ThinkProgress]White House deputy chief of staff Karl Rove testifies before special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald’s grand jury for a fifth time. Rove partially waives his attorney-client privilege with his attorney, Robert Luskin, to allow Luskin to testify about conversations he had with Rove concerning Rove’s knowledge of the leak of CIA agent Valerie Plame Wilson’s identity. Rove is also questioned extensively about the contradictions between his previous testimony and the testimony of Time reporter Matthew Cooper regarding Rove and Cooper’s July 2003 conversation about Plame Wilson (see 11:00 a.m. July 11, 2003), and his conversations with conservative columnist Robert Novak (see July 8, 2003, July 8 or 9, 2003, and July 14, 2003). [Washington Post, 4/27/2006; National Journal, 4/28/2006; Washington Post, 7/3/2007] According to Luskin, Rove “indirectly” confirmed Plame Wilson’s CIA status to Novak. [Washington Post, 7/15/2006]
Changing Stories - Rove is asked how he learned of Plame Wilson’s CIA status, and the circumstances surrounding his leaking of that information to Cooper. Rove tells the jury that when he told Cooper that Plame Wilson was a CIA agent, he was merely passing along unverified gossip. Cooper has testified that Rove told him that Plame Wilson was a CIA agent, and that she played a role in sending her husband, Joseph Wilson, on a fact-finding mission to Niger in 2002 (see February 21, 2002-March 4, 2002). Cooper has testified that both Rove and Lewis Libby, the former chief of staff for Vice President Dick Cheney, portrayed the information about Plame Wilson as definitive. It was because of their definitive statements, Cooper testified, that he identified Plame Wilson in a July 2003 story for Time (see July 17, 2003). In his first interview by the FBI, Rove failed to tell the investigators that he had talked to Cooper at all (see October 8, 2003); he again failed to disclose the conversation during his early appearances before the grand jury (see February 2004). Later, Rove testified that he did indeed speak with Cooper, and that his earlier failures to disclose the information were due to lapses in his memory (see October 15, 2004). In his fourth appearance before the grand jury, Rove testified that he revealed Plame Wilson’s identity to the reporter (see October 14, 2005), a recollection prompted by the discovery of an e-mail Rove sent to then-Deputy National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley soon after his leak to Cooper (see March 1, 2004). Rove has also testified that he learned of Plame Wilson’s CIA status from a journalist or journalists, a claim strongly contradicted by evidence. He has said in previous testimony that he may have learned of Plame Wilson’s identity from Novak, who outed Plame Wilson in a July 2003 column (see July 14, 2003). Novak, however, has testified that he learned of Plame Wilson’s identity from Libby and Rove. A person with first-hand knowledge of the grand jury proceedings will later comment, “If you believe both of them, Novak was saying that Rove was his source, and Rove was saying that Novak was his source.” [Washington Post, 4/27/2006; National Journal, 4/28/2006] Rove says that he still doesn’t remember talking to Cooper, though he does not dispute the e-mail he sent to Hadley. [Bloomberg, 4/28/2006] He argues that it would have been foolish for him to attempt to lie to the FBI and to the grand jury, because he knew that whatever lies he might have chosen to tell would have eventually been exposed, and he would then risk going to jail. [Washington Post, 4/27/2006] It is difficult to reconcile Rove’s “indirect” confirmation of Plame Wilson’s identity for Novak with his earlier claims that he learned of Plame Wilson’s CIA status from Novak.
Lawyer's Statement - Rove’s lawyer Robert Luskin says in a written statement: “Karl Rove appeared today before the grand jury investigating the disclosure of a CIA agent’s identity. He testified voluntarily and unconditionally at the request of special counsel Patrick Fitzgerald to explore a matter raised since Mr. Rove’s last appearance in October 2005 (see October 14, 2005). In connection with this appearance, the special counsel has advised Mr. Rove that he is not a target of the investigation. Mr. Fitzgerald has affirmed that he has made no decision concerning charges. At the request of the special counsel, Mr. Rove will not discuss the substance of his testimony.” [CNN, 4/26/2006; Washington Post, 4/27/2006]
Difficulties in Proving Intent - Law professor and former federal prosecutor Dan Richman says that while Fitzgerald may well be trying to build a case against Rove for either perjury or obstruction of justice, it may be quite difficult to prove Rove intended to lie to the grand jury. Rove’s subsequent appearances before the jury might “prove to be an obstacle to any [potential] obstruction or perjury case in that the person ultimately cooperated and told what he knew,” Richman says. [National Journal, 4/28/2006]

Entity Tags: Joseph C. Wilson, Matthew Cooper, Lewis (“Scooter”) Libby, Robert Luskin, Karl C. Rove, Valerie Plame Wilson, Dan Richman, Robert Novak, Patrick J. Fitzgerald, Stephen J. Hadley

Timeline Tags: Niger Uranium and Plame Outing

Judge Reggie Walton holds a hearing to discuss numerous issues surrounding the upcoming Lewis Libby trial. One of the key areas of discussion is the involvement and expected testimony of White House political strategist Karl Rove (see July 8, 2003, July 8 or 9, 2003, 11:00 a.m. July 11, 2003, October 8, 2003, October 15, 2004, October 14, 2005, and April 26, 2006). The Libby defense team wants to compel the disclosure of a raft of classified White House and CIA documents concerning Rove’s actions in the Valerie Plame Wilson identity leak, but special counsel Patrick Fitzgerald, saying he does not intend to call Rove as a witness, is refusing to ask the White House for those documents (see After October 28, 2005, January 31, 2006, February 6, 2006, and (February 16, 2006)). Fitzgerald admits to being legally compelled to turn over any material he has on witnesses he intends to call, but will not agree to go after material regarding witnesses he does not intend to call, especially when that material may prove to be to the defense’s benefit. For Libby, lawyer Theodore Wells says he intends to call Rove as a witness, and he wants Fitzgerald to battle with the White House for documents pertaining to Rove’s involvement in the leak. Fitzgerald retorts, as he has before, that the material Wells and his team are asking for is not germane to a perjury defense. In the process, Wells falsely claims that a legal precedent exists for forcing a government prosecution to seek evidence the defense wants, and Walton is briefly taken in by his deception before learning that Wells is misrepresenting the case law. Fitzgerald says flatly: “I’m responsible for the government’s case… and turning over my obligations. I am not responsible for preparing the defense case. And the case law, and Your Honor cited it. It is material defined by the indictment and the government’s case in chief. You just can’t say I’m going to call 20 witnesses so give me everything about them. We then would have effectively open-file discovery or beyond that and I don’t agree with that reading of the law.” The conversation, especially on Fitzgerald’s part, is circumspect, with all parties well aware that the hearing is being held in open court. However, Walton is somewhat testy with Wells during one exchange. Referring to Wells’s stated intention to introduce former ambassador Joseph Wilson’s classified CIA report on the Iraq-Niger uranium claims (see March 4-5, 2002), Walton says, “I don’t see how this is relevant to the case.” Any focus on Wilson’s report would turn the trial into an inquiry on “statements the president made in the State of the Union (see Mid-January 2003 and 9:01 pm January 28, 2003). You want to try the legitimacy of us going to war.” [US District Court for the District of Columbia, 5/5/2006 pdf file; Bloomberg, 5/5/2006; Marcy Wheeler, 6/15/2006]
Defense: Libby Small Part of Larger White House Operation - Wells makes a statement that indicates he and his fellow attorneys intend to try to prove that Libby was indeed a small part of a much larger White House operation. He says: “It wasn’t just him [Libby]. He was involved in what was a multi-agency response. It was [sic] Office of the Vice President. It was the Office of the President.” Former prosecutor Christy Hardin Smith calls Wells’s statement a “‘Hello, Karl’ moment,” and notes that Wells is trying to go in at least two different directions: Libby’s memory is demonstrably faulty (see January 31, 2006) and he is being made into a White House scapegoat. Smith observes, “Team Libby is going to have a very tough time indeed if they are going to play such substantially adverse ends of the spectrum against each other at trial in order to raise reasonable doubt in the jurors’ minds.” [Christy Hardin Smith, 5/12/2006]
Author: Defense May Not Intend to Call Rove, Maneuvering for Materials Instead? - Author and blogger Marcy Wheeler, who is closely following the case, will later write that she is not at all sure that Libby’s lawyers really intend to call Rove as a defense witness. “But they seem awfully interested in getting all the materials relating, presumably, to Rove’s conversation with [columnist Robert] Novak (see July 14, 2003). They sure seem interested in knowing what Rove said, and whether they can make certain arguments without Rove refuting those arguments.” [Marcy Wheeler, 6/15/2006]

Entity Tags: Karl C. Rove, Christy Hardin Smith, Bush administration (43), Joseph C. Wilson, Theodore Wells, Reggie B. Walton, Marcy Wheeler, Executive Office of the President, Office of the Vice President, Lewis (“Scooter”) Libby, Patrick J. Fitzgerald

Timeline Tags: Niger Uranium and Plame Outing

Jason Leopold.Jason Leopold. [Source: CrooksAndLiars (.com)]Investigative reporter Jason Leopold reports that White House political strategist Karl Rove has informed President Bush and other high-level White House officials that he will be indicted as a result of the Valerie Plame Wilson identity leak investigation, and will resign his position in the Bush administration when special counsel Patrick Fitzgerald makes the indictment public. Leopold says his sources include “a half-dozen White House aides and two senior officials who work at the Republican National Committee.” Rove has been stripped of his policy duties and is no longer deputy chief of staff, though White House officials claim the move is to allow him to focus completely on the 2006 midterm elections. Leopold’s sources say that a public announcement by Fitzgerald is not imminent, “despite the fact that Fitzgerald has already presented the grand jury with a list of charges against Rove. If an indictment is returned by the grand jury, it will be filed under seal.” Rove is said to have told White House chief of staff Joshua Bolten that he will be charged with perjury, stemming from his alleged lying under oath to Fitzgerald’s grand jury (see October 15, 2004, October 14, 2005, and April 26, 2006). “We need to start fresh and we can’t do that with the uncertainty of Karl’s case hanging over our heads,” Leopold quotes one unnamed White House aide as saying. “There’s no doubt that it will be front page news if and when [an indictment] happens. But eventually it will become old news quickly. The key issue here is that the president or Mr. Bolten respond to the charges immediately, make a statement, and then move on to other important policy issues and keep that as the main focus going forward.” [Truthout (.org), 5/12/2006] Leopold’s reporting is incorrect; a month later, Fitzgerald will announce that he is not charging Rove with anything (see June 13, 2006).

Entity Tags: Republican National Committee, Bush administration (43), George W. Bush, Karl C. Rove, Jason Leopold, Patrick J. Fitzgerald, Joshua Bolten

Timeline Tags: Niger Uranium and Plame Outing

In an article printed on the progressive news Web site Truthout, reporter Jason Leopold claims that special counsel Patrick Fitzgerald has indicted White House political strategist Karl Rove in the Valerie Plame Wilson identity leak case. Leopold writes that on Friday, May 12, Fitzgerald served indictment papers on Rove through the law firm of Patton Boggs, which represents Rove. According to Leopold, Fitzgerald has charged Rove “with perjury and lying to investigators related to his role in the CIA leak case, and instructed one of the attorneys to tell Rove that he has 24 business hours to get his affairs in order.” Leopold credits “high level sources with direct knowledge of the meeting” for the story. Leopold’s sources also say that Rove spent most of the day in consultation with his lawyer, Robert Luskin, and that Fitzgerald is likely to include an obstruction of justice charge. Leopold has reported that Rove has already informed White House officials, including President Bush, of his upcoming indictment (see May 12, 2006). [Truthout (.org), 5/13/2006] Rove spokesman Mark Corallo flatly denies the story. He tells conservative columnist Byron York that Fitzgerald did not come to Patton Boggs on May 12, did not meet or communicate with Rove’s lawyers or other representatives, and did not inform Rove’s lawyers or representatives that Rove had been indicted. [National Review, 5/14/2006] Leopold’s story causes a storm of controversy, celebration, and uncertainty among many progressives and critics of the Bush administration, with many questioning why other, more mainstream news sources have not picked up on or verified Leopold’s story (see May 15, 2006). [Daily Kos, 5/14/2006] Leopold’s reporting is incorrect; a month later, Fitzgerald will announce that he is not charging Rove with anything (see June 13, 2006).

Entity Tags: Patton Boggs LLC, Jason Leopold, Byron York, Bush administration (43), Karl C. Rove, Patrick J. Fitzgerald, Truthout (.org), Robert Luskin, Mark Corallo

Timeline Tags: Niger Uranium and Plame Outing

CBS News notes the storm of controversy surrounding the recent report by investigative journalist Jason Leopold that White House political strategist Karl Rove has been indicted (see May 12, 2006 and May 13, 2006). CBS columnist Vaughn Ververs notes: “Had either of these stories appeared on the front page of the New York Times, or in Newsweek magazine, we would be in the throes of a media feeding frenzy. The Sunday show slates would have been hurriedly rearranged to capitalize on this new ‘bombshell’ and America would have woken up this morning to watch Rove make the quick walk-and-duck from his front door to his waiting car. But so far, Leopold’s story stands alone.”
Flat Denials - No mainstream media Web site has yet confirmed Leopold’s reporting, which he has claimed includes statements from “a half-dozen White House aides and two senior officials who work at the Republican National Committee,” and White House officials, along with Rove’s lawyers and spokesmen, are flatly denying the reports: Rove’s spokesman Mark Corallo tells journalists, “The story is a complete fabrication,” and calls it “both malicious and disgraceful.” Ververs notes Leopold’s unusual step of promising to reveal his sources if the story turns out not to be true (see May 15, 2006). [CBS News, 5/15/2006; New York Sun, 5/15/2006]
Rove's Lawyer Not at Office, but at Veterinarian - Rove’s lawyer Robert Luskin tells a reporter that, instead of spending May 12 at his offices dealing with an indictment, he spent that day at the veterinarian’s office having his cat treated. The cat’s medical tests, Luskin says, found that “the stools were free of harmful parasites, which is more than I can say for this case.” Leopold’s report is “bizarre,” Luskin adds. “There was no meeting, no communication with Fitzgerald’s team of any kind.” Washington Post reporter and media observer Howard Kurtz notes that many in the media are beginning to report on Leopold’s past, which includes drug addiction, a felony conviction, and previous inaccurate reporting. Leopold’s publisher at Truthout.org, Marc Ash, tells Kurtz, “Jason is a character, but he’s been straight with me and I’ve checked him out very carefully.” [Washington Post, 5/22/2006]
Defending Leopold - Progressive author and blogger Joshua Frank, who describes himself as a friend of Leopold’s, notes that Leopold has become a target for Bush and Libby supporters. Leopold has written candidly about what Frank calls his “checkered” past—misrepresenting himself to gain a position at the Los Angeles Times, stealing from a New York record company to support a cocaine habit—but Leopold never served jail time, unlike some press reports claimed, and Frank considers him a reliable reporter. “Had Jason broke his latest story for the Wall Street Journal or New York Times, it’s unlikely he’d be subject to the same ridicule,” Frank writes. “But when an indy writer gets a major scoop before anybody in the mainstream major media does, animosity is sure to follow. And that’s why the outcome of this saga will either legitimize independent media, or devastate it.” Frank notes that Truthout.org has said that three “reporters from mainstream media” have “shared with us off-the-record confirmation and moral support.” Leopold himself says: “I am amazed that the blogosphere would lend credence to the statements of people who have consistently lied about Rove’s role in this case. This is a White House that denied Rove’s involvement in the leak. This is a White House that has lied and lied and lied. And yet the first question that people ask is ‘why would Rove’s spokesman lie?’ Because they can, because they do, and because they have. This is an administration that has attacked and discredited their detractors. I am amazed that not a single reporter would actually do any real investigative work and get to the bottom of this story. Surely, there must be another intrepid reporter out there that has sources beyond a spokesman.” [Joshua Frank, 5/17/2006]
Orchestrated Response? - Truthout’s Ash will later write that he believes it was Corallo who gave Ash’s phone number to the Post’s Kurtz for Kurtz’s story (see May 21, 2006); Corallo knew Kurtz was writing a story about how, in Corallo’s words, the mainstream media had to “follow up on the lunacy and these frauds who are passing themselves off as legitimate journalists.” Both Ash and criminal lawyer Jeralyn Merritt believe that Corallo is working with Kurtz, to some extent, to orchestrate the Post’s response to the Rove indictment story. [Jeralyn Merritt, 5/21/2006]

Entity Tags: Karl C. Rove, Howard Kurtz, CBS News, Bush administration (43), Jason Leopold, Joshua Frank, Vaughn Ververs, Mark Corallo, Marc Ash, Jeralyn Merritt, Robert Luskin

Timeline Tags: Niger Uranium and Plame Outing

Anne Marie Squeo of the Wall Street Journal’s editorial staff examines recent reporting by progressive Internet news and opinion publication Truthout.org, which published an article claiming White House political strategist Karl Rove would be indicted as a part of the Valerie Plame Wilson identity leak investigation (see May 13, 2006). Squeo writes, “With more people turning to the Internet for news, bloggers have blurred the lines with traditional media and changed both the dynamics of the reporting process and how political rumors swirl.” No evidence supporting the Truthout story has yet surfaced, Squeo notes, and Rove’s lawyer and spokeman have denied the story (see May 15, 2006). Squeo notes that some observers believe Truthout reporter Jason Leopold was a victim of “White House disinformation,” but she focuses on the often-rushed and often-inaccurate reporting that takes place on the Internet. She quotes blogger and journalism professor Jay Rosen, who says, “The system for keeping unverifiable reports out of the news is totally broken down when you look at the online world.” Instead of verifying news reports before publication, Rosen says, the tendency is to publish first and correct afterwards. Rosen believes that philosophy works for news blogs and other Web-based publications, but says it is not a practice that major news organizations could or should adopt. “Blog journalism” came into vogue in 1998, Squeo writes, when right-wing blogger Matt Drudge broke the news that then-President Clinton had had an affair with an intern [Wall Street Journal, 5/16/2006] (Squeo fails to tell her readers that Drudge was given the information by conservative gossip and socialite Lucianne Goldberg, who was working with Republicans and fellow conservatives to bring impeachment charges against Clinton.) [Committee of Concerned Journalists, 10/20/1998] After Drudge went public with the now-infamous story of the semen-stained blue dress, “news blogging” became increasingly popular, “in large part fueled by a desire to push particular political arguments and a growing feeling that the mainstream media had become too close with the establishment it purported to cover.” Squeo continues: “Politics, and the arguments it stirs, lends itself to the Internet. Bloggers have the latitude to issue one-sided analysis that makes leaps to connect the dots in ways that more guarded news organizations couldn’t. The CIA leak investigation, which has hit the highest echelons of the Bush administration, has become a favorite topic for many of these sites.” Such “news blogs,” on both the left and right of the political aisle, can focus strongly on a single issue, Rosen says, and devote a tremendous amount of time and effort covering and analyzing it, far more than mainstream news organizations are often willing to do. Journalism professor Mark Feldstein says that current “blog journalism” is reminiscent of the old “tabloid press,” which used to be the same sort of “news incubator” for reporting and analysis of stories that weren’t ready for mainstream reporting. The Internet, Feldstein says, makes blogs “much more ubiquitous and instantaneous” than the old tabloid publications ever could be. [Wall Street Journal, 5/16/2006]

Entity Tags: Jason Leopold, Bush administration (43), Truthout (.org), Anne Marie Squeo, Karl C. Rove, Wall Street Journal, Mark Feldstein, Jay Rosen

Timeline Tags: Niger Uranium and Plame Outing

Marc Ash, the publisher of the progressive news Web site Truthout (.org), distances his publication from a recent report that White House political strategist Karl Rove has been indicted for perjury (see May 13, 2006). On Truthout’s public Internet forum, Ash writes in part: “The time has now come, however, to issue a partial apology to our readership for this story. While we paid very careful attention to the sourcing on this story, we erred in getting too far out in front of the news-cycle. In moving as quickly as we did, we caused more confusion than clarity. And that was a disservice to our readership and we regret it. As such, we will be taking the wait-and-see approach for the time being. We will keep you posted” (see May 21, 2006). [News Hounds, 5/19/2006] Truthout’s reporting was indeed incorrect; in June, Fitzgerald will announce that he is not charging Rove with anything (see June 13, 2006).

Entity Tags: Karl C. Rove, Marc Ash, Truthout (.org)

Timeline Tags: Niger Uranium and Plame Outing

Truthout.org publisher Marc Ash issues a lengthy statement concerning the recent controversy stirred up by his publication’s claim that Karl Rove would be indicted as a part of the Plame Wilson leak investigation (see May 13, 2006). Two days before, Ash issued a statement saying that while he stands behind the story, he and his publication may have gotten “too far out in front of the news-cycle” (see May 19, 2006). Ash now writes that he and investigative reporter Jason Leopold have three independent sources confirming that Rove’s attorneys “were handed an indictment either late in the night of May 12 or early in the morning of May 13.” The sources are knowledgeable, says Ash. Special counsel Patrick Fitzgerald has refused to comment on the report. Rove’s attorney Robert Luskin and his spokesman Mark Corallo have categorically denied that Rove was indicted (see May 15, 2006), but Ash says, “we have information that directly contradicts Luskin and Corallo’s denials.” Ash says that two news networks stationed crews outside the building that houses the law firm of Patton Boggs, where Luskin works, and that the fourth floor of that building, where Patton Boggs’s offices are, was “locked down all day Friday and into Saturday night,” May 12 and 13. No one has asked Truthout to retract its story. And the White House has refused to comment. Ash notes that much of Truthout’s reporting depends on confidential sources. “We know that a report based solely on information obtained from confidential sources bears some inherent risks,” he writes. “We know that this is—by far—the biggest story we have ever covered, and that we are learning some things as we go along. Finally, we know that we have the support of those who have always supported us, and that must now earn the support of those who have joined us as of late.” Ash then writes of what he, Leopold, and the Truthout editors believe, but cannot prove. They believe Rove, through Luskin and Corallo, is working with Washington Post reporter Howard Kurtz to “spin” the story in a disfavorable light for Truthout and Leopold. He notes that many conservative media outlets have attacked Truthout, Leopold, and the Fitzgerald investigation in general, and writes: “We believe that rolling out that much conservative journalistic muscle to rebut this story is telling. And we believe that Rove’s camp is making a concerted effort to discredit our story and our organization.” Ash concludes by saying he, Leopold, and the Truthout editors believe, but cannot document their belief, that Rove may be cooperating with the Fitzgerald investigation. “We suspect that the scope of Fitzgerald’s investigation may have broadened—clearly to [Vice President Dick] Cheney—and according to one ‘off the record source’ to individuals and events not directly related to the outing of CIA operative Valerie Plame [Wilson]. We believe that the indictment which does exist against Karl Rove is sealed. Finally, we believe that there is currently a great deal of activity in the Plame investigation.” [Truthout (.org), 5/21/2006] A month later, Fitzgerald will announce that he is not charging Rove with anything (see June 13, 2006).

Entity Tags: Patrick J. Fitzgerald, Jason Leopold, Karl C. Rove, Marc Ash, Mark Corallo, Robert Luskin, Truthout (.org), Patton Boggs LLC

Timeline Tags: Niger Uranium and Plame Outing

Investigative journalist Jason Leopold, who in May reported for the progressive news Web site Truthout (.org) that White House political strategist Karl Rove was indicted for perjury in the Valerie Plame Wilson identity leak investigation (see May 13, 2006), defends his story, saying that the indictment remains under seal in the US District Court for the District of Columbia “under the curious heading of Sealed vs. Sealed.” Leopold says that the grand jury handed down the indictment “the week of May 10th,” and adds: “The case number is ‘06 cr 128.’ On the federal court’s electronic database, ‘06 cr 128’ is listed along with a succinct summary: ‘No further information is available.’” Leopold says that neither he nor any other journalist has seen the indictment “06 cr 128,” but adds, “[T]he fact that this indictment was returned by the grand jury hearing evidence in the CIA leak case on a day that special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald met with the grand jury raised a number of questions about the identity of the defendant named in the indictment, whether it relates to the leak case, and why it has been under seal for a month under the heading Sealed vs. Sealed.” Leopold notes that “the grand jury in the CIA leak case also meets to hear evidence on other federal criminal cases, including at least one other high-profile case—crimes related to the Jack Abramoff lobbying scandal.” He quotes unnamed “legal experts” as saying it is not unusual to keep such an indictment as Rove’s “under seal for weeks or months… if an investigation, such as the CIA leak probe, is ongoing.” [Truthout (.org), 6/12/2006; Raw Story, 6/13/2006] Both Leopold and Truthout publisher Marc Ash continue to stand by the story; although Leopold told an interviewer in May that if his story was wrong, he would reveal his high-level sources (see May 15, 2006), he now refuses, telling progressive radio host Ed Schultz: “I’m standing by that what we were told was accurate. Certainly if some bad information was given, we’ll decide what the appropriate thing to do [is].… But if something did happen four weeks ago, [and] something happened in the past four weeks in Karl Rove’s favor… how does that make me wrong?” Leopold acknowledges that Rove’s lawyer, Robert Luskin, has repeatedly claimed that Rove will not be indicted, but says that his sources still insist Rove has indeed been indicted. [Truthout (.org), 6/12/2006] Ash posts on his Web site’s forum that he and Leopold are sure the “06 cr 128” indictment was returned by the Fitzgerald grand jury, and filed around May 10, just days before Leopold reported that Rove had been indicted. He and Leopold believe, without being able to verify their beliefs, that the indictment is “directly related” to the Plame Wilson leak investigation. “That’s based on a single credible source and the information discussed above.” Ash also states that he and Leopold believe Rove is cooperating with Fitzgerald’s investigation: “That is based, again, on a single credible source, and background information provided by experts in federal criminal law.” [Steve Gilbert, 6/12/2006] The same day that Leopold gives an interview to Schultz, special counsel Patrick Fitzgerald informs Rove that he does not plan on charging him with any crimes (see June 13, 2006).

Entity Tags: Marc Ash, Jason Leopold, Patrick J. Fitzgerald, Bush administration (43), Robert Luskin, Karl C. Rove, Edward Andrew (“Ed”) Schultz, Truthout (.org)

Timeline Tags: Niger Uranium and Plame Outing

Special counsel Patrick Fitzgerald, investigating the Valerie Plame Wilson identity leak (see December 30, 2003), informs White House deputy chief of staff Karl Rove that he does not plan to file charges against him in conjunction with the leak. [Associated Press, 6/13/2006; Washington Post, 7/3/2007]
'No Deal' - Rove’s lawyer Robert Luskin says that he negotiated no deals with Fitzgerald to spare his client from prosecution: “There has never, ever been any discussion of a deal in any way, shape, or form.” [Jeralyn Merritt, 6/13/2006]
'A Chapter that Has Ended' - The decision follows months of wrangling between Fitzgerald’s team and Luskin. Neither Fitzgerald nor Luskin give any details about the issues and actions behind the decision, but Luskin says, “We believe that the special counsel’s decision should put an end to the baseless speculation about Mr. Rove’s conduct.” Rove spokesman Mark Corallo says that Rove made no deals with Fitzgerald to cooperate with the investigation, and that the decision is based solely on Fitzgerald’s findings. President Bush says of the news: “It’s a chapter that has ended. Fitzgerald is a very thorough person. I think he’s conducted his investigation in a dignified way. And he’s ended his investigation.… There’s still a trial to be had. And those of us involved in the White House are going to be very mindful of not commenting on this issue.” Christopher Wolf, a lawyer for Plame Wilson and her husband, Joseph Wilson, says that the couple is considering filing a civil suit against Rove. “The day still may come when Mr. Rove and others are called to account in a court of law for their attacks on the Wilsons,” Wolf says. [New York Times, 6/13/2006; Associated Press, 6/13/2006]
Rove 'Elated' - Corallo describes Rove as “elated” over the news. Legal analyst Andrew Cohen says: “Prosecutors have ethical obligations not to indict someone when they don’t think they can win at trial and I suspect that may be what happened here. For whatever reason Fitzgerald the prosecutor didn’t believe he could take a case against Rove to a jury and win it.” [CBS News, 6/13/2006]
A Variety of Responses - Democratic National Committee (DNC) chairman Howard Dean says of Rove: “He doesn’t belong in the White House. If the president valued America more than he valued his connection to Karl Rove, Karl Rove would have been fired a long time ago. So I think this is probably good news for the White House, but it’s not very good news for America.” [Associated Press, 6/13/2006] “The notion of the leak and the overall White House involvement, that ain’t over,” says Representative Rahm Emanuel (D-IL). “Obviously, we know that ‘Scooter’ Libby is not Karl Rove. But you have the vice president of the United States involved, or at least his office was involved.” Representative Henry Waxman (D-CA) says that Fitzgerald’s decision not to prosecute Rove should trigger a Congressional investigation into whether Rove mishandled classified information when he discussed Plame Wilson with reporters. Though Fitzgerald conducted a “narrow” criminal invesigation, Waxman says, Congress should examine the broader issue of whether Rove deserved to keep his high-level security clearance (see July 13, 2005). [Los Angeles Times, 6/14/2006] The Republican National Committee (RNC) circulates quotes from Democratic lawmakers attacking Rove under the headline of “Wrong Again: Prejudging Karl Rove Is Latest Example of Democrats’ Overheated Rhetoric and False Statements.” “What you had in this case was an unbelievable example of misjudgment for political purposes by leading Democrats,” says RNC chairman Ken Mehlman. He adds that the entire Rove imbroglio is just an example of how Democrats “rush to judgment.” Democratic leaders “owe [Rove] an apology,” Mehlman says. [Washington Post, 6/13/2006; Los Angeles Times, 6/14/2006] Plame Wilson and her husband, former ambassador Joseph Wilson, are deeply disappointed at the decision. In 2007, Plame Wilson will write: “It was hard to process that someone who had appeared before a grand jury five times (see April 26, 2006), and had admitted that he had spoken to Robert Novak and Matt Cooper in the week before my name was published (see July 8, 2003, July 8 or 9, 2003, and 11:00 a.m. July 11, 2003), would face no consequences for his actions.… While our faith in Fitzgerald’s skills and integrity remained unshaken, we couldn’t help but wonder, along with everyone else, what the special prosecutor had received or heard from Rove to prompt his decision.” [Wilson, 2007, pp. 250] Criminal defense lawyer Jeralyn Merritt, writing for the progressive blog TalkLeft, writes that she believes Rove has “cooperated with Fitzgerald by testifying to the grand jury five times and providing whatever information he had without a safety net. Without a 5k. Without assurances he would not be indicted. That’s a hell of a risk, but Luskin pulled it off. My hat’s off to Luskin.… I’m ready to put this to bed. Karl Rove walked. He’s one of the rare subjects of an investigation who was able to talk his way out of an indictment.” [Jeralyn Merritt, 6/13/2006] Former prosecutor and blogger Christy Hardin Smith, writing for the progressive blog FireDogLake, writes: “If Luskin is coming out and saying publicly that they got a letter from Pat Fitzgerald which says that Rove will not be charged, there are two things that I want to see and know: (1) what does the letter actually say, word for word; and (2) does it say something along the lines of ‘Please thank Karl for his cooperation in this matter.’” Smith adds: “Patrick Fitzgerald and his team are career professionals. You do not charge someone with a criminal indictment merely because they are scum. You have to have the evidence to back up any charges—not just that may indicate that something may have happened, but you must have evidence that criminal conduct occurred and that you can prove it. You charge the evidence you have, you try the case you can make, and you don’t go down a road that will ultimately be a waste of the public’s money and time once you have ascertained that the case is simply not there. It doesn’t mean that you don’t think the SOB that you can’t charge isn’t a weasel or guilty as hell, it just means that you can’t prove it. (And, fwiw [for what it’s worth], those times are the worst of your career, because you truly hate to let someone go when you know in your gut they’ve done something wrong.)” [Christy Hardin Smith, 6/13/2006]

Entity Tags: Henry A. Waxman, Valerie Plame Wilson, Republican National Committee, Andrew Cohen, Christopher Wolf, George W. Bush, Christy Hardin Smith, Rahm Emanuel, Robert Luskin, Mark Corallo, Howard Dean, Patrick J. Fitzgerald, Joseph C. Wilson, Jeralyn Merritt, Ken Mehlman, Karl C. Rove, Lewis (“Scooter”) Libby

Timeline Tags: Niger Uranium and Plame Outing

Freelance journalist Joe Lauria writes of his involvement in the false reports that White House political strategist Karl Rove had been indicted in the Valerie Plame Wilson identity leak investigation (see May 13, 2006). Lauria says that the real story centers around investigative reporter Jason Leopold, whom he describes as “a troubled young reporter with a history of drug addiction whose aggressive disregard for the rules ended up embroiling me in a bizarre escapade—and raised serious questions about journalistic ethics.” Lauria says he met Leopold once, three days before the first Rove story ran (see May 12, 2006), to discuss Leopold’s upcoming memoir News Junkie, which details Leopold’s history of childhood abuse, drug addiction, a felony conviction, and what Lauria calls “deception in the practice of journalism.” Lauria writes that he felt for the “vulnerable” Leopold, told Leopold that he freelanced for the Sunday Times of London, and gave the reporter his cell phone number. Lauria even sent Leopold a congratulatory e-mail on the Rove “scoop.” On a progressive blog called TalkLeft, Lauria found that Rove spokesman Mark Corallo had spoken to someone identifying himself as “Joel” someone from the “Londay [sic] Sunday Times,” and was given a cell phone number nearly identical to Lauria’s. Lauria confirmed the story by speaking with Corallo, who told him he thinks he has never spoken to Leopold, and the person he spoke to said that he had confirmation from a spokesman for special counsel Patrick Fitzgerald that the indictment was real. Lauria called Leopold, who “gave [him] a profanity-filled earful” and said that Corallo had called him to denounce the story. Lauria accused Leopold of pretending to be him in the phone call Corallo cited in the blog, and, according to Lauria, Leopold retorted, “Joe, I would never, ever have done something like that.” Lauria then writes: “Except that he has done things like that. His memoir is full of examples.” Lauria writes that he, like Corallo, believes Leopold simply made up the entire story, most likely to generate attention for himself. He writes: “These days it is about the reporter, not the story; the actor, not the play; the athlete, not the game. Leopold is a product of a narcissistic culture that has not stopped at journalism’s door, a culture facilitated and expanded by the Internet.” [Washington Post, 6/18/2006] The next day, CBS News reporter Brian Montopoli characterizes Lauria’s story as “somewhat vindictive,” and adds that while Leopold’s ethics and conduct in the matter are questionable at best, Lauria’s attempt at character assassination does him little credit. Montopoli also hints that Leopold may have been misinformed by his sources, saying, “[A]s Leopold has learned all too well, if you are willing to lie to your sources, they have every reason to lie to you.” [CBS News, 6/19/2006]

Entity Tags: Mark Corallo, Brian Montopoli, Jason Leopold, Patrick J. Fitzgerald, Joe Lauria, Karl C. Rove

Timeline Tags: Niger Uranium and Plame Outing

Marc Ash, the publisher of the progressive news Web site Truthout (.org), attempts to distance his publication from reports it provided that asserted, falsely, that White House political strategist Karl Rove had been indicted (see May 13, 2006 and June 13, 2006). Ash says that because of the “hysteria” surrounding the reports—including an unsubstantiated report that Truthout reporter Jason Leopold had impersonated another reporter in the course of his reporting (see June 18, 2006)—Truthout is “going to stand down on the Rove matter at this time.” Truthout will instead “defer… to the nation’s leading publications,” which have never verified Leopold’s reporting. “We are expressly endeavoring to mitigate hysteria,” Ash says. At the same time, he adds, “There is no indication that Mr. Leopold acted unethically… we stand firmly behind Jason Leopold.” Ash says he is not convinced that the story of Leopold’s posing as another reporter is true: that story, he says, “originated with Mark Corallo,” Rove’s spokesman. “Corallo seems to think that Jason Leopold misrepresented himself as Joe Luria [sic]… as an attempt to get Corallo on the telephone.… I haven’t gotten anything to back that up.” [TPM Muckraker, 6/19/2006]

Entity Tags: Karl C. Rove, Jason Leopold, Truthout (.org), Marc Ash, Mark Corallo

Timeline Tags: Niger Uranium and Plame Outing

Conservative pundits and columnists launch a new barrage of attacks and accusations against former ambassador Joseph Wilson (see July 6, 2003) and his wife, outed CIA agent Valerie Plame Wilson (see July 14, 2003). The pundits use the recent revelation that former Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage was apparently the first administration official to leak Plame Wilson’s name to the press (see August 22, 2006 and September 7, 2006). They claim that the new information proves that there was never a conspiracy to “out” Plame Wilson (see June 23, 2003, July 7, 2003, 8:30 a.m. July 8, 2003, July 8, 2003, 11:00 a.m. July 11, 2003, Late Afternoon, July 12, 2003, and Before July 14, 2003), but that her status as a covert CIA agent was revealed merely as a result of harmless gossip from Armitage, who is not considered a major part of the neoconservative axis of power within the White House. [Washington Post, 9/1/2006]
Blaming Armitage and the State Department - The Wall Street Journal blames Armitage for allowing the Plame Wilson identity leak investigation to go on while he remained mute, allowing “political opportunism and internal score-settling” to drive the investigation when it never should have taken off. “The White House, in short, was not engaged in any campaign to ‘out’ Ms. Plame [Wilson],” the editorial states. Since the prosecution of Lewis Libby for perjury and obstruction during the investigation is not likely to be dropped, the editorial concludes, President Bush should end it by pardoning Libby. [Wall Street Journal, 8/30/2006] The New York Sun also chastizes Armitage for standing silent “while the president’s critics sullied the good names of Messrs. Cheney, Libby, and Rove.” [National Review, 7/19/2004; New York Sun, 8/30/2006] A similar position is advocated by neoconservative John Podhoretz, writing for the New York Post, who also says that the Armitage revelation should result in special counsel Patrick Fitzgerald dropping all charges against Libby. [New York Post, 8/29/2006] Neoconservative Frank Gaffney, writing for the online political publication TownHall, accuses both Armitage and former Secretary of State Colin Powell, as well as other senior State Department officials, of being “disloyalists” who “wage[d] war” against the Bush administration “from behind enemy lines”—from his position in the State Department, essentially functioning as a saboteur for unnamed liberal interests, and to win ground the State Department lost in conflicts with the White House. Gaffney goes further, accusing other State Department officials of intentionally sabotaging US nuclear negotiation efforts with North Korea (see September 19-20, 2005 and July 15, 2006). He accuses Armitage of “destructive and disloyal behavior” and “appeasement” towards North Korea and other US opponents. [Town Hall (.com), 9/5/2006] San Francisco Chronicle writer Debra Saunders calls the entire affair nothing more than “gossip,” and notes that an admission by White House deputy chief of staff Karl Rove that he confirmed Plame Wilson’s identity (see July 10, 2005 and October 14, 2005) is virtually meaningless. The only “abuse of power” that has come to light during the investigation, Saunders opines, is the investigation itself. [Minneapolis Star-Tribune, 9/6/2006]
Libby 'Exonerated' by Armitage Admission - The New Hampshire Union Leader calls the investigation a “non-issue” promulgated by “conspiracy nuts” now proven wrong by the Armitage admission. [New Hampshire Union Leader, 8/30/2006] Syndicated columnist Linda Chavez says the “exculpatory” Armitage revelation exonerates Libby, and calls his prosecution “malicious” and unwarranted. [Creators Syndicate, 8/30/2006]
Wilson, 'Leftists' to Blame - Slate’s Christopher Hitchens goes further, attacking the “Joseph Wilson fantasy” that Iraq had not attempted to buy uranium from Niger (see March 4-5, 2002, (March 6, 2002) and March 8, 2002), calling the idea that the White House deliberately attempted to smear Wilson’s character a “paranoid fantasy” (see June 2003, June 3, 2003, June 11, 2003, June 12, 2003, June 19 or 20, 2003, July 6, 2003, July 6-10, 2003, July 7, 2003 or Shortly After, 8:45 a.m. July 7, 2003, 9:22 a.m. July 7, 2003, July 7-8, 2003, July 11, 2003, (July 11, 2003), July 12, 2003, July 12, 2003, July 18, 2003, October 1, 2003, April 5, 2006, and April 9, 2006), and concluding that the entire Plame Wilson imbroglio was the result of a “venom[ous] interdepartmental rivalry” between Armitage’s State Department and the White House, blown entirely out of proportion by liberal critics of the Bush administration. [Slate, 8/29/2006] A National Review editorial blames the New York Times editorial board and “shrieking” “leftist adversaries” of the Bush administration for the investigation, and, like Chavez and others, calls for the immediate end of the Libby prosecution. [National Review, 8/30/2006] The Weekly Standard’s Fred Barnes compiles a “rogues list” of “the Plamegate Hall of Shame,” including Armitage, his former boss Colin Powell, Patrick Fitzgerald, the Justice Department, Joseph Wilson, and the media. “So instead of Cheney or Rove or Libby,” Barnes writes, “the perennial targets of media wrath, the Plamegate Hall of Shame consists of favorites of the Washington elite and the mainstream press.” And like the others, Barnes calls on Fitzgerald to immediately terminate his investigation as well as his prosecution of Libby. [Weekly Standard, 9/2/2006] And the Washington Times’s editor in chief Wesley Pruden rounds off the attacks, rather ghoulishly predicting that the next time Plame Wilson will be mentioned in the press is when “a nice obituary in the Washington and New York newspapers and a few lines of a telegraph dispatch on a page with the truss ads in Topeka” is printed. He calls Plame Wilson, who headed the CIA’s Joint Task Force on Iraq (see April 2001 and After), “the queen of the clipping scissors and pastepots at the CIA” (see September 29, 2003), and calls the leak investigation a “fraud.” [Washington Times, 9/5/2006]
Picked Up by Mainstream Media - Many in the mainstream media echo the new line of attack, with the Washington Post’s editorial board joining the other editorials and columnists in demanding that the Libby prosecution be immediately terminated. Echoing a Wall Street Journal guest editorial from almost a year before (see November 3, 2005), the Post editorial claims that because Plame Wilson’s husband, former ambassador Joseph Wilson, went public with his knowledge of the Bush administration’s false claims that Iraq had attempted to purchase uranium from Niger (see July 6, 2003), he is ultimately responsible for outing his wife. The Post writes: “Mr. Wilson chose to go public with an explosive charge, claiming—falsely, as it turned out—that he had debunked reports of Iraqi uranium-shopping in Niger and that his report had circulated to senior administration officials. He ought to have expected that both those officials and journalists such as Mr. Novak would ask why a retired ambassador would have been sent on such a mission and that the answer would point to his wife. He diverted responsibility from himself and his false charges by claiming that President Bush’s closest aides had engaged in an illegal conspiracy. It’s unfortunate that so many people took him seriously.” The allegation that Wilson had “falsely… debunked reports of Iraqi uranium-shopping in Niger” is itself false, as Wilson’s report further proved that no such deals ever took place (see March 4-5, 2002, (March 6, 2002) and March 8, 2002). [Washington Post, 9/1/2006] The New York Times’s conservative columnist, David Brooks, joins in the attacks, calling the exposure of Plame Wilson a “piffle” (see Before September 16, 2003, October 3, 2003, October 11, 2003, October 22-24, 2003, October 23-24, 2003, October 29, 2005, and February 13, 2006) blown out of proportion by a group of Congressional Democrats and the 2004 presidential campaign of John Kerry. Like the others, he blames Armitage for “keep[ing] quiet while your comrades are being put through the ringer [sic].” [New York Times, 8/31/2006] Days later, the Post’s David Broder writes that Karl Rove, one of the White House officials who outed Plame (see July 8, 2003 and 11:00 a.m. July 11, 2003), had been treated badly by reporters and pundits, and deserved a round of apologies. [Washington Post, 9/7/2006]
'Marvel of Wingnut Logic' - Author Jane Hamsher, writing for the progressive blog FireDogLake, hammers the Post editorial and its presumed author, op-ed editor Fred Hiatt, writing with some apparent outrage: “[T]o argue that somehow this [Armitage] leak—which played no part in the concerted administration effort to bully, intimidate, and punish Joe Wilson—should somehow excuse Scooter Libby and Karl Rove’s subsequent actions is a true marvel of wingnut logic. Incredibly it is somehow okay to rob the liquor store, shoot the owner, rape the cashier, and spatter the walls with blood because someone else was caught shoplifting there the week before. It is the Sistine Chapel of bad faith editorials.” [Jane Hamsher, 9/1/2006]
Comparisons to Soviet Propaganda - Plame Wilson herself is “furious” at reading the Post editorial and other, similar writings. In her 2007 book Fair Game, she will write, “I suddenly understood what it must have felt like to live in the Soviet Union and have only the state propaganda entity, Pravda, as the source of news about the world.” Plame Wilson calls the allegations that her husband is responsible for outing her “flatly untrue,” and shows the writers’ “ignorance about how our clandestine service functions.” She notes that the FBI had known of the Armitage leak since October 2003, and that since “the FBI didn’t shut down the investigation” this indicated “they had good reason to believe that Libby and Rove were lying to them.” [Wilson, 2007, pp. 257-260]

Entity Tags: Fred Hiatt, Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, Christopher Hitchens, Valerie Plame Wilson, Colin Powell, Frank Gaffney, Fred Barnes, Debra Saunders, David Brooks, David Broder, US Department of State, Wesley Pruden, New York Times, John Podhoretz, Richard Armitage, George W. Bush, Joseph C. Wilson, Karl C. Rove, Jane Hamsher, Linda Chavez, New York Sun, Lewis (“Scooter”) Libby, New Hampshire Union Leader, National Review

Timeline Tags: Niger Uranium and Plame Outing

Theodore Wells, the lead lawyer for the Lewis Libby defense team, makes his opening statement to the jury in the Libby perjury and obstruction trial (see January 16-23, 2007), and proclaims Libby’s innocence of all charges. While Libby may have misspoken to the FBI (see October 14, 2003 and November 26, 2003) and the Plame Wilson grand jury (see March 5, 2004 and March 24, 2004) about his involvement in leaking Valerie Plame Wilson’s CIA status to reporters, he never lied to either one, Wells says, because there was never any intent to lie. He was not trying to cover anything up, Wells asserts, because he did nothing illegal or questionable. “This is a case about memory, about recollection, and about words,” Wells says. Wells surprises observers by claiming Libby was made a scapegoat by the White House in order to protect President Bush’s chief political strategist Karl Rove. Rove has admitted to being a source of the original leak (see October 15, 2004, February 2004, and October 14, 2005). Wells tells the jury that Libby believes his former colleagues in the Bush administration tried to “set him up” to “take a fall” in the investigation of the Plame Wilson identity leak. According to Wells, Libby said to his then-boss, Vice President Dick Cheney: “They’re trying to set me up. They want me to be the sacrificial lamb.” Libby, according to Wells, believed he was being sacrificed to protect Rove. Wells says that Libby told Cheney, “I will not be sacrificed so Karl Rove can be protected.” Wells tells the jury: “Mr. Libby was not concerned about losing his job in the Bush administration. He was concerned about being set up, he was concerned about being made the scapegoat.… People in the White House are trying to protect Karl Rove.” Libby was considered “just a staffer,” while Rove “was viewed as a political genius… the lifeblood of the Republican Party.” [Pensito Review, 1/23/2007; Marcy Wheeler, 1/23/2007; CBS News, 1/25/2007; MSNBC, 2/21/2007; BBC, 7/3/2007] Plame Wilson will observe, “The tactic went against the conventional wisdom that Libby would play the good soldier, say nothing of value, and receive a presidential pardon if convicted.” [Wilson, 2007, pp. 282-284] In a PowerPoint presentation, Wells presents the jury with the following bullet points about Libby:
bullet He gave his best good faith recollection;
bullet Any misstatements by him were innocent mistakes;
bullet He had no knowledge that Plame Wilson’s job status was classified;
bullet He did not push reporters to write about Plame Wilson;
bullet He did not leak to Robert Novak: Richard Armitage did;
bullet He is innocent and had no motive to lie.
Wells then engages the jury in a long explanation of Libby’s responsibilities, emphasizing his role in the administration’s efforts in the war on terror. [Marcy Wheeler, 1/23/2007] After a break for lunch, Wells resumes going through his version of events. He introduces a key element of the “memory defense” (see January 31, 2006), that Libby knew of Plame Wilson’s CIA status in July 2003 when he leaked her identity to reporters, but forgot that he knew it in October, when he denied knowing of her classified or covert status to the FBI and the grand jury. Wells equates Libby’s alleged memory difficulties with “similar” memory difficulties by the reporters involved in the leak to be examined during the trial. [Marcy Wheeler, 1/23/2007]

Entity Tags: Valerie Plame Wilson, Richard (“Dick”) Cheney, Lewis (“Scooter”) Libby, Patrick J. Fitzgerald, Theodore Wells, Karl C. Rove, Bush administration (43)

Timeline Tags: Niger Uranium and Plame Outing

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