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Context of 'July 13, 2006: Wilson Corrects Novak’s Column regarding Participation of Plame Wilson in Niger Mission'

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Former ambassador Joseph Wilson, who has spent much of his political career representing the US in West Africa, visits Niger at the behest of the CIA to investigate what a Senate investigation (see July 9, 2004) will later call “uranium-related matters.” Wilson is chosen in part because his wife, covert CIA official Valerie Plame Wilson, suggested that since he was going to Niger on business in the near future, he “might be willing to use his contacts in the region” to obtain information. The CIA is interested in a meeting between Niger’s former prime minister, Ibrahim Mayaki, and a delegation from Iraq to discuss “expanding commercial relations” between the two nations. Wilson will later say that the subject of uranium never comes up in a meeting he has with Mayaki (see May 2, 2004). However, CIA analysts will interpret Wilson’s information to mean that Mayaki “interpreted ‘expanding commercial relations’ to mean that the [Iraqi] delegation wanted to discuss uranium yellowcake sales.” The CIA will believe that Wilson’s report bolsters its own suspicions that Iraq is attempting to buy yellowcake uranium from Niger. An intelligence officer will later report that Mayaki indicated that the Iraqis had expressed an interest in buying uranium from Niger. [FactCheck (.org), 7/26/2004; FactCheck (.org), 7/22/2005]

Entity Tags: Ibrahim Mayaki, Central Intelligence Agency, Valerie Plame Wilson, Joseph C. Wilson

Timeline Tags: Niger Uranium and Plame Outing

Vice President Dick Cheney asks his morning intelligence briefer, CIA briefer David Terry, about the Defense Intelligence Agency’s recent analysis (see February 12, 2002) of SISMI’s February 5 report (see February 5, 2002) suggesting that Iraq attempted to purchase uranium from Niger. [Time, 7/21/2003; New Yorker, 10/27/2003; US Congress, 7/7/2004] Cheney is reportedly dissatisfied with his briefer’s initial response, and asks the agency to take another look (see Shortly after February 12, 2002). [CIA Task Sheet, 2/13/2002; New Yorker, 10/27/2003] Cheney’s questions quickly reach the desk of senior CIA case officer Valerie Plame Wilson, who accepts the suggestion of another CIA officer to send her husband, Joseph Wilson, to Niger to investigate the claims (see February 13, 2002). [Wilson, 2007, pp. 108-110]

Entity Tags: Valerie Plame Wilson, Joseph C. Wilson, Central Intelligence Agency, Richard (“Dick”) Cheney, David Terry, Counterproliferation Division

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

Joseph Wilson and Valerie Plame Wilson.Joseph Wilson and Valerie Plame Wilson. [Source: Haraz N. Ghanbari / Associated Press]Officials in the CIA’s Directorate of Operations (DO) Counterproliferation Division (CPD) decide to send former ambassador Joseph Wilson to Niger to investigate allegations that Iraq sought to procure uranium from that country. Wilson’s wife, Valerie Plame Wilson, a senior CPD officer (see April 2001 and After), relays the request to him explaining that “there’s this crazy report” asserting that Iraq made a deal with Niger on the sale of a large quantity of uranium. [US Congress, 7/7/2004] Shortly afterwards, she sends an overseas cable requesting concurrence with the agency’s decision to send her husband to Niger (see February 13, 2002). She writes, “[B]oth State and [the Department of Defense] have requested additional clarification and indeed, the vice president’s office just asked for background information” (see (February 13, 2002)). [US Congress, 7/7/2004]

Entity Tags: Counterproliferation Division, Central Intelligence Agency, Joseph C. Wilson, Valerie Plame Wilson

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

The CIA’s Directorate of Operations (DO) Counterproliferation Division (CPD) holds a meeting with former ambassador Joseph Wilson, intelligence analysts from both the CIA and State Department’s Bureau of Intelligence and Research (INR), and several individuals from the DO’s Africa and CPD divisions. The purpose of the meeting is to discuss the merits of sending Wilson to Niger. Wilson is introduced by his wife Valerie Plame Wilson, who heads CPD’s Joint Task Force on Iraq (JTFI). [US Congress, 7/7/2004, pp. 59; Isikoff and Corn, 2006, pp. 94-95]
Wife Does Not Participate in Meeting - In her 2007 book Fair Game, Plame Wilson will write that she brings her husband into the briefing room, introduces him to the “10 or so participants,” and “[a]fter a minute or so, I went back to my desk to attend to what seemed like a hundred other operational crises. When the meeting broke, Joe poked his head in my office to say that the group had asked him to consider going to Niger to discuss the report.” [Wilson, 2007, pp. 111]
Wilson's Qualifications - Wilson will later describe himself as “the insider increasing [the CIA analysts’] store of information, supplying that perspective missing from their raw data. I had served as a junior diplomatic officer in Niger in the mid-1970s, a period that happened to coincide with the growth in the uranium business there. We had followed this issue closely from the American Embassy in Niamey, Niger’s capital, just as my staff and I had when I was ambassador to Gabon, another uranium-producing country, from 1992 to 1995. When I worked on the National Security Council in the Clinton administration two years later, among my areas of responsibility was the African uranium industry. Rarely did conversations with Africans from uranium-producing countries fail to touch on the subject. Niger, where I had traveled frequently over the years, was always of particular interest.” [Wilson, 2004, pp. 8]
Details Shared with Wilson - In the meeting, Wilson learns of a report that purports to document a memorandum of sale from Niger to Iraq, and that the report had aroused the interest of Vice President Dick Cheney (see (February 13, 2002)). Cheney’s office has tasked the CIA to determine the truth or falsity of the report. The report is lacking in key details. Wilson’s knowledge of the region, particularly of the government and private interests involved in mining and distributing uranium, will be particularly helpful. Wilson later writes, “The Nigeriens were the same people I had dealt with during and after my time at the National Security Council, people I knew well.” The former minister of mines, the man responsible for oversight of the industry at the time of the alleged sales, is a friend of his.
Skepticism among Participants about Report - Wilson will later describe himself as “skeptical, as prudent consumers of intelligence always are about raw information.” He will note that much of this kind of intelligence is classified as “rumint,” or rumors passing as fact, and is usually “no more reliable than Bigfoot sightings. Rumint is a necessary and unfortunate reality in a world where many people will tell you what they think you want to hear, as opposed to simple facts.” [Wilson, 2004, pp. 14-15] Notes taken by INR analyst Douglas Rohn, as well as e-mails from other participants, indicate that INR expresses skepticism that the alleged uranium contract could have taken place. Rohn, who served as deputy chief of mission in Niger during the ‘90s, writes that it would have been very difficult to conceal such a large shipment of yellowcake because “the French appear to have control of the uranium mining, milling and transport process, and would seem to have little interest in selling uranium to the Iraqis.” INR also says that the embassy in Niger has good contacts and is thus in a position to get to the truth on the matter, and therefore believes the proposed trip to Niger would be redundant. Others attending the meeting argue that the trip would probably not resolve the matter because the Nigeriens would be unlikely to admit to a uranium sales agreement with Iraq. An e-mail from a WINPAC analyst to CPD following the meeting notes, “[I]t appears that the results from this source will be suspect at best, and not believable under most scenarios.” CPD nonetheless concludes that sending Wilson would be worth a try. [US Congress, 7/7/2004, pp. 59; Isikoff and Corn, 2006, pp. 94-95]
Open and Public Visit - Wilson is willing, but points out that he is not a spy, but a former diplomat with no experience with clandestine work. He will be recognized in Niger. Therefore, there can be no expectation of any covert or clandestine actions on his part; everything he does will be open and above board. He also insists on obtaining the approval of both the State Department and the US Ambassador to Niger, Barbro Owens-Kirkpatrick, before entering the country. He expects no payment for his visit, but will accept reimbursement for expenses. The others in the meeting agree. The rest of the two-hour meeting is spent considering and plotting out various scenarios, based on who he might see and what he might learn during his visit. [Wilson, 2004, pp. 16-17] “I went through what I knew about… uranium,” Wilson later recalls. “I went through what I knew about the personalities.… People chimed in, and I answered them as best I could. It was a kind of free-for-all, and at the end they sort of asked, ‘Well, would you be able to clear your schedule and go out there if we wanted?’ and I said, ‘Sure.’” [Vanity Fair, 1/2004]

Entity Tags: Douglas Rohn, Counterproliferation Division, Joseph C. Wilson, Valerie Plame Wilson, US Embassy in Niger, Bureau of Intelligence and Research

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

Karl Rove and Robert Novak, 2003. Rove’s button reads, ‘I’m a Source, Not a Target.’Karl Rove and Robert Novak, 2003. Rove’s button reads, ‘I’m a Source, Not a Target.’ [Source: Lauren Shays / AP / New York Times]Conservative columnist Robert Novak, who outed Valerie Plame Wilson’s covert CIA status in a column three years earlier (see July 14, 2003), says that he can now write about his testimony before the grand jury investigating the leak. In his current column, he reveals that White House political strategist Karl Rove was one of his sources, as was CIA spokesman Bill Harlow. Novak writes that special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald has informed his attorneys that the “investigation of the CIA leak case concerning matters directly relating to me has been concluded. That frees me to reveal my role in the federal inquiry that, at the request of Fitzgerald, I have kept secret.” Novak writes: “I have cooperated in the investigation while trying to protect journalistic privileges under the First Amendment and shield sources who have not revealed themselves. I have been subpoenaed by and testified to a federal grand jury. Published reports that I took the Fifth Amendment, made a plea bargain with the prosecutors, or was a prosecutorial target were all untrue.” Novak says that Fitzgerald knew, “independent of me,” that his sources for his column outing Plame Wilson were Rove and then-Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage (see July 8, 2003), whom Novak does not identify in his column. “That Fitzgerald did not indict any of these sources may indicate his conclusion that none of them violated the Intelligence Identities Protection Act,” Novak writes. Novak also identifies a third source, Harlow (see (July 11, 2003) and Before July 14, 2003). Novak writes that he reveals Rove as a source “because his attorney has divulged the substance of our conversation, though in a form different from my recollection.” Harlow, Novak writes, “has publicly disclosed his version of our conversation, which also differs from my recollection.” He does not name Armitage because Armitage “has not come forward to identify himself,” though he does note that Armitage considered his disclosure of Plame Wilson’s CIA identity “inadvertent.” After learning of Plame Wilson’s identity from Armitage, Novak writes, “I sought out the second administration official [Rove] and the CIA spokesman [Harlow] for confirmation. I learned Valerie Plame [Wilson]‘s name from Joe Wilson’s entry in Who’s Who in America. I considered his wife’s role in initiating Wilson’s mission, later confirmed by the Senate Intelligence Committee, to be a previously undisclosed part of an important news story. I reported it on that basis.” [CNN, 7/11/2006; Human Events, 7/12/2006; New York Times, 7/12/2006] Novak also says of Armitage: “The primary source was not a political operative.… I don’t believe it was part of a plan to discredit anybody.” Novak denies cooperating with a White House strategy to discredit former ambassador Joseph Wilson, a prominent critic of the Bush administration’s Iraq policies (see June 2003, October 1, 2003, and April 5, 2006). [Washington Post, 7/11/2006] Novak testified that when he asked about Plame Wilson’s CIA status, Rove replied, “Oh, you know that, too?” In Rove’s recollection, he responded, “I’ve heard that, too.” Rove’s spokesman, Mark Corallo, says that Rove did not even know Plame Wilson’s name at the time he spoke with Novak, that the columnist called Rove, not the other way around, and that Rove simply replied he had heard the same information that Novak passed along to him regarding Plame Wilson. However, “There was not much of a difference” between the recollections of Rove and Novak, Corallo says. Harlow’s difference with Novak’s portrayal of their conversation is more substantial than the differences between Novak’s and Rove’s recollections. Harlow has said that he warned Novak not to reveal Plame Wilson’s name or CIA status, but Novak has written, “I certainly wouldn’t have used her name if anyone [i.e. Harlow] had indicated she might be in danger.” [Washington Post, 7/11/2006; Associated Press, 7/12/2006] A former intelligence official tells CNN that when Harlow first spoke to Novak about Plame Wilson, he was not aware of her status as a covert employee, and that he tried to talk Novak out of publishing her name when he did find out, making it clear the disclosure could be damaging. [CNN, 7/11/2006] Progressive media watchdog organization Media Matters writes that Novak’s column is filled with “false and contradictory statements” (see July 12, 2006).

Entity Tags: Karl C. Rove, Robert Novak, Mark Corallo, Joseph C. Wilson, Bush administration (43), Bill Harlow, Richard Armitage, Valerie Plame Wilson, Patrick J. Fitzgerald

Timeline Tags: Niger Uranium and Plame Outing

Former ambassador Joseph Wilson, whose wife Valerie Plame Wilson was exposed as a CIA agent by columnist Robert Novak (see July 14, 2003), writes an e-mail to Christy Hardin Smith, a former prosecutor who writes for the progressive blog FireDogLake. Referring to Novak’s recent column (see July 12, 2006) and its falsehoods and misrepresentations (see July 12, 2006), Wilson writes: “Robert Novak, some other commentators, and the administration continue to try to completely distort the role that Valerie Wilson played with respect to Ambassador Wilson’s trip to Niger. The facts are beyond dispute. The Office of the Vice President requested that the CIA investigate reports of alleged uranium purchases by Iraq from Niger (see (February 13, 2002)). The CIA set up a meeting to respond to the vice president’s inquiry (see Shortly after February 13, 2002). Another CIA official, not Valerie Wilson, suggested to Valerie Wilson’s supervisor that the ambassador attend that meeting (see February 19, 2002). That other CIA official made the recommendation because that official was familiar with the ambassador’s vast experience in Niger and knew of a previous trip to Africa concerning uranium matters that had been undertaken by the ambassador on behalf of the CIA in 1999 (see Fall 1999). Valerie Wilson’s supervisor subsequently asked her to relay a request from him to the ambassador that he would like the ambassador to attend the meeting at the CIA. Valerie Wilson did not participate in the meeting” (see February 13, 2002). [Christy Hardin Smith, 7/13/2006]

Entity Tags: Valerie Plame Wilson, Central Intelligence Agency, Christy Hardin Smith, FireDogLake, Joseph C. Wilson, Robert Novak, Office of the Vice President

Timeline Tags: Niger Uranium and Plame Outing

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