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Senate Reports of Pre-war Intelligence on Iraq pertaining to Joseph C. Wilson's Niger trip

Senate Reports of Pre-war Intelligence on Iraq pertaining to Joseph C. Wilson's Niger trip concerns the reports published in 2004 and 2007 that were prepared by the United States Senate Select Committee on Intelligence entitled Report on the U.S. Intelligence Community's Prewar Intelligence Assessments on Iraq, Together with Additional Views and Report on Prewar Intelligence Assessments About Postwar Iraq, as these concern the trip that former Ambassador Joseph C. Wilson IV made to Niger in February 2002, after his wife Valerie Plame Wilson offered to contact him on behalf of her employer, the Counterproliferation Division (CPD) of the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency.

The U.S. Senate Select Committee on Intelligence Reports relating to Wilson's Niger trip

The 2004 Report

Section II ("Niger") of the often-redacted United States Senate Select Committee on Intelligence Report on the U.S. Intelligence Community's Prewar Intelligence Assessments on Iraq presents a summary of the Committee's findings about the "Original Niger Reporting [A]" and about the decision of the Counterproliferation Division of the CIA "to contact a former ambassador [Wilson] who had a posting early in his career in Niger" ("Former Ambassador" [B]).

Section B on Wilson begins by observing that "Officials from the CIA's DO [Directorate of Operations] Counterproliferation Division (CPD) told Committee staff that in response to questions from the Vice President's Office and the Departments of State and Defense on the alleged Iraq-Niger uranium deal, CPD officials discussed ways to obtain additional information" (39).

Although "Some CPD officials could not recall how the office decided to contact the former ambassador," the Report states that "interviews and documents provided to the Committee," which include a memorandum of July 7, 2003, composed by the U.S. Department of State's Bureau of Intelligence and Research (INR), which the Committee Report cites in detail later, "indicate that his wife, a CPD employee, suggested his name for the trip." According to the Committee, "The CPD reports officer told Committee staff that the former ambassador's wife 'offered up his name' and a memorandum to the Deputy Chief of the CPD on February 12, 2002, from the former ambassador's wife says, 'my husband has good relations with both the PM [prime minister] [sic] and the former Minister of Mines (not to mention lots of French contacts), both of whom could possibly shed light on this sort of activity'" (39).

The Report continues by noting that Mrs. Wilson sent her February 12, 2002 e-mail memo "just one day before CPD sent a cable ... [blacked out] requesting concurrence with CPD's idea to send the former ambassador to Niger and requesting any additional information from the foreign government service on their uranium reports" (39).

"The former ambassador's wife told Committee staff," the Report continues, "that when CPD decided it would like to send the former ambassador to Niger, she approached her husband on behalf of the CIA," as she says that she would consider doing in her memo of February 12, 2002, "and told him 'there's this crazy report' on a purported deal for Niger to sell uranium to Iraq" (39).

State Department (INR) memo, including "Notes" on Wilson's CIA (CPD) meeting

The Report states:

On February 19, 2002, CPD hosted a meeting [at the CIA] with the former ambassador, intelligence analysts from both the CIA and the INR, and several individuals from the DO's Africa and CPD divisions. The purpose of the meeting was to discuss the merits of the former ambassador traveling to Niger. An INR analyst's notes indicate that the meeting was "apparently convened by the [former ambassador's] [sic] wife who had the idea to dispatch [him] [sic] to use his contacts to sort out the Iraq-Niger uranium issue." The former ambassador's wife told Committee staff that she only attended the meeting to introduce her husband and left after about three minutes. (40)

The Committee Report goes on to observe:

The INR analyst's meeting notes and electronic mail (e-mail) from other participants indicate that INR explained its skepticism that the alleged uranium contract could possibly be carried out due to the fact that it would be very difficult to hide such a large shipment of yellowcake and 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.' The notes also indicate that INR believed that the embassy in Niger had good contacts and would be able to get to the truth on the uranium issue, suggesting a visit from the former ambassador would be redundant. Other meeting participants argued that the trip would do little to clarify the story on the alleged uranium deal because the Nigeriens would be unlikely to admit to a uranium sales agreement with Iraq, even if one had been negotiated. An e-mail from a WINPAC analyst to CPD following the meeting noted 'it appears that the results from this source will be suspect at best, and not believable under most scenarios.'" (41)

Nevertheless, the Committee Report adds, "CPD concluded that with no other options, sending the former ambassador [Wilson] to Niger was worth a try" (41).

The Committee Report also points out that "The INR analyst's notes also indicate that specific details of the classified report on the Iraq-Niger uranium deal were discussed at the meeting, as well as whether analysts believed it was plausible that Niger would be capable of delivering such a large quantity of uranium to Iraq" and that "The CIA has told Committee staff that the former ambassador did not have a 'formal security clearance' but had been given an 'operational clearance' up to the Secret level for the purposes of his potential visit to Niger" (41).

Wilson's "Talking points"

The Report continues: "On February 20, 2002, CPD provided the former ambassador [Wilson] with talking points for his use with contacts in Niger" (41).

According to the report, the "talking points were general" and focused on:

  • "asking officials if Niger had been approached, conducted discussions, or entered into any agreements concerning uranium transfers with any 'countries of concern' ... [blacked out] ..." and, specifically:
  • "whether any uranium might be missing from Niger or might have been transferred" and
  • "how Niger accounts for all of its uranium each year." (41)

But "the talking points":

  • "did not refer to the specific reporting on the alleged Iraq-Niger uranium deal"
  • "did not mention names or dates from the reporting, and"
  • "did not mention that there was any such deal being reported in intelligence channels." (41)

Wilson's trip to Niger

Moreover, the Committee Report states explicitly that "DO officials told Committee staff that they promised the former ambassador [Wilson] that they would keep his relationship with CIA confidential, but did not ask for the former ambassador to do the same and did not ask him to sign a confidentiality or non-disclosure agreement." (41)

Wilson "left for Niger on February 21, 2002," arriving in Niger on February 26, 2002, according to the Report (41-42).

Wilson "told Committee staff that he first met with [U.S.] Ambassador [to Niger] Owens-Kirkpatrick to discuss his [then] upcoming meetings. Ambassador Owens-Kirkpatrick asked him not to meet with current Nigerien officials because she believed it might complicate her continuing diplomatic efforst with them on the uranium issue. The former ambassador agreed to restrict his meetings to former officials and the private sector." (42)

In his interview with the Committee, former Ambassador Wilson "told Committee staff that he met with the former Nigerien Prime Minister, the former Minister of Mines and Energy, and other business contacts. At the end of this visit, he debriefed Ambassador Owens-Kirkpatrick ... [blacked out], Chad. He told Committee staff that he had told both U.S. officials he thought there was 'nothing to the story.' Ambassador Owens-Kirkpatrick told Committee staff she recalled the former ambassador saying 'he had reached the same conclusions the embassy reached [detailed on 41-42], that it was highly unlikely that anything was going on.'" (42)

INR intelligence assessment relating to Wilson's trip vis-a-vis the Vice President's Office

"On March 1, 2002," the Committee states in its report, "INR published an intelligence assessment, Niger: Sale of Uranium to Iraq Is Unlikely." (42)

According to the Committee:

The INR analyst who drafted the assessment told Committee staff that he had been told that the piece was in response to interest from the Vice President's office in the alleged Iraq-Niger uranium deal. The assessment reiterated INR's view that France controlled the uranium industry and 'would take action to block a sale of the kind alleged in a CIA report of questionable credibility from a foreign government service.' The assessment added that 'some officials may have conspired for individual gain to arrange a uranium sale,' but considered President Tandja's government highly unlikely to risk relations with the U.S. and other key aid donors. In a written reponse to a question from Committee staff on this matter, the Department of State said the assessment was distributed through the routine distribution process in which intelligence documents are delivered to the White House situation room, but State did not provide the assessment directly to the Vice President in a special delivery." (42)

The Committee Report adds, however, that "In early March 2002, the Vice President asked his morning briefer for an update on the Niger Uranium issue," and that, "In response, on March 5, 2002, WINPAC analysts sent an analytic update to the briefer which noted that the government of Niger said it was making all efforts to ensure that its uranium would be used for only peaceful purposes. The update said the foreign government service that provided the original report 'was unable to provide new information but continues to assess that its source is reliable.' The update also noted that the CIA would 'be debriefing a source who may have information related to the alleged sale on March 5.'" (43)

Wilson's debriefing after his trip to Niger

According to the Report, "Later that day" [March 5, 2002], "two CIA DO officers debriefed the former ambassador [Wilson] who had returned from Niger the previous day [March 4, 2002]. The debriefing took place in the former ambassador's home and although his wife was there, according to the reports officer, she acted as a hostess and did not participate in the debrief." (43)

Then, "Based on information provided verbally by the former ambassador [Wilson], the DO case officer wrote a draft intelligence report and sent it to the DO reports officer who added additional relevant information from his notes. (43)

The Committee Report states:

The intelligence report based on the former ambassador's [Wilson's] trip was disseminated on March 8, 2002. The report did not identify the former ambassador by name or as a former ambassador, but described him as "a contact with excellent access who does not have an established reporting record." The report also indicated that the "subsources of the following information knew their remarks could reach the U.S. government and may have intended to influence as well as inform." DO officials told Committee staff that this type of description was routine and was done in order to protect the former ambassador [Wilson] as the source of the information, which they had told him they would do. DO officials also said they alerted WINPAC analysts when the report was being disseminated because they knew the "high priority of the issue." The report was widely distributed in routine channels. (43)

The rest of the intelligence report summarized by the Committee Report (44) indicates that "Niger's former Minister for Energy and Mines," Mai Manga, had

stated that [in Niger] there were no sales outside of International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) channels since the mid-1980s. He knew of no contracts signed between Niger and any rogue states for the sale of uranium. He said that an Iranian delegation was interested in purchasing 400 tons of yellowcake from Niger in 1998, but said that no contract was ever signed with Iran. Mai Manga also described how the 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. Mai Manga believed it would be difficult, if not impossible, to arrange for a special shipment of uranium to a pariah state given these controls.(44)

Wilson's report about his findings in Niger to the CIA

The Senate Intelligence Committee Report finds that Wilson's "description of his findings differed from the DO intelligence report and his account of information provided to him by the CIA differed from the CIA officials' accounts in some respects":

  1. "First, the former ambassador described his findings to Committee staff as more directly related to Iraq and, specifically, as refuting both the possibility that Niger could have sold uranium to Iraq and that Iraq approached Niger to purchase uranium. The intelligence report described how the structure of Niger's uranium mines would make it difficult, if not impossible, for Niger to sell uranium to [rogue] nations, and noted that Nigerien officials denied knowledge of any deals to sell uranium to any rogue states, but did not refute the possibility that Iraq had approached Niger to purchase uranium [in the past]."
  2. "Second, the former ambassador said that he discussed with his CIA contacts which names and signatures should have appeared on any documentation of a legitimate uranium transaction. In fact, the intelligence report made no mention of the alleged Iraq-Niger uranium deal or signatures that should have appeared on any documentation of a legitimate transaction. The only mention of Iraq in the report pertained to the meeting between the Iraqi delegation and former Prime Minister Mayaki."
  3. "Third, the former ambassador noted that his CIA contacts told him there were documents pertaining to the alleged Iraq-Niger uranium transaction and that the source of the information was the ... [blacked out] intelligence service. The DO reports officer told Committee staff that he did not provide the former ambassador with any information about the source or details of the original reporting as it would have required sharing classified information and, noted that there were no 'documents' circulating in the IC at the time of the former ambassador's trip, only intelligence reports from ... [blacked out] intelligence regarding an alleged Iraq-Niger uranium deal. Meeting notes and other correspondence show that details of the reporting were discussed at the February 19, 2002 meeting, but none of the meeting participants recall telling the former ambassador the source of the report ... [blacked out] ...." (44-45)

The Committee Report delves into the nature of those discrepancies, citing Wilson's self-described "confusion":

The former ambassador also told Committee staff that he was the source of a Washington Post article ("CIA Did Not Share Doubt on Iraq Data; Bush Used Report of Uranium Bid," June 12, 2003) which said, "among the Envoy's conclusions was that the documents may have been forged because 'the dates were wrong and the names were wrong.'" Committee staff asked how the former ambassador could have come to the conclusion that the "dates were wrong and the names were wrong" when he had never seen the CIA reports and had no knowledge of what names and dates were in the reports. The former ambassador said that he may have "misspoken" to the reporter when he said he concluded the documents were "forged." He also said he may have become confused about his own recollection after the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) reported in March 2003 that the names and dates on the documents were not correct and may have thought he had seen the names himself. The former ambassador reiterated that he had been able to collect the names of the government officials which should have been on the documents. (45)

In addition, Wilson "told Committee staff that he had no direct knowledge of how the information he provided was handled by the CIA, but, based on his previous government experience, he believed that the report would have been distributed to the White House and that the Vice President received a direct response to his question about the possible uranium deal." At that time, as quoted in the Report, Wilson said:

Whether or not there was a specific response to the specific question the Vice President asked I don't know for a fact, other than to know, having checked with my own memory when I was in the White House at the National Security Council ... [sic] any time an official who is senior enough to ask that question, that official was senior enough to have a very specific response. The question then becomes whether the response came back as a telephone call, a non-paper – in other words, talking points – or orally briefed, or a specific cable in addition to the more general report that is circulated. (45)

Significantly, the Committee Report notes:

The CIA's DO gave the former ambassador's information a grade of 'good,' which means that it added to the IC's body of understanding on the issue, ... [blacked out]. The possible grades are unsatisfactory, good, excellent, and outstanding, which, according to the Deputy Chief of CPD, are very subjective. ... [blacked out] ... The reports officer said that a 'good' grade was merited because the information responded to at least some of the outstanding questions in the Intelligence Community [IC], but did not provide substantial new information. He said he judged that the most important fact in the report was that Nigerien officials admitted that the Iraqis were interested in purchasing uranium because this provided some confirmation of foreign government service reporting. (46)

Yet, the Senate Committee Report goes on to summarize the responses to the IC, DIA, and CIA analysts to "the intelligence report based on the former ambassador's trip":

  • "IC analysts had a fairly consistent response to [it] ... in that no one believed it added a great deal of new information to the Iraq-Niger uranium story ..."
  • "An INR analyst said when he saw the [Wilson's] report he believed that it corroborated the INR's position, but said that the 'report could be read in different ways.' He said the [Wilson's] report was credible, but [he] did not give it a lot of attention because he was busy with other things."
  • "DIA and CIA analysts said that when they saw the intelligence report they did not believe that it supplied much new information and did not think that it clarified the story on the alleged Iraq-Niger uranium deal. They did not find Nigerien denials that they had discussed uranium sales with Iraq as very surprising because they had no expectation that Niger would admit to such an agreement if it did exist. The analysts did, however, find it interesting that the former Nigerien Prime Minister said an Iraqi delegation had visited Niger for what he believed was to discuss uranium sales." (46)

The Report also states that "Because CIA analysts did not believe that the report added any new information to clarify the issue, they did not use the report to produce any further analytical products or highlight the report for policymakers" and that, "For the same reason, CIA's briefer did not brief the Vice President on the report, despite the Vice President's previous questions about the issue" (46), which runs counter to what Wilson stated were his own expectations based on his own previous National Security Agency experience. It also states that it established that "There were no obvious inconsistencies in the names of officials mentioned or the dates of the transactions in any of the three reports," although, it states, "Of the five lower ranking, two were not the individuals in the positions described in the reports, however these do not appear to be names or positions with which intelligence analysts would have been familiar" and "The only mistake in any of the reports regarding dates, [sic] is that one date, July 7, 2000, is said to be a Wednesday in the report, but was actually a Friday." (47)

A later summary section on "Niger" (C) concludes:

The Committee has examined the Niger uranium issue in depth and reported the information and findings on the issue in a separate section of this report [II]. The Committee notes, however, that there were a number of intelligence reports which indicated Iraq was attempting to procure uranium from several countries in Africa, including Niger, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and Somalia. At the time the NIE [National Intelligence Estimate] was written the forged foreign language documents were not available to the IC, but there was intelligence reporting that indicated Iraq may have approached Niger either to procure uranium or for another unidentified purpose. The Committee did not find the information that showed Iraq was "vigorously trying to procure uranium" as indicated in the NIE" [and as President Bush would later state in his 2003 State of the Union], but it did indicate that Iraq may have been trying to acquire uranium. See the Niger section of this report for a detailed explanation of the treatment of the Niger uranium information by the IC [Intelligence Community] prior to, during, and after the NIE process" (125).

In Conclusion 1 (14-16) of its "Overall Conclusions –– Weapons of Mass Destruction", in the Iraq Report, issued on July 7 and revised and updated on July 9, 2004 "Together with Additional Views", the U.S. Senate Select Committee on Intelligence states: "Most of the major key judgments in the Intelligence Community's October 2002 National Intelligence Estimate (NIE), Iraq's Continuing Programs for Weapons of Mass Destruction, either overstated, or were not supported by, the underlying intelligence reporting" (14).

Overall, the Senate Intelligence Committee's Report observes, in Conclusion 6:

Problems with the Intelligence Community's HUMINT [Human Intelligence] efforts were also evident in the Intelligence Community's handling of Iraq's alleged efforts to acquire uranium from Niger. The Committee does not fault the CIA for exploiting the access enjoyed by the spouse of a CIA employee traveling to Niger. The Committee believes, however, that it is unfortunate, considering the significant resources available to the CIA, that this was the only option available. (25)

The "Niger Conclusions" (72-83) relating to Wilson's op-ed essay about President Bush's "16 words" in his 2003 State of the Union address are Conclusions 12-26.

Selected press commentary and Wilson's responses

Susan Schmidt opens her article on the U.S. Senate Select Committee on Intelligence report in the Washington Post by stating that it challenges some of the statements made by Wilson and suggests that Wilson's wife was more involved in his selection for the mission than Wilson has repeatedly asserted: "Former ambassador Joseph C. Wilson IV, dispatched by the CIA in February 2002 to investigate reports that Iraq sought to reconstitute its nuclear weapons program with uranium from Africa, was specifically recommended for the mission by his wife, a CIA employee, contrary to what he has said publicly." This introduction does not, however, take into account wide differences of interpretation relating to Wilson's comments on the matter both in print and in media interviews that she reports throughout the body of her article.

Schmidt observes:

The report states that a CIA official told the Senate committee that Plame "offered up" Wilson's name for the Niger trip, then on Feb. 12, 2002, sent a memo to a deputy chief in the CIA's Directorate of Operations saying her husband "has good relations with both the PM [prime minister] and the former Minister of Mines (not to mention lots of French contacts), both of whom could possibly shed light on this sort of activity." The next day, according to the report, the operations official cabled an overseas officer seeking concurrence with the idea of sending Wilson.

But high-ranking CIA officials told the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence that they disputed the claim that Plame was involved in the final decision to send Wilson and indicated that the operations official who made it was not present at the [February 19, 2002] meeting where Wilson was chosen. As reported by Knut Royce and Tim Phelps in Newsday on 22 July 2003:

A senior intelligence officer confirmed that Plame was a Directorate of Operations undercover officer who worked "alongside" the operations officers who asked her husband to travel to Niger. But he said she did not recommend her husband to undertake the Niger assignment. "They (the officers who did ask Wilson to check the uranium story) were aware of who she was married to, which is not surprising," he said. "There are people elsewhere in government who are trying to make her look like she was the one who was cooking this up, for some reason," he said. "I can’t figure out what it could be." "We paid his (Wilson’s) airfare. But to go to Niger is not exactly a benefit. Most people you’d have to pay big bucks to go there," the senior intelligence official said. Wilson said he was reimbursed only for expenses.

Wilson states in "Sixteen Words", the first chapter of The Politics of Truth:

Apart from being the conduit of a message from a colleague in her office asking if I would be willing to have a conversation about Niger's uranium industry, Valerie had had nothing to do with the matter. Though she worked on weapons of mass destruction issues, she was not at the meeting I attended where the subject of Niger's uranium was discussed, when the possibility of my actually traveling to the country was broached. She definitely had not proposed that I make this trip. (5)

Schmidt renders the quotation from Wilson in a misleading way, however, omitting any sign of her editorial ellipsis:

Wilson has asserted that his wife was not involved in the decision to send him to Niger. "Valerie had nothing to do with the matter," Wilson wrote in a memoir published this year [The Politics of Truth (2004)]. "She definitely had not proposed that I make the trip."

Wilson stood by his assertion in an interview yesterday [July 9, 2003], saying Plame was not the person who made the decision to send him. Of her memo [of Feb. 12, 2002 sent to a deputy chief in the CIA's Directorate of Operations saying her husband "has good relations with both the (Nigerian) PM (prime minister) and the former Minister of Mines (not to mention lots of French contacts), both of whom could possibly shed light on this sort of activity"], he said: "I don't see it as a recommendation to send me."

Wilson's responses to this article, published in The Politics of Truth, point out significant errors of fact and interpretation in Susan Schmidt's account of the Committee's report:

Her article was replete with factual errors that could have been avoided had she bothered to read the text of the report or even done some basic research, such as looking up the CIA statement made the previous year in the Newsday article about Valerie's lack of involvement in the trip. But she did not. Indeed, her reporting was so sloppy that from the lead sentence she conflated what the three Republican senators––and not even a majority of their own party's representation on the committee––asserted with what the actual report concluded. She even confused Iraq with Iran, a significant error of fact. She also quoted a phrase from this book that Valerie "had nothing to do with the matter" without the qualifying phrase in the beginning of the sentence: "other than serve as a conduit." Schmidt asserted that my report, rather than debunking intelligence about the purported uranium sales to Iraq, had bolstered the case for most intelligence analysts. She went further, noting that "contrary to Wilson's assertions and even the government's previous statements, the CIA did not tell the White House it had qualms about the reliability of the Africa intelligence that made its way into 16 fateful words in President Bush's January 2003 State of the Union address."

   Both of these assertions were patently false, and even a cursory reading of the body of the report dedicated to the Niger case would have borne that out. (lix)

Wilson also responded directly to Senators Roberts, Bond, and Hatch in a letter to the Senate, sharply disputing their claims and refuting those attempting to "discredit" him.

Accounts of Valerie Plame's involvement in her husband's selection appear to differ markedly, but the main difference may be semantic. Wilson claims that his wife simply contacted him on the agency's behalf at its behest, responded to her supervisor's request for information, and escorted her husband to the meeting before leaving it, prior to any decision being made; whereas some press accounts whose reliability does appear at times indeed questionable claim that Plame may also have "recommended" her husband by virtue of her writing a summary of his qualifications when he was already being considered. According to the Senate Intelligence Committee's report, "Interviews and documents provided to the Committee indicate that his wife, a CPD (Counterproliferation Division) employee, suggested his name for the trip" (39) (parenthetical interpolation added). Nevertheless, as Schmidt also clearly states, "Wilson has asserted that his wife was not involved in the decision to send him to Niger," and the 2004 Senate Intelligence Committee Report in no way contradicts or even counters that assertion.

In a "statement [submitted] to the Congress" in July 2005, former CIA officer Larry C. Johnson further refutes the "allegation" cited most often in the media:

Another false claim is that Valerie sent her husband on the mission to Niger. According to the Senate Intelligence Committee Report issued in July 2004, it is clear that the Vice President himself requested that the CIA provide its views on a Defense Intelligence Agency report that Iraq was trying to acquire uranium from Niger. The Vice President's request was relayed through the CIA bureaucracy to the Director of the Counter Proliferation Division at the CIA. Valerie worked for a branch in that Division. The Senate Intelligence Report is frequently cited by Republican partisans as "proof" that Valerie sent her husband to Niger because she sent a memo describing her husband's qualifications to the Deputy Division Chief. Several news personalities, such as Chris Matthews and Bill O'Reilly, continue to repeat this nonsense as proof. What the Senate Intelligence Committee does not include in the report is the fact that Valerie's boss had asked her to write a memo outlining her husband's qualifications for the job. She did what any good employee does; she gave her boss what he asked for.

Schmidt also states in her July 10, 2004 article in The Washington Post: that the Senate Intelligence Committee Report points to inconsistencies in Wilson's retrospective accounts of his trip to Niger (which Wilson disputes):

The report also said Wilson provided misleading information to The Washington Post last June. He said then that he concluded the Niger intelligence was based on documents that had clearly been forged because "the dates were wrong and the names were wrong."

"Committee staff asked how the former ambassador could have come to the conclusion that the 'dates were wrong and the names were wrong' when he had never seen the CIA reports and had no knowledge of what names and dates were in the reports," the Senate panel said. Wilson told the panel he may have been confused and may have "misspoken" to reporters. The documents -- purported sales agreements between Niger and Iraq -- were not in U.S. hands until eight months after Wilson made his trip to Niger.

Nevertheless, Schmidt concludes:

Still, it was the CIA that bore the brunt of the criticism of the Niger intelligence. The panel found that the CIA has not fully investigated possible efforts by Iraq to buy uranium in Niger to this day, citing reports from a foreign service and the U.S. Navy about uranium from Niger destined for Iraq and stored in a warehouse in Benin.

The agency did not examine forged documents that have been widely cited as a reason to dismiss the purported effort by Iraq until months after it obtained them. The panel said it still has "not published an assessment to clarify or correct its position on whether or not Iraq was trying to purchase uranium from Africa."

"Phase two" of the investigation: The 2007 Report

Two volumes of the phase II report, released on September 8, 2006, entitled Postwar Findings about Iraq's WMD Programs and Links to Terrorism and How they Compare with Prewar Assessments and The Use by the Intelligence Community of Information Provided by the Iraqi National Congress, conclude that there was no prewar evidence that Saddam was building weapons of mass destruction (WMD) and there was no evidence that Saddam had links to al-Qaeda, two principal rationales given by the Bush administration for the 2003 invasion of Iraq.

After Democrats gained a majority in the Senate during the November 2006 midterm election, chairmanship of the committee passed to Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-WV). The former chair, Sen. Pat Roberts (R-KS) left the committee; the ranking Republican and vice chairman of the committee is now Sen. Christopher S. Bond (R-MO).

On May 25, 2007, the reconstituted U.S. Senate Select Committee on Intelligence released a 226-page volume entitled Report on Prewar Intelligence Assessments About Postwar Iraq. It includes seven pages of conclusions regarding assessments provided by the intelligence community to U.S. government leaders prior to the Iraq war. The report concludes that the intelligence community had assessed that establishing a stable government in Iraq would be a "long, difficult, and probably turbulent challenge," that Iraqi society was deeply divided and would engage in violent conflict unless an occupying power took steps to prevent it, and that the war would increase the threat of terrorism, at least temporarily. The intelligence community also assessed that a U.S. defeat and occupation of Iraq would lead to a surge in political Islam and increased funding for terrorist groups, and that the war would not cause other countries in the region to abandon their WMD programs.

This updated volume also includes an Appendix containing two previously-classified reports by the National Intelligence Council (NIC) entitled "Regional Consequences of Regime Change in Iraq" and "Principal Challenges in Post-Saddam Iraq", as well as "Additional and Minority Views", in which different members of the committee comment on the history of the committee's work in this area and criticize what they characterize as the politicization of that work by members of the other party.

The section entitled "Minority Views" reconsiders the historical background and contexts of former Ambassador Wilson's trip to Niger, observing what Republican committee members regard as "contradictions" in various cited accounts by Mrs. Wilson of why and how her husband was ultimately selected by the CIA for his trip to Niger and other highly-controversial aspects of his Niger mission relating to the President's "16 words" in his January 2003 State of the Union message. The Republicans' comparisons of Mrs. Wilson's various accounts are posted on their United States House of Representatives Oversight Committee website.

Wilson's responses to Republican criticism

Former Ambassador Wilson responded to such criticism from the Republicans pertaining to the 2004 Senate Select Committee on Intelligence Report publicly in media appearances and in print and to the more recent criticism from the Republicans in his recent testimony during the Congressional hearing on "The Use and Misuse of Clemency Powers by Officials of the Executive Branch" (11 July 2007):
At one point the hearing degenerated into name-calling, as Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., accused Plame of lying to the Judiciary Committee during testimony in March when she said she had not tapped her husband to travel to Niger for the fact-finding mission that led to his op-ed questioning Bush's Iraq war claims.

"This is yet a further smear of my wife's good name and my good name," Wilson loudly protested later, as Issa objected repeatedly and Conyers fought to gain control of the hearing."

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