The nice thing about a group blog is that, although at any given time at least one of us is almost sure to be out of commission, there is nearly always someone available to post. But some days, three authors just aren’t enough. The Trunk and Deacon are on the road, and I’ll be heading to the airport in a few minutes. Whether I’ll be able to post for the next few days depends on my hotel’s internet connection.
So let’s turn the floor over to Dafydd ab Hugh, who has fisked Joshua Marshall’s effort to defend Joseph Wilson against the charge of being a liar of Munchausian proportions:
Joshua Micah Marshall notes with some glee that Schmidt quoted the report as claiming that Iraq tried to buy 400 tons of uranium from Niger in 1998; in fact, that paragraph in the full Senate report PDF file refers to Iran, not Iraq, and Ms. Schmidt simply misread. Marshall is triumphant about this, as if this utterly destroys the case that Iraq was engaged in any skulduggery on that continent altogether.
In fact, however, the very same Senate report that Marshall uses to attack Schmidt’s rendering itself offers evidence that Iraq tried to buy 500 tons of uranium from Niger in 1999. Schmidt’s mistake underestimated Iraq’s attempt and shifted it a year further back.
Full text of the report, a 23 MB PDF file, is here.
First, there is this:
[The CIA reports officer] said he judge that the most important fact in
the Joe Wilson report was that the Nigerien officials admitted that the
Iraqi delegation had traveled there in 1999, and that the Nigerian Prime
Minister believed the Iraqis were interested in purchasing uranium,
interested in purchasing uranium, because this provided some
confirmation of foreign government service reporting.
(Page 46 of the report, page 56 of the PDF)
Hence, Joe Wilson is a liar of the first order: his research tended (in the CIA’s opinion) to confirm the report, yet Wilson claimed to the Post and other news sources that his report had shot down those same reports.
And somehow, in all his research, Marshall also missed this astonishing piece of news, which likewise has not seen the light of day before:
Throughout the time the Niger reports were being disseminated, the
[blanked out] CIA Iraq nuclear analyst said he had discussed the
issue with his INR colleague [INR is the State Department’s Bureau
of Intelligence and Research] and was aware that INR disagreed with
the CIA’s position. He said they discussed Niger’s uranium
production rates and whether Niger could have been diverting any
yellowcake. He said that he and his INR counterpart essentially
“agreed to disagree” about whether Niger could supply Uranium to
Iraq. The CIA analyst said he assessed at the time that the
intelligence showed both that Iraq may have been trying to procure
uranium in Africa and that it was possible Niger could supply it.
He said his assessment was bolstered by several other intelligence
reports on Iraqi interest in uranium from other countries in
(Page 47 of the report, page 57 of the PDF file.)
The cryptic comment above is expanded upon in a footnote that same page:
([blanked out]) Several intelligence reports [blanked out] alleged
Iraq wanted to purchase uranium from countries in Africa [blanked
out] said Iraq had offered the Democratic Republic of the Congo
[blanked out]. Two CIA intelligence reports from separate sources
in March and April 1999 said a delegation of Iraqis, [blanked out]
had arrived in Somalia in March to evaluate and discuss [blanked
out] uranium from a Somali [blanked out].
So on the plus side, Marshall has noticed that a bleary-eyed reporter for the Washington Post mistook one instance of “Iran” for “Iraq.” On the minus side, Marshall managed to overlook two fairly stunning confirmations of the president’s words: one from Joe Wilson himself, who had to admit to his CIA bosses what he denied to the news media (including the Post itself), that Nigerien officials themselves admitted the Iraqis had tried to meet with them to discuss what the Nigeriens thought was uranium procurement; and the other from sources within the CIA that indicated Niger was not the only country Iraq was hitting up for yellowcake… the Iraqis also contacted the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Somalia for the same purpose.
While we’re about it — “Fisking” Josh Marshall is so trivially easy it hardly even qualifies for brownie points — let’s look at some more Marshallian imbecilities in that same piece. It’s important to bear in mind that Marshall is simply not very bright, and he likes to run with the Democratic “talking points,” which makes the title of his blog unintentionally hilarious.
Here’s a neat one:
Susan Schmidt is known, happily among DC Republicans and not so
happily among DC Democrats, as what you might call the “Mikey” (a
la Life Cereal fame) of the DC press corps, especially when the
cereal is coming from Republican staffers.
Marshall, of course, is trying to imply that Schmidt likes everything that comes from GOP staffers, like Mikey. But of course, Marshall gets it exactly wrong… for the line on Mikey was “he won’t like it, he hates everything!” In other words, what Marshall’s analogy really says is that Schmidt *hates* everything she gets from Republican staffers. Nice going, Josh.
That’s trivial, but this indicates a more serious lack of comprehension. He is trying, here, to dismiss as absurd a point that Schmidt raises in her article, that if the person who leaked the identity of Valerie Plame to columnist Robert Novak was doing so in order to counter the lies and disinformation coming from Plame’s husband Joe Wilson, this would be part of a defense against any criminal charge.
The report may bolster the rationale that administration officials
provided the information not to intentionally expose an undercover
CIA employee, but to call into question Wilson’s bona fides as an
investigator into trafficking of weapons of mass destruction. To
charge anyone with a crime, prosecutors need evidence that exposure
of a covert officer was intentional.
Here is how Marshall thinks he has dispensed with that point:
Again, a conversation with a lawyer may have been more helpful than
one with a staffer.
There’s no ‘challenging the bona fides of a political opponent’
exception to the law in question. While Plame’s alleged role may
have some political traction, it’s legally irrelevant. Government
officials are not allowed to disclose the identity of covert
intelligence agents, whether they feel like they have a good reason
Really? The relevant law is the Intelligence Identities Protection Act of 1982, which identifies three levels of violation for disclosing the identity of a covert agent:
(a) Disclosure of information by persons having or having had
access to classified information that identifies covert agent
(b) Disclosure of information by persons who learn identity of
covert agents as result of having access to classified
Note that parts (a) and (b) require that the leaker must have had access to classified information and must have *learned of the identity of the agent*, Ms. Plame, from that information; having learnt her identity at a D.C. cocktail party isn’t good enough for prosecution.
The person that Marshall suspects is the leaker, or at least the person he accuses of violating the law after Novak’s column was published, is Karl Rove… who almost certainly does not have access to any classified information that explicitly or implicitly identifies Valerie Plame as a covert CIA agent; his official title of Director, Office of Political Affairs certainly does not give him carte blanche to rummaged around in the CIA’s personnel files. So let’s look at the third and final part of this law:
(c) Disclosure of information by persons in course of pattern of
activities intended to identify and expose covert agents
The scope of part (c) is made more explicit in the description of the crime (this entire code section is remarkably easy to follow, even for a layman):
Whoever, in the course of a pattern of activities intended to
identify and expose covert agents and with reason to believe that
such activities would impair or impede the foreign intelligence
activities of the United States, discloses any information that
identifies an individual as a covert agent to any individual not
authorized to receive classified information, knowing that the
information disclosed so identifies such individual and that the
United States is taking affirmative measures to conceal such
individual’s classified intelligence relationship to the United
States, shall be fined not more than $15,000 or imprisoned not more
than three years, or both.
Note the words that Marshall managed to miss… that this disclosure must be part of “a pattern of activities intended to identify and expose covert agents.” Yet it Schmidt was right, this information was not leaked (by whoever leaked it) as part of any such pattern; it was leaked as a one-shot to show that Wilson was not the disinterested contract analyst he claimed to be but was acting in tandem with his CIA wife to commit politics in the name of national security.
And that most certainly would be a defense to this charge… contrary to Marshall’s snide and contemptuous dismissal.
Oh, this is too easy. It induces ennui. Enough of Joshua Marshall…he’s a tendentious buffoon, and he will remain one to the end of time.
I would only add that the 1999 Iraqi trade mission to Iraq that Wilson reported to the CIA was the very same mission, by Wissam al Zawahie, that we reported on last August. We pointed out at that time that Zawahie was one of Iraq’s foremost proponents of nuclear weaponry, and that Niger–a poor country with essentially no manufacturing output–exports virtually nothing except uranium and animal hides. We therefore asked the question: So What Was Iraq Buying From Niger? We now know the answer.