The quality of the reporting on the Valerie Plame/Judith Miller matter has been abysmal. Here are two examples.
This Associated Press article is by Pete Yost. For the most part, it is a straightforward account of Judith Miller’s appearance in court today. But note Yost’s account of the Plame affair that forms the background of the subpoena on Miller:
Plame’s name was disclosed in a column by Robert Novak days after her husband, former Ambassador Joseph Wilson, questioned part of President Bush’s justification for invading Iraq.
Wilson was sent to Africa by the Bush administration to investigate an intelligence claim that Saddam Hussein may have purchased yellowcake uranium from Niger in the late 1990s for use in nuclear weapons. Wilson said he could not verify the claim and accused the administration for manipulating the intelligence to “exaggerate the Iraqi threat.”
This is just wrong, as we have pointed out repeatedly, most recently here. It isn’t true that Wilson “said he could not verify the claim.” What actually happened, according to the report of the Senate Intelligence Committee, was that Wilson returned from Niger and reported to the CIA that Niger’s former Prime Minister had confirmed that in 1999, an emissary from Saddam Hussein made an overture that the Prime Minister interpreted as an attempt to buy uranium. (The claim that was made about Niger was that Iraq tried to buy uranium there, not that it succeeded.) Six months later, Wilson lied about his mission to Niger in an op-ed in the New York Times that attacked President Bush. Wilson misrepresented what he learned in Niger, and what he told the CIA.
None of this is hard to figure out; it was all widely reported when the Intelligence Committee’s report was issued in July 2004. There is no excuse for an AP reporter not knowing these basic facts.
Even more egregious, though perhaps less surprising, is Robert Kuttner’s column in today’s Boston Globe. Kuttner, an editor of The American Prospect, is a lefty, so his anti-Bush prejudice is no secret. Kuttner not only gets the facts wrong, he offers a conspiracy theory that makes no sense. Kuttner retails the myth of the heroic Joe Wilson, adding some embellishments of his own:
Plame’s husband is former ambassador Joseph Wilson IV, who had undertaken a secret mission at the request of the CIA to investigate what proved to be a fake story about the government of Niger providing nuclear material to Saddam Hussein. The Niger story figured prominently in Bush’s justification for war and his disparagement of UN weapons inspectors, even though it had already been disproven by Wilson’s mission. Wilson, now retired, was so appalled at the administration’s misuse of a discredited story that he went public with his information.
Just about every word of this paragraph is false, as the Intelligence Committee’s report shows. But liberals seldom let the facts get in the way of a good story.
The administration’s leak to Novak, ”outing” Wilson’s wife, Plame, was part of a clumsy campaign to discredit and punish Wilson. The administration line was that Plame supposedly suggested Wilson for the Niger assignment, though that allegation has never been confirmed.
Wrong again. The Intelligence Committee report confirmed that Valerie Plame did indeed–contrary to Joe Wilson’s denials–recommend her husband for the Niger assignment. The report quotes Plame’s memo to a deputy chief in the CIA’s Directorate of Operations dated February 12, 2002, which said that 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.” Why do prominent newspapers like the Boston Globe print op-eds by writers who don’t know any facts?
Kuttner says “the administration” leaked Plame’s name to Robert Novak as “part of a clumsy campaign to discredit and punish Wilson.” This is dumb. First of all, Novak has already explained the context of the “leak.” Many people wondered why the CIA sent such an unsuitable person as Joe Wilson on the Niger mission; someone in the administration explained to Novak that Wilson was selected because his wife worked for the Agency. Which, of course, turned out to be true.
But, in any event, why would that “discredit and punish Wilson”? The fact that his wife is a CIA employee doesn’t discredit Wilson in the least. And her employment status is anything but a deep dark secret, as her subsequent Vanity Fair photo shoot demonstrated.
Kuttner now makes the real point of his column, titled “Politics Taints Probe of CIA Leak.” His purpose is to libel U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald:
After Novak’s column was published, Democrats in Congress demanded and got the administration to name a special counsel to investigate the leak. Attorney General John Ashcroft recused himself. His deputy named Chicago US Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald, supposedly a man of high principle and unblemished reputation.
“Supposedly,” indeed. Read Kuttner’s diatribe carefully and see if you can spot any actual evidence supporting his libels of Fitzgerald.
One leading suspect of having leaked Plame’s identity is the president’s chief political adviser, Karl Rove. Given how utterly Machiavellian Rove is, readers who take press reports of Fitzgerald’s pristine independence at face value are touchingly na