New York Sun reporter Josh Gerstein has obtained the State Department memo that discloses the role of Valerie Plame in Joseph Wilson’s mission to Niger: “No hint seen in memo that Plame’s role was secret.” The Sun obtained a declassified copy of the memo in response to its Freedom of Information Act request. On a closely related note, today’s New York Times features an editorial that has to be read to be disbelieved: “A bad leak.” Comic lowlight: “Even a president cannot wave a wand and announce that an intelligence report is declassified.” Are the editors of the New York Times really this stupid?
The New York Times accuses the Bush adminstration of being the most secretive in American history. The evidence proffered on this point is nil. Nevertheless, I believe the Bush administration is far less secretive than the New York Times. Consider this fairy tale from the Times editorial:
To declassify an intelligence document, officials have to decide whether disclosing the information would jeopardize the sources that provided it or the methods used to gather it. To answer that question, they closely study the origins of the intelligence to be disclosed. Had Mr. Bush done that, he should have seen that the most credible information made it clear that the Niger story was wrong. (In any case, Iraq’s supposed attempt to buy uranium from Niger happened four years before the invasion, and failed. The idea that this amounted to a current, aggressive and continuing campaign to build nuclear weapons in 2002 — as Mr. Bush and Mr. Cheney called it — is laughable.)
Coincidentally, John Leo addressed this contention in a good column yesterday. Leo refers to the Times’s “muffling” of the findings of the Butler report concerning Saddam Hussein’s efforts to purchase uranium from Niger. I don’t believe that the Times has gotten around to letting the cat out of the bag on the Senate Intelligence Committee report findings on Joseph Wilson’s Niger report either — the findings that belie Wilson’s own July 6, 2003 New York Times op-ed.
Wilson’s CIA report of course tended to support the belief that Iraq had sought uranium from Niger for its reconstituted nuclear program. Is the Times referring to Wilson when it suggests that information supporting the Bush adminstration’s concerns were not the “most credible”?
Perhaps most striking, the Times editorial omits any reference to the key findings of the October 2002 National Intelligence Estimate whose release is ostensibly the subject of its editorial. More secrets from the most secretive newspaper in American history.
JOHN adds: This line from the Sun’s story seems significant; it may have been public before now, but if so, I don’t remember it:
A cable attached to the key memoranda indicates that on September 10, 2001, one day before the terrorist attacks on America, Prime Minister Amadou of Niger told embassy officials “that there were buyers like Iraq who would pay more for Niger’s uranium than France.”
This is consistent with what Amadou’s predecessor told Joe Wilson, i.e., that Iraq had sent a trade delegation to Niger that made overtures about buying uranium.