We have been consistently saying that the Joe Wilson affair was not about outing his wife in the CIA but whether his wife violated federal nepotism laws by recommending him for a mission to Africa to investigate the Iraq-uranium connection. Now the Senate Intelligence Committee has confirmed it. As Susan Schmidt of the Washington Post reported, Wilson “was specifically recommended for the mission by his wife, a CIA employee, contrary to what he has said publicly.”
What’s more, Schmidt noted that, “The panel found that Wilson’s report, rather than debunking intelligence about purported uranium sales to Iraq, as he has said, bolstered the case?” Wilson found evidence that Saddam was seeking uranium from Africa?the information cited by President Bush in his State of the Union speech. Schmidt added, “Wilson’s assertions?both about what he found in Niger and what the Bush administration did with the information?were undermined yesterday in a bipartisan Senate intelligence committee report.”
We had noted that at the time that British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw, who had received a copy of Wilson’s report, said that Wilson had confirmed that an Iraqi delegation in 1999 “sought the expansion of trade links with Niger?and that former Niger government officials believed that this was in connection with the procurement of yellowcake” or uranium oxide. Publicly, however, Wilson was saying that the President was wrong.
Citing the Senate Intelligence report, Schmidt now confirms what the British reported publicly, noting that, “Wilson’s reports to the CIA added to the evidence that Iraq may have tried to buy uranium in Niger?” The significance of this cannot be overstated. In a report to the CIA that was passed on to the British government, Wilson had reportedly confirmed what the President stated in his State of the Union speech. But he was telling the public, including the press, that the President was wrong.
Schmidt explained that the Intelligence Committee report “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.'” The report said that Wilson had not seen these documents and could, therefore, not come to any conclusion about their veracity. In any case, they surfaced 8 months after Wilson made his trip to Africa.
In other words, Wilson was claiming that the forgeries formed the basis of the intelligence about Iraq seeking uranium when that was clearly not the case. He knew because he had the real evidence. He had talked to a Niger official on his Africa mission and the official said an Iraqi trade delegation wanted to discuss uranium yellowcake sales. Now, in a confusing correction to the Schmidt story, the Post says that Wilson had identified Iran, not Iraq, as the country seeking 400 tons of uranium from Niger in 1998. But Wilson’s recent report to the CIA, as the Post and the Senate Intelligence Committee confirm, involved Iraq’s interest in uranium from Niger one year later, in 1999. So President Bush was right after all. It’s Joe Wilson who should correct the record, not Bush.