Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Valerie Plame

The New York Times

On July 6, 2003, Joe Wilson's article, "What I Didn't Find in Africa," appeared in the Opinion page of the The New York Times.

He wasted no time getting to the point. In his first paragraph, Wilson wrote:

"Did the Bush administration manipulate intelligence about Saddam Hussein's weapons programs to justify an invasion of Iraq? Based on my experience with the administration in the months leading up to the war, I have little choice but to conclude that some of the intelligence related to Iraq's nuclear weapons program was twisted to exaggerate the Iraqi threat. "

He noted that reports had surfaced of an unnamed "former envoy who went to Niger," and then noted, glibly, "That's me."

In the piece, he explains what he didn't find, and why a uranium deal was unlikely.

He explained in detail:

"Given the structure of the consortiums that operated the mines, it would be exceedingly difficult for Niger to transfer uranium to Iraq. Niger's uranium business consists of two mines, Somair and Cominak, which are run by French, Spanish, Japanese, German and Nigerian interests. If the government wanted to remove uranium from a mine, it would have to notify the consortium, which in turn is strictly monitored by the International Atomic Energy Agency. Moreover, because the two mines are closely regulated, quasi-governmental entities, selling uranium would require the approval of the minister of mines, the prime minister and probably the president. In short, there's simply too much oversight over too small an industry for a sale to have transpired."

In the piece, he maintained that decisionmakers were well-aware of his findingsciting "at least four documents" in the United States government archives confirming the mission.

Instead, the U.S. government looked to a British paper that had materialized supporting the uranium claims in September of 2002. Though the CIA's intelligence reports (along with two other similar reports) couldn't confirm the British government's claims, the U.S. government chose to go with the foreign intelligence over that of its own agencies.

By writing, "If however, the information was ignored because it did not fit certain preconceptions about Iraq, then a legitimate argument can be made that we went to war under false pretenses," Wilson, had in effect, indicted the Bush administration's handling of pre-war intelligence.

The Bush administration took notice, and they returned fire in the same way: using the press.

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