One of the peripheral benefits from the Scooter Libby trial (apart from the pleasure of watching the Bush Administration lies exposed) is the release of documents that provide concrete evidence of the events that produced Nigergate (or, if you prefer, Plamegate). Scooter may be claiming a foggy memory but if you read and compare the new documents with previous material, such as the Senate Intelligence Committee Report on Iraq released in the summer of 2004, the fog will lift and you'll glean some new insights. We have known all along that Dick Cheney asked the CIA to follow up on a DIA report about Iraq's effort to get uranium from Niger. Thanks to the latest document dump we now know that Dick Cheney received a preliminary brief from the CIA and the the Senate Intelligence Committee, in its 2004 report, covered up this fact.
On a chilly Tuesday morning almost five years ago, February 12, 2002, Dick Cheney’s CIA briefer arrived with a piece of finished intelligence that set in motion a series of events that exposed the identity of a CIA undercover officer, destroyed a CIA front company and compromised its various assets, and sent Scooter Libby to trial for perjury and obstruction of justice.
Dick Cheney read an article written by an analyst at the Defence Intelligence Agency titled, "Niamey signed on agreement to sell 500 tons of uranium to Baghdad". This report was based on intelligence obtained by CIA field operatives and published as an intelligence report (i.e. TD) on 5 February 2002. The source, our buddies the Italians. Thanks to the CIA memo introduced during the first week of the Libby trial, the CIA reported that Iraq and Niger allegedly signed an agreement in July of 2000 to purchase uranium. This TD was a follow up to information the CIA obtained in October 2001, also from the Italian intelligence service, which claimed the negotiations had started in 1999 and came to fruition in 2000.
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DIA was less skeptical than the CIA and left the impression that it was a done deal. As the Senate Intelligence Committee reported in 2004, Dick Cheney asked his briefer to find out what the CIA knew about this. When a Vice President or President asks a question or makes a substantive comment in response to the briefing material, the Briefer always goes back to CIA Headquarters and sits in on a morning meeting of Senior CIA officials. When the CIA briefer got back to Headquarters, he briefed the Director of Operations (or his Deputy) and the the Director of Intelligence (or his Deputy).
This led to two courses of action. First, the Director of Intelligence sent the rock rolling down the hill until it hit an analyst in WINPAC--the analytical shop in CIA tasked with monitoring Iraq's WMD program. According to the CIA memo released in the Libby trial, we now know that In response to this tasking the analyst produced a Senior Power Executive Intelligence Brief on 14 February 2002 that concluded:
information on the alleged uranium contract between Iraq and Niger comes exclusively from a foreign government service report that lacks crucial details, and we are working to clarify the information and to determine whether it can be corroborated.Now here is the bullshit. The Republican led Senate Select Intelligence Committee claimed in July 2004 that:
The CIA sent a separate version of the assessment to the Vice President which differed only in that it named the foreign government service.BULLSHIT, BULLSHIT, BULLSHIT!!! No. Unlike the DIA analyst, who accepted the report at face value, the CIA expressed skepticism and clearly conveyed that the information was suspect. Moreover, the CIA morning briefer gave this information to Vice President Cheney on Thursday morning, 14 February 2002.
Second, on Tuesday morning, 19 February 2002, the CIA's Counter Proliferation Division chaired an interagency meeting to discuss whether to send Ambassador Joe Wilson to Niger. As noted in a previous post (see Joe Wilson Vindicated), Joe even tried to talk them out of sending him but, as a good American, accepted the so-called boondoggle to Niger. And, when he returned, an intelligence report was generated.
Be sure of this, Dick Cheney was briefed on the results of Joe's trip. He may not have remembered the substance because the report--based on the debriefing of Joe Wilson--told a story that Dick Cheney did not want to hear. There is no way that a CIA Briefer, who knew of the Vice President's keen interest in the issue of Iraq, Niger, and uranium, would not present a piece of raw intelligence to the Vice President that addressed Cheney's question. In fact, the Vice President received the report on March 8, 2002 or March 9, 2002. Look for yourself. On page DX64.4 of the CIA memo, paragraph 6, we are informed that the CIA's Directorate of Operations widely disseminated the report and that the sensitive source, Joe Wilson, is highly reliable.
Cheney was given an intelligence report in response to his original query on 12 February, 2002. The report made clear that Niger was playing ball with the U.S. and was not about to even meet with Iraqis, much less sell them uranium. But Cheney and Bush had other plans. They were going to go to war with Iraq regardless of what the intelligence said. But we now have a clear picture that the intelligence community was trying to tell them uncomfortable truths that Bush and Cheney did not want to hear. Just remember that as the U.S. death toll in Iraq continues to soar.
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