Sunday, October 16, 2005

Oh Judith, Oh Scooter....I can't believe they're still trying to sell that "faulty CIA" spin.

By now, I'm sure you've all gotten up to the stunning statement issued by Judtih Miller in the New York Times and the accompanying Times story about how they failed to cover the Plame-leak investigation because of her involvement in it.
In her statement, Miller is really working hard to help the Whitehouse with its story that it was misled by bad intelligence, rather than "fixing the facts around the policy."
As it becomes increasingly clear that many Americans believe the administration lied about WMD, Miller's statement is itself an attempt to help out the whitehouse, as she depicts Libby's motivations as being about an argument with the CIA who was trying to "shift the blame" for the "faulty intelligence" to the Whitehouse. Hmmm. Wasn't the earlier excuse (from Rove to Cooper that the effort was to correct Wilson 's incorrent story?) Now let's see, according to Miller's own story, and to the facts, Wilson found no evidence of uranium purchases by Iraqis in Niger on his 2002 trip there. The President, Vice-President, and National Security Advisor talked of the spectre of a mushroom cloud before the invasion of Iraq and well into the Summer of 2003, and the "Niger documents" widely denounced as forgeries by the UN, IAEA and any journalists who investigated, including the one who originally found them, played a big role in the administration's arguments about Iraq as nucelar threat.
However, the Whitehouse is STILL busy shifting the blame and working very hard to make the defense of ignorance of Wilson's trip. Even the Rove "correction" to Cooper related to whether or not Cheney knew Wilson. Here's how Libby is delivering the White House story through Miller, What was evident, I told the grand jury, was Mr. Libby's anger that Mr. Bush might have made inaccurate statements because the CIA failed to share doubts about the Iraq intelligence.
"No briefer came in and said, 'You got it wrong, Mr. President,' " he said, according to my notes

Oh really? This makes El Baradai's Nobel prize well-timed.
David Sirota and Christy Harvey of the Center for American Progress wrote an excellent piece called "They Knew" debunking this claim in In These Times almost a year ago. It's worth reading again, for a succinct rebuttal to Miller's lame claims that the CIA failed to communicate the inaccuracy of WMD reports to the admin.

If you want an even more detailed account against which to measure Judith Miller's (ie, Lewis Libby's) claims about the CIA/Bush admin. conflict, read what a real investigative reporter has to say. In the article linked above, Seymour Hersh goes over the original "yellowcake" story and how it made its way into the whitehouse. It goes back to the original effort to blame the CIA for "bad intelligence" and provides a thorough analysis of the yellowcake story's role in the lead up to the war. While Miller's statement reveals her chummy relationship with both the "Veep" and Libby, and her complete failure to even talk to any other sources, Hersh's article on the same events paints a much more complex picture. In her recent statement, Miller confessed in her piece that she was "fooled" about WMDs because of her bad sources. I guess she is counting on the public not to have more information than she did, because they were reading the crappy reporting done by people like her. Other reporters were...somehow able to learn more. Here's the most relevant section in relation to Miller's story:

What made the two-and-a-half-year-old report [on yellowcake sale in Niger] stand out in Washington was its relative freshness. A 1999 attempt by Iraq to buy uranium ore, if verified, would seem to prove that Saddam had been working to reconstitute his nuclear program—and give the lie to the I.A.E.A. and to intelligence reports inside the American government that claimed otherwise. The sismi report, [the Italian report on the possibility of a yellowcake uranium sale in Iraq] however, was unpersuasive. Inside the American intelligence community, it was dismissed as amateurish and unsubstantiated. One former senior C.I.A. official told me that the initial report from Italy contained no documents but only a written summary of allegations. “I can fully believe that sismi would put out a piece of intelligence like that,” a C.I.A. consultant told me, “but why anybody would put credibility in it is beyond me.” No credible documents have emerged since to corroborate it.
The intelligence report was quickly stovepiped to those officials who had an intense interest in building the case against Iraq, including Vice-President Dick Cheney. “The Vice-President saw a piece of intelligence reporting that Niger was attempting to buy uranium,” Cathie Martin, the spokeswoman for Cheney, told me. Sometime after he first saw it, Cheney brought it up at his regularly scheduled daily briefing from the C.I.A., Martin said. “He asked the briefer a question. The briefer came back a day or two later and said, ‘We do have a report, but there’s a lack of details.’ ” The Vice-President was further told that it was known that Iraq had acquired uranium ore from Niger in the early nineteen-eighties but that that material had been placed in secure storage by the I.A.E.A., which was monitoring it. “End of story,” Martin added. “That’s all we know.” According to a former high-level C.I.A. official, however, Cheney was dissatisfied with the initial response, and asked the agency to review the matter once again. It was the beginning of what turned out to be a year-long tug-of-war between the C.I.A. and the Vice-President’s office.
As the campaign against Iraq intensified, a former aide to Cheney told me, the Vice-President’s office, run by his chief of staff, Lewis (Scooter) Libby, became increasingly secretive when it came to intelligence about Iraq’s W.M.D.s. As with Wolfowitz and Bolton, there was a reluctance to let the military and civilian analysts on the staff vet intelligence.
The story continues by going through the details: Wilson went to Niger in February 2002, and made his report (found nothing) which was circulated. He said to Hersh:
Wilson returned to Washington and made his report. It was circulated, he said, but “I heard nothing about what the Vice-President’s office thought about it.” (In response, Cathie Martin said, “The Vice-President doesn’t know Joe Wilson and did not know about his trip until he read about it in the press.” The first press accounts appeared fifteen months after Wilson’s trip.)

* Finally, it definetely looks like Miller's notes have added something very significant to the investigation, which, based on Fitzgerald's questions still must be focused on the issue of the leaking of Plame's actual name. There are two important nuggets that reveal the direction of the investigation. The first is the discussion of "wife works at winpac" and second:
Mr. Fitzgerald asked me about another entry in my notebook, where I had written the words "Valerie Flame," clearly a reference to Ms. Plame. Mr. Fitzgerald wanted to know whether the entry was based on my conversations with Mr. Libby. I said I didn't think so. I said I believed the information came from another source, whom I could not recall. The other issue at stake, and I hope at stake in the investigation, relates to 2 years past Senate Intelligence Committee inquiry into "intelligence failures" and the scapegoating of George Tenet.
If it's down to "I could not recall," I don't know how convinced anyone, much less the Grand Jury will be.

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