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Balanced Fare: We Report, You Deride

Sunday, July 20, 2003

We Rebut A Point TIME Made In "A War On Wilson?"

Among other interesting comments, TIME says:

When Tenet issued his I-take-the-blame statement on the alleged Iraq-Niger uranium connection last week [note: July 11], he took a none-too-subtle jab at Wilson's report. "There was no mention in the report of forged documents — or any suggestion of the existence of documents at all," Tenet wrote. For his part Wilson says he did not deal with the forgeries explicitly in his report because he never saw them.

I have previously pointed out that this may not have been meant as a jab at all. Folks have wondered where the forged documents fit into this mess, and Tenet may simply have been explaining that examining the documents was not part of the Wilson assignment.

Now, should examining the documents have been part of his mission? Is it plausible that the CIA would have a former Ambassador meet with officials in Niger while other experts [forget to] examine relevant documents? Works for me.

In any case, Wilson made no mention of a role for himself with respect to forged documents in his infamously incomplete July 6 NY Times account of his mission to Niger. However, let's roll the tape of his July 6 appearance on "Meet The Press":

MS. MITCHELL: One the things that a lot of people don’t understand is why did it take more than a year for someone to even look for the documentation? Because a year later, after the—a month after the State of the Union address, finally somebody turned this issue over to the U.N. inspectors. They looked at the documents, and noticed right away on the face of it that they were frauds.
AMB. WILSON: I can’t answer that except I would fully suspect that if there was any importance attached to the documentation that there would have been a serious effort to get ahold of it. When I came back from Niger, and debriefed, I had not, of course, seen the documents, but one of the points that I made was if these documents did not contain certain signatures—specifically, the signature of the Minister of Energy and mine and the prime minister—then they could not be authentic.

So as of July 6, the public record was clear - Ambassador Wilson had not seen the documents. Consequently, the "none-too-subtle jab" was also nonsensical, and easily refuted, if we accept the TIME characterization. Or maybe it was not a jab at all.

Now, a sidebar on Ambassador Wilson's African expertise. We should not doubt his qualifications, given his resume, but we cannot explain this:

AMB. WILSON: Well, first of all, Andrea, when the president made the comment, he was referring to a British White Paper Report that came out in September of the previous year, September 2002; again, referring to uranium sales from an African country to Iraq. Now, there are four African countries that produce uranium or have uranium stockpiles: South Africa, Namibia, Gabon and Niger.

Well, Somalia fooled me and the BBC as well, but it is mentioned in the NIE, and here. James Robbins, writing in NRO, mentioned Somalia on July 9. One can only imagine the surprise Ambassador Wilson must have felt upon seeing the published NIE excerpts.

UPDATE: Darn, did I bury the lede again? I am feeling like Armando, but more self-referential.

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