Others are doing a fine job keeping up with the legal issues and day-to-day news regarding the whole Wilson/Plame/Rove thing.
However, as this “NYT oped”:http://www.iht.com/articles/2005/07/19/opinion/edrove.php points out, the Wilson affair is part of a larger issue: the administration’s deceptions regarding the Iraq WMD issue. Wilson simply (and correctly) pointed out that the Niger/Iraq/uranium intel was a relevant data point.
I realize that “we all know”:http://www.armscontrolwonk.com/index.php?id=439 the “right-wing line”:http://transcripts.cnn.com/TRANSCRIPTS/0507/17/le.01.htmthat (Rove was merely trying to set the record straight) is bullshit, but this silliness has gained enough currency in places like the “WSJ”:http://www.opinionjournal.com/editorial/feature.html?id=110006955 and “Slate”:http://www.slate.com/id/2122963/ where it should be convincingly and repeatedly refuted.
[As an aside,you’d expect this crap from the _WSJ_ oped page, but Slate should _really_ be embarrassed for printing the Hitchens screed.]
*First,* Rove was not correcting the record: he offered no substantive rebuttals of Wilson’s claims, the administration “knew by that time”:http://www.armscontrolwonk.com/index.php?id=600 how weak the Niger intel was, and both Tenet and the White House were admitting as much.
*Second,* any allegations of nepotism would have been meaningful if and only if Wilson had either botched the investigation or falsely reported what he found in Niger. He did neither.
* There is no evidence that Wilson failed to report evidence about a possible uranium transaction. Prior to Wilson’s trip, “according to the SSCI report,”:http://www.globalsecurity.org/intell/library/congress/2004_rpt/iraq-wmd-intell_chapter2.htm two other investigators had arrived at conclusions similar to Wilson’s, as had INR. All of this info was available by the time Rove started smearing Wilson.
Incidentally, the SSCI report explains that Wilson’s report wasn’t given to Cheney because it added nothing new to the intel (which the OVP had) showing how weak the Niger claim was.
*Third,* some on the right (including a “former roommate”:http://amindthatsuits.blogspot.com/2005/07/lets-go-back-back-to-days-of.html and current friend) still argue that the Iraq-Niger claim is actually true. It’s not.
* Let’s establish that the burden of proof is pretty high here. Neither Iraqi or Nigerien officials say the story is true. Furthermore, no official sources say it’s true. “The ISG found”:http://www.globalsecurity.org/wmd/library/report/2004/isg-final-report/isg-final-report_vol2_nuclear-03.htm “[n]o evidence… that Iraq tried to get uranium from Niger”. Indeed, Baghdad was offered uranium from another African country and turned it down.
* Iraqi officials did indeed meet several times with Nigerien officials, but for purposes unrelated to uranium, according to the ISG report- required reading for anyone claiming that Iraq could not possibly have been interested in any economic transactions with Niger that didn’t involve uranium.
* There is no other good evidence that Iraq tried to get uranium from Niger. People like Hitchens are still citing “these bullshit _FT_ articles”:http://cshink.com/iraq_had_talks_on_uranium.htm in an attempt to suggest otherwise, but I think all the official reports trump. We’ll get to the substance of the _FT_ claims in another post.
*Fourth,* The UK Butler report does not prove that Bush was right. “Jeffrey Lewis”:http://www.armscontrolwonk.com/index.php?id=599 and “Josh Marshall”:http://www.talkingpointsmemo.com/archives/week_2004_07_11.php#003169 have done a good job dissecting this claim. Bottom line: It looks doubtful that the UK has anything worth a damn.
As an aside, the Butler report still doesn’t disprove that Bush lied in his SOTU speech – Bush claimed that the administration had “learned” something from the UK which the United States IC actually believed to be false.
Anyway, the press needs to keep pushing the administration to explain its role in handling the Iraq intel. That ain’t happened yet.