Friday, December 20, 2013

The DIA and the Joseph Wilson "workup"

Some of the fascinating details within the hidden history I tried to shine a light on in my last post on the JFK assasssination made me wonder what other sinister moments in history the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) used a guiding hand to influence.  One of the largest motivating factors that lead me to create this blog was the outing of Valerie Plame.  It shouldn't have surprised me, but digging into the brouhaha that preceded her blown cover - the infamous "16 words" in Bush's 2003 State of the Union address and Plame's husband Ambassador Joseph Wilson calling BS on Bush's Niger yellowcake claim - it looks like the DIA played a role behind the scenes in attacking the messenger.  I must credit eriposte at The Left Coaster for such a well-written and well-researched piece.  I hope it doesn't fall down the memory hole like so many great Wilson/Plame articles during that time, but in case it does, here it is:

Monday :: May 8, 2006

Uranium from Africa: The Wilson "workup" and the March 8, 2003 DIA memo


by eriposte One of the intriguing parts of the uranium from Africa/Wilson/Plame story that seems to have disappeared into the background is this:
[Russert Reading From Book]: After my appearance on CNN in early March 2003, when I first asserted that the U.S. government knew more about the Niger uranium matter than it was letting on, I am told by a source close to the House Judiciary Committee that the Office of the Vice President--either the vice president himself or, more likely, his chief of staff, Lewis ('Scooter') Libby, chaired a meeting at which a decision was made to a 'workup' on me. As I understand it, this meant they were going to take a closer look at who I was and what my agenda might be. The immediate effect of the workup, I am told by a member of the press, citing White House sources, was a long harangue against the two of us within the White House walls. Over a period of several months, Libby evidently seized opportunities to rail openly against me as an '[expletive] playboy' who went on a boondoggle 'arranged by his CIA wife'--and was a Democratic Gore supporter to boot."

RUSSERT: You're saying that in March the White House started talking about you and your "CIA wife"?

AMB. WILSON: That's my understanding from not just that one particular source but corroborated by other sources and offered actually by other sources from different walks of life, that after I appeared on CNN and said I thought the government knew more about this Niger business than was letting on, there was this meeting at which it was decided to run an intelligence collection operation against me, which led to the learning of my wife's identity and her employment.
In this post, I discuss a DIA report from March 2003 that may be pertinent to Wilson's observation. For clarity, I've separated this post into a few sections. (Note that all emphasis in quoted portions is mine.)
1. Additional background on Wilson's "workup" claim
2. The March 8, 2003 DIA memo
3. The significance of the March 8, 2003 DIA memo
4. Did the DIA get "corrected" by the IC?
5. Summary and Conclusions


1. Additional background on Wilson's "workup" claim As Emptywheel observed:
...[Wilson's] story comes not just from someone with ties to the House Judiciary Committee. In his book, Wilson describes a similar story coming from "a respected reporter close to the subsequent inquiry into the later disclosure of Valerie's status." (326)
So, Wilson has cited two or more sources backing up the claim that a "workup" on him was initiated soon after his early March 2003 CNN appearance. An article by Jason Leopold in Truthout claimed that some current and/or former Bush administration officials corroborated this, but a Vanity Fair article said the following regarding Wilson's claim: "An official in Cheney's office says, "That is false."" (I guess it all depends on the meaning of "That".)

As Jeralyn at Talk Left points out, the relevant date of Wilson's appearance appears to be March 8, 2003 (partial transcript) - and during that appearance he was quite critical of the U.S. Government's use of the forgeries and the absurd explanation given by a U.S. Government (USG) official to the Washington Post that "we fell for it". Wilson also said that "I think it's safe to say that the U.S. government should have or did know that this report was a fake before Dr. ElBaradei mentioned it". That was of course quite accurate since the USG knew a lot more about the bogus nature of the forgeries than they let on at that time - so it would be quite surprising if the Bush-Cheney administration didn't even bother to take a look at who Wilson was after his CNN interview.

What fascinates me about this story is the same thing that Emptywheel was after. For example, Condi Rice was on the record claiming she first heard of Wilson's trip only in June 2003 (which is doubly strange considering that the CIA did send their summary of Wilson's trip to the White House back in March 2002, although Wilson's name may not have been mentioned at that time). There's also Tricky Dick II's infamous statement from September 2003: "I don't know who sent Joe Wilson. He never submitted a report that I ever saw when he came back...I have no idea who hired him". So, here's what I am curious about:
When exactly did senior administration officials in the Bush White House first learn about Wilson and his trip to Niger?
I've emphasized the "and" in my question deliberately because I want to know when they knew about Wilson and the fact that he made the trip to Niger in early 2002 (it is possible that in 2002 they knew that some unnamed individual went to Niger). Here's one possible approach to try and answer the question - find out more about the contents of the March 8, 2003 DIA memo, the events within the Bush administration that led to this memo being written and what happened after the memo's release.
Let me explain why I say that.


2. The March 8, 2003 DIA memo In the midst of the disinformation campaign launched by the Bush administration regarding Wilson's trip to Niger, one of the least discussed aspects of the uranium story has been the fact that prior to the Bush SOTU none of the US IC reports cited in the SSCI Report used the Wilson trip as "evidence" to support the uranium from Africa claim. The main reason for this is obvious from even a cursory reading of the SSCI Report which (superficially and misleadingly) discussed the CIA's intel report of March 8, 2002 that was based on Wilson's trip. Contrary to the usual right-wing talking points, Wilson's trip did not provide any credible support for the uranium allegation (in fact, if you read Wilson's reporting carefully, it made a pretty strong case that the allegation that Iraq had sought and/or bought uranium from Niger was bunk). As the SSCI Report noted (page 46):
(U) IC analysts had a fairly consistent response to the intelligence report based on the former ambassador's trip in that no one believed it added a great deal of new information to the Iraq-Niger uranium story. An INR analyst said when he saw the report he believed that it corroborated the INR's position, but said that the "report could be read in different ways." He said the report was credible, but did not give it a lot of attention because he was busy with other things.
(U) DIA and CIA analysts said that when they saw the intelligence report they did not believe that it supplied much new information and did not think that it clarified the story on the alleged Iraq-Niger uranium deal. They did not find Nigerien denials that they had discussed uranium sales with Iraq as very surprising because they had no expectation that Niger would admit to such an agreement if it did exist. The analysts did, however, find it interesting that the former Nigerien Prime Minister said an Iraqi delegation had visited Niger for what he believed was to discuss uranium sales.
(U) Because CIA analysts did not believe that the report added any new information to clarify the issue, they did not use the report to produce any further analytical products or highlight the report for policymakers. For the same reason, CIA's briefer did not brief the Vice President on the report, despite the Vice President's previous questions about the issue.
[NOTE: Among other problems, the last sentence in the above passage in the SSCI Report is a bit misleading. After all, in page 43 of the SSCI report, it is mentioned that: "The report was widely distributed in routine channels" - and a Knight Ridder story by Jonathan Landay indicated that the CIA did send their summary of Wilson's trip to the White House on March 9, 2002 - even if they did not specifically brief it directly to the POTUS or VP.]
Let's also recall what George Tenet pointed out in his spin-statement released on 11 July 2003:
Because this report, in our view, did not resolve whether Iraq was or was not seeking uranium from abroad, it was given a normal and wide distribution, but we did not brief it to the President, Vice-President or other senior Administration officials.
The bottom line is that when the March 8, 2002 CIA report on Wilson's trip was issued it was not considered credible evidence for the claim that Iraq had sought uranium from Niger. Both CIA and DIA analysts directly confirmed this to the SSCI. It should therefore not be a surprise that Wilson's trip was not used in the NIE as being part of the basis for the uranium allegation. It was also not used in the British White paper (especially since the CIA evidently did not discuss Wilson's trip with the UK at that time). In other words, the Bush administration's (mis)use of the Wilson trip in summer 2003 was purely aimed at fabricating a fake, after-the-fact justification for the false uranium claim.
Which naturally brings us to the question of when senior administration officials in the Bush White House first learnt about Wilson and his trip to Niger.
Considering Wilson's March 8, 2003 CNN interview may have been a thorn in the eyes of the White House:
  • It is rather interesting that a March 8, 2003 DIA memo dug up the CIA report on Wilson's trip from a year earlier and dishonestly tried to peddle that as somehow supporting the uranium claim (after the Niger documents had been shown to be bogus).
  • It is even more interesting that this is the *only* known DIA report that portrayed Wilson's trip as somehow supporting the uranium allegation [All DIA reports discussed in the SSCI Report and dated prior to and subsequent to the March 8, 2003 DIA memo did not use Wilson's trip to support the uranium claim. See the SSCI Report - page 38 (Feb 12, 2002), page 48 (Sep 2002), page 64 (Jan 24, 2003) and page 71 (June 12, 2003)]
Let's look at this in some more detail.


3. The significance of the March 8, 2003 DIA memo The SSCI Report says (pages 69-70):
On March 8, 2003, the DIA provided an info memo (TS-99-177-03) to the Secretary of Defense in response to a March 8, 2003 Washington Post article, "Some Evidence on Iraq Called Fake." The memo said, "we believe the IAEA is dismissing attempted Iraqi yellowcake purchases, largely based upon a single set of unverified documents concerning a contract between Niger and Iraq for the supply of 'pure uranium.' The [memo added that the] USG ha[d] not shared other [information] with the IAEA that suggested a Nigerien uranium deal with Iraq." The other intelligence referenced in the memo is the CIA intelligence report on the former ambassador's trip, which described the Nigerien Prime Minister's belief that an Iraqi delegation was interested in uranium, the Navy report from November 2002 which said uranium destined for Iraq was being stored in a warehouse in Cotonou, Benin, and a fax from late 2001 found in the possession of a Somali businessman which described arrangements for shipping unidentified commodities in an amount that appeared similar to the amount in the Iraq Niger yellowcake deal. The fax, however, did not mention uranium, Iraq, or Niger.
One thing that immediately becomes obvious about this DIA memo is its breathtaking dishonesty.
First, the memo refers to Wilson's trip as having provided supporting evidence for the uranium claim, which, as I have discussed in Section 2 was plainly false. Specifically, Wilson's trip was never previously considered by the DIA (or the rest of the IC) to constitute credible evidence for the uranium allegation. Additionally, the SSCI Report indicates that other DIA reports prior to this one (including the one from September 2002 that was used for the uranium allegations in the NIE) did not offer the Wilson trip as supporting evidence for the uranium claim - i.e., this was a post-facto, fake justification from the DIA after the so-called evidence for the uranium claim was shown to be bogus.
Second, the DIA memo claimed that the "USG ha[d] not shared other [information] with the IAEA that suggested a Nigerien uranium deal with Iraq", and Wilson's trip was claimed to be one such piece of information. This is categorically false and somewhat revealing. Here's why. The SSCI Report makes it clear (pages 67-68) that the USG did mention the CIA report on Wilson's trip when it sent the Niger forgeries to the IAEA:
On February 4, 2003, the U.S. Government passed electronic copies of the Iraq-Niger documents to [DELETED] the IAEA. Because the Director of the IAEA's INVO was in New York at the time, the U.S. Government also provided the documents to him in New York. Included with the documents were the U.S. Government talking points which stated, [DELETED] of reporting suggest Iraq has attempted to acquire uranium from Niger. We cannot confirm these reports and have questions regarding some specific claims. Nonetheless, we are concerned that these reports may indicate Baghdad has attempted to secure an unreported source of uranium yellowcake for a nuclear weapons program." The [DELETED] of reporting mentioned refer to the original CIA intelligence reports from the foreign government service and the CIA intelligence report on the former ambassador's trip to Niger. [SENTENCE DELETED]. [SENTENCE DELETED].
So, either the DIA did not bother to check what the USG sent to the IAEA (which is quite possible) or they knew it and lied about it. If the DIA did not know about what the USG wrote to the IAEA, that would increase the possibility that the DIA dug up the report about Wilson's trip after Wilson's CNN interview which also mentioned the Washington Post article. Moreover, Wilson's trip report certainly provided no evidence for a "Nigerien uranium deal with Iraq" as the DIA memo claimed. This goes back to the "sought" v. "bought" word game hoax that I am discussing in an ongoing series. (There is the separate issue of the USG citing the CIA report on Wilson's trip in their memo to the IAEA, which is a travesty in itself considering that the CIA, the State Department and the DIA never considered Wilson's trip as providing credible evidence for the uranium allegation).
Third, the "Navy report from November 2002 which said uranium destined for Iraq was being stored in a warehouse in Cotonou, Benin" was, if anything, only evidence that Iraq had already bought uranium from Niger, not evidence that supported a claim that Iraq had only sought uranium from Niger. Not to mention, this so-called "evidence" was fake and as of January 27, 2003, the French had already confirmed to the CIA that the alleged uranium was destined for France and not Iraq.
Fourth, the "fax from late 2001" that was cited in the DIA memo did not mention uranium, Iraq or Niger! Only in the world of the Bush White House would some alleged document that did not mention Iraq, Niger or uranium, be considered "evidence" for a claim that Iraq had sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa (Niger).
To summarize, this March 8, 2003 DIA memo was interesting because:
  • It showed how the DIA served as a useful stovepipe for Rumsfeld and the White House to propagate outright falsehoods and transparently bogus claims that the rest of the IC did not consider credible
  • It showed that the DIA, evidently for the first time, falsely cited Wilson's trip as supporting the uranium allegation, and this raised the possibility that this information was dug up after Wilson's CNN appearance
Even if this memo did not dig up Wilson's trip report after his appearance on CNN, the significance of the memo cannot be understated. After all, those who are following this scandal closely will recall that it was allegedly after reading the February 12, 2002 DIA report on Niger uranium that the Vice President "asked" for the CIA's analysis on the uranium allegation (p. 38, SSCI Report). So, it is a reasonable assumption that in the aftermath of the IAEA calling the US "evidence" on Niger fake, the Vice President (who later revealed his contempt for the IAEA's overall response) and/or his senior staff must have become aware of the contents of the first DIA report released on March 8, 2003 partly in response to the IAEA's declaration. Of course, this doesn't mean they read it on the same day. It is also possible they were briefed on its contents on or after March 8, 2003.
The point is this: is it merely a coincidence that on the very day Joseph Wilson gave an interview on CNN in which he criticized the Bush administration on the forged Niger evidence and suggested that they knew more than they were letting on, that the DIA would prepare a memo that included information about his 2002 Niger trip? Information that the DIA never used in any known earlier reporting of theirs to support the uranium claim? Is it unrealistic to think that the Office of the Vice President would have been briefed on, or otherwise made aware of, the contents of this memo - which could have led them to raise more questions on this additional "evidence" cited in the memo (which would have revealed more about Wilson and the origins of his trip)? I don't think so.
Now, I admit that I have no knowledge of whether this March 8, 2003 DIA memo specifically mentioned Wilson's name - but that is one of the reasons why it would be good to see this memo declassified to verify whether it did. If it did reveal his name, then a confirmation of the recipients of the memo (outside of the Secretary of Defense) and the people who were made aware of its contents would reveal whether this constituted independent evidence for the White House's early knowledge of Wilson and his trip. Even if Wilson's name was not revealed in this March 2003 DIA memo, the memo provided the White House with so-called 'other evidence' for the uranium claim outside of the Niger forgeries and they would surely have followed up on it to find out more. It is implausible to think that the White House (including Cheney), facing a PR nightmare, would not try to dredge up everything they could get their hands on in an attempt to fight back.


4. Did the DIA get "corrected" by the IC? There's an interesting footnote to the DIA's behavior based on the next memo from the DIA that the SSCI Report discusses.
The SSCI report notes that (page 71):
On June 12, 2003, the DIA sent an information memorandum to Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz, in response to questions about Iraq's nuclear program. The memo said, "while the Intelligence Committee agrees that documents the IAEA reviewed were likely 'fake,' other unconfirmed reporting suggested that Iraq attempted to obtain uranium and yellowcake from African nations after 1998. " The other reporting mentioned was the Navy report from November 2002, which said uranium destined for Iraq was being stored in a warehouse in Cotonou, Benin.
Note that this DIA report had conspicuously dropped Wilson's trip from its supporting "evidence". [It nevertheless maintained the fake uranium allegation mentioned in the Navy report].
Why? Perhaps because of this (SSCI Report, page 71):
On April 5, 2003, the NIC issued a Sense of the Community Memorandum (SOCM), (Niger: No Recent Uranium Sales to Iraq, NIC SOCM 2001 12.) The SOCM said, "we judge it highly unlikely that Niamey has sold uranium yellowcake to Baghdad in recent years. The IC agrees with the IAEA assessment that key documents purported showing a recent Iraq-Niger sales accord are a fabrication. We judge that other reports from 2002 - one alleging warehousing of yellowcake for shipment to Iraq, a second alleging a 1999 visit by an Iraqi delegation to Niamey - do not constitute credible evidence of a recent or impending sale."
Of course that did not stop the Bush administration (including Scooter Libby and others) from dishonestly peddling Wilson's trip report in June 2003 and beyond, as somehow supporting the uranium allegation.


5. Summary and Conclusions Former Ambassador Joseph Wilson has stated on more than one occasion that shortly after an interview he gave to CNN in early March 2003, where he criticized the Bush administration's use of the forged Niger documents and questioned the veracity of their explanation, a "workup" on him was initiated within the administration - likely in the Office of the Vice President. Anonymous sources mentioned by Wilson (and in an article) appear to support this allegation - one which the Vice President's office has issued a vague denial on. In this post, I highlight the possibility that the circumstances surrounding the release of a DIA memo dated March 8, 2003 might shed significant light on Wilson's claim and potentially open up an additional avenue of investigation into when the Bush administration first became aware of Wilson and the origins of his trip to Niger.
To understand the significance of the March 8, 2003 DIA memo, we should keep in mind that when a CIA report was issued on Wilson's trip exactly one year prior to this DIA memo, the CIA report and Wilson's findings were not considered credible evidence for the claim that Iraq had sought uranium from Niger. Both CIA and DIA analysts directly confirmed this to the SSCI. It is therefore not a surprise that Wilson's trip was not used in the NIE as being part of the basis for the uranium allegation. It was also not used in the British White paper (especially since the CIA evidently did not discuss Wilson's trip with the UK at that time). In other words, the Bush administration's (mis)use of the Wilson trip in summer 2003 was purely aimed at fabricating a fake, after-the-fact justification for the false uranium claim.
On March 8, 2003, Joseph Wilson was interviewed on CNN and he was quite critical of the U.S. Government's use of the forgeries and the absurd explanation given by a U.S. Government official to the Washington Post that "we fell for it". Wilson also said that "I think it's safe to say that the U.S. government should have or did know that this report was a fake before Dr. ElBaradei mentioned it". That was of course quite accurate - the U.S. Government knew a lot more about the bogus nature of the forgeries than they let on at that time - so it would be quite surprising if the Bush-Cheney administration didn't even bother to take a look at who Wilson was.
Since Wilson's March 8, 2003 CNN interview may have been a thorn in the eyes of the White House:
  • It is rather interesting that a March 8, 2003 DIA memo dug up the report on Wilson's trip from a year earlier and dishonestly tried to peddle that as somehow supporting the uranium claim (after the Niger documents had been shown to be bogus).
  • It is even more interesting that this is the *only* known DIA report that portrayed Wilson's trip as somehow supporting the uranium allegation [All DIA reports discussed in the SSCI Report and dated prior to and subsequent to the March 8, 2003 DIA memo did not use Wilson's trip to support the uranium claim.]
The March 8, 2003 DIA memo was interesting in how it revealed the DIA to be a useful stovepipe for Rumsfeld and the White House to propagate outright falsehoods and transparently bogus claims that the rest of the IC did not consider credible. More importantly though, it showed that the DIA, evidently for the first time cited Wilson's trip as supporting the uranium allegation, thereby raising the possibility that this was dug up after Wilson's CNN appearance.
Even if this memo did not dig up Wilson's trip report after his appearance on CNN, the significance of the memo cannot be understated. After all, those who are following this scandal closely will recall that it was after reading the February 12, 2002 DIA report on Niger uranium that the Vice President "asked" for the CIA's analysis on the uranium allegation. So, it is a reasonable assumption that in the aftermath of the IAEA calling the US "evidence" on Niger fake, the Vice President (who later revealed his contempt for the IAEA's overall response) and/or his senior staff must have become aware of the contents of the first DIA report released on March 8, 2003 partly in response to the IAEA's declaration. (Of course, the memo may have been read, briefed and/or discussed on or after March 8, 2003.)
Is it merely a coincidence that on the very day Joseph Wilson gave an interview on CNN in which he criticized the Bush administration on the forged Niger evidence and suggested that they knew more than they were letting on, that the DIA would prepare a memo that included information about his 2002 Niger trip? Information that the DIA never used in any known earlier reporting of theirs to support the uranium claim? Is it unrealistic to think that the Office of the Vice President would have been briefed on, or otherwise made aware of, the contents of this memo - which could have led them to raise more questions on this additional "evidence" cited in the memo (which would have revealed more about Wilson and the origins of his trip)? I don't think so.
As of today, we do not know whether this March 8, 2003 DIA memo specifically mentioned Wilson's name - but that is one of the reasons why it would be good to see this memo declassified to verify whether it did. If it did reveal his name, then a confirmation of the recipients of the memo (outside of the Secretary of Defense) and the people who were made aware of its contents would reveal whether this constituted independent evidence for the White House's early knowledge of Wilson and his trip. Even if Wilson's name was not revealed in this March 2003 DIA memo, the memo provided the White House with so-called 'other evidence' for the uranium claim outside of the Niger forgeries and they would surely have followed up on it to find out more. It is implausible to think that the White House (including Cheney), facing a PR nightmare, would not try to dredge up everything they could get their hands on in an attempt to fight back. I therefore urge all reporters covering the Plame case find out more about the contents of the March 8, 2003 DIA memo, the events within the Bush administration that led to this memo being written and what happened after the memo's release.



I have to wonder if the DIA's motive could possibly have something to do with protecting Operation Gladio Plan B operatives?  Or is this all just further proof of Bush administration arm-twisting to get every government department on board with their justification for war by any means necessary?  History will be the ultimate judge.

2 comments:

Tanya Savko said...

I can't help but be reminded of that quote by the judge/father in "What's Up, Doc?" who said, "I intend to get to the bottom of this web of deceit and confusion if it takes the rest of my life, which may end at any minute!"

Robert Paulsen said...

Yes, that quote encapsulates my 10 years and counting research on American Judas. Thanks! Definitely important to keep my sense of humor on this journey.