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July 20, 2005

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More thoughts on the AP article:

The original June 2003 memo was readdressed to Powell and included a short summary prepared by an analyst who was at a 2002 CIA meeting where Wilson's trip was arranged

Here's what the CIA was complaining about in 2003 wrt the memo:

The document, written by a State Department official who works for its Bureau of Intelligence and Research (INR), describes a meeting at the CIA where the Niger trip by Wilson was discussed, said a senior administration official who has seen it.

CIA officials have challenged the accuracy of the INR document, the official said, because the agency officer identified as talking about Plame's alleged role in arranging Wilson's trip could not have attended the meeting.

A confusion about the two meetings? The INR person who wrote the notes (who may or may not have had a role in writing the short summary part of the memo) was not at the meeting where it was decided to invite Wilson to meet with intelligence, because that meeting was attended only by CPD officials. But he was at the meeting that Wilson also attended?

Your discussion is helpful but please, please stop using acronyms without defining them first. (SSCI, INR, CPD, WINPAC, etc.)

The Plame case is an important issue of national concern. Excessive use of jargon -- such as acronyms -- obscures the essential truth of your arguments.

Thanks, emptywheel. And don't sweat the English Comp. details. It's a blog.

Hey, dontcha just love it when you speculate on something like this, and then you find a newspaper article that backs you up?

Two meetings? Possible. Two accounts? Certainly.

But note well -- and importantly in these kinds of reconstructed narratives -- the two accounts differ, but they do NOT contradict each other. They vary in terms of included or omitted detail, and in "recall", and in "mention", but they do not clash.

This supports Laura Rozen's speculation that the original impetus for the State Dept memo was more "how does this Niger/yellowcake stuff keep coming back when we disputed it?" It sounds right that the analyst who wrote the additional summary was at the 2d meeting but not the first. Could have inferred things that were incorrect, or that seemed inoccuous to him but not to those wanting to smear the Wilsons who saw the memo on the plane.

The CIA, who also was not sympathetic with the whole Niger-uranium stuff, could have "forgot" what they told Wilson. They probably only told him orally, in any event. To Wilson, who was into debunking the whole Niger intelligence, it must have seemed very salient. It is also possible that some of this was told to him AFTER the trip in the process of debriefing him.

Your speculation about Novak and the CIA debriefing memo is interesting. Josh Marshall had a post theorizing that Wilson's findings never made their way back to Cheney, because it wasn't what he wanted to hear. But did it make it back to the VP's office at all? Perhaps to Libby, who decided it wasn't what the boss wanted? But who did have conversations with Novak probably before Wilson's op-ed and certainly immediately after?

Thanks for posting so much about the Senate Subcommittee on Intelligence (SSCI) report. It is too long for my poor dial-up and so I haven't read but snatches of it. Look forward to the next installment.

I've fallen out of the most intense part of the loop on this investigation, but this puzzles me. Maybe it's a function of pulling back somewhat:

If the CIA now says it never provided Wilson with documentation or information regarding the source of the Niger uranium sales reports, on what basis would Wilson (or anyone else) have agreed that a trip was necessary? And if the CIA says Wilson never discussed the mismatched and erroneous signatures on the documentation, on what basis would Wilson have asked questions while in Niger?

Are we supposed to believe that the CIA called him in and sent him to Niger with nothing more than, "We heard Niger was selling uranium, but not how much or to whom. Would you check that out for us?" And that Wilson went to Niger armed with nothing more than the question of, "Have you guys been selling anyone any uranium, in any amount?" And that the answer he came back with was, "They said no?"

There is one conflict, RonK. Whether or not Wilson was given details on the existing Niger uranium claims. The INR analyst says,

The INR analyst's notes also indicate that specific details of the classified report on the Iraq-Niger uranium deal were discussed at the meeting,

Whereas the CIA DO officer says,

The DO reports officer told Committee staff that he did not provide the former ambassador with any information about the source or details of the original reporting as it would have required sharing classified information

Which is still a difference, granted. Perhaps it wasn't the DO reports officer but someone else who gave Wilson details of the original report. But it's a difference that goes to the heart of Wilson's testimony. Because if he didn't learn of those details at the meeting, then he had no business presenting himself as an expert on them to the American public (which is what Senators Roberts, Bond, and Hatch argue). But if he did learn of them, then he may have had a better ability to assess the credibility of the Niger reports than some people make out.

The difference between what Wilson says he told the DO officers in debrief and what he said--that's absolutely just two different narratives, yes. If the CIA really did leave something out of the brief (and frankly, I think it's a close call), it doesn't mean they dispute that he said them. But it does mean that whoever else saw that brief did not have the data Wilson says he provided about how to spot a Niger forgery.

Kagro,

I think what is in question is how much info they gave him. Neither he nor they say he saw the actual documents beforehand. CIA didn't have them yet, they were just relying on foreign intelligence service reports, but even the cables were enough to raise doubts in the mind of INR analysts.

But even I can think of reasons to doubt the claims independent of what I've read or heard. For example, the Niger-Iraq deal was supposed to have been negotiated starting in 1999 but sealed in 2000. But the Niger government changed in 2000, which would mean the negotiations would have started with one guy and ended with another. Perhaps not a big detail, except that the amount they were discussing was so large (one cable said 4000 tons when Niger was at that point exporting 3000 tons total; but even the 500 tons more generally alleged would have been 1/6 of the uranium France was getting) it would have cut into what France was getting significantly--or, presumably, they would have had to mine more. In any case, something dicey to hide over two administrations. Similarly, some analysts hypothesized that Iraq was able to pull this off off the books, to get rich themselves. Which again raises the question of how they're going to do that across two terms.

Different, but not contradictory.

"The DO reports officer told Committee staff that he did not provide the former ambassador with any information about the source or details of the original reporting as it would have required sharing classified information".

One issue of attribution: "The DO reports officer ... did not provide ...", which is not to say Wilson didn't or couldn't have known [X].

And one interpretation of a very flexible term: "details". What is and isn't "detail" is largely a matter of emphasis and perspective. Until we get down to categorical specifics, no contradiction.

There's a degree of descriptive slack as to the precise bounds of Wilson's "operational clearance", and how scrupulously those bounds were adhered to in all communications, and how clearly that adherence to bounds was described in retrospect by officers who may or may not have direct knowledge.

The elision just before sending Wilson to Nigfer could have said, "Since CIA has no one anywhere near" then goes on, who could make immediate inquiries, CPD dwecided to contact etc. They didn't want to let on how thin our intel capacity is.

On the dioscrepancy with the CIA, they said they didn;t tell Wilson "the source or details of the original reporting", in other words, that it came from the Italians (or whoever) but they could have told him the broad outlines, even shown him some documents. And they could have discussed it with him after he came back, during the debriefing. I don't think that is precluded by what CIA said. What they seem to have wanted not to disclose was the origins of the Niger documents. Also, what is the timing with the Ambassador's report and General Fulford's report?

It's interesting to compare the Senate Report, the AP Story and the speculation here and elsewhere with what Joe Wilson actually says in his book, "The Politics of Truth", published in the spring of 2004. (after the Special Counsel was appointed).

I am working from material beginning on page 12 through 17.

Wilson puts the genesis of it all with Dick Cheney. (p.14) "A Report proporting to be a memorandum of sale of Uranium from Niger to Iraq had arroused the interest of Vice-President Dick Cheney."

then -- "His staff, I was told, had tasked the CIA to determine if there was any truth to the report."

The Context -- Wilson sets this as remarks made at the beginning of the meeting as to the purpose of the meeting. In addition, he was told the reason he was invited was "to share with the anaylists my knowledge of the Uranium business and of the Nigerien personalities in powerat the time the aledged contract had been executed, supposedly in 1999 or early 2000....same people I had dealt with during and after my time at the National Security Council. people I knew well." (p. 14)

Wilson says the report was "not very detailed" -- the reporting officer was not at the meeting, and it was unclear whether he had "laid eyes on the document." (p. 14) Wilson surmised the reporting officer had not because the total amount of yellowcake was unclear -- by some accounts 50 tons, by others 500 tons -- suggesting it had been written by someone with an imperfect memory. Wilson says no information was available on who signed the documents.

As to who attended this meeting...

"Intelligence community's experts on Africa and Uranium, and included staff from both the CIA and the State Department." (p.13). Wilson says he had never known any of them prior to the meeting, but several had apparently attended briefings he had given in the past on Africa.

Wilson says that at the end of the meeting he was asked if he would be willing to undertake a trip if they were to request him to do so. They had not yet decided if this would be necessary.

Wilson set conditions for such a trip. While he would accept expense money from CIA, he would not travel covertly. State had to agree to the trip, as would the current ambassador, Owens-Kirkpartick. Wilson emphasizes that she had good contacts with the current government, but he had dealt with the former Government (a Military Government that had come to power in a Coup). Wilson played a mojor role in getting the Military Government to retire, and allow a newly elected civilian government to come to power.

A few days after the meeting, Wilson received the request to make the trip, and his first contact was with Walter Kansteiner, Assistant Sec. of State for African Affairs. (Kansteiner is a Career FSO and had worked with Wilson over the years, but particularly when Wilson headed the NSC African Affairs Office.

Wilson makes another critical point here -- during the Cold War, Africa had pretty decent coverage from the CIA, but post cold war, most of the stations had been closed, leaving the CIA without many assets on the ground. What this means is that CIA hac virtually no current intelligence, what existed was at State, and came through normal reporting from Embassies.

Anyhow Kanstein agreed to support Wilson's trip, called the current ambassador and received agreement.

Wilson went through the Niger Embassy to get a visa to Niger. The current Ambassador is Joseph Diatta, whom Wilson has known since the early 1970's and his first FSO posting. He got an ordinary visa quickly.

---
There is something about Wilson's outline and description that is so simple and straightforward that attracts me. A meeting where the point seems to be to establish what you need to know to evaluate the report that had caused Cheney to ask questions -- the notion of how a trip might generate that information -- and the particulars of such a trip. It is clean thinking -- what do you need to know to answer a question.

Another point to consider -- the Cheney Office tasking not only went to the CIA, it also went to State and Defense. NATO sent a 4 Star Marine General to Niger to investigate the uranium sale report -- and I would suppose that went back through DIA channels. It indicated no evidence of such a sale. In addition, the current Ambassodor and her staff had investigated, and reported back through state channels -- no sale or evidence of such.

On reporting bac. Wilson says that on his return he reported twice, once through the CIA reports officer who came to his home, and later to the Africa Desk of State -- I would imagine Kansteiner or someone he assigned. So we need to be aware that there are 2 Wilson Reports and the notes to them around and about. And there should have been 3 reports back to Cheney's office -- one from CIA, one from State, and one from DOD.

We really do need to establish whether any of these reports went up the system to Cheney's office. I have a very strange feeling about reports written a year after these initial investigations.

Fulford's report came back on Feburary 24. Wilson was already en route (although he met with Owens-Kilpatrick on February 26, and likely shared what she and Fulford had found). Wilson met with different people than Fulford and Owens-Kirkpatrick (Wilson met with former government officials, the other two with then-serving government offials). Between them, I think they met with anyone who would have been involved had the Niger allegations been true.

The discrepancy between Wilson and the CIA DO folks is not just the source of the documents--it's also whether Wilson knew that the documents existed. Particularly given the Roberts/Bond/Hatch conclusion at the end (which said Wilson said things publicly he shouldn't have and had no way of knowing), I suspect there was a pretty big squabble about whether Wilson knew of Niger documents or not. Granted, the DO reports officer may have been CYAing (would he have been the person to GIVE Wilson copies of the cables if he had received them? In which case he would have been saying I didn't give him the cables). But that's why I find the split interesting. The INR Analyst's notes are described on page 41, the DO on 44 (in a section covering differences); even though the content of the INR Analyst alone would have resolved what the SSCI calls a difference. Wilson said he got the info from CIA. INR Analyst agreed, in his email. But the SSCI report (and I agree, this may be Pat Roberts rather than the CIA DO officer) implies that the DO officer's comment "differs" from Wilsons.

It was significant enough for the committee to dedicate a half page (plus some conclusion time). But they left the question open which is one of the things that allowed Roberts et al to conclude publicly what they did.

Great summary Sara, thanks. Interesting that the Reports Officer wasn't at the meeting--since his testimony is given a lot of credence in the SSCI (that is, if the reports officer wasn't at the meeting, what did it matter that he didn't give Wilson information on the report? He wouldn't know one way or another whether Wilson got the info.)

Incidentally, according to Owens-Kirkpatrick, the Fulford trip was her idea. She "worked very hard to make Niger the best refueling stop in Africa," Fulford scheduled a refueling trip there prior to some of these reports coming to light, and

When the Iraq-Niger uranium reporting surfaced in early February, Ambassador Owens-Kirkpatrick decided to ask General Fulford to use the previously scheduled meeting to raise the uranium issue with Nigerien officials. (41)

The SSCI doesn't specify where the report on Fulford's trip got disseminated, only that it was disseminated by Owens-Kirkpatrick. As was her own report, of course. So it's not clear that those would have gotten back to Cheney either.

One more detail. More Breaing! Breaking! There's a rumor floating somewhere (someone heard something on Al Franken) that Fitz is going after coordination between BushCo and SSCI on this report. I've actually been thinking there might be evidence of this for a while, so I'm only slightly (pleasantly) surprised. But it suggests Fitz may have reason to believe this report was corrupted.

Recall, that at precisely the time the SSCI started looking into this (October to November 2003), the Dems on SSCI were going to hold their own hearing so they could get right to the intelligence professoinals. But it was sideswiped by a Miranda-esque memo leak, and Frist actually shut the whole SSCI down for a bit as a result. And about the same time, Roberts (who had done an interview with WaPo saying BushCo exaggerated the intelligence) did a 180, basically rescinding what he had said to the WaPo (no longer operative, I guess).

great stuff emptywheel. I'm busy today, so I can't get into the nitty gitty, but I have a couple of points.

Frist, I wrote back in one of my earlier byzantine posts on the subject that I also believe there were two meetings. There was the one in which Plame allegedly "offered up his name" and the one the INR analyst attended which included Wilson. This is significant in that the CIA (who btw, are also covering their asses on this)claims the INR analyst couldn't have been at the meeting. They are talking about two different meetings. The SSCI report seems to me to be purposefully vague and misleading on this (and quite few other) points.

Coincidentally, This also ties into your breaking news, which I think is huge.

I have been trying for days to track down a reference or link (to no avail so far) in which I read that Fitzgerald was ready to fold his tent until he saw the SSCI report. I don't know where I read this, but I've thought back on it quite a bit. I think it's significant.

The SSCI report is quite clearly slanted to give the impression that Plame and Wilson were Iraq war skeptics who sought to downplay the Saddam nuclear threat (presumably for partisan reasons.) They put scare quotes around Plame's testimony like "sombody had 'this crazy idea' about Niger selling uranium to Iraq."

The Democrats clearly made the calculartion that it would be better to sign off on it and add their little dissent than allow Roberts' little triumverate to add their paranoid kitchen sink analysis to the main report.

Anyway, there is little doubt that some GOP coordination took place among the players. Fitzgerald is the guy who would have been able to see that being as he had secret grand jury testimony in his hands.

Anyway, keep up the good work. I'll be anxious to read the next phase.

And as Sara keeps gently reminding us --- we all need to read Wilson's damn book. I'm going to buy it today.

d

LOL, Digby, I think I need to buy Wilson's book too. Had it in my grubby little paws ready to guy about 10 days ago. And put it back on the shelf. Silly emptywheel.

Yes, off to the bookstore. Fitz may be looking not so much at the leak per se, but the conspiracy to discredit the Wilsons by leaking classified info and the coverup of that conspiracy. He may be looking at the forged Niger documents as well, since they had such a prominent role here.

I think if you examine the timelines here Wilson could have found out a little about the documents before he left (when CIA seems not to have had all the details either), and maybe more after he came back, or when he talked to the Ambassador. Or, he just knew, because of the government change, that that was something to look carefully at IF there were documents. I don't find the contradictions that serious, given how many meetings there seem to be and how many "partial reporters."

I would love to see Roberts in a wringer over this, however, given how shamefully he has behaved over the need to get to the bottom of how the intel fiascos and the war itself happened.

And I do think Cheney himself may not have seen Wilson's findings. The whole purpose of the stovepipe was to get intel to him from which one COULD deduce an Iraqi nuclear program, not intel that cast doubt on it. That was the whole problem right there. But did it ever get to anyone in his office? Could well have, but was discarded because it was the wrong result.

And I also still believe that getting too close to the forgeries was an impetus for Cheney to try to shut Wilson down. For Rove it was probably just sport.

What can I say, emptywheel, except: Great Work!! I wish this could be put together on-line graphically. Visuals would be helpful to me in sorting all this out. Are you keeping all the players and documents and time-lines straight by pasting Post-Its on your bulletin board?

I'm a bit confused by one thing, which makes me think I've just missed something. Maybe you can straighten me out:

According to Wilson's excerpt cited above "A Report purporting to be a memorandum of sale of Uranium from Niger to Iraq had aroused the interest of Vice-President Dick Cheney."

There were, of course, reports in early 2002 from at least one other country's secret service that Iraq was trying or had tried to buy yellowcake from Niger. That is what sparked Wilson's trip. But the fake memo of agreement itself didn't show up until it was passed to the U.S. Embassy in October 2002. So, presumably, neither Dick Cheney nor anyone in the U.S. could have seen the memo BEFORE Wilson made his February 2002 trip to Niger. All that they could have seen are more general reports.

Which makes all the more interesting Wilson's assertion that months before that document emerged he reported to the CIA what they should look for in any uncovered documents relating to alleged uranium sales.

MB,

Your timing is correct. The US didn't have copies of those documents yet (not officially at least, who knows what the OSP had).

Maybe Sara (or someone else who has read Wilson's book) will help us out here, but I think Wilson included that information because he was thinking very clearly in terms of what you would have to do to prove a sale didn't take place (proving a negative--what do you think about that, Rummy?). And given that the players were so circumscribed (2 presidents, 2 prime ministers, 2 directors of mines, plus the French consortium that presumably was on the up and up, plus the IAEA which was monitoring the consortium, all within a reasonably limited time frame of 3 years or so), it was pretty easy to detail specifically what would have happened if the Nigeriens were trying to get extra uranium out to send to Saddam. I think the point being that even the Nigeriens couldn't just waltz up and dig out a couple hundred extra tons, which is what it would have taken to sell anything to Iraq.

One more point. In assessing the report (what she had of it that far), Owens-Kirkpatrick was thinking in the same terms Wilson was--did the names and dates line up, first and foremost?

Also, by this point, the cables included info on:

  • Who signed the sale agreement
  • When he signed it
  • When the Foreign Minister told his ambassadors about it (and who the Foreign Minister was)
  • The date of the meeting to sign the agreement
  • The amount of the sale
  • The transshipment point (I think--although this is blacked out in places)

And even within that information there was some information that was slightly dodgy.

Of course Cheney knew in February, 2002. He knew about the forged documents well before they were passed to the Italians in Rome.

Here's an interesting quote, from Wilson's letter to the Senate in response to the CIA reports officer testimony (regarding Plame, though, not the issue of whether Wilson received information).

In fact, it is my understanding that the Reports Officer has a different conclusion about Valerie's role than the one offered in the "additional comments.'

I wonder if Wilson and the Reports Officer compared notes after the SSCI report came out?

Wilson's book says on p. 14 of the genesis of his trip that "A report purporting to be a memorandum of sale on uranium from Niger to Iraq had aroused the interest of Vice President Dick Cheney."

But the Senate Report (p. 38) says that a DIA report entitled "Niamey [capital of Niger] signed an agreement to sell 500 tons of uranium a year to Baghdad" was what swparked Cheney's interest, and he asked for the CIA's opinion of it.

Now, this isn't exactly contradictory. It isn't clear the DIA report actually had the document, but it did purport to say that there WAS such a document.

The CIA could have told Wilson they were trying to find out of the report of such an agreement was true, and he could have said, "when you get the documents, here's what to look for in terms of dates and principals who would have had authority."

Great work, emptywheel! But something's been bothering me since I read the "BREAKING" AP article yesterday. Here's the paragraph:

The document was prepared in June 2003 at the direction of Carl W. Ford Jr., then head of the State Department's bureau of intelligence and research, for Marc Grossman, the retired official said. Grossman was the Undersecretary of State who was in charge of the department while Secretary Colin Powell and his deputy, Richard Armitage, were traveling. Grossman needed the memo because he was dealing with other issues and was not familiar with the subject, the former official said.

Now, here's my problem. The article appears to be conflating the preparation of the June 2003 memo for Grossman, "who was in charge of the department while ... Powell and ... Armitage were traveling," with the July 2003 trip to Africa.

Of course, it's possible that Powell & Armitage were traveling in June 2003, also, leaving Grossman in charge. But no one was (publicly at least) asking questions about Wilson's Niger trip in June so the given rationale for the preparation of this memo doesn't seem to make sense. Or was the memo originally drafted only to help Grossman -- while Armitage and Powell were presumably traveling in June -- answer general questions about conflicting pre-war intelligence?

This may be insignificant but it's been bothering me.

I do not expect Sen. Pat Roberts is in jeopardy due to Fitzgerald's inquiry, but I do believe Sen. Pat Roberts is in jeopardy.

And maybe that, and the SCOTUS nomination, is part of a Rovian plot to have us shaking our fingers of blame at more Roberts's than we can keep track of.

In fact, that's just what he says. After explaining that he told the CIA he was not a spy, he says, "The fact was, though, I did know the officials who would have made the decisions and signed the documents, if the sale had really taken place." (p. 16.) He explains he knew the old people and the Ambassador knew the new people. He knew that he was in Niger looking for evidenc of a sale, and knew what documents there were likely to be.

The book (p. 28) also clarifies that a source told him that in 1999 a Nigerien businessman had contacted him to meet with an Iraqi official to discuss trade. The source told Wilson this set off alarm bells because of UN sanctions on trade with Iraq. So he had only a perfunctory consersation with the Iraqi. He said maybe the Iraqi wanted to talk about uranium. It turns out that during the Iraq coverage the source recognized the contact as "Baghdad Bob."

Wilosn does not appear to say in his book what the Senate report says he said--that the CIA contacts told him there were documents pertaining to the sale and which foreign intel service it was. The CIA says "no ducuments." But, the DIA report had said "signed an agreement," and if there were an agfreement one does not have to be a spy to figure that it would be memorialized in some sort of documents. in fact, Wilson does say in the book he found out or knew just what kind of documents there would have been. I see this as mostly a Roberts slur, but also the tendency of most people who remember events to put themselves at the center of the event.

Wilson also says that after he was debriefed at his home by the CIA upon his return, he had no more contact with them for a year and a half (Sept 2003).

Maybe after the reports from Wilson, Kirkpatrick and Fulford came back so negative, and the State Dept (Greg Thielmann) wrote his report "Niger: Sale of Uranium to Iraq Is Unlikely", someone decided the story would seem more plausible if there really WERE a bill of sale and lo and behold, one surfaced in Rome that fall.

kainah

I'm fairly certain State was already conducting an investigation into the intelligence wars. I imagine Grossman had the memo put together (maybe to try to get Powell to do something about it--Greg Thielmann has said Powell and Armitage were involved in these things (though, of course, he was long gone at this point). Don't know why he didn't get it to Powell sooner. Maybe he was still fighting about it with Bolton? ;-p

Which I guess says the article is sloppy with its description of why Grossman had it and why Powell didn't have it yet.

Although, wrt documents appearing in Rome, the burglary of the Niger embassy took place before BushCo were sworn in. Right?

btw mimikatz--did you already have the book today or did you go out and get it just today after we all admitted we needed to read it (except for Sara, of course). I think all the Plame junkies are frantically reading either SSCI or Wilson's book right now. Or, like me, catching up after reading one and scheduling time to go get the second.

Let me make a comment about CIA and other intelligence services approach to gathering targeted information so as to answer critical questions. There would be good reasons not to show Wilson the documents, had they had them at hand, simply because what they were asking him to do was broadly look at the question afresh to get at the truth of the matter -- did a sale and/or shipment occur? To give him access to the documents, or other raw or finished intelligence would have the potential for corrupting his own fresh investigation. This is a critical principle in intelligence work, redundency with a number of sources and reporters.

Now this is just speculation -- but we think we know the documents were frauds, but note the dates -- 1999-2000. Was the intent of those who not so carefully counterfitted the documents to "blame Bill Clinton" for failure to keep Uranium out of the hands of Saddam? Little chirpy bird is asking me to lay the question. Depending on who counterfitted the documents and shoved them up the stovepipe -- that might be a way to read all this.

I am glad everyone is out buying Wilson's book. I've made the point elsewhere, but he closed the manuscript about two months after the special counsel was appointed, and I suspect everything in it related to this case has major documentation and back-up. The last thing he would want would be for an element in his book to be disproven.

Another factlet -- Grossman and Wilson know each other pretty well I think. Wilson was Diplomat to NATO at the same time Grossman was Ambassador to Turkey in Clinton's first administration, and they had to solve all sorts of minor problems related to the Northern Watch Air camapign flown out of Turkey, by NATO command fighters. Grossman was an FSO in the class behind Wilson's.

I hope you all enjoy the book -- actually the piece I like best is Wilson's description of attending his first Editorial Board meeting at The Nation when David Corn introduces him as "from the Establishment." I love Irony.

I confess I went out and bought the book. And printed out the SSCI report chapter on Niger, which almost emptied my black ink cartridge. My partner now refers to Plame/Rove as my crack cocaine.

Sara, really good question about Clinton. IIRC, the break-in at the Niger embassy in Rome was in the first days of 2001, I think before Bush was sworn in. I've always been amazed and intrigued by that. But if your theory is correct, then the timing puts it back in the Clinton Administration.

Interesting point about Wilson and Grossman. He obviously has a lot of friends in the "Establishment" that BushCo didn't count on (remember Novak outing Plame to one of Wilson's friends? That friend is almost certainly a member of the "establishment").

I'm also fascinated by the dates of resignations at State. Carl Ford resigned the day after the investigation moved to State. Of course Powell and Armitage as soon as they could after the election. And Grossman resigned, somewhat unexpectedly (it seems like people expected him to go with Powell and Armitage, but he didn't resign with them, then did so somewhat suddently in December).

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