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May 26, 2006


Wow" is the word. Let me be the first to extend kudos for ths wonderfully comprehensive installment. And to think that you cranked this out while dealing with us in the peanut gallery re your first installment. Great work.

PS to Polly and Viget: Please keep up the "forensic talking point analysis" (to use viget's felicitous phrase). I've been struck by the eerie similarities that keep popping up as well (bowels and boongdoggles, dispatches and junkets, cabbages and kings), and I think they are highly instructive even if they might not satisfy the criminal burden of proof.

PPS to EW: As I'm sure you're already aware, Reggie has issued a decision on the media motions to quash. It's rather interesting -- and unbelievably tantalizing. Sorry, I'm link-impaired today, but the WaPoo has a pdf of the decision if you don't already have it.

Amazing reconstruction, EW. I'll be anxiously awaiting Part III and hope you get into all the Novak/Rove contortions.

And yes, somebody (Quicksilver?) has really been on top of the DKosopdedia timeline, it's excellent.

A couple of quick notes:

Novak's version seems to be that he talked to Armitage on July 8. That's implied by Pincus' 8-11-05 WaPo story, for which he seems to have spoken to Novak, and Pincus is explicit in an interview on NPR on 10-23-05:

On July 8th, somebody talks to Robert Novak and mentions Wilson's wife's alleged role in setting up the trip.

To be sure, it's hard to know how to credit information coming from Novak, especially since he might have an interest in obscuring a variety of things on this issue. But his version at this point seems to be that he talked to his first source on July 8.

Here's a question: is it possible that that July 9 gaggle where Fleischer discusses the substance of Wilson's report - perhaps thanks to having seen the INR memo and underlying documents - is what got him in potential trouble, leading to the cooperation agreement it appears he might have? Though I don't think this is the gaggle whose complete transcript was subpoenaed by Fitzgerald, it is interesting that this one seems to be unaccountably missing from the White House website's press briefing archives. The problem with this idea is that a possible crime in disclosing Wilson's classified report would appear to fall outside the scope of Fitzgerald's investigation, so it's not clear how Fitzgerald would have incented Fleischer with that.

This might fall outside what you're interested in here, but it might be worth noting that on July 10 Novak has his conversation(s) with Harlow at CIA, as well as with Wilson himself. It's unclear - and it would be nice to be clear on - what the order was here.

I also think you're underplaying the extent to which Tenet, as he fell on his sword, also threw daggers both at Wilson and the White House.

As for this:

I suspect that there is some kind of Rove-Libby-Hadley correspondance from early in the week, discussing classified issues--things like the contents of the CIA report on Joe Wilson's trip and the NIE that they were leaking--that they tried retroactively to explain away as early drafts of Tenet's speech.

Did you notice there appears to be some confirmation of this in Waas' article yesterday?

Rove has testified that he did not learn that Plame was a CIA operative from classified information, that he was not part of a campaign with Libby or other White House officials to discredit Wilson or out Plame, and that any information that he provided Novak and Cooper about Plame's CIA job was only unsubstantiated gossip.

Finally, I'd also recently noticed how good the dkosopedia timeline is these days. My prime suspect is polly.


I'll come back to some of this later. But Ari's leaks almost certainly don't come from the INR memo (and I still consider that suspect, since we've got competing claims about whether Ari ever saw it). They come from the CIA report.

The briefing that got subpoenaed is the July 12 one, where Ari so egregiously misrepresents what the trip report says. I sort of wonder whether that made it into the talking points (Libby on July 8 and Ari on July 12), and if so, whether that's why it was yanked, because it shows a clear intent to smear Wilson uaing classified information.

Also, are you sure that that woudl be outside the purview of Fitz' investigation?

Per usual, this is a fantastic post, emptywheel.

Been collecting links to Plame-related timelines for personal use here--the only two that I've visited recently enough to have the links appear as "visited" are the dKosopedia and eRiposte's "CIA on uranium from Africa." As many have pointed out, the dKosopedia timeline has been superlative of late.

If anybody knows of other timelines I'm missing (or updated versions of the ones I have), I am an avid collector.

[Incorporating my continuing objection to assuming that Armitage is involved by reference]

The curious detail - why weren't those documents declassified?

The Bush administration publicly declassifies only documents that make them look good. Since they didn't actually declassify the trip report, we can safely assume that they lied about what's in it (and the SSCI was probably complicit). It's important to remember that while Libby claims he was authorized to leak the NIE, what he actually did (besides out Plame) was to lie about the NIE. He told Miller that the classified portions made the case for war stronger, when it's now obvious that the classified portions were much weaker (more caveats, etc.). We can be pretty sure that trip report is not what it's been represented to be at all and it would be very obvious if they released it.


I'm particularly intrigued by Libby's assertion that there were two reports.

There were two reports, if you count the al Zahawie report (which was about establishing commercial relations). But that's pretty clearly not related to Wilson. But somehow those two got conflated in a really egregious way.


Very quickly, I've been trying to figure out what Fleischer would have to make a cooperation agreement for, if he has. (It's not even clear if he has, but he has been subject to sealed filings from both sides, and there is that discussion in the 5-5-06 hearing that seems to allude to someone probably with a cooperation agreement, subject to Jeffress' sealed affidavit. But I'm not even sure of much of that, as Fitzgerald clearly misdirects us and perhaps Team Libby when he is talking in court about sealed and other sensitive matters.) And that excerpt from the July 9 gaggle suggests he was not leaking but publicly announcing classified information from Wilson's trip report. So I wonder whether that could have gotten him in potential trouble, however he learned about it, as long as it was clear the information was classified. I will note, though, that the point about Wilson's report not talking at all about forged documents was emphatically made in the INR memo. The one other thing in this connection is that I think the bit about Nigerien denials was what prompted Wilson to tell Time that Fleischer was confusing his own report with that from Barbro-whatever, the U.S. Ambassador to Niger, as recounted in Wilson's book. (But Fleischer may have been talking about former officials' denials, not current ones.)

I'm not sure whether it would fall outside the purview of Fitzgerald's investigation, though it seems like it would, since one way or the other the investigation seems tied to the release of information specifically connected to Plame. And there's nothing in the gaggle about her, obviously. The other leading candidate for what could have made Fleischer enter a cooperation agreement was being Pincus' source, though even that doesn't seem so likely to me.

Wouldn't it be interesting if Fleischer's cooperation agreement was tied to his involvement in a conspiracy?

Are we sure though? We know CIA reported a leak of classified information. It was reported as an investigation into an IIPA violation. Fitzgerald introduces it as an investigation into leaks. But does that exclude the leak of the CIA report and, for that matter, Armitage's leaking of Niger forgery sources and methods?

"I suspect Novak also calls Richard Armitage on July 7 and asks him about the backstory to Joe Wilson's trip. Armitage appears to have told Novak something like:"

Go to the timeline of the Plame leak


There is no mention of Novak having made contact with Armitage at this time.

No, there's not. Nor is there a mention of when Mr. X spoke to Novak. Assuming Novak is marginally honest and he has two and exactly two sources, and assuming our little redaction analysis was correct, and Armitage's friends who all but admitted to the press that Armitage was involved, then the conversation probably happened on July 7 or 8. Or maybe Armitage spoke to Novak second, after July 9, and Novak is lying more than we know him to be lying. But there is a lot of evidence to suggest Armitage did speak with Novak and a lot to suggest he spoke to Novak on July 7, 8, ot 9.

I have not come across any of this evidence for this time period. Maybe there is a disinformation campaign underway. It is curious how information seeps into the popular narratives.

I have another question. Prior to July 9, when we know Novak talked to Rove, why would Novak have contacted Armitage concerning something about which he, Novak, could have known nothing at that time? Armitage purportedly immediately recognized his blunder after he had given the original info to Woodward in early June. Novak was coming out of the White House when he was confronted by Wilson's friend on July 8. Maybe this was when and where he originally got the info.

The point is, Armitage is likely the source for what Novak said to Wilson's friend! When we say Armitage is probably Mr. X, that's what we're talking about. And it's hardly disinformation if friends of his are spreading the same expectations.

It can't be Armitage because he already acknowledged his error in the leak to Woodward. Novak most likely got the info on that July 8, and it wasn't from Armitage, but it was from the White House.

To bolster my argument: everything about Armitage is pure speculation. What we do know is that on July 8, Novak comes out of the White House, is confronted by Wilson's friend, and with what seems like consuming vitriol, exclaims that Wilson is an asshole, that his wife sent him and that she worked at the CIA. So he learned all three things that very day at the White House, which means that whomever it was that he met with was really catapaulting the propaganda.

Are we sure though?

No, I am not at all sure.

What we do know is that on July 8, Novak comes out of the White House

Do we know that? How do we know that Novak was coming from the White House?

It is in Wilson's excerpt from his upcoming book:



Most of the stuff about Armitage is speculation. But very well sourced speculation, almost to the point of certainty. There are numerous references in court filings and several in court hearings that rule out just about everyone else to be Novak's other source. That is--it has to be someone with an 8-letter name who doesn't work in the White House. And there is a lot of evidence to suggest Woodward's source is Novak's second source. Add in Armitage's friends recently going on the record about Armitage's mistake, and I don't see much chance it isn't Armitage (why would his friends do that otherwise?)

Also, Politics of Truth has been out 2 years. The passage you cite says the friend was walking toward Wilson's office near the White House, but that Novak was probably on his way to GWU to tape his show. NOthing about coming OUT of the White House.

It is certainly possible Novak spoke to Rove twice or something like that, once in person. But Armitage is in the mix there, very probably.

Great job Emptywheel.

As a coda to this timeline the White House announced on July 14, 2003 that Silvio Berlusconi would visiting the Crawford Ranch on July 20-21. Hadley and Bartlett gave a briefing on July 22, 2003 explaining the process/problems with the Cincinatti speech, the SOTU, and Powell's speech. There is lots of granular detail in the Hadley/Bartlett presser that corresponds to the great summary that Emptywheel presents above. I'd like to see this timeline reconstructed from the point of view of hiding knowledge about the forged Niger documents rather than leaking Valerie Plame's name. Only in hindsight was the White House in crisis mode over the Plame leak. Contemporary to the leak the White House was in crisis over the Niger claims/forgeries.

It wasn't until December 30, 2003 - when Ashcroft recused himself - that the White House was in crisis over the leak. Up until that point the White House was all about obscuring detailed knowledge (who, what, why, etc.) of the Niger forgeries. The forgery story got muted play prior to the Iraq War. It was only 10 days from the time the IAEA revealed the Niger documents as fakes until Bush ordered out the UN inspectors on 3/17. The war itself drowns out the extensive March reporting of the forgeries by Pincus and April is more battlefield success in the larger media narrative. Did the Bush administration think that the forgery story had been contained at this point?

In quick succession you have Kristoff's 5/6 "Missing in Action: Truth" and the fuse is lit connecting the Niger forgeries to the Administration's use of intelligence. Greg Theilman is in the news, Pincus is on the story, Condi Rice has a disastrous 6/8 MTP appearance filled with easily debunked spin, Kristoff slams Rice in a 6/13 column and then throughout June it's a new story on manipulated intelligence every day from multiple outlets. You can spin as disagreement every WMD intelligence detail save one - the forgeries. Remember that fact and then look at the White House interactions with the UK and Italy the week of the Plame leak.

Transcript - Hadley/Bartlett press conference 7/22/03

Here's a quote from the May 5 hearing that deserves a bit of attention.

There will be controversies. But when Mr. Libby says, for example, he didn't approve forgeries, we won't disagree. (6)

I think Fitz probably means Libby didn't approve the insertion of intelligence that he knew to be based on forgeries into the SOTU. But it's an interesting formulation. I didn't know anyone accused Libby of "approving" forgeries. Bolton maybe. Ledeen, sure. But Libby?

I still say it can't be Armitage. He was immediately repentent after the Woodward leak and he had no animus toward Wilson, even trying to dissuade Woodward from writing about Plame. Why would Woodward refrain and Novak publish? Why Novak's animus toward Wilson? It suggests someone other than Armitage was catapaulting the propaganda. I have not seen any of the references you refer to. Do you have cites?

emptywheel - I think that line from Fitzgerald is slightly garbled shorthand for, "But when Mr. Libby says, for example, "He [Wilson] didn't prove they were forgeries," we won't disagree.

And this is going afield, but I am convinced Ledeen had nothing to do with the forgeries. I know this is eriposte's pet theory, but I just don't think it's there.

Another point. The conversation betwen Novak and Armitage, occurs July 7. If Armitage had experienced contrition for his leak, why one month later is he still peddling the same talking points that he already recognized were damaging? And why did Fitzgerald then immediatlely lose interest in Armitage?


Actually, I think it's my pet theory. eRiposte doesn't usually voice irresponsible theories like that. I still think there's a distinct possibility the Neocons were involved for four reasons:

  • The coincidence of Ledeen/Franklin meetings with Ghorbanifer in Italy and the forgery timing
  • Some of Ledeen's non-disavowal disavowals, which, if they're consistent with his disavowal of other things he is known to be involved in, are effectively admissions
  • The apparent role of John Bolton in stovepiping the actual forgeries when they came into his department at State
  • The extensive efforts Bolton has made to hide his apparent role in stovepiping, including, recently, what appear to be perjurious statements

But I admit the case is thin, based on smoke rather than fire.


You can read through my last several posts on Armitage as well as my Armitage as Mr. X post, which seems to correlate very well with everything we've discovered since.

I'm not arguing that Armitage is the one who planted the "asshole" comment. Novak generates animus all by himself, he doesn't need Armitage's help there. (And remember, Novak was on MTP on July 6.) Again, I could be wrong about Novak having spoken with Rove by the 8th--the timing of Rove's conversation is still in question. But Novak has consistently said the person who is almost certainly Armitage was his first source. Novak could be lying. But given what we know about timing, this suggests it's quite possible that Armitage was the only source he had spoken with before the July 8 conversation, and therefore the info on Plame (Novak doesn't call her an operative at that point, which would make it likely that Armitage repeated the comment he said to Woodward, that Plame was an analyst) came from Armitage.

On the question of whether Rove and Libby participated in the drafting of Tenet's statement, I propose a simple reconciliation of the stories, adding just one word to the Rove-friendly leak:

Back at the White House, Mr. Rove and Mr. Libby had been at work all week, along with Ms. Rice's deputy, Stephen Hadley, helping to craft a statement that was *ultimately* issued on Friday by George Tenet, the C.I.A. director.

It was probably far from obvious early in the week just who would fall on their sword by the end of the week.

Your arguments there are not convincing EW. Specifically you mention that Novak might have been spurred to ask Armitage by Rove. But that conversation with Rove occured on July 9 by which time Armitage would no longer be peddling these talking points. At any rate, Fitzgerald having lost interest in Armitage, pretty much exonerates him as the source.

Furthermore EW, you mistakenly attribute the July 9 converstion to Libby rather than Rove. In addition, if Rove is contending that he never brought up Plame in his conversation with Novak on July 9, then how could your imaginary conversation between Rove and Novak be at all plausible?

Well EW, I can only say that right now we are all at a loss. This is such a vast conspiracy of lies that they all shoud be indicted and punished to the full extent of the law. Rove and Novak in particular should be sent to jail and the key thrown away. Their lies are so malicious, so viscious and so contemptible that ordinary people find it hard to grasp.

From Judy on Libby at the St Regis:

I thought I remembered him at one point reading from a piece of paper he pulled from his pocket.

Was that a CIA briefing memo in his pocket or was he just happy to see her?

Ok, we will serious-up now.

From July 8:

One report dated from February 2002. The other indicated that Iraq was seeking a broad trade relationship with Niger in 1999, a relationship that he said Niger officials had interpreted as an effort by Iraq to obtain uranium.

Well, the fisrt report could be the DIA piece that caught Cheney's eye in Feb.

"The other", that alluded to a 1999 trade delegation, could be Wilson's from March 2002. Something is muddled here, though, since we are told that the Wilson report triggered yet more questions:

Mr. Libby also told me that on the basis of these two reports and other intelligence, his office had asked the C.I.A. for more analysis and investigation of Iraq's dealings with Niger. According to my interview notes, Mr. Libby told me that the resulting cable - based on Mr. Wilson's fact-finding mission, as it turned out - barely made it out of the bowels of the C.I.A.

Well, her timeline could be confused - maybe Libby was saying OVP got the DIA report, asked questions, got the Wilson report mentioning the 1999 trade delegation, and moved on.

I suspect Fitzgerald is using the nepotism claim as a marker for leaks that trace back to Dick's notes on Wilson's op-ed. Is Judy telling the truth, or is she protecting Dick?)

Did she lie to her notebook? She claims (And presumably Fitzgerald confirms) that her notes don't mention nepotism or a link between the wife and the Niger trip.

I would think a nepotism allegation would merit a mention, but I'm not a world class. Pulitzer Prize winning reporter.


On the dispute over Tenet's statement, there's actually some evidence from one of Fitzgerald's responses to Libby, and not surprisingly it doesn't look too good for Tenet's version of events. In the famous (to who? to us!) 4-5-06 response to Libby's third motion to compel discovery, Fitzgerald indicates on p. 17) that he has produced, therefore there exist, drafts of the July 11 state issued by Tenet from OVP. Fitzgerald also seems to suggest that he has additional drafts from other agencies, which would almost certainly include the NSC, and Libby's own motion indicates that Hadley was the point man, as he had "numerous conversations during the critical early July period with Mr. Tenet about the sixteen words and Mr. tenet's public statement about that issue." (p. 26 of Libby's 3-17-06 motion) So it's very possible Libby and Tenet didn't directly interact over the statement; Hadley may have passed drafts from Tenet to Libby and vice versa.

This doesn't settle who first drafted the statement - but it is pretty much at odds with what the Team Tenet people were trying to convey to the Post. And it strikes me that the CIA may have been misleading the Post, leaving out the part about how Hadley passed his and Libby's (and possibly Rove's) handiwork to Tenet on July 9 and said, "You're gonna issue this, sucker," at which point Tenet began drafting his own statement, which included the daggers back at the White House not included in what Hadley handed him. And perhaps Hadley only saw that once, and/or made some minor changes.

At the same time, it remains possible that not all the back-and-forth early in the week among Hadley, Libby and Rove was about the statement. And even if it were, isn't that participating in an effort to discredit Wilson anyway?

Sorry to be an idiot but - I can see that Ari messed up the Wilson story on July 12 by saying that someone approached Wilosn with a trade proposal.

But I can't see that in Judy's July 8 story:

As I told Mr. Fitzgerald and the grand jury, Mr. Libby alluded to the existence of two intelligence reports about Iraq's uranium procurement efforts. One report dated from February 2002. The other indicated that Iraq was seeking a broad trade relationship with Niger in 1999, a relationship that he said Niger officials had interpreted as an effort by Iraq to obtain uranium.

My notes indicate that Mr. Libby told me the report on the 1999 delegation had been attributed to Joe Wilson.

Mr. Libby also told me that on the basis of these two reports and other intelligence, his office had asked the C.I.A. for more analysis and investigation of Iraq's dealings with Niger. According to my interview notes, Mr. Libby told me that the resulting cable - based on Mr. Wilson's fact-finding mission, as it turned out - barely made it out of the bowels of the C.I.A. [my emphasis]

Can you mark it up for the slow readers?

I can't if Jeff's right and the 2002 report is the DIA one, which is an interesting suggestion (though I read that as intelligence report). Anyway, here's my take, with a fuller quote:

Mr. Libby then proceeded through a lengthy and sharp critique of Mr. Wilson and what Mr. Libby viewed as the C.I.A.'s backpedaling on the intelligence leading to war. According to my notes, he began with a chronology of what he described as credible evidence of Iraq's efforts to procure uranium. As I told Mr. Fitzgerald and the grand jury, Mr. Libby alluded to the existence of two intelligence reports about Iraq's uranium procurement efforts. One report dated from February 2002. [now, this could be the SISMI report that arrived in February 2002, which would make sense] The other indicated that Iraq was seeking a broad trade relationship with Niger in 1999, a relationship that he said Niger officials had interpreted as an effort by Iraq to obtain uranium.

My notes indicate that Mr. Libby told me the report on the 1999 delegation had been attributed to Joe Wilson.[given the rest of the context here, this suggests this is a report gathered before Wilson's trip from 1999--it could be the al Zahawie trip, which was connected to Dick pursuing more information, but Wilson has nothing to do with that. Or it could be the Mayaki report from within Wilson's Niger report, which would be a misrepresentation anyway, because Wilson didn't write this one.]

Mr. Libby also told me that on the basis of these two reports and other intelligence, his office had asked the C.I.A. for more analysis and investigation of Iraq's dealings with Niger. According to my interview notes, Mr. Libby told me that the resulting cable - based on Mr. Wilson's fact-finding mission, [this suggests a second piece of intelligence tied to Wilson, the one we know to be the CIA trip report]as it turned out - barely made it out of the bowels of the C.I.A. He asserted that George J. Tenet, then the director of central intelligence, had never even heard of Mr. Wilson.

Now, I'd have to review eRiposte's work on the al Zahawie intelligence, but it appears here they're conflating that with the Mayaki comment. I don't know if the implications of that conflation would suggest Wilson was a go-between, as Ari did. But Libby is either claiming Wilson did things he didn't (perhaps the al Zahawie trip was close to the same time as Wilson's 1999 trip?) or he's suggesting something Wilson reported in his report was one of the pieces of intelligence that sparked Dick to ask for more information which led to the trip where he reported that infomration??

I'll also repeat--the inaccurate date Novak uses would place the Mayaki event during the period when Wilson was in Baghdad.

The muddles are not exactly the same. But both suggest a Wilson involvement in 1999, perhaps based on his CIA trip then.


Thanks for doing the "it's not Armitage" work for me. For what it's worth, I don't think Armitage leaked to Novak. I wish I knew why he's willing to let people believe it's him. My pet theory (with absolutely no facts to back it up) is that Fitzgerald is glad everybody thinks it's Armitage and has communicated to Armitage not to deny it. If my wild speculation (and let's all remember it would be irresponsible not to speculate) that Mr. X is actually Alberto Gonzales is correct, it is definitely in Fitzgerald's interest for everybody to think Mr. X is somebody else.

I also think that Novak clearly has more than two sources for his July 14th, 2003 column. Only a small bit of it was actually sourced to the two SAO's.


Yes, Novak may well have more than the 4 sources I identified in my post on this. But two things are relatively certain. The White House (so Rove and possibly others) was pushing the CIA report on Wilson's trip (because Novak attributes that to the White House). And there is a clear discursive continuity between one of the other points made by someone who spoke with Novak--that the Niger intelligence was always based on the forged documents. While I think it quite possible that more people from, say, the White House chipped in, it seems clear Novak pretty much synthesized three sets of talking points--the WH Joe Wilson report one, the Niger as forgery one, and the more moderate "CPD sent Wilson" which is clearly attributed to CIA. So if your Gonzales theory were correct, then it would mean there was still a source that gave Novak the niger forgery stuff, because I'd bet you good money Abu G would never do that.

Following the link to the NYT article that included the bit in the White House-Tenet dispute over who wrote his July 11 statement, I was led to reread Kristof's original 5-6-03 column. If you haven't read it in a while, I highly recommend it, in light of what we've learned recently, and especially because it strongly supports my claim that Team Powell had reason to feel hostile toward Wilson, and that that might help explain Armitage's leaks. In fact, not only is the top of the State Department much more a focus than OVP, Powell and State are criticized as much if not more than President Bush for ignoring the doubts about the Niger intelligence in the runup to the war. OVP plays a rather minor role here, especially as compared with the role it would play subsequently.

Here's how Kristof introduces the Niger business as a prime example of manipulated intel:

Consider the now-disproved claims by President Bush and Colin Powell that Iraq tried to buy uranium from Niger so it could build nuclear weapons.

So it's not just the SOTU; it's equally Powell who was making the discredited claim. (Presumably Kristof is alluding to Powell's Januar 26 2003 speech at Davos, relayed in the Hersh report Kristof mentions?)

It's true that OVP is put at the origin of Wilson's trip. But it is rather fact-of-the-matter, not particularly loaded:

I'm told by a person involved in the Niger caper that more than a year ago the vice president's office asked for an investigation of the uranium deal, so a former U.S. ambassador to Africa was dispatched to Niger.

That is the only mention of OVP in the whol column. And it is what Wilson in fact believed; no great significance is attached to it here, and OVP is a minor player. The next sentence talks about who Wilson reported back to:

In February 2002, according to someone present at the meetings, that envoy reported to the C.I.A. and State Department that the information was unequivocally wrong and that the documents had been forged.

So both CIA and State received Wilson's report, according to this. One of the main points of the INR memo was to dispute that INR had debriefed Wilson on his return. Another was to dispute that Wilson's report - which he ties to State - debunked the forgeries, which Kristof's article goes on to assert the report had, again specifically citing State for having continued to make the uranium claim in the face of that debunking:

The envoy's debunking of the forgery was passed around the administration and seemed to be accepted -- except that President Bush and the State Department kept citing it anyway.

And then Kristof drives home the point by finishing the column's brief section on the Niger story with a quotation from an insider who, if it's not WIlson, was almost certainly believed to be Wilson:

"It's disingenuous for the State Department people to say they were bamboozled because they knew about this for a year," one insider said.

That may be an allusion by Wilson to the sort of claim he had heard on CNN from, I believe, a State Department spokesman back in March, which led him to speak on the topic on TV. Whatever the case, this is a rather serious accusation lodged against State, and there can be no question that the Kristof column points the finger of blame on the Niger matter principally at State, with the Secretary of State singled out for criticism, even more than President Bush.

I think this not only makes it plausible that Team Powell was pissed at Wilson, giving Armitage a motive to belittle his trip - all the more so because State could make a plausible claim that Wilson distorted the story: that Powell had specifically refused to make the Africa uranium claim at the UN immediately after the President had done so in the SOTU; that INR had been the most skeptical of the Niger claim, to the point that they didn't even see the need for Wilson's trip to investigate what they had already debunked (the Niger story); and that, as the INR memo argues, it was INR, not Wilson, that specifically tagged the documents as forgeries before the SOTU. I think this rereading of the initial Kristof column also offers a different picture of the early parts of the Wilson-Plame story than is conventional wisdom. Specfically, 1)Though I'm sure OVP took note, with some concern, of Kristof's column, it's easy to see how Cheney's people wouldn't go crazy over it. My suspicion is that what really kicked things into gear was Pincus, and perhaps other reporters, asking questions in late May. It's possible that WIlson himself was more focused on the White House, and OVP in particular, than Kristof made it out to be. Or it's possible he heard back from State after the Krisotf article. In any case, there's no question that the negative focus started to shift from State to the White House. 2)I suspect the INR memo was generated at least in part as a response to the Kristof column, and/or reporters questions following up on that prominent dimension of Kristof's column. One of the things that makes me think it might be the latter is the INR memo's stated intention of responding to allegations that INR played a role in his trip and the dissemination of his reporting; no such allegations are mentioned in Kristof's article. One possibility is that these were intra-governmental, even intra-IC allegations. But it's also possible that they heard these allegations coming from reporters who had already talked to Wilson.

On a related side note, it looks to me like the INR memo reads partly as INR specifically defending itself within the State Department ("Hey, if Wilson reported to State, it wasn't us!"), and partly a defense of State more generally within the IC and government ("We were on to how flawed the intel was, and any mention of the uranium claim was a slip. Don't blame us for SOTU either. We didn't need no stinking Wilson trip to know the Niger story was bs.")

Here's an interesting tidbit. It turns out that Novak did not appear on CNN's Crossfire edition on July 8:


Wonder what he was doing in the neighborhood of the White House at that time?


I absolutely agree with what you say about the INR memo. But it was not just Kristof's column they were responding to. There was a WaPo article in the first days after the war started that had CIA and other unnamed sources blaming State. Though I don't think you can read the INR memo as a successful attempt to defend itself within State. If it were, it would include all of the Iraq analyst's materials and it would include more details on Bolton's role. In other words, while it may lay out half of INR's case for having been on top of things, it doesn't put the blame where it lay as strongly as it should (that is, State DID deserve some blame for the Niger assertions, not least because Bolton's December 19 fact sheet was the first public statement of Niger's alleged role, but the memo doesn't make the case strongly).

We do know, though, that Fitz had reason to believe OVP paid attention, since he subpoenaed Libby's notes from the time of Kristof's column.

I still have my one big question about your State pissed at Wilson scenario. Wilson was discussing with Scowcroft, at least, his actions as he was making them (at the least, in response to Condi's speech). He had been working with allies of State going all the way back to the previous Fall. So how are they simultaneously opposed to him? Also, Grossman apparently wrote two emails to Wilson that seem to suggest he was on Wilson's side, at least according to Libby's lawyers. I don't doubt, at all, that State was busy trying to prove it wasn't responsible for the war. But I also think State's interests partially coincided with Wilson's.

Though, Jeff, if Armitage is SAO, then it would support your point. From the September 28 WaPo article:

the senior official said the leaks were "wrong and a huge miscalculation, because they were irrelevant and did nothing to diminish Wilson's credibility."


But it was not just Kristof's column they were responding to. There was a WaPo article in the first days after the war started that had CIA and other unnamed sources blaming State.

Oh, but I'm sure there were other memos too on other related, but distinct topics. What we call the INR memo was just the Niger-Wilson corner of the much larger fight over the gigantic cascade of screwups we call the war. As for how successful INR was in defending itself within State, it's not shocking to me that they limited themselves to clearing their name in the Wilson thing, and just noting State's December inclusion of the Niger allegation, rather than going for, say, the emptywheel approach to Bolton. Not that it's not deserved and appropriate. But I'm going to assume that you don't go after those within your department with the same vigor as those outside; and there was the strong imperative to defend State altogether against CIA, the White House and critical press.

I do agree that OVP probably reacted with some alarm to Kristof's column; undoubtedly Cheney took the penknife to it. But it was nothing compared to later. Partly I'm trying to account for the fact that Kristof's column comes out end of the first week of May, but it's not until the very end of May that Libby seems to really kick into gear in getting as much on Wilson and his trip as he can. My current suspicion is that one way or the other, directly or indirectly, OVP got word of Pincus (and perhaps others) reporting on the story, and both wanted to figure out how to respond, and increasingly got the sense that Wilson was going to push it.

As for relations between and the coinciding interests and viewpoints of State and Wilson, a few responses. First, it's perfectly possible that Kristof's article is more focused on and critical of State than Wilson himself was at the time. Someone like Armitage - and others in INR, say - wouldn't know that, and could be pissed at Wilson, even if Wilson was not entirely responsible. Second, relatedly, I'd differentiate State from Team Powell, from the political leadership of the Department grouped around Powell, and very loyal to him. Grossman is obviously a complicated case, since he would be loyal to his department and its head, but also loyal to his old friend. But in general I think it's possible to imagine conflicting attitudes toward Wilson both among State people and even within a given individual. And again, I can only imagine that Powell and Armitage would have read the Kristof column as a direct and serious attack on Powell, with Wilson as the vehicle, regardless of what they may have known about his affiliations with Scowcroft, for instance.

As for Armitage as 1x2x6, I'm not sure that would support my point much in this regard, since if it was Armitage, he was basically misleading, and certainly talking about the leaks from the White House, not his own. I mean, maybe he felt like he knew what he was talking about. But still it's hard to use an act of basic misdirection and misleading as evidence for his attitude toward his own actions.

Tom - I'm not sure that Libby was making the same inaccurate point about Wilson as Fleischer, but there is something deeply screwy going on in what Miller reports Libby said - whether it was confusion on Libby's part, a deliberate lie, or poor note-taking and comprehension by Miller. The screwiness is the muddle you mentioned: the report we have from Miller makes it sound like Libby was saying that Wilson's own trip produced the question from OVP which produced Wilson's trip.

There is almost no question that part of Libby's point was to essentially call Wilson a liar by drawing attention to the fact that his own report - which one is a question - supported the uranium contention. But I've often thought, along the lines of emptywheel's suggestion, that Libby was either confusing or deliberately conflating the most useful part of Wilson's 2002 report (the bit about the former Nigerien looking up at the sky and saying to himself that perhaps, perhaps the Iraqis were interested in uranium) with Wilson's 1999 trip to Niger. Now, however, another possible explanation just suddenly occurred to me: maybe Libby was trying to both convey the way Wilson's report undermined his public claims and make it sound like Wilson's own trip was in no way prompted by Cheney. On the contrary, Libby is suggesting, it was Wilson's own intel report from his trip on the possibility of Niger-Iraq uranium business that helped prompt Cheney's question. And the resulting cable was simply CIA's analysis of the matter. This obscures the fact that Cheney asked the question first, and it at least helped prompt the whole idea of Wilson's trip. (Consider, as a sidenote, that this tactic on OVP's part would match up with Cheney's rhetorical question on Wilson's Op Ed to the effect of, "Send an Amb to answer a question?")

Two more notes. It is possible that there is some genuine confusion on Libby's part, insofar as, according to some recent Fitzgerald filing, pretty late in the game (after July 8, I believe) Libby still thought that Wilson had authored the report. So maybe he didn't understand that the cable just was the report (if it was). On the other hand, the very odd thing about what Miller reports Libby saying is that it indicates that OVP did see and even see significance in the report from Wilson's trip in 2002, and we know that is way of the talking points reservation. So maybe it's just as emptywheel is suggesting, and Miller didn't get that Libby was talking about two different reports on 1999 from Wilson, one that had been around for a while, and that Libby was now trying to tar Wilson as a kind of hypocrite with; and one that included the trade delegation stuff from 2002.

Jeff: "Grossman is obviously a complicated case, since he would be loyal to ... his old friend"

do we have any evidence that this is true? AFAIK, we only know that they happened to go to SDSU together,