Angle, Krauthammer misrepresented Senate intel report to discredit Wilson, defend Libby

››› ››› ROB MORLINO

Fox News' Jim Angle misrepresented the findings in the Senate Intelligence Committee's report on prewar intelligence in order to support his false claim that -- based on former ambassador Joseph C. Wilson IV's fact-finding trip to Niger -- the committee concluded that Iraqi officials traveled to Niger in an effort to purchase uranium. Similarly, on Fox News Sunday, nationally syndicated columnist Charles Krauthammer claimed that the report showed "distortions" in Wilson's July 2003 New York Times op-ed because it noted that the Iraqi delegation traveled to Niger seeking "commercial relations."

During the April 7 edition of Fox News' Special Report with Brit Hume, guest host Jim Angle misrepresented the findings in the Senate Intelligence Committee's report on prewar intelligence in order to support his false claim that -- based on former ambassador Joseph C. Wilson IV's February 2002 fact-finding trip to Niger -- the committee concluded that Iraqi officials traveled to Niger in an effort to purchase uranium. Similarly, during the April 9 broadcast of Fox News Sunday, syndicated columnist Charles Krauthammer claimed that the report showed "distortions" in Wilson's July 2003 New York Times op-ed because it noted that the Iraqi delegation traveled to Niger seeking "commercial relations." But both Angle and Krauthammer ignored other sections of the Senate report that supported Wilson's op-ed, as well as the report's broader conclusion that the claim that Iraq actively sought uranium from Niger could no longer be supported as of October 2002, based on all intelligence available at that point, including the results of Wilson's fact-finding mission.

On Special Report, Angle suggested that the Senate report contradicted Wilson's assertion in the op-ed that President Bush's claim during his 2003 State of the Union speech that the British government had learned Iraq sought uranium from Niger was, as Wilson wrote, "not borne out by the facts as I understood them." To support his assertion, Angle quoted a section of the report in which a CIA officer who reviewed Wilson's briefing concluded that "the most important fact" from Wilson's trip was the revelation that former Nigerien Prime Minister Ibrahim Mayaki believed that a 1999 Iraqi delegation sought a uranium deal. But Angle cropped the quote, which was displayed in on-screen text, in order to attribute that conclusion to the Senate Intelligence Committee itself, rather than the CIA officer:

ANGLE: Well, let's look -- in fact, we have a section of that Senate report that we can show you that deals with this very thing, in which it talks about -- and this was what he had said, "[T]he most important fact in the report was" -- this, they're talking about Wilson's report -- "that the Nigerien officials admitted that the Iraqi delegation had traveled there in 1999, and that the Nigerien prime minister believed the Iraqis were interested in purchasing uranium."

The section of the Senate report Angle was quoting made it clear that the conclusion belonged to the CIA reporting officer, not the committee itself:

The CIA's DO [directorate of operations] gave the former ambassador's information a grade of "good," which means that it added to the IC's [intelligence community] body of understanding on the issue [redacted]. The possible grades are unsatisfactory, satisfactory, good, excellent, and outstanding, which, according to the Deputy Chief of CPD [counterproliferation division of the CIA's directorate of operations], are very subjective. [redacted] The reports officer said that a "good" grade was merited because the information responded to at least some of the outstanding questions in the Intelligence Community, but did not provide substantial new information. He said he judged that the most important fact in the report was that the Nigerien officials admitted that the Iraqi delegation had traveled there in 1999, and that the Nigerien Prime Minister believed the Iraqis were interested in purchasing uranium, because this provided some confirmation of foreign government service reporting.[Page 46]

Angle also ignored key sections of the same part of the report, which noted that Wilson said that Mayaki had interpreted the Iraqi delegation's request for "expanded business relations" as an interest in acquiring uranium but had not confirmed that fact, and that Mayaki said he steered conversations with the delegation away from any specific trade proposals given the U.N. sanctions on Iraq at the time:

The intelligence report [from Wilson's trip] indicated that former Nigerien Prime Minister Ibrahim Mayaki was unaware of any contracts that had been signed between Niger and any rogue states for the sale of yellowcake while he was Prime Minister (1997-1999) or Foreign Minister (1996-1997). Mayaki said that if there had been any such contract during his tenure, he would have been aware of it. Mayaki said, however, that in June 1999, [redacted] businessman, approached him and insisted that Mayaki meet with an Iraqi delegation to discuss "expanding commercial relations" between Niger and Iraq. The intelligence report said that Mayaki interpreted "expanding commercial relations" to mean that the delegation wanted to discuss uranium yellowcake sales. The intelligence report also said that "although the meeting took place, Mayaki let the matter drop due to the UN sanctions on Iraq." [Page 43]

[...]

In an interview with Committee staff, the former ambassador was able to provide more information about the meeting between former Prime Minister Mayaki and the Iraqi delegation. The former ambassador said that Mayaki did meet with the Iraqi delegation but never discussed what was meant by "expanding commercial relations." The former ambassador said that because Mayaki was wary of discussing any trade issues with a country under United Nations (UN) sanctions, he made a successful effort to steer the conversation away from a discussion of trade with the Iraqi delegation.[Page 44]

On Fox News Sunday, Krauthammer again claimed that Wilson's op-ed "had some distortions in it which we later discovered a year later in the Senate Intelligence report," because Wilson's report to the CIA noted that the Iraqi delegation had traveled to Niger seeking "commercial relations." But Kruathammer ignored, as did Angle, the other sections of the Senate report that fully explained Wilson's findings concerning that delegation and their meeting with Mayaki.

Angle and Krauthammer were both discussing the April 6 revelation that court documents from special counsel Patrick Fitzgerald's investigation into the leak of CIA operative Valerie Plame's identity indicate that I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, former chief of staff to Vice President Dick Cheney, testified that Cheney informed him in July 2003 that President Bush authorized the disclosure of portions of a classified National Intelligence Estimate (NIE). According to Fitzgerald, Libby testified that this disclosure was intended to rebut Wilson, who had charged that the Bush administration distorted intelligence about Iraq's supposed nuclear weapons program in making the case for war.

From the April 7 edition of Fox News' Special Report with Brit Hume:

KRAUTHAMMER: And he [President Bush] had a good reason to make this not secret, and the reason was that the Joe Wilson article about the famous 16 words in the State of the Union, in which Wilson accused of administration of not only distorting the story of Iraq and Niger and uranium but actually distorting it purposely -- what's simply, as the Senate Intelligence Committee discovered a year later, was that charge, that story was wrong from beginning to end, and everything in between. Scooter Libby knows all this, but it's in this intelligence report. So he wants to counter with the truth. And that's why he released this information, the most important of which was that whereas the article by Wilson had left the impression that it was a slam-dunk no connection between Iraq and Niger. In fact he, himself, had reported orally -- not in writing, but orally, and it was in the CIA reports -- that Iraq had approached Niger three years earlier, looking for, quote, "commercial relations." Now, what does Niger have? It's got sand and uranium, and Iraq already has sand. So that was about uranium.

ANGLE: Well, let's look -- in fact, we have a section of that Senate report that we can show you that deals with this very thing, in which it talks about -- and this was what he had said, "[T]he most important fact in the report was" -- this, they're talking about Wilson's report -- "that the Nigerien officials admitted that the Iraqi delegation had traveled there in 1999, and that the Nigerien prime minister believed the Iraqis were interested in purchasing uranium." Now, [Boston Globe Washington bureau chief] Nina [Easton], they were unsuccessful in acquiring uranium.

EASTON: Right.

ANGLE: But he seemed to suggest that they had made an effort.

EASTON: Yeah, he seemed to suggest that.

From the April 9 broadcast of Fox Broadcasting Co.'s Fox News Sunday:

KRAUTHAMMER: This whole story is absurd. Of course it's not a leak. A leak is an unauthorized disclosure. In our system, the authority to disclose rests with the executive. That means the president. Who do people imagine decides what can be disclosed and what can't, you know, the Supreme Court justice with the most time on his hands? It has to be an executive function. And in this case, the president had excellent reason to release this information because there had been an accusation by Joe Wilson that the administration had distorted information about Iraq and Niger and uranium, an article had appeared, and that article had some distortions in it which we later discovered a year later in the Senate Intelligence report. So Scooter Libby knows about these distortions. At the time it could not be disclosed, so he needed to release them. And he did. And the important disclosure was that Wilson had neglected to mention in his article that even though he gave the impression that it was a slam-dunk, no connection between Iraq and Niger, in fact, Wilson himself had reported that Iraq had sent a delegation in Niger which had discussed commercial relations, which obviously is about uranium. That was left out, that had to be disclosed, and it was perfectly legitimate for the president to authorize that.

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