Angle baselessly claimed that Wilson told the CIA that Iraq "tried, but failed" to get uranium from Niger

››› ››› RAPHAEL SCHWEBER-KOREN

Jim Angle baselessly claimed that Joe Wilson had reported to the CIA that "the Iraqis had indeed tried, but failed" to obtain uranium from Niger. According to a CIA report, a former Nigerien prime minister had "interpreted" an offer to meet with Iraqis on "expanding commercial relations" to mean that "Iraq wanted to discuss uranium yellowcake sales." But the report indicates only that Wilson told the CIA of the former prime minister's interpretation and provides no evidence that Wilson endorsed that view himself.

On the February 6 edition of Fox News' Special Report with Brit Hume, Fox News chief Washington correspondent Jim Angle baselessly claimed that when former Ambassador Joseph C. Wilson IV returned from his early 2002 trip to Niger to investigate reports that Iraq had recently acquired uranium from that country, he reported to the CIA that "the Iraqis had indeed tried, but failed." Angle asserted that this conflicted with what Wilson later told the public -- that he had found no evidence to support those reports. Similarly, on the February 7 edition of Special Report, Angle claimed that "Wilson's report to the CIA confirmed Iraq was trying to obtain uranium, but Wilson had not publicized that." As Media Matters for America has documented, according to a March 8, 2002, report by a CIA agent describing Wilson's findings, the former prime minister of Niger, Ibrahim Mayaki, had "interpreted" an offer to meet with Iraqis on "expanding commercial relations" to mean that "Iraq wanted to discuss uranium yellowcake sales." The report, however, indicates only that Wilson told the CIA of Mayaki's interpretation and provides no evidence that Wilson endorsed Mayaki's view himself. As Media Matters has also noted, according to the July 2004 Senate Intelligence Committee report about prewar intelligence on Iraq, Wilson said that Mayaki never confirmed the meaning of "expanding commercial relations."

Moreover, while the CIA interpreted Wilson's findings as confirmation of Iraq's supposed efforts to acquire uranium from Niger, as Media Matters has noted, the State Department's Bureau of Intelligence and Research (INR) interpreted his findings as confirmation that the Niger claim was not credible. An INR analyst, however, "said that the 'report could be read in different ways,' " according to the July 2004 Senate Intelligence Committee report.

Ultimately, subsequent reporting and investigations have found no evidence to support the allegation that Iraq tried to obtain uranium. In particular, the CIA's Iraq Survey Group (ISG), which investigated Iraq's weapons of mass destruction programs after the March 2003 invasion, stated in its 2004 final report that "ISG has not found evidence to show that Iraq sought uranium from abroad after 1991 or renewed indigenous production of such material -- activities that we believe would have constituted an Iraqi effort to reconstitute a nuclear weapons program."

Angle also asserted on February 6 that it was a "fact" that Wilson's wife, then-CIA operative Valerie Plame, had "sent Wilson on his mission" to Niger. Angle said this was "one of" the "facts" that "Vice President [Dick] Cheney wanted to get ... out" in response to Wilson's claims that his findings in Niger did not back up Bush's 2003 State of the Union claim that the Iraqi government had sought uranium from Africa. However, as Media Matters has noted, Angle's "fact" -- that Plame "sent" Wilson to Niger -- is highly disputed. In particular, unnamed intelligence officials have been quoted in news reports claiming that the CIA -- not Plame -- selected Wilson for the mission, and CIA officials have reportedly disputed the portions of a classified State Department memo indicating Plame suggested Wilson for the mission.

From the February 6 edition of Fox News' Special Report with Brit Hume:

ANGLE: Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald played another four and a half hours of [former vice presidential chief of staff I. Lewis] Scooter Libby's grand jury testimony today, in which he took Libby through one conversation after another, in an effort to lay out what Fitzgerald sees as a scheme to discredit former Ambassador Joe Wilson, who had written an op-ed accusing the administration of twisting the intelligence on Iraq.

In the tapes from the grand jury, Fitzgerald asks Libby: "Is it fair to say there was an effort to undermine his credibility as an expert?" Libby: "I don't know about that. My view was if we could get the facts about what he had done, that would be more than sufficient, and that the CIA had not accepted what he had done as refuting the point."

The point was whether or not Saddam Hussein was trying to buy uranium in Africa, in this case in Niger. Joe Wilson's leaks to reporters about his trip, and his own op-ed, claimed there was no evidence Saddam Hussein was trying to obtain uranium. But in his report to the CIA, he said the Iraqis had indeed tried, but failed. And a CIA officer who reviewed the report later told the Senate Intelligence Committee that he "judged that the most important fact in the report was the Nigerien officials believed the Iraqis were interested in purchasing uranium." Important because it confirmed intelligence reports from other governments, something Wilson left out of all of his public comments.

Libby explained how this was seen as an attack on the administration that had generated considerable discussion at the White House and that Vice President Cheney wanted to get all the facts out. One of those facts was that the vice president hadn't sent Wilson on his mission, his wife, who worked at the CIA, had. Libby freely told investigators he thought he learned that from NBC's Tim Russert on July 10th, but found a document showing the vice president himself first mentioned it weeks before.

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

ANGLE: Libby had called Russert to complain about what he saw as inaccurate coverage by Chris Matthews on MSNBC's Hardball, suggesting the vice president knew all about Wilson's trip but disregarded his findings to exaggerate the threat from Iraq. Though Wilson's report to the CIA confirmed Iraq was trying to obtain uranium, but Wilson had not publicized that. Russert said Libby was agitated about Wilson's claims and that Matthews was throwing Libby's name around.

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