In taped CNN interview, Gannon misrepresented Senate Intel report findings on Joe Wilson


In an interview with CNN anchor Wolf Blitzer, former Talon News Washington bureau chief and White House correspondent Jeff Gannon falsely claimed that the Senate Intelligence Committee "chastised" former Ambassador Joseph C. Wilson IV "for essentially misleading everybody along" by denying that his wife, former CIA operative Valerie Plame, was responsible for the CIA's decision to send Wilson to Niger to investigate allegations that Iraq had tried to purchase uranium from the west African nation.

On the February 11 edition of News from CNN, Blitzer showed a clip of his interview with Gannon from the evening before, part of which had aired on the February 10 edition of Wolf Blitzer Reports. In the clip, Gannon explained why the Justice Department had interviewed him as part of its investigation into the leak of Plame's identity as a CIA undercover operative:

GANNON: They were interested in where -- how I knew or received a copy of a confidential CIA memo that said that uh, Valerie Plame suggested that Joe Wilson be sent on this mission -- something that they have all vigorously denied but which is, in effect, true. The Senate Intelligence Committee eight months later, when they issued their report, said that and chastised Joe Wilson for essentially misleading everybody all along, and that's the day Joe Wilson was no longer a [Senator John] Kerry [presidential] campaign adviser.

In fact, the Senate Intelligence Committee's report (pdf) did not reach a conclusion about how the CIA made its decision, much less "chastise" Wilson, who had denied that his wife had "anything to do" with the CIA's decision. Here's what the report stated:

Some CPD [CIA's Directorate of Operations, Counterproliferation Division] officials could not recall how the office decided to contact the former ambassador, however, interviews and documents provided to the committee indicate that his wife, a former CPD employee, suggested his name for the trip. The CPD reports officer told Committee staff that the former ambassador's wife "offered up his name" and a memorandum to the Deputy Chief of CPD on February 12, 2002, from the former ambassador's wife says, "my husband has good relations with both the PM [prime minister] and the former Minister of Mines (not to mention lots of French contacts), both of whom could possibly shed light on this sort of activity." This was just one day before CPD sent a cable [blacked out] requesting concurrence with CPD's idea to send the former ambassador to Niger and requesting any additional information from the foreign government service on their uranium reports. [p. 39; PDF p. 49]

The Senate report did not mention that an unnamed CIA official told the Los Angeles Times that Wilson's denial was accurate. The Times reported on July 15, 2004: "A senior intelligence official said the CIA supports Wilson's version: 'Her bosses say she did not initiate the idea of her husband going. ... They asked her if he'd be willing to go, and she said yes,' the official said."

Contrary to Gannon's assertions that the Senate Intelligence Committee "chastised" Wilson, it was only Republicans on the committee who "chastised" Wilson. In an additional statement, which was not part of the unanimous bipartisan report, Senators Pat Roberts (R-KS), Christopher S. Bond (R-MO), and Orrin G. Hatch (R-UT) [pp. 443-45; PDF pp. 453-55] attacked Wilson's credibility.

Gannon's false claim echoes his assertion in a July 15, 2004, White House press briefing, in which he asked White House press secretary Scott McClellan:

Q: Last Friday, the Senate Intelligence Committee released a report that shows that Ambassador Joe Wilson lied when he said his wife didn't put him up for the mission to Niger. The British inquiry into their own prewar intelligence yesterday concluded that the President's 16 words ["The British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa"] were "well-founded." Doesn't Joe Wilson owe the President and America an apology for his deception and his own intelligence failure?

Media Ethics
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