Wash. Post's VandeHei wrongly reported as fact that Wilson was sent to Niger "at the suggestion of his wife"


In an October 13 Washington Post article, staff writer Jim VandeHei reported as fact an allegation in great dispute -- that former ambassador Joseph C. Wilson IV was sent to Niger in 2002 "at the suggestion of his wife," former CIA operative Valerie Plame. Wilson, a former diplomat specializing in Africa, was sent to Niger in 2002 by the CIA to investigate a reported sale of Nigerian yellowcake uranium to Iraq. The CIA, however, denied that Plame selected Wilson for the trip, and the Senate Intelligence Committee did not reach an official conclusion as to who made the decision to appoint Wilson to the mission.

As Media Matters for America noted, the CIA has disputed the allegation that Wilson received the assigment based on Plame's influence. A July 22, 2003, Newsday article quoted an unidentified senior intelligence official as saying: "They [the officers asking Wilson to check the uranium story] were aware of who she [Plame] was married to, which is not surprising. ... There are people elsewhere in government who are trying to make her look like she was the one who was cooking this up, for some reason." According to a July 21, 2004, USA Today article:

The [Senate Intelligence] committee also questioned Wilson's repeated denials that his wife had "anything to do" with his selection by the CIA to go to Niger. It quoted from a memo by Plame that lays out Wilson's qualifications for the assignment. Wilson and the CIA confirm that the agency, not Plame, selected him for the mission. He says the memo merely laid out his qualifications after he was picked.

The Senate Intelligence Committee's 2004 "Report on the U.S. Intelligence Community's Prewar Intelligence Assessments on Iraq" said that "interviews and documents provided to the Committee indicated that his [Wilson's] wife, a CPD [Counterproliferation Divison] employee, suggested his name for the trip." But CIA officials have disputed the accuracy of a State Department intelligence document that reportedly indicates that Plame "suggested" Wilson's name for the trip. Moreover, the bipartisan committee did not officially conclude that Plame suggested the trip. In a partisan addendum to the report, committee chairman Sen. Pat Roberts (R-KS) wrote that Democrats opposed including the statement: "The plan to send the former ambassador to Niger was suggested by the former ambassador's wife, a CIA employee," in the full report.

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