I did some digging on the Rove/Wilson affair in response to a comment on Slashdot and was surprised what I found. Some of the more interesting bits follow:
This whole thing started when the State of the Union address said, “The British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa.”
Here’s what the Financial Times of London wrote:
“European intelligence officers have now revealed that three years before the fake documents became public, human and electronic intelligence sources from a number of countries picked up repeated discussion of an illicit trade in uranium from Niger. One of the customers discussed by the traders was Iraq.”
The CIA uses ‘NCO’ officers – people in normal jobs as operatives. Their identies are closely guarded secrets, and not even the President knows about most of them. Valarie Plame was working out of Langley when this ‘leak’ occurred, meaning she wasn’t an NCO at the time (though she was in the past). It’s only illegal to intentionally disclose the identity of an active NCO.
It has been suggested that Rove learned about Plame’s identity from a media source, perhaps Robert Novak. He apparently mentioned it in passing to Matt Cooper of Time Magazine, as an uncorroborated piece of information while trying to steer Cooper away from believing Wilson.
On Wilson’s veracity: The (bipartisan) Senate Intelligence Committee’s report on the matter establishes that Wilson gave an oral report to the CIA which was considered ‘mildly-supportive’ of the case for Iraq shopping for yellow cake. Which is not what he wrote in the NYT Op-Ed that started this matter. They also establish that his wife got him the job. Which isn’t a problem, except Wilson said in his book, “Valerie had nothing to do with the matter, she definitely had not proposed that I make the trip.”
Here’s what the Washington Post wrote about the Committee’s report:
“Wilson’s assertions – both about what he found in Niger and what the Bush administration did with the information – were undermined yesterday in a bipartisan Senate intelligence committee report.
The panel found that Wilson’s report, rather than debunking intelligence about purported uranium sales to Iraq, as he has said, bolstered the case for most intelligence analysts. And contrary to Wilson’s assertions and even the government’s previous statements, the CIA did not tell the White House it had qualms about the reliability of the Africa intelligence that made its way into 16 fateful words in President Bush’s January 2003 State of the Union address…. The report states that a CIA official told the Senate committee that Plame “offered up” Wilson’s name for the Niger trip, then on Feb. 12, 2002, sent a memo to a deputy chief in the CIA’s Directorate of Operations saying her 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.” The next day, the operations official cabled an overseas officer seeking concurrence with the idea of sending Wilson, the report said…. The report also said Wilson provided misleading information to The Washington Post last June. He said then that he concluded the Niger intelligence was based on documents that had clearly been forged because “the dates were wrong and the names were wrong.” Committee staff asked how the former ambassador could have come to the conclusion that the ‘dates were wrong and the names were wrong’ when he had never seen the CIA reports and had no knowledge of what names and dates were in the reports,” the Senate panel said. Wilson told the panel he may have been confused and may have “misspoken” to reporters. The documents – purported sales agreements between Niger and Iraq – were not in U.S. hands until eight months after Wilson made his trip to Niger.”
On the subject of outing NCO’s, the New York Times deserves special mention. They exposed the operations of Aero Contractors as a CIA front, operating since 1979, in May of this year. Those were active NCO’s involved with real active missions.