When I posted a piece here earlier today on the upcoming Hollywood film on the CIA Leak/Plame case, Fair Game, starring Naomi Watts and Sean Penn, I’d forgotten that seven years ago tonight one of the sparks for the episode arrived online: the Nick Kristof column that sent Dick Cheney batty and set off a search for the “former ambassador” (Joe Wilson) and led to the outing of his CIA agent wife (Plame).
So, for old times sake, here are the key grafs from the column. Note: four days earlier, Kristof had met Wilson at a panel and asked if he could use the informatin if he didn't name him. WIlson said: okay. Three weeks later, Scooter Libby starting asking questions.
"Consider the now-disproved claims by President Bush and Colin Powell that Iraq tried to buy uranium from Niger so it could build nuclear weapons. As Seymour Hersh noted in The New Yorker, the claims were based on documents that had been forged so amateurishly that they should never have been taken seriously.
"I'm told by a person involved in the Niger caper that more than a year ago the vice president's office asked for an investigation of the uranium deal, so a former U.S. ambassador to Africa was dispatched to Niger. In February 2002, according to someone present at the meetings, that envoy reported to the C.I.A. and State Department that the information was unequivocally wrong and that the documents had been forged.
"The envoy reported, for example, that a Niger minister whose signature was on one of the documents had in fact been out of office for more than a decade. In addition, the Niger mining program was structured so that the uranium diversion had been impossible. The envoy's debunking of the forgery was passed around the administration and seemed to be accepted -- except that President Bush and the State Department kept citing it anyway. ''It's disingenuous for the State Department people to say they were bamboozled because they knew about this for a year,'' one insider said.