Cheney Authorized Libby to Disclose Classified Documents
Once upon a time, a former agent of Italian military intelligence named
Rocco Martino, who had had some experience in the African country of Niger, came into possession of some forged, fraudulent documents.
These alleged Iraqi purchases of yellowcake uranium in 1999. In fact, the signatures were of Nigerien officials who had been in power a decade earlier, in the late 1980s.
So they were clumsy forgeries. Martino passed them on to the Italian magazine Panorama, which passed them to the US embassy.
Tantalizingly, President George W. Bush’s chief political adviser, Karl Rove, has an indirect connection to Italian intelligence.
Rove’s chief adviser on Iran policy is Neoconservative wildman and notorious warmonger Michael Ledeen,
who has a longstanding connection to the darker corners of Italian intelligence.
Vice President Richard Bruce Cheney heard of the alleged uranium purchase.
Cheney asked George Tenet to look into the allegation.
The issue went to the Directorate of Operations secret unit on counter-proliferation. Among the field officers there was Valerie Plame Wilson, who had spent her life fighting the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction under cover of a dummy corporation.
Valerie Plame Wilson was married to former US Ambassador Joseph Wilson IV, who had served bravely as acting ambassador in Iraq in 1990, and when threatened by Saddam he showed up to a press conference wearing a hanging noose instead of a necktie. President George H. W. Bush highly praised him.
Joe Wilson had not only served in Iraq, he also had been ambassador to the West African countries of Gabon and Sao Tome, and spoke fluent French. When Plame Wilson’s superiors brought up the possibility of sending him as a private citizen to look into the plausibility of the report that Saddam had bought Nigerien uranium, she was consulted and agreed (she was not part of the decision loop).
He went, and soon saw that the uranium industry in Niger was actually under the control of French companies and was strictly monitored.
There was no possibility of corrupt Nigerien officials selling it off under the table.
A separate military mission led by Marine General Carlton Fulford, Jr, deputy commander of the United States European Command (EUCOM), went to Niger the same month, February 2002.
Fulford quickly came to the same conclusion as Wilson, that it was implausible that al-Qaeda or anyone else could secretly buy uranium from Niger.
Wilson came back and was orally debriefed by people who wrote a report for Tenet, expecting that Tenet would pass it on to the high officials of the Bush administration.
Wilson was amazed when the Niger uranium story was put into Bush’s State of the Union address.
wanted Secretary of State Colin Powell to make allegations about Saddam and al-Qaeda before the United Nations Security Council. Powell was also pressed by someone to bring up the Niger uranium story.
Powell is said to have exclaimed, “I’m not reading this bullshit!”
Libby appears to have been a big influence on the speech Powell gave, almost every detail of which was inaccurate, and at which United Nations officials who heard it openly laughed.
After the war, Wilson wrote an opinion piece for the New York Times in which he revealed his mission and again called into question the Bush administration assertion that Iraq had an active nuclear weapons program.
Cheney was extremely upset by Wilson’s op-ed. He saw it as an allegation that he had personally sent Wilson and then ignored Wilson’s report. Or at least that was the spin. But Wilson had said no such thing in the article. He simply said that Cheney had asked Tenet to look into the story, which Cheney probably did.
Cheney was afraid that if the American public became convinced that there had been no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, the war effort would collapse, along with all those billions of no-bid uncompetitive contracts for Halliburton.
Cheney, it has now come out, then authorized Libby to leak the classified 2002 National Intelligence Estimate to the press.
The NIE, which may have been produced under pressure from Cheney himself, had incorrectly suggested that Iraq was only a few years from having a nuclear weapon. In fact, Iraq did not have an active weapons program at all after the early 1990s when it was dismantled by the UN inspectors. The pre-war NIE in any case was just old bad intelligence, which was contradicted by David Kay’s team on the ground in post-war Iraq, which just wasn’t finding much.
Libby now began telling reporters that Wilson’s wife was a CIA operative, itself classified information, since she was an undercover operative.
Karl Rove engaged in the same routine. Apparently Cheney, Rove and Libby (and Bush?) believed that Wilson’s credibility would be undermined if the Washington press corps could have it intimated to them that his story was a CIA plant.
Robert Novak used the information given him by the White House staff to out Valerie Plame Wilson as an undercover operative. Her career was ruined. All her contacts in the global South were burned, and their lives put in danger. The CIA’s careful project combating weapons of mass destruction collapsed.
The same administration that alleges it should be able to listen to our phone calls at will for national security purposes deliberately undermined US security for petty political purposes, making us all much less safe.
The likelihood is that the crimes of Bush, Cheney, Libby and Rove so far revealed are only the tip of the iceberg.
*The iceberg artwork, signed “Monk,” is mirrored on several sites on the internet; I can’t find any that seems the original but am glad to give credit if it is sought. It easily comes up on a google.images search.