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Thread: Clinton National Security Advisor Sandy Berger Took Terror Files

  1. #16
    Big Red Machine RedsBaron's Avatar
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    Re: Clinton National Security Advisor Sandy Berger Took Terror Files

    I find the entire Berger story to be bizarre. Surely he knew the documents were microfilmed and he knew that there were surveillance cameras. He probably was just sloppy, but this is a strange story.
    "Hey...Dad. Wanna Have A Catch?" Kevin Costner in "Field Of Dreams."

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  3. #17
    Potential Lunch Winner Dom Heffner's Avatar
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    Re: Clinton National Security Advisor Sandy Berger Took Terror Files

    GAC wrote:

    Not yet because it's still ongoing. But then when you purposely pilfer from the National Archives, and then, "accidentally discard" highly classified terrorism documents that deal solely with the former adminstration inwhich you served.... then what are people to think/presume? No big deal?

    Wow, GAC. You finally come out of hiding to take on Sandy Berger. Wow! What a snare! This is really going to affect the election. John Kerry will be shaking in his shoes!

    Of course the GOP talk shows are going to talk about this. They have nothing else. They already used the terror alert last week, so they don't have that. Kerry and Edwards are beating them in Florida, New Mexico, New Hampshire, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Michigan and all but 3 of the battleground states.

    I guess if I had that type of week as a Republican, I'd bring this up too.

    GAC, I'll believe an ounce of your outrage over this as soon as you give us one iota of disapproval over this administration's handling of the war.

    Sandy Berger or missing WMD's: Sandy Berger it is.

    "All of the talk shows."

    That might be the lamest thing I've heard. Well, gee, when they are all right-wing shows, what would you expect? When the prison abuse scandal was going on, they defended the military, Bush and Rumsfeld.

    According to Rush, these were just fraternity pranks.

    Well if raping children is how you get into Delta Tau Delta, count me out.
    Last edited by Dom Heffner; 07-20-2004 at 01:51 PM.
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  4. #18
    THAT'S A FACT JACK!! GAC's Avatar
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    Re: Clinton National Security Advisor Sandy Berger Took Terror Files

    Quote Originally Posted by Dom Heffner
    GAC wrote:

    Not yet because it's still ongoing. But then when you purposely pilfer from the National Archives, and then, "accidentally discard" highly classified terrorism documents that deal solely with the former adminstration inwhich you served.... then what are people to think/presume? No big deal?

    Wow, GAC. You finally come out of hiding to take on Sandy Berger. Wow! What a snare! This is really going to affect the election. John Kerry will be shaking in his shoes!

    Of course the GOP talk shows are going to talk about this. They have nothing else. They already used the terror alert last week, so they don't have that. Kerry and Edwards are beating them in Florida, New Mexico, New Hampshire, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Michigan and all but 3 of the battleground states.

    I guess if I had that type of week as a Republican, I'd bring this up too.

    GAC, I'll believe an ounce of your outrage over this as soon as you give us one iota of disapproval over this administration's handling of the war.

    Sandy Berger or missing WMD's: Sandy Berger it is.

    "All of the talk shows."

    That might be the lamest thing I've heard. Well, gee, when they are all right-wing shows, what would you expect? When the prison abuse scandal was going on, they defended the military, Bush and Rumsfeld.

    According to Rush, these were just fraternity pranks.

    Well if raping children is how you get into Delta Tau Delta, count me out.

    Nice rant Howard Dean. Now why don't you stick to the subject at hand?

    My outage? You do follow the news don't you Dom? ....

    Chicago Sun Times... http://www.suntimes.com/output/terro...ws-berg20.html

    NY Times... http://www.nytimes.com/2004/07/20/po...0CND-BERG.html


    This theft was witnessed, caught on camera, and reported by employees of the National Archives.

    The story was reported/broke by the Associated Press.

    And yes Dom, this is news. Will it effect the election? That was not my intent.

    My name isn't Micheal Moore (but you believe everything that comes out of his mouth or on film).

    But here is a former National Security Advisor reviewing documents at the National Archives at the bequest of the 9/11 Commission, and to determine what should be turned over to them in order to aid their investigation. Instead, Berger decides to stuff highly classified and sensitive terrorist documents into his pants/pockets.

    However, some of the drafts he took, which are of a sensitive after-action report on the Clinton administration's handling of al-Qaida terror threats during the December 1999 millennium celebration, are still missing, officials and lawyers told The Associated Press. What a coincedence.

    So you explain to our viewing audience here Dom as to why Berger did this?

    From the NY Times...

    Mr. Berger said Monday he deeply regretted "the sloppiness involved"

    Yeah... the next time you want to steal and destroy highly classified documents then either take a brief case or wear bigger pants.

    and that he did not intend to keep any document from the commission.

    Not when your intent is to destroy them.

    Dear Mr Berger: It is a criminal offense to remove those documents from the National Archive to begin with, and don't say you didn't know this.

    So you can rant away about WMD or whatever Dom. That does not exonerate or justify what Berger did. Period!
    "panic" only comes from having real expectations

  5. #19
    Member Marty and Joe's Avatar
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    Re: Clinton National Security Advisor Sandy Berger Took Terror Files

    I'm sorry, but 'sloppiness'???? This is the former National Security Advisor, right? No one can tell me he didn't realize/know what he was doing.

  6. #20
    THAT'S A FACT JACK!! GAC's Avatar
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    Re: Clinton National Security Advisor Sandy Berger Took Terror Files

    Quote Originally Posted by RedBloodedAmerican
    Accident's do happen, I am sure an investigation is on going. Just like the "inadvert" leaking of a deep cover CIA agent.
    Rob... you know how much I respect ya man (and I do). But to excuse what happened here by saying "accidents do happen" simply amazes me. Over the last several months, when it has involved any issue with a conservative or the Bush administration...any accusation at all.... it's factual, a guilty verdict is handed down, and there is a conspiracy at foot.

    But here it was simply an "accident"?

    He had no business or authority to take those documents out of the National Archives to begin with (regardless if they were copies). He was sent there by the commission to review/critique them. Not stuff them in his pants pockets! That act in itself makes it look very,very shady. Why didn't he simply put them in a briefcase if he felt he could take them home to review?

    Sorry if I don't by this "sloppiness" excuse.
    "panic" only comes from having real expectations

  7. #21
    RaisorZone Raisor's Avatar
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    Re: Clinton National Security Advisor Sandy Berger Took Terror Files

    Foxnews is reporting that Berger has resigned from the Kerry campaign.
    "But I do know Joey's sister indirectly (or foster sister) and I have heard stories of Joey being into shopping, designer wear, fancy coffees, and pedicures."

  8. #22
    Big Red Machine RedsBaron's Avatar
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    Re: Clinton National Security Advisor Sandy Berger Took Terror Files

    Bizarre. If Berger had evil intent, he had to know he couldn't get away with it, but how could he stuff classified documents down his pants, and why? Bizarre.
    "Hey...Dad. Wanna Have A Catch?" Kevin Costner in "Field Of Dreams."

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    THAT'S A FACT JACK!! GAC's Avatar
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    Re: Clinton National Security Advisor Sandy Berger Took Terror Files

    Quote Originally Posted by Raisor
    Foxnews is reporting that Berger has resigned from the Kerry campaign.
    This can't be true because Fox is reporting it.

    Kerry gave him the easy out....

    "Resign with dignity Sandy. And security!...check his pants pockets on the way out!" :mhcky21:
    "panic" only comes from having real expectations

  10. #24
    CELEBRATION TIME RBA's Avatar
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    Re: Clinton National Security Advisor Sandy Berger Took Terror Files

    This story is out there to distract us from what's coming out in the 9/11 report and the Plame indictments coming. Another example of the "liberal" media laying cover fire for the Bush Administation.

    Anyone notice the irony of some here who defend the Bush Administration because they can do wrong, but waste no time condemning a Democrats lack of judgment?

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    Re: Clinton National Security Advisor Sandy Berger Took Terror Files

    CNN on Crossfire it was pointed out that the White House


    called them no LESS than 3 times this morning to talk about the berger story


    It's all coming together now.

  12. #26
    Smells Like Teen Spirit jmcclain19's Avatar
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    Re: Clinton National Security Advisor Sandy Berger Took Terror Files

    I can tell you that a place where security level documents are handled, and the "accidental" taking or discarding of them is a joke.

    When you are issued your security clearance, you are told, repeatedly in your briefing, as well as repeatedly as an employee, that if you see anything out of the ordinary with classified or secret material, you report it. Failure to do so means that not only the person doing the mishandling will be in trouble, but you as well, for not reporting it. Trouble meaning losing your security clearance, in essense, your job.

    I find this highly suspect.

  13. #27
    Big Red Machine RedsBaron's Avatar
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    Re: Clinton National Security Advisor Sandy Berger Took Terror Files

    Quote Originally Posted by RedBloodedAmerican
    This story is out there to distract us from what's coming out in the 9/11 report and the Plame indictments coming. Another example of the "liberal" media laying cover fire for the Bush Administation.

    Anyone notice the irony of some here who defend the Bush Administration because they can do wrong, but waste no time condemning a Democrats lack of judgment?
    No more ironic than your continued series of posts consistently blasting the Bush administration and not criticizing Democrats. Maybe I've missed them, but please refer us to your posts and threads wherein you defended anything the Bush administration did or condemned the Democrats.
    As for the "Plame indictments coming," well, maybe. Her husband's prior versions of events has now been challenged as I assume you know.
    "Hey...Dad. Wanna Have A Catch?" Kevin Costner in "Field Of Dreams."

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    Re: Clinton National Security Advisor Sandy Berger Took Terror Files

    Quote Originally Posted by RedsBaron
    No more ironic than your continued series of posts consistently blasting the Bush administration and not criticizing Democrats. Maybe I've missed them, but please refer us to your posts and threads wherein you defended anything the Bush administartion did or condemned the Democrats.
    As for the "Plame indictments coming," well, maybe. Her husband's prior versions of events has now been challenged as I assume you know.

    I know and they have been debunked as I assume you know.


    Bashing Joe Wilson
    July 20, 2004


    The is column from The Nation was written by David Corn.
    --------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    The Senate intelligence committee's report on prewar intelligence demonstrates that George W. Bush launched a war predicated on false assertions about weapons of mass destruction and misled the country when he claimed Saddam Hussein was in cahoots in al Qaeda. But what has caused outrage within conservative quarters? Passages in the report that they claim undermine the credibility of former Ambassador Joseph Wilson.

    Wilson, if you need to be reminded, embarrassed the Bush administration a year ago when he revealed that he had traveled to Niger in February 2002 to check out the allegation that Hussein had been shopping for uranium there. In his 2003 State of the Union address, Bush had referred to Iraq's supposed attempt to obtain uranium in Africa to suggest Hussein was close to possessing a nuclear weapon. When Bush's use of this allegation become a matter of controversy last summer, Wilson went public with a New York Times op-ed piece in which he noted his private mission to Niger -- which he had taken on behalf of the CIA -- had led him to conclude the allegation was highly unlikely. After Wilson's article appeared, the White House conceded that Bush should not have included this charge in his speech.

    A week later, Wilson received the payback. Conservative columnist Robert Novak, quoting two unnamed administration sources, reported that Wilson's wife, Valerie Wilson (nee Plame), was a CIA operative working in the counter-proliferation field. Novak revealed her identity to suggest that Wilson had been sent to Niger due to nepotism not his experience. The point of Novak's column was to call Wilson's trip and his findings into question.

    The real story was that Novak's sources -- presumably White House officials -- might have violated the law prohibiting government officials from identifying a covert officer of the United States government. Outing Valerie Wilson was a possible felony and -- to boot -- compromised national security. Two months later, the news broke that the CIA had asked the Justice Department to investigate the Wilson leak. And a U.S. attorney named Patrick Fitzgerald has been on the case since the start of this year, leading an investigation that has included questioning Bush.

    But now Wilson's detractors on the right claim the critical issue is Wilson's credibility on two points: whether his wife was involved in the decision to send him to Niger and whether he accurately portrayed his findings regarding his Niger trip. And they have made use of the Senate intelligence report -- particularly additional comments filed by committee chairman Pat Roberts and two other Republican members of the committee, Kit Bond and Orrin Hatch -- to pound Wilson. But not only does the get-Wilson crusade ignore the main question -- did White House officials break the law and damage national security to take a swing at a critic? -- it overstates and manipulates the material in the Senate report.

    The first shot at Wilson actually came from The Washington Post. The day after the Senate report was released, Post reporter Susan Schmidt did an entire piece on the portion of the report related to the Niger episode. (By the way, the Post devoted more space to the Wilson affair than to the report's conclusion that there was no intelligence to back up Bush's assertion that Iraq and al Qaeda had maintained a working relationship.) In this story, Schmidt claimed that Wilson was "specifically recommended for the [Niger] mission by his wife, a CIA employee, contrary to what he has said publicly." She also reported that the intelligence committee "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." Schmidt added, "The report may bolster the rationale that administration officials provided the information not to intentionally expose an undercover CIA employee, but to call into question Wilson's bona fides as an investigator into trafficking of weapons of mass destruction."

    Within days, Tim Graham, an analyst at the conservative Media Research Center, wrote a piece for The National Review pointing to the Schmidt article and decrying the "truth-telling problems" of Wilson, whose recent best-selling book is titled The Politics of Truth. Then Novak, returning to the scene of the (possible) crime, cited the committee report and the Republicans' additional comments to prove that he had been right to report in his original column that Wilson's wife had been behind the move to send Wilson to Niger. And Novak approvingly quoted Senator Roberts blast at Wilson: "Rather than speaking publicly about his actual experiences during his inquiry of the Niger issue, the former ambassador seems to have included information he learned from press accounts and from his beliefs about how the Intelligence Community would have or should have handled the information he provided. ... Time and again, Joe Wilson told anyone who would listen that the president had lied to the American people, that the vice president had lied, and that he had 'debunked' the claim that Iraq was seeking uranium from Africa. . . . [N]ot only did he NOT 'debunk' the claim, he actually gave some intelligence analysts even more reason to believe that it may be true." (In this column, Novak did not explore the ethics or legality of White House officials identifying CIA officers.) And then, of course, The Wall Street Journal's editorial page piled on. So did the Republican National Committee.

    Wilson has written a response to Roberts that addresses many of the criticisms being hurled at him. (See it here. And read Roberts comments here and decide who makes the better case.) But let's sort out some of the various claims. First, what the report says about Valerie Wilson's role in this business. In his book, Wilson writes, "Apart from being the conduit for a message from a colleague in her office asking if I would be willing to have a conversation about Niger's uranium industry [with CIA counter-proliferation experts], Valerie had had nothing to do with the matter. Though she worked on weapons of mass destruction issues, she was not at the meeting I attended where the subject of Niger's uranium was discussed, when the possibility of my actually traveling to the country was broached. She definitely had not proposed that I make the trip."

    So what if she had? A week in Niamey for no pay was hardly a junket. What would have been wrong with a CIA officer telling another CIA officer, hey my husband, a former ambassador, is an Africa expert with experience in Niger, perhaps you should send him to Niger to see what he can learn? But because Wilson is on record saying it did not happen this way, the question is whether he has been truthful.

    The intelligence committee report says, "Some [CIA Counter-proliferation 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 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 the CPD on February 12, 2002, from [Valerie Wilson] 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.'...The former ambassador's wife told Committee staff that when CPD decided it would like to send the former ambassador to Niger, she approached her husband on behalf of the CIA."

    The report also notes, "On February 19, 2002, CPD hosted a meeting with the former ambassador, intelligence analysts from both the CIA and INR [the State Department's intelligence unit], and several individuals from the [Directorate of Operations'] Africa and CPD divisions. The purpose of the meeting was to discuss the merits of [Wilson] traveling to Niger. An INR analyst's notes indicate that the meeting was 'apparently convened by [Wilson's] wife who had the idea to dispatch [him] to use his contacts to sort out the Iraq-Niger uranium issue. The former ambassador's wife told Committee staff that she only attended the meeting to introduce her husband and left after about three minutes."

    This is not what ex-CIA chief George Tenet would call a slam-dunk case against Wilson. Sure, some of the evidence seems to contradict his account. But Valerie Wilson could have "offered up" his name as a handy person to contact about allegations concerning Niger's uranium trade without suggesting he get on a plane to Niger. And it is certainly imaginable that an INR analyst sitting in a meeting in which there is talk of dispatching a CIA officer's husband to Africa could have received the impression that his wife had initiated the mission. But if that was the case, why did Valerie Wilson attend for only a few minutes? If Valerie Wilson's account of this meeting is not accurate, where are the contradicting accounts from the other participants? Why does the report not quote them on this topic? Since only a week elapsed between the time Valerie Wilson "offered up" her husband and a meeting was held to consider sending him to Niger, it is possible that someone participating in the matter might have thought that Valerie Wilson's original advice -- talk to my husband -- was related to question of sending an unofficial envoy to Niger to seek out additional information.

    When Wilson returned from Niger two CIA officers debriefed him. "The debriefing," the Senate report says, "took place in the former ambassador's home and although his wife was there, according to the reports officer, she acted as a hostess and did not participate in the debrief." If Valerie Wilson had played a key role in sending Joseph Wilson to Niger, would she have skipped out on this debriefing? Perhaps. But this scene reinforces Wilson's claim that she was not deeply involved in his Niger trip.

    It may be that in some of his public remarks, Wilson underplayed his wife's involvement in his trip. After all, according to the Senate intelligence committee's report, she did write at least one memo on the subject. But it is not clear from the report that she specifically advocated he be sent to Niger. Again, it makes little difference -- or it should make little difference -- whether Valerie Wilson said to her CIA colleagues "contact my husband" or said to them "you should put him on a plane to Niamey immediately." The report notes that the CIA people in charge of investigating the Niger allegation deliberated over what to do and then reached the decision to ask Wilson to perform a pro bono act of public service. And he said yes. He had the experience for the job. His trip was not a boondoggle arranged by his wife for his or their benefit.

    Now on to the claim that Wilson's report to the CIA actually provided more reason to believe Iraq had been seeking yellowcake uranium. In his debriefing Wilson reported that former Nigerian Prime Minister Ibrahim Mayaki had told him that in 1999 he had been asked to meet with an Iraqi delegation to discuss "expanding commercial relations" between Niger and Iraq. Mayaki said he assumed the delegation wanted to discuss uranium sales. But he said that although he had met with the delegation he had not been interested in pursuing any commercial dealings with Iraq. The intelligence report based on Wilson's debriefing also noted that the former minister of mines explained to Wilson that given the tight controls maintained by the French consortium in charge of uranium mining in Niger, it would be difficult, if not impossible, to arrange a shipment of uranium to a pariah state.

    What did this report mean to the intelligence community? A CIA reports officer told the Senate intelligence committee that he took it as indirect confirmation of the allegation since Nigerian officials had admitted that an Iraqi delegation had traveled there in 1999 and since the former prime minister had said he believed Iraq was interested in purchasing uranium. But an INR analyst said that he considered the report to be corroboration of INR's position, which was that the allegation was "highly suspect" because Niger would be unlikely to engage in such a transaction and unable to transfer uranium to Iraq due to the strict controls maintained by the French consortium. But the INR analyst added, the "report could be read in different ways."

    Wilson's work was thrown into the stew. The CIA continued to disseminate a report noting that a foreign intelligence service had told U.S. intelligence that Niger had agreed to supply Iraq with hundreds of tons of uranium. And in the National Intelligence Estimate produced in October 2002, the intelligence community reported that Iraq had been trying to strike a uranium deal with Niger in 2001. But the NIE noted that INR strongly disagreed with this assessment. And when the National Security Council drafted a speech for Bush in October 2002 the CIA recommended the address not include the Niger allegation because it was "debatable" whether the yellowcake could be obtained from Niger. In a follow-up fax to the NSC, the CIA said "the evidence is weak" and "the procurement is not particularly significant to Iraq's nuclear ambitions because the Iraqis already have a large stock of uranium oxide in their inventory." Still, in late January 2003 -- after the INR's Iraq analyst had concluded that papers recently obtained by U.S. intelligence related to the supposed Iraqi-Niger uranium deal were "clearly a forgery" -- Bush went ahead and accused Iraq of seeking uranium in Africa.

    But on April 5, 2003, the National Intelligence Council issued a memo that noted, "we judge it highly unlikely that Niamey has sold uranium yellowcake to Baghdad in recent years." It added that the government of Niger was unlikely to proceed with such a deal. And on June 17, 2003, the CIA produced a memo that said, "since learning that the Iraq-Niger uranium deal was based on false documents earlier this spring, we no longer believe that there is sufficient other reporting to conclude that Iraq pursued uranium from aboard."

    So Wilson's assessment ended up being accepted by the CIA. His reporting may not have been conclusive. But as we have been told repeatedly this past week, such is often the case in intelligence collection. After coming back from Niger, Wilson's view -- which he did not express publicly for nearly a year and a half -- was different from that held by CIA analysts. Yet his conclusion -- that the Niger allegation was probably bunk -- was in line with the thinking of the State Department's lead analyst on this matter. And Wilson's reasoning came to prevail and to be shared by the intelligence community. For some reason, Novak does not mention this in his recent column.

    Finally, let's address Schmidt's claim that the Senate intelligence committee's report "may bolster" the defense of the leakers -- whoever they are. Whether their motivation was to punish Wilson for speaking out or to try to undermine his credibility by suggesting his only bona fides for the Niger trip was his marriage license, blowing Valerie Wilson's cover still was a possible crime and an odious act. The law does not allow a government official to reveal a CIA officer -- and jeopardizing the officer, her contacts, and her operations -- to score political points.

    What Wilson told his CIA contacts, what he told reporters, what he said in public -- accurate or not -- did not justify disclosing Valerie Wilson's identity. Nor did it justify the subsequent White House effort to encourage other reporters to pursue the Valerie Wilson story. The leak was thuggish and possibly felonious. And the Wilsons and others are waiting to see what comes from Fitzgerald's investigation. (NBC News reported recently that the probe had expanded to examine possible acts of perjury and lying to investigators.) There is no telling if the investigation will end with indictments or whitewashing. It has been a mostly leak-free probe, and even senior people at the Justice Department say they have no idea where Fitzgerald is heading -- if anywhere.

    Whatever Fitzgerald's criminal investigation produces, the Wilsons were wronged. And Bush and his White House crew did nothing to seek out or punish the Novak-enabled leakers who placed politics ahead of national security and decency. Instead, White House officials peddled the leak further to discredit Wilson, and GOPers have been seeking to blast him ever since.

    Roberts and other Republicans are using the intelligence committee's report to whack Wilson, a prominent opponent of the Iraq war and a foreign policy adviser to Senator John Kerry, the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee. If only Roberts' committee had applied as much time and energy into investigating the Wilson leak (and how the White House reacted to the leak) as it did to the actions of Valerie Wilson. But the leak is a subject that, for some odd reason, has escaped the attention of Roberts' investigators. And Roberts and his ideological comrades are exploiting the release of the committee's report to blame the victims of the leak. They are far more angered by alleged (or trumped-up) inconsistencies in Wilson's account than by Bush's misrepresentation of the prewar intelligence. Talk about overstating a problem.

    David Corn is the Washington editor of The Nation magazine.
    Last edited by RBA; 07-20-2004 at 07:50 PM.

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    Big Red Machine RedsBaron's Avatar
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    Re: Clinton National Security Advisor Sandy Berger Took Terror Files

    Quote Originally Posted by RedBloodedAmerican
    I know and they have been debunked as I assume you know.
    Can't that I know that. Perhaps when you refer us to all of your posts/threads defending Bush and condemning Democrats you can share that with us as well.
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    Re: Clinton National Security Advisor Sandy Berger Took Terror Files

    Bashing Joe Wilson
    July 20, 2004


    The is column from The Nation was written by David Corn.
    --------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    The Senate intelligence committee's report on prewar intelligence demonstrates that George W. Bush launched a war predicated on false assertions about weapons of mass destruction and misled the country when he claimed Saddam Hussein was in cahoots in al Qaeda. But what has caused outrage within conservative quarters? Passages in the report that they claim undermine the credibility of former Ambassador Joseph Wilson.

    Wilson, if you need to be reminded, embarrassed the Bush administration a year ago when he revealed that he had traveled to Niger in February 2002 to check out the allegation that Hussein had been shopping for uranium there. In his 2003 State of the Union address, Bush had referred to Iraq's supposed attempt to obtain uranium in Africa to suggest Hussein was close to possessing a nuclear weapon. When Bush's use of this allegation become a matter of controversy last summer, Wilson went public with a New York Times op-ed piece in which he noted his private mission to Niger -- which he had taken on behalf of the CIA -- had led him to conclude the allegation was highly unlikely. After Wilson's article appeared, the White House conceded that Bush should not have included this charge in his speech.

    A week later, Wilson received the payback. Conservative columnist Robert Novak, quoting two unnamed administration sources, reported that Wilson's wife, Valerie Wilson (nee Plame), was a CIA operative working in the counter-proliferation field. Novak revealed her identity to suggest that Wilson had been sent to Niger due to nepotism not his experience. The point of Novak's column was to call Wilson's trip and his findings into question.

    The real story was that Novak's sources -- presumably White House officials -- might have violated the law prohibiting government officials from identifying a covert officer of the United States government. Outing Valerie Wilson was a possible felony and -- to boot -- compromised national security. Two months later, the news broke that the CIA had asked the Justice Department to investigate the Wilson leak. And a U.S. attorney named Patrick Fitzgerald has been on the case since the start of this year, leading an investigation that has included questioning Bush.

    But now Wilson's detractors on the right claim the critical issue is Wilson's credibility on two points: whether his wife was involved in the decision to send him to Niger and whether he accurately portrayed his findings regarding his Niger trip. And they have made use of the Senate intelligence report -- particularly additional comments filed by committee chairman Pat Roberts and two other Republican members of the committee, Kit Bond and Orrin Hatch -- to pound Wilson. But not only does the get-Wilson crusade ignore the main question -- did White House officials break the law and damage national security to take a swing at a critic? -- it overstates and manipulates the material in the Senate report.

    The first shot at Wilson actually came from The Washington Post. The day after the Senate report was released, Post reporter Susan Schmidt did an entire piece on the portion of the report related to the Niger episode. (By the way, the Post devoted more space to the Wilson affair than to the report's conclusion that there was no intelligence to back up Bush's assertion that Iraq and al Qaeda had maintained a working relationship.) In this story, Schmidt claimed that Wilson was "specifically recommended for the [Niger] mission by his wife, a CIA employee, contrary to what he has said publicly." She also reported that the intelligence committee "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." Schmidt added, "The report may bolster the rationale that administration officials provided the information not to intentionally expose an undercover CIA employee, but to call into question Wilson's bona fides as an investigator into trafficking of weapons of mass destruction."

    Within days, Tim Graham, an analyst at the conservative Media Research Center, wrote a piece for The National Review pointing to the Schmidt article and decrying the "truth-telling problems" of Wilson, whose recent best-selling book is titled The Politics of Truth. Then Novak, returning to the scene of the (possible) crime, cited the committee report and the Republicans' additional comments to prove that he had been right to report in his original column that Wilson's wife had been behind the move to send Wilson to Niger. And Novak approvingly quoted Senator Roberts blast at Wilson: "Rather than speaking publicly about his actual experiences during his inquiry of the Niger issue, the former ambassador seems to have included information he learned from press accounts and from his beliefs about how the Intelligence Community would have or should have handled the information he provided. ... Time and again, Joe Wilson told anyone who would listen that the president had lied to the American people, that the vice president had lied, and that he had 'debunked' the claim that Iraq was seeking uranium from Africa. . . . [N]ot only did he NOT 'debunk' the claim, he actually gave some intelligence analysts even more reason to believe that it may be true." (In this column, Novak did not explore the ethics or legality of White House officials identifying CIA officers.) And then, of course, The Wall Street Journal's editorial page piled on. So did the Republican National Committee.

    Wilson has written a response to Roberts that addresses many of the criticisms being hurled at him. (See it here. And read Roberts comments here and decide who makes the better case.) But let's sort out some of the various claims. First, what the report says about Valerie Wilson's role in this business. In his book, Wilson writes, "Apart from being the conduit for a message from a colleague in her office asking if I would be willing to have a conversation about Niger's uranium industry [with CIA counter-proliferation experts], Valerie had had nothing to do with the matter. Though she worked on weapons of mass destruction issues, she was not at the meeting I attended where the subject of Niger's uranium was discussed, when the possibility of my actually traveling to the country was broached. She definitely had not proposed that I make the trip."

    So what if she had? A week in Niamey for no pay was hardly a junket. What would have been wrong with a CIA officer telling another CIA officer, hey my husband, a former ambassador, is an Africa expert with experience in Niger, perhaps you should send him to Niger to see what he can learn? But because Wilson is on record saying it did not happen this way, the question is whether he has been truthful.

    The intelligence committee report says, "Some [CIA Counter-proliferation 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 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 the CPD on February 12, 2002, from [Valerie Wilson] 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.'...The former ambassador's wife told Committee staff that when CPD decided it would like to send the former ambassador to Niger, she approached her husband on behalf of the CIA."

    The report also notes, "On February 19, 2002, CPD hosted a meeting with the former ambassador, intelligence analysts from both the CIA and INR [the State Department's intelligence unit], and several individuals from the [Directorate of Operations'] Africa and CPD divisions. The purpose of the meeting was to discuss the merits of [Wilson] traveling to Niger. An INR analyst's notes indicate that the meeting was 'apparently convened by [Wilson's] wife who had the idea to dispatch [him] to use his contacts to sort out the Iraq-Niger uranium issue. The former ambassador's wife told Committee staff that she only attended the meeting to introduce her husband and left after about three minutes."

    This is not what ex-CIA chief George Tenet would call a slam-dunk case against Wilson. Sure, some of the evidence seems to contradict his account. But Valerie Wilson could have "offered up" his name as a handy person to contact about allegations concerning Niger's uranium trade without suggesting he get on a plane to Niger. And it is certainly imaginable that an INR analyst sitting in a meeting in which there is talk of dispatching a CIA officer's husband to Africa could have received the impression that his wife had initiated the mission. But if that was the case, why did Valerie Wilson attend for only a few minutes? If Valerie Wilson's account of this meeting is not accurate, where are the contradicting accounts from the other participants? Why does the report not quote them on this topic? Since only a week elapsed between the time Valerie Wilson "offered up" her husband and a meeting was held to consider sending him to Niger, it is possible that someone participating in the matter might have thought that Valerie Wilson's original advice -- talk to my husband -- was related to question of sending an unofficial envoy to Niger to seek out additional information.

    When Wilson returned from Niger two CIA officers debriefed him. "The debriefing," the Senate report says, "took place in the former ambassador's home and although his wife was there, according to the reports officer, she acted as a hostess and did not participate in the debrief." If Valerie Wilson had played a key role in sending Joseph Wilson to Niger, would she have skipped out on this debriefing? Perhaps. But this scene reinforces Wilson's claim that she was not deeply involved in his Niger trip.

    It may be that in some of his public remarks, Wilson underplayed his wife's involvement in his trip. After all, according to the Senate intelligence committee's report, she did write at least one memo on the subject. But it is not clear from the report that she specifically advocated he be sent to Niger. Again, it makes little difference -- or it should make little difference -- whether Valerie Wilson said to her CIA colleagues "contact my husband" or said to them "you should put him on a plane to Niamey immediately." The report notes that the CIA people in charge of investigating the Niger allegation deliberated over what to do and then reached the decision to ask Wilson to perform a pro bono act of public service. And he said yes. He had the experience for the job. His trip was not a boondoggle arranged by his wife for his or their benefit.

    Now on to the claim that Wilson's report to the CIA actually provided more reason to believe Iraq had been seeking yellowcake uranium. In his debriefing Wilson reported that former Nigerian Prime Minister Ibrahim Mayaki had told him that in 1999 he had been asked to meet with an Iraqi delegation to discuss "expanding commercial relations" between Niger and Iraq. Mayaki said he assumed the delegation wanted to discuss uranium sales. But he said that although he had met with the delegation he had not been interested in pursuing any commercial dealings with Iraq. The intelligence report based on Wilson's debriefing also noted that the former minister of mines explained to Wilson that given the tight controls maintained by the French consortium in charge of uranium mining in Niger, it would be difficult, if not impossible, to arrange a shipment of uranium to a pariah state.

    What did this report mean to the intelligence community? A CIA reports officer told the Senate intelligence committee that he took it as indirect confirmation of the allegation since Nigerian officials had admitted that an Iraqi delegation had traveled there in 1999 and since the former prime minister had said he believed Iraq was interested in purchasing uranium. But an INR analyst said that he considered the report to be corroboration of INR's position, which was that the allegation was "highly suspect" because Niger would be unlikely to engage in such a transaction and unable to transfer uranium to Iraq due to the strict controls maintained by the French consortium. But the INR analyst added, the "report could be read in different ways."

    Wilson's work was thrown into the stew. The CIA continued to disseminate a report noting that a foreign intelligence service had told U.S. intelligence that Niger had agreed to supply Iraq with hundreds of tons of uranium. And in the National Intelligence Estimate produced in October 2002, the intelligence community reported that Iraq had been trying to strike a uranium deal with Niger in 2001. But the NIE noted that INR strongly disagreed with this assessment. And when the National Security Council drafted a speech for Bush in October 2002 the CIA recommended the address not include the Niger allegation because it was "debatable" whether the yellowcake could be obtained from Niger. In a follow-up fax to the NSC, the CIA said "the evidence is weak" and "the procurement is not particularly significant to Iraq's nuclear ambitions because the Iraqis already have a large stock of uranium oxide in their inventory." Still, in late January 2003 -- after the INR's Iraq analyst had concluded that papers recently obtained by U.S. intelligence related to the supposed Iraqi-Niger uranium deal were "clearly a forgery" -- Bush went ahead and accused Iraq of seeking uranium in Africa.

    But on April 5, 2003, the National Intelligence Council issued a memo that noted, "we judge it highly unlikely that Niamey has sold uranium yellowcake to Baghdad in recent years." It added that the government of Niger was unlikely to proceed with such a deal. And on June 17, 2003, the CIA produced a memo that said, "since learning that the Iraq-Niger uranium deal was based on false documents earlier this spring, we no longer believe that there is sufficient other reporting to conclude that Iraq pursued uranium from aboard."

    So Wilson's assessment ended up being accepted by the CIA. His reporting may not have been conclusive. But as we have been told repeatedly this past week, such is often the case in intelligence collection. After coming back from Niger, Wilson's view -- which he did not express publicly for nearly a year and a half -- was different from that held by CIA analysts. Yet his conclusion -- that the Niger allegation was probably bunk -- was in line with the thinking of the State Department's lead analyst on this matter. And Wilson's reasoning came to prevail and to be shared by the intelligence community. For some reason, Novak does not mention this in his recent column.

    Finally, let's address Schmidt's claim that the Senate intelligence committee's report "may bolster" the defense of the leakers -- whoever they are. Whether their motivation was to punish Wilson for speaking out or to try to undermine his credibility by suggesting his only bona fides for the Niger trip was his marriage license, blowing Valerie Wilson's cover still was a possible crime and an odious act. The law does not allow a government official to reveal a CIA officer -- and jeopardizing the officer, her contacts, and her operations -- to score political points.

    What Wilson told his CIA contacts, what he told reporters, what he said in public -- accurate or not -- did not justify disclosing Valerie Wilson's identity. Nor did it justify the subsequent White House effort to encourage other reporters to pursue the Valerie Wilson story. The leak was thuggish and possibly felonious. And the Wilsons and others are waiting to see what comes from Fitzgerald's investigation. (NBC News reported recently that the probe had expanded to examine possible acts of perjury and lying to investigators.) There is no telling if the investigation will end with indictments or whitewashing. It has been a mostly leak-free probe, and even senior people at the Justice Department say they have no idea where Fitzgerald is heading -- if anywhere.

    Whatever Fitzgerald's criminal investigation produces, the Wilsons were wronged. And Bush and his White House crew did nothing to seek out or punish the Novak-enabled leakers who placed politics ahead of national security and decency. Instead, White House officials peddled the leak further to discredit Wilson, and GOPers have been seeking to blast him ever since.

    Roberts and other Republicans are using the intelligence committee's report to whack Wilson, a prominent opponent of the Iraq war and a foreign policy adviser to Senator John Kerry, the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee. If only Roberts' committee had applied as much time and energy into investigating the Wilson leak (and how the White House reacted to the leak) as it did to the actions of Valerie Wilson. But the leak is a subject that, for some odd reason, has escaped the attention of Roberts' investigators. And Roberts and his ideological comrades are exploiting the release of the committee's report to blame the victims of the leak. They are far more angered by alleged (or trumped-up) inconsistencies in Wilson's account than by Bush's misrepresentation of the prewar intelligence. Talk about overstating a problem.

    David Corn is the Washington editor of The Nation magazine.


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