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The Incredibles

The only debate about Joseph Wilson's credibility is the one taking place at the Washington Post and the New York Times.

2:30 PM, Oct 25, 2005 • By STEPHEN F. HAYES
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Wilson further claimed that Cheney had received Wilson's report--allegedly debunking the claim--and had chosen to ignore it. From the New Republic, June 30, 2003: "The CIA circulated the ambassador's report to the vice president's office, the ambassador confirms to TNR." Wilson added: "They knew the Niger story was a flatout lie."

TODAY'S Post story is one in a long stream of news reports in both the Post and the New York Times which have given credence to Wilson's bogus claims. For more than a year--from May 2003 until the release ofthe Senate Intelligence Committee report on July 7, 2004--the mainstream press regurgitated Wilson's fraudulent narrative as if it was true.

Here was Pincus on July 6, 2003, the first on-the-record interview with Wilson about his Niger trip. "Joseph C. Wilson, the retired United States ambassador whose CIA-directed mission to Niger in early 2002 helped debunk claims that Iraq had tried to obtain uranium there for nuclear weapons, has said for the first time publicly that U.S. and British officials ignored his findings and exaggerated the public case for invading Iraq.

Wilson, whose 23-year career included senior positions in Africa and Iraq, where he was acting ambassador in 1991, said the false allegations that Iraq was trying to buy uranium oxide from Niger about three years ago were used by President Bush and senior administration officials as a central piece of evidence to support their assertions that Iraq had reconstituted its nuclear weapons program."

The New York Times, too, assumed that Wilson's version of events was true: "The agent is the wife of Joseph C. Wilson 4th, a former ambassador to Gabon. It was Mr. Wilson who, more than a year and a half ago, concluded in a report to the CIA that there was no evidence that Saddam Hussein tried to buy uranium ore in Niger in an effort to build nuclear arms. But his report was ignored, and Ambassador Wilson has been highly critical of how the administration handled intelligence claims regarding Iraq's nuclear weapons programs, suggesting that Mr. Bush's aides and Vice President Dick Cheney's office tried to inflate the threat."

More troubling, though, is the credulous reporting that came after the Senate Intelligence Committee report had discredited Wilson. The New York Times, in an editorial on July 19, 2005, argues as if the Senate report had never been issued:

"In July 2003, Mr. Wilson wrote an Op-Ed article in The Times that described how he had been sent by the C.I.A. to investigate a report that Iraq had tried to buy uranium from Niger. He said he had found no evidence to support the claim of a uranium purchase, or even a serious attempt to negotiate one, and that he had reported this to Washington. That is entirely accurate."

Or, more recently, the July 27, 2005, Washington Post: "In a 2002 trip to Niger at the request of the CIA, Wilson found no evidence to support allegations that Iraq was seeking uranium from that African country and reported back to the agency in February 2002. But nearly a year later, Bush asserted in his State of the Union speech that Iraq had sought uranium from Africa, attributing it to British, not U.S., intelligence."

But those were not Wilson' findings. And he wasn't sent by Vice President Cheney. And he was recommended by his wife. And he never did see the forgeries. And his report never was circulated to senior Bush administration policymakers. And on and on it goes.

The only debate about Joseph Wilson's credibility is the one apparently taking place at the Washington Post and the New York Times.

Stephen F. Hayes is a senior writer at The Weekly Standard.