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Another Media Distortion: Joe Wilson Didn't Uncover Forgeries and Didn't "Debunk" Much of Anything

3:38 PM, Oct 20, 2005 • By DANIEL MCKIVERGAN
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The media distortions and outright falsehoods just keep on coming. For example, the New York Daily News claims that Joe Wilson

debunked a key claim in a speech by President Bush that Iraq sought nuclear materials in Africa…. When Wilson was sent by his wife to Africa to research the claims, he showed the documents claiming Saddam tried to buy the uranium were forgeries.

Actually, Wilson had no role in identifying the forgeries. As Stephen Hayes points out,

Wilson's trip to Niger took place in February 2002, some eight months before the U.S. government received the phony Iraq-Niger documents in October 2002. So it is not possible, as he told the Washington Post, that he advised the CIA that "the dates were wrong and the names were wrong." And it is not possible, as Wilson claimed to the New York Times, that he debunked the documents as forgeries.

And the Senate's 2004 bipartisan Report on the U.S. Intelligence Community's Prewar Intelligence Assessments on Iraq concluded:

Page 45

The former ambassador also told Committee staff that he was the source of a Washington Post article…which said, "among the Envoy's conclusions was that the documents may have 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 Daily News' assertion that Wilson "debunked a key claim in a speech by President Bush" is just plain old bunk. Most intelligence analysts believed his trip "lent more credibility" to reports that Iraq was seeking uranium from Niger, and the CIA continued to approve the use of the Iraq-Niger-Uranium language "in Administration publications and speeches, including the State of the Union." The same Senate report states:

Conclusion 13 (page 73)

The report on the former ambassador's trip to Niger, disseminated in March 2002, did not change any analysts' assessments of the Iraq-Niger uranium deal. For most analysts, the information in the report lent more credibility to the original Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) reports on the uranium deal, but State Department Bureau of Intelligence and Research (INR) analysts believed that the report supported their assessment that Niger was unlikely to be wiling or able to sell uranium to Iraq.

Conclusion 12 (page 72)

Until October 2002 when the Intelligence Community obtained the forged foreign language documents on the Iraq-Niger uranium deal, it was reasonable for analysts to assess that Iraq may have been seeking uranium from Africa based on Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) reporting and other available intelligence.

Conclusion 19 (page 77)

Even after obtaining the forged documents and being alerted by a State Department Bureau of Intelligence and Research (INR) analyst about problems with them, analysts at both the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) did not examine them carefully enough to see the obvious problems with the documents. Both agencies continued to publish assessments that Iraq may have been seeking uranium from Africa. In addition, CIA continued to approve the use of similar language in Administration publications and speeches, including the State of the Union.