I want to make this easily readable and easy to follow, so hopefully it will be the Cliff Notes version and I will try to provide lots of juicy links.
If you think this is helpful and worthwhile, please recommend, since I am sure it would otherwise slip into diary oblivion. If that is the case, then so be it.....
More after the jump--
I'll keep it to the basics, and leave the finer points and details to the community to fill in. For those that want a real good start, dKosopedia has the detailed timeline with lots of juicy tidbits and even a day-by-day chronology for important months.
In their "push the Iraq war at all costs" PR show prior to 2003, Bu$hCo needed to provide evidence to back up their claim that Iraq was an imminent danger to the US and had WMDs. As part of this case, there was discussion with the UK and other countries to see who was "with us" and who was "against us". As far back as 2002, as noted by the Downing Street Minutes, the US had already decided that war was inevitable and, according to these documents was "fixing the facts to fit the policy". High level UK intelligence indicated the following:
C reported on his recent talks in Washington. There was a perceptible shift in attitude. Military action was now seen as inevitable. Bush wanted to remove Saddam, through military action, justified by the conjunction of terrorism and WMD. But the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy. The NSC had no patience with the UN route, and no enthusiasm for publishing material on the Iraqi regime's record. There was little discussion in Washington of the aftermath after military action.
Behind the scenes, Cheney was making numerous visits the the CIA (very strange for a VP to do this) and by all accounts I have read, put enormous pressure on the CIA to find evidence of WMD in Iraq, or the intent.
I should also mention (although a much larger story) that Paul Wolfowitz and Douglas Feith had set up the Office of Special Plans to filter out the intelligence that doesn't fit the case for war, and to promote the "intelligence" (and I use the term lightly) that supports the cause for war.
As a result, there were a report that Saddam was seeking uranium from Niger which was an obvious forgery to everyone that looked at it. But that forgery was enough for Cheney and Co. to hang their hat on.
This didn't make the CIA comfortable and at Cheney's request to "look into the Niger claim", it was suggested that Joseph Wilson, retired but a former ambassador to Niger, investigate the claim. Wilson's wife, Valerie Plame, worked at the CIA investigating WMD and was, for lack of a better word, deep undercover (meaning that when she was overseas, she was representing herself as a civilian, not a CIA agent which is obviously more dangerous).
She, I believe, was advised of the request and indicated that she could see if her husband would do this, and she advised him of the request. He agreed, and met with the applicable people within the CIA to be briefed about the trip and request. It should be noted that while Plame told him about the request, she was not in the meeting, and she certainly did not arrange a "boondoggle", as insinuated by the wingnuts (I really don't think that anyone would WANT to vacation in Niger but that is besides the point).
In March 2002, Wilson came back and delivered his report to the CIA indicating that it was "highly doubtful" any transfer of uranium took place.
Fast forward to January 2003. In the State of the Union Address, Bush included the "infamous 16 words"
"The British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa."
The Case for War and the Smear Campaign Against Wilson
Over the next few months, the following events occur:
- Powell makes his speech to the UN presenting the case for war;
- Proof is provided that the Niger documents are, indeed, forgeries;
- Joseph Wilson talks informally on CNN, saying that the U.S. government had more information about the Niger fabrication. After that appearance, Wilson said sources told him that a meeting in the Vice President's office led to a decision "to produce a workup" to discredit Wilson. This decision was likely made by one or more of the following: Cheney, Libby, and other senior level Republicans;
- Invasion begins, "Mission Accomplished";
- Ari Fleischer announces his resignation, effective 2 months later;
- A classified State Department memo was drafted, indicating Plame's identity, but this paragraph is marked as "secret";
- On July 6, 2003, Wilson writes his Op-Ed article for the NY Times, "What I didn't find in Africa", criticizing Bush's remarks about the Niger claims and indicated that the CIA already knew the documents were forged and that the CIA told this to the Bush Administration.
* The White House retracts the Niger allegation, which is its sole admission to date of a flaw in the case for war, which was built on charges of an illegal Iraqi arsenal that has not been found.
* After being called at home, State Department's then-intelligence chief, Carl Ford gets the INR to work on providing Powell the requested information and the June 10 memo, either because he remembers the memo, or Armitage does.
* The State Department's June 10 INR memo is located and copied. It says Wilson had been approved for the Niger trip by mid-level CIA officials on the recommendation of his wife, a counter-proliferation expert at the CIA.
* Robert Novak places a call to White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer accroding to White House phone logs. It is not clear whether Fleischer returned the call, and Fleischer has refused to comment.
* Evening - Bush leaves for his trip to Africa.
* Carl Ford, orders the copy of the original memo, along with the analyst's notes about that meeting, be sent to Powell. Ordinarily, the memo would have been transmitted directly to Powell over the State Department's secure communications lines. But because Powell was traveling with Bush aboard Air Force One, the memo is transmitted via the White House operations center.
* Someone on Air Force One, because both documents were classified by regulations, signs for receiving the memo and breifing note transmission from the White House operations center. Once someone signed for them, the document could be passed around freely on the plane among senior officials who have security clearances.
* Press Secretary Ari Fleischer, at some point during the flight sees the INR memo aboard Air Force One.
This link gives detail of the events occurring over the next few days, but to summarize, we do know that:
- Libby met with Judith Miller to discuss Plame on July 8. Novak also calls Rove and they discuss Plame and Wilson. Novak also talks to a "stranger" who is friends with Wilson about "Wilson's wife having something to do with sending him to Niger". Excerpt as follows:
He asked Novak if he could walk a block or two with him, as they were headed in the same direction; Novak acquiesced. Striking up a conversation, my friend, without revealing that he knew me, asked Novak about the Uranium controversy. It was a minor problem, Novak replied, and opined that the administration should have dealt with it weeks before. My friend then asked Novak what he thought about me, and Novak answered: "Wilson's an asshole. The CIA sent him. His wife, Valerie [Plame], works for the CIA. She's a weapons of mass destruction specialist. She sent him."
- Rove spoke to Matthew Cooper of Time on July 11 and brought up Wilson and "Wilson's wife" on double super secret background. Libby also talks to Cooper a few days later to indicate that Cheney knew nothing about Wilson's trip.
- Tenet takes responsibility for sending Wilson.
- Walter Pincus is also contacted by an "administration official" regarding Wilson/Plame but he does not write about it. He does give Wilson a "heads up".
- On July 14, Novak publishes his column outing Plame. His column indicates that:
"Wilson never worked for the CIA, but his wife, Valerie Plame, is an Agency operative on weapons of mass destruction. Two senior administration officials told me Wilson's wife suggested sending him to Niger to investigate the Italian report. The CIA says its counter-proliferation officials selected Wilson and asked his wife to contact him. "I will not answer any question about my wife," Wilson told me."
- Others that were contacted include Andrea Mitchell of NBC, Chris Matthews of Hardball and Tim Russert of Meet the Press, among others.
The Investigation (briefly)
At first, Ashcroft's Justice Department dragged their feet on this, before he finally recused himself. When a formal investigation was finally underway (September 30, 2003), Fitzgerald advised Alberto Gonzalez to preserve all documents relating to Wilson and Plame. Gonzalez got approval to tell White House staff the next morning, however he immediately advised White House Chief of Staff Andrew Card of the request (possibly giving a 12 hour window to "lose" any incriminating documents).
Now, to be brief, Bush and McLellan both indicate that Rove and Libby are in no way involved in this, and anyone that is involved would be fired. More information comes out regarding the leak, the leakers and the chain of information.
There is some speculation, and some that is known. This would give some summary:
- Matthew Cooper and Judith Miller are called to testify before the grand jury and refuse due to not wanting to reveal their sources.
- The day that Cooper is to be jailed for not testifying, he indicates that he received clearance from his source (Rove) to testify and will do so.
- Miller plays martyr and goes to jail to "protect her source", however I, and many others think that she had more of a fifth amendment issue (i.e., was a target for something, if not this leak).
- It is possible that, due to the outing and blown cover of Plame and her associates, an undercover CIA operative is killed overseas.
- Fleischer probably lied to the GJ, saying that he never saw the classified document about Plame aboard Air Force One. Others testified that he was seen reading the document.
- Tenet and Powell both testified and presumably cooperated with the GJ.
- Novak most likely cooperated with Fitzgerald too, since he was not jailed (yet).
- There is lots of speculation that Bolton, or his office, is responsible for the origination of the leak. I don't think Bolton has testified, meaning that he could also be a target.
- Rove and Libby both lied to the GJ on a number of matters, including whether they passed information along about Plame and who they spoke to.
- Once it was determined that Rove is involved, Bush backtracks (as does Scotty) regarding the firing of anyone involved with the leak.
- While in prison, Miller has a number of visitors, including Baron Von Mustache himself.
- Miller said that she is now testifying because she was released by her source (Libby). However, Libby said that he released her months ago. There is speculation on many diaries today, including this one, this one, this one and this real good one by emptywheel on Next Hurrah.
So, where does that leave us? Obviously hoping for a few indictments. The fact that Miller is linked to Libby here has no impact on Rove. Both Rove and Libby leaked to different people, who passed the story along (Miller included, given her long history of being in bed with this administration).
My guess is that Fleischer perjured himself, as did Libby and Rove. Certainly there are conspiracy charges, and there is also lots of speculation as to whether the Espionage Act or the Identities Act (or both) is also in play here. Bolton could very well be a target, as could Steven Hadley.
Hopefully, this was helpful, and certainly not exhaustive (although somewhat exhausting to put together, or maybe it was the Yankee/Sox game). Hopefully, some questions are answered and some good background is given.
If anything is missing, or incorrect, please post in comments section and I will correct it.