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Wednesday, April 26, 2006

60 Minutes of lies: Drumheller needs to answer some questions.

This Sunday’s 60 Minutes report, “A spy speaks out,” went to extraordinary lengths to support Joe Wilson’s long exposed lies about Saddam’s attempts to buy uranium ore in Niger. Here is how 60 Minutes correspondent Ed Bradley described Joe Wilson’s February 2002 trip to Niger:
Wilson spent eight days in Niger looking for signs of a secret deal to send yellowcake to Iraq. He spoke to government officials who would have known about such a transaction. No one did. There had been a meeting between Iraqis and Nigerians in 1999, but Wilson was told uranium had never been discussed. He also found no evidence that Iraq had even been interested in buying uranium.
This actually one up's Joe Wilson's dishonesty. Wilson never said that he found no evidence that Iraq had even been interested in buying uranium. He only implied it, claiming that what he learned on his trip to Niger gave the lie to President Bush’s 2003 State of the Union reference to Iraqi attempts to buy uranium in Africa: “[T]hat information was erroneous and … they knew … it” said Wilson in July of 2003.

Five days later, CIA Director George Tenet exposed Wilson as a liar:
He reported back to us that one of the former Nigerian officials he met stated that he was unaware of any contract being signed between Niger and rogue states for the sale of uranium during his tenure in office.

The same former official also said that in June 1999 a businessman approached him and insisted that the former official meet with an Iraqi delegation to discuss "expanding commercial relations" between Iraq and Niger.

The former official interpreted the overture as an attempt to discuss uranium sales.
ABC repeats Wilson’s lie, and makes it even balder. But this is not sloppy work on ABC’s part. The full report is carefully crafted to give credence to another even bolder Wilson lie.

The forgeries

When the IAEA revealed in March of 2003 that the U.S. was in possession of forged documents pertaining to Niger uranium sales to Iraq, Wilson told several reporters that the phony documents were behind the CIA’s sending him to Niger, and that during his trip he had identified the documents as forgeries. He peddled this tale to Kristof at the New York Times, Pincus at the Washington Post, and to Judis and Ackerman at The New Republic.

Wilson’s claim to having expose the phony document was itself exposed as phony by the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence’s 2004 Report on Pre-War Intelligence, which noted that the forged documents had not come into U.S. hands until October of 2002, eight months after Wilson’s Niger trip. (SSCI report, part II, section B, Search “misspoken”.)

Wilson was caught committing blatant treason, spreading malicious disinformation about classified intelligence in an attempt to undermine America’s war effort. I don’t know why he hasn’t been put to death yet. The British executed “Lord Haw Haw” after World War II simply for spreading obvious enemy propaganda, never mind the much greater crime of spreading maliciously disguised disinformation about classified intelligence. Wilson should at best be universally reviled. Instead he is abetted by the very people who are most aware of his treason: the reporters who have covered his story.

[UPDATE--INTERJECTION: I realize it is not comfortable to remind people of the traditional and appropriate punishment for treason. The problem with talking about punishment is that what we are facing today is an orgy of lying about lying. The nature of Wilson’s treason is the use of lies to accuse other people of treason, and millions of Americans believe it, including not just radical leftists, but ordinary people who are duped by trash like 60 Minutes. If we start talking about executing people for treason, doesn’t that just inflame the divide, and get more people on the other side thinking of executing who they believe are the traitors?

I agree, there is a national divide that needs to be managed. There clearly is derangement on the left, and care must be taken about inflaming deranged people. We face the exact same problem with the jihadists and their near-jihadist bretheren: how far should we go to avoid inflaming Islamic sensibilities? If we go too far, then we have just become dhimmis. We have submitted to the crazy person’s demands.

Similarly with our crazy Democrat-left. We can’t just say that because they are lying about lying (accusing loyal patriots of being traitors) we can’t talk about punishing treason. That just lets them get away with treason.

The left’s whole gambit is to deny that there is such a thing as truth. They look away from Wilson’s proven lies (or in the case of 60 Minutes, as we will see, they fabricate dishonest new ways to revive and support Wilson’s proven lies). They figure that if they are just relentlessly dishonest enough, then their claims about what is true can still win the day. Part of fighting against that truth-denying ideology is to insist on the consequences of truth, including punishment.

That said, there are concession that should be made to the derangement of the left. When faced with a volatile crazy person, it makes sense think of avoiding setting the crazy person off. No one acts around a violent crazy person the same way he acts around a sane person.

I’m probably crossing the line when I ask why Wilson hasn’t been put to death yet. Yes, in a fully sane world, he would already have been tried for treason, found guilty beyond any trace of doubt, and put to death, but so long as half the country believes that he is the truth-teller, executing him would indeed be counterproductive, however right.

Talking about it, on the other hand, should be okay. END UPDATE--INTERJECTION]

What is diabolical about the 60 Minutes hit-piece is the measures it takes to revive and support Wilson’s claims that U.S. intelligence about Saddam seeking uranium in Niger was based on the phony documents, and that the intel was known to be bogus before the President’s State of the Untion speech. To build this case, 60 minutes enlists the aid of ex-CIA agent Tyler Drumheller, who has his own axe to grind.

Drumheller and “single-sourcing”

Drumheller was able to obtain a pre-war interview with Naji Sabra, Iraq’s foreign minister at the time, from “a very high inner circle of Saddam Hussein.”

According to Drumheller: "[Sabra] told us that they had no active weapons of mass destruction program," after which “The group that was dealing with preparation for the Iraq war came back and said they're no longer interested…. [T]hey said, 'Well, this isn't about intel anymore. This is about regime change.'”

That is a good thing for the “all about WMD” crowd to remember. The official priority of the United States was and is the so-called “Bush Doctrine” of regime-change for regimes that harbor terrorists. But that doesn’t means intel is unimportant. Secretary of State Rice explained to Tim Russert last month why the Sabra intel was not given more credence:
SEC’Y RICE: Of course, Tim, this was a single source among multiple sources, and the problem was that Saddam Hussein was unwilling, after multiple resolutions in Security Council, to account for his weapons programs. We all remember that the accounting of the U.N. mission that was supposed—the weapons inspection mission that was supposed to look into its weapons programs could not account for large stockpiles. We all thought that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction.
To grind his axe, Drumheller attacks Rice’s “single source” explanation as a double standard, claiming that the Iraq-Niger uranium-purchase intel was only from a “single source” as well, but that since it provided justification for going to war with Iraq, “single source” was sufficient in that case:
Drumheller: They certainly took information that came from single sources on uranium, on the yellowcake story and on several other stories with no corroboration at all and so you can’t say you only listen to one source, because on many issues they only listened to one source.
So the Niger-yellowcake story was "Single source" was it? And what source might that be? The only source for the yellowcake story that Drumheller mentions is the forged-documents story:
Bradley: Drumheller says the CIA station chief in Rome, who worked for him, told him he didn't believe it.

Drumheller: He said, 'It's not true. It's not; this isn't real.'
Thus Drumheller leaves the implication that the forged documents were behind the U.S. intel that Saddam had tried to buy uranium from Niger. Not only is he falsely claiming that the forged documents were used as supporting evidence instead of as a possible contra-indication, he is saying that they were the ONLY evidence, just as Joe Wilson had charged back in 2003: that he was sent to Niger on the basis of these documents that turned out to be forged.

Carefully crafted

The whole 60 Minutes report is carefully set up to support the bogus Wilson storyline. The first segment repeats Wilson’s lie that his trip to Niger debunked rather than evidenced an Iraq-Niger uranium link. Bradley then proceeds as if the Iraq-Niger link had been dismissed at that point, and was only taken seriously again after the forged documents were received by U.S. intelligence:
Bradley: A few weeks after Sabri told the CIA that Iraq had no active nuclear program, the Niger uranium story seemed to get a new life: Documents that supposedly could prove that Saddam had purchased uranium from Africa suddenly surfaced in Rome.
Thus the appearance of the Iraq-Africa-uranium link in the State of the Union speech gets blamed on the forged documents.

But this story about the forged documents raising the Iraq-Niger link from the dead is directly contradicted by the SSCI report, which notes, as ABC does not, that thanks in part to Wilson’s own finding that Saddam had tried to buy uranium in Iraq, the Iraq-Niger-uranium link was very much alive before the forged docs arrived:

Conclusion 12. 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 13. 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 willing or able to sell uranium to Iraq.
SSCI report on prewar intelligence, Part II section K.
The State Department was not swayed by Wilson’s findings, but the CIA was. It had reason to believe Saddam was trying to buy uranium from various parts of Africa, including Niger. Thus the forged documents were not a single source on the Niger story, and it seems highly unlikely that they were treated as a source of supporting evidence at all.

Drumheller cited the CIA chief in Rome attaching a caveat to the fishy looking documents. The SSCI notes other caveats that were added later. The expectation in such a circumstance is that the fishy looking documents would be looked at as possibly tainting the earlier intel, rather than as supporting evidence for it. It is only Drumheller’s errant assumption that the Niger-Iraq link was single-source that allows him to conclude that the documents were being embraced as supporting evidence (since the summary assessment was positive), rather than weighed as contra-indications.

More generally, the evidence that Iraq had sought uranium in Africa was not single source, came from several sources:

The CIA analyst said he assessed at the time that the intelligence showed both that Iraq may have been trying to procure uranium in Africa and that it was possible Niger could supply it. He said his assessment was bolstered by several other intelligence reports on Iraqi interest in uranium from other countries in Africa.

The report described the intelligence on the Iraq-Niger uranium deal and several other intelligence reports on Iraqi efforts to acquire uranium from Somalia and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
Part II, section C of the SSCI report
Nevertheless, the accusation of single sourcing is used in the 60 Minutes report to attack President Bush’s claim that Iraq was seeking uranium in Africa. The report concludes with Wilson, who repeats his original “Bush lied” accusations.

Drumheller a dupe?

Given how the whole 60 Minutes piece is so carefully constructed to support Wilson’s original fabrication about the forgeries being behind the State of the Union speech, it seems clear that none of this is innocent. One would have to know the facts in order to pick out such an artfully misleading array. The question is to what extent Drumheller was complicit in the larger story that 60 minutes was putting together.

It is possible that Ed Bradley duped him. Drumheller IS ex-CIA after all. It could be that the only reason he was calling the Iraq-Niger intel “single sourced” was to have a way to justify his pet-peeve: that nobody paid much attention to his big Sabra scoop, just because it was “single sourced.” Sabra was a member of Saddam’s “inner circle” for pete’s sake. Drumheller should have been a star. Deny a time-server his fifteen minutes of fame and maybe that is enough motivation to phony-up a “single source” double-standard and get himself a different fifteen minutes of fame.

Or maybe Drumheller is complicit all the way. Maybe he knows exactly how Wilson lied about having exposed the phony documents on his trip to Niger in order to try to claim that they were behind the State of the Union speech. Maybe Drumheller understands exactly how his “single source” charge about the Iraq-Niger intel is another way to claim that the President’s State of the Union claims were knowing lies (treating intel that was full of caveats as supporting evidence, and sole supporting evidence at that). It would be a gambit hardly less dishonest than Wilson’s. Is that what Drumheller is guilty of? Or is he just a dunce?

No such ambiguity in the case of Ed Bradley: he is taking a highly calculated second stab at Wilson’s original treason.

The CIA memo

The loose end here is a tidbit that was not mentioned by 60 Minutes, but which, if taken at face value, does tend to support their “single-source” story line. In June of 2003, the CIA circulated an internal memo that backtracked on its earlier Iraq-Niger intel. In contradiction to the SSCI report, the CIA memo seems to suggest that that the forged documents were the sole source of the CIA’s earlier assessment that Saddam had tried to buy uranium from Niger:
Since learning that the Iraqi-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 purchased uranium from abroad.
The full memo is not available, and it could be that this is a misleading snippet. It could be that “the Iraqi-Niger uranium deal” reference here is only a reference to the particular deal described in the forged documents, not the other possible Iraqi-Niger uranium deals and attempted deals that were evidenced by earlier intel. On the other hand, this looks like a summary statement, leaving the impression that there was no other intel behind the Iraqi-Niger uranium link. Yet we know from the SSCI report that there was other intel behind the Iraqi-Niger uranium link, including the evidence brought back by Wilson from his trip to Niger. What explains this disjoint?

Murray Waas reported in February that the CIA memo was prompted by the publication of Wilson’s tall tales in Kristof’s May 2003 New York Times article, where an unnamed envoy to Niger was said to have discovered that the documents behind the CIA’s Iraq-Niger intel were forgeries.

The public may not have known who this anonymous envoy was, but the CIA certainly did. Thus a memo investigating Kristof’s column should have explained the disinformation that was being passed through Kristof: that Wilson had never seen the forged documents, which would not come into U.S. possession until well after his trip; and that Wilson’s trip had actually supported the President’s State of the Union claims, not belied them, as Wilson was claiming.

The actual memo did the opposite. Instead of exposing Wilson’s treasonous lies, it misrepresented the facts in a way that supported Wilson’s treason. That CANNOT have been accidental. The only logical conclusion is that the memo was influenced by the anti-Bush cabal in the CIA that has been leaking crucial national security secrets for the last three years in an attempt to undermine America’s war on Islamic terrorism.

My full analysis of the fishy CIA memo here:

Were McCarthy and Plame behind the CIA’s June 2003 retreat on Iraq-Niger intelligence?

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