Thursday, July 14, 2005

Follow The Time-Line: What Did Rove Know And When Did He Know It?

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 Follow The Time-Line: What Did Rove Know And When Did He Know It?
Posted on Thursday, July 14 @ 09:53:27 EDT

By Jonathan Weiler, The Gadflyer

As the Republican lie machine continues its desperate attempts to distract attention from the obvious mendacity of Rovegate, it's important to keep track of the timeline of events here.

On July 6, 2003, Joseph Wilson wrote an op-ed piece questioning the administration's evidence that Saddam had been seeking Uranium from the African country to which Bush referred in his 2003 State of the Union address, which turned out to be Niger. For purposes of full disclosure here, last week, in connection with Judith Miller's incarceration, I referred to Wilson's op-ed as "scathing." In truth, I had not read it closely enough at the time. In fact, it's a carefully worded essay, meant to clarify the genesis of Wilson's mission to Niger in February of 2002. On the basis of that fact-finding mission, Wilson believed that there was no basis for the claim that Saddam was seeking yellow-cake Uranium from that country. Wilson pointed out that his conclusions were consistent with those of the US ambassador to Niger at the time, Barbro Kirkpatrick-Owens.

On July 11, 2003, as we now know, Time Magazine's Matthew Cooper had a conversation with Karl Rove in which the subject of Joseph Wilson and his wife came up. Cooper has now acknowledged that Rove was his source for information he subsequently published revealing that Wilson's wife worked for the CIA. Cooper's piece appeared after the column in which Robert Novak described Wilson's wife as a CIA "operative" and sent him on the trip to Niger. That story blew Plame-Wilson's cover as a CIA operative.

The lie machine is making two basic claims in its efforts to discredit Wilson and to explain away the possibility that Rove violated federal law by outing a covert CIA operative. First, they are arguing, as Novak did two years ago, that Wilson only got to go on the trip because of nepotism. This is somehow meant to undermine Wilson's findings, but we'll get back to that. Second, the party of personal responsibility and moral fiber is arguing that all Rove did in his conversation with Cooper on July 11, 2003, was to warn him away from a false story by a discredited source.

Let's examine that claim. On July 11, the very day that Rove spoke with Cooper, CIA director George Tenet publicly acknowledged that the sixteen-word reference to Saddam's efforts to get uranium from an African country should never have been included in the 2003 state of the union address. It's simply not credible to assert that Rove would not have known what Tenet was in the process of publicly acknowledging, that the Uranium story was not valid, as Wilson had asserted on July 6.

So, Rove could not plausibly have been warning Cooper away from writing about Wilson's findings, since the CIA director was, that very day, confirming the substance of those findings. Given that fact, another tack has taken hold among the Repblicans - to discredit Wilson's assertion that his trip to Africa was authorized by Vice Presisdent Cheney. But, as Josh Marshall details here, Wilson never made that claim. In fact, in the July 6 piece Wilson wrote the following:

"In February 2002, I was informed by officials at the Central Intelligence Agency that Vice President Dick Cheney's office had questions about a particular intelligence report. While I never saw the report, I was told that it referred to a memorandum of agreement that documented the sale of uranium yellowcake -- a form of lightly processed ore -- by Niger to Iraq in the late 1990's. The agency officials asked if I would travel to Niger to check out the story so they could provide a response to the vice president's office."

In other words, while Wilson was pursuing a line of inquiry that was of interest to the Vice President's office, there is no suggestion here that Wilson was acting on the Vice President's behalf. Nor does Wilson claim here, as subsequent efforts to discredit him allege, that he went to Africa on Tenet's orders. So, why would Rove be so concerned to clarify for Cooper that Wilson was falsely claiming that he went to Africa on Cheney's orders? The answer, in all likelihood, is that Rove had no such concern. Instead, he had a thin cover for the real purpose of his conversation with Cooper - to execute a vendetta against Wilson for embarassing the administration in a significant way.

As noted above, the nepotism charge is also central to the anti-Wilson/Plame smear campaign. But, what's the nepotism allegation supposed to imply? That Wilson was biased against President Bush? Or, that his wife, a covert operative working for the United States government on intelligence related to WMD was biased against? The implication of these claims must be that either Wilson was incompetent, or biased, or both, thus discrediting his findings? But, how can this line of argument be taken seriously? The substance of Wilson's July 6 column is very specific - he found no evidence to support the claim that there was a relationship between Niger and Iraq regarding Uranium. On the very day that Rove was supposedly acting the part of a Good Samaritan, the director of the CIA was confirming the substance of Wilson's column.

The nepotism charge, even if true for the sake of argument, in no way impugns the ultimate competence or validity of Wilson's investigation. Likewise, the bias charge is irrelevant, given that the specific issue about which Wilson wrote was confirmed by the CIA.

So, again, given the implausibility of the claim that Rove was warning Cooper away from the supposedly false substance of Wilson's claim, or from Wilson's supposed misrepresentation of his trip, or from the irrelevant arguments concerning nepotism, what are we left with?

Clear away the underbrush, the chatter, and the bullshit, and it's all pretty clear, isn't it?

Reprinted from The Gadflyer:


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