Updated June 11, 2007First published 24 October 2005
In the summer of 2003, former ambassador Joseph Wilson wrote an opinion piece in the New York Times that accused the Bush Administration of deliberately misleading the public about the possibility of Iraq having sought nuclear weapons material from Niger. Shortly thereafter, conservative columnist Robert Novak published a column noting that Wilson's wife, Valerie Plame, worked for the CIA. The CIA cried foul -- insisting that a covert agent had been unmasked.
Karl Rove and Lewis (Scooter) Libby were questioned extensively regarding the unveiling of Valerie Plame as an undercover CIA operative. As the original grand jury wound down in 2005, speculation inside the beltway widely linked both Rove and Libby with an organized attempt to undermine Joseph Wilson's story about Iraq, Niger and uranium. At the time, lawyers suggested that the crimes of obstruction of justice and perjury (felony) were probable.
Special counsel Patrick Fitzgerald indicted Vice Presidential Staffer I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby on obstruction of justice and perjury charges in 2006. Papers filed subsequently -- and Libby's defense strategy -- suggested that Vice President Cheney played a primary role in the disinformation campaign.
Libby was convicted in March 2007. In May, Fitzgerald filed court documents confirming that Plame worked for the CIA in undercover status. In June, Libby was sentenced to 30 months in jail and a $250,000 fine.
In keeping with what has become media convention, this article refers to Valerie Plame Wilson as "Plame" and Joseph Wilson as "Wilson"
Wilson was a diplomat stationed in Nigeria. Rove was the executive director of the College Republican National Committee and worked for Richard Nixon's chief political strategist Donald Segretti as well as for Lee Attwater.
In 1980, Rove worked on George H. W. Bush’s vice-presidential campaign. He was fired from Bush's re-election campaign for leaking information to conservative columnist Robert Novak.
From 1988-1991, Wilson was the Deputy Chief of Mission at the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad, Iraq. He was the last official American to meet with Saddam Hussein before "Desert Storm."
Rove advised George W. Bush during his bid for governor of Texas and also worked on John Ashcroft's campaign for Senate.
Wilson was Special Assistant to the President and Senior Director for African Affairs at the National Security Council.
2002 EventsFebruary 2002 :
The CIA sent Wilson sent to Nigeria to determine if Iraqis had tried to purchase yellowcake uranium from Africa; his conclusion was that these allegations were probably unfounded. According to the CIA, Plame did not order the trip, although that is one point in the anti-Wilson rhetoric. How/if his report made its way to the White House is disputed.
Though I did not file a written report, there should be at least four documents in United States government archives confirming my mission. The documents should include the ambassador's report of my debriefing in Niamey, a separate report written by the embassy staff, a C.I.A. report summing up my trip, and a specific answer from the agency to the office of the vice president (this may have been delivered orally). While I have not seen any of these reports, I have spent enough time in government to know that this is standard operating procedure.
September 2002 :
The British government published a "white paper" asserting that Saddam Hussein had attempted to purchase uranium from an African country and that he posed an immediate threat.
2003 Events28 January 2003 :
President Bush, State of the Union: "The British Government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa."
6 May 2003:
NYT Nicholas Kristof reported Wilson's conclusions about African yellowcake, but did not name him.
12 June 2003:
The Washington Post "published a front page story reporting that the C.I.A. had sent a retired American diplomat to the Niger in February 2002 to investigate claims that Iraq had been seeking to buy uranium there."
Vice President Dick Cheney and his chief of staff, Scooter Libby, discuss Joseph Wilson and his wifes; meeting notes (now in the hands of the special prosecutor) show that the VP knew that Plame worked at the CIA but do not indicate whether he knew she was covert.
23 June 2003
NYT reporter Judith Miller meeting with I. Lewis (Scooter) Libby, the Vice President's chief of staff; she says Libby wanted to talk about Wilson's trip to Niger.
6 July 2003:
Wilson op-ed in the NY Times asserts that "some of the intelligence related to Iraq's nuclear weapons programs was twisted to exaggerate the Iraqi threat."
7 July 2003:
Bush travels to Africa with Secretary of State Powell, who brought along a State Department memo on Plame. White House retracts Niger/yellowcake claim. Ari Fleischer contends that this was something that they had "long acknowledged" but that cannot be confirmed based on a search of White House press statements.
8 July 2003:
Conversation between Robert Novak and Karl Rove. Rove says that Novak told him "Plame's name" (Washington Post).
NYT reporter Judith Miller again meets with Libby; he added new details about Plame.
Next Page : 2003, continued