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Nigerian Yellow Cake

Early 2002


2002 Continued

The Senate did not interview, or include in its report if it did interview, a contrarian point of view on Plame's role. From Newsday on 22 July 2003:
    "A senior intelligence officer confirmed that Plame was a Directorate of Operations undercover officer who worked 'alongside' the operations officers who asked her husband to travel to Niger. But he said she did not recommend her husband to undertake the Niger assignment. 'They [the officers who did ask Wilson to check the uranium story] were aware of who she was married to, which is not surprising,' he said. 'There are people elsewhere in government who are trying to make her look like she was the one who was cooking this up, for some reason,' he said. 'I can't figure out what it could be.' 'We paid his [Wilson's] airfare. But to go to Niger is not exactly a benefit. Most people you'd have to pay big bucks to go there,' the senior intelligence official said. Wilson said he was reimbursed only for expenses." (Newsday article "Columnist Blows CIA Agent's Cover," dated July 22, 2003) .
On 19 February, Wilson met with the CPD to discuss "the merits of the former ambassador travelling to Niger." The meeting included analysts from the CIA and the State Department's Bureau of Intelligence and Research (INR). Plame attended the meeting only to introduce Wilson.

The State Department analyst present at the meeting was skeptical that the alleged uranium contract could be carried out because it would be hard to hide such a large shipment of yellowcake, noting that the French "would seem to have little interest in selling uranium to the Iraqis." State also though sending Wilson to Niger was redundant and suggested embassy officials (no surprise, embassies are part of the State Department) "would be able to get to the truth on the uranium issue." (40)

Despite reservations, the CPD sent Wilson to Niger on 21 February 2002.

A 24 February 2002 cable from the US Embassy in Niger described a meeting between General Carton Fulford and the President of Nigeria, who assured the General and ambassador that "Niger's goal was to keep its uranium 'in safe hands'."

Wilson arrived in Niger on 26 February 2002. After meeting with various government officials, he "reached the same conclusions that the embassy had reached, that it was unlikely that anything was going on." (42)

On 1 March 2002, the State Department published an intelligence assessment entitled: Niger: Sale of Uranium to Iraq is Unlikely. The assessment was written in response to interest from the Vice President's office. It was distributed in a routine manner, not directly to the Vice President via special delivery. (42)

In response to a request for an update, on 5 March 2002, a CIA WINPAC update noted that "the foreign government service that provided the original report 'was unable to provide new information, but continues to assess that its source is reliable.'" The update also noted that the CIA would be debriefing someone on 5 March 2002. That someone was Wilson. (43)

The debrief occurred in Wilson's home; the case officer wrote a draft intelligence report and "sent it to the DO reports officer who added additional relevant information from his notes." The report was graded "good" because it "responded to at least some of the outstanding questions in the Intelligence Community." (46)

A report based on Wilson's trip was widely disseminated via routine channels on 8 March 2002. (44)
    This report indicated the the former Prime Minister of Niger was unaware of any Iraqi contracts for yellowcake, but acknowledged that in 1999 Iraq may have been interested in discussing yellowcake sales but the PM "steered the conversation away." Niger's former Minster for Energy said that there had been no yellowcake sales outside of International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) channels since the 1980s.

    This report also described "how the structure of Niger's uranium mines would make it difficult, if not impossible, for Niger to ell uranium to any rogue states."
The consensus expressed in the Senate report was that Wilson's trip provided little or no new information. Thus, the information was not used to "produce any further analytical products" and the CIA did not brief the Vice President on the report. (46)

And yet.

There is no explanation why the CIA reported on 25 March 2002 from the same [foreign] government service, which said "the 2000 agreement by Niger to provide uranium to Iraq specified that 500 tons of uranium per year would be delivered in --redacted--." In other words, the report is now asserting "as fact" that there was a contract. What caused the CIA to determine that the information was now "firm"?

The source for this asssertion remains the unnamed foreign government service - which did not provide the DO with information about the source or how the intelligence was collected.
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