I wrote about it all at the time. I also was caught up in the leak investigation into the disclosure of Plame’s identity and the perjury trial of Cheney’s then-chief of staff, I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby, where I testified that he was not the one who told me of her CIA employment.
In his book, Cheney wrote he began reading newspaper stories in late spring 2003 about an unnamed former U.S. ambassador who went to Africa in 2002 for the CIA to check on whether Iraq was buying, or trying to buy, uranium for its nuclear weapons program. The ambassador had returned, said the story was not true and thus appeared to contradict Bush’s speech when he said, “The British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa.”
One of the stories Cheney read — but did not note in the book — was a May 6, 2003, New York Times op-ed column by Nicholas Kristof, which said, “The vice president’s office asked for an investigation of the uranium deal, so a former U.S. ambassador to Africa was dispatched to Niger.” Kristof had learned in a background conversation with Wilson days earlier that the CIA had sent Wilson to Niger to follow up on questions posed by Cheney at a morning briefing. Wilson, who interviewed present and former Niger officials, said he reported back that the uranium story was not true.
The other published story was one I wrote more than a month later. It appeared on the front page of the June 12, 2003, Washington Post. Headlined “CIA Did Not Share Doubt on Iraq Data,” it noted that Cheney’s office was not told the CIA dispatched the ambassador (Wilson) to Niger and that no specific reports on his findings reached Cheney.
I wrote the article after talking not only to Wilson but also to Libby and to officials at the White House and the State Department. I also spoke to senior CIA officials, who later acknowledged they were unaware of Wilson’s mission when I first called. It had been sponsored by an office within the agency’s clandestine Directorate of Operations.
No one I interviewed made any mention of Wilson’s wife, or where she worked, or her having any involvement in sending him to Niger in 2002.
In his book, Cheney gives his view of the origins of Wilson’s trip. He wrote that in early 2002 he read a Defense Intelligence Agency report that Saddam Hussein was “possibly” trying to buy uranium from Niger. He asked his CIA briefer for more information. A Feb. 13, 2002, CIA internal memo from Cheney’s briefer, which is not in the book, said the vice president “had been shown an assessment (he thought from DIA) that Iraq is purchasing uranium from Africa. He would like our assessment of that transaction and its implications for Iraq’s nuclear program.”