When is the Los Angeles Times going to tell its readers that Joseph Wilson is a liar?
Since July of last year, the Times has run numerous articles — many on its front page — that chronicled Wilson’s accusations of wrongdoing by the Bush Administration. The Times told its readers that Wilson had disproved allegations that Iraq had tried to buy enriched uranium from Niger, and that the White House had ignored his warnings. The Times reported Wilson’s assertion that, contrary to White House claims, his wife did not recommend him for the Niger trip.
The significance of Wilson’s accusations cannot be overstated. They ignited the famous “sixteen words” controversy, relating to the truth of statements contained in President Bush’s 2003 State of the Union address. Ultimately, the “Bush lied!” canard began with the seemingly revelatory allegations made by Joseph Wilson.
The problem is that all of Wilson’s accusations were false, according to the bipartisan Senate intelligence committee report released Friday. But you wouldn’t know this if you got all your news from the L.A. Times. So far, the Times has not mentioned these findings from the report, choosing instead to let Wilson’s numerous fabrications stand unchallenged.
Here are the details:
As I previously told you, the Washington Post ran an article yesterday, reporting that the Senate intelligence committee report had made several stunning findings regarding Wilson’s credibility:
- Wilson lied about his findings — “The panel found that Wilson’s report, rather than debunking intelligence about purported uranium sales to Iraq, as he has said, bolstered the case for most intelligence analysts.”
- Wilson lied about whether the White House was told of his findings — “And contrary to Wilson’s assertions and even the government’s previous statements, the CIA did not tell the White House it had qualms about the reliability of the Africa intelligence that made its way into 16 fateful words in President Bush’s January 2003 State of the Union address.”
- Wilson lied about whether his wife recommended him for the Niger trip — Wilson said in his memoir: “Valerie had nothing to do with the matter . . . She definitely had not proposed that I make the trip.”
But the Post reported yesterday:
The report states that a CIA official told the Senate committee that Plame “offered up” Wilson’s name for the Niger trip, then on Feb. 12, 2002, sent a memo to a deputy chief in the CIA’s Directorate of Operations saying her husband “has good relations with both the PM [prime minister] and the former Minister of Mines (not to mention lots of French contacts), both of whom could possibly shed light on this sort of activity.” The next day, the operations official cabled an overseas officer seeking concurrence with the idea of sending Wilson, the report said.
- Wilson lied about having seen the forged documents — “The report also said Wilson provided misleading information to The Washington Post last June.” Wilson had claimed that he had concluded the Niger-uranium connection was false because he had determined the relevant documents were forged — but the report says Wilson had never seen those documents at the time he made that claim.
These findings contradict assertions printed in numerous L.A. Times articles about Wilson. The Times has run a couple dozen stories, many on the front page, mentioning Wilson’s supposedly definitive Niger findings, and Wilson’s allegations that those findings were ignored by the White House.
For example, on July 12, 2003, the Times ran this front-page article on the “sixteen words” controversy, which said:
The CIA has acknowledged that in February 2002 — almost a year before the State of the Union speech — it dispatched a former U.S. diplomat to Africa to investigate reports that Iraq had approached Niger for uranium. That envoy, Joseph C. Wilson IV, concluded that the allegations were false and reported his findings to the agency upon his return.
Wilson hit the L.A. Times‘s front page again in October with the scandal relating to the allegedly illegal outing of his wife, Valerie Plame. On October 1, 2003, a front-page story by Doyle McManus and Bob Drogin, titled “Washington Abuzz Over a New Kind of Scandal,” stated:
In July, Wilson publicly revealed that in 2002, he visited West Africa at the CIA’s request to investigate claims of an Iraqi uranium program — and reported back that the evidence was weak. He accused the White House of ignoring his report and exaggerating the Iraqi threat.
On October 2, 2003, a front-page news analysis by Ron Brownstein repeated the charge:
Wilson had concluded in a study for the CIA that there was no evidence to support claims Bush voiced in his State of the Union speech in January that then-Iraqi President Saddam Hussein had tried to obtain enriched uranium for nuclear weapons in Niger.
The Times last mentioned Wilson on June 25 of this year, in a story that stated:
At the CIA’s request, Wilson, who also had served as an ambassador to several African nations, traveled to Niger and determined that the statement [regarding Iraqi attempts to buy uranium in Niger] was untrue.
Eight days after Wilson’s article [an op-ed in the New York Times] appeared, [Robert] Novak’s column identified Plame as a CIA employee and said she had had a role in her husband being sent to Niger — a contention Wilson says is untrue.
Now we know that all of these claims by Wilson, reported in those numerous Times stories, were false.
But L.A. Times readers don’t know it — unless they read the Washington Post or internet blogs.
What is the Times‘s excuse? Wilson’s accusations were front-page material before. Why is a bipartisan report debunking them not worth mentioning anywhere in the paper?
Is there not enough room in the paper? Well, there’s room enough on today’s front page for the story about Shaquille O’Neal being traded. And there’s room enough in section A for a two-column story about an unintended side effect of the repeal of blue laws in Virginia.
But a bipartisan Senate report showing Joseph Wilson is a liar? Nope — according to the Times editors, it’s not news.
I wonder why not.
UPDATE: A couple of commenters, relying on Josh Marshall, say the Washington Post blew the story, and that Wilson has not been shown to be a liar.
On the issue of Wilson’s credibility (which is the subject of my post), the commenters are wrong. If the Senate report is correct, Wilson is a liar.
The Washington Post did indeed blow part of the story, as a July 13, 2004 correction shows:
A July 10 story on a new Senate report on intelligence failures said that former ambassador Joseph C. Wilson IV told his contacts at the CIA that Iraq had tried to buy 400 tons of uranium from the African nation of Niger in 1998. In fact, it was Iran that was interested in making that purchase, but no contract was signed, according to the report.
But my bullet points above do not rely on the erroneous assertion, which I do not quote or refer to in my post.
I have read the section of the report relating to Wilson. I am still making my way through other parts of the report relating to efforts to procure uranium. If the report is right, Wilson flat-out lied about his wife’s involvement in offering him as a candidate for the Niger trip. Wilson also told falsehoods about having seen forged documents, and having tipped off intelligence officials about how to discern they were forgeries. Wilson learned information that supported the case that Iraq was trying to buy yellowcake; intelligence officials concluded that his trip, if anything, corroborated what they had been told about such efforts to procure uranium. Yet Wilson has maintained that his trip “refuted” reports of such efforts. Nonsense.
As my post says, the Senate report destroys the credibility of this all-important witness to the supposed lies of the Bush administration. It’s time to get the fact of Wilson’s mendacity into the public record, and the L.A. Times‘s stubborn refusal to do so is shameful.