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Is Bush Ready to Fire Cheney?
Handwritten notes may link vice president to Valerie Plame leak
Ludwig De Braeckeleer (ludwig)     Print Article 
Published 2006-05-15 15:06 (KST)   
On Feb. 12, 2002, the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) issued a report titled "Niamey signed an agreement to sell 500 tons of uranium a year to Baghdad." After reading the report, Vice President Dick Cheney requested additional information from his CIA morning briefer. Today, it is known that the DIA report was based on a series of forged documents.

Former CIA analyst Ray McGovern has described Cheney's receipt of a DIA document as very unusual. "In more than two years of briefing then-Vice President George H. W. Bush every other morning, not once did he [Bush] ask a question about a DIA report or even indicate that he had read one," McGovern recalled.

He added that Cheney's receipt of this particular DIA report "almost certainly reflects the widespread practice of 'cherry picking' intelligence."

The CIA had just issued its own report, which claimed, "Some of the information in the DIA report contradicts reporting from the U.S. Embassy in Niamey, Niger."

"U.S. diplomats say the French government-led consortium that operates Niger's two uranium mines maintains complete control over uranium mining and yellowcake production," the report said.

In response to the Cheney's request for more information, the CIA sent him its report.

In a meeting at the CIA organized to provide additional intelligence to Cheney, Valerie Plame suggested to her superior in the Counter-Proliferation Division that her husband, Joseph Wilson, be sent to investigate.

"My husband has good relations with both the 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," Plame said.

Later, in an OP-ED piece in The New York Times (July 6, 2003), Wilson said, "I have little choice but to conclude that some of the intelligence related to Iraq's nuclear weapons program was twisted to exaggerate the Iraqi threat."

In a handwritten note on a copy of Wilson's Op-Ed article, Cheney wrote, "Have they done this sort of thing before? Send an Amb.[ambassador] to answer a question? Do we ordinarily send people out pro bono to work for us? Or did his wife send him on a junket?"

In what is considered an act of retaliation against Wilson, someone in the White House leaked the information that Plame was a CIA agent to the press. Besides being a federal crime, the leak of Plame's identity is rumored to have caused great damage to the agency.

The resulting investigation led to the indictment of I. Lewis Libby, the vice president's former chief of staff. Libby has been charged with perjury and obstruction of justice. He is accused of lying to investigators and a grand jury when he testified that he had learned of Wilson's existence from reporters.

Prosecutors allege that Libby actually learned about Wilson's role from several people, including Cheney. Libby has pleaded not guilty. He will be tried early next year.

At the very least, Cheney's handwritten notes prove that he was aware of the activities of Wilson's wife in the CIA. It is difficult to understand how the name of a mid-level employee could have been known in the White House.

Patrick J. Fitzgerald, the special counsel in the case against Libby, will use these notes to demonstrate the particular interest Libby and Cheney had in Wilson's column.

Legal papers filed on Friday said Cheney's notes "support the proposition that publication of the Wilson Op-Ed acutely focused the attention of the vice president and the defendant -- his chief of staff -- on Mr. Wilson, on the assertions made in his article, and on responding to those assertions.

"The annotated version of the article reflects the contemporaneous reaction of the vice president to Mr. Wilson's Op-Ed article, and thus is relevant to establishing some of the facts that were viewed as important by the defendant's immediate superior, including whether Mr. Wilson's wife had sent him on a junket," the prosecution brief said.

Reacting to reporters' questions about the leak in 2003, President Bush said, "If there is a leak out of my administration, I want to know who it is. And if the person has violated the law, the person will be taken care of."

If the president is true to his word, he may soon have to fire Cheney.
A copy of Wilson's article bearing Cheney's handwritten notes can be consulted at www.nytimes.com/packages/pdf/national/cheney15.pdf.
©2006 OhmyNews
Other articles by reporter Ludwig De Braeckeleer

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