It was the first of many times Joseph Wilson would tell his story to a reporter and the first of many times he would overstate his role and invent his supposed findings. The White House didn't pay much attention to the Kristof column. Few people knew about Wilson and his CIA-sponsored trip, and those who did know dismissed Wilson's claims as wildly inaccurate. Wilson, after all, had gone to Niger and returned some eight months before the U.S. government ever came into possession of the forged documents.
Wilson also peddled his story to John Judis and Spencer Ackerman at the New Republic. And as in the whispered "telephone" game that kids play around the campfire, the story became more distorted the more it was told. In the New Republic's version, Vice President Cheney received the forged documents directly from the British a year before Bush spoke the "16 words" in the January 2003 State of the Union. Cheney thenhad given the information to the CIA, which in turn asked a prominent diplomat, who had served as ambassador to three African countries, to investigate. He returned after a visit to Niger in February 2002 and reported to the State Department and the CIA that the documents were forgeries. The CIA circulated the ambassador's report to the vice president's office, the ambassador confirms to TNR. But, after a British dossier was released in September detailing the purported uranium purchase, administration officials began citing it anyway, culminating in its inclusion in the State of the Union. "They knew the Niger story was a flat-out lie," the former ambassador tells TNR.
It should be clear by now that the only one telling flat-out lies was Joseph Wilson. Again, Wilson's trip to Niger took place in February 2002, some eight months before the U.S. government received the phony Iraq-Niger documents in October 2002. So it is not possible, as he told the Washington Post, that he advised the CIA that "the dates were wrong and the names were wrong." And it is not possible, as Wilson claimed to the New York Times, that he debunked the documents as forgeries.
That was hardly Wilson's only fabrication. He would also tell reporters that his wife had nothing to do with his trip to Niger and, as noted in the New Republic article, that Vice President Cheney's office had seen the report of his findings. Both claims were false.
In other words, the person creating the most confusion in an already complex and complicated chronology is the very person at the center of the action; and the person who is married to the CIA operative who was supposedly outed; the person who was presumably being "retaliated against" by the evil Bush Administration, who hardly knew or cared about his existence prior to the events being investigated.
Several years of investigation will come to fruition later this month. There are many who question if a crime was even committed in publicly naming Valerie Plame, Mrs. Joseph Wilson, as an employee of the CIA and compromising her undercover status.
I honestly don't know what Patrick Fitzgerald will do. So much of what is done these days in the name of the people is done for purely political and partisan reasons that have little to do with honesty, integrity or truth. But here are my thoughts:
If you are looking for the person who has lied; distorted; and deliberately tried to create mischief and undermine the credibility of the U.S.government, while at the same time promoting himself and his own role in the affair---you need look no further than Joseph Wilson, husband of Valerie Plame. The prevarications originated with him. The lies originated with him.
I suspect that the leaks being investigated could very likely have originated from the same malignantly self-absorbed source.
That's my take. We shall see how it all comes down soon.