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An Incomplete Chronology

The Niger Uranium Deception and the "Plame Affair"

by GARY LEUPP

I’ve been working on this timeline obsessively, the way historians do with chronologies. The more detailed they get, the more they clarify the problem. Imperfect though it is let me post it now, with these observations about its meaning.

(1) Officials in the Bush administration intent upon going to war with Iraq made it clear to their own intelligence services and those of close allies that it would welcome any information linking al-Qaeda and Iraq and indicating the Iraq sought to acquire WMD. They made it clear that any material, however questionable, would be of interest to them.

(2) The administration then used this "intelligence," including that specifically doubted by the sources, to build the case for war, attributing it where necessary to foreign sources and implying that the latter had validated it. (The most notable instance of this was President Bush’s attribution of the Niger uranium story to Britain. But there were also the stories about a meeting in Prague between an Iraqi agent and Mohammed Atta, attributed to Czech intelligence, and much else.)

(3) Officials also solicited from Iraqi exiles supporting a U.S. invasion of Iraq (especially Ahmad Chalabi) any information which might help justify an attack, and used it without raising questions about its credibility. The aluminum centrifuge story that "Curveball" supplied, for example.

(4) Officials made use of friendly reporters in the U.S. and elsewhere to publish information justifying war with Iraq, assured that their comments would be attributed to unnamed sources in the administration.

(5) The officials then cited in press interviews the very published stories based on what they, or their colleagues, had planted in the press, as rationales for a war on Iraq. In public statements they referred to such reports, and to "intelligence" from foreign intelligence services, as factual information. That’s what the Judith Miller Affair’s all about. But she’s just one complicit figure.

(6) All of this produced resistance in the administration, the CIA, and international community. This is reflected in Powell’s refusal to include much material prepared by Douglas Feith in his UN presentations, and the UN’s rejection of many administration claims. Powell reportedly fumed in February 2003 on the eve of his infamous UN speech, "I’m not gonna read this bullshit!" But the fact that he gave a thoroughly bogus presentation to the UN, which he now regrets, indicates who had the upper hand within the government.

(7) Officials in the administration sought to punish any persons challenging their disinformation (Annan, ElBaradei, Wilson).

(8) When their disinformation was exposed, those responsible and their allies in the press sought to attach blame for the revealed falsehoods on others (the CIA, France).

(9) The U.S. Congress, and leadership of both parties, have been extremely deferential to those engaging in campaigns of deception, and along with the mainstream press failed ask many questions. Partly this was due to intimidation campaigns. But this is changing, given the course of events.

The inescapable conclusion we must draw is that the Bush administration policy leading into the Iraq War was dominated by officials, grouped under Cheney and Rumsfeld in particular, principally neocons and including Wolfowitz, Libby, Feith, Perle, Abrams, Shulsky, Luti, Bolton, Joseph, Hadley, Wurmser, Franklin, Cambone, Ledeen, Card, Hughes, Rhode, Rove and others who as a matter of policy, and without any moral qualms, deliberately practiced deception to build their case for war. They were not duped by conniving Europeans or badly served by incompetent CIA analysts. They were engaging in "psyops," psychological operations, principally against their own people, whom they needed to delude with the most frightening imagery ("a mushroom cloud") to get their job done.

What was that job? Michael Ledeen, a central figure in the Niger uranium scandal, a sophisticated man who writes elegant prose, sums it up nicely: it requires that "Iran, Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, and even Saudi Arabia" be destabilized, and that "every last drooling anti-Semitic and anti-American mullah, imam, sheikh, and ayatollah is either singing the praises of the United States of America, or pumping gasoline, for a dime a gallon, on an American military base near the Arctic Circle."

Now those guilty of deception—of foisting the Straussian "noble lies" upon the American people and the world—are involved in a desperate effort to avoid exposure, alarmed that the conventional workings of the American political system (congressional hearings, special prosecutors’ investigations, FBI investigations of espionage, reinvigorated investigative journalism, etc.) might not only jeopardize the project but also land the lot of them in jail. In an effort to make them more nervous, I post this chronology, inviting readers to correct and expand it so that it does the job better.

* * * * *

1999

Sometime in 1999: French come to believe someone working abandoned uranium mines; investigate who may be buying smuggled yellowcake.
February: French intelligence agency DGSE (Directorate-General of External Security) delivers a short report to MI6 headquarters at Vauxhall Cross, London, about a visit made by Wissam al-Zahawie, Iraqi ambassador to the Vatican, to Niger. According to the DGSE, he was alleged to have asked President Ibrahim Bare Mainassara of Niger (assassinated April 1999) to supply Baghdad with yellowcake. French and British believed that following the withdrawal of UN inspectors Saddam might be striving to reconstitute a nuclear program, but would be unable to do so under sanctions.

Information about al-Zahawie visit not passed on to CIA. To do so British would have required French permission, and French felt the intelligence questionable.

[Al-Zahawie, interviewed by Independent on Sunday in London in August 2003, stated he had been "instructed to visit four West African countries (Niger, Burkina Faso, Benin and Congo-Brazzaville) to extend an invitation on behalf of the Iraqi President to their heads of state to visit Baghdad." Saddam Hussein hoped to persuade them to vote to lift sanctions if their representatives ever served on the UN Security Council. Mainassara accepted invitation but was assassinated before he was able to make the visit.]

French intelligence becomes involved with Rocco Martino, a former police officer who had worked for SISMI (Servizio per le Informazioni e la Sicurezza Militare, the Italian intelligence service) between 1976 and 1985, when he was fired. He consults contacts at the Niger embassy in Rome.

Martino contacts old friend Antonio Nucera, a policemen (carabinieri), Deputy Chief of the SISMI center in viale Pasteur in Rome, and chief of the 1st and the 8th divisions (weapons and technology transfers and WMD counterproliferation, respectively, for Africa and the Middle East). Asks for any information about uranium purchases from Niger. Nucera places him in touch with "La Signora," a 60-year-old Italian woman who works at Niger embassy and for Italian intelligence and having financial problems.

Sometime in 1999: Martino stops working as double agent for SISMI (according to Italian Defense Ministry).

2001

January 2: Break-in into the Niger Embassy in Rome. Letterhead and official seals stolen. (La Repubblica investigation in October 2005 alleges that break-in was organized by Antonio Nucera and included Martino, "La Signora," and Nigerien diplomat Zakaria Yaou Maiga.)

[In interview with Il Giornale November 6, 2005, Nucera blames La Signora for forgery scheme. Says she was eager to make money from SISMI and so he introduced her to Rocco. "I thought that she might be interested in cooperating with Rocco . . . It's like when you introduce a bricklayer to a friend who needs him to refurbish his house. I cannot take the blame if, at the end of it, the bricklayer screws everything up."]

January 31: Burglary at home of Niger Embassy official in Rome.
February 24: U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell states: "Saddam Hussein has not developed any significant capacity with respect to weapons of mass destruction. He is unable to project conventional power against his neighbors."

September 11: Twin Tower and Pentagon attacks. Bush administration immediately begins preparations for a "pre-emptive" attack upon Iraq.
[October?]: Martino brings documents to CIA station chief at U.S. embassy in Rome. According to former CIA official interviewed by the Washington Post in October 2005, the station chief "saw they were fakes and threw [Martino] out."

October 15: Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi and his newly appointed SISMI chief make official visit to Washington. Berlusconi signals willingness to support U.S. effort to implicate Saddam Hussein in 9/11. Pollari provides CIA officials with dossier indicating that Iraq had sought to buy uranium in Niger and Niger had agreed to send several tons of it to Iraq. Same intelligence passed simultaneously to Britain’s MI6. There is little detail in the report and the State Department dismisses it as "highly suspect."

December 1: Michael Ledeen (former employee of the Pentagon, the State Department and the National Security Council, and associate of Under Secretary of Defense for Policy Douglas Feith) argues in World Jewish Review that perpetual war is the only useful option to ensure the submission of the Muslim World. Declares: "we will not be sated until we have had the blood of every miserable little tyrant in the Middle East, until every leader of every cell of the terror network is dead or locked securely away, and every last drooling anti-Semitic and anti-American mullah, imam, sheikh, and ayatollah is either singing the praises of the United States of America, or pumping gasoline, for a dime a gallon, on an American military base near the Arctic Circle."

[Ledeen formerly a secret agent of National Security Advisor Robert C. MacFarlane during the Reagan administration, involved in the Iran-Contra affair; associate of Iranian arms dealer Manucher Ghorbanifar; scholarly authority on Machiavelli; resident scholar in American Enterprise Institute and major figure in Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs; author of works on Italian fascism in which he evaluates "universal fascism" positively; and longtime advocate of a U.S. attack on Iran.]

Early December: Ledeen organizes meeting in Rome. Involves Ledeen, Pollari, Larry Franklin (Pentagon specialist on Iran), Harold Rhode (Office of Net Assessment at the Pentagon), Ghorbanifar, Antonio Martino (Italian Defense Minister), a former senior official of the Revolutionary Guard in Iran, and others. Meeting deals at least in part with regime change in Iran and is not authorized by the U.S. State Department or CIA. [By one report, approved by Deputy National Security Advisor (chief deputy to Condoleezza Rice) Stephen J. Hadley.]

December 12: U.S. ambassador to Italy Mel Sembler learns of meeting during a dinner with Ledeen and Martino and thereafter reports it to CIA. CIA is concerned about Ledeen’s dealings and reports the matter to Hadley.

Late 2001-early 2002: CIA chief George Tenet later says U.S. found "fragmentary evidence" of Iraqi efforts to purchase uranium from Niger at this time.

2002

2002-early 2003: Vice President Dick Cheney, sometimes accompanied by his chief of staff, I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, visits CIA headquarters in Langley, Virginia "approximately 10" times to discuss their work on intelligence pertaining to Iraq. Some analysts later complain visits made them feel pressured to provide the administration with conclusions supporting the case for war.

[February?] Pollari discusses Rome meeting with CIA chief George Tenet.
Early February: Tenet visits Hadley, discusses Ledeen’s Rome meeting. Hadley instructs Feith’s office to end Ledeen’s dealings with Ghorbanifar.
February 12: Cheney receives from Pollari and Berlusconi expanded version of the unconfirmed Italian report. Says Iraq’s then-ambassador to the Vatican had led a mission to Niger in 1999 and sealed a deal for the purchase of 500 tons of uranium in July 2000. Cheney’s subordinate (including John Hannah and Libby) discusses them, and Cheney either requests a CIA investigation, or is at least believed by the CIA to have done so.

February 12: Defense Intelligence Agency reports Iraq "probably" looking for uranium for a nuclear weapons program.

February 12: Valerie Plame, an undercover CIA operative working in the Counterproliferation Division, sends 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] [of Niger] 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."

February 13: Operations official cables an overseas officer seeking concurrence with the idea of sending Wilson.

February 26: The CIA sends Joseph Wilson to Niger to investigate whether Iraq had tried to purchase yellowcake uranium. Meets with Niger’s former minister of mines, Mai Manga, who declares "there were no sales outside of International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) channels since the mid-1980s," and that he "knew of no contracts signed between Niger and any rogue states for the sale of uranium." Manga stated a "French mining consortium controls Nigerien uranium mining and keeps the uranium very tightly controlled from the time it is mined until the time it is loaded onto ships in Benin for transport overseas," and "it would be difficult, if not impossible, to arrange a special shipment of uranium to a pariah state given these controls." (Senate Intelligence Committee Report, July 2004)

March 1: Department Bureau of Intelligence and Research (INR) sends memorandum to Secretary of State Colin Powell stating claims about Iraqi attempts to obtain uranium from Niger are not credible.
March 5: Returning from Niger, Wilson briefs two CIA agents in his home. Wife present but does not participate. Tells CIA and State Department that there is no basis for claims that Iraqi has tried to purchase uranium from Niger and that documents (which Wilson had never seen) indicating such must have been forged.

March 8-9: CIA circulates a report on Wilson’s trip—without identifying him—to the White House and other agencies. CIA ranks information "good" (ranking 3 on a scale of 5).

March 22: Peter Ricketts, the British Foreign Office’s political director, writes in memo to Foreign Secretary Jack Straw: "[E]ven the best survey of Iraq’s WMD programs will not show much advance in recent years on the nuclear, missile, or chemical weapons/biological weapons fronts: the programs are extremely worrying but have not, as far as we know, been stepped up."

June: second meeting between Ghorbanifar, Rhode and Defense Department officials (in Paris).

Summer 2002: White House Iraq Group assigns Communications Director James R. Wilkinson to prepare a white paper for public release, describing the "grave and gathering danger" of Iraq’s "reconstituted" nuclear weapons program. Wilkinson report claims Iraq "sought uranium oxide, an essential ingredient in the enrichment process, from Africa."

July: Ledeen contacts Sembler, tells him he plans to be in Rome in September to continue "his work" with Ghorbanifar. Sembler informs Hadley, who instructs Ledeen not to deal with Iranians.

July 23: "Downing Street memo" authored by Tony Blair’s secretary Matthew Rycroft states that "the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy" of war with Iraq in Washington.

August: White House Iraq Group founded to coordinate campaign for war with Iraq. Operates out of Cheney’s office, chaired by Karl Rove. Includes Libby, Andrew Card, Mary Matalin, James R. Wilkinson, Nicholas E. Calio and Karen Hughes. Meet twice weekly in White House Situation Room. (May have funneled disinformation provided by Ahmad Chalabi to Judith Miller and others in U.S. press.)

August: Pollari contacts Ledeen, who soon establishes himself as the liaison between SISMI and the Office of Special Plans.

August 26: Cheney states, "we now know that Saddam has resumed his efforts to acquire nuclear weaponsMany of us are convinced that Saddam will acquire nuclear weapons fairly soon."

September: British intelligence informs CIA it plans to include the uranium allegation in a forthcoming report about Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction.

September: Office of Special Plans established in Department of Defense, out of Northern Gulf Affairs Office, by Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz. Serves as an alternative body to the CIA collecting "intelligence" in support of war with Iraq. Headed by William Luti, former naval officer and Cheney aide, answers to Douglas Feith. Staff of 16, including Abram Shulsky, Larry Franklin, Stephen A. Cambone, and Ledeen.

Contacts in other agencies include: John Bolton, Undersecretary of State for Arms Control and International; Bolton’s advisor, David Wurmser, a former research fellow on the Middle East at the American Enterprise Institute, who was just recently working in a secret Pentagon planning unit at Feith’s office; Elizabeth Cheney, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Near East Affairs; Hadley, Elliott Abrams, National Security Council’s top Middle East aide; Defense Policy Board chairman Richard Perle, Newt Gingrich, former CIA Director James Woolsey and Kenneth Adelman of the Defense Policy Board.

September 4: Ledeen editorializes in Wall Street Journal, "The War on Terror Won’t End in Baghdad:" "Stability is an unworthy American mission, and a misleading concept to boot. We do not want stability in Iran, Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, and even Saudi Arabia; we want things to change. The real issue is not whether, but how to destabilize."

September 7: Judith Miller and Michael R. Gordan publish NYT article on the interception of metal tubes bound for Iraq, depicting them as centrifuges for a nuclear weapons program. Front page story quotes unnamed "American officials" and "American intelligence experts" who said the tubes were intended to be used to enrich nuclear material. Cites unnamed "Bush administration officials" who claimed that in recent months, Iraq had "stepped up its quest for nuclear weapons and has embarked on a worldwide hunt for materials to make an atomic bomb." Says "Mr. Hussein’s dogged insistence on pursuing his nuclear ambitions, along with what defectors described in interviews as Iraq’s push to improve and expand Baghdad’s chemical and biological arsenals, have brought Iraq and the United States to the brink of war." Rice, Powell and Rumsfeld all cite this information as basis for going to war with Iraq.
Many in intelligence community skeptical of claims.

September 8: Cheney tells NBC’s "Meet the Press:" "And what we’ve seen recently that has raised our level of concern to the current state of unrest … is that he now is trying, through his illicit procurement network, to acquire the equipment he needs to be able to enrich uranium — specifically, aluminum tubes." Cites Miller’s September 7 piece.

September 8: Rice tells CNN’s "Late Edition," "The problem here is that there will always be some uncertainty about how quickly [Saddam Hussein] can acquire nuclear weapons. But we don’t want the smoking gun to be a mushroom cloud." [Washington Post later (August 10, 2003) suggests "The escalation of nuclear rhetoric a year ago, including the introduction of the term 'mushroom cloud' into the debate, coincided with the formation of a White House Iraq Group, or WHIG, a task force assigned to 'educate the public' about the threat from Hussein, as a participant put it."] Cites Miller’s September 7 piece.

Rice says aluminum tubes Iraq sought to purchase "are only really suited for nuclear weapons programs, centrifuge programs."

September 9: According to later (October 2005) Repubblica account, Pollari meets secretly in Washington with Rice, Hadley, and other U.S. and Italian officials, in a meeting which may have been set up by Ledeen. (Rice spokesman Frederick Jones tells New York Times November 28, 2005 that meeting only a "courtesy call" lasting 15 minutes, and no one present can recall Niger uranium being discussed.) Some reports indicate a second meeting between Pollari and Hadley on the same day arranged through backchannels by Gianni Castellaneta, Berlusconi’s diplomatic advisor,

September 12: President Bush delivers a speech to the United Nations calling on the organization to enforce its resolutions for disarming Iraq, implies that if the United Nations does not act, the United States will.

September 16: Baghdad announces that it will allow arms inspectors to return "without conditions." U.S. to press Security Council to approve a new UN resolution calling for Iraq to give weapons inspectors unfettered access and authorizing the use of force if Iraq does not comply.
September: Congress authorizes Bush to wage war on Iraq. President had based his case on National Intelligence Estimate of Iraq’s Weapons of Mass Destruction Programs prepared in August by the Director of Central Intelligence.

September 24: British government report states, "there is intelligence that Iraq has sought the supply of significant quantities of uranium from Africa. Iraq has no active civil nuclear power programme or nuclear power plants, and therefore has no legitimate reason to acquire uranium." Also says Iraq has chemical and biological weapons "deployable within 45 minutes of an order to use them," and "constructed a new engine test stand for the development of missiles capable of reaching the UK Sovereign Base Areas in Cyprus and NATO members (Greece and Turkey), as well as all Iraq’s Gulf neighbours and Israel"
September/October: U.S. intelligence officials tell Senate committees they doubt the British report regarding the Iraq/uranium claim.

October 1: CIA sends 90-plus page dossier on Iraq to the White House. Italian report about a possible Iraqi effort to acquire yellowcake from Niger is not included in "Key Judgments" section, and is mentioned only in footnotes to Annex A and labeled "highly dubious."

Early October: A classified National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) states: "A foreign government service reported that as of early 2001, Niger planned to send several tons" of uranium to Iraq and "Niger and Iraq reportedly were still working out arrangements for this deal, which could be for up to 500 tons of yellowcake [lightly processed uranium ore]." Adds, "reports indicate Iraq also has sought uranium ore from Somalia and possibly the Democratic Republic of the Congo. We cannot confirm whether Iraq succeeded in acquiring uranium ore and/or yellowcake from these sources." Contains State Department INR dissent which characterizes "claims of Iraqi pursuit of natural uranium in Africa" are "highly dubious." Condoleezza Rice does not read dissent.

October 5: CIA sends memorandum to Hadley and White House speechwriter Michael Gerson, asking them to remove a line in October 7 Bush speech in Cincinnati referring to Iraq’s attempted purchase of "500 metric tons of uranium oxide fromAfrica." (Hadley will later claim in July 2003 that he did not brief Rice on the memo.)

October 6: CIA sends memorandum to the White House providing additional detail about the Iraq uranium claim and noting the U.S. Intelligence Community’s differences with Britain over the intelligence. The rewritten sentence: "[T]he regime has been caught attempting to purchase substantial amounts of uranium oxide from sources in Africa" removed from speech.

October 7: In Cincinnati, Bush uses final rewrite of sentence and declares, "If the Iraqi regime is able to produce, buy, or steal an amount of highly enriched uranium a little larger than a single softball, it could have a nuclear weapon in less than a year." "Facing clear evidence of peril, we cannot wait for the final proof—the smoking gun—that could come in the form of a mushroom cloud."

October: Marino presents DGSE with documents which appeared to show that Niger had signed a deal in July 2000 to supply Iraq with yellowcake-similar to the story Italian intelligence had told the CIA. The DGSE rejects the documents as fake.

October: Martino offers the documents for $15,000 to Elisabetta Burba, Italian journalist with Panorama magazine (owned by Berlusconi). Burba receives a cache of letters and other papers supposed to be correspondence between Niger officials and Iraqis seeking to acquire uranium yellowcake from Martino, but questions its authenticity and does not publish it.

October 9: Burba delivers papers to the U.S. embassy in Rome. Embassy sends to Washington, D.C.

Oct. 15: The CIA receives the first of three top-secret reports from SISMI indicating that Niger planned to ship tons of uranium ore, or yellowcake, to Iraq.

Mid-October: (According to State Department spokesman Richard Boucher, July 17, 2003) State Department acquires documents about the Iraq-Niger uranium deal and shares them with "all the appropriate agencies." (But "a senior administration official" claimed July 18, 2003 that the CIA did not receive the documents until February 2003.)

November 8: Under U.S. pressure UNSC approves Resolution 1441; UN inspectors return to Iraq.

November 22: French finally tell Americans about their original 1999 intelligence, say they are certain that Iraq had tried and failed to obtain yellowcake.

December 7: Iraq gives UN weapons inspectors extensive declaration of the history of its WMD programs and their destruction.

December 19: Fact sheet not cleared by State Department intelligence bureau but subsequently (April 29, 2003) represented as "developed jointly by the CIA and Defense Department" charges Iraq with omitting its "efforts to procure uranium from Niger" from its December 7 declaration.
December 19: IAEA makes a formal request to U.S. to see any "actionable information" behind the uranium allegation so it can investigate.

2003

Early January 2003: Pollari (according to his account in November 2005) personally warns the CIA that the Niger documents are fake.
January: Hannah and Libby main authors of a 48-page draft speech intended to make the administration’s case for war in Iraq before the United Nations. Draft provided to Powell, in advance of his UNSC speech Feb. 5. Powell and Tenet discard most of its contents about Iraq’s weapons programs as exaggerated and unwarranted.

January: Debate between CIA and White House officials about whether or not to include the story about Niger uranium in President Bush’s State of the Union address. National Security Council staff member and Stephen Hadley subordinate Robert Joseph (Special Assistant to the President and Senior Director for Proliferation Strategy, Counterproliferation and Homeland Defense) approves inclusion if report is attributed to British intelligence. Alan Foley, director of the DCI’s Center for Weapons Intelligence, Nonproliferation, and Arms Control, questions intelligence but agrees with final draft of the speech.

January 20: President Bush submits a report to Congress stating Iraq omitted "attempts to acquire uranium" from its December 7 declaration to the UN.

January 23: National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice writes in The New York Times that Iraq’s declaration "fails to account for or explain Iraq’s efforts to get uranium from abroad." A White House report issued the same day asserts that Iraq’s weapons declaration "ignores efforts to procure uranium from abroad."

January 24: National Security Council staff puts out a call for new intelligence to bolster claims that Saddam Hussein possessed nuclear, chemical and biological weapons or programs. Robert Walpole, national intelligence officer for strategic and nuclear programs, receives request. Later tells investigators "the NSC believed the nuclear case was weak," according to a 500-page report released in 2002 by the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence.

January 26: Powell asks, "Why is Iraq still trying to procure uranium and the special equipment needed to transform it into material for nuclear weapons?" during a speech at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.

January 27: IAEA Director General Mohamed ElBaradei tells the UN Security Council that IAEA inspectors "have to date found no evidence that Iraq has revived its nuclear weapons programme since the elimination of the programme in the 1990s."

January 28: President Bush asserts that "the British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa" during his State of the Union address.

January 29: Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld states in a press briefing that Iraq "recently was discovered seeking significant quantities of uranium from Africa."

January 29: IAEA head Mohamed ElBaradei tells Washington Post: "Niger denied [the Iraq uranium purchase claim], Iraq denied it, and we haven’t seen any contracts." Also discounts the aluminum tubes claim.

February 1-4: Powell rehearses the speech he is to give at the UN

February 5. Cheney staff insists he "link Iraq directly to the 9/11 terrorist attacks on New York and Washington" and include the allegation that Mohammed Atta had met in Prague with an Iraqi intelligence officer in 2001. Powell’s staff rejects much of the content of the drafted speech.
At one point, Powell reportedly says, "I’m not reading this. This is bullshit."

February 4: State Department officials give the IAEA the information the agency requested about Iraq’s attempts to obtain uranium from Niger, telling the agency that it "cannot confirm these reports and [has] questions regarding some specific claims."

February 5: Powell presents evidence, based on U.S. intelligence, about Iraq’s prohibited weapons programs to the UN Security Council. (Almost all of this subsequently disproved.) He does not mention Iraqi attempts to obtain uranium from Africa.

February 14: ElBaradei reports to the Security Council that "We have to date found no evidence of ongoing prohibited nuclear or nuclear related activities in Iraq."

February 14: IAEA makes a preliminary finding that the Niger documents are forgeries, based on the identification of several crude errors.

February: Retired Iraqi diplomat Zahawie, now living in Jordan, receives an urgent call from the Iraqi embassy in Amman, calling him to the Foreign Ministry in Baghdad as soon as possible. Arriving in Baghdad, he is interviewed by UN inspectors who inquire about his visit to Niger in 1999 and ask if he had signed a letter on July 6, 2000 to Niger regarding the sale of uranium to Iraq. Replies: "I said absolutely not, and if they had seen such a letter it must surely be a forgery. . . I have never been involved in any secret negotiations. I am willing to co-operate with anyone who wants to see me and find out more."

March: Hounded by accusations of improper business dealings including profiteering over security contracts, Richard Perle resigns as chairman of Defense Policy Board. Writes to Rumsfeld, "As I cannot quickly or easily quell criticism of me based on errors of fact concerning my activities, the least I can do under these circumstances is to ask you to accept my resignation as chairman of the Defense Policy Board." (Later leaves DPB altogether.)

March 7: ElBaradei formally reports to UN that the documents are forgeries.

March 7: U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell on NBC’s "Meet the Press" denies "any falsification activities" by U.S. government and states, "It was the information that we had. We provided it. If that information is inaccurate, fine." U.S. maintains there is additional evidence provided by a second foreign government [Italy] aside from Britain. [But in April 29, 2003 letter to Senate Intelligence Panel Democrats assistant secretary of state for legislative affairs Paul V. Kelly says, "Not until March 4 did we learn that in fact the second Western European government had based its assessment on the evidence already available to the U.S. that was subsequently discredited."]

March 14: Sen. Rockefeller (West Va.) sends letter to Director Mueller requesting an investigation into the origin of the Niger documents.

March 19: U.S. invasion of Iraq begins.

April 21: Judith Miller reports in NYT that an unnamed Iraqi scientist unavailable for interview by reporters has told U.S. authorities that on the eve of the U.S. invasion, Saddam’s regime "destroyed chemical weapons and biological warfare equipment" and that U.S. investigators had visited the site of destruction, and confirmed the scientist’s story. Also says "Iraq had secretly sent unconventional weapons and technology to Syria, starting in the mid-1990’s" and states that "more recently Iraq was cooperating with Al Qaeda. Miller says this may be "the most important discovery to date in the hunt for illegal weapons" and quotes Maj. Gen. David Petraeus, commander of the 101st Airborne Division, as saying "it may be the major discovery."

May 6: Nicholas Kristof publishes an article in New York Times mentioning that a claim central to Bush’s war rationale had been investigated by a former ambassador to an African country and rejected.

May 23: Senators Roberts and Rockefeller send a letter to the CIA and State Department Inspectors General to review issues related to the Niger documents.

May 29: Libby asks Undersecretary of State John Bolton, and Marc Grossman, the undersecretary of state for political affairs, for information about news report about CIA’s secret envoy to Africa in 2002. Grossman requests a classified memo from Carl Ford, the director of the State Department’s intelligence bureau, and later orally briefs Libby on its contents. Frederick Fleitz, Bolton’s chief of staff and concurrently a senior CIA Weapons Intelligence, Nonproliferation and Arms Control official, supplies Bolton with Plame’s identity. Bolton passes this to Wurmser, who supplies it to Hannah. On receiving this information, Libby asks Bolton for a report on Wilson’s trip to Niger, which Wilson presented orally to the CIA upon his return.

By June: When no evidence for a nuclear program is found, officials blame "flawed intelligence" and the CIA. CIA reorganization planned.

June: Washington Post publishes list of the people whom Karl Rove regularly consults for advice outside the administration. Foreign policy veterans shocked to find Michael Ledeen the only full-time international affairs analyst. Quotes Ledeen as saying that Rove had told him "any time you have a good idea, tell me." According to Post: "More than once, Ledeen has seen his ideas, faxed to Rove, become official policy or rhetoric."

June 2: Sen. Rockefeller issues a press release endorsing a statement made of the previous weekend by Senator Warner calling for a joint SSCI/SASC investigation into Niger document forgeries.

June 4: Senator Rockefeller issues a press release saying he would push for an investigation. Senator Roberts issues a press release saying calls for an investigation are premature.

June 9: Classified CIA documents on Wilson’s trip are sent to Libby’s office.

June 10: Sen. Rockefeller sends a letter to Senator Roberts asking for an investigation.

June 11: All Intelligence Committee Democrats sign a letter to Sen. Roberts asking for a meeting of the Committee to discuss the question of authorizing an inquiry into the intelligence that formed the basis for going to war.

June 11: Sen. Roberts issues a press release saying this is routine committee oversight, and that criticism of the intelligence community is unwarranted. Senator Rockefeller issues a press release calling the ongoing review inadequate.

June 11: Two government officials tell Libby that Wilson’s wife works for the CIA and is believed responsible for sending him on the trip.

June 12: Cheney himself tells Libby that Valerie Plame works in the CIA’s counter-proliferation division.

June: Discussions involving Libby, Cheney counsel David Addington, Hannah, Cheney press secretary Catherine Martin and other White House officials, about whether Wilson-Plame information could be shared with reporters.

June: Ghorbanifar-Rhode meeting in Paris.

June 8: Rice tells NBC’s "Meet the Press," "The president quoted a British paper [about the African uranium story]. We did not know at the time-no one knew at the time, in our circles-maybe someone knew down in the bowels of the agency, but no one in our circles knew that there were doubts and suspicions that this might be a forgery."

June: Office of Special Plans closed down [?]

June 9: Classified CIA documents on Wilson’s trip are sent to Libby’s office.

June 11: Two government officials tell Libby that Wilson’s wife works for the CIA and is believed responsible for sending him on the trip.

June 12: Cheney himself tells Libby that Valerie Plame works in the CIA’s counter-proliferation division.

June 12: Walter Pincus in the Washington Post provides more details about Wilson trip without mentioning his name.

June 14: Libby meets with a CIA briefer and discusses the Wilsons.
Mid-June: Powell and his deputy secretary Richard Armitage may have received a copy of the Grossman memo.

June 19: After New Republic reports that Cheney’s office had sent Wilson to Niger, Libby and his then-principal deputy, Eric Edelman, discuss whether to leak the details of the trip to the press to rebut the article. Libby tells Edelman "there would be complications at the CIA" from disclosing the information.

June 23: "Scooter" Libby discusses Wilson with Judith Miller of the New York Times, mentions wife "might work at a bureau of the CIA." Miller notes say "…Libby discussed Mr. Wilson’s activities and placed blame for intelligence failures on the C.I.A."

July 6: Joseph Wilson’s op-ed piece in the New York Times; says, "I have little choice but to conclude that some of the intelligence related to Iraq’s nuclear weapons programme was twisted to exaggerate the Iraqi threat."

July 7: British House of Commons Foreign Affairs Committee issues a report on British dossier on Iraq, noting that CIA had informed British intelligence that Niger uranium documents were a hoax in 2002.

July 7: Libby tells president’s press secretary that it’s not widely known that Plame works for CIA.

July 8: Libby meets again with Miller at St. Regis Hotel in Washington, discusses Plame.

July 8: Administration retracts Niger allegation. White House announces, "We now know that documents alleging a transaction between Iraq and Niger had been forged." CIA Director Tenet and other White House officials say Bush’s reference to African uranium should not have been included in his State of the Union address.

July 9: Cheney’s office faxed classified information about Wilson trip from CIA.

July: Rove discusses Wilson and wife with Cooper.

July: Rove tells Libby about his conversation with columnist Robert Novak, and says that Novak will publish an article mentioning Plame.

July 12: Rove, Libby, Hadley and Tenet coordinate their responses to Wilson piece. Libby calls Miller and Time magazine reporter Matthew Cooper to discuss Wilson and his wife.

Summer: Senate Select Committee on Intelligence asks CIA about the Ghorbanifar-Ledeen-Department of Defense meetings.

Summer: Newsday breaks the story about the December 2001 Rome meeting involving Ledeen, Rhode, Ghorbanifar, Pollari, etc.

July 14: Novak questions Wilson’s motives in going public about his Niger visit, citing two "senior administration officials" names Valerie Plame as a CIA operative. "Wilson never worked for the CIA, but his wife, Valerie Plame, is an agency operative." Suggests that nepotism is "the missing explanation of an otherwise incredible choice by the CIA."

July 7: During flight to Africa, Rice agrees to appear on the Sunday shows to "protect Cheney by explaining that he had had nothing to do with sending Wilson to Niger, and dismiss the yellowcake issue."

July 14-16: Daily Telegraph, Washington Times, FrontPage Magazine all accuse France of not allowing MI6 to share intelligence affirming Niger uranium purchase effort more credible than that contained in the forged documents.

July 16: David Corn of the Nation points out that Novak’s naming of Plame "would have compromised every operation, every relationship, every network with which she had been associated her entire career."

July 16: In Rome, Niger’s ambassador to Italy says no one from her country’s diplomatic corps had created any fabrication, and that Nigerien President Mamadou Tandja had met with Bush the previous week to tell him that.

July: Sen. Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) demands an investigation of the Plame Affair.

July 18: News & World Report senior writer Michael Barone claims Wilson "lied" in his NYT op-ed piece.

July 21: Bush and Rice meet with Berlusconi in Crawford, Texas.

July 22: Bush’s communications director Dan Bartlett calls an unusual press conference to brief reporters on uranium charge. Hadley takes the blame, saying he had forgotten about CIA objections when including the charge in the state of the union speech. Some speculate he is taking the blame in lieu of Robert Joseph. Rice turns down Hadley’s offer to resign.

July 27: Niger’s prime minister Hama Hamadou interviewed by The Telegraph, says his government had never had discussions with Iraq about uranium and called on Tony Blair to produce the "evidence" he claims to have to confirm that Iraq sought uranium from Niger in the 1990s.

July 30: CIA reports to Justice Department a possible offense "concerning the unauthorized disclosure of classified information."

August: CIA completes an 11-question form detailing the potential damage done.

August 3: Sunday Telegraph reports that that Herman Cohen, former assistant secretary of state for Africa, had visited President Mamadou Tandja the previous week and warned him to keep silent on the Iraq uranium purchase story. Quotes a senior Niger government official as saying there was a "clear attempt to stop any more embarrassing stories coming out of Niger." He says Washington’s warning would likely to be heeded: "Mr. Cohen did not spell it out but everybody in Niger knows what the consequences of upsetting America or Britain would be. We are the world’s second-poorest country and we depend on international trade to survive."

September: Tenet memo raises questions about whether the leakers had violated federal law.

September: The Washington Post reports that at least six journalists had been told of the Plame story before Novak’s column appeared.

White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan says that "[i]f anyone in this administration is involved in [the leak], they would no longer be in this administration."

The Justice Department launches a probe of the leak.

September: UK parliamentary report on prewar intelligence. Claims that "The SIS [Special Intelligence Service] stated that the documents did not affect its judgment of its second source and consequently the SIS continues to believe that the Iraqis were attempting to negotiate the purchase of uranium from Niger. We have questioned the SIS about the basis of its judgment and conclude that it is reasonable." ["Second source" apart from the Italian cache apparently the French report about the 1999 Iraqi visit to Niger.]

September: After press reports quoting Sen. Roberts as saying the Intelligence Committee investigation was almost over, Sen. Rockefeller sends a letter to Roberts urging him not to rush to complete the investigation prematurely. Wants to focus on administration use of "flawed intelligence" in the buildup to war.

September 14: in interview on NBC’s "Meet the Press," Cheney says he had no knowledge of how Wilson was sent to Niger: "He never submitted a report that I ever saw when he came back. I don’t know Mr. Wilson. I’ve never met Joe Wilson. I probably shouldn’t judge him. I have no idea who hired him." "I don’t know who sent Joe Wilson. I have no idea who hired him." Says he didn’t even know Wilson had a wife. Denies any administration effort to discredit him.

September 29: Justice Department lawyers notified then-White House Counsel Alberto R. Gonzales at about 8 p.m. that the investigation had begun. Gonzales (now attorney general) later claims he alerted Chief of Staff Andrew H. Card Jr. at once.

Early October: Karl Rove calls MSNBC’s "Hardball" host Chris Matthews and tells him Valerie Plame is "fair game." White House spokesman Scott McClellan tells reporters it was "totally ridiculous" to suspect Rove had a role in outing Plame.

October 7: Bush says, "I don’t know if we’re going to find out the senior administration official. Now, this is a large administration, and there’s [sic] a lot of senior officials."

October 8: Rove interviewed by FBI, denies having leaked Plame’s name, says only mentioned it to reporters after Novak’s column had appeared. Says administration enlisted conservative interest groups and the Republican National Committee to leak disparaging information about Plame. [Nearly a year after this Rove's attorney, Robert Luskin, contacts Fitzgerald to say that Rove had recalled the conversation he'd had with Cooper about Plame-Wilson and her husband, Joseph. It was only after Cooper had been forced to testify about his conversation with Rove in summer of 2005 that Rove recalled the interview, even though the conversation had taken place in July 2000]

October 10: Asked directly if Rove and two other White House aides had ever discussed Valerie Plame with any reporters, McClellan says he has spoken with Libby, Rove and Elliott Abrams, and "those individuals assured me they were not involved in this."

October 14: Senator Tom Daschle asks CIA director George Tenet to conduct a damage assessment for the leak.

October 15: New York Times reports that senior criminal prosecutors and FBI officials have criticized the Attorney General’s failure to recuse himself or appoint a special counsel.

October 17: David S. Cloud from the Wall Street Journal is the first to mention (other than Novak) the existence of the 2002 CIA memo that purports to show that Plame recommended Wilson for the Niger mission.

December 14: British newspaper The Telegraph reports it has "exclusively" obtained copy of memo written to Saddam Hussein by Tahir Jalil Habbush al-Tikriti, the former head of the Iraqi Intelligence Service, dated July 1, 2001, detailing a three-day "work programme" Atta had undertaken at Abu Nidal’s base in Baghdad, and including a section entitled "Niger Shipment," including a report about an unspecified shipment (which Telegraph says is "believed to be uranium") that has been transported to Iraq via Libya and Syria. (Appears to remarkably verify all main Bush administration contentions about the reasons to attack Iraq, but a probable forgery.)

December 30: Attorney General John Ashcroft recuses himself from case because of close personal relationships with principals; Patrick Fitzgerald is named special prosecutor in the case.

2004

January: Grand jury in Plame case begins hearing testimony.
February 10: Several White House officials asked to sign waivers requesting that "no member of the news media assert any privilege or refuse to answer any questions from federal law enforcement authorities on my behalf or for my benefit." Miller’s lawyers receive waiver from Libby.

March 5: Libby testifies before grand jury, says he learned Plame’s name from reporters.

March 26: Libby testifies again before grand jury.

March: Senate Intelligence Committee chair Roberts says of any investigation of the Office of Special Plans: "It’s basically on the back burner. The bottom line is that [the White House] believed the intelligence, and the intelligence was wrong."

June 10: Bush tells reporter "yes" when asked if he would "stand by your pledge to fire anyone" that leaked Plame’s name.

July 9: "Report on the U.S. Intelligence Community’s Prewar Intelligence Assessments on Iraq" released by Senate Intelligence Committee.

Blames CIA for "a series of failures, particularly in analytic tradecraft" that "led to the mischaracterization of the intelligence" on Iraq’s WMDs. Includes 48 pages on the Niger uranium story; says Niger’s former prime minister Ibrahim Mayaki had met an Iraqi delegation expecting to discuss uranium but had avoided the subject. Says CIA viewed Wilson’s report as showing that Iraq had sought uranium from Africa, while the State Department’s Bureau of Intelligence and Research (INR) believed it backed its their assessment that Niger was unwilling and unable to sell uranium to Iraq.

Chair Pat Roberts (R-Kansas) delays Phase II of investigation (examination of administration use of intelligence) until after November election.

July 14: Mayaki denies U.S. Senate report that he met with an Iraqi delegation seeking to buy uranium in 1999. Says "I think this could be easily verified by the Western intelligence services and by the authorities in Niger."

July 14: Butler Report released in the UK. States: "We have been told that it was not until early 2003 that the British Government became aware that the US (and other states) had received from a journalistic source a number of documents alleged to cover the Iraqi procurement of uranium from Niger. Those documents were passed to the IAEA, which in its update report to the United Nations Security Council in March 2003 determined that the papers were forgeries … The forged documents were not available to the British Government at the time its assessment was made, and so the fact of the forgery does not undermine it."

August 1-2: Sunday Times and Financial Times both report that Rocco Martino says he was the source of the false stories and documents related to Iraq’s alleged attempts to buy uranium from Niger. Says he did so for profit after learning of keen French interest in preventing unauthorized sale of uranium from French-owned uranium mines in Niger.

Also states U.S. and Italian governments were behind disinformation operation. "It’s true, I had a hand in the dissemination of those (Niger uranium) documents, but I was duped. Both Americans and Italians were involved behind the scenes. It was a disinformation operation."

August 12 and August 20: grand jury subpoenas issued to Judith Miller and NYT.

August 27: CBS News breaks story of FBI investigation of possible spy for Israel (Larry Franklin) working in Defense Department as Iran specialist under Feith and Wolfowitz. [Franklin a member of the Ledeen team meeting with Italians and Iranians in Rome December 2001, as well as an Office of Special Plans operative.]

September 2: CBS bumps a half-hour segment on Niger document forgeries from its prime-time "60 Minutes" broadcast in favor of one concerning Bush’s National Guard service.

October 15: Rove testifies for two hours before grand jury.

November 2: George W. Bush re-elected as U.S. president.

November: Rice made Secretary of State, replacing Powell; Hadley new National Security Advisor.

December: U.S. campaigns against third term for ElBaradei as IAEA chief, ostensibly because UN officials do not normally serve out three terms. (U.S. approach Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer as replacement but he and other possible candidates decline to challenge ElBaradei.)

December 12: Washington Post reports that three U.S. government officials have told them that the Bush administration has intercepted dozens of ElBaradei’s phone calls with Iranian diplomats and has been scrutinizing them in search of ammunition to oust him as director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency.

2005

March 31: Commission on the Intelligence Capabilities of the United States Regarding Weapons of Mass Destruction issues its Report to the President of the United States. States pertaining to nuclear weapons program allegations that (1) aluminum tubes assessment was "poor analytical tradecraft;" (2) "other streams" of intelligence relating to nuclear program "very thin;" (3) "other indications of reconstitution" also "did not themselves amount to a persuasive case;" and (4) "the Intelligence Community failed to authenticate in a timely fashion transparently forged documents" relating to the alleged Niger connection.

April 12: Al Jazeera reports, "When the former CIA head of counter-terrorism [Vincent Cannistaro] was asked if a Michael Ledeen had been the one who produced the Iraq documents he said ‘You’d be very close.’"

April 29: Wolfowitz, nominated by Bush in January to head World Bank, leaves Defense Department.

May 1: The London Sunday Times publishes the secret "Downing Secret Memo."

May 3: FBI files criminal espionage charges against Franklin.

May 17: White House press secretary Scott McClellan says accusations stemming from the "Downing Street Memo" that intelligence was "being fixed" to support a policy of regime change in Iraq are "flat out wrong."
June: Supreme Court refuses to hear appeals from New York Times reporter Judith Miller and Time magazine’s Matt Cooper to avoid testifying before the grand jury.

June: Despite U.S. campaign against him, Dr. Mohamed ElBaradei elected to a third term as IAEA Director General.

June 21: Wolfowitz becomes head of the World Bank.
July: Cooper testifies before the grand jury, after his source releases him from a confidentiality pledge.

July 6: Miller jailed for contempt; says she wants to protect the identity of source(s) who leaked Plame’s name to her.
[before September 5]: John Bolton among those visiting Miller in prison.

July 7: Bush tells reporters that if anyone in his administration committed a crime in connection with the leak, that person "will no longer work in my administration."

July: Italian parliamentary report on the forged Niger uranium documents. Names four men as the likely forgers of the documents: Michael Ledeen, Dewey Clarridge (CIA operative involved in Iran-Contra Affair), Ahmed Chalabi and Francis Brookes (member of a "public relations" body formed by the Pentagon engaged to promote Chalabi and the Iraqi National Congress). Suggests forgeries may have been planned at December 2001 Rome meeting involving Ledeen, Franklin.

Late July: Italian government receives a letter from Robert Mueller, the director of the FBI, expressing the highest appreciation for Italy for its cooperation with the investigation of the Niger document forgeries.

August 1: Bolton appointed temporary U.S. ambassador to UN after Congress refuses to confirm him. Campaigns for UNSC condemnation of Syria and Iran.

August 4: Robert Novak walks off CNN’s "Inside Politics" set after uttering expletive. Host Ed Henry had planned to ask him about the Plame leak issue. CNN suspends Novak.

August 8: Douglas Feith steps down, leaves Defense Department.
September 29: Miller is released from jail after 85 days behind bares and testifies before the grand jury. She says her source has "voluntarily and personally released me from my promise of confidentiality." Recalls and submits notes from June 23, 2003 conversation with Libby.

October: Italian newspaper La Repubblica publishes exposé on forged Niger documents.

October 12: Miller questioned by grand jury. Says "cannot recall" who gave her Plame’s name, but says it wasn’t Libby.

October 14: Rove testifies before grand jury for the fourth time.

Oct. 17: In a press conference, President Bush declines to say whether he would remove an aide under indictment.

October: ElBaradei and the IAEA jointly awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. Widely interpreted as a statement against U.S. efforts to manipulate intelligence to attack Iraq, Iran.

October 18: Neocon publication The Weekly Standard features article by staff writer Stephen F. Hayes claiming the "narrative constructed to date by the mainstream media" surrounding the Plame investigation is "very misleading." Says CIA interpreted Wilson’s report as supportive of the charge that Iraq sought yellowcake from Niger, and that administrations had not targeted Wilson and his wife for punishment.

On MSNBC’s Hardball with Chris Matthews, Matthews describes Hayes’ article as a "brilliant piece," says Hayes is "a great reporter, and. . .probably right in every regard."

October 19: Powell tells prominent Republican senator that Cheney had become "fixated" on the relationship between Wilson and his wife after he and Bush learned about it directly from Powell.

October 23: UPI editor Martin Walker cites "NATO intelligence sources" as saying, "Fitzgerald’s team of investigators has sought and obtained documentation on the forgeries from the Italian government. Fitzgerald’s team has been given the full, and as yet unpublished report of the Italian parliamentary inquiry into the affair…. This opens the door to what has always been the most serious implication of the CIA leak case, that the Bush administration could face a brutally damaging and public inquiry into the case for war against Iraq being false or artificially exaggerated."

October 28: Fitzgerald indicts Libby. Libby resigns and is replaced by John Hannah as Cheney’s chief of staff.

October 28: Bush in speech on terrorism in Norfolk, Va. again states that Iraq posed a threat before invasion because it was pursuing nuclear weapons.

October 31: Berlusconi, accused of urging Italian intelligence to help U.S. build case for war on Iraq, tells Italian press that he had in fact argued against war with Iraq. Former Bush advisor and "Axis of Evil" speech writer neocon David Frum declares Bush "no longer trusts" Berlusconi on eve of his visit to Washington.

October 31: After meeting with Bush in Washington, Berlusconi tells Italian reporters, "Bush himself confirmed to me that the U.S.A. did not have any information [about alleged uranium sales from Niger to Iraq] from Italian [intelligence] agencies." No joint press conference following the meeting.

October 31: Writing in National Review Online, Ledeen calls for action against Iran, urges "our dithering leaders" to "resume fighting the war against terror, a war currently limited, to their shame, to a defensive struggle within the boundaries of Iraq, while they move against us on a global scale. Faster, please."

November 1: Rumsfeld tells Pentagon reporters he does not recall talking to Vice President Dick Cheney about undercover CIA officer Valerie Plame and is not aware of any involvement in the matter by the Defense Department. But says with a department of hundreds of thousands of people, he couldn’t be sure.

November 2: Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid declares: "The record will. . .show that in the months and years after 9/11, the Administration engaged in a pattern of manipulation of the facts and retribution against anyone who got in its way as it made the case for attacking Iraq." Criticizes Senate Intelligence Committee chairman Roberts for foot-dragging on Phase II of the investigation into pre-war intelligence, intended to investigate Bush administration use or misuse of intelligence. Calls for closed-door session of the Senate; Senate agrees that each party will named three senators to an informal task force to decide by Nov. 14 how to proceed.

November 5: Senate Intelligence Committee’s staff director, Bill Duhnke, says that Roberts’ position is that "no way is staff going to pass judgment about members of Congress or the president" pertaining to their use of intelligence. Democrats disagree.

November 6: Sen. Roberts reiterates that his panel had found no evidence of "political manipulation or pressure" in the use of intelligence before the Iraq War.

November 7: Former Sen. Bob Graham (D-Fla.), former head of Senate Intelligence Committee tells Miami Herald he believes Cheney was a "conspirator" in the effort to discredit Wilson. Says "yes" when asked if he believed Bush administration lied about Iraq intelligence before the war.

November 7: In his National Review Online column, Ledeen implies that France responsible for Niger forgeries, claims French President Jacques Chirac wanted to embarrass the Clinton administration in power at the time they were forged and help Saddam Hussein.

* * * * *

In his Universal Fascism (1995), Ledeen wrote, "In order to achieve the most noble accomplishments, the leader may have to ‘enter into evil.’ This is the chilling insight that has made Machiavelli so feared, admired and challenging… [W]e [ordinary people] are rotten…. It’s true that we can achieve greatness if, and only if, we are properly led."

Properly led, that is, by wise leaders appropriately promoting "noble lies" to get the job done.

Ledeen told the American Enterprise Institute on March 27, 2003, when only about 60 U.S. troops had died in Iraq:

"I think the level of casualties is secondary. I mean, it may sound like an odd thing to say, but all the great scholars who have studied American character have come to the conclusion that we are a warlike people and that we love war. . . . What we hate is not casualties but losing. And if the war goes well and if the American public has the conviction that we’re being well-led and that our people are fighting well and that we’re winning, I don’t think casualties are going to be the issue."

But 20 months and 2000 dead Americans later, Americans know the war hasn’t gone well. They tire of Straussian "noble lies" and that "entering into evil" that Ledeen and other fascists find so admirable and challenging. Casualties have indeed become the issue. So may those responsible be well and properly led into top-security penitentiaries like their mid-20th century forebears.

GARY LEUPP is Professor of History at Tufts University, and Adjunct Professor of Comparative Religion. He is the author of Servants, Shophands and Laborers in in the Cities of Tokugawa Japan; Male Colors: The Construction of Homosexuality in Tokugawa Japan; and Interracial Intimacy in Japan: Western Men and Japanese Women, 1543-1900. He is also a contributor to CounterPunch’s merciless chronicle of the wars on Iraq, Afghanistan and Yugoslavia, Imperial Crusades.

He can be reached at: gleupp@granite.tufts.edu