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Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Oy Vey

For some reason, when he comments on my posts, Peter seems to prefer new posts to commenting on the original post. So I'll follow his lead regarding his latest comment on my initial thoughts on Fitzgerald's press conference.

Peter writes:
A Washington Post article, discussing a bipartisan Senate intelligence committee report, would tend to refute that assertion.
That particular article was the subject of some rather detailed criticism by Josh Marhsall the day after it hit the news stands. If Marshall is right (and he has been one of the most informed, detail-oriented commentators on the whole Niger issue), it appears its author, Susan Schmidt bought much of the GOP spin regarding the Senate IC's report rather than reading the actual report. Moreover, my recollection is that the report itself has a number of inaccurate claims in it. In fact, as I write I believe the Senate is in closed session to debate whether to follow up that report with a long-promised -- and long-blocked -- report on whether and if so how the Bush administration manipulated pre-war WMD intelligence. So I would hang little on either Schmidt's article or Peter's claims about a highly contested, incomplete-by-design report.

As for the rest of Peter's post, I'll be happy to reply to his "Wilson's claims" stuff once he provides some documentation of these claims. Having just re-read Wilson's original op-ed, I think there is at best limited support for Peter's characterization of these claims.

Moreover, consider the statement that Peter describes as "Perhaps most devistating [sic]":
instead of Wilson's report being some kind of bombshell, intelligence community analysts "had a fairly consistent response to the intelligence report based on [Wilson's] trip in that no one believed it added a great deal of new information to the Iraq-Niger uranium story."
Reading this claim, I find myself questioning Peter's commitment either to research or to reporting facts as they are rather than as he might wish them to be.

In describing his report, Wilson writes that "There was nothing secret or earth-shattering in my report, just as there was nothing secret about my trip." Moreover, he writes that "the ambassador told me that she knew about the allegations of uranium sales to Iraq — and that she felt she had already debunked them in her reports to Washington." So Wilson's point never was that he discovered a bombshell, or that no one else had yet come to the same conclusion. Rather it was that his one just piece in an apparently large heap of evidence that the Niger allegations were baseless.

Peter concludes thusly:
Bottom line? What Wilson claims to have found is at variance with what he reported he found, what he reported he found was not at all groundbreaking, and what new information he did report simply bolstered the intelligence community's then-current views. Ouch.
Based on the op-ed, anyway, Peter's wrong on his first claim, and the second claim is precisely what Wilson said in the op-ed. On the third point: it, too, is consistent with Wilson's op-ed's reference to the Ambassador's views, and nowhere in the op-ed does he describe his findings as somehow challenging to the intelligence community's existing beliefs. This fact doesn't harm Wilson's credibility at all, though it is quite damning of the Bush Administration's misuse of intelligence (if you can call stating the opposite of X to be a misuse of X) . As for the "Ouch", it seems misdirected.

Frankly, I am puzzled that a person as smart as Peter could find it devastating that the report of a man who describes a report as containing "nothing secret or earth-shattering" would later be described by intelligence community analysts as not "adding a great deal of new information".

I find it further puzzling that he would describe as his "Bottom line" a series of statements that are either false or entirely consistent with Wilson's own writing, and then somehow conclude that Wilson has a credibility problem.

I don't have a Joe Wilson-hero-worship complex; in fact, I think he's pretty clearly a media hound. But his original op-ed seems to have been basically on-target. And many of the attacks on him have been on strawmen, to put it mildly (for instance, he has never, ever, ever said that the OVP asked to send him to Niger). And his contention that OVP asked CIA to check into the Niger reports is, in fact, confirmed by the indictment, as, it appears, is his claim that there were a number of people in the WH trying to discredit him at all costs.

Personally, I think Peter's last post is embarrassing to him both in its failure to provide any sourcing for the claims attributed to Wilson and in its mischaracterization of the basics of Wilson's contentions. Perhaps Wilson has made other claims to the contrary of his written ones, but then Peter ought to present those claims and explain why they are contrary to the plain words of the original op-ed.


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