Cheney's Notes on Wilson Editorial


So nice to see this. The original belongs in a museum somewhere, just as soon as Patrick Fitzgerald gets done with it.

It's quite clear that Cheney was itching to discredit Wilson while he read this article, especially from the handwritten notes atop the page:

Have they done this sort of thing before?
Sent an Amb. 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?
The "they" is the CIA, so it's abundantly clear that on July 6, 2003, Cheney knew that:
  • Wilson's wife worked for the CIA
  • She worked in a high enough position in which her ability to "send him on a junket" would be accepted
  • Cheney saw the potential of using this information as a way to discredit Wilson's story
The pro bono question is another interesting point - how could this have discredited Wilson? If the CIA normally paid their fact-finders, Wilson's pro bono status could be seen as a ploy to sanitize his motives. Some people find it a matter of character to avoid even the appearance of evil; Cheney finds it suspicious. That says more about the character of the Vice President than Wilson.

Here's what Cheney underlined in Wilson's editorial:
...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.

...I was told that it referred to a memorandum of agreement that documented the sale of uranium Niger to Iraq in the late 1990's.

While the CIA paid my expenses (my time was offered pro bono)...

...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.

It did not take long to conclude that it was highly doubtful that any such transaction had ever taken place. would be exceedingly difficult for Niger to transfer uranium to Iraq.

...there's simply too much oversight over too small an industry for a sale to have transpired.
(As for the actual memorandum, I never saw it. But news accounts have pointed out...

Though I did not file a written report...

...and a specific answer from the agency to the office of the vice president (this may have been delivered orally). While I have not seen any of these reports,...

The vice president's office asked a serious question. I was asked to help formulate the answer. I did so, and I have every confidence that the answer I provided was circulated to the appropriate officials within our government.
A junket is a "a trip or errand made by an public official at public expense with dubious public benefit". To support the idea that Wilson's trip was a junket, Cheney had to find reasons that the trip was of "dubious public benefit" (Wilson's profit was negligable, since he wasn't paid). And two of the underlined quotes seem to be building that case - the local ambassador had already debunked the Niger papers, it did not take long to ascertain the doubtfulness of the transaction.

Other things are underlined to be verified apparently, for they are all documentation - the memorandum of agreement, the ambassador's debunking report, the "specific answer from the agency to the office of the vice president", and most pointedly, Wilson's expenses. The notation of Wilson's non-paper report is highlighted as well, which could be used in a "dubious nature" argument.

An interesting passage is Wilson's confession as to never seeing the memorandum of agreement. I can imagine Cheney's glee as he began to underline, only to stop half-heartedly in the middle of the second sentence. The news accounts point out that the memo had glaring errors, and how Cheney must have choked, knowing that Wilson had another source for that information, his wife. Who told Wilson about the memorandum first? Could it have been his wife, the CIA agent Cheney so obviously knows about? And then to read that Wilson has "every confidence" that his mission was told to the "appropriate officials"? Wilson was walking the line, saying just exactly what he could and finding ways to say what might otherwise have exposed his wife, his wife...Wilson's wife.

As Richard Cheney read this opinion piece, he could not help but be struck by Wilson's tender steps around his wife's identity as a CIA agent, and his crafty statements about his certain knowledge of things unknowable. As he put this paper aside, he'd developed the plan that could be used to discredit Joseph Wilson's exposure of their incompetence - find a way, any way, to make this about Wilson's wife sending him on an useless mission at taxpayer expense.

What really remains to be known is if Cheney was aware of Valerie Plame's actual status, and whether the people who did divulge her identity to reporters, Scooter Libby and Karl Rove, knew this as well. Because now we know who put this plan into play. It was Dick Cheney in the office of the Vice President with a felt pen.