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On the July 25 installment of "The Point," Sinclair Broadcast Group commentator Mark Hyman attacked the credibility of former ambassador Joseph C. Wilson IV, making the unsubstantiated claims that Wilson was not qualified to investigate reports that Iraq sought uranium from Niger, that Wilson's wife "lobbied heavily" for him to be sent to Niger, and that Wilson "did a lousy job" in his investigation. Wilson traveled to Niger in 2002 to investigate the allegation that Iraq tried to purchase uranium there. In a July 6, 2003, New York Times op-ed, Wilson wrote that he found no evidence to support the following 16-word claim, made by President Bush in his 2003 State of the Union address: "The British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa."
Claim #1: Wilson was "unqualified" for his assignment to Niger
Hyman stated that Wilson was "unqualified" for his assignment to Niger, because he "claimed no experience in nuclear weapons, precursor agents, or in intelligence collection." But the Senate Intelligence Committee report on pre-war Iraq intelligence indicated that Wilson was chosen for the assignment based on his experience as a former ambassador to the African nation of Gabon and his posting from 1976 to 1978 as a U.S. diplomat in Niamey, Niger. USA Today reported that Wilson had also investigated previous claims of an Iraq-Niger uranium deal in 1999.
Claim #2: Wilson's wife "lobbied heavily" for him to be sent to Niger
Hyman stated that "Wilson's wife, Valerie Plame, was named in a newspaper column as the CIA employee who lobbied heavily for her husband to be sent on the trip." But the claim that Plame even suggested -- much less "lobbied heavily" for -- Wilson for the trip is disputed by intelligence sources cited in The Washington Post, Newsday, and the Los Angeles Times. The Senate Intelligence Committee report noted that some "interviews and documents" indicate Plame "suggested [Wilson's] name for the trip," but the report drew no conclusion as to the veracity of these claims.
Additionally, a July 27 Washington Post article noted that Bush officials have called Wilson's trip "a boondoggle arranged by his wife, but CIA officials say that is incorrect." The Post added that CIA officials claim that "[o]ne reason for the confusion about Plame's role is that she had arranged a trip for him to Niger three years earlier."
Claim #3: Wilson "did a lousy job" in his investigation
Hyman stated that Wilson "did a lousy job" investigating the allegations of an Iraq-Niger uranium deal, because Wilson found no evidence of such a deal -- despite a later British report that found "[the British] yellowcake [uranium] report was valid." While the British Butler report on pre-war assessments of Iraqi weapons of mass destruction capabilities did conclude that British claims of an Iraq-Niger uranium deal were "well founded" based on "intelligence assessments at the time," the report failed to identify the basis for these "intelligence assessments" and produced no new evidence that Iraq had sought uranium from Africa. Moreover, the Senate Intelligence Committee report and a statement by then-Director of Central Intelligence George Tenet flatly contradicted the British claims. In his statement, Tenet asserted that the "16 words" regarding the alleged uranium deal "should never have been included" in Bush's State of the Union address. In September 2004, the CIA's Iraq Survey Group stated that it had "not found evidence to show that Iraq sought uranium from abroad" at any point following the 1991 Gulf War.
From the July 25 broadcast of "The Point":
HYMAN: The brouhaha over a pair of reporters who didn't want to name their confidential sources didn't start out that way.
Let us recap what happened. Retired diplomat Joe Wilson was sent to Niger to investigate a British intelligence report that Saddam's people attempted to buy yellowcake uranium.
Wilson wrote in a New York Times op-ed in July 2003 that he found no evidence, meaning either there was no evidence or he did a lousy job. An exhaustive British investigation found that their yellowcake report was valid.
Wilson was unqualified for such an assignment. A retired foreign service officer, Wilson claimed no experience in nuclear weapons, precursor agents, or in intelligence collection. Wilson wrote that he spent "eight days drinking sweet mint tea." Actor Owen Wilson would have been a better choice than Joe Wilson.
Wilson's wife, Valerie Plame, was named in a newspaper column as the CIA employee who lobbied heavily for her husband to be sent on the trip. Columnist Bob Novak wrote that administration sources identified her. The left and its media partners cried foul and demanded that heads should roll for outing her. Special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald was appointed to determine if someone broke the law for knowingly naming an intelligence officer who was under cover.
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