Monday, Nov. 29, 2010


In selling the 2003 invasion of Iraq, the Administration of George W. Bush made a lot of claims — that U.N. inspections weren't working, that al-Qaeda had Iraqi links, that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction. Most of these ended up not being true. One of the more suspect allegations voiced by President Bush was that Iraq had sought supplies of uranium from an African nation, understood to be the West African republic of Niger. This was refuted in the summer after U.S. troops had rolled into Baghdad by Ambassador Joseph Wilson, a career diplomat who had been sent earlier to Niger to investigate rumored sales of yellowcake, a form of uranium powder. Not long afterward, right-wing commentator Robert Novak published a column outing Wilson's wife, Valerie Plame, as a CIA operative.

Leaking her identity to the press was no small act — it compromised her work with the agency and was seen as a slap on Wilson's wrist for speaking out of turn. It also led many observers to believe that the White House had rushed to war using only the most politically expedient snippets of intelligence. An inquiry into the leaks went all the way to the upper echelons of the Bush brain trust — eventually, Lewis "Scooter" Libby, aide to Karl Rove, was found guilty in 2007 on counts of perjury, obstruction of justice and making false statements. President Bush commuted Libby's 30-month prison sentence.