By Dan Kennedy • The press, politics, technology, culture and other passions

Libby’s TNR testimonial

It’s not quite like getting George Foreman to put his name on a grille, but there is at least some commercial value in the indictment of former White House official Lewis “Scooter” Libby. From the indictment:

12. On or about June 19, 2003, an article appeared in The New Republic magazine online entitled “The First Casualty: The Selling of the Iraq War.” Among other things, the article questioned the “sixteen words” and stated that following a request for information from the Vice President, the CIA had asked an unnamed ambassador to travel to Niger to investigate allegations that Iraq had sought uranium from Niger. The article included a quotation attributed to the unnamed ambassador alleging that administration officials “knew the Niger story was a flat-out lie.” The article also was critical of how the administration, including the Office of the Vice President, portrayed intelligence concerning Iraqi capabilities with regard to weapons of mass destruction, and accused the administration of suppressing dissent from the intelligence agencies on this topic.

13. Shortly after publication of the article in The New Republic, LIBBY spoke by telephone with his then Principal Deputy and discussed the article. That official asked LIBBY whether information about Wilson’s trip could be shared with the press to rebut the allegations that the Vice President had sent Wilson. LIBBY responded that there would be complications at the CIA in disclosing that information publicly, and that he could not discuss the matter on a non-secure telephone line.

Cruise on over to The New Republic’s Web site, and you’ll see that the very first item is “The TNR article cited in the Libby indictment.” The article, by John B. Judis and Spencer Ackerman, was originally published in June 2003. It was a landmark (especially for a publication as pro-war as TNR had been), revealing in considerable detail the pressure that Dick Cheney and other neoconservatives in the Bush administration had put on the intelligence community to produce the rationale they needed to justify going to war.

Here’s the paragraph that presumably got Cheney and Libby going on their Wilson snipe hunt:

TNR: One year earlier, Cheney’s office had received from the British, via the Italians, documents purporting to show Iraq’s purchase of uranium from Niger. Cheney had given the information to the CIA, which in turn asked a prominent diplomat, who had served as ambassador to three African countries, to investigate. He returned after a visit to Niger in February 2002 and reported to the State Department and the CIA that the documents were forgeries. The CIA circulated the ambassador’s report to the vice president’s office, the ambassador confirms to TNR. But, after a British dossier was released in September detailing the purported uranium purchase, administration officials began citing it anyway, culminating in its inclusion in the State of the Union. “They knew the Niger story was a flat-out lie,” the former ambassador tells TNR. “They were unpersuasive about aluminum tubes and added this to make their case more persuasive.”

You can read the article here, because TNR has departed from its usual practice and made the Judis-Ackerman piece freely available. After all, this a selling moment. What better come-on than the article that may have led Scooter Libby into a life of crime?

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