Reprinted from Consortium News
If Dick Cheney is to be believed, he wasn't very upset that former U.S. Ambassador Joseph Wilson criticized the Bush administration for having "twisted" intelligence to support its false pre-war claim that Iraq's Saddam Hussein was seeking uranium from Africa.
In a May 8, 2004, interview with federal investigators, the then-Vice President said he did raise a few internal questions about Wilson's 2002 fact-finding mission for the CIA, which checked out -- and knocked down -- Cheney's suspicion that Iraq was trying to buy yellowcake uranium from Niger.
But Cheney denied that he unleashed a retaliatory campaign to discredit this early Iraq War critic -- nor told anyone to leak the fact that Wilson's wife, Valerie Plame Wilson, worked at the CIA and had a small role in recruiting her husband for the Niger mission.
"The Vice President advised that there was no discussion of 'pushing back' on Wilson's credibility by raising the nepotism issue, and there was no discussion of using Valerie Wilson's employment with the CIA in countering Joe Wilson's criticisms and claims about Iraqi efforts to procure yellowcake uranium from Niger," said the FBI summary of Cheney's interview.
Cheney also said he didn't speak with CIA Director George Tenet or Deputy Director John McLaughlin about Wilson between July 6, 2003, when Wilson wrote a New York Times op-ed describing how the Niger intelligence was "twisted," and July 14, eight days later when right-wing columnist Robert Novak exposed Plame's CIA employment in a column that sought to discredit Wilson.
Cheney depicted one disparaging comment that he made about Wilson as more of an inside joke.
"He [Cheney] does recall at one point 'gigging' Tenet and/or McLaughlin about vetting a separate, unrelated intelligence matter by sarcastically suggesting to them that perhaps they ought to send Joe Wilson to check it out," the FBI summary said.
"The Vice President stated that the issue of Valerie Wilson's possible involvement in sending her husband to Niger was just not a big deal and did not become one until after the publication of the Novak editorial."
Cheney also claimed that he had no recollection of an earlier meeting in his vice presidential office during which he told his press aide Cathie Martin and his chief of staff I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby that Plame was employed by the CIA.
Libby became one of several Bush administration officials to leak news of Plame's CIA employment to journalists, along with the suggestion that she had arranged her husband's fact-finding mission to Niger as nepotism, even though Wilson received no pay. (Plame has said her role was limited to conveying a message to her husband that her CIA superiors wanted to speak to him about the trip.)
Though Cheney played down his animosity toward Wilson during the interview, some of the anger came through when Cheney was asked to read aloud comments he scribbled in the margins of Wilson's op-ed that Cheney had ripped out of the Times.
Cheney acknowledged that his handwritten note included the question, "Did his wife send him on a junket?" He also told the investigators that he "believed it possible that he and Libby discussed the Wilson trip as some kind of a junket or boondoggle."
Curiously, however, Cheney conceded that as a former U.S. ambassador who served in Africa, Wilson's "qualifications for the trip were 'OK.'" Cheney also was aware that Wilson wasn't paid for the trip, which would seem to undercut Cheney's suspicion of nepotism.
However, Cheney turned Wilson's willingness to undertake the mission without pay into a negative. According to the FBI report, "he [Cheney] thought it was strange that Joe Wilson did his investigative work pro bono." Because of the lack of pay, Cheney complained about the "seriousness" of the CIA's investigation and ridiculed it as "amateur hour."