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Last updated: October 28, 2005 6:08 pm

Who, what, when, why?

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It started in February 2002 with a fact-finding trip to Niger. It ended with the outing of a CIA covert operative, a criminal inquiry and the indictment of Vice President Dick Cheney’s chief of staff, Lewis Libby on charges of perjury, obstruction of justice and making false statements.

February 2002

Joseph Wilson, a former ambassador and career foreign service officer, is sent to Niger by the Central Intelligence Agency on a fact-finding trip. The mission comes following a request from Vice President Dick Cheney’s office to follow up on unverified foreign intelligence reports that Saddam Hussein had purchased yellowcake uranium from Niger. Wilson’s wife, Valerie Plame, a CIA covert operative, had suggested him for the job, noting his extensive contacts among officials in Niger. He spends eight days interviewing people in Niger about the credibility of those reports.

March 5 2002

Wilson provides an oral brief to the CIA on his findings, raising doubts about the foreign intelligence claims and arguing that the structure of Niger’s uranium industry made it highly unlikely that such a transaction took place. The CIA distributes a copy of the write up of his findings to other officials through routine intelligence channels, but does not mark it for the attention of senior officials. Following normal protocol, they do not source the intelligence information to him by name.

July 23 2002

A secret memo to UK prime minister Tony Blair, later dubbed The Downing Street memo, reports on discussions between UK officials and senior members of the Bush administration. Regarding Iraq, it says: “Military action was now seen as inevitable. Bush wanted to remove Saddam, through military action, justified by the conjunction of terrorism and WMD. But the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy.”

August 2002

Creation of the White House Iraq Group. The group is set up to coordinate administration policy and help make the media and public case for war in Iraq. Its members include: Karl Rove, the president’s top political advisor, Lewis ‘Scooter’ Libby, national security advisor to Cheney, Andrew Card, White House chief of staff, Condoleezza Rice, national security advisor, Stephen Hadley, deputy national security advisor, and other officials.

October 6 2002

George Tenet, CIA director, urges the White House to remove from a planned presidential speech in Cincinnati any reference to attempts by Saddam to buy uranium from Africa, personally intervening with Hadley. The CIA details its objection to the claim, saying that: “the Africa story is overblown.”

January 28 2003

President Bush’s State of the Union address lays out the arguments for going to war in Iraq. Among the claims: “The British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa.” The sentence is later known by its shorthand - “the 16 words.”

February 5 2003

Colin Powell, secretary of state, appears before the United Nations to spell out in greater detail US intelligence evidence that Iraq possessed and was developing mass destruction weapons. After a thorough vetting by State Department and top CIA officials, he removes any reference to alleged Iraqi attempts to purchase uranium from Africa.

March 3 2003

The International Atomic Energy Agency, a UN agency specializing in nuclear weaponry, concludes that documents obtained by the US government purporting to detail a contract between Iraq and Niger for the purchase of uranium are amateur forgeries.

March 20 2003

US launches invasion of Iraq.

April 9 2003

Baghdad falls to US forces.

May 1 2003

Beneath a banner on the USS Abraham Lincoln that reads: “Mission Accomplished”, President Bush declares “major combat operations in Iraq have ended”.

May 6 2003

The first mention of the Niger visit by Joe Wilson is reported in a New York Times column by Nicholas Kristof. Four days earlier the two had been on a panel together when Wilson criticized the administration’s evidence for going to war. Wilson appears in the column anonymously.

Kristof writes: “I’m told by a person involved in the Niger caper that more than a year ago the vice president’s office asked for an investigation of the uranium deal, so a former US ambassador to Africa was dispatched to Niger. In February 2002, according to someone present at the meetings, that envoy reported to the CIA and State Department that the information was unequivocally wrong and that the documents had been forged.….The envoy’s debunking of the forgery was passed around the administration and seemed to be accepted - except that President Bush and the State Department kept citing it anyway. ‘’It’s disingenuous for the State Department people to say they were bamboozled because they knew about this for a year,’’ one insider said.

Wilson later acknowledges to the Senate Intelligence Committee investigating the pre-war intelligence failures that he had not actually seen the forged documents and may have “misspoken” to reporters.

The Washington Post later reports that: “The piece capture[d] the attention of White House officials inside Cheney’s office according to people who have talked with them, as well as others involved in war planning.”

June 5 2003

Walter Pincus, a Washington Post specialist in intelligence reporting with extensive agency contacts, highlights CIA concern over pre-war intelligence. “Vice President Cheney and his most senior aide made multiple trips to the CIA over the past year to question analysts studying Iraq’s weapons programs and alleged links to al-Qaeda, creating an environment in which some analysts felt they were being pressured to make their assessments fit with the Bush administration’s policy objectives, according to senior intelligence officials.

With Cheney taking the lead in the administration last August in advocating military action against Iraq by claiming it had weapons of mass destruction, the visits by the vice president and Libby sent signals, intended or otherwise, that a certain output was desired from here,” one senior agency official said. Libby, who helped prepare intelligence analysis for the vice president, made several trips to the CIA with National Security Council officials during preparations for Powell’s February 5 presentation to the UN Security Council, officials said. He was described by one senior analyst as “an avid consumer of intelligence and the asker of many questions.”

June 8 2003

In response to a question on NBC about the Niger claim and the forged documents, Rice responds: “The president quoted a British paper. We did not know at the time - no one knew at the time, in our circles - maybe someone knew down in the bowels of the agency, but no one in our circles knew that there were doubts and suspicions that this might be a forgery. Of course, it was information that was mistaken. But the - it was a relatively small part of the case about nuclear weapons and nuclear reconstitution.

Her comments spark concern from Wilson. He starts calling officials to warn them Rice’s analysis is incorrect. Rice’s phrase “in the bowels of the agency” is later used by other White House officials, such as “Scooter” Libby, to undermine Wilson’s account.

June 10 2003

Creation of a memo by the State Department’s Bureau of Intelligence and Research identifies “Valerie Wilson” and sets out how the Niger trip originated. According to an account from Pincus, the memo was drafted for Marc Grossman, a State Department official, to be brought up to date on INR opposition to the White House uranium claim.

The memo includes a description of Wilson’s wife – referred to by her married name - and her role in the February 19 meeting 2002 at the CIA, ahead of the Niger trip. The memo is three pages. Plame’s role is described in two sentences in a seven-sentence paragraph. The whole paragraph is marked with an S, to denote the information is classified “secret”.

June 12 2003

Walter Pincus writes that CIA officials are facing criticism for failures to pass on a key concerns to the White House about the uranium purchase. The piece refers to a CIA-directed mission in early 2002. In the article a senior administration official accuses the CIA of “extremely sloppy handling.”

Pincus writes: The decision to send the emissary to Niger, “was triggered by questions raised by an aide to VP Cheney during an agency briefing.” Cheney’s staff was not told at the time that its concern had been the impetus for the mission and did not learn it occurred. “He and his staff did not learn of its role in spurring the mission until it was mentioned in the May 6th column in the NYT according to an administration official.”… Another intelligence official is quoted describing Wilson’s trip. “This gent made a visit to the region and chatted up his friends. He relayed back to us that they said it was not true and that he believed them.” Pincus later discloses he talked to Wilson for the story.

According to an account in the LA Times, after the story Richard Armitage, deputy secretary of state, asked intelligence officers in the State Department for more information. He is forwarded a copy of a memo classified “Secret” that included a description of Wilson’s trip for the CIA.

Wilson is now on the White House radar screen. “Starting that week [ie early June] officials repeatedly played down the importance of Wilson’s trip and its findings, saying it has been authorized within the CIA’s non proliferation section at a low level without requiring the approval of senior agency officials. No one brought up Wilson’s wife and her employment at the agency wasn’t known at the time.” [Pincus, WP Oct 12] “After the June story a lot of people in government were scurrying around asking who is this envoy and why is he saying these things.”

On this date, according to an October 26 2005 account in the NYT, Libby first learned about the CIA officer at the heart of the leak investigation “in a conversation with Mr Cheney... Notes of the previously undisclosed conversation between Mr Libby and Mr Cheney appear to differ from Mr Libby’s testimony to a federal grand jury that he initially learned about the CIA officer, Valerie Wilson, from journalists, the lawyers said... But they contain no suggestion that either Mr Cheney or Mr Libby knew at the time of Ms Wilson’s undercover status or that her identity was classified.“

June 13 2003

Nicholas Kristof, in a NYT column, accuses the White House of hyping intelligence, and notes the uranium claim, “has already been flatly discredited by an envoy investigating at the behest of the office of VP Dick Cheney,” and that he has spoken to “two people directly involved and three others who were briefed on it,” ….lower CIA officials did tell both the VP’s office and National Security Council staff members.”

June 23 2003

Against a background of hostile media coverage of her reporting on Iraq’s WMD, [including a profile piece that day in the Nation] New York Times reporter Judith Miller meets Libby at the White House. In later interviews with special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald, she does not disclose the meeting until he prompts her do so by citing the White House logs noting her visit.

In an account published in the NYT [Sunday October 16 2005] she says they discussed Wilson’s activities and that Libby placed blame for intelligence failures on the CIA. “My interview notes show me that Mr Libby sought from the beginning to insulate his boss from Mr Wilson’s charges. He told me at our June meeting that Mr Cheney did not know of Mrs Wilson, much less know that Mr Wilson had traveled to Niger.” I recall Mr Libby’s frustration and anger about what he called selective leaking by the CIA.”..they were part of a perverted war over the war in Iraq...soon afterwards Mr Libby raised the subject of Mr Wilson’s wife for the first time….I wrote in my notes ‘Wife works in the bureau?”

This appears to be the first time a senior official brings up Wilson’s wife with a reporter.

July 6 2003

Wilson goes public. In an interview printed in the Post he says, “It really comes down to the administration misrepresenting the facts on an issue that was a fundamental justification for going to war. It begs the question, what else are they lying about.”

The same day the NYT prints an op-ed by Wilson saying the administration twisted intelligence. “I spent the next eight days drinking sweet mint tea and meeting with dozens of people: current government officials, former government officials, people associated with the country’s uranium business. It did not take long to conclude that it was highly doubtful that any such transaction had ever taken place.”

The statement leads to twin attacks – against Wilson and against the CIA. During this week the White House is actively preparing how to address criticism of how the 16 words were included in the speech. Rove and Libby are, according to a later WP account, sending e-mails and drafts back and forth of the proposed statement from CIA director Tenet to explain how it came to be in the speech. Rove and Libby are coordinating with Hadley, who is talking to Tenet. Officials argue the key intent was to clarify why the intelligence was used, not to discredit Wilson.

July 7 2003

Ari Fleischer, the White House spokesman, acknowledges in response to a question from James Harding, Washington bureau chief of the FT, that President Bush had relied on “bogus” information when he claimed in the State of the Union address that Saddam had tried to purchase uranium from Africa. He says the president did not know the information was false when he made that claim.

The classified June 10 State Department memo is given to Colin Powell as he heads to Africa later that day with President Bush. Fitzgerald later subpoenas telephone logs from Air Force One, and asks whether the information could have been passed to officials in Washington.

He focuses on who may have seen the memo on Air Force One. The LA Times, in an Aug 2005 report, notes that Powell “told prosecutors he circulated the memo among those traveling with him in the front section of air force one.” Officials on the Africa trip include Ari Fleischer and Dan Bartlett the president’s communications advisor. Fleischer later told the grand jury he had never seen the memo.

July 8 2003

Miller meets for a second interview with Libby. She agrees to refer to Libby as a “former Hill staffer”, rather than a “senior administration official” but does not write an article based on the interview. “I assumed Mr Libby did not want the White House to be seen as attacking Mr Wilson. Mr Libby then proceeded through a lengthy and sharp critique of Mr Wilson and what Mr Libby viewed as the CIA’s backpedaling on the intelligence leading to war……He said on the basis of the two reports – 1999 delegation to Niger and Feb 2002 report – his office had asked the CIA for more analysis.

He tells her that Wilson’s report “barely made it out of the bowels of the CIA. ”…Our conversation turned to Mr Wilson’s wife. My notes contain a phrase, wife works at Winpac..I said I couldn’t be certain whether I had known Ms Plame’s identity before this meeting. It later emerges that Plame had not worked at Winpac, the CIA’s overt arm for analyzing intelligence data on weapons of mass destruction, but instead was part of the covert Directorate of Operations.

At least six other journalists are also told about Plame’s identity during this time, according to a later Washington Post account.

A friend of Wilson’s runs into Robert Novak, a syndicated columnist with close ties to Republican conservatives, on Washington’s Pennsylvania Avenue, according to an account in Wilson’s 2004 book on the affair “The Politics of Truth.” Novak tells the friend that Wilson’s wife worked for the CIA as a WMD specialist and arranged the Niger trip. The friend tells Wilson that Novak said: “Wilson’s an asshole. The CIA sent him. His wife Valerie works for the CIA. She’s a weapons of mass destruction specialist. She sent him.”

July 9 2003

Rove talks to Novak, according to a later Washington Post account. Rove later claims he tells Novak, “I heard that too” when he asked about Plame’s role in the Niger trip. Rove later says he may have heard about Valerie Plame and her role from Novak, or from another aide, but has no firm recollection. Rove later admits discussing her “in passing” with other reporters during this time, according to later accounts of his grand jury testimony.

Tenet and his top aides start working on a draft statement that accepts responsibility for allowing the mistaken claims on uranium and Africa into the State of the Union address. The statement is shown to Hadley on July 10 according to an account in the NYT. It is issued on July 11.

The administration launches a coordinated public effort to discredit Wilson’s findings. A senior intelligence official tells the FT that the mission was not requested by Cheney or Tenet, but that Wilson was asked to “sniff around” in Niger by mid-level officials in the CIA’s operations directorate. “Wilson seems to think he was dispatched on a high-level mission, but that’s not substantiated by our recollections or by any of the records,” the official says. Ari Fleischer delivers a similar message to White House reporters. He says Wilson “spent eight days in Niger and concluded that Niger denied the allegation. Well, typically nations don’t go around admitting to nuclear proliferation.”

July 11 2003

The White House tries to end the controversy over the “16 words”. In a sharp rebuke to the CIA, Rice tells Tenet she and the president plan to say the speech was cleared by intelligence services. Bush, speaking in Uganda says, the speech was “cleared by the intelligence services.”

A few hours later Tenet issues his own statement accepting blame. “It did not rise to the level of certainty which should be required for presidential speeches and the CIA should have ensured that it was removed.” He says the Wilson trip was inconclusive, but stirs controversy by adding the White House had been given earlier warnings about the Niger claim.

Phone call between Matthew Cooper, Washington bureau chief for Time Magazine, and Rove. Cooper later recounts: “I recall saying something like, I’m writing about Wilson,” before he interjected, “Don’t get too far out on Wilson” he told me. I started taking notes on my computer, and while an email I sent moments after the call has been leaked, my notes have not been, the grand jury asked about one of the more interesting lines in that email in which I refer to my conversation with Rove as being on ‘double super secret background’…in fact, I told the grand jury the, Rove told me the conversation was on deep background…. Rove went on to say that Wilson had not been sent to Niger by the director of the CIA and, I believe from my subsequent e-mails--although it’s not in my notes--that Rove added that Dick Cheney didn’t send him either. Indeed, the next day the Vice President’s chief of staff, I. Lewis (Scooter) Libby, told me Cheney had not been responsible for Wilson’s mission…Rove told me material was going to be declassified in the coming days that would cast doubt on Wilson’s mission and his findings.

“As for Wilson’s wife, I told the grand jury I was certain that Rove never used her name and that, indeed, I did not learn her name until the following week, when I either saw it in Robert Novak’s column or Googled her, I can’t recall which. Rove did, however, clearly indicate that she worked at the ‘agency’--by that, I told the grand jury, I inferred that he obviously meant the CIA and not, say, the Environmental Protection Agency. Rove added that she worked on “WMD” issues and that she was responsible for sending Wilson. This was the first time I had heard anything about Wilson’s wife.

“Rove never once indicated to me that she had any kind of covert status. I have a distinct memory of Rove ending the call by saying, ‘I’ve already said too much.’ This could have meant he was worried about being indiscreet, or it could have meant he was late for a meeting or something else. I don’t know, but that sign-off has been in my memory for two years….“

According to an account in the NYT, after the call Rove sends an e-mail to Hadley saying “he didn’t take the bait,” when Cooper says Wilson’s criticisms are damaging to the White House.

July 12 2003

An account from Walter Pincus in Nieman Watchdog magazine in July 2005 recalls that. “On July 12th, an administration official who was talking to me confidentially about a matter involving alleged Iraqi nuclear activities, veered off the precise matter we were discussing and told me that the White House had not paid attention to former Ambo Joe Wilson’s CIA sponsored February 2002 trip to Niger because it was set up as a boondoggle by his wife, an analyst with the agency working on WMD. “

Pincus has not confirmed his source’s identity, but the source has told Fitzgerald about the call.

Cooper talks to Libby. “On the record, he denied that Cheney knew about or played any role in the Wilson trip to Niger. On background, I asked Libby if he had heard anything about Wilson’s wife sending her husband to Niger. Libby replied, ‘Yeah, I’ve heard that too,’ or words to that effect. Like Rove, Libby never used Plame’s name or indicated that her status was covert, and he never told me that he had heard about Plame from other reporters, as some press accounts have indicated.

Third conversation between Libby and Miller, by phone. In her NYT account she recalls that: “I told Mr Fitzgerald I believed that before this call, I might have called others about Mr Wilson’s wife. In my notebook I had written the words ‘Victoria Wilson’ with a box around it. My notes of this phone call show Mr Libby quickly turned to criticising Mr Wilson’s report on his mission to Niger…I testified that I recalled recommending to editors that we pursue a story.”

Nothing is ever printed in the NYT about Plame. Editors have disputed Miller ever told them about the story or that she had spoken to an official about her.

July 14 2003

Robert Novak’s column for the first time reveals Plame’s identity. “Mr Wilson never worked for the CIA, but his wife Valerie Plame, is an agency operative on weapons of mass destruction. Two senior administration officials told me his wife suggested sending Wilson to Niger to investigate the Italian report. The CIA says its counter proliferation officials selected Wilson and asked his wide to contact him.”

Former intelligence and Pentagon officials, organized as the Veterans Intelligence Professionals for Sanity, issue an open letter to Bush and call for the resignation of Dick Cheney. Former CIA analyst, Ray McGovern, says Cheney expressed unusual interest in the uranium report. “Cheney is clearly spearheading this effort [the case for war],”…his agency interlocutors made it very clear that it was at Cheney’s behest, at his office’s behest, that he was sent down there.”

After the Novak piece comes out, other reporters such as Andrea Mitchell of NBC, admit she and other reporters received calls from the White House drawing attention to Plame’s role.

July 16 2003

Tenet tells the Senate Intelligence Committee in a four and a half hour session that he takes full responsibility for how the 16 words came to be in the Bush speech.

July 17 2003

In a piece called “A War on Wilson,” Cooper and other reporters on Time.com note that some government officials have told them that Wilson’s wife, Plame, is a CIA official who monitors the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. The article says: “These officials have suggested that she was involved in her husband’s being dispatched to Niger.” The piece continues: “They say the Vice President merely asked routine questions at an intelligence briefing and that mid-level CIA officials, on their own, chose to dispatch Wilson.

In an exclusive interview, Libby told Time magazine: “The Vice President heard about the possibility of Iraq trying to acquire uranium from Niger in February 2002. As part of his regular intelligence briefing, the Vice President asked a question about the implication of the report. During the course of a year, the Vice President asked many such questions and the agency responded within a day or two saying that they had reporting suggesting the possibility of such a transaction. But the agency noted that the reporting lacked detail. The agency pointed out that Iraq already had 500 tons of uranium, portions of which came from Niger, according to the International Atomic Energy Administration (IAEA). The Vice President was unaware of the trip by Ambassador Wilson and didn’t know about it until this year when it became public in the last month or so. “

July 18 2003

Lengthy briefing by a senior administration official on how faulty intelligence came to be included in the speech. He denies the White House knew about the forged Niger documents ahead of the speech. He said there had been a “group discussion,” about changing the specific wording. Referring to Wilson he notes: “This conversation was not informed at the highest levels of the CIA. It was not at the request of or in the knowledge of people here at the White House. The information came back saying that a government official denied a transaction with Iraq…if you get this one data point and you look at that, you can’t draw a conclusion that we were warned by Ambassador Wilson that this was all dubious. It’s just not accurate.

July 19 2003

In an effort to bolster its case for having invaded Iraq, the White House takes the highly unusual step of declassifying portions of an October, 2002 National Intelligence Estimate on Iraq. The document reveals sharp disagreements within the intelligence community prior to the war, but on nuclear weapons concludes that: “In the view of most agencies, Baghdad is reconstituting its nuclear programme.”

July 21 2003

According to a later account from Wilson, Chris Matthews of MSNBC calls him to says that he had just spoken to Rove, who told him “Wilson’s wife is fair game.”

July 22 2003

Briefing by Scott McClellan, the new White House spokesman. He is asked about the Novak column. “This is not the way this president or this White House operates. And there is absolutely no information that has come to my attention or that I have seen that suggests that there is any truth to that suggestion.

And certainly, no one in this White House would have given authority to take such a step. ….I’m telling you flatly, that this is not the way the White House operates. I’ve seen no evidence to suggest that there’s any truth to it.

Senator Dick Durbin, a Democratic critic of the pre-war intelligence, gives an angry 45 minute speech on the Senate floor. He claims the White House is trying to undermine his credibility by saying he disclosed classified information about WMD sites in Iraq.

The week before he had angered the White House by charging that a White House official was “hellbent” on getting the 16 words in the speech and talked about who had faxed part of the speech (Robert Joseph, counter proliferation official) to the CIA. He says the White House leaked a story that certain senators wanted him removed. “If any member of the Senate….questions this White House policy, raises any questions about the gathering of intelligence information or the use of it, be prepared for the worst. The White House is going to turn to you and attack you.

They are going to question your patriotism.” Durbin’s comments come after reporters call him saying that an anonymous White House official had told them that he was disclosing classified information. Two reporters for newsmagazines and one from a newspaper had called with similar information, according to Durbin’s press spokesman, the Chicago Tribune reports.

Hadley, deputy national security adviser, accepts blame for allowing faulty intelligence to be included in the president’s state of the union. He admits he has only just found two memos from before Bush gave Cincinnati speech in October, but did not remember the warning ahead of the State of the Union.

July 30 2003

CIA notifies the Justice Department that the federal law may have been breached with the disclosure of Plame’s name, because she was a covert agent.

August 20 2003

To an overflow crowd at a Seattle town meeting with Democratic Congressman Jay Inslee, Wilson says: “At the end of the day, it’s of keen interest to me to see whether or not we can get Karl Rove frog-marched out of the White House in handcuffs. And trust me, when I use that name, I measure my words.” Talking about the leak of his wife’s name, he says “the purpose of doing this, however, was not to shut me up, because I had already said my piece. The purpose was very, very clear—to intimidate others who might step forward at the request of a congressional committee …”

September 28 2003

The Department of Justice begins a preliminary inquiry into the leak to see if there was any violation of a 1982 law that protects the identities of covert intelligence operatives. Congressional Democrats call for the appointment of a special counsel because “of the obvious and inherent conflicts of interests involved.”

September 29 2003

McClellan, the president's spokesman, denies charges of a White House role. “There’s been nothing, absolutely nothing, brought to our attention to suggest any White House involvement, and that includes the vice president’s office, as well.” He says if anyone in this administration was involved in it, “they would no longer be in this administration.” He adds that it was “ridiculous” to suggest Rove was involved. “The president knows he wasn’t involved.”

September 30 2003

President Bush says, “If there is a leak out of my administration, I want to know who it is. And if the person has violated law, the person will be taken care of.”

October 1 2003

Robert Novak in his column dismisses the Justice Department investigation as emerging from a “routine, mandated probe of all CIA leaks,” and defends his own role. “During a long conversation with a senior administration official, I asked why Wilson was assigned the mission to Niger.

He said Wilson had been sent by the CIA’s counterproliferation section at the suggestion of one of its employees, his wife. It was an offhand revelation from this official, who is no partisan gunslinger. When I called another official for confirmation, he said: “Oh, you know about it.” The published report that somebody in the White House failed to plant this story with six reporters and finally found me as a willing pawn is simply untrue…. It was well-known around Washington that Wilson’s wife worked for the CIA. Republican activist Clifford May wrote Monday, in National Review Online, that he had been told of her identity by a non-government source before my column appeared and that it was common knowledge. Her name, Valerie Plame, was no secret either, appearing in Wilson’s Who’s Who in America entry.”

December 30 2003

Attorney General John Ashcroft recuses himself, and Deputy Attorney General James Comey names U.S. attorney Patrick Fitzgerald special prosecutor. He subpoenas White House phone logs, attendance lists for meetings of the Iraq [WHIG] group, party invitations and phone logs from Air Force One. He also asks officials to waive confidentiality with their media contacts.

Early 2004

Government officials testify. The list includes Bush, Cheney, Armitage, Bartlett, Card, Fleischer, Albert Gonzales, the White House counsel, Joseph, Hadley, Karen Hughes, a special advisor to the president, Mary Matalin, a senior aide to Cheney, McClellan, Tenet, and John Hannah, Cheney’s deputy national security adviser. Rice has “co-operated,” with the inquiry

Reporters also testify during mid 2004, including Glenn Kessler from the Washington Post who says that neither Plame nor Wilson were mentioned in his conversations with Libby; Walter Pincus, who has said Libby was not his source; and NBC’s Tim Russert, who said he received a waiver from Libby to testify before the grand jury.

July 7 2004

Bi-partisan Senate Select Intelligence Committee released a 511-page report on the pre-war intelligence, blaming the CIA and the intelligence community for a series of massive intelligence failures. It includes a 48-page section on Niger and concludes that Wilson’s report was inconclusive.

“Because CIA analysts did not believe the report added any new information to clarify the issue, they did not use the report to produce any further analytical products or highlight the report for policymakers. For the same reason, CIA’s briefer did not brief the Vice President on the report, despite the Vice President’s previous questions about the issue.”

October 2004

Cooper of Time and Miller of the NYT are held in civil contempt for refusing to testify to the grand jury.

November 2 2004

Bush wins re-election as president, taking 51 per cent of the vote to defeat Democrat John Kerry, who receives 48 per cent.

February 15 2005

A US Court of Appeals upholds the subpoenas for Miller and Cooper.

June 27 2005

The US Supreme Court refuses to review the subpoenas, upholding the lower court ruling.

July 6 2005

Cooper receives a personal waiver from Libby to avoid jail. Miller is jailed for refusing to testify. At her sentencing, she is admonished by Judge Thomas Hogan: “That’s the child saying, ‘You can spank me but I’m still gonna take that chocolate cookie and eat it.’” She would spend 85 days at a detention center in Alexandria, Virginia.

September 12 2005

Fitzgerald writes to Libby’s lawyer, Joseph Tate, to clarify if there is a misunderstanding about the waiver he gave to Miller. He notes that Libby had testified before the grand jury that he had a meeting with her on July 8 and July 12. He refers to the fact that Libby had not responded to press reports about why she was still in jail and observes, “I had assumed that Mr Libby had simply decided that encouraging Ms Miller to testify was not in his best interest.”

September 15 2005

Libby writes letter to Miller in jail reconfirming his waiver of confidentiality. “Your reporting, and you, are missed. …the public report of every other reporter’s testimony makes clear that they did not discuss Ms Plame’s name or identity with me or knew about her before our call. I waived the privilege voluntarily to cooperate with the Grand Jury, but also because the reporters’ testimony served my best interest…for my part this is the rare case where this “source” would be better off if you testified. .. Out West, where you vacation, the aspens will already be turning. They turn in clusters because their roots connect them. Come back to work – and life.”

Miller, in her personal account published in October 2005 says that the grand jury asked her response to the reference in the letter about other reporters. “I replied that this portion of the letter had surprised me because it might be perceived as an effort by Mr Libby to suggest that I too would say we had not discussed Ms Plame’s identity. Yet my notes suggest we had discussed her job.”

September 30 2005

Miller testifies before grand jury. She is the last reporter to do so.

October 12 2005

Miller testifies again before grand jury

October 14 2005

Rove testifies before the grand jury for the fourth time. He spends four and a half hours testifying. Ahead of his testimony, he is given no assurances that he is not a target of the probe.

October 16 2005

The NYT publishes a lengthy personal account by Miller of her conversations before the grand jury. She says she was asked whether Cheney authorised Libby’s conversation with her, and asked “repeatedly how Mr Libby handled classified information with me. “Mr Fitzgerald asked if I had discussed classified information with Mr Libby. I said I believed so, but could not be sure. He asked how Mr Libby treated classified information.

“I said, Very carefully. Mr Fitzgerald asked me to examine a series of documents. Though I could not identify them with certainty, I said that some seemed familiar, and that they might be excerpts from the National Intelligence Estimate of Iraq’s weapons. Mr Fitzgerald asked whether Mr. Libby had shown any of the documents to me. I said no, I didn’t think so. I thought I remembered him at one point reading from a piece of paper he pulled from his pocket.”

October 28 2005

Lewis Libby, Vice President Dick Cheney’s chief of staff, indicted on charges of perjury, obstruction of justice and making false statements.

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