Topic: The ConWeb
One hot topic on the ConWeb of late -- mainly to deflect attention from Scooter Libby's conviction and sentencing on perjury and obstruction charges -- is discussion of the idea (if not fervent hope) that Valerie Plame committed perjury when she testified to the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform earlier this year that she did not "recommend" or "suggest" that her husband, Joseph Wilson, take a fact-finding trip to Niger in 2002 to see if Saddam Hussein's Iraq had been trying to buy uranium. The claim is based on a recently released memo by Republicans on the committee. The claim has been championed across the ConWeb:
- A May 25 National Review article by Byron York claimed the memo "show[ed] Mrs. Wilson suggesting her husband for the trip."
- A May 26 NewsBusters post by Noel Sheppard cited York's article to suggest that Plame "committed perjury."
- A June 1 NewsBusters post by Ken Shepherd mentioned "the recent allegation that Plame perjured herself in congressional testimony," linking to Sheppard's post.
- A June 1 NewsMax article by Ken Timmerman claimed that "The Valerie Plame e-mail shows without any doubt that she recommended her husband for the mission in Niger." Timmerman repeated his claim in a June 8 FrontPageMag article. Timmerman's personal website goes on to claim that Plame "was hoping" that the memo "would remain classified" and that it "shows beyond any doubt who sent Joe Wilson to Niger in Feburary 2002."
But does it? To coin a phrase, it depends on your definition of "recommend." The key passage from Plame's memo that Timmerman, Sheppard, et al., have touted as the smoking gun is this:
So where do I fit in? As you may recall, [redacted] of CP/[office 2] recently approached my husband to possibly use his contacts in Niger to investigate [a separate Niger matter]. After many fits and starts, [redacted] finally advised that the station wished to pursue this with liaison. My husband is willing to help, if it makes sense, but no problem if not. End of story.
Now, with this report, it is clear that the IC is still wondering what is going on… my husband has good relations with both the PM and the former minister of mines, not to mention lots of French contacts, both of whom could possibly shed light on this sort of activity. To be frank with you, I was somewhat embarrassed by the agency’s sloppy work last go-round, and I am hesitant to suggest anything again. However, [my husband] may be in a position to assist. Therefore, request your thoughts on what, if anything, to pursue here. Thank you for your time on this.
Timmerman, et al's definition of "recommended," it seems, is based on proactiveness on Plame's part -- that Plame approached CIA officials with the idea of sending Wilson to Niger and intensely lobbied for him to go on the trip. In fact, as the memo states, it was the CIA that first "approached" Wilson.
While Plame goes on to state Wilson's qualifications for such a trip, the fact that she immediately states afterward that she was "hesitant to suggest anything again" shows that she was hardly lobbying for Wilson, as does her statement that she sought the "thoughts" of others on the issue.
Despite what Timmerman, et al, claim based on this memo, it's not clear at all that Plame did anything more than respond to queries from CIA higher-ups. Plame did not initiate the idea of sending Wilson, and her "recommendation" was tepid at best and came only after the CIA first approached her with the idea.
In other words, it's a differing view of events, not the clear-cut perjury Timmerman, et al, want you to believe.