Valerie Plame Leak Sabotaged America’s Iran-Watching Intelligence Effort


An important and provocative report has just been published that suggests that Iran was the target of much of Valerie Plame’s covert investigative work and that outing her identity had far worse consequences than has thus far been acknowledged.
This information also dovetails with information TWN has been digging up on Iran’s interests in Niger uranium.
Raw Story has just published this piece by Larisa Alexandrovna.
The core of the article is:

The unmasking of covert CIA officer Valerie Plame Wilson by White House officials in 2003 caused significant damage to U.S. national security and its ability to counter nuclear proliferation abroad, RAW STORY has learned.
According to current and former intelligence officials, Plame Wilson, who worked on the clandestine side of the CIA in the Directorate of Operations as a non-official cover (NOC) officer, was part of an operation tracking distribution and acquisition of weapons of mass destruction technology to and from Iran.
Speaking under strict confidentiality, intelligence officials revealed heretofore unreported elements of Plame’s work. Their accounts suggest that Plame’s outing was more serious than has previously been reported and carries grave implications for U.S. national security and its ability to monitor Iran’s burgeoning nuclear program.
While many have speculated that Plame was involved in monitoring the nuclear proliferation black market, specifically the proliferation activities of Pakistan’s nuclear “father,” A.Q. Khan, intelligence sources say that her team provided only minimal support in that area, focusing almost entirely on Iran.

This is rather huge news. TWN had some knowledge of this Raw Story article before it hit the net and mentioned it was on the way on the WNYC’s Brian Lehrer Show earlier today.
There are different directions this story may go.
The first might be that one of the reasons that Plame was outed had to do with bureaucratic and/or political enemies who were predisposed against the intelligence results of her team’s Iran WMD-watching efforts. I would have to be further convinced of that case — as I think that internal pettiness inside the Bush White House over Joe Wilson’s public outing of the contrived Iraq-Niger-Uranium gambit is a pretty compelling rationale for Cheney’s machine to out Plame.
But another dimension of this story has to do with an assessment of the damage that her outing caused this nation. As we now start down a path towards harder-edged threats against Iran, allies will naturally question the quality of our intelligence given our failures on Iraq WMDs.
If Cheney & Co. outed one of the key intelligence operations monitoring the inputs and outputs of Iran’s nuclear program — then Cheney & Co. did vast damage to our ability to know what is real and contrived inside Iran.
One other piece to this that TWN needs to go back to in notes — so please take the following with a grain of salt until further sourced — has to do with Joe Wilson’s findings in Niger.
Someone with knowledge of the classified report that Joe Wilson “orally” filed after his now famed investigative trip to Niger shared with me that there were two notes in that report that had nothing to do with Iraq and its purported activities in Niger.
These two notes focused on Iran’s interests and possible activities in Niger.
The question is “why would Iran be interested in Niger uranium when it has more than adequate domestic sources of uranium?”
The response that has come from various intelligence sources that I have consulted is that if Iran was trying to access external sources of uranium — somewhere like Niger — it is because those “secret efforts” would be outside the international intelligence monitoring of Iran’s domestic mining operations.
I do not have the fully articulated “notes” from Joe Wilson’s Niger report (in fact, I have just learned that those written “notes” were destroyed), but I have just learned that these Iran-Niger references appear in the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence report on Joe Wilson’s Niger trip. (I will link as soon as I secure the electronic version).
What is fascinating is that one of the staffers of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence mistakenly recorded in the published report that Iraq — rather than Iran — attempted to purchase 400-500 tons of uranium. Wilson apparently made clear that it was Iran and not Iraq attempting to make such purchases.
The Washington Post, which reported this inaccuracy — had to issue a correction that the purchase effort, as reported by Joe Wilson, was made by Iran and not Iraq.
More soon.
— Steve Clemons
Update: From the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence Report:

The intelligence report also said that Niger’s former Minister for Energy and Mines [redacted]. Mai Manga, stated that there were no sales outside of International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) channels since the mid-1980s. He knew of no contracts signed between Niger and any rogue states for the sale of uranium. He said that an Iranian delegation was interested in purchasing 400 tons of yellowcake from Niger in 1998, but said that no contract was ever signed with Iran.
Mai Manga also described how the French mining consortium controls Nigerien uranium mining and keeps the uranium very tightly controlled from the time it is mined until the time it is loaded onto ships in Benin for transport overseas. Mai Manga believed it would be difficult, if not impossible, to arrange a special shipment of uranium to a pariah state given these controls.

Thanks to NS for forwarding.
— Steve Clemons