The Washington Post's editorial page suffers from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. The cause: the newspaper's inability to come to terms with its cheerleading for the Iraq war. The symptoms were most recently manifested in an editorial that slammed the movie, Fair Game, which is a Hollywood treatment of the Valerie Plame/CIA leak case that culminated with the 2007 conviction of Scooter Libby, Vice President Dick Cheney's chief of staff. The Post huffed that the movie is "full of distortions—if not outright inventions." But the paper's editorialists protest too much—and reveal their own biases.
When the movie opened, two veteran Post reporters who covered the CIA leak case—Walter Pincus and Richard Leiby—wrote an extensive article detailing what portions of the movie were fact and what were the product of dramatic license. The pair noted that the film exaggerates Valerie Plame Wilson's role in a specific intelligence operation aimed at gathering intelligence on WMD activity within Iraq. (In the book I co-wrote with Michael Isikoff, Hubris: The Inside Story of Spin, Scandal, and the Selling of the Iraq War, we revealed that she was the operations chief of the CIA’s clandestine Joint Task Force on Iraq.) And the movie, the pair report, may stretch the truth in the scenes in which Iraqi scientists who cooperated with the CIA are stranded in Iraq when Valerie Wilson's CIA identity is revealed in a newspaper column by conservative Bob Novak. But Pincus and Leiby concluded, "the movie holds up as a thoroughly researched and essentially accurate account."
Not so, huffs the editorial page, which has long been edited by Fred Hiatt, a fervent supporter of the Iraq war. The editorial takes issue with the movie's depiction of Valerie Wilson's husband, former Ambassador Joe Wilson, "as a whistle-blower who debunked a Bush administration claim that Iraq had tried to purchase uranium from the African country of Niger." Joe Wilson, in case you've forgotten, was dispatched by the CIA to Niger in 2002 to check out the allegation that Iraq had obtained yellowcake from Niger that could be used to produce nuclear weapons. The CIA's decision to send Wilson to Niger had been sparked by a request from Cheney for more information on the unconfirmed and sketchy Niger allegation.
When Wilson returned from Niger, he told the CIA that based on his conversations with former Nigerien officials, he had concluded that such an Iraq-Niger uranium deal was highly unlikely. And in July 2003—months after President Bush launched the Iraq war with the claim that Saddam Hussein posed a serious WMD threat—Wilson wrote a New York Times op-ed maintaining that the Bush-Cheney administration had "twisted" some of the pre-war "intelligence related to Iraq's nuclear weapons program." He wrote that he was basing this conclusion on the administration's public use of the Niger charge—which President George W. Bush had cited in that year's State of the Union speech—despite what Wilson had told the CIA. This is the somewhat mild way Wilson put it in the op-ed:
The vice president's office asked a serious question. I was asked to help formulate the answer. I did so, and I have every confidence that the answer I provided was circulated to the appropriate officials within our government. The question now is how that answer was or was not used by our political leadership. If my information was deemed inaccurate, I understand (though I would be very interested to know why). If, however, the information was ignored because it did not fit certain preconceptions about Iraq, then a legitimate argument can be made that we went to war under false pretenses.
Now, the Post editorial belittles Wilson's whistleblowing:
In fact, an investigation by the Senate intelligence committee found that Mr. Wilson's reporting did not affect the intelligence community's view on the matter, and an official British investigation found that President George W. Bush's statement in a State of the Union address that Britain believed that Iraq had sought uranium in Niger was well-founded.