On Tuesday, Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald had to take back a key sentence in a brief he had filed earlier with the court concerning charges against Scooter Libby, former top aide to Veep Dick Cheney, for perjury and obstruction of justice in the investigation into who leaked the name of CIA operative Valerie Plame. That sentence had spawned a spate of page-one Bush-bad stories.
Fitzgerald had written that President Bush had authorized Libby to tell former New York Times reporter Judith Miller about intelligence involving Saddam Hussein's attempts to procure enriched uranium in Niger, and that Libby understood he should tell Miller that an official "key judgment" affirmed the Niger story -- even though the Niger item wasn't a "key judgment" and some administration officials disputed the Niger angle. "Iraq Findings Leaked by Aide Were Disputed" read the New York Times headline.
Fitzgerald then corrected the record to read that Libby understood he could tell Miller about "key judgments" in the October 2002 National Intelligence Estimate and that the NIE reported that Iraq was "vigorously trying to procure" uranium.
Bush-haters had pounced on the Fitzgerald brief to bolster the "Bush Lied" big lie. It starts with Ambassador Joseph Wilson's contention that the Bushies were out to punish his wife, Plame, because Wilson's New York Times op-ed piece debunked the Niger charge. The Niger story was patently false, those who accept the big lie theory say -- and the Bushies knew it.
It doesn't speak well that Fitzgerald bought into that Bush-hater spin when he wrote of the Bushies' attempts to "discredit, punish or seek revenge against" Wilson. No. The Bushies weren't looking to hurt the little woman, but were waging an honest challenge to the truth-impaired Wilson and his false denial that his wife had anything to do with the CIA sending him to Niger, as well as reports that Cheney sent Wilson to Niger.
Most importantly: The Niger story has not proven to be false. There is good reason to believe Iraq didn't get uranium from Niger, but had tried to. The United Kingdom's Butler Commission found the Niger story to be "well-founded." Ditto a Senate Intelligence Committee report. Or, as The Washington Post editorialized on Sunday, "The (NIE) material that Mr. Bush ordered declassified established, as have several subsequent investigations, that Mr. Wilson was the one guilty of twisting the truth. In fact, his report supported the conclusion that Iraq had sought uranium."