From the outset, Joseph Wilson IV has insisted he was sent to Niger at the Vice President's behest. As more facts about the trip became known and the Vice President vehemently denied this claim, the scenario appeared that the CIA sent him after Cheney raised a question in an intelligence report, and that the Vice President was utterly unaware of the Mission to Africa.
This notion was reinforced when the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence (SSCI) reported that the agency managed to act remarkably quickly, approving the trip so close in time after the inquiry.
But we have just learned in the course of the Libby Trial that even that timeline is wrong:
(a) Plame recommended her husband for this trip before the vice president even asked about the report;
(b) the SSCI never knew this because the CIA never turned over her memorandum of recommendation to the committee.
Why did the agency hold back this information and allow this misstatement of fact to sit on the public record for so long?
Captain Ed and Byron York have the details. York writes:
The accepted version of events is that Vice President Dick Cheney got things started when he asked for information about possible Iraqi attempts to purchase uranium in Africa. After that request, CIA employee Valerie Plame Wilson suggested sending her husband to look into the question, and after that, the CIA flew Joseph Wilson to Niger to investigate. But the new documents suggest that Mrs. Wilson suggested her husband for the trip before the vice president made his request. In other words, Joseph Wilson's visit to Niger, which everyone believes was undertaken at the behest of the vice president, was actually in the works before Dick Cheney asked his now-famous question. And if that is true, our current understanding of the chronology of events is wrong. [...]
A CIA official told the committee that Mrs. Wilson "offered up [Joseph Wilson's] name" for the job, and the Senate report quoted the e-mail written by Mrs. Wilson saying, "my husband has good relations with both the PM [prime minister] 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."
According to the Senate report, Valerie Plame Wilson sent her e-mail on February 12, 2002 - the day before the vice president was briefed on the African uranium matter. The discrepancy between the two dates seems glaring, but was not included in the Senate report. That is because, according to a source familiar with the committee's investigation, the CIA did not include the document in the materials it turned over to the committee. Senate investigators apparently never knew the exact date of the vice president's request, so they never knew it came after Plame's e-mail.
What does the new information mean? On February 12, 2002, the Defense Intelligence Agency released - inside the government, not publicly - a report covering the Africa uranium issue; its title said that Niger had "signed an agreement to sell 500 tons of uranium a year to Baghdad." CIA officials told Senate investigators the report spurred requests for information from both the State Department and the Department of Defense. Knowledgeable sources speculate - and they stress, they are speculating - that those inquiries from State and Defense were made on the 12th, the day the Defense Intelligence Agency report was sent around, and that Valerie Plame Wilson, in suggesting her husband be sent to investigate, was reacting to those requests, and not to the vice president's question, which came the next day. In this new version of events, Dick Cheney was the last guy to request more information, not the first; the notion that his request started the whole affair seems wrong.
I've written at length about the lack of credibility Wilson has on this topic. He has misrepresented his own findings for political purposes, a conclusion that this trial has reinforced. Now it looks like he has lied about the nature of his assignment from the beginning. It did not come from a request by Cheney, but apparently as an independent initiative of his wife in reaction to intelligence developed outside of her discipline -- which calls into question the motives of both parties from the beginning. Update: Do not miss A.J. Strata's take on the lies about the timing and careful consideration of what might have been going on.