ⓘ Plame affair timeline


ⓘ Plame affair timeline

The Plame affair erupted in July 2003, when journalist Robert Novak revealed that Valerie Plame worked as covert employee of the Central Intelligence Agency, although the seeds of the scandal had been laid during 2001 and 2002 as the Bush administration investigated allegations that Iraq had purchased Nigerien uranium.

Between 2003 and 2007, Patrick Fitzgerald led a criminal investigation into allegations that the Bush administration had leaked Plames identity as retribution against her husband, Joseph C. Wilson, who had publicly questioned the rationale for the Iraq War. In August 2006, former U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage revealed that he had been Novaks primary source for the leak.

By July 2007, when President George W. Bush commuted the prison sentence Scooter Libby had received for perjury and obstruction of justice during Fitzgeralds investigation of the leak, the scandal had largely come to a close. In April 2018, President Donald Trump fully pardoned Libby.


1. 1980s

  • Between 1980 and 1982 Sadam Husseins Baathist Iraq procures more than 400 tons of yellowcake from Portugal and Niger. This material remains in Iraq under IAEA monitoring until the 2003 invasion.


  • Seyni Kountche, then President of Niger, stated that his country would "sell uranium even to the devil."


  • A BBC report notes that South Africa illicitly sells Uranium to Iraq through Uday Hussein. This sale is unverified by other sources.

2. 1990s


  • Valerie Plame begins her first CIA posting, posing as a State Department official at the US embassy in Athens.


  • According to an editorial in National Review Online, an IAEA report lists 580 tons of natural uranium in Iraqi stockpiles, some of which came from Niger.


  • Fearing that Aldrich Ames has revealed her identity to Russian intelligence, the CIA recalls Plame from Europe to Washington.

2.1. 1990s 1990

  • Valerie Plame begins her first CIA posting, posing as a State Department official at the US embassy in Athens.

2.2. 1990s 1993

  • According to an editorial in National Review Online, an IAEA report lists 580 tons of natural uranium in Iraqi stockpiles, some of which came from Niger.

2.3. 1990s 1994

  • May 22, 1994: Brewster Jennings & Associates, a front company for the Central Intelligence Agency posing as a "legal services office," is registered with Dun and Bradstreet. Brewster Jennings & Associates will be a cover for many CIA officers, including Valerie Plame.

2.4. 1990s 1997

  • Fearing that Aldrich Ames has revealed her identity to Russian intelligence, the CIA recalls Plame from Europe to Washington.


2.5. 1990s 1999

  • June: According to a 2002 conversation between Joseph C. Wilson and former Prime Minister of Niger Ibrahim Assane Mayaki An Iraqi businessman approached Mayaki and insisted that Mayaki meet with an Iraqi delegation to discuss "expanding commercial relations" between the Iraqi government of Saddam Hussein and Niger. Mayaki interpreted the overture as an attempt to discuss uranium sales, but steered the conversation away from trade because of UN sanctions against Iraq. In a 2004 conversation with Wilson, Wilsons "Nigerien source" presumably, Mayaki, told Wilson that the "Iraqi businessman" he had met in June 1999 was Muhammed Saeed al-Sahaf, the former Iraqi Information Minister, sometimes referred to in the U.S. press as "Baghdad Bob."

3. 2001

  • Summer-Autumn 2001: Marc Grossman, the recently appointed Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs, allegedly warns Turkish members of a nuclear smuggling ring connected to the proliferation network of Dr. Abdul Qadeer Khan about Brewster Jennings & Associates role as a Central Intelligence Agency front.
  • New Years 2001: Over the holiday, a gang of burglars break into the embassy of Niger in Rome and steal some letterhead and official stamps.

4.1. 2002 February 2002

  • The Senate reports exact words on Mayakis suspicions of Iraqs interest in uranium: "Mayaki said, however, that in June 1999, said that Mayaki interpreted expanding commercial relations" to mean that the delegation wanted to discuss uranium yellowcake sales. The intelligence report also said that "although the meeting took place, Mayaki let the matter drop due to the U.N. sanctions on Iraq."
  • Joe Wilson indicates that in his conversation with former Niger Prime Minister, Ibrahim Assane Mayaki, the PM indicated that he was not aware of any sales contract with Iraq but that in June 1999 he was approached by a businessman, asking that he meet with an Iraqi delegation to discuss expanding commercial relations. Note: Nigers two largest exports are uranium and livestock. Wilson indicated he thought the meeting took place but that Mayaki, who was aware of the illegality of such activities, let the matter drop due to the sanctions on Iraq.
  • The United States Senate Select Committee on Intelligence faulted the C.I.A. for not fully investigating Iraqi efforts to obtain uranium from Niger, citing reports from both a foreign service and the United States Navy about uranium from Niger destined for Iraq and stored in a warehouse in Benin, a country located between Niger and Togo.
  • 26 February 2002: Joseph C. Wilson travels to Niger at the request of the CIA. Joe Wilson meets with the former minister of mines, Mai Manga, who said he knew of no sales of uranium between Niger and rogue states. He states the mines are closely monitored from mining to transport loading making it at least very difficult if not impossible for a rogue state to obtain uranium through this channel.
  • According to the report of the U.S. Senate Select Intelligence Committee, July 2004, pages 43–46, former Prime Minister of Niger Mayaki told Wilson in Niger that Mayaki interpreted the June 1999 proposal of a businessman for "expanding commercial relations" as an offer to buy uranium yellowcake. However, this was only an interpretation. The Iraqi did not mention the word "uranium" or "yellowcake."
  • 13 February: An operations official cables an overseas officer seeking approval of Joe Wilson investigation.
  • 12 February: Vice President Cheney reads a DIA report on alleged Niger-Iraq uranium sale and asks for the CIAs analysis.
  • 12 February: Valerie Plame, a C.I.A. employee working in its Counterproliferation Division, sends a memo to the deputy chief of the C.I.A.s Directorate of Operations stating that her husband has good contact with the former Prime Minister and Director of Mines in Niger as well as other contacts who might prove useful in shedding light on the supposed Niger-Iraq uranium contract.
  • 19 February: CIA staffers, including Plame, meet to discuss sending Wilson to Niger. According to Plame, she is there only for a few minutes.


4.2. 2002 March 2002

  • 5 March: Wilson is debriefed by two C.I.A. officials at his home.

4.3. 2002 September 2002

  • 9 September 2002: According to Italian newspaper La Repubblica, the head of Italys military intelligence agency SISMI, Nicolo Pollari, meets secretly with Stephen Hadley, then Bushs Deputy National Security Adviser; the purpose of the meeting, as reported by La Repubblica, was to bypass a skeptical CIA and get documents purporting to detail an Iraqi attempt to purchase Niger uranium directly to the White House. Hadley and others who attended this meeting say they have little memory of the details of what was discussed, and in a press conference Hadley characterized the meeting as a "courtesy call" that lasted less than 15 minutes. According to the Italian Prime Ministers office, the meeting was between the then National Security Advisor, Condoleezza Rice, and Nicolo Pollari, in the presence of an Italian and US delegation that included Stephen Hadley.

4.4. 2002 December 2002

  • 19 December 2002: By this date the uranium claim, which George Tenet had removed from Bushs speech in Cincinnati, Ohio, in October 2002, had found its way back into a State Department "fact sheet." Following that, the Pentagon requests an authoritative judgement from the National Intelligence Council as to whether or not Iraq had sought uranium from Niger.


5.1. 2003 January 2003

  • 13 January: The INRs nuclear analyst sends email to colleagues providing rationale on why the Yellowcake document is a hoax. The CIAs nuclear analyst does not have the BP-documents in question and requests a copy.
  • 6 January: The International Atomic Energy Agency IAEA asks the United States for any information related to the claim that Iraq had purchased yellowcake uranium from Niger.
  • 16 January: CIA received copies of the original foreign language BP-documents on the Niger-Iraq contract.
  • January: The National Intelligence Council, responding to the Pentagons request, drafts a memo addressing the Niger uranium story in which they conclude the story is baseless. The memo arrives at the White House prior to the State of the Union address given later that month.
  • 27 January: During a National Security Council meeting at the White House, someone hands CIA head George Tenet a hardcopy of President Bushs State of the Union address. Tenet is, he later testifies, too busy to read it and hands it to an aide who passes it to a top official in the CIA intelligence directorate who was also too busy to read it.
  • 28 January: President George W. Bush gives his State of the Union speech. Toward the end Bush states, "The British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa." The sentence becomes known as the "16 words." In his State of the Union speech, Bush also declares, "The International Atomic Energy Agency confirmed in the 1990s that Saddam Hussein had an advanced nuclear weapons development program, had a design for a nuclear weapon and was working on five different methods of enriching uranium for a bomb."


5.2. 2003 February 2003

  • 4 February: The United States provides electronic copy of the BP-documents on Iraqi acquisition of Niger yellowcake to Jacques Bute, then head of IAEAs Iraq Nuclear Verification Office, who was in New York, and sends a copy to the IAEA offices in Vienna as well.

5.3. 2003 March 2003

  • 20 March: Iraq invasion begins.
  • 3 March: The IAEA tells the U.S. Mission in Vienna the BP-documents on Niger yellowcake were obvious fakes. Among errors reportedly identified in the documents is a reference to a Nigerien constitution in 1965.

5.4. 2003 May 2003

  • 6 May: After an off-the-record meeting with Wilson, Nicholas Kristof reports in a New York Times column that "a former U.S. ambassador to Africa" had been sent to Niger the year before and had reported that the Iraq uranium allegations were false.

5.5. 2003 June 2003

  • 12 June: During a telephone call, Cheney told Libby that Wilsons wife worked in Counter Proliferation
  • 12 June: Marc Grossman, the Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs, meets with Scooter Libby and tells him that Plame works for the CIA and may have helped organize her husbands Niger trip.
  • 10 June: State Department staff prepare an internal memo naming Plame as Wilsons wife. The paragraph identifying Mrs. Wilson is marked "S-NF", signifying its information is classified "Secret, Noforn."

5.6. 2003 July 2003

The "Plame affair" becomes such during this month. The month opens with Wilsons op-ed describing his trip to Niger and suggesting the Iraqi nuclear threat had been exaggerated, followed within days by multiple Bush administration leaks or confirmations to reporters and the publishing of Wilsons wifes name, revealing that Valerie Plame worked for the C.I.A. despite the fact that she was then undercover. By mid-month the first stories emerge suggesting the Bush administration had leaked this information as retribution against Wilson.

  • c. 10 July – 11 July: Novak called CIA spokesman Bill Harlow to confirm information regarding Plame and Wilson. According to Novak, Harlow denied that Plame "suggested" that Wilson be selected for the trip, and Harlow stated instead that CIA "counter-proliferation officials selected Wilson and asked his wife to contact him." According to Harlow, he "warned Novak in the strongest terms he was permitted to use without revealing classified information", that Wilsons wife had not authorized the mission and that if Novak did write about it, her name should not be revealed. Harlow said that after Novaks call, he checked Plames status and confirmed that she was an undercover operative. He said he called Novak back to repeat that the story Novak had related to him was wrong and that Plames name should not be used. According to Harlow, however, he did not tell Novak directly that Plame was undercover because that information was classified. According to Novak, not only did Harlow fail to say that Plame was undercover, he actually told Novak that "she probably never again would be given a foreign assignment but that exposure of her name might cause difficulties." Novak states that if he had been told that disclosure of Plames name would endanger her or anyone else, he would not have disclosed the name.
  • 8 July: Robert Novak has a phone conversation with Karl Rove, Senior Advisor to the President of the United States, in which C.I.A. agent Plame is discussed, according to an unnamed source who had been told not to talk about the case. Novak is reported to have told Rove the name of the agent as "Valerie Plame" and her role in Wilsons mission to Africa. Rove is reported to have told Novak something to the effect of, "I heard that, too." or "Oh, so you already know about it." Rove reportedly told the grand jury that at this time he had already heard about Wilsons wife working for the CIA from another journalist, but is unable to remember who that was.
  • 6 July: Wilson publishes an op-ed in The New York Times describing his trip to Niger and saying: "I have little choice but to conclude that some of the intelligence related to Iraqs nuclear weapons program was twisted to exaggerate the Iraqi threat."
  • pre-8 July: Journalist Robert Novak has a conversation with Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Richard Armitage. In that conversation he is told for the first time that Wilsons wife works for the C.I.A., though Armitage didnt tell Novak her name. Novak checks Joseph C. Wilsons biography in Whos Who to identify his wife, finding her maiden name Valerie Plame. According to the reporters Michael Isikoff and David Corn, Armitages leak was "inadvertent, and the Intelligence Identities Act hadnt been violated."
  • 7 July: Secretary of State Colin Powell boards Air Force One for a trip to Africa with President Bush and other members of the administration. Powell carries with him a copy of the 10 June memo his State Department prepared, naming Plame as Wilsons wife and signifying the information is classified "Secret, Noforn."
  • 1 October: Wilson told Ted Koppel on Nightline that "Washington reporters told him that senior White House adviser Karl Rove said his wife was fair game." Wilson "plans to give the names of the reporters to the FBI, which is conducting a full-blown investigation of the possible leak."
  • 11 July: Creators Syndicate distributes Novaks column naming Plame on the AP newswire.
  • 7 July: Over lunch, Libby tells White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer that Wilsons wife works on nonproliferation issues at the CIA and was behind Wilsons trip to Niger.
  • 10 October: White House press secretary Scott McClellan says that Rove, national security aide Elliott Abrams, and vice presidential chief of staff Lewis Libby have "assured me they were not involved in this."
  • 6 October: President Bush calls the leak a "criminal action".
  • 8 July: Lewis Libby meets with journalist Judith Miller and tells her that the Niger uranium claim had been a "key judgement" of the October 2002 National Intelligence Estimate NIE, and that Plame worked at the CIA. Libby would later state that President Bush had instructed him to disclose information from the classified NIE. The information Libby gave Miller was false; the Niger claim was not one of the "key judgements" headlined, bolded, and bulleted in the first pages of that NIE. Later, after testifying to a Federal grand jury in October 2005, Miller writes in a retrospective account published in the New York Times that on this date and four days later, on 12 July 2003, Libby "played down the importance of Mr. Wilsons mission and questioned his performance."
  • 11 July: Time reporter Matthew Coopers internal Time e-mail message bearing the time 11:07 a.m. is sent to his bureau chief, stating: "Spoke to Rove on double super secret background for about two mins before he went on vacation. Cooper writes that Rove offered him a "big warning" not to "get too far out on Wilson." According to Cooper, Rove told Cooper that Wilsons trip had not been authorized by "DCI" CIA Director George Tenet or Vice President Dick Cheney. Rather, "it was, KR said, Wilsons wife, who apparently works at the agency on WMD issues who authorized the trip." Rove also told Cooper that, "theres still plenty to implicate Iraqi interest in acquiring uranium fro, who is no partisan gunslinger." After reading the column and realizing that he was that source, Richard Armitage informs Colin Powell and meets with FBI investigators.


5.7. 2003 December 2003

  • December 2003 or January 2004: Roves lawyer Robert Luskin says Rove has signed a waiver authorizing prosecutors to speak to any reporters Rove had talked to.
  • 30 December: Attorney General John Ashcroft recuses himself from the investigation, appointing federal prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald to take over as special prosecutor.

6. 2004

May 2004

  • 22 May: The grand jury issues subpoenas to NBC Newss Tim Russert and Time s Matthew Cooper. NBC and Time say they will challenge the subpoenas in court.

October 2004

  • October 2004: Rove testifies before a grand jury investigating the leak of Plames identity. Rove spent more than two hours testifying before the panel.

6.1. 2004 February 2004

  • 11 February: George W. Bush says: "If theres a leak out of my administration, I want to know who it is. If the person has violated law, that person will be taken care of. I welcome the investigation. I am absolutely confident the Justice Department will do a good job. I want to know the truth. Leaks of classified information are bad things."

6.2. 2004 May 2004

  • 22 May: The grand jury issues subpoenas to NBC Newss Tim Russert and Time s Matthew Cooper. NBC and Time say they will challenge the subpoenas in court.

6.3. 2004 June 2004

  • 24 June: Fitzgerald, the special prosecutor, conducts an hour-long interview with President George W. Bush.
  • 10 June: Asked by a reporter "do you stand by your pledge to fire anyone found to have. leaked name?", Bush responds: "Yes. And thats up to the U.S. Attorney to find the facts."

6.4. 2004 July 2004

  • 7 July 2004: The Senate Select Committee on Intelligence releases its "Report on the U.S. Intelligence Communitys Prewar Intelligence Assessments on Iraq." The report documents and offers some explanations as to the many failures of the U.S. intelligence community in its estimates of Iraqi weapons programs. About Plame and Wilson and the Niger trip, one CIA official said Plame "offered up his name" and Plame had written a memo recommending Wilson for the trip given his connections to Nigerien officials and "lots of French contacts." page 39 Vanity Fairs January 2004 article "Double Exposure" states Wilson was representing a concern seeking business related to gold mining in Niger, a former French colony. As for the information Wilson gained in Niger, CIA and State Department intelligence officials believed Wilsons report actually boosted the case that Iraq was seeking uranium, but Joe Wilson appeared to spin his story the opposite way. CIA continued to mention, with the backing of British Intelligence, that Iraq have sought uranium in Niger.
  • 5 July 2004: European intelligence officers claim that three years before the fake Niger-Iraq documents became public, sources from a number of countries including both human and electronic picked up repeated conversations regarding illicit trade in uranium in Niger. One of the customers for the uranium discussed was Iraq. At least three European intelligence were aware of potential illegal trade in Nigerien uranium between 1999 and 2001.
  • 31 July 2004: Rove says on CNN "Well, Ill repeat what I said to ABC News when this whole thing broke some number of months ago. I didnt know her name and didnt leak her name." On ABC, he had actually denied having any knowledge of the Plame leak.

6.5. 2004 September 2004

  • 30 September 2004: The Iraq Survey Groups final report is released. It concludes that there was no evidence that Iraq had attempted to acquire uranium since 1991.
  • 16 September 2004: The Washington Post reports that a source for Walter Pincus has revealed his own identity, letting Pincus off the hook that was still ensnaring Judith Miller and Matthew Cooper.

7. 2005

August 2005

  • 8 August: In a poll commissioned by Newsweek, 45% believed Rove "guilty of a serious offence", 15% "not guilty of a serious offence", and 37% responded "dont know."

September 2005

  • 29 September 2005: Judith Miller released from jail after she agrees to testify.
  • 30 September 2005: Judith Miller testifies for grand jury investigating Plame CIA leak.


7.1. 2005 February 2005

  • 15 February 2005: Citing the Supreme Courts decision in Branzburg v. Hayes, the DC Circuit Court of Appeals rules that the First Amendment does not exempt Judith Miller and Matthew Cooper from the duty to comply with the grand jurys subpoenas.

7.2. 2005 March 2005

  • 23 March 2005: Thirty-six news organizations file a friend of the court brief on behalf of Judith Miller and Matthew Cooper. Among those organizations filing are The New York Times, The Washington Post, ABC, NBC, CBS, CNN, AP, Newsweek, Reuters, and White House correspondents, among many others. It was the general position of these news organizations and their reporters that neither Miller nor Cooper should be held in contempt of court for refusing to testify if no crime had been committed i.e., no covert agent was "outed" in violation of the relevant statutes.

As evidence that it is likely that no crime had been committed, the news agencies voluntarily filed a friend of the court brief in which they state on page 5:

B. There is Ample Evidence On The Public Record To Cast Considerable Doubt That a Crime Has Been Committed. f someone committed a crime, they will no longer work in my administration." Some interpreted this as a retraction of earlier promises to fire anyone involved in the leak.

  • 25 July: In a Gallup poll, 49% of respondents believe Rove should resign.
  • 26 July: John Kerry and twenty-five other Democratic senators call for congressional investigations into the leak.
  • 20 July 2005: Robert Muller, the director of the F.B.I., wrote a letter classified that praised Italys cooperation with the bureau in working to determine the source of the forged Niger-Iraq document. The F.B.I. concluded from their investigation that the documents were forged for personal profit and exonerated the Italian service from intending to influence American policy. As a result, the F.B.I. had finished its investigation into the origin of the document.
  • 22 July: The Senate Democratic Policy Committee holds unofficial hearings on the Plame affair.

7.3. 2005 August 2005

  • 8 August: In a poll commissioned by Newsweek, 45% believed Rove "guilty of a serious offence", 15% "not guilty of a serious offence", and 37% responded "dont know."

7.4. 2005 September 2005

  • 29 September 2005: Judith Miller released from jail after she agrees to testify.
  • 30 September 2005: Judith Miller testifies for grand jury investigating Plame CIA leak.

7.5. 2005 October 2005

  • 14 October 2005: Karl Rove appears in front of the federal grand jury investigating the CIA leak. This his fourth appearance.
  • 28 October 2005: Scooter Libby is indicted on two counts of perjury, two counts of making false statements and one count of obstruction of justice. He immediately resigns as Dick Cheneys chief of staff. The grand jury which issued the indictment disbands.
  • 13 October 2005: Judith Miller testifies for the grand jury investigating the Plame CIA leak.

7.6. 2005 November 2005

  • 4 November 2005: Gen. Nicolo Pollari, Italys chief of Military Intelligence, told an Italian parliamentary committee on secret services that Rocco Martino, a former intelligence agency informer, was the source of the forged Niger-Iraq document. He did not, however, go so far as to say that Martino was the forger. News reports have stated that Martino claimed to have gotten the documents from a contact at the Niger embassy in Rome. Pollari is also quoted as telling the committee that no Italian intelligence officers were involved in the forgery or distribution of the document. Pollari also told the committee that Martino claimed he was working for the French intelligence service. A French intelligence spokesman called Martinos claims scandalous without going so far as to explicitly confirm or deny the essence of Martinos claim. La Repubblica, in a series of articles a week earlier, claimed that Martino had "produced the forgeries from letterhead and stamps he purloined from Nigers embassy in Rome in 2000.">

8. 2006

June 2006

  • 12 June 2006: Special Counsel Fitzgerald notifies Karl Rove that he will not be indicted.

August 2006

  • 29 August: Richard L. Armitage, a former deputy secretary of state, acknowledges that he was Robert Novaks primary source for Valerie Plames CIA affiliation.

8.1. 2006 February 2006

  • 4 February 2006: The Washington Post reports ". court records show that Libby denied to a grand jury that he ever mentioned Plame or her CIA job to then-White House press secretary Ari Fleischer or then- New York Times reporter Judith Miller in separate conversations he had with each of them in early July 2003. The records also suggest that Libby did not disclose to investigators that he first spoke to Miller about Plame in June 2003, and that prosecutors learned of the nature of the conversation only when Miller finally testified late in the fall of 2005." The article continues, "All three specific allegations are contained in previously redacted sections of a U.S. Court of Appeals opinion that were released yesterday. The opinion analyzed Fitzgeralds secret evidence to determine whether his case warranted ordering reporters to testify about their confidential conversations with sources."

8.2. 2006 June 2006

  • 12 June 2006: Special Counsel Fitzgerald notifies Karl Rove that he will not be indicted.

8.3. 2006 July 2006

  • 13 July: In a lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court, Valerie Plame and her husband, Joseph C. Wilson, a former U.S. ambassador, accused Cheney, Rove and I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby of revealing Plames CIA identity in seeking revenge against Wilson for criticizing the Bush administrations motives in Iraq.
  • 12 July: Robert Novak publicly states that Karl Rove was not his "primary source" of the information that Joseph C. Wilsons wife worked for the CIA.

8.4. 2006 August 2006

  • 29 August: Richard L. Armitage, a former deputy secretary of state, acknowledges that he was Robert Novaks primary source for Valerie Plames CIA affiliation.

8.5. 2006 September 2006

  • 14 September: Robert Novak publicly disputes details of Armitages disclosures provided in interviews and news reports.
  • 13 September: The Wilsons civil action, which initially named Karl Rove, Dick Cheney, and Scooter Libby, is amended to include Armitage.

9. 2007

March 2007

  • 16 March: The House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform holds a hearing on the leak. Plame and four other witnesses testify.
  • 6 March: Scooter Libby is convicted on four of five counts.

June 2007

  • 5 June: Judge Reggie Walton sentences Libby to serve two and a half years in federal prison and pay a fine of $250.000.

July 2007

  • 2 July: When Libbys appeal of Waltons order fails, President Bush commutes Libbys 30-month prison sentence, leaving the other parts of his sentence intact.
  • 9 July: Libby pays his monetary fine and begins serving two years of supervised release and 400 hours of community service.