I've found another point to tease out of that story.
The CIA had sent Wilson to Niger in early 2002 to determine whether there was any truth to reports that Iraq had made a deal to acquire yellowcake uranium from the government of Niger to make a nuclear weapon. Wilson discounted the reports, but the allegation that Iraq was trying to buy uranium from Africa ended up in President Bush's 2003 State of the Union address."[T]o make nuclear weapons"? Up through that point, the text could have relied on Wilson's original article.
In February 2002, I was informed by officials at the Central Intelligence Agency that Vice President Dick Cheney's office had questions about a particular intelligence report. While I never saw the report, I was told that it referred to a memorandum of agreement that documented the sale of uranium yellowcake--a form of lightly processed ore--by Niger to Iraq in the late 1990's.The "nuclear weapons" bit was just some journalistic license, perhaps.
The astonishing thing, which unfortunately isn't astonishing to everybody, is the logical disconnect that follows. Let's accept Wilson at his word that he was sent to discover the truth of whether Niger had forged a deal to sell yellowcake uranium to Iraq. Let's accept that he discounted the notion that such a deal had been completed, and that he relayed that information to the CIA accordingly.
Just how are we supposed to get from there to the notion that there is a problem with Bush claiming in the State of the Union address that Iraq tried to purchase uranium in Africa (or even in Niger specifically)?
It should be elementary to discern a difference between agreeing to sell something to somebody and entertaining a request that one sell something to somebody. Wilson played on the faint ambiguity in his article, whether out of stupidity or an intent to deceive.
Witness the doublethink in Wilson's own account:
Then, in January, President Bush, citing the British dossier, repeated the charges about Iraqi efforts to buy uranium from Africa.That's fair enough, if we regard Wilson as having been a bit thick.
The next day, I reminded a friend at the State Department of my trip and suggested that if the President had been referring to Niger, then his conclusion was not borne out by the facts as I understood them.
Again, the attempt to buy is different from the at of completing a purchase. Wilson, in fact, found evidence in Niger that the British dossier was correct. Somehow, he couldn't bring himself to remember by this time.
Here's what the CIA ended up with from Wilson:
The intelligence report indicated that former Nigerian Prime Minister Ibrahim Mayaki was unaware of any contracts that had been signed between Niger and any rogue states for the sale of yellowcake while he was Prime Minister (1997-1999) or Foreign Minister (1996-1997). Mayaki said that if there had been any such contract during his tenure, he would have been aware of it. Mayaki said, however, that in June 1999 [deleted] businessman, approached him and insisted that Mayaki meet with an Iraqi delegation to discuss "expanding commercial relations" between Niger and Iraq. The intelligence report 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 UN sanctions on Iraq."
(source) bold emphasis added
Why couldn't Wilson remember any of that by the time he wrote his article?
The old media can't seem to let go of Wilson's impression that the lack of a deal to purchase uranium somehow contradicts the claim that Iraq tried to purchase uranium. That meme is perpetuated again in the article on Plame's lawsuit, just as it has been countless times when the old media mentions Wilson or Plame.
Late note: I owe a hat-tip to Austin Bay, from whose blog I obtained the fast-track to the CIA's account of Wilson's report. See Colonel Bay's extensive comments on Wilson here.