Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Valerie Plame

The Trip To Niger

Map with Niger and Iraq locators
Map with Niger and Iraq locators
A few days after the initial meeting with the CIA, Joe Wilson was on a flight to Niamey, Niger, where he would stay for eight days. As the plane descended, he watched camel caravans cross the John F. Kennedy Bridge, which provided a way for the 750,000 citizens to cross the Niger River. The air was polluted and hazy; the land around the airfield ripped of its trees and vegetationdeforestation was a national problem, and the wreckage of a DC-8 cargo jet that had crashed many years before was still sitting on the side of the runway.

Despite his detractors' later charges, it would be difficult to portray this trip as a junket. Niger was not a tourist's paradise. It was the second-poorest country on earth.

Wilson deplaned and, deploying his limited Hausa (one of the local languages), struck up a friendly conversation with an immigration officer. Soon, a beat-up taxihad been arranged to take him to his hotel in the city less than five miles away.

In his room, he had a view of the new National Museum, a seven-story glass structure that stood out from its surroundings. He set about making contact with his numerous Nigerien associates in the government and in private businessesnot an easy task. The phone lines worked only intermittently, and often the best way to get a hold of people was through word of mouth, telling taxi drivers to tell acquaintances you were around.

During his trip he met with a number of contacts, including Ambassador Owens-Kirkpatrick, who had been posted in Niger for two years. She had been in contact with President Tandja and had gone on a mission with Marine General Carelton Fulford to investigate the uranium claims and found no basis to believe that an agreement between Iraq and Niger had been reached, either.

Wilson met with Nigerien businessmen, aid workers, government employees. He learned additional details about Niger's uranium and mining business, which became key parts of an Op-Ed he wrote six months after watching George W. Bush's State of the Union speech and hearing him utter those fateful 16 words for which he had found no corroboration.

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