The New York Times reports on the extreme cynicism of the Bush administration’s strategy to discredit Joe Wilson.

When President Bush authorized Vice President Dick Cheney’s chief of staff to reveal previously classified intelligence to a reporter about Saddam Hussein’s efforts to obtain uranium, that information was already being discredited by several senior officials in the administration, interviews conducted during and since that crucial period in June and July of 2003 show.

A review of the records also shows that what the aide, I. Lewis Libby Jr., said he was authorized to portray to reporters as a “key judgment” by the intelligence community had in fact been given much less prominence in the October 2002 National Intelligence Estimate on Iraq that Mr. Libby drew on when he spoke with the reporter. Its lack of prominence was a reflection of doubts about its reliability, records and interviews show.

Joe Wilson’s July 6th editorial said nothing about aluminum tubes. It only concerned the question of uranium from Niger.

Even as some officials, including Colin L. Powell, then secretary of state, started to reveal deep doubts that Mr. Hussein had ever sought uranium to reconstitute his nuclear program, Mr. Bush, Mr. Cheney and Mr. Libby were seeking to disseminate information suggesting that they had acted on credible intelligence, while not discussing their actions with other top aides.

The administration knew that the African uranium allegations were not credible before the 2003 State of the Union address. Nonetheless…

Mr. Fitzgerald, in his filing, said that Mr. Libby had been authorized to tell Judith Miller, a reporter for The New York Times, on July 8, 2003, that a key finding of the 2002 intelligence estimate on Iraq was that Baghdad had been vigorously seeking to acquire uranium from Africa.

But a week earlier, in an interview at his office, Mr. Powell told three other reporters for The Times that intelligence agencies had essentially rejected that contention, and were “no longer carrying it as a credible item” by early 2003, when he was preparing to make the case against Iraq at the United Nations.

Mr. Powell’s queasiness with some of the intelligence has been well known, but the new revelations suggest that long after he had concluded the intelligence was faulty, Mr. Bush, Mr. Cheney and Mr. Libby were still promoting it.

They lied about the uranium, and when they got called on it,they lied about it some more.

According to Mr. Fitzgerald’s motion, Mr. Libby testified that he was directed by Mr. Cheney and Mr. Bush to describe the uranium allegations to Ms. Miller as a “key judgment” of the National Intelligence Estimate. Citing intelligence as a “key judgment” in such estimates carries great weight with policymakers, because the reports are meant to highlight the most important and solid judgments of the government’s intelligence agencies.

In fact, the estimate’s key judgments, which were officially declassified 10 days after Mr. Libby’s meeting with Ms. Miller, say nothing about the uranium allegations.

Libby was sent out to lie to Judith Miller about the information that was in the 2002 NIE about uranium from Africa. At least, that is the story they are using this week. But, as I pointed out a couple of days ago, Judy Miller didn’t need to be briefed on the contents of the 2002 NIE. She had seen the intelligence that went into the NIE before it was written. This looks like another modified limited hang-out.