In 2002 the CIA sent Ambassador Joseph Wilson to Niger to investigate the claim that Iraq was trying to buy yellowcake uranium from Niger. Wilson concluded that the evidence for this claim was bogus, and reported his findings to the CIA.
Wilson later published his findings in an op-ed piece, "What I Didn't Find in Africa", in the New York Times four months after the 2003 invasion of Iraq, which was based in part on the Bush Administration's assertions of this false claim.
"I met with Ambassador Owens-Kirkpatrick at the embassy. For reasons that are understandable, the embassy staff has always kept a close eye on Niger's uranium business. I was not surprised, then, when the ambassador told me that she knew about the allegations of uranium sales to Iraq — and that she felt she had already debunked them in her reports to Washington.
"Given the structure of the consortiums that operated the mines, it would be exceedingly difficult for Niger to transfer uranium to Iraq. Niger's uranium business consists of two mines, Somair and Cominak, which are run by French, Spanish, Japanese, German and Nigerian interests. If the government wanted to remove uranium from a mine, it would have to notify the consortium, which in turn is strictly monitored by the International Atomic Energy Agency. Moreover, because the two mines are closely regulated, quasi-governmental entities, selling uranium would require the approval of the minister of mines, the prime minister and probably the president. In short, there's simply too much oversight over too small an industry for a sale to have transpired.
"(As for the actual memorandum, I never saw it. But news accounts have pointed out that the documents had glaring errors — they were signed, for example, by officials who were no longer in government — and were probably forged. And then there's the fact that Niger formally denied the charges.)"
Shortly thereafter, his wife's covert identity as a CIA operative was revealed in the press, by conservative columnist Robert Novak. Wilson and his wife, Valerie Plame Wilson, claim that this was the result of a White House effort to punish Wilson, and have filed a civil lawsuit against members of the Bush Administration, including Dick Cheney, Scooter Libby, Karl Rove, Richard Armitage, and other unnamed parties. The lawsuit was delayed during the Scooter Libby trial, and then dismissed on jurisdictional grounds. The Wilsons have appealed the dismissal.