In late 2002 the Bush administration got word from a foreign intelligence service—thought to be Italy’s—that Saddam Hussein had sought uranium in Niger. Mr Cheney’s office took an interest, seeking to consolidate the case for war. It asked the CIA to follow up, and Joseph Wilson, a retired diplomat, was sent to Africa. He found no evidence for the claim, and after the war wrote as much, angrily, in the New York Times. In the ensuing flap, two “senior administration officials” talked to Bob Novak, a columnist. He wrote that Mr Wilson was sent at the request of his wife, Valerie (née Plame), a CIA “operative” on weapons of mass destruction. Ms Plame had been an undercover spy. Though by the time of Mr Novak's column she had been based safely in Virginia for several years, Mr Novak’s column nonetheless blew her cover. The resulting investigation sought to determine whether someone broke the law in outing her.