The Cable

State public affairs appointments

The State Department public affairs shop is getting some new faces, including some who are familiar. As the White House announced earlier this month, former Clinton-era NSC spokesman and long-time Defense Department public affairs official P.J. Crowley, lately of the Center for American Progress, has been nominated to be assistant secretary of state for public affairs. While ...

The State Department public affairs shop is getting some new faces, including some who are familiar. As the White House announced earlier this month, former Clinton-era NSC spokesman and long-time Defense Department public affairs official P.J. Crowley, lately of the Center for American Progress, has been nominated to be assistant secretary of state for public affairs. While he had been expected to also serve as the chief spokesman and daily briefer, sources tell The Cable that the Clinton team has chosen career foreign service officer Ian Kelly to serve as the chief spokesman and daily briefer. Current acting spokesman Robert Wood will become the deputy.

Kelly’s name may ring a bell, especially if you paid attention to the Niger forgeries episode. That was when an Italian journalist, Elisabetta Burba, showed up at the U.S. embassy in Rome in the fall of 2002 with a stack of documents that purported to show evidence that Iraq’s Saddam Hussein had sought to purchase 500 tons of yellowcake uranium in Niger. Ian Kelly was the embassy spokesman who met with Burba before handing the documents over to other embassy officials who transmitted them back to Washington. There, though they were dismissed by some who saw them as probably suspect, the transaction they purported to describe managed to make its way into 16 infamous words in Bush’s 2003 State of the Union speech. Though the International Atomic Energy Agency pronounced the documents crude forgeries in March 2003 on the eve of the U.S. invasion of Iraq, it was too late. And when a former diplomat named Joseph C. Wilson who had been sent to Niger to investigate the Niger uranium claims emerged in a New York Times oped in June 2003 claiming the Bush administration should have known its case for war was dubious, it unleashed a campaign of retribution against Wilson and his wife Valerie Plame Wilson, a CIA officer, that ultimately led to the conviction of Vice President Cheney’s chief of staff I. Lewis Libby on charges related to perjury and obstruction of justice.

For all his small role in that most contentious episode of recent U.S. history, Kelly is a Russia expert, who has recently served as the director of the State Department’s Office of Russian Affairs.

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