This conversation which took place on CNN on July 13, 2003 (the day before Bob Novak's column naming Valerie Plame appeared in newspapers) shows that the press had an intense interest in who had sent Joe Wilson to Niger. Because Joe Wilson--foreign policy adviser to John Kerry--had inserted himself in a partisan political dispute.
BLITZER: But 11 months earlier, you, the Bush administration, had sent Joe Wilson, a former U.S. ambassador to Niger, to find out whether it was true. He came back, reported to the CIA, reported to the State Department, it wasn't true, it was bogus. The whole issue was bogus. And supposedly, you never got word of his report.
RICE: Well, first of all, I didn't know Joe Wilson was going to Niger. And if you look at Director Tenet's statement, it says that counterproliferation experts on their own initiative sent Joe Wilson, so I don't know...
BLITZER: Who sent him?
RICE: Well, it was certainly not a level that had anything to do with the White House, and I do not believe at a level that had anything to do with the leadership of the CIA.
BLITZER: Supposedly, it came at the request of the vice president.
RICE: No, this is simply not true, and this is something that's been perpetuated that we simply have to straighten out.
The vice president did not ask that Joe Wilson go to Niger. The vice president did not know. I don't think he knew who Joe Wilson was, and he certainly didn't know that he was going.
The first that I heard of Joe Wilson mission was when I was doing a Sunday talk show and heard about it.
.... So no, the Wilson trip was not sent by anyone at a high level. It wasn't briefed to anyone at high level. And it appears to have been inconclusive in what it found.
BLITZER: Did George Tenet know about the Joe Wilson trip to Africa?
RICE: I am not aware that George Tenet was aware that this happened before it happened.