[eDebate] wilson/rove update
Tue Sep 23 12:53:01 CDT 2003
1) if his wife really is CIA which she probably is given statements so far, wilson is
"advancing" the case in the courts as indicated in his response.
2) he has backed off rove despite measuring his words. according to wilson, he said
rove's name as a metaphor for dirty tricks and intimidation tactics to prevent
whistleblowers from cuming forward. arguably now wilson is even more in line w the
spirit of the debate petition.
3) i think it is a legal strategy to refrain from direct public comment on rove. remember
the original story stated:
"When Ambassador Wilson was asked how he knew it was Rove, he had documents
in his possession identifying Rove as the leaker from a secret investigation of the
State Department's Internal Security Unit. It was a from a small clique, four Clinton
holdovers in that department of the State Department that were sympathetic to what
had happened to Wilson. These investigations could not have possibly been made
without at least the tacit acquiescence of Secretary of State Colin Powell."
4) this is a political scandal that is going to reemerge later when the matter is further in
the courts. clark is already going after darling rove for blocking his appointment. rove
and his tactics are the weakest point of the administration.
the evidence didn't get erased. it is being left for the courts and a public hush
campaign has been instituted to strengthen the case in the courts.
here's the specific selection from the remarkable interview.
TPM: OK. Now, go forward a few weeks from when this all broke out, and another
incident comes up. And, I'll sort of work from published accounts since I know that your
ability to talk about this other controversy is circumscribed by--well, I'll just get into it.
According to--Robert Novak published a column, where he said that two senior
administration officials had told him that your wife works for the CIA, works under non-
official cover--which basically, in sort of colloquial terms, means that she's an
undercover agent--and that her relationship with you was, in some sense, what got you
the job to go to Niger.
Now, there's a couple issues here. One is whether that had anything to do with why you
went to Niger. The other question--to many, the more significant one--is that it is
illegal for government officials to out, as it were, people working undercover for the CIA.
And according to just the black-letter words of what Novak published, two senior
administration officials did just that. Now, for people who work in Washington, that
phrase "senior Administration official" isn't a vague term. That's a pretty small
population of people. Now, this got a lot of attention. It sort of swirled around in the
press. Now, I know that precisely because who works undercover for the CIA and who
doesn't can't be talked about by people who know who people are, you can't--you have
to sort of couch these things in hypotheticals. But, you have discussed publicly contacts
that you have had with, I guess, the CIA and FBI about their potentially looking into how
Novak came to have this information. What can you--do you know, is there an
investigation ongoing? What do you know about that?
WilSON: First of all, the Novak allegation is very interesting. If I recall the article
correctly, he flatly asserts my wife is a CIA operative. And then he quotes senior
administration officials as saying that she was somehow responsible for sending me out
there. Now, I think I mentioned to you earlier the context in which my trip was initially
discussed, and I will tell you that at the meetings it was discussed, and at the meeting
where it was proposed that I go out there, there was nobody at that meeting that I knew.
There were a couple of people who came up and introduced themselves and said to me
that they had been at other briefings I had given in the past on other issues, but I could
not name any of them. I couldn't tell you who they are today--would pass them on the
streets without recognizing them. So that's really--the decision-making process
involved nobody that I knew.
The idea that--first of all, irrespective of whether my wife is or is not what Novak
alleged, therefore, there was no personal involvement. I think it's important to
understand about this allegation, a couple of things. One: when they're talking about
"senior administration officials", they're talking about the White House. The CIA does not
"out" its own. It just doesn't do that. Secondly, I think that it's important to understand
that if, in fact, she is what was alleged, then it is a violation of the Intelligence Agents
Identification Act of 1982, which is a felony, and the process of investigating it goes
through, I believe, the CIA and then to Justice and to the FBI, and that's if she is, in fact,
what they said.
If she's not, it's a real inconvenience for her to have to answer all these questions. For
the purposes of the trip out there--irrespective of whether she is or she isn't--the
decisions on the trip were made by people I didn't know, as I told you earlier. For those
who would assert that somehow she was involved in this, it just defies logic. At the time,
she was the mother of two-year-old twins. Therefore, sort of sending her husband off
on an eight-day trip leaves her with full responsibility for taking care of two screaming
two-year-olds without help, and anybody who is a parent would understand what that
means. Anybody who is a mother would understand it even far better. Secondly, I mean,
the notion somehow that this was some nepotism, that I was being sent on an eight-
day, all-expense-paid--no salary, mind you--trip to the Sahara Desert. This is not
Nassau we're talking about. This is not the Bahamas. It wasn't Maui. This was the Sahara
Desert. And then, the only other thing that I can think of is the assertion that she
wanted me out of the way for eight days because she, you know, had a lover or
something, which is, you don't take lovers when you have two-year-old kids at home.
So, there's no logic in it.
The Novak article itself, it does nothing to advance the story. The Novak article, I
thought, was kind of a wash anyway. It just didn't make a lot of sense. But I would say
this about it to those who sort of leaked this. And, I suspect that it was people who just
didn't really understand how the process works. But, notwithstanding that, the fact is
that this is an administration that came to office on a--
TPM: Now, when you say that, you mean the people who talked to Novak didn't
understand sort of the legal seriousness of disclosing this information?
WILSON: Yeah. If the information is true. It could have been just a complete canard.
Assuming for the sake of this that it's true, that they just simply didn't perhaps
understand--I'll give them the benefit of the doubt that they just didn't understand the
seriousness with which this sort of thing is viewed. I say that because, at the end of the
day, after it was pointed out to them, you've heard nothing more from them on it.
Now, irrespective, it's certainly for an administration that came to office promising to
restore honor and dignity to the White House. The idea of involving my wife in this little
spat that they're having with me because I was the bearer of bad tidings was neither
honorable or dignified, quite apart from whether it was legal or illegal. It was really a
low-life, slimeball thing to do. And again, as I say, it added nothing to the story.
TPM: Now let me ask you--because in a number of press reports this has been
discussed--that I guess it's a month ago now. Jay Inslee, who's a congressman from
Seattle or thereabouts, had a town hall forum with constituents. And he invited you out
there and there was a big turnout and obviously the discussion were about all the
questions related to Iraq--the uranium, the WMD, how it happened, all this kind of stuff.
And this question of the Novak article came up. Now there's been sort of chatter in this
town about "seems to be the White House" and that people can hypothesize who might
be involved there. Now in one of the questions you were asked about this let me--I'll
just read the quote, when you're talking about the potential investigations--
WILSON: Actually Amy Goodman cited the quote on Democracy Now--what I--so I don't
need to hear the answer--
TPM: OK, well you mentioned the name of Karl Rove.
WILSON: Yeah, and Karl Rove, when I said that, is sort of a metaphor for the White House
political operation. And I--what I was saying in that was that I would do everything I
could not to impede the investigation and try and help advance the investigation.
Because after all, if there was somebody to--that was guilty of violation of a crime--it
would be better to have them--and then I quoted Rove's name as a kind of a metaphor
for the White House--"frog-marched out of the White House in handcuffs" rather than
just a sort of sterile exchange of he-said she-said newspaper articles and attacks.
But I've had a number of respected journalists tell me that White House sources were the
ones who were telling them that the real story here is not the 16 words, it's Wilson and
his wife. Now this was after the Novak article, which was a good two weeks after the
White House acknowledged that the 16 words didn't rise to the stature of being included
in the State of the Union Address. So I don't understand the White House backfire that
they tried to light on this. They acknowledged it--it took them a while to come to grips
with it, but they did acknowledge that it didn't rise to the stature of the State of the
Union. But they should have moved on rather than try and drag my family into this
unfairly. [Crosstalk] But I do think that the reason they did--and I've said this quite
publicly--is that they thought that by coming after me they would discourage others
from coming forward. The point that they tried to make is that there are consequences if
you dare to step forward. And there were any number of analysts who were speaking to
the press about the pressure they felt when Cheney went over there. Now I have no way
of judging whether that was real or imagined pressure, but you know if they were
prepared to say it to the press anonymously they might well have been prepared to
come up and say it to their congressman more publicly. Congress was saying, "We
welcome people coming up." Not just Democrats, but also Republicans. John Warner
said on a number of occasions--this was clearly a shot across the bow at these guys.
This was a message to them, "Should you decide to come forward, you too could be
looking at this."
TPM: And your comments at that meeting were based on things you've heard from
journalists who've come to you and said, "We were hearing this from people at the White
WILSON: Right, sure. A journalist will call me and they will seek a comment on
something. And in order to seek a comment or a reaction, they have to tell me what
they're basing it on. So I can't react to something unless I know what the initial act was,
so there have been attempts to elicit comments from me by saying, "White House
sources have told me that..."
TPM: And some of these said White House sources were the ones who mentioned--who
made this accusation that your wife was ...
WILSON: Yeah, the one quote is, "White House sources insist the real story here is not
the 16 words, it's Wilson and his wife." The real question here is how did such a
whopper get in the president's State of the Union Address. And you can--the vice
president the other day went back to the British white paper--"technically accurate
because we cited the British white paper." We spend billions of dollars on intelligence.
Intelligence is not a matter of accepting blindly what a third country tells you.
Intelligence is a matter of taking pieces of information and testing them against other
pieces of information you have in the hopes that you come up with something
resembling facts on the ground.
The British have said "We had specific intelligence we could not share with the White
House because it came from a third-party source and we were prohibited from doing so
by protocols of our agreement with the third country." So we were then taking on faith a
third-party piece of intelligence--and we didn't know the contents of it, the substance
of it that was relayed to us by the British. And yet we spend billions of dollars on
intelligence every year. And so technically accurate or not, are we going to subcontract
our intelligence function to the British? I don't think so.
TPM: Before we move on to the lead-up--the positions you took in the lead-up to the
war--just to sew this last point up. What you know about this is based on what
journalists have told you in conversations asking comment from you and point to White
House sources. But that's as far as you know in terms of how this whole thing got
WILSON: Yeah. The Novak piece, which sort of cites senior administration sources.
Actually, I actually, after I--and these are highly respectable journalists, these are guys
who are at the top of their profession. This is not Hedda Hopper, these are serious
political journalists--but I did take advantage of a conversation with another journalist
on another subject to sort of go over with him what ethical grounding of respectable
journalists and the extent to which they would dissemble or not dissemble in order to
get a reaction--whether or not they would bait you by lying about who the sources was.
And I understand that it is strictly against the journalistic practice--ethics practice. And
so I have no reason to doubt that. But I'll tell you quite frankly that the political office of
the White House has not called me up to tell me that they were going to smear me or
they were going to attack my family. In fact, I've not had a call from the White House in a
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