[eDebate] why joe wilson and valerie plame filed
Fri Jul 14 13:21:03 CDT 2006
Why Joe Wilson and Valerie Plame Filed
By Jason Leopold
t r u t h o u t | Report
Friday 14 July 2006
Syndicated columnist Bob Novak and officials speaking on behalf of White
House political adviser Karl Rove have attempted to convince the American
people that there wasn't a White House campaign to smear and discredit
former Ambassador Joseph Wilson three years ago for speaking out publicly
against the Bush administration's use of pre-war Iraq intelligence.
In a stunning interview Wednesday on Fox News, which came across as yet
another orchestrated Rovian crusade against the former ambassador, Novak
claimed he did not see any evidence of a White House smear campaign against
Wilson in the days prior to a column he wrote that disclosed Wilson's wife's
covert CIA status and identity.
Novak's July 14, 2003, column took Ambassador Wilson to task for
accusing the administration, in a New York Times op-ed the week before, of
twisting the intelligence during the lead-up to the Iraq war.
Novak wrote that Plame was responsible for sending her husband on a
fact-finding trip to Niger to determine if Iraq was trying to acquire
yellowcake uranium from the African country. The trip, Novak was trying to
impress upon his readers, was the result of nepotism and as such Wilson's
findings should not be trusted.
Novak, in his interview on Fox News, where he now works as a consultant,
called the disclosure of Valerie Plame Wilson's CIA status an accidental
slip by one of his sources during the course of an hour-long background
interview on foreign and domestic policy issues.
An all too willing Brit Hume, and for that matter the rest of the
Washington press corps, lapped up Novak's version of the truth, and have
treated the Wilson story as a non-issue, without so much as disclosing the
documentary proof that has surfaced during the course of a three year
federal investigation that would prove Novak and others in the media have
been peddling lies in hopes of manipulating public perception about the
truth regarding White House officials' roles in the Plame leak.
A month ago, Robert Luskin, the attorney defending Rove in the CIA leak
case, claimed he received a faxed correspondence from Special Prosecutor
Patrick Fitzgerald indicating that Rove would likely not be charged with
crimes - barring any additional evidence - related to his role in the leak.
Fitzgerald's office would not confirm that the prosecutor sent such a
letter nor would his office confirm that Rove is truly free from the burden
of a criminal indictment. But that has not stopped the media and even some
na?ve bloggers from taking Luskin at his word and printing news stories with
sentences like "Fitzgerald said Rove won't be charged" when in fact
Fitzgerald said no such thing.
In helping to carry the message Rove and Novak are disseminating, the
mainstream media and a slew of extreme right-wing bloggers have helped
shield this administration from accepting responsibility for one of the most
egregious crimes that has taken place since the presidency of Richard Nixon.
Earlier Thursday, the Wilsons filed a civil suit against Rove, Vice
President Dick Cheney, and I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, Cheney's former chief
of staff, who is the only White House official who has been indicted in the
The civil suit may help vindicate the Wilsons and hold these officials
accountable for their actions three years ago, but it's worth revisiting
some of the evidentiary findings that Fitzgerald's probe has turned up since
he was appointed Special Prosecutor in December 2003 that prove the White
House's culpability in the leak.
In April, Fitzgerald stated in a court filing related to a discovery
motion in the Libby case that his investigators have obtained evidence that
proves "multiple" White House officials conspired to discredit Wilson.
Libby's attorneys said, according to the filing, that they were
entitled to the government's evidence in order to prove Libby was not
engaged in a "plot" to discredit Wilson.
However, Fitzgerald says in the filing that long before Wilson published
his July 6, 2003, op-ed in the New York Times there were pieces of evidence
"some of which have been provided to defendant and there were conversations
in which defendant participated, that reveal a strong desire by many,
including multiple people in the White House, to repudiate Mr. Wilson before
and after July 14, 2003."
Although he made it abundantly clear that Libby is not charged with
conspiracy, Fitzgerald argues that Libby's suggestion that there was no
White House plot to discredit Wilson is ludicrous, given the amount of
evidence he has in his possession that suggests otherwise.
"Given that there is evidence that other White House officials with whom
defendant spoke prior to July 14, 2003, discussed Wilson's wife's employment
with the press both prior to, and after, July 14, 2003 ... it is hard to
conceive of what evidence there could be that would disprove the existence
of White House efforts to 'punish' Wilson," Fitzgerald wrote in the court
Moreover, this court filing describes in detail how White House press
secretary Scott McClellan came to publicly exonerate Libby and Rove during a
press briefing in October 2003, three months after Plame Wilson's identity
The filing clearly states that Libby lied about his role in the leak
when McClellan asked him about it in October 2003. Libby, with Vice
President Cheney's backing, persuaded the press secretary to clear his name
during one of his morning press briefings, and prepared notes for him to
use. "Though defendant knew that another White House official had spoken to
Novak in advance of Novak's column and that official had learned in advance
that Novak would be publishing information about Wilson's wife, defendant
did not disclose that fact to other White House officials (including the
Vice President) but instead prepared a handwritten statement of what he
wished White House Press Secretary McClellan would say to exonerate him:
People have made too much of the difference in
How I described Karl and Libby
I've talked to Libby.
I said it was ridiculous about Karl.
And it is ridiculous about Libby.
Libby was not the source of the Novak story.
And he did not leak classified information."
"As a result of defendant's request, on October 4, 2003, White House
Press Secretary McClellan stated that he had spoken to Mr. Libby (as well as
Mr. Rove and Elliot Abrams) and "those individuals assured me that they were
not involved in this."
McClellan's public statement and the fact that President Bush vowed to
fire anyone in his office involved in the leak were motivating factors that
led Libby to lie during an interview with FBI investigators in November
2003, Fitzgerald states in the court filing:
"Thus, as defendant approached his first FBI interview he knew that the
White House had publicly staked its credibility on there being no White
House involvement in the leaking of information about Ms. Wilson and that,
at defendant's specific request through the Vice President, the White House
had publicly proclaimed that defendant was 'not involved in this.'"
On September 14, 2003, during an interview with Tim Russert of NBC's
"Meet the Press," Cheney maintained that he didn't know Wilson or have any
knowledge about his Niger trip or who was responsible for leaking his wife's
name to the media.
"I don't know Joe Wilson," Cheney said, in response to Russert, who
quoted Wilson as saying there was no truth to the Niger uranium claims.
"I've never met Joe Wilson. And Joe Wilson - I don't who sent Joe Wilson. He
never submitted a report that I ever saw when he came back ... I don't know
Mr. Wilson. I probably shouldn't judge him. I have no idea who hired him."
That was a lie. Cheney knew Wilson well. He spent months obsessing about
Cheney and then-Deputy National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley led a
campaign beginning in March 2003 to discredit former ambassador Joseph
Wilson for publicly criticizing the Bush administration's intelligence on
Iraq, according to current and former administration officials.
In interviews over the past year, sources close to the case said their
roles included digging up or "inventing" embarrassing information on the
former ambassador that could be used against him, preparing memos and
classified material on Wilson for Cheney and the National Security Council,
and attending meetings in Cheney's office to discuss with Cheney, Hadley,
and others the efforts that would be taken to discredit Wilson.
A former CIA official who has worked in the counter-proliferation
division, and who is familiar with the undercover work Wilson's wife did for
the agency, said Cheney and Hadley visited CIA headquarters a day or two
after Joseph Wilson was interviewed on CNN.
In the interview, which took place two and a half weeks before the start
of the Iraq war, Wilson said the administration was more interested in
redrawing the map of the Middle East to pursue its own foreign policy
objectives than in dealing with the so-called terrorist threat.
"The underlying objective, as I see it, the more I look at this, is less
and less disarmament, and it really has little to do with terrorism, because
everybody knows that a war to invade and conquer and occupy Iraq is going to
spawn a new generation of terrorists," Wilson said in a March 2, 2003,
interview with CNN.
"So you look at what's underpinning this, and you go back and you take a
look at who's been influencing the process. And it's been those who really
believe that our objective must be far grander, and that is to redraw the
political map of the Middle East," Wilson added.
But it wasn't Wilson at first who Cheney was so upset about when he
visited the CIA in March 2003.
During the same CNN segment in which Wilson was interviewed, former
United Nations weapons inspector David Albright made similar comments about
the rationale for the Iraq war and added that he believed UN weapons
inspectors should be given more time to search the country for weapons of
The National Security Council and CIA officials said Cheney had visited
CIA headquarters and asked several CIA officials to dig up dirt on Albright,
and to put together a dossier that would discredit his work that could be
distributed to the media.
"Vice President Cheney was more concerned with Mr. Albright," the CIA
official said. "The international community had been saying that inspectors
should have more time, that the US should not set a deadline. The Vice
President felt Mr. Albright's remarks would fuel the debate."
A week later, Wilson was interviewed on CNN again. This was the first
time Wilson ridiculed the Bush administration's claim that Iraq had tried to
purchase yellowcake uranium from Niger. "Well, this particular case is
outrageous. We know a lot about the uranium business in Niger, and for
something like this to go unchallenged by US - the US government - is just
simply stupid. It would have taken a couple of phone calls. We have had an
embassy there since the early '60s. All this stuff is open. It's a
restricted market of buyers and sellers," Wilson said in the March 8, 2003,
CNN interview. "For this to have gotten to the IAEA is on the face of it
dumb, but more to the point, it taints the whole rest of the case that the
government is trying to build against Iraq."
What Wilson wasn't at liberty to disclose during that interview, because
the information was still classified, was that he had personally traveled to
Niger a year earlier on behalf of the CIA to investigate whether Iraq had in
fact tried to purchase uranium from the African country. Cheney had asked
the CIA in 2002 to look into the allegation, which turned out to be based on
forged documents but was included in President Bush's January 2003 State of
the Union address nonetheless.
Wilson's comments enraged Cheney, all of the officials said, because
they were seen as a personal attack against the Vice President, who was
instrumental in getting the intelligence community to cite the Niger claims
in government reports to build a case for war against Iraq.
The former ambassador's stinging rebuke also caught the attention of
Stephen Hadley, who had played an even bigger role in the Niger controversy,
having been responsible for allowing President Bush to cite the allegations
in his State of the Union address.
At this time, the international community, various media outlets, and
the International Atomic Energy Agency had called into question the veracity
of the Niger documents. Mohammed ElBaradei, head of IAEA, told the UN
Security Council on March 7, 2003, that the Niger documents were forgeries
and could not be used to prove Iraq was a nuclear threat.
Wilson's comments in addition to ElBaradei's UN report were seen as a
threat to the administration's planned attack against Iraq, the officials
said, which would take place 11 days later.
Hadley had avoided making public comments about the veracity of the
Niger documents, going as far as ignoring a written request by IAEA head
Mohammed ElBaradei to share the intelligence with his agency so his
inspectors could verify the claims. Hadley is said to have known the Niger
documents were crude forgeries, but pushed the administration to cite them
as evidence that Iraq was a nuclear threat, according to the State
Department officials, who said they personally told Hadley in a written
report that the documents were bogus.
CIA and State Department officials said that a day after Wilson's March
8, 2003, CNN appearance, they attended a meeting at the Vice President's
office with Cheney, Hadley and others who worked in the Office of the Vice
President and it was there that a decision was made to discredit Wilson.
"The way I remember it," the CIA official said about that first meeting
he attended in Cheney's office, "is that the vice president was obsessed
with Wilson. He called him an 'asshole,' a son-of-a-bitch. He took his
comments very personally. He wanted us to do everything in our power to
destroy his reputation and he wanted to be kept up to date about the
The CIA, State Department and National Security Council officials said
that early on they had passed on information about Wilson to Cheney and
Libby that purportedly showed Wilson as being a "womanizer" and that he had
dabbled in drugs during his youth, allegations that are apparently false,
The officials said that during the meeting, Hadley said he would respond
to Wilson's comments by writing an editorial about the Iraqi threat, which
it was hoped would be a first step in overshadowing Wilson's CNN appearance.
A column written by Hadley that appeared in the Chicago Tribune on
February 16, 2003, was redistributed to newspaper editors by the State
Department on March 10, 2003, two days after Wilson was interviewed on CNN.
The column, "Two Potent Iraqi Weapons: Denial and Deception" once again
raised the issue that Iraq had tried to purchase uranium from Niger.
Cheney appeared on Meet the Press on March 16, 2003, to respond to
ElBaradei's assertion that the Niger documents were forgeries.
"I think Mr. ElBaradei frankly is wrong," Cheney said during the
interview. "[The IAEA] has consistently underestimated or missed what it was
Saddam Hussein was doing. I don't have any reason to believe they're any
more valid this time than they've been in the past."
Behind the scenes, Wilson had been speaking to various members of
Congress about the administration's use of the Niger documents and had said
the intelligence the White House relied upon was flawed, said one of the
State Department officials who had a conversation with Wilson. Wilson's
criticism of the administration's intelligence eventually leaked out to
reporters, but with the Iraq war just a week away, the story was never
Wilson said he had attempted to contact the White House through various
channels after the State of the Union address to get the administration to
correct the public record.
"I had direct discussions with the State Department, Senate committees,"
Wilson said in April in a speech to college students and faculty at
California State University Northridge. "I had numerous conversations to
change what they were saying publicly. I had a civic duty to hold my
government to account for what it had said and done."
Wilson said he was rebuffed at every instance and that he received word,
through then-National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice that he could state
his case in writing in a public forum. And that's exactly what he did.
Wilson decided to write an op-ed in the New York Times and expose the
administration for knowingly "twisting" the intelligence on the Iraqi
nuclear threat to make a case for war. Wilson wrote that had he personally
traveled to Niger to check out the Niger intelligence and had determined it
"Nothing more, nothing less than challenging the government to come
clean on this matter," Wilson said. "That's all I did."
With no sign of weapons of mass destruction to be found in Iraq, news
accounts started to call into question the credibility of the
administration's pre-war intelligence. In May 2003, Wilson re-emerged at a
political conference in Washington sponsored by the Senate Democratic Policy
There he told the New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristoff that he was
the special envoy who had traveled to Niger in February 2002 to check out
allegations that Iraq tried to purchase uranium from the country. He told
Kristoff he had briefed a CIA analyst that the claims were untrue. Wilson
said he believed the administration had ignored his report and had been
dishonest with Congress and the American people.
When Kristoff's column was published in the Times, the CIA official
said, "a request came in from Cheney that was passed to me that said 'the
vice president wants to know whether Joe Wilson went to Niger.' I'm
paraphrasing. But that's more or less what I was asked to find out."
In his column, Kristoff Had accused Cheney of allowing the truth about
the Niger documents the administration used to build a case for war to go
"missing in action." The failure of US armed forces to find any WMDs in Iraq
in two months following the start of the war had been blamed on Cheney.
What in the previous months had been a request to gather information
that could be used to discredit Wilson turned into a full-scale effort
involving the Office of the Vice President, the National Security Council,
and the State Department to find out how Wilson came to be chosen to
investigate the uranium allegations involving Iraq and Niger.
"Cheney and Libby made it clear that Wilson had to be shut down," the
CIA official said. "This wasn't just about protecting the credibility of the
White House. For the vice president, going after Wilson was purely personal,
in my opinion."
Cheney was personally involved in this aspect of the information
gathering process as well, visiting CIA headquarters to inquire about
Wilson, the CIA official said. Hadley had also raised questions about Wilson
during this month with the State Department officials and asked that
information regarding Wilson's trip to Niger be sent to his attention at the
National Security Council.
That's when Valerie Plame Wilson's name popped up showing that she was a
covert CIA operative.
Jason Leopold spent two years covering California's electricity crisis
as Los Angeles bureau chief of Dow Jones Newswires. Jason has spent the last
year cultivating sources close to the CIA leak investigation, and is a
regular contributor to Truthout. He is the author of the new book NEWS
JUNKIE. Visit www.newsjunkiebook.com for a preview.
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