Skip to comments.Was it really a secret that Joe Wilson's wife worked for the CIA? (AWESOME Dirt On Joe Wilson!)
Posted on 09/29/2003 11:52:21 AM PDT by Pubbie
It's the top story in the Washington Post this morning as well as in many other media outlets. Who leaked the fact that the wife of Joseph C. Wilson IV worked for the CIA?
What also might be worth asking: "Who didn't know?"
I believe I was the first to publicly question the credibility of Mr. Wilson, a retired diplomat sent to Niger to look into reports that Saddam Hussein had attempted to purchase yellowcake uranium for his nuclear-weapons program.
On July 6, Mr. Wilson wrote an op-ed for the New York Times in which he said: "I have little choice but to conclude that some of the intelligence related to Iraq's nuclear weapons program was twisted to exaggerate the Iraqi threat."
On July 11, I wrote a piece for NRO arguing that Mr. Wilson had no basis for that conclusion and that his political leanings and associations (not disclosed by the Times and others journalists interviewing him) cast serious doubt on his objectivity.
On July 14, Robert Novak wrote a column in the Post and other newspapers naming Mr. Wilson's wife, Valerie Plame, as a CIA operative.
That wasn't news to me. I had been told that but not by anyone working in the White House. Rather, I learned it from someone who formerly worked in the government and he mentioned it in an offhanded manner, leading me to infer it was something that insiders were well aware of.
I chose not to include it (I wrote a second NRO piece on this issue on July 18) because it didn't seem particularly relevant to the question of whether or not Mr. Wilson should be regarded as a disinterested professional who had done a thorough investigation into Saddam's alleged attempts to purchase uranium in Africa.
What did appear relevant could easily be found in what the CIA would call "open sources." For example, Mr. Wilson had long been a bitter critic of the current administration, writing in such left-wing publications as The Nation that under President Bush, "America has entered one of it periods of historical madness" and had "imperial ambitions."
What's more, he was affiliated with the pro-Saudi Middle East Institute and he had recently been the keynote speaker for the Education for Peace in Iraq Center, a far-Left group that opposed not only the U.S. military intervention in Iraq but also the sanctions and the no-fly zones that protected Iraqi Kurds and Shias from being slaughtered by Saddam.
Mr. Wilson is now saying (on C-SPAN this morning, for example) that he opposed military action in Iraq because he didn't believe Saddam had weapons of mass destruction and he foresaw the possibility of a difficult occupation. In fact, prior to the U.S. invasion, Mr. Wilson told ABC's Dave Marash that if American troops were sent into Iraq, Saddam might "use a biological weapon in a battle that we might have. For example, if we're taking Baghdad or we're trying to take, in ground-to-ground, hand-to-hand combat."
Equally, important and also overlooked: Mr. Wilson had no apparent background or skill as an investigator. As Mr. Wilson himself acknowledged, his so-called investigation was nothing more than "eight days drinking sweet mint tea and meeting with dozens of people" at the U.S. embassy in Niger. Based on those conversations, he concluded that "it was highly doubtful that any [sale of uranium from Niger to Iraq] had ever taken place."
That's hardly the same as disproving what British intelligence believed and continues to believe: that Saddam Hussein was actively attempting to purchase uranium from somewhere in Africa. (Whether Saddam succeeded or not isn't the point; were Saddam attempting to make such purchases it would suggest that his nuclear-weapons-development program was active and ongoing.)
For some reason, this background and these questions have been consistently omitted in the Establishment media's reporting on Mr. Wilson and his charges.
There also remains this intriguing question: Was it primarily due to the fact that Mr. Wilson's wife worked for the CIA that he received the Niger assignment?
Mr. Wilson has said that his mission came about following a request from Vice President Cheney. But it appears that if Mr. Cheney made the request at all, he made it of the CIA and did not know Mr. Wilson and certainly did not specify that he wanted Mr. Wilson put on the case.
It has to be seen as puzzling that the agency would deal with an inquiry from the White House on a sensitive national-security matter by sending a retired, Bush-bashing diplomat with no investigative experience. Or didn't the CIA bother to look into Mr. Wilson's background?
If that's what passes for tradecraft in Langley, we're in more trouble than any of us have realized.
The president's critics are lying. Mr. Bush never claimed that Saddam Hussein had purchased uranium from Niger. It is not true as USA Today reported on page one Friday morning that "tainted evidence made it into the President's State of the Union address." For the record, here's what President Bush actually said in his SOTU: "The British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa."
Precisely which part of that statement isn't true? The British government did say that it believed Saddam had sought African uranium. Is it possible that the British government was mistaken? Sure. Is it possible that Her Majesty's government came by that belief based on an erroneous American intelligence report about a transaction between Iraq and Niger? Yes but British Prime Minister Tony Blair and members of his Cabinet say that's not what happened.
They say, according to Britain's liberal Guardian newspaper, that their claim was based on "extra material, separate and independent from that of the US."
I suppose you can make the case that a British-government claim should not have made its way into the president's SOTU without further verification. But why is that the top of the TV news day after day? Why would even the most dyspeptic Bush-basher see in those 16 accurate words of President's Bush's 5,492-word SOTU an opportunity to persuade Americans that there's a scandal in the White House, another Watergate, grounds for impeachment?
Surely, everyone does know by now that Saddam Hussein did have a nuclear-weapons-development program. That program was set back twice: Once by Israeli bombers in 1981, and then a decade later, at the end of the Gulf War when we learned that Saddam's nuclear program was much further along than our intelligence analysts had believed.
As President Bush also said in the SOTU:
The International Atomic Energy Agency confirmed in the 1990s that Saddam Hussein had an advanced nuclear weapons development program, had a design for a nuclear weapon and was working on five different methods of enriching uranium for a bomb.
Since Saddam never demonstrated to the U.S., the U.N., or even to Jacques Chirac that he had abandoned his nuclear ambitions, one has to conclude that he was still in the market for nuclear materials. And, indeed, many intelligence analysts long believed that he was trying to acquire such material from wherever he could not just from Niger but also from Gabon, Namibia, Russia, Serbia, and other sources.
Maybe there was no reliable evidence to support the particular intelligence report saying that Saddam had acquired yellowcake (lightly processed uranium ore) from Niger. But the British claim was only that Saddam had sought yellowcake not that he succeeded in getting a five-pound box Fedexed to his palace on the Tigris.
And is there even one member of the U.S. Congress who would say that it was on the basis of this claim alone that he voted to authorize the president to use military force against Saddam? Is there one such individual anywhere in America?
A big part of the reason this has grown into such a brouhaha is that Joseph C. Wilson IV wrote an op-ed about it in last Sunday's New York Times in which he said: "I have little choice but to conclude that some of the intelligence related to Iraq's nuclear weapons program was twisted to exaggerate the Iraqi threat."
Actually, Wilson has plenty of choices but no basis for his slanderous allegation. A little background: Mr. Wilson was sent to Niger by the CIA to verify a U.S. intelligence report about the sale of yellowcake because Vice President Dick Cheney requested it, because Cheney had doubts about the validity of the intelligence report.
Wilson says he spent eight days in Niger "drinking sweet mint tea and meeting with dozens of people" hardly what a competent spy, detective, or even reporter would call an in-depth investigation. Nevertheless, let's give Wilson the benefit of the doubt and stipulate that he was correct when he reported back to the CIA that he believed it was "highly doubtful that any such transaction ever took place. "
But, again, because it was "doubtful" that Saddam actually acquired yellowcake from Niger, it does not follow that he never sought it there or elsewhere in Africa, which is all the president suggested based on what the British said and still say.
And how does Wilson leap from there to the conclusion that Vice President Cheney and his boss "twisted" intelligence to "exaggerate the Iraqi threat"? Wilson hasn't the foggiest idea what other intelligence the president and vice president had access to.
It also would have been useful for the New York Times and others seeking Wilson's words of wisdom to have provided a little background on him. For example:
He was an outspoken opponent of U.S. military intervention in Iraq.
He's an "adjunct scholar" at the Middle East Institute which advocates for Saudi interests. The March 1, 2002 issue of the Saudi government-weekly Ain-Al Yaqeen lists the MEI as an "Islamic research institutes supported by the Kingdom."
He's a vehement opponent of the Bush administration which, he wrote in the March 3, 2003 edition of the left-wing Nation magazine, has "imperial ambitions." Under President Bush, he added, the world worries that "America has entered one of it periods of historical madness."
He also wrote that "neoconservatives" have "a stranglehold on the foreign policy of the Republican Party." He said that "the new imperialists will not rest until governments that ape our world view are implanted throughout the region, a breathtakingly ambitious undertaking, smacking of hubris in the extreme."
He was recently the keynote speaker for the Education for Peace in Iraq Center, a far-left group that opposed not only the U.S. military intervention in Iraq but also the sanctions and even the no-fly zones that protected hundreds of thousands of Iraqi Kurds and Shias from being slaughtered by Saddam.
And consider this: Prior to the U.S. invasion of Iraq, Wilson did believe that Saddam had biological weapons of mass destruction. But he raised that possibility only to argue against toppling Saddam, warning ABC's Dave Marash that if American troops were sent into Iraq, Saddam might "use a biological weapon in a battle that we might have. For example, if we're taking Baghdad or we're trying to take, in ground-to-ground, hand-to-hand combat." He added that Saddam also might attempt to take revenge by unleashing "some sort of a biological assault on an American city, not unlike the anthrax, attacks that we had last year."
In other words, Wilson is no disinterested career diplomat he's a pro-Saudi, leftist partisan with an ax to grind. And too many in the media are helping him and allies grind it.
Two facts bring perspective to bear on what some are now calling Yellowcakegate.
1) Democrats who are serious about national security e.g. Joe Biden, Dick Gephardt, Joe Lieberman all voted in favor of the use of military force in Iraq, and none is saying he now regrets that vote. They should be commended for courage because, as CNN's Bill Schneider has pointed out, they are all feeling intense heat from the far left of their party, a faction that was vehemently opposed to intervention in Iraq and is highly active during this primary season.
2) Everyone who is serious about national security British intelligence, U.S. intelligence, even Dominique de Villepin recognizes that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction (WMD). He used chemical WMDs against his own people; he admitted to having biological WMDs; and he intended to reconstitute his nuclear WMD program. To do that, uranium was required. Where does a rogue dictator shop for uranium? Impoverished African countries are recommended. The British believe that's why Saddam sent a "trade delegation" to Niger in 1999. That may even explain the forged documents: Apparently, an African official understood that there were Europeans and Americans who would pay good money for documentary evidence that Saddam's trade delegation had successfully completed its mission.
One more pertinent fact: Human Rights Watch estimates there are 300,000 people missing in Iraq. New mass graves containing thousands of bodies are being found virtually every day. It is not a misuse of the English language to say that Saddam himself was a WMD.
None of this should imply that President Bush is beyond criticism by Democrats or even by those who generally support his policies on fighting terrorists and terrorist masters. None of this should imply that there are no questions that deserve inquiry by members of Congress. Let me start with three:
1) The 16 words in Bush's State of the Union speech were hardly "infamous" as so many journalists have been reporting. (Actually, those who use such adjectives are not reporting they are editorializing.) But Bush should not have said that the British government "has learned" that Saddam sought uranium from Africa. He should have said that the British government "believes" or "strongly suspects" that Saddam sought uranium in Africa. As far as we know, the evidence on which the British relied isn't certain enough to use a word as conclusive as "learned."
I don't really expect Bush to be a wordsmith. That's hardly his strong suit. But there are wordsmiths on the White House staff, and they deserve to be scolded for their imprecision.
2) Bush has said that the intelligence he's been receiving is "darned good." Distressingly, that is not true. It needs to be candidly acknowledged that since the end of the Cold War our intelligence services have not responded effectively to the threat of jihadist terrorism. For example:
We did not have reliable human-intelligence assets inside Saddam's regime, either before the first chapter of the Gulf War or over the past 13 years leading up to the most recent phase of the conflict. Our intelligence has not been able to discover what Saddam did with his stockpiles of chemical and biological weapons. Did he hide them, transfer them, or destroy them? We did not have intelligence assets in the radicalized European mosques where many terrorists were being recruited. In the 1990s, it appears our intelligence analysts didn't grasp how dangerous it was that tens of thousands of terrorists were being trained in al Qaeda camps in Afghanistan. (I assume they at least knew that such training was taking place.) Our intelligence experts did not know that even as we were paying North Korea billions of dollars in exchange for not building nuclear weapons, they were building them anyway. President Clinton bombed an aspirin factory in the Sudan based on what was apparently faulty intelligence. President Clinton bombed suspected WMD sites in Iraq did he hit any? Our intelligence services didn't predict or prevent the attacks on our embassies in Kenya and Tanzania or on the USS Cole. Our intelligence services still haven't been able to determine whether those Iraqis implicated in the 1993 attack on the World Trade Center were doing so on Saddam's orders, as researcher and former Clinton adviser Laurie Mylroie has long maintained. Our intelligence services failed to respond to increasing terrorist threats from the Middle East and Central Asia by recruiting and training a sufficient number of agents and analysts fluent in such languages as Arabic, Urdu, and Pashtun. Our intelligence didn't predict or prevent 9/11.
I could go on, but you get the point. It is not President Bush's fault that our intelligence-gathering and clandestine capabilities are today insufficient for the challenges of the 21st century, but it is his responsibility to fix the problem. If he believes George Tenet is the man to accomplish that, fine. But it has to get done and the president is responsible for making sure that happens as quickly and effectively as possible. If not, this will be a legitimate issue for the Democratic presidential candidate.
3) What may be the biggest mystery in this melodrama has been missed by all the major media as far as I'm aware. Early in 2002, Vice President Dick Cheney had questions about reports of Saddam buying uranium from Niger. So he asked the Central Intelligence Agency to find out the truth. Consider: Here's a request from the White House on a vital national-security issue. Does the CIA put their top spies on the case? No. Who do they put on the case? No one. Instead, they apparently decided to give the assignment to a diplomat.
I assume they contacted the State Department. Even so, they didn't get the Foreign Service's most talented ambassador, someone with investigative skills and broad experience in nuclear proliferation and related issues. No, the assignment went to a retiree who is far to the left of the Bush administration. Why?
That retiree was Joseph C. Wilson IV, former ambassador to Gabon, and one-time deputy to ambassador April Glaspie in Iraq. (You'll recall she was the U.S. official who reportedly told Saddam: "We have no opinion on your Arab-Arab conflicts, such as your dispute with Kuwait.")
Wilson's investigation, according to his recent New York Times op-ed, consisted of his spending "eight days drinking sweet mint tea and meeting with dozens of people." He added: "It did not take long to conclude that it was highly doubtful that any such transaction [sale of uranium from Niger to Iraq] had ever taken place."
Wilson's conclusion was probably correct. It's likely that no such transaction occurred which begs the question of whether Saddam attempted to complete such a transaction, as the British believe and as Bush said in his SOTU.
But let's imagine for just a moment that one of the officials with whom Wilson met had accepted a million-dollar bribe for facilitating the transfer of uranium to Saddam's agents. What is the likelihood that that information would have been disclosed to Wilson over sips of sweet mint tea? Not huge, I'd wager.
When did the vice president learn that this was the manner in which his orders had been carried out? Is there an explanation for such dereliction of duty by CIA and, possibly, by State as well? Was anyone held accountable?
Inquiring minds should want to know.
Joseph C. Wilson IV
Rest assured that if Novak leaked this (as he admits) -- nothing will happen to him.
I am writing to request that you launch an immediate criminal investigation into reports that two senior members of the Bush Administration made the identity of an undercover Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) operative public.
Sounds like this has been brewing for a while. And if Wilson doesn't know who leaked, how does Chuckie know that it was 2 WH aides?
Yeah, Dem events tend to bring out the liar in everyone...
An unsigned CIA memo on Oct. 5 advised that "the CIA had reservations about the British reporting" on Iraq's alleged attempts in Niger, Hadley [No.2 guy on Bush's National Security team] said. A second memo, sent on Oct. 6, elaborated on the CIA's doubts, describing "some weakness in the evidence," such as the fact that Iraq already had a large stock of uranium and probably wouldn't need more, Hadley said.Source
So the Wilson story really is a moot point if Saddam already had enough uranium and according to the CIA, he did. I can't believe everyone missed this little tidbit.
Hmmm - we've only witnessed over the last decade eight years of the media ignoring facts to protect the Clintons and fabricating facts to attack Bush, and you can't believe they missed this? That's like being surprised when Hillary wears a black pantsuit... :^)
At the end of the day, it's of keen interest to me to see whether or not we can get Karl Rove frog-marched out of the White House in handcuffs. And trust me, when I use that name, I measure my words.
If Wilson said this...
Wilson did say it.