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When, Why Joe Wilson Outed Valerie Plame

Despite having ample opportunities to do so, Joe Wilson never complained about the "sixteen words" in President Bush’s State Of The Union address until almost five months after it was delivered.

And then only after he had met with top Democrat Senators and had signed on with John Kerry’s presidential campaign.

From then on Mr. Wilson promoted a two-fold story to reporters in which he claimed:

1) That he had personally debunked the claims of Iraq’s nuclear deals with Niger with an "unequivocal" report that circulated at the highest levels of the government.

2) That he had personally debunked the so-called Niger forgeries by pointing out to the CIA and State Department that the documents contained errors in names and dates.

We now know thanks to the report on this matter from the bi-partisan US Senate Select Committee On Intelligence that both of these claims were utterly false. (And indeed, the "sixteen words" themselves have turned out to be quite grounded in fact.)

So how is it that some of the most prominent reporters from the New York Times, the Washington Post and elsewhere reported Mr. Wilson’s outlandish charges on faith? He does not generally give the impression of being any too trustworthy.

Was it because he had someone who could corroborate his incendiary story? A "second source"? An expert in this very field?

A month before Bob Novak published Valerie Plame’s name and disclosed that she worked at the CIA in a department that monitored weapons of mass destruction, the gossipy Richard Armitage at the State Department already knew all about her.

When asked how he knew about Plame, Armitage said he knew because Joe Wilson was "calling everybody" and telling them. And by "everybody" Mr. Armitage certainly meant reporters.

With that in mind it is an easy step to suppose that it was Mr. Joseph C. Wilson IV himself who first "outed" his wife as a CIA officer.

And, as Mr. Armitage also suggested, Wilson did so because he didn’t want to be dismissed as some "low-level guy." He wanted to buttress his wildly outrageous (and we now know fallacious) claims against a then popular President at the height of a then popular war.

And what better way to do so than to produce the person who sent him on his mission, and who witnessed the events unfold — his own wife, who just happened to be an expert on weapons of mass destruction.

To see how this may very well have happened, let’s go through the chronology in greater detail.

January 28, 2003: President George W. Bush delivered his State of the Union address.

February 6, 2003: Joe Wilson wrote an editorial for the Los Angeles Times, A ‘Big Cat’ With Nothing to Lose, in which he claimed we should not attack Saddam Hussein because he will use his weapons of mass destruction on our troops and give them to terrorists.

There is now no incentive for Hussein to comply with the inspectors or to refrain from using weapons of mass destruction to defend himself if the United States comes after him.

And he will use them; we should be under no illusion about that.

February 28, 2003: Joe Wilson was interviewed by Bill Moyers. Wilson agreed with Bush’s SOTU remarks, and reiterated his belief that Saddam had WMD and that he would use them on US troops.

MOYERS: President Bush’s recent speech to the American Enterprise Institute, he said, let me quote it to you. "The danger posed by Saddam Hussein and his weapons cannot be ignored or wished away." You agree with that?

WILSON: I agree with that. Sure.

MOYERS: "The danger must be confronted." You agree with that? "We would hope that the Iraqi regime will meet the demands of the United Nations and disarm fully and peacefully. If it does not, we are prepared to disarm Iraq by force. Either way, this danger will be removed. The safety of the American people depends on ending this direct and growing threat." You agree with that?

WILSON: I agree with that. Sure. The President goes on to say in that speech as he did in the State of the Union Address is we will liberate Iraq from a brutal dictator. All of which is true. But the only thing Saddam Hussein hears in this speech or the State of the Union Address is, "He’s coming to kill me. He doesn’t care if I have weapons of mass destruction or not. His objective is to come and overthrow my regime and to kill me." And that then does not provide any incentive whatsoever to disarm.

March 3, 2003: At the invitation of David Corn, Joe Wilson wrote a piece for the Nation, Republic Or Empire?

In it Wilson blasted the "neo-conservatives" in the Bush administration for their imperial over-reach. But he once again made no mention of uranium or any other suggestion that Bush misled the country or lied about Iraq’s WMD.

Then what’s the point of this new American imperialism? The neoconservatives with a stranglehold on the foreign policy of the Republican Party, a party that traditionally eschewed foreign military adventures, want to go beyond expanding US global influence to force revolutionary change on the region.

American pre-eminence in the Gulf is necessary but not sufficient for the hawks. Nothing short of conquest, occupation and imposition of handpicked leaders on a vanquished population will suffice. Iraq is the linchpin for this broader assault on the region. The new imperialists will not rest until governments that ape our worldview are implanted throughout the region, a breathtakingly ambitious undertaking, smacking of hubris in the extreme.

March 8, 2003: CNN’s Renay San Miguel interviewed Joe Wilson about the so-called Niger forgeries, which had just become a hot topic in the news.

SAN MIGUEL: Just fine. How could this happen? It is the perception that documents like these are vetted to within an inch of their life by intelligence agencies. How do you think this managed to slip by?

WILSON: Well, this particular case is outrageous. I actually started my foreign service career in Niger and ended my foreign service career doing  —  in charge of Africa in the Clinton White House. We know a lot about the uranium business in Niger, and for something like this to go unchallenged by U.S.  —  the U.S. 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. The Nigerians [sic] have always been very open with us.

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…

SAN MIGUEL: So how do you play this, then? I mean, what, do you admit it, do you just move on? Do you try to get these things verified if you do believe, indeed, that Iraq was trying to buy this material from Niger? I mean, how do you handle this? What’s the damage control on this?

WILSON: I have no idea. I’m not in the government. I would not want to be doing damage control on this. I think you probably just fess up and try to move on and say there’s sufficient other evidence to convict Saddam of being involved in the nuclear arms trade.

Note that up until at least March 8, 2003 Joe Wilson still contended that Saddam had WMD and that he was involved in the nuclear arms trade.

So what happened after March 8th to make Wilson change his tune about Iraq’s WMD and revise his "findings" from his trip to Niger? A version in direct contradiction to what he told his CIA debriefers, according to the US Senate’s Select Committee On Intelligence report?

And what set Mr. Wilson off on his jihad against Mr. Bush about those "16 words"?

The answer is obvious. The US invaded Iraq in mid-March and after searching for six weeks, admitted they had not found any stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction. So Mr. Bush was suddenly very vulnerable to criticism on the subject. Even though Mr. Wilson had continually contended that Saddam had WMD.

And, coincidentally…

May 2003: Joe Wilson began to "advise" the Kerry for President campaign.

Wilson… said he has long been a Kerry supporter and has contributed $2,000 to the campaign this year. He said he has been advising Kerry on foreign policy for about five months and will campaign for Kerry, including a trip to New Hampshire… — David Tirrell-Wysocki, "Former Ambassador Wilson Endorses Kerry In Presidential Race,” The Associated Press, 10/23/03

Five months prior to October 2, 2003 would be May 2, 2003. What happened on that date?

May 2, 2003: Joe Wilson and Valerie Plame attended a conference sponsored by the Senate Democratic Policy Committee, at which Wilson spoke about Iraq. One of the other panelists was the New York Times journalist Nicholas Kristof.

(Coincidentally, all records of this particular conference at the Senate Democratic Policy Committee have been expunged from their website.)

May 3, 2003: Over breakfast, Wilson and Valerie told Kristof about his trip to Niger.

May 6, 2003: Kristof published the first public mention of Wilson’s mission to Niger, without identifying him by name, in a column for the New York Times, Missing in Action: Truth.

I’m told by a person involved in the Niger caper that more than a year ago the vice president’s office asked for an investigation of the uranium deal, so a former U.S. ambassador to Africa was dispatched to Niger. In February 2002, according to someone present at the meetings, that envoy reported to the C.I.A. and State Department that the information was unequivocally wrong and that the documents had been forged.

The envoy reported, for example, that a Niger minister whose signature was on one of the documents had in fact been out of office for more than a decade. In addition, the Niger mining program was structured so that the uranium diversion had been impossible. The envoy’s debunking of the forgery was passed around the administration and seemed to be accepted  —  except that President Bush and the State Department kept citing it anyway.

Note that unlike in his interview with CNN on March 8, 2003, Wilson was now claiming to have personally taken an active role in debunking the so-called forgeries. Which is of course untrue, since we now know Wilson never saw the documents.

The Senate’s Select Committee On Intelligence, which examined pre-Iraq war intelligence, reported that Wilson "had never seen the CIA reports and had no knowledge of what names and dates were in the reports."

(The Senate Committee’s report goes on to say: the former ambassador said that he may have "misspoken" to the reporter when he said he concluded the documents were "forged.")

And of course Mr. Wilson’s report was anything but "unequivocal." Indeed, the same Senate report said that the CIA believed Wilson’s trip had provided evidence that Iraq was trying to buy Yellowcake from Niger.

May 23, 2003: The John Kerry For President campaign recorded a $1,000 contribution from Joe Wilson.

June 12, 2003: Walter Pincus published an article in the Washington Post, CIA Did Not Share Doubt on Iraq Data.

During his trip, the CIA’s envoy spoke with the president of Niger and other Niger officials mentioned as being involved in the Iraqi effort, some of whose signatures purportedly appeared on the documents.

After returning to the United States, the envoy reported to the CIA that the uranium-purchase story was false, the sources said. Among the envoy’s conclusions was that the documents may have been forged because the "dates were wrong and the names were wrong," the former U.S. government official said.

Again, we now know that what Wilson told Pincus, like what he had told Kristof, was completely untrue, since the relevant papers were not in CIA hands until eight months after Wilson made his trip to Niger.

June 2003: According to the Washington Post’s Bob Woodward, the following interview with Richard Armitage at the State Department transpired "about a month before" Robert Novak’s column appeared on July 14, 2003.

Woodward: Well it was Joe Wilson who was sent by the agency, isn’t it?
Armitage: His wife works for the agency.
Woodward: Why doesn’t that come out? Why does that have to be a big secret?
Armitage: (over) Everybody knows it.
Woodward: Everyone knows?
Armitage: Yeah. And they know ’cause Joe Wilson’s been calling everybody. He’s pissed off ’cause he was designated as a low level guy went out to look at it. So he’s all pissed off.
Woodward: But why would they send him?
Armitage: Because his wife’s an analyst at the agency.
Woodward: It’s still weird.
Armitage: He  —  he’s perfect. She  —  she, this is what she does. She’s a WMD analyst out there.  
Woodward: Oh, she is.
Armitage: (over) Yeah.
Woodward: Oh, I see. I didn’t think…
Armitage: (over) "I know who’ll look at it." Yeah, see?
Woodward: Oh. She’s the chief WMD…?
Armitage: No. She’s not the…
Woodward: But high enough up that she could say, "oh, yeah, hubby will go."
Armitage: Yeah. She knows [garbled].
Woodward: Was she out there with him, when he was…?
Armitage: (over) No, not to my knowledge. I don’t know if she was out there. But his wife’s in the agency as a WMD analyst. How about that?

Why would Richard Armitage have been talking about Wilson and Plame in June of 2003? This was still weeks before Joe Wilson wrote his New York Times editorial, and a month before Robert Novak published his column mentioning Valerie Plame.

Armitage brought this up because he is a gossip and it was already common knowledge because Joe Wilson had been calling all of the newspapers trying to get them to run his story about his mission to Niger.

Given the chronology and Mr. Armitage’s remarks, it seems quite obvious Mr. Wilson outed his wife when he spoke to the Senate Democratic Policy Committee and then to the subsequent reporters at the Times, the Post and elsewhere, when he was hawking his story about his trip to Niger.

And these are the people Dick Armitage said Wilson was calling. Who else would he be calling?

And it’s highly probably that Wilson’s motivation for bringing up his wife is likely to have been exactly as Armitage suggested to Woodward. Wilson wanted to give his radically new and dangerous story more credibility.

He wanted to show that he was not just some untrustworthy "low-level guy" who had peaked in his career as an Ambassador to some godforsaken country nobody had ever heard of.

June 14, 2003: Joe Wilson shared a podium with Ray McGovern as the keynote speaker at the very leftwing Education For Peace In Iraq Center. (Valerie was also in attendance.)

Let me just start out by saying, as a preface to what I really want to talk about, to those of you who are going out and lobbying tomorrow, I just want to assure you that that American ambassador who has been cited in reports in the New York Times and in the Washington Post, and now in the Guardian over in London, who actually went over to Niger on behalf of the government — not of the CIA but of the government — and came back in February of 2002 and told the government that there was nothing to this story, later called the government after the British white paper was published and said you all need to do some fact — checking and make sure the Brits aren’t using bad information in the publication of the white paper, and who called both the CIA and the State Department after the President’s State of the Union and said to them you need to worry about the political manipulation of intelligence if, in fact, the President is talking about Niger when he mentions Africa.

That person was told by the State Department that, well, you know, there’s four countries that export uranium. That person had served in three of those countries, so he knew a little bit about what he was talking about when he said you really need to worry about this.

But I can assure you that that retired American ambassador to Africa, as Nick Kristof called him in his article, is also pissed off, and has every intention of ensuring that this story has legs. And I think it does have legs. It may not have legs over the next two or three months, but when you see American casualties moving from one to five or to ten per day, and you see Tony Blair’s government fall because in the U.K. it is a big story, there will be some ramifications, I think, here in the United States, so I hope that you will do everything you can to keep the pressure on. Because it is absolutely bogus for us to have gone to war the way we did

(Note that Ray McGovern is the head of the group Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity, whose mission is to cajole current and former intel workers to leak information to the press that would hurt national security and our military efforts abroad. A prominent member of VIPS, Larry Johnson, was a classmate of Valerie’s at the CIA, and claims to have been a friend with her ever since. Mr. Wilson has worked very closely with Ray McGovern and VIPS since at least this meeting.)

Of course Wilson was speaking of himself as a thinly disguised third person. He promised the audience that he would see to it that his mission to Niger story "would have legs."

And sure enough other newspaper articles began to appear, for which Mr. Wilson had been the obvious source.

June 29, 2003: The UK’s Independent published, Ministers Knew War Papers Were Forged, Says Diplomat.

A high-ranking American official who investigated claims for the CIA that Iraq was seeking uranium to restart its nuclear programme accused Britain and the US yesterday of deliberately ignoring his findings to make the case for war against Saddam Hussein.

The retired US ambassador said it was all but impossible that British intelligence had not received his report – drawn up by the CIA – which revealed that documents, purporting to show a deal between Iraq and the West African state of Niger, were forgeries.

When he saw similar claims in Britain’s dossier on Iraq last September, he even went as far as telling CIA officials that they needed to alert their British counterparts to his investigation…

The former diplomat – who had served as an ambassador in Africa – had been approached by the CIA in February 2002 to carry out a "discreet" task: to investigate if it was possible that Iraq was buying uranium from Niger. He said the CIA had been asked to find out in a direct request from the office of the Vice-President, Dick Cheney.

During eight days in Niger, he discovered it was impossible for Iraq to have been buying the quantities of uranium alleged. "My report was very unequivocal," he said. He also learnt that the signatures of officials vital to any transaction were missing from the documents. On his return, he was debriefed by the CIA.

Note that once again almost everything in this article, like the others, has been subsequently proven to be untrue. Including Wilson’s claim that he had seen the supposedly forged documents, that he had reported them to be forgeries, and that his Niger report was "unequivocal."

July 6, 2003: Richard Leiby and Walter Pincus published another Wilson sourced article, Ex-Envoy: Nuclear Report Ignored, in the Washington Post.

While [Wilson’s] family prepared for a Fourth of July dinner, he proudly showed a reporter photos of himself with Bush’s parents.

That is to say, either Richard Leiby or Walter Pincus (or both) spent a seemingly very cordial Fourth of July at the home of Joe Wilson and his wife Valerie Plame.

July 6, 2003: Still frustrated that his trip to Niger story was still not getting the attention he thought it deserved, Mr. Wilson finally stepped out from behind the curtain and wrote his now notorious op-ed piece for the New York Times, What I Didn’t Find in Africa.

July 6, 2003: Joe Wilson appeared on NBC’s Meet The Press with Tim Russert.

So, in all, Wilson managed to publish a New York Times editorial, be the subject of a front-page Washington Post story, and put in an appearance on a Sunday Morning talk show all on the same day.

Note too that it has been regularly suggested that all of the reporters involved, Kristof, Leiby, Pincus and even Tim Russert knew about Valerie Plame’s employment at the CIA before its disclosure in Robert Novak’s column.

July 8, 2003: Richard Armitage told Robert Novak about Wilson’s wife working at the CIA.

July 14, 2003: Mr. Novak published his column, Mission To Niger.

Wilson never worked for the CIA, but his wife, Valerie Plame, is an Agency operative on weapons of mass destruction. Two senior administration officials told me Wilson’s wife suggested sending him to Niger to investigate the Italian report. The CIA says its counter-proliferation officials selected Wilson and asked his wife to contact him. "I will not answer any question about my wife," Wilson told me.

But according to Mr. Armitage and every other indication, Valerie Plame’s work at the CIA had already been revealed to reporters by her husband Joe Wilson to give credence to his new and mendacious claims about what he uncovered in his trip to Niger.

And there was another motivation possibly at work here as well. Something that could possibly have induced an ambitious man to completely change his story and even make up things that he could not have actually experienced.

For lest we forget, there was suddenly much talk at this time within the Kerry camp that Joe Wilson might be the new administration’s Secretary Of State. The vainglorious Mr. Wilson most certainly had his eyes on that prize.

Discrediting President Bush on his (then) strongest point, the war in Iraq, would certainly be a feather in Wilson’s cap in the eyes of the Kerry campaign.

And any concern about the secrecy of his wife’s job at the CIA was surely a minor consideration compared to that lofty goal of becoming John Kerry’s Secretary Of State.

This article was posted by Steve Gilbert on Saturday, March 17th, 2007. Comments are currently closed.

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