Interview: Ambassador Wilson, husband of outed CIA agent, sees larger Administration role in leak

Larisa Alexandrovna

Reconstructing the leak

Raw Story’s Larisa Alexandrovna: Ambassador Wilson, much of the attention regarding the leaking of your wife’s identity has centered on the press and how the press obtained that information. I would like to start our discussion by focusing on the “other” side of the leak, in other words, how the leaked information was obtained. Obviously you may not be at liberty to answer some of these questions.

Ambassador Joseph Wilson: Right, but go ahead and ask the question and I will see what I can do.


The Administration's work up

Raw Story: Let’s start with what your theory is on how the highly classified status of your wife as a NOC (a person of Non-Official Cover and a high level CIA asset) was leaked to others outside of the CIA. What is your theory and how have you come to it?

Wilson: Well, my view of this is based on what people have told me. It is not so much my theory but what others have told me about this.

Shortly after Dr. Mohamed ElBaradei (Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency) announced to the UN Security Council in March, 2003 that the documents that the State Department provided him were forgeries, I went on CNN and said that I thought the government knew more about this than it was letting on.

My understanding is that shortly thereafter, a meeting was held - sometime in March of 2003 - in the offices of the Vice President at which it was decided to do a “work up” on me. A work up means to run an intel op to glean all the information you can about “me.” My understanding is that at a minimum, [Cheney's chief of staff] Scooter Libby was at this meeting.

But in retrospect looking at this, the natural group [of people] who would meet to discuss something like this would be the White House Iraq Group (WHIG).

Raw Story: Right, and the group includes Karl Rove as part of that main group of six.

Wilson: Yes, that would include Rove. I believe it is Rove, Karen Hughes, Libby, and others.

Raw Story: Also: Andrew Card, Mary Matlin and James Wilkinson as well as others who advised then-National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice and her deputy Stephen Hadley.

Wilson: That would be the natural group because they were constituted to spin the war, so they would be naturally the ones to try to deflect criticism. Now, some of those people would have very high security clearances.

Raw Story: How many people would have known or would have actually had access to the knowledge of your wife’s NOC status outside of the CIA, including the Justice Department, Department of Defense and so forth? What would be the number, for example, of people “in the know?”

Wilson: I have no idea, but the number would be very restricted. It would be restricted to those who had the appropriate security clearances, have a need to know, and were actually involved in working on issues with her.

Raw Story: What type of clearances would Karl Rove have?

Wilson: I don’t know the type of clearances Rove has, but Scooter in the context of his NSA status, would have very high level clearances.

During the course of doing the so called “work up” on me, they apparently uncovered Valerie’s name. Even though she has been Valerie Wilson since were married on April 3rd 1998. And indeed that was the name she was known by in her office.

Raw Story: Why her maiden name then? What does using her maiden name represent?

Wilson: Well I don’t know what it represents, whether or not it might mean that the source of the leak may have been somebody who knew her before we got married.

Raw Story: Could using her maiden name have been just another way of sending a message by perhaps exposing her history and family?

Wilson: That is interesting. I had not thought of that, but I doubt it.

Theories and motives

Raw Story: Some people have suggested, including myself, that Bolton could be the “leaker” on intel side of the equation, for the following reasons:

1). He would be in a position to know given his own long career within the CIA; 2). He has a history of vindictiveness against people who disagree with his conclusions; 3). Bolton’s senior advisor and sometimes chief of staff, Frederick Fleitz, was on loan from the CIA’s Weapons Intelligence, Nonproliferation and Arms Control Center. During a Senate Foreign Relations Roundtable Discussion, Fleitz described one of his duties to the Bolton office as “ function for the Agency and Mr. Bolton.” This puts Fleitz or might put Fleitz inside Valerie’s circle; 4). Bolton’s much questioned intercepts. Who was he spying on, what American?

Wilson: I don’t know. I will tell you this. At the meeting I attended in February at CIA headquarters, prior to my trip to Niger, Valerie escorted me into the building, and she took me into the room as my wife, and she left before the meeting began. But there were other participants in the room, all of whom had the requisite clearances to be there and to be involved in these meetings and some of whom were from the State Department. I don’t know their names, I don’t who all it was or what offices they came from.

But since Bolton’s job involved disarmament there may have been someone there from his office, but I just don’t know who or even if that was the case.

Raw Story: The allegations point to Bolton being the one who inserted the Niger uranium claim into the December 2002 State Department report on Iraq’s WMD.

Wilson: I think that has been denied by the State Department.

Raw Story: So we don’t know if that is true, then?

Wilson: That is correct. To the best of my knowledge.

Raw Story: So basically it is very difficult to ascertain, other than the work up meeting, how the information about your wife was obtained? We know the starting point, just not the process.

Wilson: Right. That of course is one of the key questions that [special prosecutor] Patrick Fitzgerald is trying to answer.

The role of the NY Times' Judith Miller

Raw Story: You mentioned that, like your wife, Miller being jailed is collateral damage. But given Miller’s reporting in the run-up to the Iraq war, is Miller really collateral damage or was she part of the “machine” leading the crusade to war?

Wilson: I just don’t know anything that would suggest that she is anything other than a journalist.

Raw Story: But her main source on the WMD articles was Ahmed Chalabi.

Wilson: Right, who is not a member of the administration (Laughs).

Raw Story: (Laughs) Right, but he was part of the pro-WMD group and also moved within the high circles.

Wilson: He certainly had a number of supporters within the administration.

Raw Story: And he attended a number of meetings inside the Pentagon.

Wilson: Yes, to my understanding.

The extent of collateral damage

Raw Story: Do we know the extent of the damage outside of your wife and her projects? Do we know the number of casualties including other assets, abroad or other domestic assets?

Wilson: I think that is unverifiable. I don’t have any information on that and I don’t know nor would I know if the CIA has done an after action review. Just as general proposition, you have to assume that every project or program she was ever involved in has been rolled up. Whether there are casualties is something I don’t know.

The other thing you can assume that even if 150 people read the Novak article when it appeared, 148 of them would have been the heads of intelligence sections at embassies here in Washington and by noon that day they would have faxing her name or telexing her name back to their home offices and running checks on her: whether she had ever been in the country, who she may have been in contact with, etc.

Raw Story: Then Novak runs a second article outing the front company that your wife was using, falsely connecting it to a campaign donation.

Wilson: Right, he runs a second article exposing her front company.

Raw Story: Just in case the first article did not take, one can assume.

Wilson: Actually, that indicates a pattern of disclosure there.

Life after the 'outing'

Raw Story: How has the CIA “family” been in regard to all of this? Have they been supportive and concerned? I usually think of this as one would of any co-workers.

Wilson: I can’t really talk about that.

Raw Story: Does all contact have to be severed when something like this happens?

Wilson: I pretty much cut off all contact and in any event, there has never been any shop talk around the house.

Raw Story: Did you know, however, that she was a NOC or did you simply know she worked in the CIA?

Wilson: I knew she was a NOC.

Raw Story: So is your wife’s career now officially over?

Wilson: Certainly her career as a covert officer is over.

Raw Story: What is the equivalent of her seniority level, for example, with a military officer level? For example, was she in status similar to that of a captain a general, etc.?

Wilson: I am not sure I can say because I don’t know if that is classified. You can assume, first of all, she is an officer and she has been in for 20 years.

Let me just say that the other night on Tucker Carlson’s show, one of his guests referred to her as a glorified file clerk, which is totally inaccurate.

Raw Story: Really? Because I think it is well known that although we don't know exactly how senior her role was, she was certainly not a file clerk by any measure. It has been now acknowledged, given the publicity, that she was a covert asset.

Wilson: It has now come out and certainly when the CIA referred the case to the FBI for investigation that is an indication of how serious this was.

Raw Story: Is the FBI, in your opinion, doing an adequate job investigating this?

Wilson: I have nothing but respect for the FBI the people who are working on this there.

President George H.W. Bush chimes in

Raw Story: I know that after this occurred you had gotten a kind letter from George H. W. Bush expressing his concern and dismay.

Wilson: I got a long hand-written note.

Raw Story: What were his sentiments?

Wilson: He expressed his outrage at what had happened and his understanding of the seriousness of it.

Raw Story: And it was he, the elder Bush, who said of outing CIA assets, was akin to treason and later the current President used that quote as well.

Wilson: Yes, he said “those who betray the trust by exposing the names of our sources" are "the most insidious of traitors.”

Raw Story: Have you spoken or communicated with him since that note?

Wilson: I have not talked to him in quite a while.

Raw Story: Do you think that the former President Bush is really appalled by all of this?

Wilson: What I can tell you on that that is that after I wrote my first article for the San Jose Mercury News, on October 13, 2002, I sent him a courtesy copy because I referred to the first Gulf War. Within days I got a letter back from him saying basically that “I agree with virtually everything in your article.”

Raw Story: But publicly, nothing.

Wilson: In all fairness, when you are an ex-President there are certain things, the protocol requires that you stay out of the current presidency, especially if it is your son.

Raw Story: The question begs to be asked, would no one say choose between your country and your son, given the Downing Street Memos (collectively), and other evidence that points to us going to war under false pretenses, not to mention the political hit on your wife, and others who attempted to clarify the record with regard to Iraq.

Wilson: I cannot really comment on that. I know the role of ex-Presidents, and I have watched both President Clinton and President Bush [senior] in their roles as ex-presidents, and I know even how conflicted some Democrats were in the run up to the Iraq war, and how people were willing to acquiesce to the information provided before the war, so I cannot really say.

The American experiment and the future

Raw Story: Do you think the American experiment is over and/or do you think America will survive the events of the last several years? I asked this same question of Scott Ritter, who believes that America is far too resilient not to survive, but that the process would be lengthy and painful. What do you think?

Wilson: The good thing about our system is that we are a nation of laws and it is hard to subvert those laws for an extended period of time. The difference between us and say, fascism in either Italy or Spain, is that we have a settled Constitution and a settled history and there have been challenges that have been beaten back. We also have institutions which have withstood the buffeting of the political winds. We have demonstrated that during the Civil War, during the McCarthy era, during Vietnam, and so forth. There is every reason to expect the pendulum to swing back, but it will not swing back on its own. Which is why it is so important for the citizens, the press, and the Congress to begin to speak up more loudly and begin to push the pendulum back.

Those who believe that the pendulum will swing back naturally have forgotten the lessons of the communists in Russia and the lessons of the fascists in Spain. In Russia, it took from 1917 to 1990 (circa) to drive the Communists out of power and in Spain it took from 1936-39 to 1975-76 and Franco's death to drive the fascists out of power. So we may be in for a long ride.

Raw Story: What do you do if the Congress is compromised or rather, paralyzed?

Wilson: I think the Congress needs to find its voice. One of the reasons I was so active in the 2004 campaign is that I believed that 2004 was a referendum on us as a country or certainly seen as that by the rest of the world. If President Bush had not won, I think the rest of the world would have understood that this administration was an aberration, operating largely outside of the parameters of the American political system. His reelection reinforces the notion that America has gone in a very different direction.

I think that the rest of the world, despite the differences it had with specific U.S. policies in the past, still saw the United States as a land of opportunity and something to aspire to. I think that is over now. They see us now as they see other nations with imperialist notions who are willing to drive their own soldiers across foreign lands.

Raw Story: And now we see that Iraq and Iran have just signed a military treaty. Is that what we wanted?

Wilson: Iran is the big winner in this.

Raw Story: Is the goal a fundamentalist military conglomerate? Is that what we wanted?

Wilson: Sitting right on the border of the Kuwait and eastern Saudi oil fields...

Raw Story: Right, if that is what we wanted…

Wilson: Then we have achieved it.

Ambassador Joseph Wilson is the husband of outed CIA agent Valerie Wilson, often referred to by her maiden name, Valerie Plame..

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Originally published on Wednesday July 13, 2005.


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