MSNBC update: Cheney's office knew Plame's work was sensitive

Published: Tuesday May 2, 2006

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On Chris Matthews' Hardball Tuesday evening, MSNBC correspondent David Shuster provided updates on what RAW STORY first reported in February: that outed CIA officer Valerie Plame Wilson was working on Iran at the time she was outed (The video of Shuster's report is now available here).

Shuster's Tuesday report suggested that the Office of Vice President Dick Cheney was aware of the sensitivity of Plame's work, though there are no indications he knew she was working on Iran. His report Monday, which can be read here was the first television report to identify Plame's Iran work.

RAW STORY's Larisa Alexandrovna broke the story earlier this year, which went unnoticed by the mainstream media (Read our full story).

According to current and former intelligence officials, Plame Wilson, who worked on the clandestine side of the CIA in the Directorate of Operations as a non-official cover (NOC) officer, was part of an operation tracking distribution and acquisition of weapons of mass destruction technology to and from Iran.


David Shuster: While the heart of the CIA leak investigation is the Bush administration's agressive defense of the WMD case for war in Iraq, there is new evidence now the defense may have undermined intelligence efforts on Iran.

The key player in the CIA leak story is Valerie Wilson, a CIA operative whose identity was outed by white house officials.

As MSNBC first reported yesterday, Wilson was not just undercover... but was, according to intelligence sources, part of an effort three years ago to monitor the proliferation of nuclear weapons material into Iran. And the sources allege that when Mrs. Wilson's cover was blown, part of the administration's ability to track Iran's nuclear ambitions was damaged as well.

There is no evidence Vice President Cheney, who gave information to his now indicted chief of staff Scooter Libby, knew what Wilson was involved in. But intelligence experts say the Vice President appears to have had indications that Wilson's responsibilities were sensitive. The Libby indictment says, quote, "on or about June 12, 2003, Libby was advised by the Vice President of the United States that Wilson's wife worked at the Central Intelligence Agency in the Counterproliferation Division."

In the Intelligence community, that division means something special.

Rand Beers: You know for a fact that firstly, the people who work there could be undercover agents working in that office or people on the agent's side of the CIA. And secondly, the issues were among the two most important issues the CIA was working on."

Vice President Cheney was no stranger to the CIA. In the run-up to the Iraq war, he visited CIA headquarters on half a dozen occasions. And Scooter Libby, his chief of staff, was also well versed on the intelligence community.

But prosecution documents in the Libby case paint a picture of a white house so intent on undercutting Cheney critic Joe Wilson that officials failed to consider the possible harm to Wilson's wife or the possible damage to the CIA. In other words, say intelligence experts, the white house war on the Wilsons may have actually weakened the administration's war on terror.

Rand Beers: Even at the time of the undermining in the summer of 2003, we were still deeply worried about what was happening in the Iranian nuclear program. So, why would you want to undermine that."

Presidential advisor Karl Rove has told colleagues he had no idea Valerie Wilson's status was sensitive.

As for the Vice President, the Libby indictment states that Cheney spoke to his chief of staff Libby about Valerie Wilson on at least two occasions. One occasion was just hours before Libby allegedly disclosed information about Wilson to reporters Matt Cooper and Judith Miller.

What did the Vice President tell Scooter Libby? And did either official discuss checking with the CIA to determine if Valerie Wilson's identity and work were sensitive? Today, the intelligence community is split on whether Iran is close or not to developing a nuclear weapon. And the CIA refuses to say anything about possible sources in Iran.

Shuster: But the White House has declared Iran to be one of the nation's biggest threats. And it's because of jobs like agent Wilson's that President Bush's father, President George H.W. Bush once declared that those who expose CIA sources are the most insidious of traitors. I'm David Shuster, for hardball, in Washington.