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2004-08-02

Ambassador Joseph Wilson Accuses Republican National Committee Of Conducting New Smear Attack

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A year ago Wilson revealed the Bush administration was fabricating intelligence that Iraq sought to purchase uranium from Niger. Since then his wife was outted as a CIA agent and now Republicans say a new Senate intelligence committee report contradicts some of Wilson’s statements. Wilson accuses the GOP of trying to divert attention from the federal inquiry into the outing of his wife. [includes rush transcript]

Newsweek magazine is reporting that Secretary of State Colin Powell recently testified before a federal grand jury investigating the leak of the identity of CIA covert officer Valerie Plame. According to the magazine, Powell’s July 16 appearance focused on discussions Powell had when he went to Africa with President Bush in July 2003, just before Plame"s identity was leaked to columnist Robert Novak.

A senior State Department official confirmed that, while on the trip, Powell had a department intelligence report on whether Iraq had sought uranium from Niger — a claim Plame’s husband, Joseph Wilson, discounted after a trip to Niger on behalf of the CIA. The report stated that Wilson’s wife had attended a meeting at the CIA where the decision was made to send Wilson to Niger, but it did not mention her last name or undercover status. At the time, White House officials were seeking to discredit Wilson, who had become a prominent critic of the Bush administration. Newsweek says the decision to question Powell shows that knowledge about Plame was circulated at the highest levels of the administration.

Though most lawyers thought the investigation was nearly complete, sources say prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald has recently recalled witnesses before the grand jury — apparently to ask about issues raised by a new Senate intelligence committee report that seemed to contradict some of Wilson’s public statements about Plame’s role in his trip to Niger. Meanwhile, Wilson-who is a foreign policy advisor to Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry-has been responding to what he calls a concentrated smear campaign against him, led by the Republican National Committee. He spoke last week in Boston at the "Take Back America" conference sponsored by the Campaign for America’s Future.

  • Ambassador Joseph Wilson

Transcript

This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: A claim that Plame’s husband, Joseph Wilson, discounted after a trip to Niger on behalf of the Central Intelligence Agency. The report stated Wilson’s wife had attended a meeting at the C.I.A. where the decision was made to send Wilson to Niger, but it did not mention her last name or undercover status. At the time, White House officials were seeking to discredit Wilson, who had become a prominent critic of the Bush administration. Newsweek says that the decision to question Powell shows that knowledge about Plame was circulated at the highest levels of the administration. Though most lawyers thought the investigation was nearly complete, sources say prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald has recently recalled witnesses before the grand jury, apparently to ask about issues raised by a new Senate Intelligence Committee report that seemed to contradict some of Wilson’s public statements about Plame’s in his trip to Niger. Meanwhile, Wilson, who’s a Foreign policy adviser to Democratic presidential candidate, John Kerry, has been responding to what he calls a concentrated smear campaign against him, led by the Republican National Committee. He spoke last week in Boston at the Take Back America conference sponsored by the Campaign for America’s Future. Here is an excerpt of what he had to say.

JOE WILSON: On my road to Boston, I was ambushed. I was ambushed by the Republican National Committee directed smear campaign based upon lies and distortions. You have seen it in the Wall Street Journal, you have seen it in the right wing blogs. You have seen it in Bill Safire’s article. I have been accused of being a traitor to my country and of being a liar. If you take a look at the Senate Select Committee intelligence report, it is hard to see how they conclude that somehow my contribution to this debate and my calling on my country and on my government to account for what it has said and done in our name has been anything less than truthful. There have been assertions made — [ applause ] there have been assertions made that my wife was somehow responsible for my trip, as if it made a difference. As I remind people, this was pro bono and Niger ain’t Paris. And yet the committee that wrote this recommendation that showed up in the body of the report didn’t bother to call the C.I.A. Had they called the C.I.A., as two enterprising reporters did a week after Mr. Novak’s article appeared, they would have heard the official C.I.A. position — which was, Wilson’s wife had nothing to do with this. That was several months before I ever spoke out about my wife and anything other than hypothetical terms. They did not ask the C.I.A. They did not ask the head of the task force who made the decision, they misquoted a reports officer who came to see my wife after the report came out in tears and said, What can I do? And he has since written a letter, but his wife will not let him publish it, because they are afraid. The report says that somehow my report bolstered the analysts’ views and yet on October 2, 2002, three-and-a-half months before the State of the Union address, the Deputy Director of Central Intelligence gave the intelligence community’s corporate view of this assertion to the Senate Select committee on intelligence. The senior — a senior C.I.A. Official testified to the same committee that wrote this report, and what did he say? He said the reporting on this case has not been made. [He said] This is one of the areas where we disagree with the British. [He said] We believe they have stretched the information. Four days later, the Director of Central Intelligence called the Deputy national security adviser and said, I don’t want the president to be a witness of fact in this matter, because the reporting is weak. They sent a fax the same day and they said, one of the mines is flooded, the French have control of the other mine, and we have already told congress we think that the British have overstated the evidence. The day after my article appeared, the president’s spokesman came out and told the Washington Post those 16 words did not rise to the level of inclusion in the state of the union address. They have never taken that off the table. They have never taken that off the table. Who are they calling liars? Now, let me just say — [ applause ] because it hinges on the debate, there are two reasons for this campaign, one which was exposed in the Wall Street Journal opinion piece. One is to wrap up this criminal investigation that’s going on. In other words, their argument is, we have so discredited Wilson and his wife, that there’s no point of pursuing who betrayed the country by leaking her name. Now, the same people who are involved in this cam paper, the R.N.C., the R.N.C., I remind you is headed by the President of the United States, the Vice President and with which Karl Rove has an intimate relationship. These are the same people called to testify before the special counsel and/or the grand jury, indeed, when the president testified, when the president spoke with the special counsel, he was accompanied by a criminal defense attorney. Now, I ask you, does this campaign against me not at least give the appearance of being interference in an ongoing criminal investigation by people who may well be the subjects or targets of this investigation? How dare they — and how inappropriate in a country where we hold our government to the standard of rule of law. The second reason behind this campaign is one that is even more ominous, I believe, to us, and particularly as we sit up here and debate the future. The message to all Americans from this campaign is, should you as a citizen exercise your constitutional responsibility to call on your government to account for what it has said and done in your name? Then your government will do everything in its power to destroy you and your family. Be afraid. Be very, very afraid.

AMY GOODMAN: Former U.S. Ambassador, Joe Wilson, whose wife, Valerie Plame, was exposed as an undercover C.I.A. Operative, saying he’s now the victim of a smear campaign orchestrated by the Republican National Committee.

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