In a rare interview, veteran investigative journalist Murray Waas reveals new information on the federal investigation into the leaking of the identity of undercover CIA operative Valerie Plame and the role of jailed New York Times reporter Judith Miller. We also speak with Plame’s husband, Ambassador Joe Wilson about the latest developments in the case. [includes rush transcript]
Today, we are going to take a comprehensive look at what has become one of the most important political controversies in recent times. That is the outing of undercover CIA operative Valerie Plame and the investigation into how high up the chain of power in Washington a potentially serious crime stretches. This story has many dimensions — a lot of them, we have covered extensively on this program. One dimension of the story —- some would say the central part of the story—-involves Valerie Plame’s husband: veteran diplomat Joe Wilson. He served under both Republican and Democratic administrations, winning high praises from the likes of President George H. W. Bush for his work as the top US diplomat in Iraq when the Gulf War broke out.
Wilson was widely credited with saving hundreds of lives during the hostage crisis that ensued when Saddam invaded and occupied Kuwait. He served under President Clinton and has always been a well-respected career diplomat. But in July 2003, Wilson published an op-Ed in The New York Times that forced the current Bush administration to admit that a key justification for its invasion of Iraq was false—namely the allegation that Iraq was attempting to import uranium from the African nation of Niger; an allegation Bush made in his January 2003 State of the union address.
- President George W. Bush, speaking during his 2003 State of the Union address:
The British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa.
Those 16 words provided one of the lynchpins of the administration case. But Wilson knew it was a lie. He knew because he had been sent by the CIA to Niger to investigate those claims before the invasion began and he had found them to be baseless. In July, Wilson decided to out the Bush administration by publishing the op-Ed entitled “What I Didn’t Find in Africa.” Within days of that article’s publication, the so-called Plame scandal, which some call the Rove scandal, was in full motion. By July 13, Valerie Plame was outed in a column by rightwing columnist Bob Novak.
- Former Ambassador Joseph Wilson, describing the Novak article on Democracy Now!, May 14, 2004.
Well, two years have gone by since Plame’s outing and there have been serious developments—the Grand Jury is still sitting, the Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald continues his investigation, the White House has backtracked on its early denials and is left to refusal after refusal to discuss the case. New York Times reporter Judy Miller is in jail. To go through the latest developments, we are joined now by Ambassador Joe Wilson. The Republican party has distributed so-called talking points to try and discredit him and Bob Novak this week attacked him in his column as well. President Bush’s senior advisor has now been forced to admit that at a minimum he discussed Valerie Plame with journalists, but that admission came under fire and after years of denial.
- Karl Rove, speaking on CNN on August 31, 2004.
- Ambassador Joe Wilson, was the acting US ambassador to Iraq before the 1991 Gulf War. He was the last US official to meet with Saddam Hussein before the war began. His book is called “The Politics of Truth: Inside the Lies that Led to War and Betrayed My Wife’s CIA Identity.”
- Murray Waas, veteran investigative journalist who writes for American Prospect magazine, Salon.com and other publications. He has broken a number of stories on the saga of the outing of CIA operative Valerie Plame. He maintains a blog at WhateverAlready.blogspot.com.
JUAN GONZALEZ: In July 2003, Wilson published an Op-Ed piece in The New York Times that forced the current Bush administration to admit that a key justification for its invasion of Iraq was false, namely the allegation that Iraq was attempting to import uranium from the African nation of Niger, an allegation Bush made in his January 2003 State of the Union address.
PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: The British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa.
AMY GOODMAN: Those 16 words provided one of the lynchpins of the administration case, but Joe Wilson knew it was a lie. He knew because he had been sent by the C.I.A. to Niger to investigate those claims before the invasion began, and he found them to be baseless. In July, Wilson decided to out the Bush administration by publishing the Op-Ed entitled “What I Didn’t Find in Africa.” Within days of that article’s publication, the so-called Plame scandal, which some call the Rove scandal, was in full motion. By July 13, Valerie Plame was outed in a column by right-wing columnist, Bob Novak, and Joe Wilson began receiving calls from journalists. This is how Ambassador Wilson described the story when he joined us in our Firehouse studios May 14, 2004.
JOSEPH WILSON: Sure, a week after the article appeared, and before I had responded, I was not going to respond to Novak’s article publicly. I was not going to comment and did not comment on my wife’s employment, other than to say, hypothetically, if she was what Novak asserts, then he might be in violation of the law and refer all questions to the C.I.A., which was appropriate. So, I was laying low. But the communications office was calling around all these journalists, and over the course of the weekend, I was getting calls every day from people saying — the first call was 'The White House is telling us so many off the wall things, we can't even go with them, but we’d like you to come on so we can ask you some questions.’ I didn’t rise to that bait. Andrea Mitchell called me and said, 'The White House is saying that the real story here is Wilson and his wife.' And then, finally, Chris Matthews called me and said, 'I just got off the phone with Karl Rove. He says,' and I quote, ’Wilson’s wife is fair game.’
AMY GOODMAN: Wilson’s wife is fair game?
JOSEPH WILSON: Fair game. My wife is a career civil servant. She’s apolitical. She exercises her democratic rights like every other citizen, but she does not participate in partisan politics or these partisan political activities. She is not in the public arena or the public square. And how Mr. Rove could conclude that she is fair game is frankly beyond me. But what I will say is that this sort of attitude just has to stop. We don’t accept it in our towns and our villages, we should not accept it in our political campaigns, because this is exactly the same thing they did to John McCain and John McCain’s wife in South Carolina. And I go through that story, and I talked to John McCain the other day. And he thanked me. He thanked me for bringing that story out of what happened in South Carolina. This has got to stop. It is frankly un-American to decide that the way to get at somebody you determine is your political opponent, you have a dispute on ideas, or in this case on veracity, and you decide that instead of debating it, the truth in this case, the truth or lie issue, you are going to drag my wife out in the public square and administer a beating to distract people’s attention from your lies.
JUAN GONZALEZ: That was Joe Wilson speaking a year ago here at Democracy Now! in our studio. Well, two years have gone by since Plame’s outing, and there have been serious developments. The Federal Grand Jury is still sitting. The Special Prosecutor Peter Fitzgerald continues his investigation. The White House has backtracked on its early denials and is left to refusal after refusal to discuss the case. New York Times reporter, Judith Miller, is in jail. To go through the latest developments, we’re now joined by Ambassador Joe Wilson.
JOSEPH WILSON: Good morning. Nice to be with you.
JUAN GONZALEZ: The Republican Party has distributed so-called talking points to try to discredit him, and Bob Novak this week attacked him in his column, as well. Welcome to the show.
JOSEPH WILSON: Well, good morning. Good to be with you.
AMY GOODMAN: It’s very good to have you with us. We wanted to play one more clip. President Bush’s senior adviser has now been forced to admit, as you know, that at a minimum he discussed your wife, Valerie Plame, with journalists, but that admission came under fire and after years of denial. This is Karl Rove speaking on CNN August 31st, 2004.
KARL ROVE: I didn’t know her name and didn’t leak her name. This is at the Justice Department. I’m confident that the U.S. Attorney, the prosecutor who is involved in looking at this, is going to do a very thorough job of doing a very substantial and conclusive investigation.
AMY GOODMAN: That was Karl Rove on CNN. Ambassador Joe Wilson, why don’t we start off with your response to the words that Karl Rove issued?
JOSEPH WILSON: Well, I agree with Karl, actually, that I, too, have confidence that Pat Fitzgerald is going do his level best to insure that a thorough investigation has been successfully completed. And I think he’s close to that mark. Now, with respect to Rove saying he didn’t know her name, he didn’t leak her name, that’s been proven to be a lie.
AMY GOODMAN: We’re also joined on the telephone by investigative reporter, Murray Waas, long-time investigator during the Clinton administration. He broke many stories on Whitewater and other scandals that plagued the Clinton White House and has written extensively on the Rove/C.I.A./Valerie Plame scandal, broken stories in the American Prospect magazine, and on his blog, WhateverAlready.blogspot.com. Murray Waas, the latest as the story continues to break today?
MURRAY WAAS: Well, it appears, and I’d like to ask Ambassador Wilson what he knows, as well, but there’s a court document that shows that Judith Miller, The New York Times reporter who is in jail for not identifying her source, came down to Washington, D.C., on July 8, 2003, shortly after the — shortly before, days before the Novak column appeared, and the government, Fitzgerald, the prosecutor, has said in court papers that he believed that a document was given to Judith Miller. Now, my best understanding of an affidavit also filed in court by Judith Miller is that she says she wasn’t given a classified document or document of any kind, and she won’t acknowledge or deny a meeting, but I was wondering if I could ask Joe, or Ambassador Wilson, if anyone has any information or knowledge or even conjecture, I guess, at this point, who Judith Miller met with.
JOSEPH WILSON: You know, I, of course, have no idea, and Murray, good morning. Good to talk to you.
MURRAY WAAS: You, too.
JOSEPH WILSON: I have not spoken to Pat Fitzgerald for almost a year-and-a-half. I was interviewed by him once early in his tenure. My wife was interviewed by him once early in his tenure in a separate interview from mine, and neither of us have spoken to him since. We have not been before the Grand Jury. We’re not part of this case. And, of course, he has appropriately not shared with us any information he might have. So anything that I might know would be just pure speculation. And I’m sure that those of you who are out there sleuthing, as you have been, and you have been doing a terrific job, know far more about what’s going on than I do. I get all my information from you. Let me also just say for the record, I have only laid eyes and met Judy Miller once in my life, laid eyes on and met her, and that was in November of 2004 at a birthday party on election night. That’s the first and only time I have ever been introduced to her, and that we have ever spoken.
AMY GOODMAN: Murray Waas, are you referring to the State Department document that was prepared for the, well, then Secretary of State Colin Powell, after Joe Wilson’s op-ed piece came out in The New York Times?
MURRAY WAAS: It’s unclear what the prosecutor believes or has reason to believe that someone high up in the Bush administration gave Judith Miller. There’s a subpoena that has been filed in open court for anybody to go look at, and he asked her to turn over specifically a document that he says or believes was given to her. Interestingly, Judith Miller has denied under oath in an affidavit herself that she was actually physically given anything. But it would indicate there was a specificity of that particular date, which is very interesting, which might tell us something new or might be a roadmap for what’s going to come out later. The prosecutor also asked for information, phone records and things, over a span of about a week, the key week when administration officials, including Deputy Chief of Staff, Karl Rove, and the Chief of Staff to the Vice President, Lewis Libby, and at least a third administration official, were calling reporters for a number of news organizations in an attempt to discredit Valerie Plame and Joe Wilson. But it seems like that’s a new piece of the puzzle that might be coming out next. I mean, we have seen the extensive efforts by Rove and Libby. Those have been the kind of major disclosures that were over the course of the last several weeks.
JOSEPH WILSON: The great irony, of course, is —
JUAN GONZALEZ: Murray, you dealt with in your blog on several occasions with this whole issue of whether it was Rove and/or other administration officials who leaked information to reporters, or whether it was reporters who supposedly leaked the information of Valerie Plame’s identity to Rove. Could you talk about that a little bit?
MURRAY WAAS: Yeah. What’s going on is it’s central to potential criminality. Karl Rove has told the F.B.I. and Libby and others, Novak, that they provided the administration officials with the information that Valerie was a NOC or undercover C.I.A. operative. If they simply learned it from the press and then passed it on, that reduces the likelihood of being charged criminally. Now, those claims are on their face are implicit a little bit suspicious. They’re self-serving. And obviously, if a reporter had told Lewis Libby or Karl Rove or anybody, one of these journalists or more must have heard it originally from someone in the administration or someone in the government. A reporter just kind of, you know, fantasized it or conjectured it, I think, or come up with it, and some of the testimony from the journalists before the Grand Jury has contradicted to some extent the testimony of Rove and Libby and so forth.
There’s a very good story that Bloomberg News Service did about that, but if they learned about the information, Amy mentioned before, State Department, a memo done by the State Department’s intelligence branch right before these stories appeared in, I believe it was the second or third paragraph, and it was classified “secret,” of that memorandum, it mentioned that Valerie Plame worked for the C.I.A., and it had some role in these issues, and so forth. And that memorandum was very widely circulated within the Bush administration. And so, the prosecutor’s theory, or any reasonable person’s theory, is that the information probably came from that classified document or someone who read that classified document in turn, talking to Karl Rove or talking to Lewis Libby. But their story to the Grand Jury essentially has been, 'We have learned it from reporters.'
So, there’s two potential — several potential issues there, if they — if they did in fact learn it from a classified source or the memo, that might be a violation of federal law of the use of — misuse of classified information. If they discussed Valerie’s C.I.A. status with reporters having been privy to that memo, that might have a relationship to the law which precludes the disclosure of covert operatives. But it also escalates the entire investigation into whether these officials, Rove, Libby and others, are telling the truth, and that’s why Fitzgerald is believed to have changed the emphasis to look into obstruction of justice or witness tampering or perjury issues. And the reason that someone who is a subject of the investigation would lie is because they might have conceal or cover-up for political or legal reasons, you know, how they did in fact learn the information.
AMY GOODMAN: We have to break. When we come back, Joe Wilson just talked about an irony, and we want to go back to that. Our guests are investigative reporter, Murray Waas, and Ambassador Joe Wilson.
AMY GOODMAN: Our guests are investigative reporter, Murray Waas, and Ambassador Joseph Wilson. Joe Wilson, you talked about the irony before.
JOSEPH WILSON: Well, I was just going to say one of the ironies of all this is that the administration now clearly was, as now we have evidence that they were looking into the allegation that later came out in my — in my opinion piece in July, they were looking into what I was asserting as early as June and perhaps earlier. That gave them lots of time to think about perhaps just correcting the record, which, of course, was all I was asking to be done. I was holding my government to account for what it had said and done in the name of the American people.
AMY GOODMAN: I wanted to ask you two quick questions — one about well — the day that I think everyone really learned about who you were, though you certainly were a figure in both Republican and Democratic administrations with George H.W. Bush hailing you as a hero, the acting ambassador in Iraq during the Persian Gulf War. He called you his person — his eyes and ears on the ground. The time even after you your op-ed piece came out in the New York Times was that last day of Ari Fleischer’s reign as White House Press Secretary, the whole questioning of the 16 words in President Bush’s State of the Union address, your piece had come out, though they weren’t specifically talking about Robert Novak’s piece that had just come out that outed your wife as a C.I.A. operative. Ari Fleischer’s role in all of this?
JOSEPH WILSON: Well, I have no idea. I mean, I — again, I haven’t seen the special prosecutor for almost a year-and-a-half. And I have followed this along with everybody else. It’s pretty clear to me that the White House, in the week after my article appeared, the White House political office and communications office were busy trying to peddle the story that it wasn’t the 16 words, it was Wilson and his wife. This, after they had acknowledged the 16 words should never have been in the State of the Union address. And all of this was to change the subject and to slime and defend and to get us focused on Valerie and myself, rather than on the cover-up of the web of lies that led to war in the first place. I have now — my article basically pulled back the screen on that a little bit, and they were absolutely determined that they were going to continue to cover up and continue to lie to the American people. That’s what they have been doing ever since. The big victims, if you see it in the broader political sense, Judy Miller, Matt Cooper, Valerie and her 20-year career are really just collateral damage. The real victims, of course, are American citizens and, most poignantly, our service men and women who have died in battle or been wounded, and the Iraqis, who have been killed by the thousands, killed, wounded and displaced by the thousands. That’s what this is all about. This is all about the war.
JUAN GONZALEZ: What about this other irony that Judy Miller, as a reporter, in her reporting did probably more than any other single reporter in continuing the administration’s viewpoint that there were weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, and now she herself has become a victim, so to say, of the Bush administration. Your sense of that irony and her relationship to what you brought forth?
JOSEPH WILSON: Well, I try and keep her reporting and her role in this Plamegate case, this Rovegate case separate in my own mind. One doesn’t send a reporter to jail for bad reporting. One fires a reporter. So, I try and keep them distinctly separate. But my view on the Judy Miller case, this has been litigated up to the Supreme Court and back down. The Supreme Court and Appellate Court determined that the importance of the case overrode her right to protection of sources. She has taken a different view, and she’s exercising her right to go to jail as a consequence. But what ought to be —
AMY GOODMAN: In fact, just to say in the next sentence after those 16 words of President Bush in the State of the Union address, he talks about aluminum tubes. And that was the so-called expose of Judith Miller in September of 2002, when they were basically saying that that was the — that this was the smoking gun, this was the plume, the threat that would be over everyone, and that was the possibility of Saddam Hussein having nuclear weapons.
JOSEPH WILSON: Well, that’s right. That’s right. But most importantly, Judy Miller is in jail for civil contempt of court. And for me, what that means is that somebody sitting very close to the President of the United States, who despite the President’s very direct order that he or she cooperate fully with the Justice Department, has decided not to step forward, but to be a coward and hide behind Judy Miller’s willingness to protect the confidentiality of the sources rather than step forward and accept responsibility for what he or she said to her, said to Judy. That’s why she is in jail, because somebody in the White House is disobeying the President of the United States and is too much a coward to step forward and accept responsibility for what he or she said.
AMY GOODMAN: The conversation that Robert Novak had with a friend of yours, it has been talked about before, but I think it’s important to bring out again. You had also raised it on our show, as well as others, Joe Wilson. Can you talk about that meeting on the street?
JOSEPH WILSON: Sure. Well, several days before he wrote his article, Novak was walking down the streets of Washington, D.C., and somebody came up and said hello to him and engaged him in a conversation. Now, that happens to people who are sort of familiar figures who you see on television a lot. I’m sure, Amy, it happens to you. People come up and say, 'Hey, you're Bob Novak. Can we have’ — I suppose people don’t call you Bob Novak, but people come up and say, hi, you’re so and so, and let’s — and strike up a conversation. That’s what happened. And during the course of the conversation, this stranger raised, or the subject of Niger and the op-ed came up, and Novak said bluntly to him, 'Wilson is an asshole,' although I had never met Novak before, 'and his wife works for the C.I.A.' Well, it turns out the stranger to Novak was somebody that I knew. And he walked right over to my office. He said, I don’t know what you wife does, I have never met your wife, but here is what Novak is saying on the streets. This was several days before his article appeared.
Now, needless to say, I was pretty unhappy that somebody would be walking around the streets blurting this stuff out about my wife to absolute strangers. The security implications are enormous. And I called Novak’s nominal boss at CNN, Eason Jordan, and then subsequently called Novak himself, and he did apologize, but, of course, the damage by that time had already been done, and he went ahead and wrote the article anyway, despite the fact that the C.I.A. spokesman told him there was no truth to the article and not to use Valerie’s name. Told him twice, in fact.
JUAN GONZALEZ: Well, I’d like to ask Murray Waas, the — where does the case go from here in terms of your sense of the sources that you have of where Fitzgerald is going?
MURRAY WAAS: Fitzgerald keeps his cards close to his vest. There was some interesting action in the last couple days before the Grand Jury. Two of Karl Rove’s aides came before the Grand Jury, an assistant and another top aide. We’re not sure what they said. We’re not sure why they were called. But that would indicate some intensification or moving toward some kind of closure, which way is a little bit difficult to tell, but Fitzgerald does seem stymied still by the lack of testimony by Judith Miller. There was this very, very key meeting between Judith Miller and a senior official in the Bush administration on July 8. I have been able to determine from my reporting that Scooter Libby, the Chief of Staff to the Vice President, Vice President Cheney, was a source for, on at least four occasions, for Miller regarding stories about weapons of mass destruction, or recommended or put her in touch with others in the administration. There was something —- Ambassador Wilson would know the name of the group. I don’t have it in front of me, but there was kind of a working group to sell the war to Congress, the media, the American people. I think it was the Iraq Working Group or something like that -—
JOSEPH WILSON: Yeah, it was the White House Iraq Group. It was known by its acronym, WHIG, the WHIG Group.
MURRAY WAAS: And Libby played a key role in that, and interestingly, the same people who were selling the war to the American people, who were part of that group, were the same people who then were central to trying to discredit Ambassador Wilson and his wife. And because the two were interrelated or interconnected, they mudded information out, which we have now learned so much of it was false and just not true, telling the American people there were chemical, biological and nuclear weapons capabilities or huge efforts taking place by Saddam to develop those capacities. Those were not true.
So Ambassador Wilson comes forward in The New York Times and on “Meet the Press” and elsewhere and gives his personal knowledge about why some of those things are not true, so that same core group in the White House then begins a very direct and concerted campaign to discredit and retaliate against Joe and Valerie. And I reported, I guess, almost a year ago or — I’m sorry, more recently, a few months ago, that the Grand Jury, the evidence before the Grand Jury was that there was a very concerted campaign. It wasn’t just casual conversations, or officials like Rove were talking to reporters about other things, and this issue just came up, that they actually had meetings and strategies and so forth about it.
So I wrote that story in the Prospect, but not sure when, maybe a few months ago. The Los Angeles Times just had a front page story by a friend of mine, Tom Hamburger, which was a little bit — which was even more precise and named Lewis Libby, Scooter Libby, the Chief of Staff to Vice President Cheney, and Karl Rove, as the two key players in that.
So, we’re not sure exactly where things are going. One other interesting possibility, if there isn’t — if there aren’t indictments brought, there is the option for special prosecutors to issue a public report. So, Fitzgerald can potentially put out everything that he knows in the public record. But he is kind of a man who is impervious to public opinion, who doesn’t see his role necessarily as one of informing public opinion, but simply prosecuting crimes. So, he has had discussions with people in the Department of Justice, and some people have urged him to take that course, but we hope we can find out what actually happened here. If there are indictments, there would be trials, and if there were no indictments, because the evidence doesn’t reach a level beyond a reasonable doubt to bring people to trial, that maybe there would be a public report. And lastly, interestingly, there’s a movement by Nancy Pelosi, the majority leader — Democratic leader in the House now, to get behind a Democratic resolution of inquiry by Congress to get to the bottom of this, when Fitzgerald is all done. So hopefully someday we’ll learn the truth, we’ll learn all of the facts.
AMY GOODMAN: Joe Wilson, your response to this, and also I wanted to ask, yes, John Bolton has been named in a recess appointment by President Bush to be the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, but the last controversy to break as he was being named was he had not revealed to Congress when they had asked — you could say he misled them, he lied — when they had asked if he had been questioned in any investigation. It turns out he had. In the State Department, Condoleezza Rice had now admitted this. He had been questioned by the State Department Inspector General in the whole case that you’re certainly a critical part of, and that’s the issue of Niger and whether Saddam Hussein was trying to buy yellow cake uranium. Your response?
JOSEPH WILSON: Well, yeah, I saw that. I think it was unfortunate that Mr. Bolton was appointed in a recess appointment. I don’t think that gives him a lot of credibility either at the United Nations or within U.S. government circles. Dick Holbrook was offered a recess appointment in the Clinton administration and refused it, saying that he needed to have the support of the Congress in order to be able to do his job up there. I think, more fundamentally, it’s pretty clear to me that the ethical standards demanded of senior public servants by this administration are very low indeed. The fact that Mr. Rove, who is now documented to have been a liar and to have been the source of a treasonous leak is still on the payroll and Mr. Libby is still on the payroll and Mr. Bolton is up at the United Nations really, I think, is a breach of the President’s bond to the American people that his — he was good for his word and that he was honest and he was a straight shooter.
Now, so I guess, really, with respect to Bolton, I’m sorry that he’s up there and that this has gone on. Now with respect to Fitzgerald, I have, as I said earlier, all the confidence in the world that he is doing everything he can to bring this to a successful conclusion. And I think that he is going to succeed. I do believe that the fact that it’s gone on for almost two years now is not a reflection on his efforts, but much more a reflection on the dedication of the White House to stonewall him, despite the President’s direct order that everybody cooperate fully with the Justice Department. I think, but again this would be speculation, that he is close to wrapping this thing up, and I think Americans may well be surprised by the outcome.
JUAN GONZALEZ: And Murray Waas, the role of the press in this whole issue, because clearly, because of the attempts of the White House to leak the information on Valerie Plame to a whole number of folks in the press, this is a story that many reporters in Washington know more about than they’re actually reporting.
MURRAY WAAS: That’s correct. Our hands are tied. I just wanted to backtrack for a moment and say your competitor, National Public Radio, reported this morning that on his second day at the U.N., and this is an exact quote, John Bolton has been a “model of decorum.” That’s their exact words. So it should be interesting if NPR reports on the third, fourth and tenth and twelfth day and how long into his tenure as U.N. ambassador that he has been a model of decorum. It’s kind of extraordinary that they said without any kind of irony whatsoever, I think, reported that as news. I mean, one can imagine perhaps we’ll have reports on the news about Condoleezza Rice today was a model of decorum, or the Vice President was a model of decorum or members of Congress were models of decorum, but back to the role of the press in this story.
It’s kind of — what we have seen is a tremendous press failure, but what’s extraordinarily interesting, and perhaps Joe, Ambassador Wilson, can address this, as well, or more articulately than I can, is that the defense is that nothing was wrong — done wrong here, but sloppy journalism. In other words, when Bob Novak used Valerie Plame’s name — when he mentioned that Wilson’s wife worked at the C.I.A. as, quote, “an operative,” Novak’s story is that that was — he used the word operative, none of his sources, Karl Rove nor anybody else, did. So, that was his own sloppy use of a phrase, his own — Novak’s own indiscretion, his own sloppy reporting, in effect. He kind of, by using that phrase, he brought this on.
Secondly, he’s acknowledged that he didn’t kind of vet it or do the fact checking or do more reporting as he should and thirdly, he has now come out and through his emissaries and said that — trying to get Rove off the hook, saying that he first mentioned this to Rove, and he had heard it elsewhere. And supposedly, Rove said to Bob Novak, 'I have heard that, too.' Well, when somebody says something to the effect of “I heard that, too,” that means that they have heard similar information, similar gossip. So, in — that’s the person who Bob Novak is using as a second source. Any first-year journalism student at NYU or Columbia knows that you don’t use somebody as a source who’s just heard a similar rumor to the one that you have heard.
So if we believe Bob Novak’s account, he engaged in substandard news reporting on not one aspect of this column, but several aspects of this column. And it’s led to the jailing of a New York Times reporter, it’s harmed the national security of the United States because it led to the outing of a C.I.A. operative. It’s hurt the morale of the C.I.A. It’s damaged the Bush administration endlessly, and it’s hurt the credibility of the press, partly because reporters were engaged in this scheme or took the bad information, and also because they’re now revealing their confidential sources in cooperating with the prosecutors.
So, all of this occurred because reporters were sloppy, because they didn’t do their work. I mean, that, in effect is the cover story, or that’s what Robert Novak is insisting. And I have interviewed Geneva Overholser, for example, the former editor at The Des Moines Register, and she said some strong words about Novak, but what’s interesting is because he’s really at the core of a elite group, a cocktail party crowd or kind of celebrity journalism at CNN, nobody will come out and — the Washington press corps is pretty much silent. The big wheels and big guns are not saying anything. They’re not policing themselves. And this could have really deleterious and damaging long-term effects on journalism.
And one other interesting aspect is The Washington Post in this. And maybe Ambassador Wilson can talk about that, but a reporter, Susan Schmidt, has done a lot of erroneous reporting, kind of taking information from the administration to further attack him and Valerie, but also Bob Woodward has been on all — a bunch of TV shows saying that there’s no story here, that this is a lot of hype, and we’re seeing an iceberg with a tip of — some reporter is just seeing an iceberg because they see a tip of an iceberg, but there might not be anything beyond that. And so, the Post has been extraordinarily quiet over the last several months or the year and has only began to recently re-report the story because the Wall Street Journal, Los Angeles Times and The New York Times, even the American Prospect, have begun to aggressively report the story.
AMY GOODMAN: Do you share that evaluation, Ambassador Wilson? Also it’s interesting to note that Robert Novak and Karl Rove and scandal go back. Wasn’t it a Karl Rove leak to Robert Novak that led to Karl Rove’s firing from the Bush/Quayle campaign when he leaked some information? He wasn’t happy with Mosbacher running the campaign. That was George H.W. Bush’s campaign. He leaked that to Robert Novak, and Bush got mad, and he was fired before, about 12 years ago, about 13 years ago.
JOSEPH WILSON: Well, that was certainly the judgment of the former President Bush when he fired him, although both Rove and Novak have denied that he was the source of that particular leak. My view of Novak, obviously, is not very positive. Although I will say this: I think he fundamentally is a pawn in a much bigger game. I think this administration was absolutely committed to getting the information on Valerie out and use any and all possible means to do so, and that Novak bit. He just basically took the bait and wrote the article doing their bidding for them. But they would have gotten it out some other way. I have no doubt that they were trying to get it out through their conservative channels. It would have been up on web blogs. They would have found a way to use this as their vehicle for smearing me and trying to discredit me. Being married to Valerie in no way discredits me, in my judgment.
Now with respect to the Post, you know, I — Susan Schmidt’s article was a terrible article. It was full of falsehoods. It quoted a partisan letter as being the authoritative committee resolutions. It took out of context something out of my book. In my book, I had said my wife had nothing to do with this, other than to serve as a conduit. She dropped that really important phrase and said that I had written that my wife had nothing to do with it. It was a real — just a fundamentally bad article.
Now, with respect to Woodward, the great irony in all of this is that, of course, Woodward was hanging around the White House and dealing with the most senior officials of our government for several years while he was writing his two books, the second of which was Plan of Attack, and you know, I think the question for Woodward once all is said and done is, 'you were sniffing around there. You were talking to all of these people on a daily basis. You were basically taking their dictation, and you didn't sniff out a story? You didn’t sniff out a story that might actually be rather important.’
AMY GOODMAN: Well, on that note, we want to thank you both very much for being with us. Ambassador Joseph Wilson, Politics of Truth is the title of his book; and investigative reporter, Murray Waas, speaking to us from Washington, D.C. His blog, WhateverAlready.blogspot.com.