Wilson discusses role in CIA scandal

Joseph Wilson spoke about his battle with the White House over a piece he wrote.

by Than Tibbetts

Former U.S. Ambassador to several African nations Joseph Wilson will speak at a DFL fundraiser Friday. He spoke Tuesday with the Daily about his involvement in the Washington scandal that compromised the identity of his wife, Valerie Plame, as a clandestine CIA operative.

Wilson said White House officials sought retaliation against him because of an opinions piece he penned for The New York Times in which he said President George W. Bush exaggerated claims about Iraq trying to obtain uranium from Niger.

So far, as a result of the investigation into the leak of Plame’s identity, Irv Lewis “Scooter” Libby, Vice President Dick Cheney’s former chief of staff, was indicted for obstruction of justice and making false statements.

What do you talk about at these events?

“I talk about what I think are the core values of my country that have been really sacrificed by this administration.

“There are times, indeed, when the United States must back its policies with military action. But it’s been the policy of the United States to use military force as a last resort, not a first resort.

“We do so only after we have a long and serious discussion as a nation as to whether it’s the appropriate thing to ask of our soldiers.”

What was your role in Niger?

“I had been asked by the administration… to check out allegations that Iraq had attempted to purchase uranium from Niger. I undertook this at the request of my government.

“If it turned out that Iraq had attempted to purchase yellowcake uranium it would be a clear indication that Saddam Hussein was attempting to restart his weapons program.”

How and why did the administration retaliate?

“For the administration, they couldn’t let an adversary stand, so they attempted to destroy me. They embarked on a 2 1/2 year campaign of character assassination… which compromised the identity of a covert CIA officer, who happened to be my wife.”

And regarding Karl Rove, senior adviser to the president: “I just find it unconscionable that the president would have as an intimate member of his staff, someone who plays so fast and loose with his nation’s secrets.”

What’s your take on the media’s coverage of this story?

“To a certain extent, the media in Washington, D.C., has been conflicted. I don’t think they’ve done their readers any service in withholding information (as in the case of the Washington Post’s Bob Woodward).

“I don’t think they’ve helped enlighten American people as to the seriousness of this issue. This is the first time a CIA officer has had his or her identity betrayed by a member of the executive branch.”

What’s your political philosophy?

“This iteration of the Republican party has betrayed ideals that most Republicans hold dear.

“My belief is the administration has let us down badly, and I intend to continue to speak out and support candidates and a party that offers an alternative vision to this party and this administration.”