Douglas Jehl/NYT
Secret envoy sees plan to discourage dissent
Sat Aug 9 15:36:20 2003
64.140.158.210

Secret envoy sees plan to discourage dissent
http://www.iht.com/articles/105562.html

Douglas Jehl/NYT NYT
Friday, August 8, 2003

WASHINGTON Joseph Wilson, a retired ambassador, National Security Council official and secret Bush administration envoy to Africa, is the most prominent person to step forward and say that the doubts he cast about an alleged Iraqi weapons program were set aside by a White House that did not want to hear them.
.
Now Wilson says he has become the target of a campaign to discourage others like him from going public.
.
In the prewar swirl of effort to uncover information about Iraq’s weapons program, Wilson, now retired from government, made a fact-finding mission to Niger in February 2002 at the request of the Central Intelligence Agency. His findings challenged claims in a unsubstantiated document that Iraq was trying to obtain nuclear-weapons material from Niger.
.
But it was only after Wilson told his story publicly last month, to the discomfort of President George W. Bush’s aides, that the White House acknowledged that it had erred in including the disputed allegations in Bush’s State of the Union address.
.
Within days after Wilson made his views public, another chapter in the affair was opened. His wife was identified by name in a column by a conservative Washington columnist, Robert Novak, as a covert operative for the Central Intelligence Agency, a disclosure that Novak attributed to senior administration officials.
.
Among those who have cried foul are several Democratic senators, including Charles Schumer of New York. They have said that if the statement is true, and if senior administration officials were indeed its source, then Novak’s sources violated laws prohibiting such disclosures. Schumer has asked Robert Mueller, the director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, to look into the matter.
.
Wilson, who as the U.S. chargé d’affaires in Baghdad in 1990 was the last U.S. diplomat to meet with Saddam Hussein, said he regards the episode as evidence of distressing heavy-handedness.
.
‘‘The issue was never about her,’’ Wilson said of his wife by telephone Wednesday. ‘‘The issue was about who so badly staffed the President of the United States that they would put into a State of the Union address something that was so transparently unsubstantiatable, and this from an administration that came to office saying it wanted to restore dignity and honor to the White House.
.
‘‘It wasn’t to intimidate me, because I’d already said my piece,’’ Wilson said. ‘‘Clearly this was to keep others from stepping forward.’’
.
White House officials have said they would not condone anyone making public the identity of an undercover CIA operative.
.
In the run-up to the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, Wilson appeared frequently on television as an expert on the country, and he freely offered his opinion that the best American policy would be to postpone any war and to focus instead on intense international inspections.
.
That opinion certainly won him no friends within the Bush administration, which was arguing at the time that the moment for inspections had passed.
.
The fact that a retired American ambassador had conducted a mission to Niger to look into an Iraqi connection had been acknowledged by the administration earlier this year. But Wilson said he had decided to discuss his role publicly in early July after he concluded that efforts by senior administration officials, including Condoleezza Rice, the national security adviser, to pass off his findings as having been shared only with low-ranking intelligence officials were ‘‘simply inconsistent’’ with the facts as he knew them.
.
‘‘It was pretty clear that it had gotten to the right people,’’ he said in the interview. The deputy national security adviser, Stephen Hadley, has since publicly taken responsibility for the inclusion in the State of the Union speech of 16 words that repeated the disputed allegations.
.
Wilson said that he had ‘‘tried to avoid taking a victory lap’’ after his comments prompted the White House acknowledgments. But he has begun to speak out again, in television interviews including an appearance on NBC’s ‘‘Today’’ show, ‘‘until such time as you got those lowlifes over there deciding they would take some whacks at my wife.’’
.
Wilson’s wife, Valerie Plame, is known to friends as an energy industry analyst, and Wilson said he would discuss the issue of her employment only hypothetically. But he said he had no doubt that those who sought to bring his wife into the controversy intended to sound a warning to others who might take on the White House on the charged issue of whether intelligence about Iraq was reshaped or ignored to fit a political agenda.
.
The column by Novak cited administration officials in saying that Wilson had been selected for the mission because of his wife’s connection to the CIA. Wilson said his own qualifications amply suited him for the task.

< < back to start of article
WASHINGTON Joseph Wilson, a retired ambassador, National Security Council official and secret Bush administration envoy to Africa, is the most prominent person to step forward and say that the doubts he cast about an alleged Iraqi weapons program were set aside by a White House that did not want to hear them.
.
Now Wilson says he has become the target of a campaign to discourage others like him from going public.
.
In the prewar swirl of effort to uncover information about Iraq’s weapons program, Wilson, now retired from government, made a fact-finding mission to Niger in February 2002 at the request of the Central Intelligence Agency. His findings challenged claims in a unsubstantiated document that Iraq was trying to obtain nuclear-weapons material from Niger.
.
But it was only after Wilson told his story publicly last month, to the discomfort of President George W. Bush’s aides, that the White House acknowledged that it had erred in including the disputed allegations in Bush’s State of the Union address.
.
Within days after Wilson made his views public, another chapter in the affair was opened. His wife was identified by name in a column by a conservative Washington columnist, Robert Novak, as a covert operative for the Central Intelligence Agency, a disclosure that Novak attributed to senior administration officials.
.
Among those who have cried foul are several Democratic senators, including Charles Schumer of New York. They have said that if the statement is true, and if senior administration officials were indeed its source, then Novak’s sources violated laws prohibiting such disclosures. Schumer has asked Robert Mueller, the director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, to look into the matter.
.
Wilson, who as the U.S. chargé d’affaires in Baghdad in 1990 was the last U.S. diplomat to meet with Saddam Hussein, said he regards the episode as evidence of distressing heavy-handedness.
.
‘‘The issue was never about her,’’ Wilson said of his wife by telephone Wednesday. ‘‘The issue was about who so badly staffed the President of the United States that they would put into a State of the Union address something that was so transparently unsubstantiatable, and this from an administration that came to office saying it wanted to restore dignity and honor to the White House.
.
‘‘It wasn’t to intimidate me, because I’d already said my piece,’’ Wilson said. ‘‘Clearly this was to keep others from stepping forward.’’
.
White House officials have said they would not condone anyone making public the identity of an undercover CIA operative.
.
In the run-up to the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, Wilson appeared frequently on television as an expert on the country, and he freely offered his opinion that the best American policy would be to postpone any war and to focus instead on intense international inspections.
.
That opinion certainly won him no friends within the Bush administration, which was arguing at the time that the moment for inspections had passed.
.
The fact that a retired American ambassador had conducted a mission to Niger to look into an Iraqi connection had been acknowledged by the administration earlier this year. But Wilson said he had decided to discuss his role publicly in early July after he concluded that efforts by senior administration officials, including Condoleezza Rice, the national security adviser, to pass off his findings as having been shared only with low-ranking intelligence officials were ‘‘simply inconsistent’’ with the facts as he knew them.
.
‘‘It was pretty clear that it had gotten to the right people,’’ he said in the interview. The deputy national security adviser, Stephen Hadley, has since publicly taken responsibility for the inclusion in the State of the Union speech of 16 words that repeated the disputed allegations.
.
Wilson said that he had ‘‘tried to avoid taking a victory lap’’ after his comments prompted the White House acknowledgments. But he has begun to speak out again, in television interviews including an appearance on NBC’s ‘‘Today’’ show, ‘‘until such time as you got those lowlifes over there deciding they would take some whacks at my wife.’’
.
Wilson’s wife, Valerie Plame, is known to friends as an energy industry analyst, and Wilson said he would discuss the issue of her employment only hypothetically. But he said he had no doubt that those who sought to bring his wife into the controversy intended to sound a warning to others who might take on the White House on the charged issue of whether intelligence about Iraq was reshaped or ignored to fit a political agenda.
.
The column by Novak cited administration officials in saying that Wilson had been selected for the mission because of his wife’s connection to the CIA. Wilson said his own qualifications amply suited him for the task.
===================================
US accused of intimidation in Iraq uranium flap
(Reuters)

5 August 2003


WASHINGTON - Former US Ambassador Joseph Wilson, a key figure in the Iraq-Niger uranium controversy, accused the Bush administration on Monday of using intimidation tactics to stifle criticism about its handling of prewar intelligence on Iraq.

Wilson was sent by the CIA to Niger in 2002 to investigate a report that Iraq was trying to obtain uranium from the African country, but returned to say it was highly doubtful such a transaction had occurred.

President George W. Bush made the Iraq-uranium claim in his January State of the Union speech. Critics have said the Iraq-Niger assertion, which later was found to be based partly on forged documents, showed the administration had tried to hype intelligence to make a case for going to war.

Wilson, on a panel of speakers at the National Press Club, said there had been several attempts to discredit him, but mainly through an article by Chicago columnist Robert Novak that said two senior administration officials said Wilson’s wife suggested sending him to Niger to investigate the uranium report. Novak’s column named Wilson’s wife and said she was a CIA operative on weapons of mass destruction.

Wilson would only speak about his wife’s employment in hypothetical terms without confirming her place of work. But he said if Novak’s column was true, then the Bush administration had breached national security by revealing the name.

“Any time that a senior administration official leaks the name of a CIA operative, even one in the weapons of mass destruction business, what that senior administration official is doing is a breach of national security,” Wilson said.

’Intimidate others’

“The reason for it was not to smear me or to even smear my wife,” Wilson said. “The reason was to intimidate others from coming forward.”

He said when intelligence analysts see attempts to discredit him and the suicide of David Kelly, a British weapons expert on Iraq, they will be reluctant to step forward.

Kelly became embroiled in the biggest political crisis for British Prime Minister Tony Blair’s government after the BBC used the former U.N. weapons inspector as its main, anonymous source for an explosive report that the British government had exaggerated the case for war in Iraq. Democrat senators Tom Daschle of South Dakota and Charles Schumer of New York last week called for an investigation into who exposed Wilson’s wife.

White House spokesman Scott McClellan, during a briefing last month, dismissed claims administration officials had revealed a CIA operative’s identity.

“That is not the way this president or this White House operates,” he said in addressing a question about the Novak column. “There is absolutely no information that has come to my attention ... that suggests that there is any truth to that suggestion. No one in this White House would have given authority to take such a step.”

Wilson said that analysts seeing stories about him and his wife and about Kelly would question whether to talk to lawmakers who might hold investigations on the Iraq war.

Congressional sources have said the Senate Intelligence Committee has not received complaints from analysts about the administration’s handling of prewar intelligence on Iraq.

“So that’s what it was designed to do, it was clearly designed to intimidate,” Wilson said.

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