The CIA’s disinformation campaign against President Bush — headlined in the Wilson/Plame affair — is more jujitsu than karate. Instead of applying your own force to defeat your opponent, you turn his energy and momentum against him and bring him down. The CIA, as much or more than the State Department, didn’t support President Bush’s decision to invade Iraq. And to discredit that decision, it appears the CIA first chose an unspeakably unqualified political activist for a sham intelligence mission, structured it so that the results would be utterly public, and then — when the activist resumed his publicity-hound activity — demanded and achieved a high-profile criminal investigation into White House activities that resulted, so far, in the indictment of the Vice President’s chief of staff. It’s time for the Justice Department — or, better yet, for the Senate Intelligence Committee — to investigate the Wilson/Plame sham. Not only was the Wilson mission to Niger a sham, but the CIA’s demand for an investigation of Robert Novak’s outing of Valerie Plame may itself have been a criminal act.
Maj. Gen. Paul Vallely (USA, ret.) is one of Fox’s senior military analysts. Gen. Vallely confirmed to me that nearly a year before Robert Novak’s July 2003 column revealed Valerie Plame as a CIA employee, former Clinton Ambassador Joe Wilson told Vallely and his wife, Muffin, that Wilson’s wife worked for the CIA. This revelation, published last week on John Batchelor’s ABC talk show (and repeated Monday night on John’s show), blew more holes into Joe Wilson’s tattered credibility and raises important questions about the CIA’s actions. (Fox’s Judge Andrew Napolitano had said on the air that a FNC colleague had told him of Plame’s CIA employment; Vallely didn’t recall being Napolitano’s source.)
Wilson’s reactions to Vallely’s assertion bespeak panic and meltdown. After Vallely’s assertion on the Batchelor show (subsequently republished on World Net Daily), Wilson’s lawyer both called and e-mailed Vallely threatening legal action if he didn’t withdraw the assertion. The e-mail, which Vallely sent me, included Wilson’s e-mail to his lawyer. Wilson, in a message to his lawyer dated November 5 at 5:11 p.m., said, “This is slanderous. I never appeared on tv before at least July 2002 and only saw him maybe twice in the green room at Fox. Vallely is a retired general and this is a bald faced lie. Can we sue? This is not he said/he said, since I never laid eyes on him till several months after he alleges I spoke to him about my wife. Joe.” But the threat of legal action against Vallely isn’t serious. Neither Wilson nor Plame want to testify in open court under oath.
There are just too many anomalies in the Wilson mission to Niger to believe that anyone who wasn’t planning to bash the president could possibly have chosen Wilson for the task. He had no expertise in WMD, hadn’t been in Niger since the 1980s, and had no intelligence training. One of the most revealing aspects of Wilson’s mission, relevant to showing it was part of a disinformation campaign, was that he wasn’t required to sign a CIA secrecy agreement before taking on the mission. In plainest terms, that meant his CIA bosses wanted him to go public on his return. And he did. The other point that proves Wilson’s mission was anything but serious is that, in Wilson’s own words, he told everyone he met that he was an agent of the U.S. government.
In his July 6, 2003 NYT op-ed, Wilson said, “The mission I undertook was discreet but by no means secret. While the CIA paid my expenses (my time was offered pro bono), I made it abundantly clear to everyone I met that I was acting on behalf of the United States government.” You tell everyone you’re speaking to that you’re in the government’s employ so they can feed you whatever line of baloney they want the U.S. government to hear? Wilson’s “mission,” in short, was a pathetic joke and not an intelligence mission by any definition. The CIA knew this. Who in the CIA authorized, paid for, and managed this mission? Why did they do it? There’s no plausible explanation other than the intent to embarrass and discredit the Bush administration.
A source who spoke on the condition of anonymity said Valerie Plame — who suggested her husband for the Niger mission — was too low on the CIA totem pole to have approved and paid for the mission. The source also told me that Judith (“Jami”) Miscik, then the CIA”s deputy director for intelligence, was the person who signed off on the Wilson mission. Plame’s WINPAC directorate was under Miscik in the chain of command. Miscik was fired by new CIA director Porter Goss late last year during Goss’s housecleaning in which Deputy Director John E. McLaughlin resigned and Deputy Director of Operations James Pavitt retired.
The CIA, through one of its spokesmen, declined to comment on whether it was Miscik or someone else because of pending legal proceedings. And, in context with other information, it appears that Miscik would not likely have been the one. Logically the person who approved the Wilson mission would have had to be some senior person in the Operations Directorate, possibly the now-retired Pavitt.
Regardless of who started the mission, the CIA responded to the Novak column by sending a classified criminal referral — the allegation of criminal conduct requesting a formal investigation — to the Justice Department. When it did so, it had to have known that Plame’s status was not covert (as defined in the Intelligence Identities Protection Act of 1982) and probably knew (it is an intelligence organization, after all) that Wilson had blabbed his wife’s identity around town. Why, then, was the criminal referral made? Who approved it? Such actions had to be approved at least by the CIA general counsel and probably by CIA Director Tenet or at least his deputy, McLaughlin. Why did they do that knowing what they must have known?
The December 30, 2003 letter from Deputy Attorney General Paul Comey appointing Patrick Fitzgerald special prosecutor, says, in part: “I hereby delegate to you all the authority of the Attorney General with respect to the Department’s investigation into the alleged unauthorized disclosure of a CIA employee’s identity.” What was the allegation? If it were made falsely — say with the knowledge that Plame’s identity wasn’t covert or had become public — the person who made the referral may have committed a serious crime.
The whole Wilson/Plame affair stinks to high heaven. And the smell is coming from Langley. Porter Goss should receive credit for working hard to fix the CIA. The Wilson affair isn’t his problem, it’s ours. Right now, the CIA’s disinformation campaign has cost Scooter Libby his future, threatens other White House staffers and — most importantly — burdens the credibility of the president in time of war. It affects our standing in the world, our relationship with our allies, and our strength in the eyes of our enemies. In short, this damned thing needs to be unraveled, publicly, and right bloody now.
The American people need this matter investigated forthwith, and not — God help us — by yet another special counsel. The Senate Intelligence Committee should, immediately, investigate and get the following questions answered publicly as soon as possible:
1) What precisely does the CIA criminal referral that started the Fitzgerald investigation say? It should be declassified and published;
2) Who approved the criminal referral and why?
3) Was Pavitt the person who approved the Wilson mission? Who else approved the mission and how it was to be performed?
4) Why did they choose Wilson instead of someone qualified?