Last week I had the privilege of being lied to personally by Ambassador Joseph C. Wilson IV, who spoke here at Stanford last Monday.
The fact that Joe Wilson is economical with the truth probably won’t surprise many Spectator readers. Nonetheless I assure you the horse I am beating, although it may be lying in the op-ed pages of the Los Angeles Times, is far from dead.
But this week there’s new evidence of his lies to flog him with. When the indictment of Scooter Libby was unsealed on Friday, it finally placed one of Wilson’s oft-repeated fabrications beyond the most hopeful partisan’s credibility.
First the lie: In the Q&A after his talk last Monday, Wilson answered a question of mine with essentially the same statement about the origin of his mission to Niger that he relates in his L.A. Times op-ed:
Valerie was an innocent in this whole affair. Although there were suggestions that she was behind the decision to send me to Niger, the CIA told Newsday just a week after the Novak article appeared that “she did not recommend her husband to undertake the Niger assignment.” The CIA repeated the same statement to every reporter thereafter.
The Newsday article he refers to notes:
A senior intelligence official confirmed that Plame was a Directorate of Operations undercover officer who worked “alongside” the operations officers who asked her husband to travel to Niger.
But he said she did not recommend her husband to undertake the Niger assignment. “They [the officers who did ask Wilson to check the uranium story] were aware of who she was married to, which is not surprising,” he said. “There are people elsewhere in government who are trying to make her look like she was the one who was cooking this up, for some reason,” he said. “I can’t figure out what it could be.”
This has been Wilson’s story ever since the issue came up: he maintains his wife had nothing to do the CIA’s decision to send him. It’s important to his narrative that “outing” his wife was a bolt from the blue designed to intimidate and punish him.
The more plausible explanation is that the information came out because it cast Wilson’s mission and his credibility in a new light. Evidence supports this interpretation. While the CIA may back Wilson’s account to reporters, it has now twice contradicted him when the chips were down and the threat of perjury loomed.
The first contradiction, of course, occurred back in July 2004, the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence devoted a few pages of its report on WMD intelligence failures to point out that Valerie Plame came up with the idea of sending her husband to Niger. Both a memorandum Plame wrote and the testimony of a CIA officer show that Wilson’s trip was her idea. (The report can be downloaded here, and the relevant sections are on page 39, 40, and 72.)
That should have put an end to Joe Wilson’s credibility, but it wasn’t good enough for the diehard Wilson fans, like most of the audience at Stanford last week, or the editorial staff of the L.A. Times. But now the indictment of Scooter Libby has proved yet again that Wilson is full of it.
In order to claim that Libby had perjured himself and obstructed justice, the grand jury goes to great lengths to show how and when he had actually learned about the origin of Wilson’s trip. To do so, they refer on page 4 of the indictment to a conversation between Libby and a “senior officer of the CIA” on June 11, 2003:
[Libby] was advised by the CIA officer that Wilson’s wife worked at the CIA and was believed to be responsible for sending Wilson on the trip.
And again on page 12 of the indictment:
[Libby] was informed by a senior CIA officer that Wilson’s wife was employed by the CIA and that the idea of sending him to Niger originated with her.
This puts Wilson’s fan club in a bind: either Wilson is lying, or the indictment is. Which is it? If it’s the latter, then perhaps Scooter Libby didn’t know what the indictment said he knew, and the indictment ought to be thrown out or at least amended.
Alas, most of the world sees it’s the former. Wilson’s lie, of course, wouldn’t excuse any crime Libby might have committed, but it ought to be enough to prevent Wilson from ever being taken seriously again.