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20 years

George Bush's CIA Folly
October 5, 2003

et's face it. George W. Bush's political problems over the CIA "operative leak" is a problem of his own making. If Bush had not decided to be the "inclusive, nonpartisan president" when he assumed the mantle of the presidency of the United States, he wouldn't be in hot water right now. Bush seriously erred when he decided to retain several Bill Clinton department heads. George Tenet, the Director of the Central Intelligence Agency was one of those carryovers.

     If Tenet was not at the helm of the CIA in July, 2002 when the CIA was attempting to verify the accuracy of a British MI-5 report that Iraq had attempted to purchase uranium yellowcake (enriched uranium) from Niger, then a former Bill Clinton National Security Agency official would likely not have been sent to probe the Nigerian government to determine whether or not the story was true.

     Joseph Wilson IV was a former Bush-41 diplomat in Iraq. Even though Wilson was a major contributor to Al Gore in 2000, Bush-43 would likely not have viewed Tenet's use of Wilson as problematic since Clinton's former NSA official was also Bush-41's acting ambassador to Iraq in 1990 at the time of the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait. Wilson posed for several interviews with the international media wearing a noose around his neck (his message to Saddam Hussein. Wilson said if the Iraqi leader wanted to execute him, he'd bring his own rope to the party). Wilson's gung-ho attitude won over Bush-41...and, if his name was mentioned in private meetings with Tenet in conjunction with the assignment to Niger, it is likely that Wilson's personae would have won over Bush-43 who likes gung-ho diplomacy as much as his daddy. (Unknown to Bush-41 and Bush-43 was the fact that while he was serving as the acting ambassador in Baghdad in 1990 Wilson was reporting his activities not only to Bush-41 Secretary of State James Baker, he was also issuing weekly reports to Senator Al Gore, Jr. of Tennessee.) This would have been problematic to Bush-43 to whom loyalty is the only yardstick used to measure whether or not someone remains on the Bush team. Of course, Wilson--a diehard liberal--was never on the Bush team. Nor for that matter is George Tenet, the CIA’s master schemer.

     For all his Texas upbringing, Bush-43 can't seem to tell the difference between a diamondback rattler and a garter snake. Bush, trying to prove that he was as nonpartisan as George Washington (who successfully merged his political enemies into his cabinet--and contained them for 8-years), is constantly trying to pick up the diamondbacks. And to no one's surprise, he continues to get bit. One too-many bites from the poisonous snakes who are perpetually coiled to strike anything right of center that moves inside the beltway just might prove fatal for Bush's political career.

     Our story begins on July 6 of this year when former Ambassador Wilson chose to go public with his story by identifying himself as the retired diplomat who had been asked by the CIA to go to Niger in 2002 to investigate British reports that Iraq had been trying to buy yellowcake from the Nigerians. Wilson said he had issued a report to the CIA claiming the MI-5 report was incorrect. (The British government, at the urging of the London Times and the Guardian, investigated the same MI-5 report very extensively. After its own investigation, Parliament concluded that the report was genuine.) Wilson’s statement in his New York Times op-ed piece appears to be a lie--or the report Wilson issued to the CIA when he returned from his mission in Niger was a lie since his current statement appears to contradict a portion of the report he made to the CIA at the completion of his mission in 2002. The Nigerian official Wilson interviewed confirmed that he had been approached by an Iraqi official who wanted to purchase enriched uranium for the Iraqi government. It should be noted that Wilson also stated in his report that not only was he skeptical of the validity of the Nigerian official’s claim about the Iraqis, so was the 1999 Clinton-appointed U.S. Ambassador to Niger, Barbro Owens-Kirkpatrick, who told Wilson that she had known about the allegation for quite some time but that she didn’t believe it herself. She told Wilson that she had debunked the rumors in her reports to Washington. In other words another Clinton appointee, on the ground in Niger, was told by Nigerian officials (prior to 2002) that Iraq was trying to buy yellowcake. She chose on her own to dismiss the reports and did not report what she had heard to the State Department or the CIA until after MI-5 notified the United States intelligence services of an attempt by Iraq to buy enriched uranium. When a formal intelligence inquiry was made, Owens-Kirkpatrick dismissed the Nigerian report as a fanciful rumor that had no credibility
     Wilson, a very partisan Democrat (very likely at the urging of fellow partisan Democrats who needed help eroding Bush's popularity), wrote an op-ed piece for the New York Times lambasting the Bush-43 Administration's decision to go to war against Iraq based, in part, on the MI-5 report which Wilson claimed was fraudulent. What makes me think that? Because when columnist Robert Novak wrote his own op-ed piece on July 14, 2003 questioning why the Bush people would use a Clinton-hack for such a sensitive mission, the article gained no attention at all. Not even Wilson, who may not have realized that his career as a diplomat was now over because his wife had become the proverbial diplomatic anchor hanging around his neck, complained that Novak had just put his “covert operative” wife’s life in jeopardy. He didn’t say it because, quite frankly, Novak didn’t place Wilson’s wife in any form of physical jeopardy.

     Valerie Plame-Wilson was never a covert operative in terms of what American spy-thrillers perceive them to be: trench-coated spies skulking around the back alleys of Berlin or Moscow, meeting their equally secretive counterparts and gathering top secret information. Plame-Wilson did her “spying” during diplomatic parties as she plied half-drunk diplomats with enough martinis that they would be enticed into revealing confidential information that could be used by her employer.

     Wilson’s op-ed piece might have ended up as a “do-do” sheet for someone’s birdcage (a fitting end for the Washington Post) except for the curiosity of Novak who wondered why Bush-43 would employ a very partisan Clinton hack on a mission that could possibly embarrass the White House if handled wrong or inappropriately leaked to the media, since Wilson was both a vocal opponent of George W. Bush and an avid supporter of Al Gore, Jr. during the 2000 election. (Bush-43 has a reputation of holding his friends close and cutting his detractors off at the knees.)

     Hiring a detractor to undertake such a sensitive mission for the Administration just didn't make sense to Novak. And, because it didn't, Novak called a Bush-43 official he knew and raised the question why Wilson had been picked to go to Niger. Note: According to Novak, he made the call to the official, not the other way around. When Novak voiced the question, the contact admitted that Wilson had been recommended by a CIA employee (not a covert operative)--the diplomat’s wife. It was an offhand remark, Novak said in his rebuttal argument in the Washington Post on Wednesday, Oct. 2, 2003, because everyone inside the beltway knew that Wilson's wife was a mid-level administrative official for the CIA at Langley. (The "covert" work done by the petite, 40-ish very attractive Valerie Plame Wilson, as suggested above, was done on the arm of her ambassador husband in his official capacity as a U.S. ambassador in the Arab world. Plame-Wilson played the stereotyped dumb blonde wife as she flirted with Arab leaders and gathered tidbits of dropped information for the CIA. The only thing that revealing Valerie Plame's name may have done for Wilson's career is to make him ineligible for any foreign service assignments should Hillary win the White House, since the ambassador will no longer be trusted by any foreign ministry anywhere in the world.) By helping the Democrats now, Wilson very likely hopes to secure a berth as an under-Secretary of State in a new Clinton administration.

     When Bob Novak learned that Wilson was hired by CIA Director George Tenet (Bill Clinton's boy in the Bush CIA) at the urging of Wilson's wife, Novak called another Bush official to confirm what he heard from the first source. (Note again: According to Novak, he was the one initiating the calls, not Bush people calling him.) If Novak is to be believed, then logic suggests Wilson lied about the six reporters who theoretically called him to report that Bush officials were calling reporters trying to get someone to report that Valerie Plame-Wilson persuaded Tenet to hire Wilson for the Nigerian mission. Two Washington Post reporters, Mike Allen and Dana Priest have attempted to confirm Wilson’s story by claiming that a senior administration official told them that two top White House officials called at least six Washington journalists and disclosed the identity and occupation of Wilson's wife, adding that it was done "...purely and simply for revenge." (In media parlance, a "senior administration official" can be a mail room clerk, an intern, or anyone within the Executive branch, regardless of their job classification, who overhears a juicy piece of gossip.) Nevertheless, if six reporters were, indeed, approached by Bush Administration officials who were attempting to exact revenge on Wilson for breaking the “code of silence,” then it would seem that Wilson, Allen and Priest have an obligation to provide the names those six reporters so that the Justice Department can depose them to learn precisely who the two “top White House officials” were that wanted to disclose Wilson’s wife’s name “...purely...for revenge.”

     If Novak is to be viewed as an honest purveyor of the news--and I believe he is--then we will learn there are no "...six Washington journalists..." since there would have been no "...two top White House officials..." attempting to exact revenge on Wilson by ending his political career. I expect that we will discover all there is an angry ex-ambassador who shot off his mouth for political gain for his party--very likely at the urging of top Democratic leaders who believed they could parlay this into a major political scandal that will continue well into the campaign season of 2004.

     Novak assured his own readers that the administration official he spoke with first was no "political gunslinger." His revelation about Wilson’s wife was merely an offhand remark since everyone who is anyone inside the beltway knew that Wilson's wife worked for the CIA. The revelation here was not the fact that Plame-Wilson worked for the CIA, but that she was the one who recommended the hiring of her husband to investigate the MI-5 report. That was why Novak called another Bush official to verify the story. That was the story. When Novak asked the second source, the source simply replied: "Oh, you know about it?" The source didn't provide Novak with information, Novak provided him with it. That source merely acknowledged what Novak already knew.

     Inside Langley, everyone knew that Plame-Wilson urged Tenet to hire her husband to go to Niger. One Clinton hack helping out another Clinton hack. That's how it works inside the beltway. When Novak called the Agency to confirm that Wilson's wife engineered the assignment to Niger, the CIA official designated to brush off reporters asked Novak not to use Plame-Wilson's name--not because she was a covert operative, since she was not, but because the Agency eschews the use of anyone's name in connection with the invisible spook agency even if the person is an administrative official, which Plame-Wilson was at the time.

     What Novak did by using Plame-Wilson's name is to make a few dozen Arab diplomats search their minds for long forgotten conversations they may have had with the ambassador's pretty wife at some long forgotten party, and wonder if they revealed any state secrets as they inflated their own importance to their nation while they tried to seduce the ambassador's wife. And, of course, there are a lot of foreign governments scrambling right now to determine if they were compromised in any way by the ambassador’s wife.

     It goes without saying that neither Wilson nor his wife will be welcome within the diplomatic circles of those nations now even though the foreign diplomats of many of our allies and newfound friends are spies for their own governments.

     Novak caused part of the diplomatic flap in his telltale op-ed piece when he revealed her name for the first time since he referred to her as an "operative" and not as an employee. It sounded much more "CIA-ish." The CIA maintains (probably for the scenario cited above) that Plame-Wilson is a "covered" employee whose name cannot be revealed because, they said, she was working under the guise of another agency. That agency, of course, was the State Department. Plame-Wilson’s role was that of wife of an American diplomat.

     Wow. I wonder if we're reading the plot line for next season's replacement for The Agency--or The Nanny--since this new investigation is a Democratic Party’s latest joke on George W. Bush. George Washington he is not.



Just Say No
Copyright 2009 Jon Christian Ryter.
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