Novak’s ‘Outings’: Damage Control

Hours after the jury convicted Lewis “Scooter” Libby of obstructing justice – preventing Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald from finding out whether a crime had been committed in the outing by columnist Bob Novak of CIA operative Valerie Plame – Joseph C. Wilson IV told reporters that the CIA was holding up publication of Valerie Wilson’s book.

Tentatively entitled Fair Game, her book reportedly not only chronicles the consequences to Valerie Wilson of the outing of Plame by Novak, but would also reveal some things about the life of Valerie Plame, the CIA operative Novak outed.

According to Mark Mansfield, a CIA spokesman, Valerie Wilson’s book is still under review because of concerns “that the manuscript, as it was originally submitted, would cause additional damage to operational matters.”

Would cause?


Well, you see, as far as the CIA is (officially) concerned, Valerie Wilson first became a CIA employee on January 1, 2002. As far as the CIA (officially) is concerned, they’ve never heard of Valerie Plame, the “CIA operative” Novak “outed” on July 14, 2003.

And the CIA has certainly never (officially) heard of Brewster-Jennings & Associates, Valerie Plame’s employer, which Novak deliberately “outed” as a CIA “front” on CNN on October 3, 2003, almost a month after the Justice Department had announced it had begun – at the request of the CIA – an official investigation to determine if a crime had been committed in Novak’s outing of Valerie Plame.

By the time this column appears, Valerie Wilson will (probably) have already testified before the House Oversight and Government Affairs Committee, which is investigating “issues raised” by documentary evidence of conduct or misconduct by Bush-Cheney administration officials, introduced by both prosecution and defense during Libby’s trial.

Because Valerie Wilson is – and young Valerie Plame was – a beautiful woman, Chairman Waxman will almost certainly allow some of her testimony to be made publicly. But because of CIA concerns – which according to Prosecutor Fitzgerald and Judge Reggie Walton are warranted – most of the questions Waxman wants answered about the outing of Valerie Plame and Brewster-Jennings will probably have to be asked and answered in closed sessions.

Recall that in a Truthout column written on the eve of Libby’s trial, Jason Leopold noted that

“Many of the officials identified as potential witnesses were members of the White House Iraq Group (WHIG), which came together in August 2002 to publicize the threat posed by Saddam Hussein. WHIG was founded by Bush’s chief of staff Andrew Card and operated out of the vice president’s office. The WHIG was not only responsible for selling the Iraq War, but it took great pains to discredit anyone who openly disagreed with the official Iraq War story.”

The conventional wisdom is that WHIG somehow got Novak to out CIA operative Valerie Plame in retaliation for Joe Wilson’s July 6, 2003 op-ed piece, which began thusly;

“Did the Bush administration manipulate intelligence about Saddam Hussein’s weapons programs to justify an invasion of Iraq?

“Based on my experience with the administration in the months leading up to the war, I have little choice but to conclude that some of the intelligence related to Iraq’s nuclear weapons program was twisted to exaggerate the Iraqi threat.”

But evidence was introduced at Libby’s trial that WHIG began its campaign to discredit “a former US ambassador to Africa” two months before, almost immediately after Nicholas Kristof had this to say in his May, 6 2003 column:

“Consider the now-disproved claims by President Bush and Colin Powell that Iraq tried to buy uranium from Niger so it could build nuclear weapons.

“I’m told by a person involved in the Niger caper that more than a year ago the vice president’s office asked for an investigation of the uranium deal, so a former U.S. ambassador to Africa was dispatched to Niger. In February 2002, according to someone present at the meetings, that envoy reported to the CIA and State Department that the information was unequivocally wrong and that the documents had been forged.”

Evidently, initially, WHIG didn’t know the ambassador was Joe Wilson. And they certainly didn’t know “Wilson’s wife” worked at the CIA.

And they sure as hell didn’t know about “CIA operative” Valerie Plame.

Or did they?

Recall that the Cheney Cabal had managed to get prominently featured in the National Intelligence Estimate on Iraq’s WMD capabilities, hastily constructed in the summer of 2002, an allegation – hotly disputed within the intelligence community – that Saddam Hussein had attempted to import thousands of aluminum tubes, which, according to then National Security Advisor Condi Rice were “only really suited for nuclear weapons programs.”

Now, according to David Corn and Michael Isikoff;

“A shipment of the tubes was seized in Jordan under an operation headed by Valerie Plame Wilson.  She oversaw the operation that intercepted these tubes that were then shipped back to the CIA.

“She actually was Chief of Operations for the Joint Task on Iraq.  It’s part of the Counter-proliferation Division which is part of the super-secret Operations Directorate.  So she was actually in charge of overseeing and running operations for two years prior to the invasion that were designed to find evidence of Iraq’s WMD’s.” 

Since, according to the CIA, Valerie Wilson only became an “official” CIA employee on January 1, 2002, how could she have overseen the operation in 2001 that intercepted these tubes, confiscated them and sent them “back to the CIA”?

As we now know, in 2001 and for years before, she was Valerie Plame, an employee of Brewster-Jennings – a company the CIA says it has never heard of (officially) – and she has W-2 forms to prove it.

We also now know that at the 2-hour meeting Libby had – at the direction of Vice President Cheney – with WHIG media-sycophant Judith Miller to provide her with classified information contained in the 2002 NIE on Iraq, Libby referred to Valerie Plame. (Miller wrote “Flame” in her notes.)

This Valerie “Flame” disclosure by a member of WHIG came on June 22, 2003 – weeks before Novak’s column of July 14, 2003, “outing” Valerie Plame as a CIA operative.

So, suppose Waxman cites the report by David Corn and Michael Isikoff and asks Valerie Wilson if it’s true that she intercepted the aluminum tubes, and if so, did she intercept them as Valerie Plame, an employee of Brewster-Jennings, or as a “CIA operative”?

If he does ask her that, you might want to pay close attention to her response, if and when it is rebroadcast on C-SPAN.

Author: Gordon Prather

Physicist James Gordon Prather has served as a policy implementing official for national security-related technical matters in the Federal Energy Agency, the Energy Research and Development Administration, the Department of Energy, the Office of the Secretary of Defense and the Department of the Army. Dr. Prather also served as legislative assistant for national security affairs to U.S. Sen. Henry Bellmon, R-Okla. -- ranking member of the Senate Budget Committee and member of the Senate Energy Committee and Appropriations Committee. Dr. Prather had earlier worked as a nuclear weapons physicist at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California and Sandia National Laboratory in New Mexico.