Wilson sees wife's `outing' as retaliation

Georgie Anne Geyer, Universal Press Syndicate. Georgie Anne Geyer is a syndicated columnist based in Washington

October 3, 2003

WASHINGTON -- When I first met and spoke with former ambassador to Iraq Joseph Wilson late last July, we ruminated over the strange "outing" of his wife as an agent of the CIA by a prominent American journalist. He was angry about the revelation, which seemed natural under the circumstances; but I was downright confused.

None of it made any sense. Connecting his wife to Wilson's findings on the Iraq war was about as coherent as saying that because Saddam Hussein has not been found, we are having a recall election in California; or that because Arnold Schwarzenegger has an explicit sexual past, Teddy Kennedy is against the Iraq war. It scans so poorly that the cause must be found elsewhere.

Wilson had, of course, heartily irritated the Bush administration by revealing, albeit at a respectfully late time, that the administration's claims that Hussein had sought uranium in Africa to build a nuclear bomb were totally false. In fact, his findings that no such substance went from Niger to Baghdad still stand today.

But soon after his revelations came a bewildering response, which is now shaking this capital with scandal on a scale that threatens to approach Watergate proportions. On July 14, syndicated columnist Robert Novak wrote his now-famous column linking Wilson's findings about the war with the profession of his wife. That column, with information that Novak insists came to him accidentally in conversations with two administration officials, simply said she was an agent of the CIA.

Then, long silence.

You'd be right to ask, "And then, what?" Or, "So what?" But there are no answers to those key questions. Even if she were a CIA agent, I asked Wilson last July, what exactly did that have to do with his war findings? "I don't know," he told me then--but he does now.

"Why did they do it?" he asked this week. "Because a crime has been committed and you try to deflect attention from the crime. What they are doing is to keep others from coming forward, as I did. But more and more, it is just revenge." Other observers and analysts on his side are saying of this embarrassing and threatening case for the Bush administration, "It's meant to intimidate others from speaking out against the war," or, "The story is gratuitous; it doesn't lend anything to the story," or, "It's a political smear of an innocent person, and it's just plain dirty." All of those comments are likely true.

It is a crime to reveal the identity of an American undercover agent, which Wilson's wife, we now know, is. In fact, it is a deadly serious crime because it almost certainly leads to the end of the agent's effectiveness and, most probably, career, as well as putting into danger all of the contacts the agent has built up around the world. Indeed, under the 1982 Intelligence Identities Protection Act, a person with access to classified information who intentionally identifies a covert agent of the United States faces up to 10 years in prison and as much as $50,000 in fines.

So where does that put us? Well, Ambassador Wilson, along with other serious observers, has come forward with information that at least six journalists were deliberately called by White House officials to plant the story, probably in order to intimidate Wilson and others. If this is true, it should not be very hard for the Department of Justice, which has been called in by President Bush to investigate, to discover the truth behind this matter.

But the damning elements for the administration are all of its own making. >From day one of this presidency, there has been no place in the White House for anyone who disagrees; journalists who question White House officials are never invited in; you are with the little "bund" of true believers or you are not. And if you are not, there is a price to pay.

Meanwhile, Joe Wilson is a charming and intellectual man who insists that far from being some Democratic Party ideologue, he donated $2,000 to the Bush presidential campaign. He is a man who knows war--unlike the administration's neo-cons, who to a man lived by deferment after deferment to military service; it was Wilson who stayed behind in Baghdad in 1990 and gave heart to the dozens of Americans then held hostage by Hussein.

Which is all kind of funny, since it is the neo-cons who constantly make fun of the State Department diplomats, saying they're without spirit, guts or fight. Clearly, they have met their match--and the bout is only beginning.
"I am only one, but I am one.
I cannot do everything, but I can do something.
And because I cannot do everything, I will not refuse to do the something that I can do.
What I can do, I should do. And what I should do, by the grace of God, I will do."
---Edward Everett Hale


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