Monday, June 4, 2007

Jason Leopold | An Interview With Joseph Wilson


An Interview With Joseph Wilson
By Jason Leopold, t r u t h o u t | Report, Monday 04 June 2007

In a recent interview, former US Ambassador Joseph Wilson told me that he and his wife, Valerie Plame Wilson, both strongly feel that Vice President Dick Cheney is behind efforts to block her from discussing her work for the Central Intelligence Agency before 2002 in a memoir to be published in October. The memoir is titled "Fair Game." Plame Wilson's undercover CIA identity was leaked to a handful of reporters by senior Bush administration officials. She and her husband believe the leak was retaliation after he spoke out against the White House concerning Iraq.

In July 2003, Wilson wrote an op-ed article in the New York Times, accusing the Bush administration of twisting prewar Iraq intelligence in an effort to win public support for a US-led invasion of that country.

Upon reviewing her manuscript, the CIA told Plame Wilson she cannot disclose that she worked for the agency prior to 2002 - even though it is public information and has been entered into the Congressional Record. Last week, Plame Wilson and her publisher, Simon & Schuster, sued the CIA in US District Court in New York for unconstitutionally interfering with her rights to free speech.

"This is Richard Cheney's last attempt to try to stifle free speech in this country, and we'll beat the son of a bitch on that too, if we have to," Wilson told me in a 30-minute interview at his office in Santa Fe, New Mexico. "We will find the work-around to make sure this happens - that she will be able to tell her story, so that somebody other than Dick Cheney, Scooter Libby, Rich Armitage and Karl Rove can talk about her."

Wilson and his wife have filed a civil suit against top administration officials - among them Vice President Dick Cheney, White House Political Adviser Karl Rove and Cheney's former Chief of Staff I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, for allegedly violating his and Plame Wilson's civil rights when they disclosed her covert CIA status to the media. The defendants have argued that the lawsuit should be dismissed on grounds that it was a "policy dispute." However, Wilson told me he believed that the judge presiding over the case felt the case had merit and took issue with assertions made by Cheney's attorneys that Cheney, in his capacity as vice president, was entitled to absolute immunity from lawsuits.

"I think we came away feeling that the judge clearly saw that a wrong had been committed," Wilson told me. The judge is expected to render a decision in less than a month on whether the civil suit can move forward. "The judge was skeptical of this notion of absolute immunity. He made the point, I think repeatedly, that absolute immunity was a unique feature of the Office of the President, and not necessarily of the Office of the Vice President."

Libby was convicted earlier this year of four counts of perjury, obstruction of justice and lying to a grand jury about how he discovered that Plame Wilson was a CIA employee, and whether he discussed her role at the agency with the media. He is scheduled to be sentenced Tuesday.

Wilson's stinging rebuke of the administration's reliance on what later turned out to be a set of forged documents angered senior Bush administration officials. The documents purportedly revealed that Iraq was attempting to obtain uranium from Niger to build an atomic bomb. Wilson had traveled to the African country of Niger in February 2002 on behalf of the CIA to investigate the allegations. He returned to the US and told a CIA briefer that the claims were unfounded. President Bush cited the claims as fact in his January 2003 State of the Union speech.

A federal investigation led by Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald later found that numerous White Officials had retaliated against and sought to discredit Joseph Wilson for publicly claiming that the administration had manipulated Iraq intelligence by telling a handful of elite Washington, DC reporters that Wilson's investigation into the Niger claims could not be trusted. The administration told the reporters that Valerie Plame Wilson worked at the CIA and had arranged to send her husband to Niger. The officials suggested that the trip was the result of nepotism. Plame Wilson testified before Congress this year that she had had no role in selecting her husband for the mission.

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Jason Leopold is a former Los Angeles bureau chief for Dow Jones Newswire. He has written over 2,000 stories on the California energy crisis and received the Dow Jones Journalist of the Year Award in 2001 for his coverage on the issue as well as a Project Censored award in 2004. Leopold also reported extensively on Enron's downfall and was the first journalist to land an interview with former Enron president Jeffrey Skilling following Enron's bankruptcy filing in December 2001. Leopold has appeared on CNBC and National Public Radio as an expert on energy policy and has also been the keynote speaker at more than two dozen energy industry conferences around the country.

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