In today’s Washington Post ombudsman column, “Covert Question, Open Controversy,” Deborah Howell says, “Wilson's New York Times op-ed piece, critical of the Bush administration's use of intelligence, set off a chain of events that led to the disclosure of Plame's job.”
But information and testimony revealed during the course of the Libby Trial indicates that it wasn't Wilson's op-ed piece that set the off the chain of events leading to their disclosure of the CIA WMD analyst and her covert network. The Bush administration began its campaign to discredit Valerie Plame/Wilson at least a month prior to the release of her husband's article.
I can’t criticize Howell for her focus on the op-ed as the ball that got the campaign rolling. I, and most of the media, having been basically taking the same line in previous postings on this topic. Most of the writers on the CIA leak have been doing the same. Joseph Wilson’s book, The Politics of Truth: A Diplomat's Memoir: Inside the Lies that Led to War and Betrayed My Wife's CIA Identity, takes the same tack: that the outing of CIA analyst Valerie Plame, Wilson’s wife, was retaliation for Wilson’s July 6, 2003, op-ed column, “What I Didn’t Find in Africa.”
But when Wilson wrote his book, he did not have access to behind-the-scenes discussions about his wife now revealed through the perjury and obstruction trial of I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, Vice President Cheney’s former chief of staff. Retaliation there was, in spades, but testimony and documents in the Libby trial demonstrate, unrefuted, that administration discussion of Mrs. Wilson began several weeks before Wilson’s column appeared.
The reasons why are still unclear, and the prosecution was not permitted to delve into ramifications of the leak. But that the administration was already targeting both Wilson and his wife, Valerie --- overseeing a crucial intelligence network monitoring WMD activity in the middle east --- is now beyond question.
So why, beyond Wilson's op-ed, was the Bush Administration previously so intent on discrediting one of its own CIA assets?...