Four and a half years ago, after reading the Robert Novak column that outed Valerie Plame Wilson as a CIA operative specializing in counter-proliferation work, I wrote an article in this space noting that this particular leak from Bush administration officials might have been a violation of a federal law prohibiting government officials from disclosing information about clandestine intelligence officers and (perhaps worse) might have harmed national security by exposing anti-WMD operations. That piece was the first to identify the leak as a possible White House crime and the first to characterize the leak as evidence that within the Bush administration political expedience trumped national security.
The column drew about 100,000 visitors to this website in a day or so. And–fairly or not–it’s been cited by some as the event that triggered the Plame hullabaloo. I doubt that the column prompted the investigation eventually conducted by special counsel Patrick Fitzgerald, for I assume that had my column not appeared the CIA still would have asked the Justice Department to investigate the leak as a possible crime. But now that Fitzgerald’s investigation is long done, the Scooter Libby spin-off is over (thanks to George W. Bush’s total commutation of Libby’s sentence), and Valerie Wilson has finally published her account, it seems a good time to say, I was right. And to add, where’s the apology?
From the start, neocons and conservative backers of the war dismissed the Plame leak and subsequent scandal as a big nothing. Some even claimed that somehow former Ambassador Joseph Wilson and I had cooked up the episode to ensnare the White House. (Oh, to be so devilishly clever–and to be so competent.) But these attempts to belittle the affair (and to belittle Valerie Wilson) were based on nothing but baseless spin. As was–no coincidence–the Iraq war. In fact, the Wilson imbroglio was something of a proxy war for the debate over the war itself. In the summer of 2003, when the Plame affair broke, those in and out of government who had misled the nation into the war saw the need to spin their way out of the Wilson controversy in order to protect the false sales pitch they had used to win public support for the invasion of Iraq.
First they attacked Joe Wilson when he disclosed that he had gone to Niger in February 2002 for the CIA and had reported back that the allegation Saddam Hussein had been uranium-shopping there was highly dubious. Then when Valerie Wilson’s CIA identity was exposed during the get-Wilson campaign, they pooh-poohed the leak. They subsequently spent years doing so. Here’s a brief list of Plame attacks I’ve published before: