November 4, 2005
The Wilson Gambit
Senate Democrats employed a stealthy maneuver the other day, to
reinforce their demand into an affair they like to call “Plamegate.”
They are right that an investigation is required. But they have
gotten the subject matter wrong.
evidence suggests that the real scandal is the genesis, not the
unmasking, of an irregular and highly questionable mission: “the
Wilson Gambit.” It is time for serious examination, equipped
with the tools of subpoena and testimony under oath, into the
genesis and conduct of this anomalous operation.
media, of course, is entirely uninterested in determining why
the Wilson Gambit was undertaken. Once upon a time, the New
York Times and the rest of the American liberal establishment
worried about CIA dirty tricks aimed at influencing domestic politics.
The more effervescent leftists fulminated about a “secret
government” and muttered darkly about a threat to democracy
itself, emanating from Langley.
(and The Times) have changed! Today, the darlings of
the American left and its house organ are a CIA employee and her
husband, who set up and implemented a highly irregular operation
which, if not explicitly designed to do so, has had the net effect
of discrediting an elected leader and his foreign policy. The
Wilson Gambit was a stealth operation undertaken outside normal
procedures and supervision, used as a political weapon, complete
with lies spread by a cooperative media establishment interested
in bringing down a leader and his policies which they detest.
Zell Miller, a man of enormous stature, has done the nation a
great service in publicly raising questions about the intent
behind about the Wilson Gambit.
like a spy thriller. Institutional rivalries and political loyalties
have fostered an intelligence officer’s resentment against
the government. Suddenly, an opportunity appears for the agent
to undercut the national leadership. A vital question of intelligence
forms the core justification for controversial military actions
by the current leaders. If this agent can get in the middle
of that question, distort that information and make it public,
the agent might foster regime change in the upcoming election.
the rules on agents are clear. They can’t purposely distort
gathered intelligence, go public with secret information or
use their position or information to manipulate domestic elections
or matters without risking their job or jail.
their spouse can!
has substantial circumstantial evidence on his side when he infers
that the Plame/Wilson imbroglio may have been just such a set
up. The list of irregularities surrounding the Wilson Gambit is
formidable. Here are just a few:
didn’t the Agency require Wilson to sign a non disclosure
agreement respecting his trip to Niger?
A good question,
indeed, because this stunning lapse allowed him to make false
charges about it, to which the Administration could offer only
a limited, ineffective response without first declassifying information.
I don’t know the answer to the question, but it certainly
does suggest that those who believe this jaunt was a set up against
the Administration have more than a little basis for that belief.
Congress should make this question a prominent part of its inquiries
into the matter.
did they send him at all?
Ambassador to Niger said it was unnecessary and, as we know, Cheney
didn’t ask for this mission, despite Wilson’s intimations
to the contrary.
determined the specific questions to be asked in Niger?
Wilson posed were essentially meaningless. He asked the same questions
General Fulford had just asked. And those questions (drafted by
the CIA) were hardly intended to elicit meaningful information.
Moreover, Fulford had asked current officials and Wilson did not.
The inquiries never were about whether the Nigerien officials
had been approached by any countries to purchase uranium. The
Ambassador to Niger noted “we raised the issue in more general
terms rather than specifics.” Even with these limitations,
as the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence notes, Wilson learned
there had been a visit by a trade delegation from Iraq.
Niger’s other major export is cow peas, the Commission felt
his report strengthened,
rather than undercut the British report that Iraq had been attempting
to buy yellowcake in Africa.:
February 24, 2002, the U.S. Embassy in Niamey disseminated a
cable When the Iraq-Niger uranium reporting surfaced
in early February, Ambassador Owens-Kirkpatrick decided to ask
General Fulford to use the previously scheduled meeting to raise
the uranium issue with Nigerien officials. Ambassador Owens-Kirkpatrick
prepared talking points for General Fulford to use during his
visit and the CIA coordinated on the talking points.
the meeting, Nigerien President Tandja assured the ambassador
and General Fulford that Niger’s goal was to keep its
uranium “in safe hands” He [redacted]. In the comment
section of the cable, the embassy noted that in the past, “previous
Nigerien governments have suggested that the best way the [U.S.
government] could keep Niger’s uranium from the wrong
hands” was for the U.S. to purchase it. Ambassador
Owens-Kirkpatrick told Committee staff that during her meetings
with Nigerien officials, she never asked whether the officials
had been approached by any countries to purchase uranium. She
said, “we raised the issue in more general terms rather
February 26, 2002, the former ambassador arrived in Niger. He
told Committee staff that he first met with Ambassador Owens-Kirkpatrick
to discuss his upcoming meetings. Ambassador Owens-Kirkpatrick
asked him not to meet with current Nigerien officials because
she believed it might complicate her continuing diplomatic efforts
with them on the uranium issue. The former ambassador
agreed to restrict his meetings to former officials and the
former ambassador told Committee staff that he met with the
former Nigerien Prime Minister, the former Minister of Mines
and Energy, and other business contacts. At the end
of his visit, he debriefed Ambassador Owens-Kirkpatrick [redacted],
Chad. He told Committee staff that he had told both U.S. officials
he thought there was “nothing to the story.” Ambassador
Owens-Kirkpatrick told Committee staff she recalled the former
ambassador saying “he had reached the same conclusions
that the embassy had reached, that it was highly unlikely that
anything was going on.”
did the Agency pay only his expenses?
services were required – and they certainly appear to me
not to have been – why was he only reimbursed for his expenses?
I think it not impossible (having worked for the government myself)
that doing so would avoid having to go through the bureaucracy,
having to justify the trip, and leaving a paper trail in the personnel
and accounting offices. Paying only his expenses, which might
be hidden in the discretionary expenses of such an operation,
would have further disguised the Mission from superior officials
in the Agency.
Wilson leveled his charges, George Tenet seemed to have been unprepared
immediately to respond, as if he had no knowledge of the Mission.
And this gave Wilson more time to spread his lies unchecked by
a quick refutation.
have his report remain oral?
seems inexplicable to me and certainly adds to my suspicions that
the Mission was designed to minimize its paper trial. If minimizing
a paper trail was important, for what purpose? To sandbag the
Administration remains after all this time my best guess.
refer this to Department of Justice before completing
an in-house inquiry?
refer it at all, since it doesn’t appear she was covert
and the Mission itself ceased to be a secret once Wilson started
talking about it in May of 2003? It is my understanding that,
generally, a full in- house assessment is made before a decision
to refer the matter outside for investigation, and to the best
of my knowledge that wasn’t done here. Again, if my factual
predicate is right, what other conclusion but a deliberate plot
to tie up key Administration officials could there be?
leaked the referral letter from the CIA to the DoJ requesting
an investigation of the leak? And why was this information, itself
apparently classified, leaked?
(who works for Tim Russert, a key witness in the Libby case) first
reported the transmittal letter. She also has publicly admitted
that she knew of Plame’s employment with the agency before
Novak’s “outing” of Plame. From whom did she
get this classified information? Was it from the CIA or the DoJ?
And why was this leaked so quickly except to maximize the damage
to the Administration?
did the Agency not do more to prevent the publication of the Plame
story by Novak after it knew he intended to publish it?
Maguire notes, re the latest leak about the Al Qaeda prisons,
the CIA called the editor of the Washington Post and
asked that certain details not be published for national security
reasons and the paper complied with that request. There’s
a great deal more than who Novak’s sources were that we
don’t know. But at the moment it appears to me that Miller’s
proposed Plame Rule, applying the same limits to piblic comments
by spouses of CIA employees as to employees themselves, is both
warranted and more than two years overdue.
needs to hold hearings promptly.
Feldman is an attorney in Washington, DC. This piece first appeared
in The American Thinker.