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The Politics of Truth: Inside the Lies That Put the White House on Trial and Betrayed My Wife's CIA Identity

The Politics of Truth: Inside the Lies That Put the White House on Trial and Betrayed My Wife's CIA Identity

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by Joseph Wilson

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With a new investigative epilogue by a prominent Washington journalist and a new foreword by the author. Ambassador Joseph Wilson recounts more than two decades of foreign service to our country in this unprecedented look at the life of an American diplomat and an unabashed account of policies that sometimes succeeded and sometimes failed. As the last American


With a new investigative epilogue by a prominent Washington journalist and a new foreword by the author. Ambassador Joseph Wilson recounts more than two decades of foreign service to our country in this unprecedented look at the life of an American diplomat and an unabashed account of policies that sometimes succeeded and sometimes failed. As the last American official to meet with Saddam before Desert Storm, Wilson successfully parried the dictator's threats to use American hostages as human shields against U.S. bombing. Yet today he finds himself battling threats from his own government because he called a lie a lie. When President Bush alleged that Iraq had pursued uranium from Africa for its nuclear weapons program, Wilson could not stand silent. He had traveled to Niger the previous year and found no evidence to support the president's claim. To intimidate Wilson, senior administration officials disclosed the undercover status of Wilson's wife, CIA operative Valerie Plame, to the press, putting her life in danger. Rather than backing down, Wilson persistently criticized the way the administration misled the nation into war. Now he continues his fight in this groundbreaking book by revealing the perils bred by the war-hungry regime in the White House.

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The Politics of Truth

A Diplomat's Memoir: Inside the Lies That Led to War and Betrayed My Wife's CIA Identity
By Joseph Carter Wilson

Carroll & Graf Publishers

Copyright © 2005 Joseph Carter Wilson
All right reserved.

ISBN: 0786715510

Chapter One

"'WILSON'S WIFE IS FAIR GAME.'" Those are fighting words for any man, and I'd just had them quoted to me by MSNBC'S Chris Matthews. It was July 21, 2003, barely a week since a column by Robert Novak in the Washington Post had named my wife, Valerie, as a CIA officer, and now the host of Hardball was calling to tell me that as far as the White House was concerned, they had declared open season on my family.

In his signature staccato, Matthews was blunt: "I just got off the phone with Karl Rove. He says, and I quote, 'Wilson's wife is fair game.'" Before abruptly hanging up, Matthews added: "I will confirm that if asked." As head of the White House political office and one of President George W. Bush's closest advisers, Rove was legendary for his right-wing zeal and take-no-prisoners operating style. But what he was doing now was tantamount to declaring war on two U.S. citizens, both of them with years of government service.

Together, my wife and I had been on the media equivalent of Mr. Toad's Wild Ride since the appearance of a piece I had written for the New York Times op-ed page on July 6. In it, I stated that the Bush administration had been informed a year and a half earlier that their claims of Iraqi attempts to purchase uranium from Niger were false. I knew what information the administration had about Niger because in early March 2002 I had briefed the CIA on the results of a trip I had made for them to that African country. As a former diplomat with years of experience in Africa, I had been asked by the Agency to go to Niger to investigate whether reports of a uranium deal that may have been made with Iraq were credible. I had found nothing to substantiate the rumors. But my report-and two others from American officials had apparently been disregarded, while an unsubstantiated report that first appeared in a British white paper in September 2002 had somehow found its way into the president's State of the Union address delivered on January 28, 2003. Speaking before Congress, the nation, and the world, President Bush had confidently declared: "The British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa."

But his confidence was misplaced. The documents that formed the basis for that flat assertion were not submitted by the State Department to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) until early February 2003, after the president's speech. On March 7, the IAEA went on the record with the verdict that the documents were "not authentic." The next day, the State Department claimed that it had been taken in by the forgeries.

However, while the administration was admitting that the reference in the State of the Union address had been based on now-discredited sources that claimed there had been a Niger-Iraq deal, White House officials also continued to dissemble what they had actually known at the time of the president's speech. In fact, they had chosen to ignore three reports that had been in their files for nearly a year: mine as well as two others-one submitted by the American ambassador to Niger, Barbro Owens-Kirkpatrick, and the other by four-star Marine Corps General Carleton Fulford, who had also traveled there. Instead, the administration chose to give credence to forgeries so crude that even Panorama, the Italian weekly magazine that first received them, had declined to publish. The administration had ample evidence that there was nothing to the uranium charge but went ahead and placed the inflammatory claim in the State of the Union address anyway.

For four months, from March to July, I did what I could to encourage the White House to come clean on what it knew, including speaking to people close to the administration, senior officials at the State Department, and to the staffs of the House and Senate Intelligence Committees. One senior official told me frankly that I probably would have to write the story myself. I also spoke on background to reporters and voiced openly to Democrats and Republicans alike my dismay at the continued administration stonewalling in the face of reasonable queries from the press.

In late June, the story, began to spin out of control as journalists started to report speculation as fact. At this point I was warned by a reporter that I was about to be named in an article as the U.S. official in question. Learning this, I concluded that the time had come to speak out in my own name in order to set the record straight. Over the article I wrote for the New York Times op-ed page ran the words "What I Didn't Find in Africa." Instantly, the media spotlight found me, and the subsequent uproar included not-unexpected attacks on my credibility and my motives. I was accused of being a partisan Democrat who had long been against invading Iraq, and characterized as someone who had no particular qualifications to undertake such a mission. However, none of this criticism was credible, given my background and the positions I had taken with regard to Iraq and the possibility of war.

The problem for the White House was that despite their orchestrated efforts to focus attention on me as the subject of the controversy, there was still its own admission, made the day after the publication of my article, that the Africa uranium claim "does not rise to the level that we would put in a presidential speech."

I spoke to a number of people from both parties in the days immediately following my Times appearance. Sandy Berger, President Clinton's national security adviser, was as cogent as he was concise. Since the Bush people never backed down, he pointed out, the fact that they had been so quick to admit their error this time meant that they must have something more important to protect. A Republican from the first Bush administration offered a different take, noting with delight that now "real" Republicans finally had the ammunition they needed to confront the neoconservatives whose influence permeated this administration. My favorite reaction came from John Prendergast, who worked with me at the National Security Council from 1997 to 1998. No doubt alluding to my many years in Africa, he had this to say: "Congratulations, you're like the baboon who's thrown the turd that finally hit the target and stuck."

Clearly, a consensus was emerging that the credibility of the president had taken a hit.

Eight days after my article appeared, on July 14, the focus of attack abruptly shifted when conservative pundit Robert Novak, writing about me in his syndicated column in the Washington Post, asserted that "his wife, Valerie Plame, is an Agency operative on weapons of mass destruction. Two senior administration officials told me Wilson's wife suggested sending him to Niger to investigate the Italian report." No administration official came forth to acknowledge being the source of this leak-which was definitely a breach of national security and, quite possibly, a violation of federal law. David Corn, from The Nation magazine, had alerted me and later written the first article pointing out that the disclosure by way of the Novak article might have violated the 1982 Intelligence Identities Protection Act. But, whether illegal or not, it was still an unwelcome intrusion into my wife's private life.

Then came the call from Chris Matthews. Now I have a name, I thought. The political director of the White House, Karl Rove, condoned the attack on Valerie and was retailing it to reporters, whether or not he had actually been the source behind it. For a president who had promised to restore dignity and honor to the White House, this behavior from a trusted adviser was neither dignified nor honorable. In fact, it was downright dirty and highly unethical even in a town where the politics of personal destruction are the local pastime.

After Matthews's call. I started cursing a blue streak, for he hadn't been the first to tell me that the White House was actively promoting the leak of my wife's name and employment. The night before, on July 20, NBC'S Andrea Mitchell had phoned to say that "senior White House sources" had stressed to her that "the real story here is not the sixteen words in the State of the Union but Wilson and his wife." But, unlike Matthews, Mitchell had stopped short of naming her sources to me.

After a deep breath and a pensive moment staring out my office window down onto Pennsylvania Avenue barely a block from the White House, I tried to figure out why the administration would take this tack. What were they trying to suggest to the press? Were they suggesting that my wife had somehow influenced a decision to send me to the middle of the Sahara Desert? Were they implying that this had been nepotism, or some kind of a junket? At the time of my Niger trip, Valerie and I had had two-year old twins at home, a full-time job for both of us. My trip had cost the government nothing except travel and expenses, as I had given my time pro bono. Niamey was not Nassau in the Bahamas, but rather the capital of one of the poorest countries in the world.

Apart from being the conduit of a message from a colleague in her office asking if I would be willing to have a conversation about Niger's uranium industry, Valerie had had nothing to do with the matter. Though she worked on weapons of mass destruction issues, she was not at the meeting I attended where the subject of Niger's uranium was discussed, when the possibility of my actually traveling to the country was broached. She definitely had not proposed that I make the trip.

Then it struck me that the attack by Rove and the administration on my wife had little to do with her but a lot to do with others who might also be tempted to speak out. There had been a number of anonymous leaks to reporters from the intelligence community during the late spring and early summer of 2003, claiming that Vice President Cheney, his chief of staff, Lewis "Scooter" Libby, and even former Speaker of the House of Representatives Newt Gingrich had pressured analysts to skew intelligence analyses to back up the administration's preconceived political intentions.

On June 12, Walter Pincus filed this report in the Washington Post: "a senior CIA analyst said the case 'is indicative of larger problems' involving the handling of intelligence about Iraq's alleged chemical, biological and nuclear weapons programs and its links to al Qaeda, which the administration cited as justification for war. 'Information not consistent with the administration agenda was discarded and information that was [consistent] was not seriously scrutinized,' the analyst said.

"As the controversy over Iraq intelligence has expanded with the failure so far of U.S. teams in Iraq to uncover proscribed weapons, intelligence officials have accused senior administration policymakers of pressuring the CIA or exaggerating intelligence information to make the case for war."

Congressional leaders had expressed a desire to hear from these analysts, and had spoken out to reassure them that there would be no negative consequences for coming forward.

This attack on Valerie may have been the White House's way of saying that yes, indeed, there would be consequences if anybody else dared to speak out publicly. The message to mid-career intelligence officers was clear: Should you decide to speak, we will come after you and your family. Anyone not accustomed to the rough-and-tumble of Washington politics would naturally wonder if the game was worth the candle.

But how stupid, I thought. The suggestion that Valerie might have improperly influenced the decision to send me to Niger was easy to disprove. The White House had already acknowledged that the Niger uranium link was unsubstantiated. Yes, I had been among those who early on reported this but at the moment, it should have been the administration's priority to find out who had betrayed the president by putting lies in his mouth, rather than to attack someone who had brought the truth to him.

The White House gained nothing by publicizing Valerie's name, and actually stood to lose a lot. It marked a terrible breach of faith between the clandestine service of the CIA and the government it served, and it made my wife a victim. What the White House seemed not to understand, however, was that this attempt to divert the media's attention from the lie in the State of the Union address was only going to complicate matters for them. In addition to the question of who was responsible for putting the offending sixteen words into the president's speech, the press now had a possible violation of law to pursue, not to mention an ugly violation of the code of cowboy chivalry promoted by this administration as the warmer, fuzzier side of its image.

Whoever had okayed dragging my wife into my disagreement with the administration wanted to punish me for bringing to light a lie-a lie that, when exposed, undermined the administration's public rationale for invading Iraq. This was the situation as I understood it, and no part of it was acceptable to me. I was committed to the truth, and it was clear that that meant not just speaking out about it, but also pursuing any untruths to their source, no matter how highly placed.

Seventeen months earlier, on a cold, clear morning in early February 2002, I had driven across the Potomac River ten minutes from my Washington, D.C., home to CIA headquarters in Langley, Virginia, to discuss the Niger uranium industry. This meeting was not unusual for me. During my twenty-three-year career as a diplomat, I had often met with members of the intelligence community to share my knowledge of the countries I worked in. It is the job of the CIA's deputy directorate for intelligence (DDI) to analyze the millions of bits of data the U.S. government receives daily. Like researchers everywhere, the analysts are a close-knit group of experts in a cloistered world of paper and computers, working side by side in windowless cubicles. Their exposure to real life, as it goes on every day out in the field, is limited. They don't often come into contact with the subjects of their study or have the chance to walk the ground, smell the smells, and immerse themselves in the habits and mores of the cultures from which this information is steadily being gleaned.

And while we policy types rely on the analysts to provide necessary underpinning for decisions the U.S. government makes, so too do the analysts want to hear what we have to say. It gives them a chance to test their working hypotheses and also to get closer to the nitty-gritty. It is not unlike the sports bettor, whose chances for a winning wager are enhanced if he has access to insider information on the health and fitness of the players in the contest.



Excerpted from The Politics of Truth by Joseph Carter Wilson Copyright © 2005 by Joseph Carter Wilson. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Meet the Author

Joseph Wilson, a political centrist, was a career United States diplomat from 1976 to 1998. During Democratic and Republican administrations he served in various diplomatic posts throughout Africa and eventually as ambassador to Gabon. He was the acting ambassador to Baghdad when Iraq invaded Kuwait in 1990. In February 2002, as special envoy to Niger he investigated reports of Iraq's attempt to buy nuclear material there. In October 2003, Wilson received the Ron Ridenhour Prize for Truth-Telling from the Fertel Foundation and the Nation Institute. He lives in Washington, D.C.

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Politics of Truth: Inside the Lies that Led to War and Betrayed My Wife's CIA Identity 3.4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 18 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
What an insight to the way our government 'works'. Joseph Wilson's indepth analysis and detailed encounter on how our government irresponsibly handled their priveledged power and jeopardized security is appalling. As an American, I am appalled and as a Republican I am ashamed. I am still in the midst of this memoir and I am enthralle with it now as I was with the preface. This is a must read, an eye opener, and is a pertinent current event we are still dealing with, and will continue to deal with, for years to come.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This can be a good read if you like to read about the nuts and bolts of being a diplomat. But his basic premise, and the only reason anyone would read this book seems to have been a lie... The British and the Senate have finally released reports on the fated 16 words that bush used in the State of the Union address saying that Saddam was trying to get uranium from Niger, which is what started Joe on his quest. To make a long story short, Joe was the liar! He went to Nigeria, but he in no way refuted British intelligence's claim that Saddam had tried to buy uranium from them. Not to mention the fact that one of the only reasons he was there was because his wife recomended him to be there. Then it was HE who started to twist the facts to meet HIS criteria (he didn't want the war, and this president, so he tried very hard to convince himself, and others, that Saddam wasn't a threat) This book could go down in political history as one of the more ironic titles, it will be fun to see who the apologists are and who owns up to buying into the hype BEFORE the facts came out? He should have been satisfied to hate Bush for any of a number of reasons, he didn't have to make anything up.
Guest More than 1 year ago
One of the greatest surprises emanating from this tightly written and immensely entertaining book by former Ambassador Joseph Wilson is the fact that he spins so wide and long a tale about his life's adventure, and chooses not to concentrate as much on the more immediate predicament surrounding his own misadventure to Niger in search of some evidence regarding the alleged attempt by Iraqis to buy 'gold-cake' on the black market from sources inside that country. I was spellbound by his narrative of his years within the Foreign Service, especially as it pertained to his time assigned to Baghdad in the months leading up to the 1991 Gulf War. Those of us who admire men who can traverse the slippery slopes between academia and the real world politics of the late 20th century will enjoy the anecdotes Wilson spins in recounting his some thirty years of involvement within the public domain, years spent admirably serving the country. It is within the context of this long and honorable service that one winces at the account of how he and his wife, an operations officer for the Central Intelligence Agency, come to find themselves lodged in the reckless cross-hairs of an administration scorned and looking for political revenge. Wilson, of course, famously denied the allegations that President Bush had stated that he was not aware of the fact that the alleged Iraqi effort to buy yellow-cake uranium on the black market was a hoax, one based on a very bad attempt at forging the relevant documents. Instead, Wilson insisted he had dutifully reported the hoax to proper authorities, up to and including Vice President Dick Cheney's staff. So the idea that the administration was under the erroneous impression that the alleged incident was credible simply was not true, according to Wilson. Thus, Mr. Bush's unfortunate use of the allegation in the January 2003 State Of The Union address to the nation amounted to a deliberate misleading of the public regarding Iraq and its actions leading up to the decision to invade later that year. It is certainly true that Mr. Wilson may have his own anti-Bush political agenda that he is attempting to forward with this book, and it may be true that he has taken sides with the Democratic Party in an election year. Yet no one has yet refuted the basic claims he has made in the book; namely that people within the administration deliberately and provocatively exposed his wife's name to the public by leaking the fact that she was a CIA agent to veteran columnist Robert Novak. Why Novak would then take it upon himself to recklessly endanger the woman by printing her name for any potential foe to learn is simply beyond comprehension. To me this was a despicable act for which Mr. Novak should be punished, regardless of his journalistic cover. This is a great book, one that will be far more enjoyable than anyone has a right to expect from a tome supposedly written and focused on current events. Enjoy
Guest More than 1 year ago
I cannot wait for this book to come out in April. This story is the 'reality who-done-it' of the year. A former ambassador goes to Africa to determine if some intelligence, later cited in the State of the Union by Bush, is true or false. He determines it is false and tells that to the administration. Using that information we go to war to stop Hussein in Iraq. Someone in the administration releases the name of an undercover CIA agent, the ambassador's wife, and the story is told in the column of a popular newspaper columnist. The background of this story would not be considered as a proposal for a fiction novel and it is all true. As I wrote, I cannot wait.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Guest More than 1 year ago
It took only two years to let history confirm the dubious claims of Ambassador Wilson's book. Not only did the Butler commission confirm that Iraq indeed approached officials in Niger for enriched uranium, but it was actually a State Department official, Richard Armitage who 'outed' Wilson's wife.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Prior to reading this book, I had many ideas about this administration, and their objectives. There was no doubt in my mind and Mr Wilson confirmed that one of the goals of this president was to effect a regime change in Iraq. It was almost as if this president was on a mission to finsish the job his father did not do. The other tragic aspect of this whole affair is how this Reublican administration (including Mr. Giuliani) have used 9/11 as a pre text to engage in war. Mr. Wilson should be applauded for writing such a book not only for the uncovering of his wife, but also for describing his life as a diplomat in the unknown continent of Africa. This man should be thanked by our leaders , rather than attacked for his duty to our country during the days leading up to Desert Storm. Perhaps this president of ours and his henchmen should take a lesson from Joe Wilson.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Mr. Wilson is extremely successful as making himself appear to be more than he is. What he is is someone who wants to continue to be in public view and is pretty willing to do what it takes to get there. Hope all of you are around when he (standing next to T. Kennedy, Kerry, H. Clinton, Reid, Boxer, Durbin and others) apologize for their words of hate - Oh, yawn - that was a crazy dream (waking up in the middle of the apology)!
Guest More than 1 year ago
Sorry to all those who read this book and thought it great. July 9th, 2004 Wilson was found to have lied about everything. This book is completely worthless now because of that report.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book raises even more questions about the IRAQ issue. I think this book helps to put matters in perspective. When compared to Bob Woodard's plan of attack, it will definitely leave the reader wondering. Looking at the IRAQ issue from an objective point of view, the fact that there are unanswered questions is disturbing. This book high lights those questions, and until the questions are answered, it will always cast doubt on what really was the reason that lead us to war!!!
Guest More than 1 year ago
the book is good
Guest More than 1 year ago
what another marvelous read this time by ambassador wilson, and what our beloved president and staff almost did to his wife-cia agent! they could have got her killed. why?? because ambassador wilson spoke out at the start of this iraqui war, initiated by mr. bush as a vendetta for his dad-hussein had attempted to take out gwb's dad so this fool hearty prez. went after sudam, rather than osama! it is a great read, very frightening because all of this is real! what's it going to take to get this utter doofus and all his staff out of the white house before it's too late for all of us?? please do vote responsibly in november and god help us!
Guest More than 1 year ago
again, the deceitful bush administration has literally tried and succeeded in destroying the life of one of their top cia agents, because her husband could not stay silent any longer on the iraq situation! this is the most frightening book yet on the lying cowardly staff team behind mr. bush! they seem to stop at nothing to cover up or shut up anything/anyone that dares to speak against what they have done! this is a must read for every voter in this country who still longs for the truth as well as an honest president-something we sorely lack now!
Guest More than 1 year ago
It's about time we got to the bottom of this and someone has. Wilson reveals the true nature of The Bush White House
Guest More than 1 year ago
When all is told ..not only will this administration be remembered for its outright lies to build a war. And, sadly the loss of american lives..jobs ..and respect within the global community. This president will be known to all As the WORST since HERBERT HOOVER. Remember colin powell with the pictures of the WMD's.. Remember Richard Clarke...REMEMBER 1973. The ghost of Nixon LIVES....... for evey year george bush has been in power it will take 4 years to recover from all that the smirking chimp has done to average americans.... Stand up and make your vote count this fall. Please for the sake of all humanity.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This guys policital agenda is made more suspect by his timing during an election year.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book is simply writings from a man with a huge left-wing agenda. He could care less about our economy.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Too bad Joe cannot tell the truth. His wife was not a covert agent ( posing on magazine covers is covert? ). Joe was NOT an ambassador, he was more like a high class janitor/handyman/manager of the ambassador building.