When Robert Novak published the information that Joseph Wilson’s wife, Valerie Plame, was a CIA officer, he was doing double time as a political operative for the White House. Some high official decided that Wilson must be punished for having exposed the administration’s disinformation campaign about Iraq attempting to get uranium from Niger to build a bomb.That the White House was out to get Wilson is not in doubt. As the Washington Post reported on September 28, “Yesterday, a senior administration official said that before Novak’s column ran, two top White House officials called at least six Washington journalists and disclosed the identity and occupation of Wilson’s wife. … ‘Clearly, it was meant purely and simply for revenge,’ the senior official said of the alleged leak.”Wilson thinks the planted story was a warning—a successful one. “I’ve always thought that this was designed much more to intimidate others and discourage them from coming forward than anything to do with me,” he told National Public Radio. “[T]here were any number of people from the analytical community who had spoken privately to reporters about the pressure that they felt when the vice president, his chief of staff and Mr. Gingrich went out to the CIA for briefings. Now as a result of that, a number of senators called for hearings and urged that these people step forward and speak. … Since Mr. Novak’s article appeared, that sort of information appears to have dried up.”Larry Johnson, a former CIA officer and a Republican, has given the White House notice that the CIA knows who in the administration planted the story—and implicitly that this betrayal will not go unanswered. Interviewed on Pacifica’s “Democracy Now,” Johnson said, “I’ve been told by someone who I believe has direct knowledge that it came out of the Old Executive Office Building. I’m not gonna identify specific individuals because I think that has to be carried out by the Justice Department to investigate. And I don’t want to try people in public.” He gave the press this tip: “The reporters aren’t doing their job. How about asking the follow-up question [to the one ‘Did it come out of the White House?’] ‘Did it come out of the Old Executive Office Building?’ ” That is where Vice President Dick Cheney has his office.
Joel Bleifuss, a former director of the Peace Studies Program at the University of Missouri-Columbia, is the editor & publisher of In These Times, where he has worked since October 1986.