When will the Washington Post editorial page decide to stop smearing Joe and Valerie Wilson? The Post is up in arms over Hollywood's "disregard for the truth" and is out in print today with an editorial trying to discredit the Wilson's and the movie. Good on the Post. Their editorial is a tangible reminder that the Post's editorial team has learned nothing from its shameful cheerleading for the Bush invasion of Iraq and its defense of the leak that destroyed the career of a covert CIA case officer -- Valere Plame.
What is driving the Post on this matter? Is it the commercial and critical success of Fair Game, the movie based on the book by Valerie Plame Wilson recounting the professional and personal harm inflicted on her and her family because her husband, Ambassador Joe Wilson, who had the audacity to call out the Bush Administration for lying to the American people about the rationale for going to war in Iraq? Is it lingering petty anger at Joe Wilson because he published the famous op-ed in the pages of the New York Times rather than the Post challenging the Bush Administration's claim that Iraq was buying yellowcake uranium?
It is the essence of irony that the Post's editorial page, which acquired a reputation of journalistic courage for pursuing Richard Nixon's abuses of power, is to now using that platform to act as the chief apologist for George W. Bush's ill-conceived and unjustified war in Iraq by attacking people like Joe and Valerie Wilson.
Today's editorial concludes with this:
Mr. Wilson claimed that he had proved that Mr. Bush deliberately twisted the truth about Iraq, and he was eagerly embraced by those who insist the former president lied the country into a war. Though it was long ago established that Mr. Wilson himself was not telling the truth - not about his mission to Niger and not about his wife -- the myth endures. We'll join the former president in hoping that future historians get it right.
When it comes to truth twisting on Iraq the Washington Post should look in the mirror. Joe's op-ed in the NY Times did not make the claim that Joe, "proved that Mr. Bush deliberately twisted the truth." Joe Wilson wrote:
Did the Bush administration manipulate intelligence about Saddam Hussein's weapons programs to justify an invasion of Iraq?
Based on my experience with the administration in the months leading up to the war, I have little choice but to conclude that some of the intelligence related to Iraq's nuclear weapons program was twisted to exaggerate the Iraqi threat.
If the Post is going to skewer Hollywood for alleged inaccuracies then it ought to lead by example and get its facts scrupulously correct. Nowhere in that July 2003 did Joe Wilson accuse George W. Bush of lying.
The Post also repeats the vicious, despicable claim that Ambassador Wilson lied about his wife. The only one lying in this matter is the Post's editorial page. These are the simple facts:
Valerie Wilson was covert CIA case officer who was still under non-official cover status when Robert Novak, with help from the White House of George W. Bush, exposed her identity. The Washington Post continues to insist that only State Department's Richard Armitage was to blame, when the public record, including testimony in the Scooter Libby trial, shows that White House officials Karl Rove and Ari Fleischer, among others, were spreading Val's name around town with various reporters. The fact that those reporters did not publish the information, and thus insulated the likes of Rove and Fleischer against being indicted, does not change the fact that there was a coordinated White House effort to use Valerie's identity and association to discredit Joe.
If accurate reporting is the standard it is worth noting that Pincus and Leiby also reported:
The movie effectively dispenses with the canard that Valerie Plame Wilson was not a covert operative... the question of how Joe Wilson was picked for the unpaid Niger assignment. Here, the picture gets it right. The CIA says its counterproliferation officials selected Wilson and asked his wife to contact him; she did not "recommend" him. In fact, agency officials had used him for an earlier overseas assignment.
Valerie was Chief of Operations on the Directorate of Operations Iraq Task Force. She had the job of running field operations with human assets to uncover Iraqi efforts to acquire nuclear technologies. What Valerie did was so sensitive that the CIA continues to deny her the legal right admit to having worked for the CIA prior to February 2002. The CIA insist on the legal fiction seven years after her identity was exposed and still demands that she not acknowledge in public what is already in the public domain. No intelligence organization make such demands on a person who was just a "desk jockey" or "glorified secretary."
The exposure of Valerie's position as a CIA officer not only destroyed her career, but caused significant damage to the national security of the United States. Of course the Post editorial page is loathe to admit that fact. Today's editorial includes the following claim:
The movie portrays Ms. Plame as having cultivated a group of Iraqi scientists and arranged for them to leave the country, and it suggests that once her cover was blown, the operation was aborted and the scientists were abandoned. This is simply false. In reality, as The Post's Walter Pincus and Richard Leiby reported, Ms. Plame did not work directly on the program, and it was not shut down because of her identification.
Well, actually, we do not know the specifics of what Valerie did and did not do at the CIA. As noted above the CIA refuses to this day to acknowledge that Valerie worked at the CIA prior to February 2002. Pincus and Leiby wrote:
It's true that Valerie Plame Wilson was working with one of the CIA's teams trying to gather intelligence on Iraq WMD operations, but she evidently did not play the central role that the film puts her in. She was not directly part of the scientist program, according to agency officials. . .
Although the film suggests that the blowing of Valerie's cover led directly to the shutdown of the Iraqi scientist exfiltration, an intelligence insider told us: "Something like this, if it was going on, wouldn't have been canceled for this reason."
Although the movie does a good job of representing the kind of work that Valerie did as a case officer, it does not tell what she really did because the CIA will not allow her to talk. Valerie did not, cannot and does not talk about what she did. She's kept her part of the bargain that came with taking a job at CIA even though many senior CIA officials neglected to hold up their part of the bargain. I find it curious that CIA officials acknowledge that she did work on the scientist program but "not directly." So enough of the anonymous quotes to reporters. Let's get everyone on the record. I know that Valerie is ready to go. She has never been one to exaggerate her status. She is not your typical Washington-based bureaucratic climber who inflates their resume and work accomplishments.
Even though I still hold Top Secret clearances, Valerie has not divulged the specifics of what she did beyond the fact that she was Chief of Ops for the Iraq Task Force. What I know for certain is that she was undercover case officer because we, along with 50 plus other CIA employees, were in the same Career Trainee program. As a case officer she was responsible for handling spies -- i.e., foreign agents who agree to commit treason by giving secret information to the United States. It is amazing to me that an editor at the Post like Fred Hiatt can hold the position he does and insist on the nonsense that the exposure of a Non Official Covert officer's identity has caused no harm to our nation's security. Valerie handled information and sources far more sensitive than anything revealed in WikiLeaks.
The heart and soul of the movie Fair Game, however, is not about the details of who said what to whom but what people in power did to punish the Wilsons. There is one central, indisputable fact -- Valerie Plame was an undercover officer and people with direct ties to the office of Vice President Cheney were spreading her name around town in a clumsy effort to discredit her husband, Joe Wilson, for the simple act of telling what he knew about Bush Administration claims that Iraq was trying to buy uranium. But the movie also is about what happened in the lives of two American citizens who had loyally served their nation overseas in dangerous assignments and found themselves at the center of a White House driven smear campaign. That attack hurt Joe and Valerie economically and emotionally and almost destroyed their family. So much for the Republican commitment to "family values." Fortunate for us Joe and Valerie survived to tell their story in an intimate and unflinching look behind their front door.
Today's editorial in the
The Washington Post is not happy with Fair Game for one simple reason -- it documents for history the failure of the Post and others like it to do their job as journalists and the willingness of the Post to pay the role of hitman for political operatives at the White House. That's the nerve Fair Game hits and a powerful blow it is.