Greetings, everyone. Thrilled that I survived the first day... with two appearances to discuss my book Fair Game on live TV which, believe me, concentrates the mind. A little voice in my head is saying that maybe this book tour business could actually be fun. Finally, after 4 ½ years, I get to talk!
I caught a little bit of CIA Director General Michael Hayden on the Charlie Rose show last night (I got bumped for the General) and I think he gave ample evidence as to why civilian instead of military types should be in charge of our intelligence services. The core mission of the CIA is to provide unvarnished intelligence of national security import to policy makers. General Hayden casts the role of the CIA in paramilitary terms and unfortunately, had to spend most of his time defining "torture" (not using terms used in international treaties) and "rendition" and defending why these tactics help our national security, when in fact they have severely harmed our international credibility. I have heard from Washington friends that know General Hayden that he is a decent man and a "straight shooter". But there is no denying that he has been involved in or has overseen the NSA wiretapping of US citizens, legally questionable interrogations done by the CIA, initiated a "review" of the independent CIA Inspector General's office, and to be very parochial, my own case of censorship of my book.
My publisher has thoughtfully provided me with some commentary from right wing blogs about my book so that I may respond. I hate reading them because they can be terribly mean spirited. However, I will answer some of the valid questions that I see to further help set the record straight.
1. Was I at that "fateful" breakfast in May 2003 when Joe discussed his trip to Niger with New York Times columnist Nick Kristof? Not I was not at the breakfast which took place at a Democratic Senate weekend retreat on Maryland's Eastern Shore. Joe was invited to speak on a panel about our policy toward Iraq, and I attended simply as a "social spouse". It's called living your cover. I did not hear Joe and Nick's conversation on Niger. At the time, Joe was using discreet backchannels to try and understand why the infamous "sixteen words" appeared in the President's 2003 State of the Union address. This issue is not about Joe and Valerie Wilson -- it's about why those sixteen words appeared in the most important speech a President gives each year, especially on the eve of war.
2. Was Joe working for the Kerry campaign in the summer of 2003 when he penned his NY Times op-ed? At the time that Joe wrote his op-ed piece in July 2003, he was a volunteer member of John Kerry's Foreign Policy Committee, but he did not discuss his plans for his article with anyone at the campaign.
3. Didn't the State Dept. and the Pentagon chime in asking for the CIA stance on the February 12, 2002 Pentagon report that caught Cheney's eye and eventually led to a fateful phone call to Ms. Plame's unit of the CIA? An INR (the intelligence section of the State Department) memo released as evidence during the Libby trial showed that both the State Department and Joe saw no real need for him to travel to Niger to investigate further these allegations of a yellowcake transaction to Iraq. As both parties pointed out, there was already an American Ambassador and a four-star General who had looked into those claims and reported them to be empty.
4. Did I mention to Joe that I had written an email at the request of my boss to my Division Chief discussing Joe's credentials? No, I did not. I was writing probably hundreds of emails a day and that email was simply standard operating procedure. The Division Chief had been in another position when Joe made an earlier trip on uranium related matters on behalf of the CIA and I was seeking to remind him why my boss thought that Joe should be consulted about this latest claim about Niger. This, of course, was the email that the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence report (the Republican "Additional Views") section pulled out and cited as "proof" that I had recommended Joe.
I'm looking forward to being on Countdown with Keith Olberman tonight as Joe and I big fans. Cheers.