Behind, the "leak," an educated guess
If you want to make an atomic weapon, the best source of illegal, yellowcake uranium is Niger. British intelligence steadfastly reconfirms its findings that agents of Saddam Hussein did, indeed, try to buy yellowcake uranium from Niger. Bush Administration opponents claim Saddam would not do anything so disreputable.
When the CIA was tasked by the White House to get to the bottom of the dispute, the CIA placed the matter into the hands of a big-time financial contributor to Bill Clinton and a max amount contributor to the campaign of current Democrat presidential candidate John Kerry. What? Yes, the CIA picked Clintonís former U.S. Ambassador to Gabon, Joseph C.Wilson IV, to go to Niger and conduct the investigation.
Arriving in Niger, Wilson offered to serve sweet mint tea to anyone who would come to his hotel suite and tell if they knew anything about agents of Saddam Hussein coming to Niger to purchase quantities of yellowcake uranium. On his return, Wilson filed a report that no one he spoke with knew anything about Saddam and yellowcake uranium. Dutifully, but regretfully, the Bush Administration made public Wilsonís report.
Evidently wanting to make sure every man, woman and child in America knew about his negative findings, Wilson launched a flurry of op-ed pieces and made himself available to the media. Wilsonís media efforts attracted the attention of Robert Novak, one of Washingtonís most respected newspaper columnists. But Novak wasnít interested in the yellowcake affair, per se. Novak wanted to know why the CIA would be so incredibly stupid to send a highly partisan Clinton appointee to investigate the yellowcake issue?
Novak says he did not obtain any information from White House sources. But he did talk with two senior Administration officials who explained the selection of Wilson was at the suggestion of Wilsonís wife, who happens to be employed at the Agency. This suggests Mrs. Wilson was in a policy or personnel role and not engaged in covert operations.
As would any reputable reporter or columnist, Novak called the CIA to see if Wilsonís wife did, indeed, work for the Agency. Novak knew better than publish the name of an Agency employee without checking first to see if the personís status was not supposed to be public knowledge.
The Agency spokesperson confirmed Wilsonís wife did work for the Agency. But, according to Novak, the Agency spokesperson made no claim that Mrs. Wilsonís employment status was covert and deserving of protection. Based on that, Novak printed her name in an attempt to explain why the CIA selected such an outspoken critic of the Bush Administration to go to Niger.
Mind you, 90 percent of Agency employees are not involved in covert operations. Before heading for the Langley campus, they hang their Agency ID cards around their necks, wave goodbye to their neighbors and start their daily commute. They are involved in their PTA, the Boy Scouts and their church congregations and make no secret of working for the Agency.
Most likely, Mrs. Wilson is a senior personnel specialist. But one former analyst claims he took the basic CIA agentís course with her ďthree decades ago.Ē If that claim is true, then the 40-year-old Mrs. Wilson was only ten years old when he trained with her at ďthe Farm.Ē Now, that would be newsworthy.
We may never know the truth, but if this former intelligence agent had to guess, Iíd say two things: (1) The CIA goofed when it selected the former Clinton appointee to do the Niger investigation. (2) Wilson probably angered the CIA when he blew his own cover by revealing his mission was at the direction of the CIA rather than the White House. The White House had no motive to blame Ambassador Wilsonís appointment on his wife. But the Agency did.
President Bush would be well advised to make some personnel changes over on the Langley, Virginia, campus -- starting at the top.
William Hamilton, a nationally syndicated columnist and featured commentator for USA Today, spent several years working in Europe as an intelligence officer.
©2003. William Hamilton.