Swiftboating Joseph Wilson

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The swiftboating of Ambassador Joseph Wilson, husband of outed covert CIA operative Valerie Plame, is only the most recent of Bush administration smear campaigns.

Vallely: Joe Outed Valerie

U.S. Army (Ret.) Major General Paul E. Vallely shared "Revelations that former ambassador Joe Wilson was cavalier about referencing his wife's position prior to the Iraq war" on the November 3, 2005, John Batchelor's ABC Radio show.

WorldNetDaily posted an article online November 5, 2005, in which Vallely said "that Wilson mentioned Plame's status as a CIA employee over the course of at least three, possibly five, conversations in 2002 in the Fox News Channel's 'green room' in Washington, D.C., as they waited to appear on air as analysts."

Vallely told WND that, "according to his recollection, Wilson mentioned his wife's job at the CIA in the spring of 2002 – more than a year before Robert Novak's July 14, 2003, column identifying her, citing administration officials, as 'an Agency operative on weapons of mass destruction. ... 'He was rather open about his wife working at the CIA'."

Vallely also told WND, "... in his opinion, it became clear over the course of several conversations that Wilson had his own agenda, as the ambassador's analysis of the war and its surrounding politics strayed from reality. ... [Wilson] 'was a total self promoter ... I don't know if it was out of insecurity, to make him feel important, but he's created so much turmoil, he needs to be investigated and put under oath.'"

Brit Hume reported November 8, 2005, for Fox News that "Retired Army General and FOX News contributor Paul Vallely says he knew former ambassador Joseph Wilson's wife Valerie Plame was a CIA agent long before she was outed in a newspaper column in 2003 because Wilson told him so. Vallely says Wilson volunteered the information in at least three separate conversations while both men were waiting to appear on FOX News programs during the fall of 2002."

In a WorldNetDaily article November 8, 2005, Vallely corrected his statement: "After recalling further over the weekend his contacts with Wilson, Vallely says now it was on just one occasion – the first of several conversations – that the ambassador revealed his wife's employment with the CIA and that it likely occurred some time in the late summer or early fall of 2002. ... He is certain, he says, the conversation took place in 2002."

Vallely repeated his allegation November 8, 2005, on national television on Fox's Hannity & Colmes, saying "There's no personal vendetta here, ... I want to make that clear. It all came about questioning why the special prosecutor did not include in his inquiry bring[ing] under oath Joe Wilson, Valerie Plame or anybody in the CIA as far as we know, so the question is out there to be answered."

More from the "Green Room"

John Batchelor announced November 6, 2005, in Red State.org that:

  • "Lt. General Tom McInerney, USAF (ret), West Point '59, will join his colleague Maj. General Paul Vallely, USA (ret), West Point '61, on [his] show Monday 7 November (1005 pm Eastern Time on ABC Radio Network) to repeat and expand upon Vallely's memory that Joe Wilson more than once in 2002 in the green room at Fox News Channel in Washington D.C. boasted about his wife the 'CIA desk officer.' McInerney has the same memory and more, since both he and Vallely were on FNC between 150 and 200 times in 2002 each."
  • Note that Media Matters for America reported November 11, 2005, that "McInerney did appear along with Vallely and Farah on Batchelor's November 7 show. But while Vallely repeated his charge that Wilson had told him about Plame's CIA employment, McInerney made no such claim. Instead, Batchelor cited McInerney's 'friendship with Paul Vallely' and asked McInerney whether, 'to your knowledge, Paul Vallely has revealed nothing but the truth.' Neither Batchelor nor any of his guests suggested during the interview that Wilson had disclosed Plame's employment to McInerney."
  • "Also, I have written my regular correspondent Victor Davis Hanson to ask after his reported memories of Wilson boasting to him in a green room meeting that Wilson's wife worked at the CIA."
  • Note that in the second November 8, 2005, WorldNetDaily article, "Hanson, a Hoover Institution fellow and National Review columnist, told WND that like Vallely, he had a casual but unusually frank conversation with Wilson in the Fox News green room before appearing on the air with the ambassador some time, he believes, in early 2003. ... But contrary to a report, Hanson said Wilson did not disclose his wife's CIA employment."
  • "Joseph Farah, editor of WorldNetDaily will join us, since Farah's website has covered this tale closely since last week, and has received the same sort of threatening e-mail from Wilson's attorney [Christopher] Wolf to retract published remarks by Vallely about the incidents."

Batchelor also stated: "Questions for those concerned: Did Russert of NBC, or Cooper of Time Warner, or Miller of NYT ever have a similar conversation with Wilson in a green room, or know someone who did? Did Fitzgerald's lengthy investigation ever concern itself with green room conversations, contacting such as Vallely and McInerney and Hanson?"

  • Response: Special Prosecutor Patrick J. Fitzgerald "is going to have to round up every wingnut in Washington. Seems they've all been holding out on him, allowing him to spend years investigating and hundreds of thousands of dollars and now he's going to have to start from scratch. After all, he is under the impression that Wilson's CIA status was classified and not known outside intelligence circles. Apparently, Wilson spilled his guts with uncommon frequency in the Green Rooms of television studios," Digby wrote November 8, 2005.

The Devil is in the Details

"The phony report was first published at WorldNetDaily, then it was repeated tonight [actually, it was the night before, on November 7th] on the conservative talk radio John Batchelor Show," John Aravosis reported November 8, 2005. "Amb. Wilson says categorically that this never happened - liked he'd blare this to two total strangers, at FOX News no less - but the two FOX News pundit-authors, who of course suddenly appear out of nowhere two years into the investigation once Scooter is indicted and the Bush White House is falling apart at the seams, are now intent on spreading their suddenly rediscovered 'memory'."

John Amato of Crooks and Liars "talked to Joe Wilson [on November 8, 2005,] while he was in between airports and he said that he didn't meet Maj. General Paul Vallely until the summer of 02' and not the spring of 02' as Vallely reports." [1]

Additionally, Amato posted "the schedule of FOX appearances. Does it look like these guys ever met up?" he asked. Larry Johnson "said: 'Using the term Fox News with Joseph Wilson and then Paul Vallely I pulled up the attached record of appearances by both gentlemen on FOX during 2002 (March 1 thru December 31). They were never in the studio on the same day, much less the same program. Vallely is lying or maybe having a senior moment.'"

Blowback Coming

Brit Hume, in the November 10, 2005, Fox News' story "Liar, Liar, Pants on Fire?", wrote:

  • "Former CIA officer and one time FOX contributor Larry Johnson is calling retired general and FOX military analyst Paul Vallely a 'right wing [hack] making up facts,' ... "
  • "NBC's senior diplomatic correspondent Andrea Mitchell now says she never meant to say that it was 'widely known' that Wilson's wife worked at the CIA before the fact was publicized by columnist Robert Novak. Mitchell says online bloggers took her words out of context, telling a talk show host that she merely said people knew that a secret administration envoy, which turned out to be Wilson, had been sent to Niger."

Reporters Who Allegedly "Knew"

On November 2, 2005, Tom Maguire of the JustOneMinute blog compiled a list of "reporters who knew". Heading the list is Andrea Mitchell, as cited above. Maguire may be one of those bloggers who took her words out of context, as she said.

Next, Maguire cites Hugh Sidey, "formerly of TIME," who he says wrote in an amicus brief on the Judith Miller case, and/or to the NY Sun: [Note Maguire is obviously not sure of his source.]

"Mr. Sidey said in an interview that the identity of the CIA operative, Ms. Plame, was widely known-well before Mr. Cooper talked to his sources. 'You know this game as well as I do,' Mr. Sidey said. 'That name was knocking around in the sub rosa world we live in for a long time.'"

Maguire then cites Martin Peretz of the New Republic from his July 21, 2004, "Turning Tale" article:

"Still, in a lot of dining rooms where I am a guest here, there is outrage that someone in the vice president's office 'outed' Ms. Plame, as though everybody in Georgetown hadn't already known she was under cover, so to speak. Under cover, but not really."

Maguire cites Clifford D. May's comment in his September 29, 2003, National Review article "Spy Games. Was it really a secret that Joe Wilson’s wife worked for the CIA?":

"That wasn't news to me. I had been told that — but not by anyone working in the White House. Rather, I learned it from someone who formerly worked in the government and he mentioned it in an offhand manner, leading me to infer it was something that insiders were well aware of."

Credibility Gap

The Left Coaster pointed out November 8, 2005, that we are talking about this Paul Vallely:

"May 8 [2003]: Fox News Military Analyst Major General Paul Vallely states on The O’Reilly Factor that 'Middle East agents' have told him that Iraq’s WMDs along with 17 mobile weapons labs (1 of which was captured around May 2) are now buried in the Bakaa [Bekaa] Valley in Syria 30 meters underground. He also claims that France helped Iraqi leaders escape to Europe by providing them with travel papers [a charge that even the Pentagon later denies although it's apparent that's where Vallely got his information]."

Wilson and the French Connection

McInerney Agreed with Joe Wilson before He Smeared Joe Wilson

  • In a March 25, 2003, assessment on the war in Iraq, a Voice of America transcript shows former Acting US Ambassador in Iraq, Joseph Wilson, the last US diplomat to meet with Saddam Hussein before the start of Desert Storm in 1991, saying that he believed Saddam Hussein would "use chemical weapons, if he has the opportunity," and US Air Force General (Ret.) Thomas McInerney agreeing that "the Iraqi leader will likely use chemical weapons."
  • On the November 7, 2005, John Batchelor Show, General McInerney "supported Vallely as being truthful when claiming that former Ambassador Joseph Wilson openly discussed his wife's employment with the CIA between late summer and early fall of 2003." [2]

Why the Smear?

It's just Bush regime business as usual, some would say. You're either with us or against us. If you're against us, then all holds are off.

"Based on his experience and judgment, Wilson began to warn others about the dangers of going to war with Iraq. Starting around April 2002, Wilson became a regular on CNN, Fox, MSNBC, ABC, NBC and CBS, urging that caution should be used, and alternatives to a war on Iraq considered," John W. Dean wrote for FindLaw's Writ, October 10, 2003.
"By March 3, 2003," Dean said, "when [Wilson] wrote an essay for The Nation, he was mincing no words. He said that the Bush Administration's imminent war with Iraq was not about weapons of mass destruction, nor terrorism (since it would only result in more terrorism), nor about liberating oppressed people. Rather, he argued, the true objective of the war was an effort to impose a Pax Americana on the region. He concluded that because we had no business building empires, we had no business going to war."
Dean wrote that the "evidence is clear that the White House picked a fight with Wilson after he undercut the president's case for war."

Wilson's Legal Eagle

"And lest these guys forget," John Aravosis wrote, "it was the same Christopher Wolf, Wilson's lawyer, who sued USA Next for $25 million for stealing the wedding photo of the gay couple and using it in a homophobic anti-AARP ad. You haven't heard squat from USA Next after that little suit was filed (the suit is still ongoing). Here's hoping Wolf does an equally good job ripping these bozos."

Resources and articles

Related SourceWatch articles

Timelines & Checking the Facts


Recent Smear

Articles & Commentary





  • Murray Waas, "Cheney Authorized Libby to Leak Classified Information," National Journal, February 9, 2006.
  • Murray Waas, "What Bush Was Told About Iraq" National Journal, March 2, 2006. "Vice President Dick Cheney's former chief of staff, I. Lewis (Scooter) Libby, testified to a federal grand jury that he had been "authorized" by Cheney and other White House "superiors" in the summer of 2003 to disclose classified information to journalists to defend the Bush administration's use of prewar intelligence in making the case to go to war with Iraq, according to attorneys familiar with the matter, and to court records."
  • Murray Waas, "Rove-Novak Call Was Concern to Leak Investigators," National Journal, May 25, 2006.
  • Dan Froomkin, "A Compelling Story," White House Watch Blog/Washington Post, March 31, 2006.
  • Murray Waas, "What Ashcroft Was Told," National Journal, June 8, 2006.
  • Murray Waas, "Bush Directed Cheney to Counter War Critic", National Journal, July 3, 2006.
  • Murray Waas, "Insulating Bush," National Journal, March 30, 2006: "Karl Rove, President Bush's chief political adviser, cautioned other White House aides in the summer of 2003 that Bush's 2004 re-election prospects would be severely damaged if it was publicly disclosed that he had been personally warned that a key rationale for going to war had been challenged within the administration. Rove expressed his concerns shortly after an informal review of classified government records by then-Deputy National Security Adviser Stephen J. Hadley determined that Bush had been specifically advised that claims he later made in his 2003 State of the Union address -- that Iraq was procuring high-strength aluminum tubes to build a nuclear weapon -- might not be true, according to government records and interviews."
  • Dan Froomkin, "Another Stab at the Truth," Washington Post, July 14, 2006: "There are some hugely important aspects of the Bush presidency that remain insufficiently examined, and the most important are about the run-up to war in Iraq. Polls show that a majority of Americans believe President Bush and his associates intentionally misled the public in making their case for war. It's a terribly serious charge, if true. In fact, it's hard to imagine a more serious charge against a president."
  • "US officials 'betrayed' CIA agent," BBC, July 14, 2006.


Wikipedia also has an article on Swiftboating Joseph Wilson. This article may use content from the Wikipedia article under the terms of the GFDL.