Highlight - Joe talks about damage due to release of his wife's maiden name (which was available in his Who's Who entry):
HEADLINE: Former Ambassador Joseph Wilson discusses the content of the State
of the Union and alleges White House repercussions against him for speaking
ANCHORS: KATIE COURIC
KATIE COURIC, co-host:
With us now from Washington is former Ambassador Joseph Wilson.
Mr. Ambassador, good morning to you.
Mr. JOSEPH WILSON (Former Acting United States Ambassador To Iraq): Hi, Katie. How are you this morning?
COURIC: I'm fine, thank you. I know that you were one of the first to warn the CIA that Iraq was not trying to buy uranium from Niger after the agents--agency sent you there to investigate the situation in--in, I believe, February of 2002. Now you say after you recently went public that you were the administration's secret envoy, but the White House is trying to discredit and intimidate you. Why would you say that and what specifically do you think the White House is doing?
Mr. WILSON: Well, first of all, I was the discreet envoy as opposed to a secret envoy. I'm not a secret agent. And, secondly, I went out there at the request of the--of the government to look into the allegations that Iraq might have been trying to buy significant quantities of uranium from Niger.
I looked into those thoroughly. I had a--a longstanding knowledge of the uranium business, as well as a number of very senior level contacts in the former Niger government which would have been in power at the time that the supposed memorandum of agreement was done. I came back, I reported those findings, and I went back to my--my normal life. When--first, the State Department spokesman, in response to the IAEI***(as spoken)***assertion that these documents were forged, said we were fooled, I felt it important to make the point that, in fact, the US government had information long before the IAEA statement to the effect that it was highly unlikely that Niger could have been selling uranium to Iraq.
And then subsequently when there was another statement made by the--by the national security adviser that perhaps somebody in the bowels of the agency knew about it but not at her level, I felt it was important to ensure that--that everybody understand that this was a--senior levels of the government that had asked me to--that had asked for the information that had led to my going out there.
COURIC: So how--let me get back to--to my original question, if I could, how do you think now the White House is trying to discredit and intimidate you?
Mr. WILSON: Sure. Well, during--during the last couple of weeks, there have been a number of articles written attacking me. The most amusing ones basically suggesting that I told the truth because I'm a--a Democrat. This was not a partisan activity, but if you want to lay it out as Democratic truth-tellers and what the Republicans equal.
But the most serious allegation was in a--in a--an article by Bob Novak, a Washington columnist for the Chicago Sun Times in which he asserted that my wife, who he named by her maiden name, was a CIA operative. And he quoted two senior administration sources. I spoke to him about it afterwards because he had asked me for a confirmation. He had told me when he asked for the confirmation, they were CIA sources. I called him afterwards and said, 'You told me they were CIA sources, now you're saying they were senior administration sources.' He said, 'I misspoke the first time,' which means, as I well understood, that the CIA would never do something like that. And so that basically means that somebody at the political level of the administration.
COURIC: And you think this happened after you went public saying you were, in fact, the discreet envoy, as you say, who ascertained that Iraq was not, in fact, buying uranium from Niger?
Mr. WILSON: Oh, absolutely. The article appeared a week after my--my New York Times op-ed.
COURIC: Which was July 6th?
Mr. WILSON: Which was July 6th. I've since learned from a--a couple of different reporters that the White House has been--White House sources have been telling the story as 'Wilson and his wife,' which is absolutely not the case. It's neither about Wilson nor is it about his wife. It's about the 16 words that somebody managed to insert in the State of the Union address that the president--that the president spoke to the United States, to the US Congress and to the world.
COURIC: How damaging would this be to your wife's work?
Mr. WILSON: Well, you know, what was left out of my interview with Andrea Mitchell was--was my comment that I would not answer any specific questions about my wife. But hypothetically speaking, as others have reported, including TODAY, it would be--it would be damaging not just to her career, since she's been married to me, but since they mentioned her by her maiden name, to her entire career. So it would be her entire network that she may have established, any operations, any programs or projects she was working on. It's a--it's a breach of national security. My understanding is it may,
in fact, be a violation of American law.
COURIC: Well, what would the White House--what motivation would the White House have in divulging your wife's name?
Mr. WILSON: Well, it does--it does nothing to intimidate me since my story is already out there. A day after I--I--I wrote my op-ed, the White House acknowledged that the 16 words should never have been in the State of the Union address. A week after my article appeared, the president's--the vice president's chief of staff acknowledged to Time magazine that the vice president had, in fact, expressed an interest to this subject matter. So it's not to intimidate me. I--I--what I'm most worried about and most concerned about is that it is probably intended to intimidate others and keep them from stepping forward, less...
COURIC: Why did you--I'm sorry to interrupt.
Mr. WILSON: Mm-hmm.
COURIC: But why did you wait so long to come forward? If the president included this sentence in his State of the Union address in January and used it as a rationale for the invasion into Iraq, why did you wait to go public until July 6th?
Mr. WILSON: Well, Katie, remember that the president's statement and the British white paper referred only to Africa, generically. There are three other countries in Africa that actually produce and export uranium, South Africa and Namibia/Gabon. So long as they were talking only about Africa, my curiosity was aroused, but there was no particular reason for me to think they were talking about Niger. It was only after the State Department spokesman make it very clear that, in fact, they were talking about Niger, that was the country they were referring to from Africa, that I felt that it was important to--to clear the record.
COURIC: You were anti-war, you were for--you supported the containment of Saddam Hussein. So how can you convince people--and, reportedly, you are close to Democrats. Is this politically motivated any--in any way, shape or form?
Mr. WILSON: Well, let me--let me say, Katie, that I went out to--to Niger six months before I ever wrote any article on the particular subject.
Secondly, all my articles made the case that, in fact, disarmament was a legitimate national security and indeed international security objective and that in order to effect disarmament, you had to have the credible threat of force. And in order to--for that credible threat--for that force to be credible, you had to be prepared to use it. What I was against was the high-risk global war option of invasion, conquest and subsequently occupation. And the reason that I was against that was because I never believed it was going to be a cake walk. I never believed, based on my experience of two and half years living in Iraq...
Mr. WILSON: ...I never believed that the Iraqis were going to be waving flags as we marched into Baghdad. I always feared that the occupation would be the most difficult part of this. And I always thought that we needed to take a good hard look at what objectives we were trying to achieve in engaging in this activity.
COURIC: We're almost out of time. In a few seconds, what would you like to happen if, in fact, it is found to be true that senior officials at the White House did disseminate this information about your wife and her job?
Mr. WILSON: Well, I fully expect the appropriate authorities will look into it, as well they should, if, in fact, it is a--it's a violation of US law. I have every confidence in--in the institutions of our government. I've never been prouder to be an American than during these days when--when speaking truth to power has--has been an important thing to do. So I have every confidence that this will all be looked into and--and--and decided
COURIC: Ambassador Joseph Wilson. Ambachader--Ambassador Wilson, thanks very much for your time this morning.
Mr. WILSON: Thanks, Katie.