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Joseph Wilson: 'Karl Rove should be fired'

Wilson says 'justice' was served by Libby's indictment

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Joe Wilson
Joseph Wilson discusses the outing of his wife as a CIA operative.



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(CNN) -- Retired career diplomat and former U.S. Ambassador Joseph Wilson has been a prominent figure throughout special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald's investigation into who leaked the secret identity of CIA operative Valerie Plame, Wilson's wife.

Three days after a federal grand jury indicted I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, chief of staff to Vice President Dick Cheney, in the CIA leak investigation, CNN anchor Wolf Blitzer talked Monday with Wilson.

BLITZER: Do you have confidence in Patrick Fitzgerald?

WILSON: Absolutely. In fact, I think the one thing that the indictment showed the other day is that our system of justice works; that in a nation that is based upon the rule of law, no man is above the law. And that's what Pat Fitzgerald said and made very clear.

BLITZER: Are you, though, disappointed that he didn't charge anyone with outing your wife as an undercover CIA operative?

WILSON: Well, I think it's important to remember two things.

One, he was unable to indict on anything other than the charges because, as he said, his investigation into this was impeded by the obstruction of justice and perjury.

And two, as he said, the state's interests were vindicated by the indictments that were handed down.

And three, finally, this is not a crime against Joe Wilson or Valerie Wilson, it's a crime against the country, against the national security of the country.

So we have no vote in whether or not we're disappointed or not disappointed.

BLITZER: But you were hoping that someone would actually -- that you'd get to the bottom of this: Who decided to out your wife as a CIA operative?

WILSON: Well, I think we pretty much are at the bottom. We now know, both from Mr. [Matthew] Cooper's testimony, the Time reporter testimony, that Mr. Rove gave him Valerie's name; and we know from the indictment that Mr. Libby was going around giving ...

BLITZER: But you understand why that's not a crime -- that wasn't deemed a crime by Patrick Fitzgerald?

WILSON: Well, again, it has not been indicted as a crime yet because, as Mr. Fitzgerald said, his investigation into the bottom of this was impeded by the obstruction of justice -- and the investigation is ongoing.

BLITZER: So you're still looking toward that.

On August 21, 2003, at a forum, you were quoted as saying this -- and I believe you did say this because we've talked about it: "At the end of the day, it's of keen interest to me to see whether or not we can get Karl Rove frog-marched out of the White House in handcuffs."

He's still working at the White House. He's the deputy White House chief of staff.

WILSON: And I think that Karl Rove should be fired. I think that this idea that you can, with impunity, call journalists and leak national security information is repugnant.

It is not fitting for a senior White House official. It is below any standard of ethical comportment, even if it is not technically illegal, because of the high standard of the Intelligence Identities Protection Act.

But nonetheless, there's now clear evidence that Mr. Rove was leaking classified information. Mr. Fitzgerald made it very clear.

My wife was a covert officer at the time that these people were leaking her name.

I believe it's an abuse of the public trust. And even if he can't be convicted of it, I see no reason why somebody like that, why the president would want to have somebody like that working on his staff.

BLITZER: Well, forget about conviction. He hasn't even been charged with a crime.

WILSON: Again, it's now very clear that he leaked it. Mr. Cooper's sworn testimony indicates that. The e-mails indicate that.

BLITZER: Let's go through some of the criticism that's been leveled at you, afresh over these past several days since this whole leak investigation was coming to a boil last Friday.

A lot of your critics blame you for the eventual disclosure of your wife as a CIA operative, and they go back to that early May 2003 column by The New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof who first reported about an unnamed U.S. ambassador making this trip to Africa.

Were you the source, Nicholas Kristof's source, for that column?

WILSON: Well, I was a source for that column.

But let me just say two things. One, this has never been about Valerie or me. This has always been about the 16 words in the [2003] State of the Union address, first and foremost -- and then, second, about who leaked Valerie's name.

And I would point out to you that the indictment does not name Joe Wilson as somebody who leaked Valerie's name.

BLITZER: Well, the indictment doesn't name anyone necessarily as a crime in terms of leaking ...

WILSON: The testimony that has been made public indicates that Mr. Libby and Mr. Rove leaked Valerie's name to the members of the press. There's nothing in any of the testimony to suggest that Joe Wilson did -- unlike what Mr. [Joseph] diGenova [a former U.S. attorney who was a special prosecutor during the Clinton administration] said on this program last week.

BLITZER: Why didn't you tell Nicholas Kristof about your trip to Africa?

WILSON: I had attempted to talk directly to the State Department and to a number of Democratic senators and to get the record corrected. I felt that after it was clear that what the president was referring to in the State of the Union address was Niger, and that the trip that I went on was based upon a transcription of these documents that later were shown to be forgeries.

It was important for the administration to correct the record.

BLITZER: Because, as you know, this was two months before the Robert Novak column appeared.

WILSON: It is an act of civic duty, it is what citizens across this country do every day in our democracy -- you hold your government to account for what your government says and does in the name of the American people.

This happened to be an area where I had certain expertise and experience.

BLITZER: Former CIA officer Robert Behr was quoted in Saturday's Washington Post as saying this: "The fact is, once your husband writes an op-ed piece and goes political, you have no immunity and that's the way Washington works."

In other words, he's one of those suggesting that by your going public in various ways, your wife's identity was eventually going to be made known.

WILSON: Again, my name didn't appear in the indictment. There are instances of -- and you go to the Spy Museum here, you can see a number of high-profile people who served their country even though they had high-profile positions in different professions.

BLITZER: Even though some of your supporters were on this program last week -- Larry Johnson, a former CIA officer; Pat Lang, a former DIA intelligence analyst. They say your decision and your wife's decision to let her be photographed represented a major mistake because, if there were people out there who may have been endangered by her name, certainly when people might have seen her picture, they could have been further endangered.

WILSON: Her contacts and her network was endangered the minute that Bob Novak wrote the article. The photograph of her did not identify her in any way anybody could identify.

Now you asked me this question -- you've asked me this question three or four times ...

BLITZER: About the photograph?

WILSON: About the photograph.

Now, I have never heard you ask the president about the layout in the Oval Office when they did the war layout. I've never heard you ask Mr. Wolfowitz about the layout in Vanity Fair. But you ask me all the time.

So let me just get this very clear: When one is faced with adversity, one of the ways one acts in the face of adversity is to try and bring a certain amount of humor to the situation. It's called irony.

And if people have no sense of humor or no sense of perspective on that, my response is: It's about time to get a life.

But in no way did that picture endanger anybody. What endangered people was the outing of her name -- her maiden name -- and, subsequently, the outing of the corporation that she worked for.

BLITZER: So you don't have any regrets about the Vanity Fair picture?

WILSON: I think it's a great picture. I think someday you will, too.

BLITZER: It's a great picture. But I mean the fact that ...

WILSON: I think someday it, too, will be in the International Spy Museum.

BLITZER: But you don't think it was a mistake to do that?



Let's talk about Joe diGenova, a former U.S. attorney, Republican. He was on this program, as you well know -- he among others suggesting: Well, she had a desk job, she was an analyst in the Counterproliferation Division at the CIA. She was no longer really what they call a NOC, someone working nonofficial cover overseas, and that it was really no big deal.

WILSON: Well, I don't think Mr. diGenova knows what he's talking about in this particular matter. I would go back to the indictment and Mr. Fitzgerald's preamble in which he's made it clear: She was a classified officer. She was covered by the various statutes related to the handling of classified information.

It's as simple as that.

BLITZER: Did you ever go around in cocktail parties -- because this has been alleged against you as well -- before the Robert Novak column and boast "my wife, the CIA agent," "my wife works for the CIA"?

WILSON: Of course not.

First of all, [we have] 5-year-old twins and so we don't go to very many cocktail parties. You've seen me at precisely one in the many years that we've been in Washington together. And that was actually a book party. And you did not see my wife there and you didn't hear me say anything about my wife at that.

BLITZER: How well known was it that she worked for the CIA before the Novak column?

WILSON: It was not known outside the intelligence community.

The day after the Novak article appeared, my sister-in-law, my brother's wife, turned to him and asked him: "Do you think Joe knows this?"

BLITZER: Your trip to Niger -- there's been some suggestion that she came up with the idea of sending you to Niger. And the Senate -- we've gone through this, but I'll let you respond since it keeps coming up over and over again -- the Select Committee on Intelligence that came out July 7, 2004, last year said this:

"Interviews and documents provided to the committee" -- the Senate committee -- "indicated that his wife, a CPD" -- Counterproliferation Division -- "employee suggested his name for the trip."

Did she come up with the idea?

WILSON: No, that is not accurate. It doesn't reflect what happened. I was invited to a meeting. She conveyed that invitation from her superiors.

She also, at the request of superiors, provided them with sort of a list of my bona fides because they were doing contingency planning as to what they might want to do as a consequence of the outcome of the meeting, which was two days later after she wrote the report.

The reports officer, who apparently was quoted as saying that she offered up my name -- that's a quote -- came into her office subsequently and said that that was a misquote and he wanted to be re-interviewed by them.

That was contained in my letter back to Senator [Pat] Roberts and Senator [Orrin] Hatch and Senator [Kit] Bond after their additional views were published.

BLITZER: Larry Johnson, on this program last week, the former CIA officer, said your wife has been threatened by al Qaeda. Is that true?

WILSON: I won't go into specific threats. I'll tell you that there have been threats. And as a consequence, we've been working closely with the appropriate law enforcement agencies. We've changed our phone number and taken other security measures.

BLITZER: You don't want to go into details on that?

WILSON: Absolutely not.

BLITZER: If you had to do it all over again, looking backward, any changes you would have done?

WILSON: I would have written the article as I did because I believe -- I believe firmly -- that it is a civic responsibility to hold your government to account in a strong democracy.

And I can't think of much I would have changed. I suspect that, given the two-year character assassination campaign which was really designed to divert attention from the two key issues -- the 16 words in the State of the Union address and who leaked Valerie's name -- that there may have been some things I might have done differently, such as perhaps not getting engaged in a political campaign.

Although I will say this about that, and that is that I resent deeply the idea that others would try and deny me my right to participate fully in the selection of this country's leaders.

BLITZER: Because your wife is a CIA operative.

But let me ask a final question: Are you going to file any civil lawsuits against Libby, Cheney, anyone else?

WILSON: We're keeping all of our options open. There's a very complicated procedure for this, even though the case itself is relatively simple. And we have not come to any decision yet.

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