News and events revolving around the ousting of CIA agent Valerie Plame.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Diplomat Says ‘The Press Was Set Up’ - The Daily Californian

Contributing Writer
Thursday, November 10, 2005

Former United States ambassador Joseph Wilson criticized the Bush administration at a campus event yesterday, saying officials deliberately dismissed his intelligence findings and outed his wife, Valerie Plame, as a CIA operative.
The event, a discussion between Wilson and Michael Nacht, dean of the Goldman School of Public Policy, drew several hundred students and community members to the International House.

Wilson said the administration ran a deliberate campaign to divert attention away from faulty intelligence relating to the Iraq war.

"Bush administration officials engaged in a concerted effort to divert attention from the unassailable fact that those 16 words should have never been in the State of the Union address," Wilson said, referring to Bush's claim in January 2003 that Saddam Hussein attempted to purchase uranium in Africa.

In 2002, the CIA sent Wilson, a career diplomat from 1976-98, to Niger to investigate the alleged sale of uranium cited in Bush's speech.

Based on his knowledge of Niger's government, Wilson concluded the transaction did not take place.

"The sale would have been very difficult to keep secret even if Niger wanted to keep it secret," Wilson said.

Wilson went public with his findings in a July 2003 New York Times op-ed piece, claiming the Bush administration deliberately exaggerated and twisted intelligence to garner support for the war in Iraq.

Two weeks later, conservative columnist Robert Novak disclosed Valerie Plame's identity as a covert CIA agent.

Since then, the issue has sparked a federal investigation and a flurry of media inquiry that resulted in the indictment of Vice President Dick Cheney's former chief of staff Lewis Libby for perjury and obstruction of justice in the Plame leak.

Wilson said he believed the leak occurred to scare Bush administration foes from raising questions about intelligence and the war in Iraq.

"My speculation has always been that it was done to silence other potential critics," Wilson said.

Wilson also said Libby and presidential adviser Karl Rove, who is also said to be under investigation in the leak, manipulated the press.

"I think the press was set up," Wilson said. "The press was fed lies by Libby."

Wilson said he supported disarmament of Hussein, but not regime change, pointing to the importance of maintaining U.S. interests in the Middle East.

He said U.S. involvement in Iraq has alienated Sunnis and led to a more powerful Iran.

"We should stop killing Arabs unnecessarily," he said. "We still want to have friends in the Middle East."

Wilson encouraged students to hold politicians accountable for their actions.

"It is worth it to watch politics with the same enthusiasm as watching a Cal football game," he said.

Wilson's message resonated with students who attended the event.

"It's so important that people become aware of what's going on," said junior Alex Holiday.


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