This Joseph Wilson case is getting more bizarre by the moment. We learned yesterday that George Tenet, the CIA director, has apparently asked the Justice Department to conduct an investigation into a reported leak revealing the identity of Wilson’s wife, Valerie Plame, and her occupation as a CIA operative.
When I first heard about Wilson’s wife, my immediate thought was: Wilson created the very circumstance he now complains about. He voluntarily drew attention to himself and, by extension, his family. He interjected himself into an intense international policy dispute regarding the war with Iraq. And it was his op-ed in the New York Times that caused the so-called “16-word controversy” in which President Bush was criticized for relying on British intelligence when he declared that Iraq had sought uranium from Niger.
Wilson was a much sought-after guest and either appeared on news programs, or was cited as an authoritative source. And Wilson clearly relished every second of his 15 minutes of fame.
This raises another question: Why would the CIA choose Wilson as the administration’s fact-finder on the Niger uranium issue knowing that his wife’s activities might become exposed? Well, in the same Robert Novak column that reveals the identity of Wilson’s wife, Novak reports that it was Plame herself who recommended her husband for the job!
Shouldn’t it have occurred to someone in CIA management that sending the husband of an agency operative on a highly sensitive, high-profile mission could jeopardize that operative’s activities?
While I’m all in favor of investigating national-security-related leaks, we’ll never know if foreign-intelligence agencies, among others, had already learned of Plame’s position thanks to the attention her husband drew to himself by taking the Niger fact-finding assignment in the first place. Like it or not, Wilson bears some responsibility for his wife’s predicament.