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Valerie Plame appeared in Vanity Fair magazine with her husband Joseph Wilson in January 2004
A retired Army general says the man at the center of the CIA leak controversy, Ambassador Joseph C. Wilson, revealed his wife Valerie Plame’s employment with the agency in a casual conversation more than a year before she allegedly was “outed” by the White House through a columnist.
Maj. Gen. Paul Vallely told WorldNetDaily 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 and Wilson both were contracted by Fox News to discuss the war on terror as the U.S. faced off with Iraq in the run-up to the spring 2003 invasion.
Vallely says, according to his recollection, Wilson mentioned his wife’s job in the spring of 2002 – more than a year before Robert Novak’s July 14, 2003, column identified her, citing senior administration officials, as “an Agency operative on weapons of mass destruction.”
Maj. Gen. (Ret.) Paul Vallely
“He was rather open about his wife working at the CIA,” said Vallely, who retired in 1991 as the Army’s deputy commanding general in the Pacific.
Vallely made his claim in an interview Thursday night on the ABC radio network’s John Batchelor show.
Vallely told WND that, 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.
“He was a total self promoter,” Vallely said. “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.”
The only indictment in Special Counsel Patrick Fitzgerald’s two-year investigation came one week ago when Vice President Dick Cheney’s chief of staff, I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby, was charged with one count of obstruction of justice, two counts of making false statements and two counts of perjury in the case. He could face up to 30 years in prison and $1.25 million in fines if convicted on all five counts.
Vallely said, citing CIA colleagues, that in addition to his conversations with Wilson, the ambassador was proud to introduce Plame at cocktail parties and other social events around Washington as his CIA wife.
“That was pretty common knowledge,” he said. “She’s been out there on the Washington scene many years.”
If Plame were a covert agent at the time, Vallely said, “he would not have paraded her around as he did.”
“This whole thing has become the biggest non-story I know,” he concluded, “and all created by Joe Wilson.”
Fitzgerald has been investigating whether Plame’s identity was leaked by the White House as retaliation against Wilson for his assertion that the Bush administration made false claims about Iraq’s attempt to buy nuclear material in Africa.
Wilson traveled to Niger in February 2002 on a CIA-sponsored trip to check out the allegations about Iraq and wrote up his findings in a July 6, 2003, New York Times opinion piece titled “What I Didn’t Find in Africa.”
White House defenders insist the aides simply were setting the record straight about Wilson, seeking to put his credibility in context by pointing out it was Plame who helped him get the CIA consulting job. Wilson denied his wife’s role initially, but a bipartisan report by the Senate panel documented it.
Wilson declared in the column that his trip revealed the Iraq-Niger connection was dubious, but his oral report to the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence actually corroborated the controversial “16 words” in President Bush’s 2003 State of the Union address: “The British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa.”
Libby’s charges pertained only to the investigation itself, not the 1982 act that made it illegal to blow a covert U.S. agent’s cover.
Joseph Wilson and Valerie Plame in July 2005 issue of Vanity Fair magazine
The Washington attorney who spearheaded the drafting of that law told WND earlier this year that Plame’s circumstances don’t meet the statute’s criteria.
Victoria Toensing – who worked on the legislation in her role as chief counsel for the chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence – said Plame most likely was not a covert agent when White House aides mentioned her to reporters.
The federal code says the agent must have operated outside the United States within the previous five years. But Plame gave up her role as a covert agent nine years before the Rove interview, according to New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof.
Kristof said the CIA brought Plame back to Washington in 1994 because the agency suspected her undercover security had been compromised by turncoat spy Aldrich Ames.
Wilson’s own book, “The Politics of Truth,” states he and Plame both returned from overseas assignments in June 1997 and never again were stationed overseas – placing them in Washington at least six years before the 2003 “outing.”
Moreover, asserted Toensing, for the law to be violated, White House aides would have had to intentionally reveal Plame’s identity with the knowledge that they were disclosing a covert agent.