Valerie Plame appeared in Vanity Fair magazine with her husband Joseph Wilson in January 2004

WASHINGTON – Ambassador Joseph Wilson’s attorney is demanding Maj. Gen. Paul Vallely retract a statement he made to WND that the man at the center of the CIA leak case “outed” his own wife as a CIA employee in conversations more than a year before her identity was revealed in a syndicated column.

A demand letter was sent by Christopher Wolf, partner at Proskauer Rose LLP and counsel for Wilson, to both Vallely and WND tonight.

It disputes Vallely’s claim that Wilson mentioned Valerie Plame’s status with the CIA in conversations in 2002 in the Fox News Channel’s “green room” in Washington as they waited to appear as analysts.

“As you know, that assertion and the claim that Ambassador Wilson revealed to you or to anyone that his wife worked for the CIA is patently false, and subjects you and anyone publishing your statements to legal liability,” states the letter.

It continues: “We are writing to demand that you immediately retract the assertion attributed to you and to insist that you stop making the false allegation. In addition, we request that you identify all persons or entitites (sic) to whom you made any claim that Ambassador Wilson revealed his wife’s employment at the CIA to you.”

The e-mail received by WND included earlier comments by Wilson to his attorney.

“This is slanderous,” Wilson wrote. “I never appeared on tv before at least July 2002 and only saw him maybe twice in the green room at FOX. Vallely is a retired general and this is a bald faced lie. Can we sue? This is not he said/he said, since I never laid eyes on him till several months after he alleges I spoke to him about my wife.”

WND attempted to reach Wilson and Wolf for a phone interview, but Wolf responded in an e-mail, saying: “We do not wish to make a statement. Our demand for retraction of the false and libelous statments (sic) stands. We demand that the article be removed from your Web Site and that any printed versions be retracted, and that an official retraction and apology be issued.”

In a subsequent e-mail, Wolf explained that he had not intended to append an e-mail from Wilson.

“The earlier version appended additional e-mails that were not intended for you and I would ask you to discard them, please,” he wrote. “Specifically, you do not have permission to re-produce or quote from those e-mails sent to you in error. The authors of those e-mails retain all rights in those communications, including copyright and rights under applicable privilege law. Please be advised that your use of those e-mails in any way will compound your liability for the publication of the libelous statements which prompted my letter.”

Those e-mails were sent twice to WND, prior to Wolf’s attempt to withdraw them.

Vallely said he won’t respond directly to Wilson or his attorney.

“I think he’s panicked that somebody is going to take him on,” said Vallely tonight. “He can make statements, and yet he’s not brought in under oath.”

Vallely and Wilson were both 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, according to the general. Vallely remains a Fox News analyst.

Maj. Gen. (Ret.) Paul Vallely

Vallely told WND that, according to his recollection, Wilson mentioned his wife’s job at the CIA in the spring of 2002 – more than a year before Robert Novak’s July 14, 2003, column identifying her, citing administration officials, as “an Agency operative on weapons of mass destruction.”

“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. WND learned of Vallely’s claim through an interview Thursday night on the ABC Radio network’s John Batchelor show.

Again, tonight, Vallely repeated his assertions that he met at least three times with Wilson in the Fox “green room.” He said he is certain it was in 2002.

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,” said Vallely. “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 faces up to 30 years in prison and $1.25 million in fines if convicted on all five counts. He pleaded not guilty.

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 Friday. “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.”

Joseph Wilson and Valerie Plame in July 2005 issue of Vanity Fair magazine

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 efforts 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.

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.

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Previous stories:

Analyst says Wilson ‘outed’ wife in 2002

Cheney top aide indicted, resigns

Sealed indictments coming this week

Drafter of intel statute: Rove accusers ignorant

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