Still top secret

Tomorrow’s Star Tribune story on the appearance of the execrable Joseph Wilson in the Twin Cities features me in the lead, though why I would say what I do is left to the reader’s imagination: “Ex-ambassador Joseph Wilson of Plame-case fame speaks tonight.” Star Tribune reporter Dan Browning writes:

Scott Johnson can’t figure out why anyone would want to listen to former Ambassador Joseph Wilson when he visits the Twin Cities today.

To Johnson, one of the founders of the political blog Power Line, Wilson is a proven “liar.” He’s “an ardent Democratic operative” and a “co-conspirator” with some in the Central Intelligence Agency who are trying to discredit the Bush administration, Johnson says.

Wilson is used to such attacks.

He is the husband of Valerie Plame, whose identity as a CIA agent was leaked in 2003. That came after Wilson wrote a newspaper column suggesting that the Bush administration had dismissed intelligence disproving that Iraq was trying to acquire raw materials to build nuclear weapons.

Plame’s exposure led to the indictment of Vice President Dick Cheney’s chief of staff, Lewis Libby, who resigned but denies wrongdoing. A special investigation remains open.

Wilson is the scheduled headliner at a DFL fundraising dinner today in Minneapolis, to be followed by a public speech at 7:30 p.m. in the Regional Council of Carpenters and Joiners Hall in St. Paul.

Wilson, 56, was born into what he calls a “proud Republican family” in California. Some of his uncles found Barry Goldwater too liberal, he wrote in his 2004 autobiography, “The Politics of Truth.”

After a childhood with expatriate parents in Europe, a degree in history and some time skiing and working as a carpenter in Lake Tahoe, Calif., he began his foreign service career in 1976 in Niger in central Africa, where the CIA would send him on a special mission in 2002 to determine whether it was selling “yellowcake” uranium to Iraq.

Postings in Togo, South Africa and Burundi followed until 1985, when he took a sabbatical as a Congressional Fellow, working with Sen. Al Gore, D-Tenn., and Rep. Tom Foley, D-Wash. Then he returned to Africa as deputy chief of mission in the Republic of Congo.

Constructive engagement

Wilson says his Africa experience taught him to appreciate “constructive engagement,” a foreign policy based on the premise that more can be achieved through gradual influence than from revolutions.

“It ended up working in the sense that Namibia became independent and South Africa managed to escape the shackles of apartheid peacefully,” Wilson said. “It’s hard to argue with success.”

In 1988 he was appointed deputy chief of mission in Baghdad. He left three years later, after Iraq had invaded Kuwait and he had helped negotiate the safe evacuation of the U.S. Embassy.

Wilson took a hard line against Saddam Hussein. He supported the first Gulf War and former President George H.W. Bush’s decision to end the hostilities short of invading Baghdad. That Bush made Wilson an ambassador to Gabon and Sao Tome and Principe in 1992. Wilson said he still admires the elder Bush’s foreign policy acumen.

Wilson went on to become a political adviser to the commander in chief of the U.S. Armed Forces in Europe, special assistant to President Bill Clinton and senior director for African Affairs on the National Security Council.

In 1998 he retired and became a consultant. He rose to celebrity status in 2003 with his opinion piece about his Niger findings for the New York Times and columnist Robert Novak’s outing of his wife as a spy shortly afterward. He still seethes over that.

“Their modus operandi is to try and destroy the credibility of any critic. So I fully expected them to try and go after me,” he said. “I never thought that these guys would retaliate by compromising the identity of one of their own covert officers.”

Asked if constructive engagement could work with the Bush administration, Wilson said, “I know of no way to deal with schoolyard bullies other than to stand up to them.”

For the record, I understand why Democratic activists would pay money to hear Wilson retail his lies. It’s a shame that Browning leaves me with my alleged mystification, never getting around to any mention of the Senate Intelligence Committee report or its findings. As I wrote this morning, as far as reporters like Browning are concerned, the Senate Intelligence Committe report is a top secret document whose confidentiality must be maintained at all costs. Star Tribune readers who are curious regarding the fuss over Joe Wilson will have to look elsewhere for illumination.

JOHN adds: This raises again the age old-question, why are our mainstream reporters so terrible? Is it malice, or stupidity? As usual, the answer seems to be “both.” The Strib’s coverage of Wilson’s appearance doesn’t make sense if you envision the paper’s reporters as objective observers, trying to enlighten their readers on the news of the day. But it makes perfect sense if you think of them as blockers, running interference for Wilson. That’s pretty much how they envision their role, I think. The Strib’s reporters and Joe Wilson are teammates.

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