The Fred factor, part 3

Two weeks ago in the Weekly Standard Stephen Hayes took a look at Fred Thompson and his potential presidential candidacy. The article was full of pungent quotes from Senator Thompson. (I pulled a few here.) This week Steve served up the outtakes from his interview for “a second helping of Fred.” The longest quote addresses the saga of Joseph Wilson and the ordeal of Lewis Libby. Here is a portion:

So, here you go, the CIA, you know, kept sending over this complaint. Which–they started the whole problem! You know, it makes me mad as the devil just to think about it. They picked this guy out to send to Niger, which is bound to go and let him come back and start making political attacks when his wife works over there! Did it ever occur to anybody that her name was going to be and he was put in play in this town? The amazing thing is that it stayed out of the papers as long as it did! So they set the whole thing up and then they said: ‘Oh my goodness somebody’s got to prosecute this.'”

Thompson’s assertion that the CIA “set the whole thing up” can be taken much further than even he takes it. In late 2005 I contacted the CIA public information officer who fields media questions regarding Joe Wilson. I asked him why the Agency hadn’t required Wilson to sign a confidentiality agreement regarding his trip to Niger. He hesitated for a few seconds, then responded: “I don’t know.” I followed up with my questions by e-mail:

(1) Why wasn’t Wilson’s February 2002 trip to Niger made subject to a confidentiality agreement?
(2) Did the Agency contemplate that Wilson would publicly discuss the trip at will upon his return?
(3) Did the agency anticipate that if he did so, it would attract attention to the employment of his wife by the agency?
(4) Why did the Agency select Wilson for the mission to Niger to check out such an important and sensitive matter given his lack of experience in intelligence or investigation?
(5) Was the Agency aware when it selected him for the mission of his hostility to the Bush administration?

The CIA officer responded:

Given the ongoing legal process, I don’t have anything for you in response to your questions about Ambassador Wilson.

Joe Wilson was not the only CIA-related political opponent of the Bush administration who emerged during the run-up to the 2004 election. In July 2004, the same month that the Times published Wilson’s notorious op-ed column, CIA analyst Michael Scheuer published his strange book Imperial Hubris.
In the epilogue to the paperback edition, Scheuer stated that he “was never told why the CIA permitted publication.” Following publication of the book, the CIA permitted Scheuer “anonymously” to criticize the Bush administration’s conduct of the war on terror in media interviews until his criticisms extended beyond the administration to the intelligence community. (Scheuer left the Agency in November 2004 — the week after the election.) I also asked the CIA the following questions regarding Scheuer:

(1) Has the Agency ever before in its history authorized the publication of a book by a current Agency employee attacking the incumbent administration?
(2) Was Scheuer’s employment status classified at any time between 1999 and the time he resigned from the Agency? If so, over what period?
(3) Can you cite any previous instances in the history of the Agency of currently employed Agency analysts attacking the incumbent administration?

The Agency’s response to these questions was a bit more forthcoming:

[A]ll CIA employees have prepublication obligations. Beyond the obvious prohibition on releasing classified information, the outside writings and speeches of serving officers must not affect either their ability to do their jobs or the agency’s ability to accomplish its mission. Because CIA is not a policy organization, its regulations discourage current employees from speaking or writing publicly on policy issues.
In light of that common-sense guidance, the chances are extremely remote — to put it mildly — that a presently serving officer would be allowed to write a book today injecting him or herself into a national policy debate. That is how things stand now.

Which left open the question: How did things stand in 2004? I wrote about the CIA’s apparent efforts to undermine the Bush administration in “Three Years of the Condor.”
The Senate Intelligence Committee Report on prewar intelligence is the key document on Wilson’s trip. If only the Senate Intelligence Committee had classified the Report and leaked it to the Times, it might have had an impact on the mainstream media story line on the Wilson affair. As it is, the fact that the Report demonstrated Wilson’s thoroughgoing mendacity essentially remains confidential insofar as mainstream media reporting is concerned.
One of these days some big-time journalist is bound to dig out the evidence of the CIA’s scandalous efforts to replace the Bush administration with one more to its liking. Right?


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