In an interview with ABC News' Jake Tapper, former Ambassador Joseph Wilson said President Bush "really ought to keep his word to the American people" and fire deputy White House Chief of Staff Karl Rove.
Wilson criticized the White House's response to the disclosure that Rove, a top-level Bush aide, had a role in the leak to a news reporter that Wilson's wife, Valerie Plame, was a CIA officer.
The following is a transcript of the interview:
JAKE TAPPER: Some might say, politically speaking, there's little upside in speaking out against the administration, because you're controversial and the White House is damaging itself. Why are you speaking out so much?
AMBASSADOR JOSEPH WILSON: At the end of the day, there's this smear campaign that they've launched is one that's very personal. It's a personal attack on my wife and myself. It is based on distortions and untruths. And I think it's important that the record be corrected. But let my just say that, by and large, this is not a political question. This is a national security question. It's a question of whether or not this country and this administration will tolerate somebody having leaked classified information to the press in a manner that is unethical and quite possibly illegal.
TAPPER: And you think that Karl Rove leaked your wife's identity to the press?
WILSON: What I've said all along is that I have information that, within a week of Mr. [Bob] Novak's article having appeared on July 14th of 2003, Mr. Rove was calling up reporters and pushing the story. I find the idea of a senior White House official engaged in political dirty tricks and smear campaigns to be below the ethical standards we have the right to demand of our senior public servants. With the release of this e-mail from Mr. Cooper, the Time magazine reporter, to his boss indicating that he had spoken to Mr. Rove about my wife several days before the Novak article appeared, I think there's real evidence there that he did in fact give away my wife's identity before Mr. Novak or any other article appeared.
TAPPER: Not specifically by name though, is what his defenders would say.
WILSON: I only have one wife and her name is Valerie Wilson so when he says "Wilson's wife" he's saying "Mrs. Wilson," and as I say, her name is Mrs. Wilson.
TAPPER: There are a lot of charges coming at you from the Republican Party in defense of Mr. Rove. One of them is that Karl Rove did not know what your wife's name was, so he couldn't have truly "identified" her.
WILSON: The Intelligence Identities Protection Act doesn't call for naming by name, it calls for identifying the individual. So when he said "Wilson's wife," he identified her. And her name, again, is Valerie Wilson.
TAPPER: But doesn't the Intelligence Identities Protection Act also call that he would have had to have known that she was undercover?
WILSON: That's something that the special council is obviously in the process of determining. Again, irrespective or whether or not what he said was criminal under in the context of the Intelligence Identities Protection Act, it's very clear that he knew from this e-mail that she worked for the CIA, and he knew that she was my wife, and he said "Wilson's wife," and her name is Valerie Wilson.
TAPPER: President Bush said that if anybody was found to have broken the law, they would be fired or dealt with. Do you think that phrasing was purposeful? The idea that he would say if they had broken the law as opposed to just if they had been involved in some sort of contribution to the leak?
WILSON: My understanding is last year he actually said that anybody who was involved in the leak would be fired and now we know that Karl Rove was involved in the leak. But I don't have the transcript of what he may have said or how they may be finessing it. The fact remains, however, that the president has indicated, in my judgment he indicated, that anybody involved in the leak would be fired. And the president who prides himself on being a man of his word really ought to keep his word to the American people and fire Karl Rove.
TAPPER: Well, I think his pledge actually was specifically if the law had been broken.
WILSON: I think we need to go back then and take a look at the transcripts from '04 because I think there's no ambiguity on that. That there are a number of instances where he was specifically asked the question "Would he be fired," and he said yes. And breaking the law was unincluded -- it was leaking the name.
TAPPER: The other thing the Republicans are putting out there is that Karl Rove wasn't leaking, he was trying to dissuade a reporter from writing an inaccurate story based on your op-ed.
WILSON: That's curious because, of course, my opinion piece said that the 16 words should never have been in the [president's 2003] State of the Union address. The day after my opinion piece appeared, the White House said that the 16 words shouldn't rise to the level of inclusion in the State of the Union address. In that e-mail, it says, "You should wait because George Tenet is going to say something." George Tenet did say something later in the week, and what he said was the 16 words should not have been in the State of the Union address. So it's hard to see how you make the argument that they were going to say something that was contradictory to the opinion piece I wrote. And indeed, they've never retracted the fact that the 16 words should never have been in the State of the Union address. If people remember, within a week, Stephen Hadley offered to resign because he had found in his files two faxes and a memorandum of a telephone conversation in which the director of Central Intelligence told him that he did not want the president to be a witness of fact on this case -- the uranium sales from Niger to Iraq -- because, he says, the evidence is weak and he believed that the British had exaggerated the case. That represented the view of the American Intelligence community.
TAPPER: In your op-ed, you state that, "it did not take long to conclude that it was highly doubtful that any such transaction had ever taken place." Is that your belief of how your report or your debriefs were received by the CIA?
WILSON: It certainly is my belief as to how they were received, and it's very clear that if you go back and look at the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence Report, that the CIA on a number of occasions reported to both the Senate, that they didn't believe that there was substance to this, and to the White House that there was not substance to it. So I think that, in fact, my report was pretty clear. Mine, by the way, was one of three reports, all of which said the same thing. The Senate Select Committee on Intelligence's review of this quotes the U.S. Ambassador in Niger saying that the embassy view essentially was the same as mine on this.
TAPPER: But, as you know from reading this Senate Committee Intelligence report, conclusion 13 was that your conclusions from your trip were not received uniformly as shooting down the theory of a transaction.
WILSON: No, what the report actually says was inconclusive, which basically means that the case was not made that Niger had sent uranium to Iraq.
TAPPER: They said that some people in the CIA took your report as buttressing the argument.
WILSON: A couple of the analysts referred to a conversation that never took place related to uranium. If there was any ambiguity in the report on that particular matter, there was a case of the prime minister having met with an Iraqi businessman. The prime minister opining that, since they wanted to talk about a commercial relationship, perhaps they would want to talk about uranium. The subject of uranium never came up in the meeting and that was clear in my debriefing. However, if there was any ambiguity in the report as it was conveyed by the report's officer, they certainly had my phone number. They knew how to get a hold of me to clear up that, or any other question they might have had on the matter.
TAPPER: The White House has also been saying that you have falsely represented yourself either in your media appearances and perhaps, by implication, in your op-ed, as having gone to Niger at the behest of the vice president. What is your response to that?
WILSON: Actually it's in paragraph five of my opinion piece. Let me just read it: "In February 2002, I was informed by officials at the Central Intelligence Agency that Vice President Dick Cheney's office had questions about a particular intelligence report. While I never saw the report, I was told it referred to a memorandum agreement that documented the sale of Uranium yellowcake by Niger to Iraq in the late 60s." I was informed that Vice President Cheney's office had questions. I have said repeatedly that the vice president did not send me. The vice president has said that indeed he did ask the CIA briefer to follow up and find out what information they might have on this report. That is known in the business as a "tasker." The vice president says, "Anything on this?" The CIA briefer goes back to the CIA and says, "We have to provide an answer to the vice president."
TAPPER: So you never said that the vice- [interrupted]
WILSON: Of course not, of course not.
TAPPER: So why are the Republicans saying that? (2)
WILSON: The Republicans apparently have taken a part of a statement I made in a [CNN] Wolff Blitzer interview and they have cut out of the statement that they have released the full statement that I made. And I think if you go back to that statement, and there are transcripts available, you will see that, in fact, I made it very clear in that interview that it was not the vice president who said it. Or as they say, perhaps it's time to run the tape.
TAPPER: They also claim that you said the vice president and other senior White House officials were briefed on your report and dismissed it.
WILSON: In fact, I said that because it is my understanding from my 23 years' experience in government that the reports that are produced are distributed through senior levels of the government. The vice president is a member of the government, as far as I know. In fact, the vice president followed up on this matter on March 5 of 2002, and was told by the CIA briefer that there would be a report in a couple of days. That was my report. The vice president's office claims that the vice president never saw the report and never followed up on it.
TAPPER: But for you, this has now become a much larger ordeal.
WILSON: What we're really talking about is a cover-up, a cover-up of a web of lies that led to the justification for a war in Iraq, which war has resulted in 1,750 American deaths … think the president should fire Karl Rove as he had said he would do if in fact it was determined as he said he would do to any employee who was caught leaking.
TAPPER: What about the charge your wife picked you to go to Niger?
WILSON: The CIA has said she was not involved in my being chosen to go on that trip.