Wilson: White House Needs to 'Come Clean' -- 4.9.06

April 9, 2006 — -- In an exclusive interview on "This Week with George Stephanopoulos," former U.S. ambassador Joe Wilson called upon the White House to "come clean" and release the transcripts of prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald's interviews with President Bush and Vice President Cheney in the CIA leak investigation.

Wilson, whose wife's secret employment by the CIA was revealed following the leak of classified intelligence information, insisted, "I think it is long past time for the White House to come clean on all of this."

When asked whether or not Wilson and Valerie Plame, his wife, intend to file a civil suit against the White House, the former ambassador replied, "We're holding keeping all options open at this point."

White House press secretary Scott McClellan at a press conference on Friday was barraged by questions about a court filing in the CIA leak case in which Vice President Dick Cheney's former chief of staff, I. Lewis Libby, told prosecutors that he was authorized by President Bush to leak classified information to rebut charges made by Wilson.

Following are excerpts of Wilson's interview with Stephanopoulous:

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: That court filing also says that government documents -- this is a quote -- "could be characterized as reflecting a plan to discredit, punish or seek revenge against Mr. Wilson." Do you now believe President Bush was part of that plan?

JOSEPH WILSON: I have no idea, but I think the court documents reflect accurately the situation. After all, four months before the State of the Union address, both the Senate and the White House were advised that there was nothing to this charge [that Iraq sought yellowcake uranium in Niger] that was later in the State of the Union address. Indeed, in January, it was reported today that the national intelligence officer, speaking on behalf of the intelligence community, sent a memo to the U.S. -- the rest of the U.S. government, including the White House -- saying that this charge is baseless and should be dropped. On July 7, the day after my article [rebutting the State of the Union claim] appeared in The New York Times, the White House said to the press, the 16 words did not rise to the level of inclusion in the State of the Union address. That was the day before Mr. Libby embarked upon this campaign to further the disinformation that was launched in the president's State of the Union address, and to smear me, which ultimately led to the compromise of the identity of my wife.

STEPHANOPOULOS: The White House, as you know, Scott McClellan said it there in the press conference, said this was necessary for the national interest. He said it was in the national interest, and he went on to say more. And I want to show you a little bit more of that press conference.

SCOTT MCCLELLAN [at press conference]: There were people that were out there making irresponsible accusations that intelligence was manipulated, or that intelligence was misused. There's been no evidence to back that up whatsoever.

STEPHANOPOULOS: He is talking about you.

WILSON: Well, of course, they're talking about me, but in actual fact, several months before the State of the Union address, the White House and the Senate were advised, don't use this information; it is baseless. If you then use the information, you are twisting intelligence to support political decisions that have already been made. And in July, when you selectively leak pieces of the national intelligence estimate, and when you attribute pieces in the body to key judgments, you are furthering that disinformation campaign. That's what Mr. Libby did. Indeed, it seems to me it is long past time for the White House to come clean on all of this. There are two things that I think ought to be done. One, I believe that the president and the vice president need to release the transcripts of their testimony to the prosecutor so that we all know precisely what it was that was said to the prosecutor, so that we all know precisely what it was that was said to the prosecutor in response to questions in this matter. And, two, when Mr. Fitzgerald's filing, he made it very clear that multiple sources in the White House were engaged in the smear campaign. The president said that he would fire anybody who was leaking. I think that we ought to know who those multiple sources were, and the president ought to fire them, if he hopes to maintain any sort of trust with the American people.

STEPHANOPOULOS: We are learning a little more each day. Last night, a lawyer close to the case was quoted in the Associated Press saying that the president didn't directly tell Scooter Libby to go to he New York Times, or any kind of specific information like that. He simply told Vice President Cheney, "get the information out. Declassify this information." Vice President Cheney took care of the rest. Do you accept that?

WILSON: Well, look, I'm not going to sit here and accuse the president of the United States of -- of any committed -- betraying the national security of the country. But at the end of the day, if you're going to say, get the information out, that basically means declassify the national intelligence estimate. Not selective pieces of this that support decisions that you've made, even though they are not grounded in fact, and that's what Mr. Libby did.

STEPHANOPOULOS: There is no suggestion in this court filing that either the vice president or the president actually directed that your wife, Valerie Plame, the former CIA agent, that her identity be revealed. Do you accept that this was something that the president and the vice president were not involved in?

WILSON: Look, I have no way of knowing. The last person in the world that either the president or the vice president speak to these days is Joe Wilson. I would like them to speak to the American people. There are transcripts of their testimony to the special prosecutor. It seems to me that we could easily clear this up by releasing those White House transcripts.

STEPHANOPOULOS: In the past, your own credibility has been called into question. I want to show you a Washington Post article that was written about the Senate Intelligence Committee report. It said that, "The panel found that Wilson's report, rather than debunking intelligence about purported uranium sales to Iraq, as he has said, bolstered the case for most intelligence analysts. And contrary to Wilson's assertions and even the government's previous statements, the CIA did not tell the White House it had qualms about the reliability of the Africa intelligence that made its way into 16 fateful words in President Bush's January 2003 State of the Union address."

WILSON: Well, I think if you go back and you read that report, it makes very clear that on Oct. 2, 2002, the Senate itself was informed by the deputy director of central intelligence that the judgment of the U.S. intelligence community was that the British had stretched the case on the matter of uranium sales from Africa to Iraq. Four days, within four days, the director of central intelligence had informed the White House on three different occasions, once by phone and two by e-mails, that, to quote Mr. Tenet, "I do not want the president of the United States to be a witness of fact in this matter because the evidence is weak, because one of the mines in question is flooded and because we believe the British have exaggerated the matter." That was four weeks before -- four months before the State of the Union address. We now know from reporting in the news division of The Washington Post that in January, the national intelligence officer called the allegation baseless. Now, I don't know what more the intelligence community at the senior management level has to say to the political leadership of this country to tell them not to use this particular allegation.

STEPHANOPOULOS: You quoted the Fitzgerald finding saying that multiple White House, people in the White House were involved in revealing your wife's identity or talking about your wife's identity. It says that there was a plan to discredit, punish or seek revenge against Mr. Wilson. Are you going to file a civil suit against the White House or against individuals in the White House?

WILSON: Well, we're holding all our options open. At the end of the day, it seems to me that first and foremost, the White House needs to come clean on this matter. My own view of this is that the White House owes the American people and particularly our service people that have been sent into war an apology for having misrepresented the facts.

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