Robert Novak

WASHINGTON -- I had thought I never again would write about retired diplomat Joseph Wilson's CIA-employee wife, but feel constrained to do so now that repercussions of my July 14 column have reached the front pages of major newspapers and led off network news broadcasts. My role and the role of the Bush White House have been distorted and need explanation.

The leak now under Justice Department investigation is described by former Ambassador Wilson and critics of President Bush's Iraq policy as a reprehensible effort to silence them. To protect my own integrity and credibility, I would like to stress three points. First, I did not receive a planned leak. Second, the CIA never warned me that the disclosure of Wilson's wife working at the agency would endanger her or anybody else. Third, it was not much of a secret.

The current Justice investigation stems from a routine, mandated probe of all CIA leaks, but follows weeks of agitation. Wilson, after telling me in July that he would say nothing about his wife, has made investigation of the leak his life's work -- aided by the relentless Sen. Charles Schumer of New York. These efforts cannot be separated from the massive political assault on President Bush.

This story began July 6 when Wilson went public and identified himself as the retired diplomat who had reported negatively to the CIA in 2002 on alleged Iraq efforts to buy uranium yellowcake from Niger. I was curious why a high-ranking official in President Bill Clinton's National Security Council (NSC) was given this assignment. Wilson had become a vocal opponent of President Bush's policies in Iraq after contributing to Al Gore in the last election cycle and John Kerry in this one.

During a long conversation with a senior administration official, I asked why Wilson was assigned the mission to Niger. He said Wilson had been sent by the CIA's counterproliferation section at the suggestion of one of its employees, his wife. It was an offhand revelation from this official, who is no partisan gunslinger. When I called another official for confirmation, he said: "Oh, you know about it." The published report that somebody in the White House failed to plant this story with six reporters and finally found me as a willing pawn is simply untrue.


Robert Novak

Robert Novak (1931-2009) was a syndicated columnist and editor of the Evans-Novak Political Report.
 

 
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