certainly this is the story that Wilson has been telling. I'm not sure whether he believes it or thinks it is the best spin to get media coverage, but I'm pretty sure it is wrong and has confused most people about the real story.
To understand that you need to get past Wilson's ego and realize that he is a bit player in this drama, and his wife Valerie Plame has a leading role. We just never see her on screen.
All the attention has focused on Plame as victim, the CIA operative whose safety has been threatened and career compromised by being "outed" But most folks ignore her then current role, as analyst at the CIA WMD desk. Now the current revised history from the Bush folks is that the CIA is responsible for overstating Saddam's WMD capabilities. But we know better. To understand this case you need to recall the political and intelligence context of the period just before and after the start of the war.
As confirmed by the Downing Street Memos, Bush was determined to take out Saddam, and the administration was "fixing" the intelligence to provide a justification. Unfortunately the CIA wasn't helping very much. While "everyone" "knew" that Saddam had WMD, the actual intelligence we had was really poor. Experts were sure that the evidence we ended up seeing like the aluminum "centrifuge tubes" for uranium enrichment, the Niger documents and the mobile biological labs were bogus, and the CIA didn't trust the human intelligence from Chalabi's gang of informers.
Since the CIA was shooting down reasons for war as fast as Chalabi could make them up, the Bushies (paticularly Cheney and Rumsfeld) set up the Office of Special Plans at DOD to "stovepipe" the good stuff and package it for public and international consumption. There were reports of "war" within the intelligence community between the CIA regulars and the prowar DOD. Plame was a top CIA WMD analyst. She was one of the generals on the other side.
Now the timing of the Plame leak is important. When he War began in March even skeptics expected Iraq had some WMD stockpiles. While there was some surprise that none were used, we saw throughout the fighting reports about potential exposure. When Bush declared Mission Accomplished on May 1 the official line was still that we expected to find large caches which were hidden before the war. The administration was counting on those discoveries to justify their manipulation of intelligence before the war.
Wilson's story started to reach the public in early June when it was reported that the CIA had a negative report on the now discredited Niger memos a year earlier. It blew up in early July when Wilson went public, and Novak published his column outing Plame on July 14 - Mission to Niger
At the time the administration was flush with success and still confident that they would find illegal weapons. They were sorting Washington into good guys (who supported the war) and bad guys (who questioned it). When Wilson came up they asked around "Who is this guy" and learned he was married to a CIA WMD analyst. That made him a bad guy, so they share the news with Novak, as a way of discrediting Wilson. It wasn't about retaliation, it was about tarnishing Wilson by tying him to the antiwar faction at CIA. The White House knows Plame as an analyst who refused to support their prowar view. They have been fighting these internal battles for months; now that they have won the war those Saddam lovers are out. I doubt anyone even thought about her being covert.
To get a flavor of where the White House was going see this WSJ editorial from October
So when Patrick Fitzgerald shows up to investigate the outing of a CIA operative, the White House folks have a problem. They can hardly explain that they inadvertently outed an agent because they wanted to link Wilson to a faction at CIA that thought there were no WMD because, well, that would mean the White House had manufactured intelligence to take us into an unnecessary and increasingly unpopular war. After all they were now blaming CIA for OVERstating the threat from Iraq's WMD.
What did they tell Fitzgerald's investigators? What was their Grand Jury testimony. Bet it was pretty hard to come up with a consistent story that wasn't a political disaster. How many lied?
What started as a potential case of intentionally leaking the identity of an agent has now become about perjury and obstruction of justice in an attempt to conceal White House involvement in fixing the intelligence that led to war. Cooper and Miller were all over the prewar intelligence beat, so they become keys to understanding how the White House went from propagandists fighting CIA skeptics over WMD to triumphal victors haranguing their doubtors to well meaning victims of bad intelligence. The Plame disclosure happened right in the middle of the transformation, which means that it draws attention to both the WH role in the fixing of intelligence and its efforts to deny that role.
Fitzgerald needs the reporters to contradict whatever whitewash the WH has come up with for this mess. Its not just the identity of the source, it is what the WH was saying and when that will show that they lied to Fitzgerald and the Grand Jury to cover up their manipulation of and lying about prewar intelligence. This is what happens when the administration's Orwellian alteration of history occurs in a venue where lying is a crime and providing talking points is conspiracy to obstruct justice.