(From the diaries -- kos
Yes, Kossacks, while you all were out linking to military porn sites and fraternity house pages and checking out friendster (you sordid crew, you), I've been spending my past few days in a leisurely, wide-ranging email discussion with Ambassador Joseph Wilson, asking him the questions we've all been dying to ask him.
Now did I get the better deal, or what?
Mr. Wilson has been incredibly gracious and generous with his time, and we are deeply indebted to him as a community for the insight he's offering us into our research into Gannon, Talon News and propaganda. He's a Daily Kos reader, and while not a registered user, is willing to answer additional questions we may have; I'll compile them from this thread, forward them to him and post a follow-up diary.
So without further ado, the incredible truth-speaker, Mr. Wilson:
How did the interview with Gannon come about, given that it was a small-time conservative news outlet?
Gannon called me and identified himself as the White House Correspondent from Talon News, a conservative news organization. He wanted to do a wide-ranging interview on my position on the war as well as the Niger mission and the leak.
While I had never heard his name or the name of his organization before, I was happy to do it. I have long felt that it is readers and viewers of conservative media who could benefit from a more balanced discussion of what is at stake in our policy and the actions of our government. At one point I recall Gannon as saying he was a traditional conservative (distinguishing himself from the neoconservatives, who in my judgement have totally captured our foreign policy). Speaking to the Times and other mainstream media is fine but those readers and viewers are generally better informed and often of the same perspective. It is those on the other side to whom we need to address the issues even more than to those with whom we already share views.
Did you enter the interview fearful of "landmines" being set by the other side?
I never thought that I had anything to fear from landmines. I told the truth from the beginning. There was never anything to hide.
Were you struck immediately during the course of the interview by the fact that he discussed the internal memo?
As to the memo, I knew nothing about it other than a Post journalist had told me there was one circulating which he characterized as having been written by somebody who was not at the meeting where I was asked if I would be willing to go to Niger. The fact is Valerie was not at that meeting. Neither she nor I had any ulterior motive in this. It was not until almost six months later that I began to speak out on the war question and even when I did, I always believed that WMD was a legitimate reason to be tough on Saddam. The trip to Niger is only relevant because of the 16 words and the fact that the only evidence to support the yellowcake charge the US turned over to the IAEA (as they were required by Article 10 of USUN 1441) were those forged documents relating to Niger. The only information the British apparently shared with the IAEA was a trip to the region by an Iraqi diplomat a couple of years previously. As it turned out, the CIA had told both the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence and the White House almost four months before the State of the Union address that it believed the British had "stretched" or "exaggerated" the yellowcake allegation. All of that was in the Senate report but unfortunately, was overlooked by the mainstream media.
Back to the memo, when Gannon mentioned it to me, I told him I knew nothing about it but
repeated that my wife was not at the meeting at which the subject of a trip to Niger was broached with me. I may have mentioned that I had heard that there was a memo out there but had no other knowledge about it. I still don't.
Are you comfortable letting it be known that you've spoken with me?
I have no problem with your saying you have spoken with me. I have no reason not to ensure that the truth is told and I am tired of the way in which the Republicans have smeared my family and myself for no reason other than to perpetuate their lies to the American people. I did not like fascists when I fought them as a diplomat for 23 years and I don't like them now in my own country.
When I mentioned landmines above, I wasn't thinking of being caught out in a lie, rather I was wondering if you were concerned about having your words twisted or taken out of context in order to add fuel to a smear campaign.
I understand what you meant by landmines, but frankly, when somebody presents himself as a journalist, even one with a conservative bent, I don't(or didn't) think that landmines (or entrapment) would be what he was about. Most journalists who have interviewed me will tell you that I am careful with my use of words any way, and I certainly try to be. Clearly, I was mistaken in that assumption, given the smear campaign that was waged against me, based on lies and distortions of what I said and wrote.
That said, if we allow ourselves to be intimidated and silenced by the liars, our democracy will not survive. We have to continue to confront them.
My complaint is not so much about the smear campaign as it is about the laziness of so-called objective journalists who failed to even do basic research. If Susan Schmidt, the Post reporter, had bothered to call the CIA or check the written record, she would have learned that mere days after the Novak article appeared, the CIA (under the guise of an unnamed senior intelligence official) told Newsday that Valerie was not responsible for the decision to send me to Niger. The CIA repeated the same thing to every reporter who bothered to ask over the subsequent year.
If reporters had bothered to read the Senate report, they would have learned that not only
the White House but also the Senate Select committee itself was told by CIA management nearly four months before the State of the Union address that American intelligence did not believe the British claim. Unless the press is prepared to work at it we will continue to be bamboozled by administrations, and people like me who are prepared to speak out will become rare species indeed.
Now that there are a lot of questions about Gannon's identity and the legitimacy of Talon News, in retrospect, do you think you were being set up?
I frankly have not followed him more than what I occasionally see in the blogs. It is possible the interview was a setup. I don't believe I spoke to him more than twice at most by phone, by the way. I don't know who all knew about the so-called memo. I heard of its supposed existence from only one other reporter. I doubt he was repeating hearsay, since only one other journalist mentioned it to me.
Why do you think he was on the subpoena list with such other prominent media players when he was so small time?
I have never seen the list. Didn't even know it was public information. Remember that the case is between the USG and whoever leaked Valerie's name. Although our names are tied to it, we are not victims, the government is.
I didn't understand why Novak used her name in the first place and I don't understand the smear campaign other than as an attempt to provide a proactive defense if a crime was committed. As to my alleged incompetence, the Senate Select intelligence report makes my bona fides for the trip clear. I had a track record, having made a previous trip to Niger on behalf of the government in 1999 to look into uranium related matters. But the truth is an unfortunate victim in this matter.
My knowledge of Africa and of Niger is almost unparalleled in US policy circles. This was not an inquiry into nuclear weapons but an inquiry into mining practices in Africa. And, whatever the administration and its hired guns try to say, the fact remains, the White House acknowledged the day after my article appeared in the Times that "the sixteen words did not rise to the level of inclusion in the State of the Union." Within days, Stephen Hadley offered
his resignation and Condi did a mea culpa since, lo and behold, they "found" memos from the CIA saying not to use the information months before the State of the Union.
When did the interview with Gannon actually take place? It was published October,28, 2003, but we're trying to nail down the precise date you talked to him.
I don't recall but it couldn't have been more than a week earlier.
On the Daily Show on July 24, 2003, you showed a letter from Bush/Cheney '04 asking you to participate in the re-election campaign. What was the date on that letter?
The date of the letter was after the appearance of my article on July 6, 2003. The point of my showing the letter was to make a joke about bygones being bygones since Cheney had signed a letter asking me to be a co-chairman of the DC committee to reelect Bush/Cheney.
As far as you are aware, was your wife's name and status "common knowledge" inside the beltway as claimed by Clifford May in the National Review Online on Sept. 29, 2003?
If it was common knowledge that could only be because the conspiracy to leak her name was broader and deeper than currently understood. I have only laid eyes on May once in my life, we are not habitués of the DC cocktail circuit (I think we have been to two so-called A list parties in seven years here and one of those was to celebrate the Declaration of Independence.) When the leak occurred nobody in our circle of friends or colleagues outside Valerie's place of employment knew what she did for a living. If our closest friends and family (my brother did not know) were unaware, the only way our political adversaries would know is if somebody from the administration spread the story.
In March 2003, you published an article in The Nation and appeared on CNN. Did these have repercussions from inside the administration?
Not to my knowledge. The first article I wrote appeared in the San Jose Mercury News in October, 2002. Brent Scowcroft called me after it appeared and asked if he could take it over to the White House and share it with officials there. I subsequently got a letter from President Bush's father (Bush 41) saying he "agreed with almost everything I wrote. My Nation article was an attack on the Neoconservatives and on the signatories of the PNAC for their misguided notions of an American Empire and how to propagate democracy around the world.
Approximately when did Chris Matthews contact you to say, "Rove says your wife is fair game?" Was it before or after Novak's July 14, 2003, article?
It was after. I think the date was July 21, 2003. The date is in my book, The Politics of Truth, which I recommend to everybody. It describes my career in American diplomacy as well as the way in which the 16 words and the subsequent leak played out.
What do you think of the process of research that's going on at Daily Kos on this issue? How does it fit into your view of the role of citizens versus the role of official media in information gathering and reporting?
I think that in the absence of a responsible national media, the blogs play an important role in trying to shed light on various issues, including the bona fides of so-called White House correspondents as well as tackling questions overlooked or ignored by the national journalists. I also believe that the nature of the profession has changed to the detriment of good investigative journalism. No longer is there a quest for the truth so much as there is this apparent need to present both sides of an issue even if one is nothing but lies and distortions. Giving the same value to fiction as to fact in the interest of so-called fairness is to mislead the American people and the press has become party to that.
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