Bush's Culture of Unaccountability

Editor's Note: The following is an email interview conducted with Ambassador Joseph Wilson on Friday, July 8. From the moment that what's now known as "Plamegate" emerged on the horizon, alternative media outlets have demanded accountability from the White House. Although the mainstream corporate media is now focusing on the legal issue of whether Karl Rove or other White House staffers will be indicted, the more preeminent issue is that the Bush White House committed treason by betraying the national security of the United States of America.

BuzzFlash: There are at least three dimensions to the outing of your wife as a CIA operative: legal, national security and moral. Let's put aside the swirling legal issues, for a moment, and start with the national security issue of what happened in the summer of 2003. "Two senior administration officials" confirmed to columnist Robert Novak in the summer of 2003 that your wife was a CIA operative. She was working undercover, tracking the trade in weapons of mass destruction (WMDs), including illicit trafficking. The Bush Administration had told the American people that we were attacking Iraq because Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction and we needed protection from him. Here's the question: Whatever the legal issues, isn't this a prima facie betrayal of the national security interests of the United States, to "out" your wife, who was working to protect us from weapons of mass destruction, at a time that the White House was launching a war allegedly to prevent the use of weapons of mass destruction that didn't even exist?

Ambassador Wilson: The question of whether the outing of Valerie was a betrayal of our national interests is precisely what the special counsel, Pat Fitzgerald, is trying to ascertain. I have great confidence in his commitment and professionalism. It should be clear that the CIA would not have referred the case to Justice, if it had not believed a crime was committed.

What about the moral dimensions of the "leak" to Novak? Karl Rove was quoted as telling a reporter that your wife was "fair game." Isn't national security, our ability to protect ourselves as a nation, a game that takes second place to vengeance and intimidation for the senior administration officials in question? What is the morality of such an attitude and action in terms of an administration's sacred duty to protect the citizens of the United States? Even if senior White House officials are not indicted, aren't they morally culpable for betraying our safety?

In my judgment, a smear campaign operated out of the White House is unethical, to say the least. The First Amendment specifically says that nothing should be done to abridge a citizen's right to petition his government to redress a grievance. The attack on me, through the compromise of Valerie's identity, is an assault on not just my petition to redress a grievance, but it is also a deterrent to other citizens who might step forward. That is why I have always argued that Rove should be fired, even if no indictments are forthcoming. It goes without saying that I found his comment to Chris Matthews, that Valerie was fair game, to be repugnant.

Again, let's put aside the legal investigation for the time being. At the time that this became an issue -- due to David Corn's reporting and repeated editorials on BuzzFlash -- Bush demurred from taking any personal action to find out who on his staff endangered national security. For two years, whoever did this has presumably still been working at the White House. Hasn't Bush left us vulnerable, by having senior administration officials still on staff, who betrayed the citizens of the United States of America? Hasn't this made possible another potential security breach? Couldn't Bush just have called his senior staff into his office and said: "I have taken a solemn oath to protect every American. Whoever did this, come forward, you're fired?"

I have made the same arguments repeatedly, most recently in my statement yesterday. We are where we are because of the culture of unaccountability that is pervasive in the White House. The President must assume responsibility.

Up until now, hasn't Rove succeeded? His goal and modus operandi is to use any weapon possible to intimidate persons critical of his candidates or elected officials, even if it is harmful to the national interest. Doesn't the acquiescence of the media to the White House spin and the relatively few whistle blowers indicate that Rove's reckless bullying has silenced many people who would otherwise come forth with the truth?

I have always said that I believed the outing of Valerie was a signal to others that, should they step forward, the White House would do to their families what they did to mine. I have also had a number of journalists share with me their own experiences of being intimidated by senior officials in the White House. We should not be surprised that a climate of fear prevails in Washington.

Finally, because of the speed of news cycles, we seem to have a very short memory about what happened in the past. Why is there not more outrage about how senior Bush administration staffers sold out the national security interests of the United States in order to send a message that they would stop at nothing to silence truth tellers? In short, why is the media only interested in this issue if someone, or some ones in the Bush Administration, are legally found culpable? Isn't this just common sense that we were sold out as a nation? After all, if there aren't indictments, it will because of legal technicalities, not innocence.

Irrespective of whether there are indictments, the lack of ethical grounding among our senior officials is appalling. There is no excuse for the campaign against me, including dragging Valerie into this. There are two irrefutable truths: 1) The sixteen words should never have been in the State of the Union Address; and 2) Valerie's name should never have been compromised. Neither Valerie nor I had anything to do with either act. The campaign against us, beginning with the compromise of her identity, has been designed to shift the focus from the administration to Valerie and me. It is undemocratic and it is unAmerican. It remains to be seen if it is illegal.

***

Wilson released the following statement on Wednesday, July 6:

Statement of Joseph Wilson on the sentencing of New York Times Reporter Judith Miller:

The sentencing of Judith Miller to jail for refusing to disclose her sources is the direct result of the culture of unaccountability that infects the Bush White House from top to bottom. President Bush's refusal to enforce his own call for full cooperation with the Special Counsel has brought us to this point. Clearly, the conspiracy to cover up the web of lies that underpinned the invasion of Iraq is more important to the White House than coming clean on a serious breach of national security. Thus has Ms Miller joined my wife, Valerie, and her twenty years of service to this nation as collateral damage in the smear campaign launched when I had the temerity to challenge the President on his assertion that Iraq had attempted to purchase uranium yellowcake from Africa.

The real victims of this cover-up, which may have turned criminal, are the Congress, the Constitution and, most tragically, the Americans and Iraqis who have paid the ultimate price for Bush's folly.

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