~ Thursday, July 24, 2003
HEADLINE: Former Ambassador Joseph Wilson discusses the content of the State
of the Union and alleges White House repercussions against him for speaking
ANCHORS: KATIE COURIC
KATIE COURIC, co-host:
With us now from Washington is former Ambassador Joseph Wilson.
Mr. Ambassador, good morning to you.
Mr. JOSEPH WILSON (Former Acting United States Ambassador To Iraq): Hi,
Katie. How are you this morning?
COURIC: I'm fine, thank you. I know that you were one of the first to warn
the CIA that Iraq was not trying to buy uranium from Niger after the
agents--agency sent you there to investigate the situation in--in, I
believe, February of 2002. Now you say after you recently went public that
you were the administration's secret envoy, but the White House is trying to
discredit and intimidate you. Why would you say that and what specifically
do you think the White House is doing?
Mr. WILSON: Well, first of all, I was the discreet envoy as opposed to a
secret envoy. I'm not a secret agent. And, secondly, I went out there at the
request of the--of the government to look into the allegations that Iraq
might have been trying to buy significant quantities of uranium from Niger.
I looked into those thoroughly. I had a--a longstanding knowledge of the
uranium business, as well as a number of very senior level contacts in the
former Niger government which would have been in power at the time that the
supposed memorandum of agreement was done. I came back, I reported those
findings, and I went back to my--my normal life. When--first, the State
Department spokesman, in response to the IAEI***(as spoken)***assertion that
these documents were forged, said we were fooled, I felt it important to
make the point that, in fact, the US government had information long before
the IAEA statement to the effect that it was highly unlikely that Niger
could have been selling uranium to Iraq.
And then subsequently when there was another statement made by the--by the
national security adviser that perhaps somebody in the bowels of the agency
knew about it but not at her level, I felt it was important to ensure
that--that everybody understand that this was a--senior levels of the
government that had asked me to--that had asked for the information that had
led to my going out there.
COURIC: So how--let me get back to--to my original question, if I could, how
do you think now the White House is trying to discredit and intimidate you?
Mr. WILSON: Sure. Well, during--during the last couple of weeks, there have
been a number of articles written attacking me. The most amusing ones
basically suggesting that I told the truth because I'm a--a Democrat. This
was not a partisan activity, but if you want to lay it out as Democratic
truth-tellers and what the Republicans equal. But the most serious
allegation was in a--in a--an article by Bob Novak, a Washington columnist
for the Chicago Sun Times in which he asserted that my wife, who he named by
her maiden name, was a CIA operative. And he quoted two senior
administration sources. I spoke to him about it afterwards because he had
asked me for a confirmation. He had told me when he asked for the
confirmation, they were CIA sources. I called him afterwards and said, 'You
told me they were CIA sources, now you're saying they were senior
administration sources.' He said, 'I misspoke the first time,' which means,
as I well understood, that the CIA would never do something like that. And
so that basically means that somebody at the political level of the
COURIC: And you think this happened after you went public saying you were,
in fact, the discreet envoy, as you say, who ascertained that Iraq was not,
in fact, buying uranium from Niger?
Mr. WILSON: Oh, absolutely. The article appeared a week after my--my New
York Times op-ed.
COURIC: Which was July 6th?
Mr. WILSON: Which was July 6th. I've since learned from a--a couple of
different reporters that the White House has been--White House sources have
been telling the story as 'Wilson and his wife,' which is absolutely not the
case. It's neither about Wilson nor is it about his wife. It's about the 16
words that somebody managed to insert in the State of the Union address that
the president--that the president spoke to the United States, to the US
Congress and to the world.
COURIC: How damaging would this be to your wife's work?
Mr. WILSON: Well, you know, what was left out of my interview with Andrea
Mitchell was--was my comment that I would not answer any specific questions
about my wife. But hypothetically speaking, as others have reported,
including TODAY, it would be--it would be damaging not just to her career,
since she's been married to me, but since they mentioned her by her maiden
name, to her entire career. So it would be her entire network that she may
have established, any operations, any programs or projects she was working
on. It's a--it's a breach of national security. My understanding is it may,
in fact, be a violation of American law.
COURIC: Well, what would the White House--what motivation would the White
House have in divulging your wife's name?
Mr. WILSON: Well, it does--it does nothing to intimidate me since my story
is already out there. A day after I--I--I wrote my op-ed, the White House
acknowledged that the 16 words should never have been in the State of the
Union address. A week after my article appeared, the president's--the vice
president's chief of staff acknowledged to Time magazine that the vice
president had, in fact, expressed an interest to this subject matter. So
it's not to intimidate me. I--I--what I'm most worried about and most
concerned about is that it is probably intended to intimidate others and
keep them from stepping forward, less...
COURIC: Why did you--I'm sorry to interrupt.
Mr. WILSON: Mm-hmm.
COURIC: But why did you wait so long to come forward? If the president
included this sentence in his State of the Union address in January and used
it as a rationale for the invasion into Iraq, why did you wait to go public
until July 6th?
Mr. WILSON: Well, Katie, remember that the president's statement and the
British white paper referred only to Africa, generically. There are three
other countries in Africa that actually produce and export uranium, South
Africa and Namibia/Gabon. So long as they were talking only about Africa, my
curiosity was aroused, but there was no particular reason for me to think
they were talking about Niger. It was only after the State Department
spokesman make it very clear that, in fact, they were talking about Niger,
that was the country they were referring to from Africa, that I felt that it
was important to--to clear the record.
COURIC: You were anti-war, you were for--you supported the containment of
Saddam Hussein. So how can you convince people--and, reportedly, you are
close to Democrats. Is this politically motivated any--in any way, shape or
Mr. WILSON: Well, let me--let me say, Katie, that I went out to--to Niger
six months before I ever wrote any article on the particular subject.
Secondly, all my articles made the case that, in fact, disarmament was a
legitimate national security and indeed international security objective and
that in order to effect disarmament, you had to have the credible threat of
force. And in order to--for that credible threat--for that force to be
credible, you had to be prepared to use it. What I was against was the
high-risk global war option of invasion, conquest and subsequently
occupation. And the reason that I was against that was because I never
believed it was going to be a cake walk. I never believed, based on my
experience of two and half years living in Iraq...
Mr. WILSON: ...I never believed that the Iraqis were going to be waving
flags as we marched into Baghdad. I always feared that the occupation would
be the most difficult part of this. And I always thought that we needed to
take a good hard look at what objectives we were trying to achieve in
engaging in this activity.
COURIC: We're almost out of time. In a few seconds, what would you like to
happen if, in fact, it is found to be true that senior officials at the
White House did disseminate this information about your wife and her job?
Mr. WILSON: Well, I fully expect the appropriate authorities will look into
it, as well they should, if, in fact, it is a--it's a violation of US law. I
have every confidence in--in the institutions of our government. I've never
been prouder to be an American than during these days when--when speaking
truth to power has--has been an important thing to do. So I have every
confidence that this will all be looked into and--and--and decided
COURIC: Ambassador Joseph Wilson. Ambachader--Ambassador Wilson, thanks very
much for your time this morning.
Mr. WILSON: Thanks, Katie.