November 21st, 2007
11:20 AM ET
15 years ago

Spy's husband: Book shows White House 'closed ranks' in leaking wife's identity

Watch former Ambassador Wilson's interview with John Roberts.

(CNN) - The revelation by a former White House spokesman that President Bush and Vice President Cheney were "involved" in the leak of CIA operative Valerie Plame Wilson's identity shows how the White House "closed ranks" to protect themselves, her husband, Joe Wilson, said Wednesday.

The information - from an upcoming book by Scott McClellan - also shows how important it was to the administration to commute the sentence of Lewis "Scooter" Libby, Wilson said on CNN's "American Morning."

"I think it now makes it very clear the extent to which the vice president was involved, which, of course, then makes it very clear how important to the vice president the commutation of Mr. Libby's sentence was," the former U.S. ambassador said.

Libby, who was Cheney's chief of staff, was convicted in March of perjury and obstruction of justice for lying to investigators and a federal grand jury about his contacts with reporters concerning Wilson.

Just before Libby was to report to a federal prison in July to serve 30 months behind bars, Bush commuted his sentence, although the president stopped short of a full pardon and Libby still had to pay a $250,000 fine.

"They basically closed ranks, guaranteed that the cloud (special prosecutor Patrick) Fitzgerald said was over the vice president's head would not be lifted. And now because of McClellan's statement, that cloud is over the president himself.

"He is either completely out of touch or he's an accessory to an obstruction of justice both before the fact and after the fact," he said.

"At a bare minimum, for openers, think it's incumbent upon the president and vice president now to release the transcripts of their statements to the special prosecutor, so we now have a fuller understanding of what they knew, when they knew it, and what they said to Justice."

In addition, the public deserves to know "whether or not they continue to frustrate the efforts of the Justice Department and the efforts of the government to get to the bottom of what is essentially the betrayal of national security of our country," said Wilson.

Amid a swelling controversy about the leak of Valerie Wilson's name, McClellan went to the White House podium in October 2003 and told reporters that Karl Rove, the president's top political adviser, and Lewis "Scooter" Libby, Cheney's chief of staff, had not been involved.

In an upcoming book, McClellan says five administration officials were "involved" in his "unknowingly" passing along false information about the involvement of Rove and Libby in the leak of Valerie Wilson's identity.

"There was one problem. It was not true," McClellan writes in his new book, "What Happened," which is to be released in April. "I had unknowingly passed along false information. And five of the highest ranking officials in the administration were involved in my doing so: Rove, Libby, the vice president, the president's chief of staff and the president himself."

McClellan does not explain what he means by the word "involved," nor does he give specifics about any actions taken by Bush, Cheney, Libby, Rove or Card with regard to McClellan's dissemination of the false information.

Reacting to the release of an excerpt from McClellan's book, which was posted Tuesday on the Web site of the book's publisher, PublicAffairs, White House spokesman Scott Stanzel said, "The president has not misled his spokespeople, nor would he."

The Wilsons believe the "outing" of her identity was an act of retaliation after Joe Wilson questioned of a claim by President Bush before the Iraq war that the British had learned that Saddam Hussein had sought to obtain uranium from Africa.

The Wilsons have sued Cheney, Libby and Rove over the leak, although a federal judge threw the lawsuit out in July on jurisdictional grounds. Joe Wilson said they are in the process of appealing, and hope the suit will be heard early next year.

On Tuesday, Valerie Wilson issued a statement saying she was "outraged to learn" that McClellan had confirmed "that he was sent out to lie to the press corps and the American public."

McClellan, who served as White House press secretary from July 2003 until April 2006, told CNN he's still writing the book and the excerpt was highlighted by the publisher to build interest.

Valerie Wilson's name was revealed in a column by Robert Novak in the summer of 2003, who cited "two top administration officials."

The lawyer for Rove, who left the White House in August, has acknowledged he was one of the sources. Rove was never charged.

Former Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage has said he was Novak's original source for the information, although he insisted the disclosure was not deliberate, and he did not know Wilson was a covert agent.

Because deliberately leaking a CIA operative's name can be a federal crime, a special prosecutor, Fitzgerald, was appointed to investigate. No one was charged in connection with the leak itself; Libby's charges resulted from statements he made during the investigation.

soundoff (46 Responses)
  1. Mac, Severn, Md

    Read the new story above, where the publisher of McClellan's book is clarifying the "teaser" that has been sent out to promote book sales.

    Same thing happened when Alan Greenspan's book came out. He spent several days un-doing the "teaser".

    Book teasers are taken out of context and do not fully disclose what the writer has REALLY said in the book. They are intended to be "sensational", but they fail on merit.

    He who opens mouth and comments based on a book teaser is doomed to look rather foolish when the whole book is revealed.

    November 21, 2007 02:19 pm at 2:19 pm |
  2. Jack, Fort Myers, FL

    The President...of all others in power must support our agents in the field. The FACT that a President led to exposing the identity of one–sends reprcussions much worse than this angry vets words.

    November 21, 2007 02:25 pm at 2:25 pm |
  3. Jack, Fort Myers, FL

    The President...of all others in power must support our agents in the field. The FACT that a President led to exposing the identity of one–sends repercussions much worse than this angry vets words.

    November 21, 2007 02:27 pm at 2:27 pm |
  4. josh

    When will Joe Wilson go away. Valerid Plame is old news.

    November 21, 2007 02:37 pm at 2:37 pm |
  5. Angel, Los Angeles of Anaheim

    You know, it's our own fault that this happened. We are the ones that voted this arse into office–TWICE.
    All we can do now is wait for another 14 months for this nightmare to be over and be sure we don't make mistakes like this again. This goes for both Red states and Blue states, White states and Black states. Impeachment now would just be a waste of taxpayer money. It takes years for this type of procedure to unfold and you know Bushie and his cronies will attempt every underhanded move available to them to block it and save face for themselves. 14 months isn't near long enough.
    We need to start looking at the unprecedented option of charging a 'former' president with crimes against the state. We can't let this criminal off the hook to fade away into revered retirement.

    November 21, 2007 02:48 pm at 2:48 pm |
  6. JT, Denver

    I love how everyone on here is so sure of what happened. I mean i could ponder and make theories too and some maybe close but lots of people on here sound like they were in the room when the decision was made. Well because you all have such a level of knowledge perhaps you should testify before congress!!!!

    November 21, 2007 04:14 pm at 4:14 pm |
  7. JB Boston MA

    Look, I dislike Bush as much as the next guy, but these two (Plame/Wilson) whining pathetic peeople need to go away.

    In order for it to be treason, the person needs to have been undercover in the past 5 years. THAT DID NOT HAPPEN!

    Wilson claimed Cheney sent him. THAT WAS NOT TRUE. When someone asked, "well then who sent him", the response was "well, his wife works for the CIA"

    That is not outing. That is the truth. That is how he got sent. End of story.

    Now, I am just an in the dark citizen who reads alot, and hopes that the info I am getting is accurate (from many different sources including NPR/CNN/Fox/MSNBC/BBC). This is what I believe to be accurate, and therefore this is not a story to me.

    Now of course there is a big chance this is not how it went, but, everyone has got to learn as much as they can then make a decision.

    Don't hold your breath for an impeachment, at least on this issue.

    November 21, 2007 04:16 pm at 4:16 pm |
  8. Francis D'Silva, New Orleans, LA

    Why this story has 0 comments? Is someone from the White House telling CNN that zero number so that the readers can ignore this story? I see more than 20 comments. CNN please correct that number or else I consider you in the same category as CBS, ABC, and FOX.

    November 21, 2007 04:21 pm at 4:21 pm |
  9. Oscar, Rio Vista, CA 94571

    Do you know what makes me really mad... people all of a sudden speaking out in their books. If Scott McCellan really had a conscience he would have spoken out before he wrote a book... same goes for George Tenet. Ah!! but then they couldn't make any money because people wouldn't give one iota about their books. I don't understand why anyone would waste their money on books written by people who are just as low as those they write about.

    November 21, 2007 04:48 pm at 4:48 pm |
  10. Dave, NY, NY

    Sorry Mr. Wilson but one has to question the integrity of a man who leaks this information only after he has a book scheduled to be published.

    I might believe the leaked statement if it had come sooner and didn't look like free publicity for a book. The fact Mr Wilson didn't catch this question yet another political figures level of intelligence.

    November 21, 2007 04:49 pm at 4:49 pm |
  11. Jeremiah, Odessa TX

    I agree and congress needs to do its duty and set up a special prosecutor, and investigate whether the allegations are true and if so, do they meet the criteria for an impeachment.

    November 21, 2007 05:04 pm at 5:04 pm |
  12. Anonymous, VA

    Plame and Wilson started out with an obvious agenda, and now, it's all about the money.

    November 21, 2007 05:05 pm at 5:05 pm |
  13. Steve, Portland, OR

    Thnak you Joe Wilson for sticking with this and showing the world just what kind of persons are running this country. There are those of us who know you and your wife are victims of this administration simply for telling the truth. Something this administration has a hard time with.

    November 21, 2007 05:06 pm at 5:06 pm |
  14. Lee, new york, ny

    Bush and cheny have shamed the presidency, and should be impeached.

    November 21, 2007 07:41 pm at 7:41 pm |
  15. Jay, Kenosha, WI

    Why won't CNN tell us why the Federal Prosecutor did not charge Rove, Cheney or Bush with anything? Could it be because they are innocent?

    November 21, 2007 08:30 pm at 8:30 pm |
  16. Shane, San Diego, CA

    Whoa.. You people read ONE article and think it is the gospel. You really should do some research before you show your ignorance.. Try reading the post from JB Boston MA : November 21, 2007 4:16 pm, he has most of the facts that I have seen. Stop reading your news from the Daily Kos and maybe you will get the whole story.

    November 22, 2007 12:28 am at 12:28 am |
  17. Jed in Texas

    And the brown shirts on here are still drinking the cool-aid!They will be convicted of treason and high crimes and these morons and total idiots will still make excuses for them.lmao

    November 22, 2007 02:59 am at 2:59 am |
  18. Anonymous

    I always liked Scott, though one could read the subtle signs of a tumultous battle of emotions inside him whenever he was on the podioum – knowing that he was being used to put a spin on a corrupt and crooked regime.

    Bravo Scott ! You're doing what is right!

    November 22, 2007 07:26 am at 7:26 am |
  19. AN, Fairfax, VA

    This whole thing was politically motiviated from the get go...there's some responsibility and questionable actions from all parties. Personally, I think it was a witch hunt...Plame was not a covert operative...and Wilson with a long time Democrat affiliation had an agenda to defame.
    What a waste of time!! And, McClellan, YOU COULDN'T PAY ME TO READ YOUR BOOK!!!!!!!!!!

    November 22, 2007 08:49 am at 8:49 am |
  20. Forrest Erickson, Maryville Tennessee

    Impeach and Imprison the Bush / Cheney theocracy.

    November 22, 2007 10:25 pm at 10:25 pm |
  21. mark wilkes barre pa

    next verse,, same as the first,,, bash and run,,,, hate, hate, hate

    November 23, 2007 06:45 am at 6:45 am |
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