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Cheney aide passed Plame's name to Libby, Hadley, those close to leak investigation say

Jason Leopold and Larisa Alexandrovna

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David WurmserWith the possibility of indictments just days away, sources close to the investigation into who outed covert CIA agent Valerie Plame Wilson have provided RAW STORY a more detailed account into how and why Plame's name was leaked and what role the Pentagon and the vice president's office played.

Those close to the investigation say that Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald has been told that David Wurmser, then a Middle East adviser to Vice President Dick Cheney on loan from the office of then-Under Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security Affairs John Bolton, met with Cheney and his chief of staff I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby in June 2003 and told Libby that Plame set up the Wilson trip. He asserted that it was a boondoggle, the sources said.

Libby then shared the information with Karl Rove, President Bush's deputy chief of staff, the sources said. Wurmser also passed on the same information about Wilson to then-Deputy National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley and then-National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice, they added.

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Within a week, Wurmser, on orders from "executives in the office of the vice president," was told to leak her name to a specific group of reporters in an effort to muzzle her husband, Wilson, who had become a thorn in the side of the administration, those close to the inquiry say. It is unclear who Wurmser had spoken with in the media, the sources said, but they confirmed he did speak with reporters at national media outlets about Plame.

"Libby wanted to discredit him right from the start," one source close to the investigation told RAW STORY. "He used David Wurmser to help him do that."

Neither Wurmser or Libby could be reached for comment.

Wurmser had a direct link to the CIA because of his work on intelligence issues related to Iraq and frequently met with CIA analysts who worked on weapons of mass destruction. Through his contacts, Wurmser was told that Wilson's wife, Valerie Plame, was a CIA agent working on WMD issues and it was she who had recommended Wilson for the trip, the sources said. Those familiar with the investigation say, however, it is unclear whether Wurmser was told that she operating as a covert agent. They believe it was likely he was told she was an "analyst" working on WMDs in a similar capacity to the other agents Wurmser had interacted with.

Those familiar with information provided to Fitzgerald say that shortly after the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, Wurmser was handpicked by Harold Rhode, a Foreign Affairs Specialist in the Office of Net Assessment, a Pentagon "think tank," and Undersecretary of Defense Douglas Feith to head a top secret Pentagon "cell" whose job was to comb through CIA intelligence documents and find evidence that Iraq posed an imminent threat to the United States and its neighbors in the Middle East so a case could be made to launch a preemptive military strike. Wurmser largely invented evidence that Iraq had close ties to Al-Qaeda and Osama Bin Laden, sources knowledgeable about his work told RAW STORY.

Although the CIA documents that Wurmser and his staff pored over never showed Iraq as being an immediate threat, Wurmser was dead set on finding and presenting evidence to Vice President Dick Cheney that suggested as much even if the veracity of such intelligence was questionable, sources close the probe said. Wurmser had met with now discredited Iraqi exiles who were part of the Iraqi National Congress, headed by Ahmed Chalabi, the infamous single source of Judith Miller's explosive columns published in the New York Times that said Iraq was acquiring nuclear bomb components, who is now the Deputy Prime Minister of Iraq, they added.

With the aid of Chalabi and the White House Iraq Group, Wurmser helped Cheney's office, particularly the vice president's chief of staff, I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, construct a case for war. He met frequently with Cheney, Libby, Feith and Richard Perle, the former head of the Defense Policy Board, to go over the "evidence" of the threat posed by Saddam Hussein that could then be used by the White House to build public support. Wurmser routinely butted heads with the CIA over the veracity of the intelligence he was providing to Cheney's office, sources close the investigation said.

Wurmser had long been a proponent of removing Saddam Hussein from power. Indeed, in 1996, Wurmser, his wife Meyrav and Perle, authored a paper for "Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu called "A Clean Break: A New Strategy for Securing the Realm." It called on Israel to work with Jordan and Turkey to "contain, destabilize and roll back" various states in the region, overthrow Saddam Hussein in Iraq, press Jordan to restore a scion of the Hashemite dynasty to the Iraqi throne, and, above all, launch military assaults against Lebanon and Syria as a "prelude to a redrawing of the map of the Middle East which would threaten Syria's territorial integrity," according to an investigative report in the January/February 2004 issue of Mother Jones magazine.

A year later, Wurmser wrote a column in the Wall Street Journal titled "Iraq Needs a Revolution" and two years later authored a book, "Tyranny's Ally: America's Failure to Defeat Saddam Hussein."

The Administration's plans were complicated in May 2003, when former Ambassador Joseph Wilson entered the picture, and said privately to close colleagues and a handful of journalists that the intelligence used by President Bush was "twisted."

For two years, Wurmser, Feith, Perle, Cheney and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld had a tumultous relationship with the CIA who they blamed for not providing them with the type of evidence they wanted to see: specific, tailor-made assessments that Iraq was an imminent threat. But with Wilson they feared a public backlash.

Libby first learned that Wilson was discrediting the administration's intelligence information in June 2003. Specifically, Wilson questioned claims that Iraq tried to purchase yellow-cake uranium from Africa for an atomic bomb.

Wilson went to Niger in 2002 to investigate the allegations and reported that the claims were unfounded. According to a Senate report, the mission grew out of a request by Vice President Cheney earlier that year. Vehemently denying that his boss had requested the trip, Libby became so incensed by Wilson that he sent word to Wurmser to find out who Wilson was and sought details of his trip, those familiar with the investigation say.

Muriel Kane contributed research for this article.

Amplification: Those close to the investigation say that Wurmser told Libby about Plame. They were unaware if Wurmser told Cheney about Plame or if that information was passed to Cheney by Libby. They did say that all three of them met and at the time of their meeting Wurmser told Libby about Plame.

Correction: Several typographical errors have been corrected from the first edition of this article. We apologize for the inconvenience.

Originally published on Monday October 24, 2005.

 


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