Plame hearing transcript #2
Valerie Plame Wilson, the former CIA officer whose "outing" led to the conviction of a former White House aide, testified before the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform on Friday morning.
Here is part two (Part One at this link) of the transcript to the first half of Friday's Plame hearing:
REP. VAN HOLLEN: And the CIA spokesman made a statement -- and other intelligence officers had made the statement you have today that the failure to hold people accountable for leaking this kind of information sends a very terrible message to others in the intelligence field. Do you think the failure of the president to fire the people in his administration who were involved with this message sends a chilling message to those in our intelligence agency that the White House is not willing to stand up behind those people who are putting their lives at danger every day?
MS. PLAME WILSON: Yes, I believe it undermines the president's words.
REP. VAN HOLLEN: Let me ask you this -- and I would just say, on the record, that the statements that were made at trial with respect to Karl Rove's involvement, I would just state the testimony given by Mr. Cooper of Time Magazine, who said that he was told by Karl Rove, quote, "Don't go too far out on Wilson." That Mr. Wilson's wife worked at the, quote, "agency." And at the conclusion of the conversation, according to Mr. Cooper, Mr. Rove said, quote, "I have already said too much." Can you think of any reason that Mr. Rove would make that statement if he did not know that he was engaged in wrongdoing?
MS. PLAME WILSON: Congressman, I cannot begin to speculate on Mr. Rove's intent. I just know what his words were and the effects.
REP. VAN HOLLEN: Thank you.
Let me just follow up briefly on Mr. Lynch's line of questioning regarding the Senate report, and who really had Mr. Wilson -- Ambassador Wilson sent to Niger and who was the instigator of that. The unclassified Senate report asserts that the Counterproliferation Division reports officer told the committee staff that the former ambassador's wife -- you -- offered up his name. Are you familiar with that statement in the unclassified Senate report?
MS. PLAME WILSON: Yes, I am.
REP. VAN HOLLEN: Now we don't want to reveal -- we don't want you to reveal any classified information or anyone's identity, but my question is, have you talked with that CPD reports officer who was interviewed by the Senate committee?
MS. PLAME WILSON: Yes, Congressman, and I can tell you that he came to me almost with tears in his eyes. He said his words had been twisted and distorted.
He wrote a memo, and he asked his supervisor to allow him to be re-interviewed by the committee. And the memo went nowhere, and his request to be re-interviewed so that the record could be set straight was denied.
REP. VAN HOLLEN: So, just so I understand, Mr. Chairman, if I could -- so, there was a memo written by the CPD officer, upon whose alleged testimony the Senate wrote its report that contradicts the conclusions --
MS. PLAME WILSON: Absolutely.
REP. VAN HOLLEN: -- contradicts the conclusions from that report.
MS. PLAME WILSON: Yes, sir.
REP. VAN HOLLEN: Mr. Chairman, it seems to me that this committee should ask for that memo. And it bears directly on the credibility of the Senate report on this very, very important issue, which they've attempted to us to discredit Ambassador Wilson's mission.
REP. WAXMAN: I think the gentleman makes an excellent point, and we will insist on getting that memo.
REP. VAN HOLLEN: Thank you.
Thank you for your testimony.
REP. WAXMAN: Mr. Hodes, you're next.
REP. HODES: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I reserve my time, yield back.
REP. WAXMAN: Okay. The gentleman reserves his time.
REP. JOHN P. SARBANES (D-MD): Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Ms. Wilson, thanks for being here today. I know this can't be easy for you.
If you put this affair in context -- what's happened with you -- with all the other abuses, frankly, Mr. Chairman, that we've been investigating over the last seven weeks -- and I thank you for the diligence of your inquiry and fairness of your inquiry into a number of things that have occurred -- it paints a picture of an administration of bullies, in my view, that thinks that in order to achieve whatever the ends they're seeking, any means can be justified, and that people can just be pushed around. We saw it when we had testimony of people in the White House who bullied the scientific community by altering testimony on global warming. We've seen it in terms of the investigations you've done, Mr. Chairman, with respect to the treatment of our civil service. And now we see it in the context of our intelligence community. And to me, what you've experienced is really the result of a syndrome that's developed in this administration which reflects the arrogance of power run amuck.
I have just a couple of questions that I wanted to ask you in that vein. First of all, I gather you believe that the outing of your status, that the blowing of your covert status, was as a result of some of the statements that your husband was making and the challenges that he was bringing. Is that right?
MS. PLAME WILSON: Yes, I believe that was one of the consequences.
REP. SARBANES: Okay. But at the point that they were prepared to surrender your covert status to the public, I mean, what was to be gained by that? I mean, can you -- was it to apply further leverage? I mean, really, it was sort of after-the-fact at that point, right?
MS. PLAME WILSON: My thinking, Congressman, is that by continuing to assert falsely that I somehow suggested him or recommended him for this mission, it would undercut the credibility of what he was saying. And that's what I think is what happened. And it just got a little out of hand.
REP. SARBANES: Yeah, it strikes me as petulant behavior on their part.
Secondly, there's this suggestion being made that your status could have been divulged sort of accidentally. But you've described efforts -- structural efforts -- that are designed to make sure that this doesn't happen accidentally. And so, could you comment on that? I mean, it seems to me that in order for your status to have been disclosed, somebody had to want that to happen. I know, because the way things were set up, it's highly unlikely that your status would be disclosed by accident. It would have to be as the result of an orchestrated effort, that somebody wanted to put it out there. Can you just talk about sort of structurally whether that is the case?
MS. PLAME WILSON: I can't speak to intent, but I can speak to simply what the actions that we can observe and that, again, they all knew that I worked in the CIA. They might not have known what my status was, but that alone -- the fact that I worked at the CIA -- should have put up a red flag that they acted in a much more protective way of my identity and true employer.
REP. SARBANES: Okay. And then lastly, again, trying to get -- because this is more than a story about Valerie Plame Wilson and what happened to you, as devastating as it's been to your life over these last period of months. It's about our intelligence community. And you've spoken yourself to how this kind of conduct can affect the integrity and effectiveness of our intelligence apparatus. Can you comment on the chilling effect -- if you will, the message it sends to people -- to those, for example who would be sent on a mission to collect intelligence about a subject that the White House might already have a very strong opinion about? How would it affect the way that agent, the way that person would collect that information and get that information back up the chain?
MS. PLAME WILSON: Intelligence collection is certainly more of an art than a science. But if there is any taint of bias, then it undermines its usefulness. The primary customer of our intelligence if, of course, the president of the United States. And if the president of the United States thinks somehow or doesn't believe that his intelligence that he receives on his desk -- he or she receives on his desk every morning -- is free of ideology, politics, a certain viewpoint, how then can that president make the most important decisions of all about the security of our country? And I do feel passionately about that. You have to get the politics out of our intelligence process.
REP. SARBANES: I appreciate that. I appreciate the passion that you've brought to your job. And you represent thousands -- hundreds of thousands of people that go to work and try to make a difference for this country and I think are being bullied by this administration. You won't get the apology from them that you deserve. But I want you to know that everyone here appreciates your service.
Thank you very much.
MS. PLAME WILSON: Thank you, Congressman.
REP. WAXMAN: Thank you, Mr. Sarbanes.
We've gone back and forth, and rather than a second round, Mr. Davis and I agree that we'll have five-minutes wrap-up on each side -- five minutes to be controlled by the chairman and the ranking member. And I want to yield five minutes to Mr. Davis at this point.
REP. DAVIS: Mr. Westmoreland, I'll yield such time as you may consume.
REP. LYNN A. WESTMORELAND (R-GA): Thank you, Mr. Chairman and Chairman Waxman. I hate it that we're not going to stay here to get all of our questions answered by Ms. Wilson, because I have so many to ask, because there's so much conflicting reports. And I think that something of this importance that we should have made a little more time for it.
But Ms. Wilson, the Counterproliferation Division of the CIA, that sounds like a pretty important place where a bunch of smart people would work and keep good records. Would I be okay in thinking that?
MS. PLAME WILSON: Yes, Congressman.
REP. WESTMORELAND: But in the Senate intel report that I've got, it says some CPD officials could not recall how the office decided to contact the former ambassador. Was this a voluntary lack of memory, or was there no notes kept on it. Is it -- how could they forget how they came about a name that they were fixing to send to a foreign country to check on the intelligence of Iraq getting material to build nuclear bombs? That seems a little bit far-fetched to me.
MS. PLAME WILSON: Congressman, please remember that in this period -- in the runup to the war -- we in the Counterproliferation Division of the CIA were working flat out as hard as we could to try to find good, solid intelligence for our senior policymakers on these presumed programs. My role in this was to go home that night, without revealing any classified information, of course, and ask my husband would he be willing to come into CIA headquarters the following week and talk to the people there. At that meeting, I introduced him, and I left, because I did have 101 other things I needed to do.
REP. WESTMORELAND: Mm-hmm. But -- but what I'm trying to say is, do you think there would not have been a paper trail of how his name came about, who would have mentioned it first, or -- I mean, to me that's a pretty important assignment to give somebody and, you know, maybe somebody would want to say, "Hey, that was my idea. That was my guy that I was sending over there," and want to take credit for it. But it seems like everybody's running from it.
MS. PLAME WILSON: Congressman, I believe one of the pieces of evidence that was introduced in the Libby trial was an INR memo of that meeting, where it states, in fact, my husband was not particularly looking forward to -- he didn't think it was necessary. There had been, I believe, at least two other reports, one by a three- star general and one by the ambassador there on the ground, who said there really wasn't much to this allegation. And the INR folks that attended the meeting also said, "Well, we're not sure that this is really necessary." But it was ultimately decided that he would go, use his contacts, which were extensive in the government, to see if there was anything more to this. It was a serious question, asked by the office of the vice president, and it deserved a serious answer.
REP. WESTMORELAND: Do you -- are you familiar with a Charles (sic) Grenier that was the former Iraq mission manager for the CIA?
MS. PLAME WILSON: I know of him, sir, yes.
REP. WESTMORELAND: He testified at the Libby trial that all he had heard was that you were working for this Counterproliferation Division, and it could have meant a number of things. Different people, I guess, work at this, some covert, some classified, some undercover, some different names. Is that true, that there are different classifications of people that work at this Counterproliferation Division?
MS. PLAME WILSON: What I would say is most accurate is that most of the employees of the Counterproliferation Division are under cover of some sort.
REP. WESTMORELAND: Okay, but he -- he did work for the CIA, so he should have known all of that, is that true? Are you saying he should have known that you were undercover, or classified, or --
MS. PLAME WILSON: I'm saying that the fact was that most people in the Counterproliferation Division were undercover. I can't speak to what he should have or should have not known, but as an employee, he was probably cognizant of that, yes, sir.
REP. WESTMORELAND: Okay. And you mentioned taking politics out of intelligence. And your husband -- would you say he was a Democrat or a Republican?
MS. PLAME WILSON: Although my husband comes from a Republican family with deep roots in California, I would say he's a Democrat now, Congressman.
REP. WESTMORELAND: Okay. And just to kind of keep score, not that you would put yourself in any political category, would you say you're a Democrat or a Republican?
MS. PLAME WILSON: Congressman, I'm not sure that that is part of these --
REP. WESTMORELAND: I'm -- I -- well, I know, but I mean, I gave a list of questions I couldn't ask you and that wasn't one of them, so I didn't know if you'd be willing to -- (laughter) --
MS. PLAME WILSON: Yes, Congressman, I am a Democrat.
REP. WESTMORELAND: You're a Democrat? Okay.
MS. PLAME WILSON: Yes, I am.
REP. WESTMORELAND: Okay, so -- so by, you know, the vice president, who's a Republican, who evidently thought from his CIA briefing that he had gotten one day, felt like that this needed to be looked at further. The report that Niger was selling this yellowcake uranium to Iraq, that he would get some further intel on it. They called the Counterproliferation, or at least somebody in the CIA, and then we had a Democrat -- or at least, supposedly, someone who may be affiliated on the Democratic side -- represent or present or supposedly present or at least vouch for her husband, who was -- come from a good Republican family, that had lost his way and became a Democrat.
But my point is in his piece titled, "What I Didn't Find in Africa," he disputes the Bush administration's claims of -- there was no evidence that Niger was selling it. But you coming from a(n) intelligence background, you don't just depend on one report from one country or one source to base all your intelligence on, do you? Wouldn't you gather it from a bunch of different sources and then kind of put it together and look at it, and not just one -- from one particular instance?
MS. PLAME WILSON: That's correct, Congressman.
REP. WAXMAN: The gentleman's time has expired.
REP. WESTMORELAND: Okay.
REP. WAXMAN: Do you have a last question you want to ask?
REP. WESTMORELAND: Well, no. I guess, Mr. Chairman, my last comment would be to you is that, you know, I still think it's a shame that we've brought Ms. Wilson here, and all the press came and all these good people came to witness all of this, and it's been quite a spectacle that we wouldn't get to ask all the questions that we had.
REP. WAXMAN: Thank you.
REP. T. DAVIS: Mr. Chairman, let me just say --
REP. WAXMAN: Mr. Davis.
REP. T. DAVIS: Excuse me. I think what's clear here -- it's -- first of all, it's a terrible thing that any CIA operative would be outed. But what's difficult, I think, and what we haven't been able to establish here is who knew who was undercover and who was in a covert status, and I think we're going to have to look at that. But if there's no evidence here that the people that were outing this and pursuing this had knowledge of the covert status, and -- so I just want to make that point. Thank you very much.
Ms. Plame, thank you very much for being here.
MS. PLAME WILSON: Thank you, Congressman.
REP. WAXMAN: Thank you, Mr. Davis.
I want to yield to Ms. Norton for five minutes.
DEL. ELEANOR HOLMES NORTON (D-DC): Thank you very much. Thank you, Ms. Wilson, as others have thanked you for your extraordinary service to our country.
I am trying to understand the effect of the executive order. Because there is an executive order -- it's Executive Order 12958. It's an executive order, a presidential executive order that indicates what authorized what the requirements are to prevent unauthorized disclosures.
And in summary, they are -- background checks, official need to know. I'm particularly interested in the official need to know and ask you to look at the little thought -- little chart -- the little part of the chart on where the White House and other officials -- State Department officials are listed.
Can you think of any reason that any of those officials would have had a reason to know your identity in particular as a covert agent?
MS. PLAME WILSON: Congresswoman, there was no need to know my specific identity other than that I was a CIA officer, according to that chart. None whatsoever.
DEL. NORTON: Could I ask you whether there is any difference in your view between disclosing the identity of a covert agent and disclosing classified information? What, if any, difference would there be?
MS. PLAME WILSON: I think damage in either case could be equally devastating. It would simply depend on what the classified information was, but certainly revealing operatives true identity is devastating. In my case, I was working on trying to find the Iraq weapons of mass destruction programs and what they were up to.
DEL. NORTON: Well, I suppose we could all think of classified information involving our country that would have a devastating effect on all of us.
Disclosing the name of a classified agent might have a devastating effect on more than that agent's career, is that not the case?
MS. PLAME WILSON: Oh, absolutely, Congresswoman. The ripple effects go outward in quite wide circles; all the contacts through the year, as a(n) innocent or in a professional manner, the agents, the networks, much is taken out.
DEL. HOLMES NORTON: Are there circumstances under which disclosing the identity of a covert agent could result in the death of that agent? And hasn't that occurred before in our country's history?
MS. PLAME WILSON: Yes, it has.
DEL. HOLMES NORTON: If in fact a(n) official of any kind did not have an official reason to know your status, in your view, would that be a violation of the executive order, which lists need to know, official need to know, as a reason for having classified information?
MS. PLAME WILSON: Yes, Congresswoman, I would think so.
DEL. HOLMES NORTON: So you believe that would be --
MS. PLAME WILSON: It would be a violation.
DEL. HOLMES NORTON: One of my colleagues questioned you regarding the accusation that over and over again was repeated in the press and, for that matter, by a number of public officials that it was you who was responsible for your husband's being selected to go on the controversial trip at issue. As I understand it, that person has indeed said that he was not the person who indicated that you had been responsible for the selection of your husband to go to Niger. If that is the case, would you say that it would be inappropriate for us or others to rely on the information that a CIA official had said that you were responsible for the selection of your husband to go to Niger?
MS. PLAME WILSON: That's incorrect. A senior agency officer said she had nothing to do with his trip. And I would just like to add that certainly I had no political agenda at the time of my husband's trip. Joe had no political agenda. We were both looking to serve our country.
DEL. HOLMES NORTON: Mr. Chairman, I understand that that the CIA official to which I refer has in fact said that in writing, and I ask that you try to get the memorandum of that official.
That would make it clear that he or she was not responsible for this information.
REP. WAXMAN: We'll try to get that information and hold it for the record.
DEL. HOLMES NORTON: Thanks very much, Mr. Chairman.
REP. WAXMAN: Mr. Davis.
REP. T. DAVIS: Ms. Plame, let me just clarify one thing. You've noted that when you learned about this, your husband picked up the paper and said, he did it. Do you remember your testimony today? He did it. He read -- was he referring to Novak? Was he referring to the administration at -- and did you know that this was percolating?
MS. PLAME WILSON: Yes, sir. He was referring to Mr. Novak. We had indications in the week prior that Mr. Novak knew my identity and my true employer. And I of course alerted my superiors at the agency, and I was told, don't worry; we'll take care of it. And it was much to our surprise that we read about this July 14th.
REP. T. DAVIS: Do you know if your superiors at the agency did anything at that point to stop the outing of a CIA agent? It would have seemed to me they would have picked up the phone and said, this is a serious matter; this is a crime. Do you have any idea --
MS. PLAME WILSON: Absolutely. I believe, and this is what I've read, that the then-spokesman, Mr. Harlow, spoke directly with Mr. Novak and said something along the lines of, don't go with this; don't do this. I don't know exactly what he said, but he clearly communicated the message that Mr. Novak should not publish my name.
REP. T. DAVIS: And did he -- you don't know if he said, this could be a violation of law; she is covert operator, or anything like that.
MS. PLAME WILSON: I have no idea what --
REP. T. DAVIS: Yeah, I think -- one of the long-term concerns, outside of your -- I mean, the outing of an agent is a very, very serious business, which I think has been underscored by both sides. But if no one knows that you're a covert, it's hard at that point to show any violation of law and the like. But if you have notice, that's a different issue. And so you did the appropriate thing in notifying your superiors that this was percolating, and they were not able to stop it. Is that your testimony?
MS. PLAME WILSON: That's correct.
REP. T. DAVIS: Thank you.
REP. WAXMAN: Mrs. Wilson, you can be a Democrat; you can be a Republican -- no one asks our servicemen or CIA operatives what they believe in in terms of their politics. They go out and serve our country. They're not acting as Democrats or Republicans. They and you were acting as an American.
Facts are not Republican or Democratic. Your husband revealed the falsehood of the reason the president gave to go to war against Saddam Hussein in Iraq.
And the reason he gave even in his State of the Union address was that the weapon of mass destruction that Saddam Hussein had or would soon have was a nuclear bomb. That was very sobering, but it was false. And when your husband wrote the article, that went right to the heart of this claim. So one could see why they wouldn't like what your husband wrote, but they made you collateral damage. Your career was ended, your life may have been in jeopardy, and they didn't seem to care even to this point because you said they haven't even called to apologize.
Now, whether they knew it and intentionally gave out this information about your status is the reason for this investigation. If they knew it, that you were a covert undercover agent, and they disclosed that fact, that is a big deal. That's a serious jeopardizing of our national security. If they didn't know you were a(n) undercover covert agent, then I have to wonder in my mind what was their thinking, that this guy couldn't be right because his wife has something to do with the mission? Boy is that sort of silly.
Either way I don't think it speaks well for all those people in the White House to have gone out of their way to let the press know this information, which was the only -- I guess, the only thing they had to say. The president has finally acknowledged the statement that your husband pointed out was factually incorrect. The president has acknowledged it was factually incorrect. The secretary of State said CIA didn't tell her, but it turned out that her chief deputy did get informed -- Mr. Hadley -- that the statement was not correct that they were putting into the State of the Union address, the most vetted speech a president ever makes.
They have acknowledged the validity of your husband's statement, and what do we have for you? Well, just collateral damage. I find that troubling; that in the zeal for their political positioning, that there are a lot of collateral damage around, including a war that didn't have to be fought.
I want to thank you very much for your presence here. I think it's been helpful, and we are going to continue this investigation.
REP. WATSON: Mr. Chairman, a question to the chair.
REP. WAXMAN: Yes.
REP. WATSON: The first, I think, most of us knew about Valerie Plame as being an undercover agent was through Robert Novak's July 14th, 2003 column. Is it possible as we continue our oversight function to have Mr. Novak, under oath, come in and testify to that -- the fact that he did print that information?
REP. WAXMAN: Well, I think we know that he did print that information and that -- and we know now that she was a covert agent. I'll give it some thought and will talk to you further about where this investigation goes.
REP. WATSON: All right. Thank you very much.
REP. WAXMAN: But I just want to underscore that we need an investigation. This is not about Scooter Libby, and it's not just about Valerie Plame Wilson. It's about the integrity of our national security and whether it's being jeopardized.
REP. T. DAVIS: Well, Mr. Waxman, I think if we do that, you need to involve the CIA, because there's no evidence here that anyone out there had any idea that it was an undercover agent and that she was a covert agent at this point.
REP. WAXMAN: Well, you may well be right, but the CIA did --
REP. T. DAVIS: (Off mike) -- that, and in fact she did the appropriate thing in going to her superiors when she found out that she was about to be outed. I would have thought at that point, if the CIA felt that one of their operatives were going to be outed, it would have gone to great lengths to try to kill the story and let them know what the law was.
I just also note that --
REP. WAXMAN: Well, that's a very good point, and I think we need to get that information.
REP.T. DAVIS: -- that in the president's speech -- I just have to say this and -- well, in the president's speech when he mentioned the uranium, those words were cleared by the CIA. It may not have been in accords with what Mr. Wilson found, but Ms. Plame's boss approved that, and I think the record should reflect that.
REP. HODES: Mr. Chairman --
REP. WAXMAN: Before I call on anybody else, I -- yeah, Mr. Hodes.
REP. HODES: Just very briefly, the suggestion about what we don't know cannot be finally determined until we pursue the investigation that we need to pursue and find out what the people on this chart knew and when they knew it, who the unknown person or persons are, and we need the investigation --
REP. T. DAVIS: We had a special prosecutor who did this, Mr. Hodes. A special prosecutor's looked at this and spent two years on it.
REP. WAXMAN: Let me suggest that this is a hearing to get information from witnesses and not to debate -- although it's inevitable -- but let's, I think, move on with our hearing.
I thank all the members for their participation. I wish that we had all the members here to participate, but all those members were invited and had adequate notice. But this is a Friday.
Thank you so much for being here.
MS. PLAME WILSON: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
REP. WAXMAN: We're going to recess for four or five minutes, just so we can settle down and get the next witnesses up and take care of whatever pressing matters maybe need to be attended to. (Strikes gavel.)