In an article about "Fair Game" -- a new film depicting events surrounding the Bush administration's disclosure of CIA operative Valerie Plame's identity -- the Washington Post's Walter Pincus and Richard Leiby rebut a few of the smears frequently directed at Plame and her husband, former ambassador Joe Wilson.
For example, Pincus and Leiby debunk the charge that it was Plame's idea to send Wilson to investigate claims about uranium in Niger (and that Wilson subsequently lied about it):
The movie effectively dispenses with the canard that Valerie Plame Wilson was not a covert operative. But there's still room to rehash the question of how Joe Wilson was picked for the unpaid Niger assignment. Here, the picture gets it right. The CIA says its counterproliferation officials selected Wilson and asked his wife to contact him; she did not "recommend" him. In fact, agency officials had used him for an earlier overseas assignment.
Valerie did introduce her husband at a meeting where the upcoming Niger trip was discussed. Confusion about her role came from a nighttime e-mail she dashed off to her boss (who had not been in on Joe's earlier assignment) to explain her husband's qualifications for the Niger trip. That e-mail became a key basis for the Republican-dominated Senate Select Committee on Intelligence to note Valerie's role in suggesting her husband for the assignment.
All along, Joe Wilson had been telling journalists that his wife had nothing to do with the Niger trip. In the movie, while their children scamper around them on a playground, he angrily confronts her with the Senate report itself, quoting its language: "The former ambassador's wife 'offered up his name' . . ."
"This is exactly what I've been denying . . . saying my wife did not send me on a junket," the on-screen Joe says.
"I was asked to write a recommendation," Valerie says. "What was I supposed to do?"
The Senate report armed Joe Wilson's enemies and effectively demolished his credibility in Washington. It also strained their marriage almost to the breaking point.
What the article doesn't say is that one of Wilson's "enemies" that repeatedly spread this false attack was The Washington Post's own editorial page.
That brings us to this year's dust-up, which concerns whether Mr. Rove or other administration officials should be held culpable for leaking to journalists the fact that Mr. Wilson's wife, Valerie Plame, was a CIA agent. Reporters were told that Ms. Plame recommended Mr. Wilson for the Niger trip -- a fact denied by Mr. Wilson but subsequently confirmed by the Senate investigation. A federal prosecutor is conducting a criminal probe that has, among other things, unearthed an e-mail from Time magazine reporter Matthew Cooper revealing that Mr. Rove told him about Ms. Plame's role in her husband's trip.
Mr. Wilson subsequently claimed that the White House set out to punish him for his supposed whistle-blowing by deliberately blowing the cover of his wife, Valerie Plame, who he said was an undercover CIA operative. This prompted the investigation by Special Counsel Patrick J. Fitzgerald. After more than 21/2 years of investigation, Mr. Fitzgerald has reported no evidence to support Mr. Wilson's charge. In last week's court filings, he stated that Mr. Bush did not authorize the leak of Ms. Plame's identity. Mr. Libby's motive in allegedly disclosing her name to reporters, Mr. Fitzgerald said, was to disprove yet another false assertion, that Mr. Wilson had been dispatched to Niger by Mr. Cheney. In fact Mr. Wilson was recommended for the trip by his wife. Mr. Libby is charged with perjury, for having lied about his discussions with two reporters. Yet neither the columnist who published Ms. Plame's name, Robert D. Novak, nor Mr. Novak's two sources have been charged with any wrongdoing.
And a March 7, 2007 Post editorial asserted:
A bipartisan investigation by the Senate intelligence committee subsequently established that all of these claims were false -- and that Mr. Wilson was recommended for the Niger trip by Ms. Plame, his wife. When this fact, along with Ms. Plame's name, was disclosed in a column by Robert D. Novak, Mr. Wilson advanced yet another sensational charge: that his wife was a covert CIA operative and that senior White House officials had orchestrated the leak of her name to destroy her career and thus punish Mr. Wilson.
And true to form for the Post, today's article debunking these repeated smears appears on page 8 of the Style section.