[Editor’s Note: This column first appeared on October 10, 2003.]
The liberal press and the Democrat demagogues on Capitol Hill are having a hissy fit over “who blew the cover of Joe Wilson’s wife.” The answer is not hard to find. The culprit was Joe Wilson IV–with some help from his wife. When Wilson wrote an op-ed in The New York Times in July and revealed that he had gone to Niger on a CIA assignment, he called attention to his wife. CIA people who are really undercover are very careful about not identifying themselves or their families with the agency. They wait until their children are old enough to keep their mouths shut before revealing, even to them, that they are CIA officers. Wilson listed his wife’s maiden name in the biography he put on the web site of the Middle East Institute.
When a CIA officer under deep cover is assigned to a hostile country, he knows that the enemy counter-intelligence service will do a background check. Any involvement of a relative with the CIA will endanger the officer’s cover. Mrs. Joe Wilson also helped shred her cover when she made a contribution to the Al Gore for President campaign and listed her cover company in the Federal Election Commission filing. If she were ever posted overseas under cover, that would provide the hostiles with a lead to unravel her CIA connection.
The hysterical demagogues are demanding that any administration officials who revealed to columnist Robert Novak that she was a CIA officer be prosecuted under the 1982 Protection of Identities Act. If the names are ever learned, however, it is doubtful that they could be prosecuted. First of all, the liberal Democrats and their ACLU allies made sure in 1982 that only a limited number of CIA officers would be protected by the act. Only those who were “serving outside the United States or (have) within the last five years served outside the United States” are covered. Mrs. Wilson’s work appears to be as a CIA analyst at headquarters. There are many such people in CIA, and they are not protected by the law.
Many of the same Democrats who are screaming about this case said nothing when one of their colleagues actually identified a covert CIA agent in a dangerous country. In 1995, then Democratic Congressman, later Senator, Robert Torricelli identified a military officer in Guatemala as a CIA asset. The colonel was helping CIA with information about terrorists and drug dealers that his government had collected. Torricelli alleged that the CIA agent was involved in two murders, one of a U.S. citizen and the other of a Guatemalan, supposedly married to an American. The charges were false. President Clinton ordered the Intelligence Oversight Board to investigate the allegations. The board found that the sources used by Torricelli were “unreliable and…contradicted by other evidence…” The supposed Guatemalan murder victim was Efrain Bamaca Velasquez, a leader of a terrorist group called the Guatemalan National Revolutionary Unity. Bamaca was either killed in combat or died after capture by a military unit. His organization was established in 1980 when the Cuban Intelligence Service, the DGI, ordered three small terrorist groups to unite in order to receive arms and training from the Castro dictatorship. The main activity of the Guatemalan terrorists was murders and kidnappings. In 1968 they murdered John D. Webber, chief of the U.S. military mission, and U.S. Ambassador John Gordon Mein in separate kidnapping attempts. They continued the kidnappings and murders with Cuban help after they were united.
Although Torricelli’s charges against the Guatemalan colonel were false, he did tell the truth that the man was helping the CIA. Torricelli succeeded in causing the United States to lose a valuable source in the fight against Communist terrorism. The Janet Reno Justice Department had no interest in prosecuting Torricelli under the “Protection of Identities Act.” Instead the case was turned over to the House Ethics Committee where the offending liberal Democrat congressman was slapped on the wrist and told not to do it again.
No one should identify covert CIA officers or their agents. Even though Joe Wilson IV and his wife showed such a cavalier attitude toward her cover, it was wrong to identify her. We have few enough intelligence sources as a result of the Clinton Administration’s emasculation of our foreign intelligence services. This was shown when the only way that the CIA could learn if Iraq had attempted to get uranium in Niger was to send Wilson to that country where, as he told The New York Times, “I spent the next eight days drinking sweet mint tea and meeting with dozens of people….” By writing his article, Wilson exposed an important CIA weakness: They did not have the sources in Niger that could supply the information. We can blame that on the eight dark years of Bill Clinton.
While Wilson’s report is being used by the liberal Democrats to undermine President Bush’s charge that Iraq had tried to buy uranium in Africa, Wilson actually confirmed the Iraqi attempt, but his friends merely told him that it didn’t succeed. That is what British intelligence reported and President Bush repeated in his State of the Union Address.
The Wilson case does raise another question: What fool at CIA sent a liberal Democrat Bush-basher on such an assignment? Wilson had made his bias against the President known. As a reward for his smearing of the President, Wilson is scheduled to receive the Ron Ridenhour Award on October 15. The award is given by the Nation Institute, which publishes The Nation magazine, one of the few publications of the loony left that continues after the collapse of the Soviet Union.