The most important weapon in the war on terror is information. Yet, the White House is playing down the disclosure of the identity of a CIA operative, one of the most important organizations in this war. This is inexcusable and an independent investigation should follow.
The ball started rolling when Robert Novak, a columnist for the Chicago Sun-Times mentioned that Ambassador Joseph Wilson’s wife, Valerie Plame, is a CIA operative in a column on July 14. Novak had been told by the CIA not to publish this classified information.
Wilson, the ambassador who was sent to Niger to investigate if Iraq was trying to purchase nuclear material, had filed a report that the intelligence was flawed. Although the report was filed months before, President George W. Bush used the claim that Iraq was trying to purchase such materials to rally support for the war in his State of the Union address in January.
The controversy is not only that Novak knowingly exposed an undercover agent, but that she is also the wife of the former ambassador who questioned the validity of facts used in the State of the Union address, which caused a big headache for the White House.
Novak’s source for the story came apparently straight from the White House itself, which tried to plant the story with six other journalists that did not use the information. The whole affair smells of retribution.
Novak has been trying to nonchalantly brush off the accusations, saying in recent columns that he was unaware revealing her name “would endanger her or anybody else.”
If Novak does not know that revealing names of undercover agents can be dangerous for them, maybe he should spend more time watching James Bond movies and less time writing for a nationally acclaimed paper as he clearly lacks the judgment necessary for such a job.
What makes the incident even more troubling is that President Bush, after issuing a memo last week to inform all White House staff members not to destroy any evidence, said he doesn’t know if the culprit will ever be found.
Maybe it is time to remind the American public as well as the commander in chief that President Bush promised to “restore honor and integrity to the White House” in several pre-election speeches. Now would be as good a time to start as any.