In WSJ op-ed, Toensing revisited familiar Plame falsehoods

››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

In a November 3 Wall Street Journal op-ed (subscription required), Republican attorney Victoria Toensing criticized the CIA's role in the controversy surrounding outed CIA operative Valerie Plame and repeated a variety of falsehoods and distortions regarding Plame and her husband, former ambassador Joseph C. Wilson IV.

Falsehood: The Senate Intelligence Committee concluded that Plame suggested Wilson for the Niger mission

Toensing wrote: "The assignment was given, according to the Senate Intelligence Committee, at Ms. Plame's suggestion." However, the committee's "Report on the U.S. Intelligence Community's Prewar Intelligence Assessments on Iraq" reached no official conclusion regarding Plame's role in Wilson's selection. Additionally, several intelligence officials have disputed reports that Plame selected Wilson for the mission.

Falsehood: Wilson's NY Times op-ed "did not jibe" with what he reported to the CIA

Toensing wrote: "Congressional oversight committees should want to know who at the CIA permitted the publication of the article, which, it has been reported, did not jibe with the thrust of Mr. Wilson's oral briefing." As Media Matters has noted, Wilson's report to the CIA is still classified, but much of its contents were laid out in the Senate Intelligence Committee report. As Media Matters has noted, the descriptions contained in the committee's report indicate that the findings and version of events Wilson disclosed to the CIA did not contradict those detailed in his July 6, 2003, op-ed in The New York Times, in which he described his mission to Niger and concluded that "some of the intelligence related to Iraq's nuclear weapons program was twisted to exaggerate the Iraqi threat."

Falsehood: Public knowledge of Plame's name was somehow significant

Toensing claimed that "if the CIA truly, truly, truly had wanted Ms. Plame's identity to be secret, it never would have permitted her spouse to write the op-ed. Did no one at Langley think that her identity could be compromised if her spouse wrote a piece discussing a foreign mission about a volatile political issue that focused on her expertise?" This argument, however, is based on faulty logic. When Wilson's July 6, 2003, op-ed was published, the only people who knew she worked for the CIA were those people authorized to know that information (and, allegedly, a number of reporters who learned it from administration officials).

Still, Toensing attempted to justify her argument by noting that Plame's name and marital status were publicly known at the time Wilson's op-ed was published. According to Toensing: "The obvious question a sophisticated journalist such as Mr. [Robert D.] Novak asked after 'Why did the CIA send Wilson?' was 'Who is Wilson?' After being told by a still-unnamed administration source that Mr. Wilson's 'wife' suggested him for the assignment, Mr. Novak went to Who's Who, which reveals 'Valerie Plame' as Mr. Wilson's spouse." But, as Media Matters has noted, Plame's name and the fact that she is married to Wilson were not classified. It was her status as a CIA employee that was classified. Novak was the first to publicly identify Plame as "an Agency operative on weapons of mass destruction," in his July 14, 2003, nationally syndicated column. Novak cited "[t]wo senior administration officials" as his sources for the information, but has not identified either source.

Toensing went on to criticize the CIA for allowing Plame to make political donations under the name "Valerie E. Wilson," again wrongly suggesting that Plame's name was somehow significant. Toensing wrote: "Although high-ranking Justice Department officials are prohibited from political activity, the CIA had no problem permitting its deep cover or classified employee from making political contributions under the name 'Wilson, Valerie E.,' information publicly available at the FEC." Again, this information would be significant to the controversy only if the Federal Elections Commission listed her employer as: "Central Intelligence Agency." As The Washington Post reported on October 8, 2003, when Plame donated $1,000 to Vice President Al Gore's 2000 presidential primary campaign, she listed as her employer "Brewster-Jennings & Associates," a CIA front company.

Notably, Toensing was not always of the opinion that Plame's name is significant to the controversy. During a July 19 interview on National Public Radio's Morning Edition, Toensing acknowledged that revealing Plame's name was "not an important part of whether this is a crime or not." Toensing was referring to a potential violation of the 1982 Intelligence Identities Protection Act, which she helped to draft.

Posted In
National Security & Foreign Policy, War in Iraq
Stories/Interests
CIA Leak Investigation
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