Napolitano claimed unnamed Fox colleague said Wilson introduced Plame as "my CIA operative wife"

››› ››› JEREMY SCHULMAN

On the October 31 broadcast of the nationally syndicated radio show The Radio Factor with Bill O'Reilly, guest host Andrew P. Napolitano -- who serves as Fox News' senior judicial analyst -- cited "at least one" of his Fox News colleagues who Napolitano said claimed to have been present at a party where former ambassador Joseph C. Wilson IV introduced Valerie Plame as "my CIA operative wife." Napolitano used this anonymous claim to question whether Plame "was, in fact, undercover" when her identity as a CIA employee was allegedly leaked to syndicated columnist Robert D. Novak, who published it in a July 14, 2003 column. I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, Vice President Dick Cheney's former chief of staff, was indicted on October 28 for obstruction of justice, perjury, and false statements in connection with the leak investigation.

Napolitano did not explain why his mystery Fox News source has not publicly reported the story. Nor did he explain the apparent discrepancy between this claim and the Libby indictment, which states: "At all relevant times from January 1, 2002 through July 2003, Valerie [Plame] Wilson was employed by the CIA, and her employment status was classified. Prior to July 14, 2003, Valerie Wilson's affiliation with the CIA was not common knowledge outside the intelligence community."

From the October 31 broadcast of Westwood One's The Radio Factor with Bill O'Reilly:

CALLER: I have a couple of questions. Number one, over the weekend I believe it was here, it was in the news that her husband -- this Valerie Plame's husband -- used to introduce her as "my CIA operative" at cocktail parties.

NAPOLITANO: Well, you're right that it was reported. You are also correct that there have been many reports of that. Without naming names, I will tell you that at least one of my Fox News colleagues told me that he was present at a party where she was introduced as "my CIA operative wife."

CALLER: Correct.

NAPOLITANO: So the issue is: Was she in fact undercover at the time Novak wrote the article, or had she been outed by her own husband?

Napolitano is one of several Fox News personalities and guests have made this charge repeatedly following Libby's October 28 indictment. They have not, however, provided any basis for it. On the October 28 edition of Fox News' DaySide, Napolitano claimed that no one was indicted for leaking Plame's identity because special counsel Patrick J. Fitzgerald "doesn't see what the statute requires him to prove for the outing, which was that she wasn't already out, that she was, in fact, an undercover agent. Look, those who live in Washington, D.C., know that she was on the arm of her husband on many occasions and was introduced by him as 'my CIA agent wife' long before the Bob Novak article appeared."

Later in the show, radio host and former Nixon administration official G. Gordon Liddy repeated the claim, declaring -- as Salon.com noted -- that Plame "had been outed by her husband numerous times. He would go to parties, and she'd be on his arm. Say, you know, 'Meet my CIA wife.' "

That evening, on the October 28 edition of Fox News' The Big Story with John Gibson, host Gibson asked Napolitano why Libby had not been indicted for leaking Plame's identity. Napolitano suggested that a "relative" may have previously said of Plame: "This is my CIA wife." Gibson agreed, explaining that "Wilson has introduced his wife as 'my CIA wife.' "

From the October 28 edition of Fox News' The Big Story with John Gibson:

NAPOLITANO: It's the question of the day, John, and it was put to the special prosecutor, Patrick Fitzgerald, no less than three times by three different reporters in the press conference that he held just a few hours ago, and he didn't answer it directly, except to say, this is a very difficult charge to prove. Now, why is he saying that? Because the statute requires in order to convict someone of that, you must prove that they, in fact, have not been outed before, like by a relative who says --

GIBSON: Like a husband.

NAPOLITANO: -- "This is my CIA wife." Right. And that the government --

GIBSON: And we actually know that's happened. Joe Wilson has introduced his wife as "my CIA wife."

NAPOLITANO: To many people in Washington, D.C. And the government has to be taking continuous, affirmative steps to maintain her undercover status. She had a desk job, and she drove back and forth to Langley [CIA's Virginia headquarters].

GIBSON: But, he says she was covered. And that's the basis for the indictment against Libby, such as it is.

In a subsequent segment on the same edition of The Big Story, former CIA operative and frequent Fox News guest Wayne Simmons repeated the claim, again without any supporting evidence:

JANE SKINNER (Fox News Live anchor): But it sounded like from Fitzgerald today, he was saying that perhaps she was outed, that just that threshold is so high in that law that they may not be able to meet it in this case. But he was obviously clearly upset over the fact that Valerie Plame's name should not have been out there.

SIMMONS: Well, listen, then they should go talk to Joe Wilson. He used to waltz her all over Washington and introduce her as "my CIA wife." So this is not something new. If they're going to -- you know, if they want to end that, then let's go back and talk with Joe and say, "Joe, gee, you really shouldn't have done that." But to manufacture these charges that someone outed his wife, that's preposterous.

On October 30, the Times of London (a British newspaper owned by Fox's parent company, News Corp.) echoed the charge, attributing it to unnamed "insiders" and, like Fox News, failing to provide any supporting evidence:

The White House has tried to fight back. Wilson and his wife, insiders like to point out, are no clear-cut heroes. In Washington circles, they say, Wilson was known to introduce Plame proudly at parties as "my CIA wife" and thus could be said to have broken her cover himself.

On the October 31 edition of CNN's The Situation Room -- several hours after Napolitano's appearance on The Radio Factor -- host Wolf Blitzer interviewed Wilson. When Blitzer asked Wilson if he had publicly referred to Plame as "my wife, the CIA agent" at cocktail parties, Wilson responded, "Of course not."

From the October 31 edition of CNN's The Situation Room:

BLITZER: Did you ever go around in cocktail parties -- because this has been alleged against you as well -- before the Robert Novak column and boast "my wife, the CIA agent," "my wife works for the CIA"?

WILSON: Of course not. First of all, I have 5-year-old twins, and so we don't go to very many cocktail parties. You've seen me at precisely one in the many years that we've been in Washington together. And that was actually a book party. And you did not see my wife there, and you didn't hear me say anything about my wife at that party.

BLITZER: How well known was it that she worked for the CIA before the Novak column?

WILSON: It was not known outside the intelligence community. The day after the Novak article appeared, my sister-in-law, my brother's wife, turned to him and asked him: "Do you think Joe knows this?"

Though Napolitano and his Fox News colleagues have yet to reveal the source of their claim, it may have evolved from the similarly unsourced rumor that Plame's CIA employment was well known on the Washington, D.C. "cocktail circuit." For example, Republican attorney Victoria Toensing and co-author Bruce W. Sanford advanced this theory in a January 12 Washington Post op-ed, stating: "If it were known on the Washington cocktail circuit, as has been alleged, that Wilson's wife is with the agency, a possessor of that gossip would have no reason to believe that information is classified." The Toensing and Sanford op-ed did not give any indication of who was doing the alleging.

As Media Matters for America has noted, a July 15 Washington Times article quoted former CIA operative Fred Rustmann, who supervised Plame for one year early in her career and retired from the agency in 1990 -- more than a decade before Plame's identity was allegedly leaked. According to The Washington Times, Rustmann asserted that Plame's CIA employment was not a secret: "Her neighbors knew this, her friends knew this, his [Wilson's] friends knew this." But the article mentioned only one of Plame's neighbors by name: David Tillotson, who told The Washington Times that he "absolutely didn't know" Plame worked for the CIA. Nevertheless, without naming a single neighbor who knew of Plame's CIA employment, The Washington Times subsequently published editorials on July 19 and July 26, and a news article on July 25 claiming variously that "most," "numerous," and "several" of Plame's neighbors knew about her work.

An October 26 Los Angeles Times article quoted Tillotson as saying he told FBI investigators he socialized with Plame and Wilson and "had no idea" about Plame's CIA employment:

The agents "made it clear they were part of the Fitzgerald investigation, and they were basically tying up loose ends," said David Tillotson, a lawyer and neighbor who was among those interviewed Monday.

"They really only had one interest, and that was to know whether Valerie's identity, on what she did for a living, was known prior to the Novak article. It seemed they were trying to establish clearly that prior to the Novak article she was not widely known on the cocktail circuit," Tillotson said.

"And I pointed out, we were good friends, we socialized with them, and we just had no idea" until her status was made public in the Novak column, Tillotson said. "To that moment, we had no idea whatsoever that Valerie did anything for the government."

Several of Plame's other neighbors have told journalists and the FBI that they did not know she worked for the CIA before Novak wrote about it.

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