Two years into leak investigation, Gen. Vallely suddenly claims, in contradictory statements, that Wilson revealed Plame's identity to him

››› ››› JEREMY SCHULMAN

Nearly two years after the start of special counsel Patrick J. Fitzgerald's investigation into the alleged leak of CIA operative Valerie Plame's identity, ret. Maj. Gen. Paul E. Vallely has recently claimed publicly that Plame's husband, former ambassador Joseph C. Wilson IV, disclosed her CIA employment in 2002 -- long before syndicated columnist Robert D. Novak outed Plame in his July 14, 2003, column. But Vallely, a Fox News military analyst and chairman of the Military Committee at the Center for Security Policy, has made contradictory statements regarding when and how many times Wilson supposedly mentioned Plame's employment. Vallely initially claimed that Wilson revealed his wife's CIA employment over the course of at least three conversations beginning in spring 2002, but Vallely changed this story days later, saying that Wilson told him about Plame's work only once in the summer or fall of that year.

A timeline of Vallely's evolving claims:

November 5: "at least three, possibly five, conversations" beginning in "the spring of 2002"

According to a November 5 article published by the right-wing news website WorldNetDaily, Vallely claimed on the November 3 broadcast of ABC Radio Networks' The John Batchelor Show that Wilson revealed Plame's CIA employment in a conversation with Vallely in a Fox News "green room" in 2002. WorldNetDaily reported that after his appearance on Batchelor's show, "Vallely told WorldNetDaily that Wilson mentioned Plame's status as a CIA employee over the course of at least three, possibly five, conversations in 2002" and that "Vallely says, according to his recollection, Wilson mentioned his wife's job in the spring of 2002":

Maj. Gen. Paul Vallely told WorldNetDaily that Wilson mentioned Plame's status as a CIA employee over the course of at least three, possibly five, conversations in 2002 in the Fox News Channel's "green room" in Washington, D.C., as they waited to appear on air as analysts.

Vallely and Wilson both were contracted by Fox News to discuss the war on terror as the U.S. faced off with Iraq in the run-up to the spring 2003 invasion.

Vallely says, according to his recollection, Wilson mentioned his wife's job in the spring of 2002 -- more than a year before Robert Novak's July 14, 2003, column identified her, citing senior administration officials, as "an Agency operative on weapons of mass destruction."

"He was rather open about his wife working at the CIA," said Vallely, who retired in 1991 as the Army's deputy commanding general in the Pacific.

In another article posted later that day, WorldNetDaily reported that Vallely and WorldNetDaily received an email from Christopher Wolf, Wilson's attorney, demanding a retraction and stating that "the claim that Ambassador Wilson revealed to you or to anyone that his wife worked for the CIA is patently false." Wolf's email also contained a message Wilson had sent to Wolf:

"This is slanderous," Wilson wrote. "I never appeared on tv before at least July 2002 and only saw him maybe twice in the green room at FOX. Vallely is a retired general and this is a bald faced lie. Can we sue? This is not he said/he said, since I never laid eyes on him till several months after he alleges I spoke to him about my wife."

Though Media Matters for America was unable to obtain a transcript of the November 3 John Batchelor Show, Batchelor described his interview with Vallely in a November 5 post on the conservative weblog RedState.org. According to Batchelor, Vallely "wrote me [on November 2] that Wilson had bragged of his wife the 'CIA desk officer' to Paul and all other ears in the green room at Fox News in D.C. in the winter spring of 2002." Batchelor added, "Paul told the same story to me on air on Wednesday, November 2, [sic, Thursday, November 3] speaking to the nation, but especially right to the Washington audience on WMAL. No secret. No ambiguity. Joe Wilson called his wife a 'CIA desk officer.' "

November 7: "only one occasion," which "probably was in that summer, early fall"

In subsequent media appearances and interviews, Vallely apparently revised his story, pushing the date of his purported conversation with Wilson back to the summer or fall of 2002 and saying that Wilson revealed his wife's CIA employment only once. In an interview on the November 7 broadcast of The Sean Hannity Show, Vallely claimed that he said on Batchelor's November 3 show that his conversation with Wilson "may have been in the spring-summer." That claim is not consistent with what Vallely reportedly told WorldNetDaily: "spring"; or with what Batchelor claimed Vallely wrote: "winter spring." Later on Hannity's radio show, Vallely claimed that his conversation with Wilson "probably was that summer [2002], early fall."

From the November 7 broadcast of ABC Radio Networks' The Sean Hannity Show:

VALLELY: Well, then the question came up, "Well, do you know Joe Wilson?" I said, "Yes. I met him in 2002. I can't remember the exact date. It may have been in the spring-summer." We just found out today that, you know, Joe Wilson did 25 Fox shows between, I think, August 13, 2002, and December 31, 2002. And I did well over 100 segments, as you may remember, back in 2002, covering the war. Joe Wilson met my wife in the green room, and we got to talk about our families, past assignments, and so on and so forth. And only on one occasion do I recall, you know, "My wife's at the agency." That's what they say in D.C.: "My wife's at the agency." You know it's the CIA. He never divulged what her position was, or whether she was an agent or whatever. And we know full well today she never was a covert agent in those previous six years. She worked as a desk officer.

[...]

HANNITY (host): And so, do you recall the exact day that he told you?

VALLELY: No. I'm -- the only thing I can, you know, it's hard for us to remember what the heck we did, you know, one month ago.

HANNITY: Yeah.

VALLELY: But it was 2002, and --

HANNITY: And you'll testify under oath?

VALLELY: Probably was in that summer, early fall timeframe that it happened.

November 8: Vallely "clarified" his story "[a]fter recalling further over the weekend ..."

A November 8 WorldNetDaily article confirmed that Vallely had "clarified" his story: "After recalling further over the weekend his contacts with Wilson, Vallely says now it was on just one occasion -- the first of several conversations -- that the ambassador revealed his wife's employment with the CIA and that it likely occurred some time in the late summer or early fall of 2002."

A November 9 column by WorldNetDaily editor and chief executive officer Joseph Farah confirmed that Vallely originally claimed that Wilson had revealed his wife's CIA employment in "conversations" -- plural -- with Vallely:

On Saturday, WorldNetDaily published a story based on an interview with Maj. General Paul Vallely, a distinguished career military man and Fox News analyst, who said Ambassador Joseph Wilson, the man at the center of the CIA leak case, had told him in casual conversations in the Fox News studios that his wife, Valerie Plame, was a CIA employee - more than a year before this was first disclosed publicly in a column written by journalist Robert Novak.

Batchelor's promise that Gen. McInerney would "repeat and expand upon Vallely's memory" went unfulfilled

In a November 6 post on RedState.org, Batchelor stated that retired Lt. Gen. Tom McInerney would join Vallely on the November 7 broadcast of Batchelor's show "to repeat and expand upon Vallely's memory that Joe Wilson more than once in 2002 in the green room at Fox New [sic] Channel in Washington D.C. boasted about his wife the 'CIA desk officer.' " Batchelor claimed that "McInerney has the same memory and more, since both he and Vallely were on FNC between 150 and 200 times in 2002 each."

McInerney did appear along with Vallely and Farah on Batchelor's November 7 show. But while Vallely repeated his charge that Wilson had told him about Plame's CIA employment, McInerney made no such claim. Instead, Batchelor cited McInerney's "friendship with Paul Vallely" and asked McInerney whether, "to your knowledge, Paul Vallely has revealed nothing but the truth." Neither Batchelor nor any of his guests suggested during the interview that Wilson had disclosed Plame's employment to McInerney.

From the November 7 broadcast of ABC Radio Networks' The John Batchelor Show:

BATCHELOR: Now I go to Tom McInerney, whose service to the United States of America is also critical. Tom --

McINERNEY: Yes.

BATCHELOR: Your friendship with Paul Vallely brings you here tonight. More to the point of the next segment, we will speak to your very careful reasoning of what's going on with Joe Wilson. But to your knowledge, Paul Vallely has revealed nothing but the truth. Is that correct, general?

McINERNEY: Absolutely.

Batchelor also noted in his November 6 RedState.org post that he had written to Hoover Institution senior fellow and National Review contributor "Victor Davis Hanson to ask after his reported memories of Wilson boasting to him in a green room meeting that Wilson's wife worked at the CIA." Although he did not specify where Hanson's "memories of Wilson boasting" had been "reported," Batchelor asked, "Did Fitzgerald's lengthy investigation ever concern itself with green room conversations, contacting such as Vallely and McInerney and Hanson?"

But in its November 8 article, WorldNetDaily contradicted Batchelor's suggestion that Wilson had boasted of his wife's CIA employment to Hanson, reporting that "contrary to a report, Hanson said Wilson did not disclose his wife's CIA employment" during an encounter in the Fox News "green room" in early 2003.

Vallely said he waited two years because he "figured Joe Wilson would self-destruct"

Vallely's allegations have come nearly two years after the beginning of Fitzgerald's high-profile investigation, which led to the indictment of former vice presidential chief of staff I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby on charges of obstruction of justice, perjury, and false statements in connection with the leak investigation. Despite widespread reporting about the seriousness of Fitzgerald's investigation, Vallely apparently did not feel compelled to share his story until more than a week after Libby's indictment. In an interview on the November 8 edition of Fox News' Hannity & Colmes, co-host Alan Colmes asked Vallely: "Did you talk to the FBI, or do you plan to talk to the FBI?" Vallely responded, "Well, no, I haven't talked to them."

The indictment states: "At all relevant times from January 1. 2002 through July 2003, Valerie 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." Given the significance of this finding, it seems likely that Vallely would have wanted the grand jury to know that he had evidence undermining it before the grand jury's term expired on October 28.

On the November 7 broadcast of The Sean Hannity Show, Vallely explained why he had waited so long to tell his story: "I was asked, 'Why didn't you say this before?' Well, I figured Joe Wilson would self-destruct at some point in time."

Vallely said he had been "upset" by Wilson's opposition to Bush's "forward strategy"

In his November 7 appearance on Batchelor's show, Vallely described Wilson as having "an absolute agenda ... against the administration, against the war on terror," and said, "that upset" McInerney and him.

From the November 7 broadcast of ABC Radio Networks' The John Batchelor Show:

VALLELY: As Gen. McInerney and I covered the war on terror in 2002, it was very apparent when we listened to Joe Wilson that there was an absolute agenda there. And I had said many times to Gen. McInerney and he back to me: "Where is this guy coming from? Where is he getting his information?" So it became very apparent that in some 25 appearance, perhaps, that we were able to get some information on between August the 13, 2002, and the end of December 2002, that there was a planned agenda there against the administration, against the war on terror. And that upset Gen. McInerney and I, because we were looking at this thing to support the American people and to provide a forward strategy so that we can defeat the enemy over there and not at home. So that's what it was all about.

In addition to his support on Fox News for a "forward strategy" in Iraq, Vallely serves as Military Committee chairman at the Center for Security Policy (CSP), whose current president is Washington Times columnist Frank J. Gaffney Jr. Former Defense Policy Board chairman Richard Perle, and radio host and former Secretary of Education Bill Bennett serve on CSP's advisory board. Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld, former deputy secretary of defense Paul Wolfowitz, and former undersecretary of defense for policy Douglas J. Feith have all served on CSP's advisory board in the past. According to Sourcewatch, "Center for Security Policy has strong ties with the Republican party with many members serving senior posts in the Reagan administration and Bush Jr. administrations." In 2004, CSP received a $325,000 grant from the Sarah Scaife Foundation and a $75,000 grant from The Bradley Foundation -- two of the most prominent funders of conservative organizations.

Posted In
National Security & Foreign Policy, Intelligence, War in Iraq
Stories/Interests
CIA Leak Investigation
We've changed our commenting system to Disqus.
Instructions for signing up and claiming your comment history are located here.
Updated rules for commenting are here.