‘Finding out the name of Joe Wilson’s wife’

Something has been bothering me all day. Either the front-page flap over the ‘outing’ of a CIA operative is a farce, or sloppy reporting is contributing to the FUD factor.

The controversy involves the charge that someone in the Bush administration leaked the identity of CIA operative (undercover agent currently serving in a hostile country? desk-bound Beltway analyst?) Valerie Plame, as revenge against her husband, former diplomat Joseph Wilson, who discredited reports on Iraq’s efforts to obtain weapons of mass destruction (thus undercutting Bush’s strongest arguments for launching the assault on Saddam Hussein).

On CNN, when anchor Bill Hemmer introduces a clip, he says:

This is Bob Novak on ‘CROSSFIRE’ explaining, in part anyway, how he went about finding out the name of Joe Wilson’s wife and how he then went about printing it in mid July.

The Washington Post briefly covered this issue back in July (as given in a copy of this WashPost article found via a random Google).

Schumer said the disclosure of the wife’s name and CIA relationship “was part of an apparent attempt to impugn Wilson’s credibility and to intimidate others from speaking out against the administration.” He called for the FBI to investigate Novak’s source, because intentionally identifying a covert CIA officer is a crime.

Leaving aside for the moment the question of whether Wilson’s CIA wife was an undercover agent or an analyst, and thus whether revealing her name was a serious security breach, an inconvenience, or trivial… someone on Fark posted a link to the biography of Ambassador Joseph C. Wilson, IV on the Middle East Institute’s website. The page is dated 2002, and it was in The Wayback Machine when I checked it earlier. Anyway, at the bottom of the bio, we read: “He is married to the former Valerie Plame and has two sons and two daughters.”

If it’s true that Novak is the first person who identified Wilson’s wife as a CIA employee, then the problem isn’t that Novak mentioned her name, but rather that Novak mentioned her job.

Update: It’s early in the AM now, and I just noticed Novak’s column for 01 Oct 2003.

Blogger sleuthing at its finest… way back in July, Dust in the Light put together the pieces I just assembled above. Note particularly the Newsday quote

Wilson, while refusing to confirm his wife’s employment, said the release to the press of her relationship to him and even her maiden name was an attempt to intimidate others like him from talking about Bush administration intelligence failures.

Once again, is this controversy over the release of her name, or the publication of her occupation? I’m not trying to pass judgement on the validity of the accusations — Novak is a conservative, and thus his efforts to downplay the seriousness of the incident could be politically motivated. But if you make that argument, you open yourself up to the counter-argument that every liberal who insists that the case is serious must be politically motivated… that way lies more FUD.

Good grief… if you Google “Joseph Wilson biography“, the first hit is the 2002 web page that names his wife.

I’m just wondering whether mainstream reporters will be able to address the “finding out the name of Joe Wilson’s wife” meme. Or is that up to bloggin’ fools like me, who read other blogs until the wee hours of the morning?

I’m going to bed now.