Spy and ambassador who figured in Iraq war dramas to speak Wednesday

Valerie Plame Wilson and Joseph C. Wilson both wrote about their experiences

Valerie Plame Wilson, a former clandestine CIA operative, and her husband, Joseph C. Wilson, a former ambassador, will be forever linked to one of the most spectacular controversies surrounding the Bush Administration's decision to invade Iraq in 2003. The Wilsons will speak and take questions at 2 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 30, in Rapaporte Treasure Hall about the events that made them into international celebrities and the subjects of a recent Hollywood film. The event is sponsored by the Office of the Provost.

The events that put the Wilsons in the spotlight began In 2002, just months after the 9/11 attack on the World Trade Center. The CIA asked Joseph Wilson to travel to the African nation of Niger, where he once had worked as a Foreign Service officer, to investigate reports that Iraq had tried to purchase yellowcake uranium that could be processed to use in nuclear weapons. Wilson reported back to the CIA and the State Department that the reports were false. Nonetheless, while making the case for the invasion of Iraq in his 2003 State of the Union address, President George W. Bush referred to the reports as evidence of Iraq's nuclear weapons program. The war began two months later, in March 2003.

Startled by the fact that information he believed to be untrue was being used to justify the war, Wilson wrote an op-ed column in the New York Times that July titled "What I Didn't Find in Africa." In it, Wilson recounted his trip and his findings. "I have little choice but to conclude that some of the intelligence related to Iraq's nuclear weapons program was twisted to exaggerate the Iraqi threat," Wilson wrote.

Wilson's column hit Washington like a bombshell. The Bush Administration tried to downplay his claims while some to its supporters attacked Wilson's credibility. A week later, conservative columnist Robert Novak disclosed that Wilson's wife, Valerie Plame Wilson, was an undercover agent for the CIA. The blowing of her cover launched an investigation that ultimately led to the indictment and conviction of Vice President Dick Cheney's chief of staff, I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, on charges that he had lied during the federal investigation to find out who leaked the confidential information about Plame's role with the CIA. Bush later commuted Libby's sentence, though he left the conviction intact.

Both Wilsons later wrote books about the affair. Joe Wilson's "The Politics of Truth: Inside the Lies that Led to War and Betrayed My Wife's CIA Identity: A Diplomat's Memoir" and Plame's "Fair Game: My Life as a Spy, My Betrayal by the White House" were the basis for the 2010 film "Fair Game," which starred Sean Penn and Naomi Watts.

Categories: International Affairs

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