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Joe Wilson's 60 Minutes

Another media outlet falls to the Plame storyline without so much as a whimper.

11:00 PM, Nov 1, 2005 • By THOMAS JOSCELYN
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EVEN BEFORE THE INDICTMENT of Lewis "Scooter" Libby last week, many in the mainstream media had already settled on a simple storyline. Valerie Plame's identity was blown, the story goes, by administration officials seeking retribution against her husband, Joseph Wilson. Wilson is often portrayed as a brave "whistleblower," who had the courage to stand up to an administration that "lied" its way into war.

There is, perhaps, no better illustration of how entrenched this misleading storyline has become than this past Sunday's episode of 60 Minutes. In a segment fronted by correspondent Ed Bradley, a host of Wilsonian memes were broadcast without even the slightest bit of skepticism.

THE SEGMENT BEGAN with a misleading question: "Would someone in the government go that far, leak her [Valerie Plame's] name to the press, in retaliation for her husband's public criticism of the war in Iraq?" But, Wilson was not merely "criticizing" the war in Iraq, a democratic right that should be protected, as this opening question implied. His "critique" was pure fantasy, a tale woven around his own classified trip to Africa.

As has been shown countless times, no substantive part of Wilson's story was true. A bipartisan Senate Intelligence Report made this clear in July 2004 (see, for example, here and here.) To hear 60 Minutes tell it, you would never even know that this report existed. The Senate Intelligence Report was not mentioned and Bradley did not ask Wilson a single question about his bogus charges. Instead, for the umpteenth time, Wilson was allowed an unchallenged opportunity to tell his version of events.

By ignoring the numerous deficiencies in Wilson's account, Bradley ignored one of the more salient questions in this story: Why was a CIA officer, Wilson's wife, complicit in his lies? The Senate Intelligence Report makes it clear that Valerie Plame orchestrated Wilson's trip to Africa and attended at least part of his CIA debriefing. She was, therefore, most certainly in a position to know that her husband's accusations were false.

Why did she not stop him from spreading his falsehoods?

In fact, much of the media's coverage of the war in Iraq has been shaped by former and current CIA personalities with their own, not impartial, motives. Countless leaks and anonymous comments have shaped front-page stories over the last several years. An ever-growing bevy of former CIA officials have also gone public to state their cases against the Bush administration and the war in Iraq. (See, for example, here and here.)

The 60 Minutes piece did not give the viewer any sense that perhaps the entire Wilson-Plame affair was part of a turf battle between members of the CIA and the Bush administration. Instead, in addition to Wilson, Bradley turned to two former CIA officials and a Democratic congressman for their assessments of "how serious was the damage done by the leak." The witnesses offered no real evidence of any further collateral damage done by the leak, but instead dealt with hypothetical examples.

THE FIRST OF THE FORMER CIA OPERATIVES was Jim Marcinkowski, who is now an attorney in Royal Oak, Michigan and who, 60 Minutes tells us, "was a covert CIA agent spying in Central America" in the late 1980s. Marcinkowski's attention was drawn to the faux CIA front company, Brewster-Jennings & Associates, which Plame listed as her employer when she and her husband contributed $1,000 each to the Gore campaign in 1999. "There is a possibility that there were other agents that would use that same kind of a cover," he explained, "So they may have been using Brewster-Jennings just like her."

But how difficult would it have been for a foreign intelligence service to discover that Brewster-Jennings was really a CIA front company? As it turns out, it was not very difficult at all.