Democratic Underground

The Waterman Paper

July 24, 2004
By H2O Man

This paper examines the possibility that Vice President Dick Cheney orchestrated the "leaking" of CIA operative Valerie Plame's identity to the news media in the summer of 2003, in order to accomplish three goals.

These include (1) to punish Joseph Wilson for challenging "16 words" in President Bush's 1-28-03 State of the Union address; and (2) to intimidate other sources from publicly challenging the White House's version of events involving the "war on terrorism" and the US invasion of Iraq. Both of these goals are well-known from numerous reports on this White House scandal.

The other, (3) is that VP Cheney was attempting to derail an investigation that Plame may have been involved in at the time that her identity was exposed. This third potential goal has not been the subject of any major media attention.

The author of this paper put it forward on an internet forum, the Democratic Underground, in early July, 2004. The resulting eleven DU "threads," which consist of over 3,000 posts from interested citizens across the country, is the only known forum debating this theory.

Besides the eleven DU "Plame Indictment" threads, the information in this paper comes from the following four sources: The Politics of Truth, by Joseph Wilson; Worse Than Watergate, by John Dean; Don't Tread on Joseph Wilson, NYT book review by John Dean on 5-23-04; and Plenty to Swear About, by Joe Klein, Time, 7-5-04.

Time Line

While the case involving Wilson's investigation in Niger, and the White House's efforts to expose Plame is long and complicated, this paper will focus on a "time line" established by Wilson in his book.

1. Jan '02: The first reports of a Niger-Iraq uranium connection surface in the White House.

2. Feb '02: Wilson is asked to investigate by the CIA.

3. March '02: Wilson returns from Niger and briefs the CIA on the investigation. His conclusion supports those of two others that there was no Niger-Iraq connection.

4. Jan '03: Bush includes the "16 words" in his State of the Union address.

5. On or about March 5, '03: the CIA gives VP Cheney an oral report, informing him of Wilson's conclusions.

6. March 7, '03: the IAEA announces the US's documents on Niger-Iraq are forgeries.

7. March 8, '03: (a) a State Department spokesperson admits, "We fell for it" in regard to the forged document; (b) Wilson tells CNN that the State Department has more information on the subject; and (c) a workshop meeting is held in VP Cheney's office. It is attended by top republican officials, possibly including Cheney, Scooter Libby, and Newt Gingrich. The group discusses ways to discredit Wilson.

8. June 8, '03: Condoleeza Rice denies knowledge of the weakness of the Niger uranium claim on Meet The Press. She states, "Maybe someone down in the bowels of the Agency knew about this, but nobody in my circles."

9. July 6, '03: Wilson's NYT op-ed is published. By the following day, two senior White House officials began contacting at least six reporters, informing them of Valerie Plame's identity as a CIA operative.

10. July 8, '03: Reporter Robert Novak tells a complete stranger on a Washington street: "Wilson's an asshole. The CIA sent him. His wife, Valerie, works for the CIA. She's a weapons of mass destruction specialist. She sent him." In the following days, Novak would ask the CIA for confirmation of Plame's identity. He was asked not to print her name or identity in any article regarding Wilson.

11. July 14, '03: Novak's article exposes Plame.

12. July 20, '03: NBC's Andrea Mitchell tells Wilson that senior White House officials told her that the "real story" was not the 16 words, but was Wilson and his wife.

13. July 21, '03: NBC's Chris Matthews tells Wilson that Karl Rove called him and said," Wilson's wife is fair game." Matthews said he would confirm that if asked.

This time line indicates that while the exposing of Plame's identity was a result of Wilson's op-ed, it was also part of a larger strategy that had been planned in VP Cheney's office since March 8. It clearly confirms goal #1: by exposing Plame, and putting her safety at risk, the White House had severely punished Joseph Wilson.

It also supports goal #2: the White House had a strategy to intimidate any other potential intelligence operatives from exposing the administration for distorting information regarding Iraq.

Likewise, the exposing of Plame supports goal #3: exposing Plame put an immediate end to any activities that Plame was participating in at the time. This is supported by Wilson (pg 345): "She immediately began to prepare a checklist of things she needed to do to minimize the fall-out to the projects she was working on."

Also, Wilson notes: "Compromising the officer means compromising a career, a network, and every person with who the officer might have ever worked. Slips of the tongue cost people their lives." (pg 13)

The Leakers' Identities

Robert Novak sourced his story to two senior White House officials. Other reporters, including Andrea Mitchell, made mention of the two unidentified senior White House officials. These two are among the at least six reporters contacted by these two officials.

Chris Matthew's call identifies Karl Rove as being involved in the efforts to make "Wilson's wife ... fair game." This call took place after the calls from the senior officials to the six reporters.

Wilson's book indicates a belief that the two senior officials were Lewis "Scooter" Libby and Eliot Abrams. Abrams is no stranger to White House disgrace, having been convicted on two charges during the Iran-Contra scandal.

There is evidence the three were operating with the knowledge of, and perhaps under the direction of VP Cheney. The March 8 "workshop" in VP Cheney's office indicates that this was a long-standing, well-organized effort to discredit Wilson. As Wilson notes (pg 387) : "... a plan to attack me had been formed before the moment. It was cocked and ready to fire .... an organized smear campaign directed from the highest reaches of the White House."

Cheney and Pre-War Intelligence

Those involved in the "workshop" to discredit Wilson were also active in efforts to influence pre-war intelligence reports. On page 6, Wilson discusses "leaks" that Cheney, Libby, and Newt Gingrich pressured the intelligence community "to skew intelligence analysists" to fit their own needs.

On page 338, Wilson notes that these three reportedly intimidated analysts by implying, "if you do a 'Wilson' on us, we will do worse to you."

Wilson notes (pg 434) that VP Cheney runs a "parallel national security office," which has no congressional oversight, and hence can "circumvent long-standing and accepted reporting structures and to skew decision-making practices."

As a result, as reported by Joe Klein in Time (7-5-04) "the intelligence community is at war with the White House." Klein notes that "multiple intelligence sources" indicated to him their belief that Cheny strong-armed out-going CIA Director George Tenet, to make him support Cheney and Rumsfeld's positions on Iraq.

Cheney, Niger, and Wilson's Trip

Wilson notes a report on a possible Niger-Iraq yellow cake uranium transaction had "aroused the interests of Vice President Dick Cheney." (pg 14) Cheney's office "had tasked the CIA to determine if there was any truth to the report." (pg 14)

It is clear that Cheney was aware of the Niger report, and had directed his office to have the CIA do an investigation of it. There is evidence that on March 5, the CIA gave VP Cheney an oral report on Wilson's findings. This was three days before the State Department spokesperson told the media, "We fell for it," and that Wilson told CNN that the State Department had more information on that subject. March 8 was also the day that the "workshop" to discredit Wilson was held in Cheney's office.

"What I Didn't Find" vs "16 Words"

The White House retracted President Bush's infamous 16 words immediately after Wilson's op-ed appeared in the New York Times.

On 7-13-03, Condi Rice told Fox News Sunday that, "It is ludicrous to suggest that the president of the United States went to war on the question of whether Saddam Hussein sought uranium from Africa."

On 7-14-03, Robert Novak exposed Valerie Plame's identity. It is important to recognize that Novak was aware that Plame was an operative who specialized in WMDs, and that he had been asked by the CIA not to reveal her identity, or even print her name, in an article on Wilson.

The White House continued to engage in efforts to discredit Wilson, including sending three identical e-mails of "talking points" to Keith Olbermann when Wilson was appearing on MSNBC's Countdown.

1982 Intelligence Identity Protection Act

Wilson notes that the administration had already acknowledged the Niger-Iraq link was unsubstantiated, and that logically, they should have focused attention on how the 16 words made their way into the president's State of the Union address. The effort to expose Plame's identity made little sense. (pg 7)

Later, he continues with, "The White House gained nothing by publicizing Valerie's name..." (pg 7)

"Then it struck me that the attack by Rove and the administration on my wife had little to do with her, but a lot to do with others who might be tempted to speak out." (pgs 5-6)

"The decision of the president's people to come after me .... arose from no concerns over the emergence of secrets from my mission -- there weren't any." (pg 339)

"However offensive, there was a certain logic to it. If you have something to hide, one way to keep it secret is to threaten anyone who might expose it. But it was too late to silence me." (pg 338)

Goal #3: Why Cheney Exposed Plame

Wilson notes that Sandy Berger, President Clinton's national security advisor, pointed out that since the Bush people had never backed down before, the fact that they had been "so quick to admit their error this time meant they must have something more important to protect." (pg 4)

In Worse Than Watergate, John Dean calls the exposing of Plame the "Dirtiest of Dirty Tricks." He writes that "revealing her identity damaged the national security and her career, and resulted in the loss of a valuable government asset." He called this action "literally life-threatening." (pgs 170-171)

What could have possibly been so important to VP Cheney that he oversaw the violating of the 1982 IIPA, and risked a White House scandal? The answer clearly can not be found in goals #1 or #2.

The answer, which supports goal #3, appears in Klein's article: "Furthermore, there is intense anger over the White House's revealing the identity of Plame, who may have been active in a sting operation involving the trafficking of WMD components. ..... 'Only a very high-ranking official could have had access to the knowledge that Plame was on the payroll' of the CIA, an intelligence source told me."

And that very high-ranking official may have known through his parallel national security office about the activities that Plame was involved with at that time. The answer to goal #3 likely is to be found in the checklist of things Valerie Plame did to mitigate the damage done by Novak's article immediately after she read it.


This paper presents direct evidence that the intelligence group that operates out of VP Cheney's office orchestrated the exposure of Valerie Plame as a CIA operative, in order to realize goal #1, the "punishing" of Joseph Wilson for publicly challenging President Bush.

It includes both direct and circumstantial evidence from sources including Wilson, Dean, Klein, and others, that indicates they also had goal #2 in mind: to intimidate any other potential sources that could challenge their reasons for invading Iraq, as well as other measures in their "war on terorism."

Yet these two goals alone do not explain why VP Cheney would (1) take part in a measure that would violate a federal law against exposing a CIA operative, or (2) risk a serious scandal for the Bush Administration.

The possibility that VP Cheney was hoping to derail a sting operation involving Valerie Plame, which is our identified goal #3, does explain why VP Cheney would condone the breaking of the federal law, and risk the most serious scandal that this administration faces.

Further research by an ad hoc DU "think tank" has identified possible connections between businesses connected to VP Cheney that may be associated with the sale of WMD components to countries in the Middle East. It is our belief that this theory and the evidence that supports it needs a more in-depth investigation.

At the time of publishing, the most recent message board thread on this subject can be found here.

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