During a recent interview with the National Ledger, conservative columnist Robert Novak was asked if he would reveal Valerie Plame Wilson’s secret CIA identity if he could go back and do it all over again. Novak noted that he has previously said he “should have ignored” what he had been told about Plame, but he now claims he is “much less ambivalent“:
NOVAK: I’d go full speed ahead because of the hateful and beastly way in which my left-wing critics in the press and Congress tried to make a political affair out of it and tried to ruin me. My response now is this: The hell with you. They didn’t ruin me. I have my faith, my family, and a good life. A lot of people love me — or like me. So they failed. I would do the same thing over again because I don’t think I hurt Valerie Plame whatsoever.
But of course, Plame was “hurt” because of Novak’s column — she no longer has a career as a covert CIA agent. Moreover, Plame has said that she feared for her and her family’s lives after Novak revealed her identity.
But Novak ignores the point that Plame’s outing had broader national security implications. In fact, Plame’s CIA job was to stop Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons and as one former senior intelligence officer put it, the leak made “it harder for other CIA officers to recruit sources.”
Novak also claimed “it was an important story because it explained why the CIA would send Joe Wilson [Plame’s husband] — a former Clinton White House aide with no track record in intelligence and no experience in Niger — on a fact-finding mission to Africa.” Except, Wilson did have experience in Niger, not only as a foreign service officer but as the NSC’s Senior Director of African Affairs during the Clinton administration as he explained to TPM:
WILSON: Why me? Because I knew a lot about the [uranium] business […] I knew all of the personalities who would have been involved in this sort of interaction, because I had been at the White House during the time when the transaction purportedly took place.
Earlier in the interview with the National Ledger, Novak said that Vice President Dick Cheney is “the most forceful, effective vice president in history.” Given the dark “cloud” that hangs over the vice president’s involvement in the whole Plame saga, it is perhaps easy to understand Novak’s lack of remorse.