A Vengeful White House?

us ambassador joseph wilson CBS

It was an embarrassing mistake when White House officials admitted that there was an inaccuracy in President Bush's State of the Union address, but now, the fallout from that mistake could lead to criminal charges, CBS News Correspondent Randall Pinkston reports.

In his speech, Mr. Bush claimed that Iraq had attempted to purchase uranium, used to make weapons of mass destruction, from an African nation.

Ambassador Joseph Wilson, who was dispatched to investigate the charge before the State of the Union, revealed that he had warned the Bush administration that there was no evidence to support the claim.

That's when Robert Novak, a syndicated newspaper columnist, reported that Wilson's wife was a CIA operative.

"The allegation that Novak made was aimed to intimidate others from coming forward," Wilson told Pinkston.

Wilson, who worked for President Bush's father and was an ambassador to Iraq before the first Gulf War, went to Niger in 2002 at the request of the CIA to investigate the uranium report.

"I concluded it was highly unlikely that the sale of yellow cake [a form of uranium] could've been done," Wilson said.

But the charge remained in the State of the Union address, so two months ago, Wilson went public, charging that, "Some of the intelligence related to Iraq's nuclear weapons program was twisted to exaggerate the Iraqi threat."

Wilson's report forced the administration to admit it's mistake, and go on the offensive, Pinkston reports.

Eight days later, Novak wrote that the CIA viewed Wilson's Niger report as not definitive. He added, "His wife, Valerie Plame, is an agency operative on weapons of mass destruction. Two senior administration officials told me his wife suggested sending Wilson to Niger."

"This kind of a low blow, even in a bare knuckles town like Washington, was neither honorable or dignified," Wilson said.

Some journalists thought the White House had leaked the information about Wilson's wife to Novak, a charge that was dismissed by administration officials.

"I haven't heard that. That's just totally ridiculous, but we've already addressed this issue," White House Pres Secretary Scott McClellan said.

Revealing the names of CIA operatives is a felony, and the CIA has asked the Justice Department to begin a probe, Pinkston reports.

Congressional sources say there may also be calls for the appointment of an independent investigation to determine if Bush administration officials blew Plame's cover.
  • Joel Arak

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