At the center of it, this man: former Ambassador Joe Wilson, who says someone exposed his wife as an undercover CIA agent to get back at him for questioning the president's assertion that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction. We'll talk to him and to Nebraska Senator Chuck Hagel and alifornia Congresswoman Jane Harman. Then I'll have a final word on campaigns, California -style.
But, first, White House leaks on FACE THE NATION.
(ANNOUNCER: Face The Nation with CBS News Chief Washington Correspondent Bob Schieffer.
And now from CBS News in Washington, Bob Schieffer.
SCHIEFFER: And good morning again. Joining us, the former Ambassador Joseph Wilson.
Ambassador Wilson, thank you so much.
And for our viewers, here's the story so far. The CIA asked you to go to Niger to check out reports that Iraq was buying materials to make nuclear weapons. You did that, reported back, as I understand it, that you found no evidence to that effect. And the president said in his State of the Union speech that, in fact, it appeared they were doing just that. After that, you wrote this op-ed piece challenging the president's assertion. And then administration officials leaked word that your wife was a CIA agent. And this morning you said you thought they did that to keep others from coming forward with the true facts.
Let me -- I want to ask you about that, but, first, I want to ask you -- no one has asked you: Do you believe your wife has been endangered by this leak?
JOSEPH WILSON, Former Ambassador: Well, when the first leak happened, we were most concerned about the national security consequences of that. Now, in recent weeks, of course, there has been this furor over the referral to the Justice Department, and there have been a number of other people who have come out and suggested that perhaps this does make her a target. We, of course, as a consequence of that have begun to rethink our own security posture.
SCHIEFFER: And have you taken measures or have you asked for security?
WILSON: Well, nobody has offered security from the government, although my wife is a longstanding U.S. government employee. And we have -- I don't comment on what measures we might have taken.
SCHIEFFER: Well, do you think that perhaps the government ought to offer some kind of security to her?
WILSON: Well, I would hope that the government was thinking its way through whether or not they wanted my wife exposed to any potential threat.
SCHIEFFER: So you clearly believe that, in fact, her life has been in danger.
WILSON: Well, Milt Bearden, who's a retired former CIA operative of great standing and great credibility, said the other night that he thought that she was probably the single-highest target of any possible terrorist organization or hostile intelligence service that might want to do damage.
SCHIEFFER: All right. Well, let me ask you about what you said this morning; that you thought the reason that this information that she was a CIA agent got out was put out to keep others, such as yourself, from coming forward with the true story of what they believe the situation is regarding Iraq and weapons of mass destruction.
That's a pretty serious charge here because what you're saying is the government is trying to muzzle its own intelligence agents to prevent the facts from coming out. Is that what you meant?
WILSON: Well, that's exactly what I meant, absolutely. It was clear to me that they had leaked my wife's name for a reason. The only reason that I could think of that was logical was to discourage others who might want to come out and speak more openly about their concerns about the manipulation of intelligence, keep them from doing so. The message to them would have been, `If you do what Wilson did, we'll do to your family what we've done to Wilson and his family.'
Now since then, of course, there've been a couple of articles in The Washington Post that have quoted administration sources as saying this was pure revenge. Pure revenge is not a logical reason for doing something, however abhorrent doing it in the first place was. Pure revenge on the part of a public servant who is paid to be the steward of our national security, I find, is beyond the pale.
SCHIEFFER: But it wasn't revenge, in your view, but it was intimidation.
WILSON: I always thought it was intimidation and -- until just recently -- until I've seen these articles. Now I don't know. Whoever leaked it will have to tell eventually why.
SCHIEFFER: Do you think there are others in the government that are going to continue to leak this sort of thing?
WILSON: Well, my understanding -- if you recall the context of this, at that time there were a number of analysts speaking privately to reporters about the pressure that they felt when the vice president and others were coming out to the CIA to take the briefings: pressure to skew their intelligence, pressure when DOD people were coming -- Department of Defense people were coming out to look at intelligence.
That was coming out. Certain senators, including Senator John Warner, encouraged people to come out and speak more openly about this as they were thinking about the intelligence that undergirded the war effort. Since that time, some reporters have told me that their sources have been more reluctant to speak to them in certain venues.
SCHIEFFER: Well, you at first made the now-famous remark that you'd like to see Karl Rove -- what was it?--frog walked out of the...
WILSON: Frog-marched out of the White House in handcuffs.
SCHIEFFER: In handcuffs. You've since kind of backed down a little bit on that, saying, well, you didn't know that for sure, but that's kind of what other reporters told you.
WILSON: At the time that I made that now-infamous comment, I was responding to a question about how I would support the investigation. And I said that my objective would be as supportive as possible because, after all, it would be better to see Karl Rove frog-marched out of the White House in handcuffs.
Since then, and since the revelations in The Washington Post, it's now clear to me that there were two waves of leaks: one the potentially criminal wave, the two officials who leaked to six reporters; and then there was a pushing of the story that took place the following weekend, the weekend after Mr. Novak's story came out.
That pushing of the story is probably not illegal, even by Washington's bare-knuckle standards one normally does not drag an opponent's family into the public square.
So I've kind of amended and extended my remarks to I'd like to see the two who leaked frog-marched out of the White House in handcuffs, and those who then pushed the story and gave it legs just frog-marched out, not necessarily in handcuffs.
SCHIEFFER: So what you're saying this morning is that -- you're not saying that Karl Rove leaked this story, but you're saying that he kind of pushed it after the story got out?
WILSON: I have no specific information as to whether or not Karl Rove was the original leaker or authorized the leak. I do have a number of people, or a person, in whom I have a high degree of confidence, who has told me that Karl Rove told him that my wife is fair game. And that was one week after the leak.
SCHIEFFER: Karl Rove, of course, is the chief strategist -- the chief political strategist for the president and his chief political adviser.
WILSON: Karl Rove is the -- he's a political officer. Now the CIA, of course, is an executive branch agency; reports to the White House. The leak of my wife's name was a political act. The White House has a political office. Karl Rove is the head of that political office. It's useful to begin there.
Now I currently -- the more I think about this, the more it seems to me that that the leak probably occurred -- the initial criminal -- potentially criminal leak probably occurred somewhere else.
SCHIEFFER: Do you think the president could find out who did this if he wanted to know?
WILSON: I don't know because I don't know how -- the extent to which the president is constrained by this now being a Justice Department matter. I just don't know. I do believe, however, that the president would never have condoned or been party to anything like this.
SCHIEFFER: Let me just ask you about this, because some Republicans are saying, `Look, the reason this guy is doing this, the reason his wife is doing it, is that they're Democrats,' that you've given to Democratic campaigns and that you have your own agenda, as does your wife, or at least that's the suggestion. What is your response to that?
WILSON: Well, there's two uncontested facts in this matter. The first is the 16 words that appeared in the president's State of the Union address relating to Iraqi uranium purchases from Africa, and the second is the leak of my wife's name.
Now in neither of those cases were we party to that. I did not put the 16 words in the State of the Union address. Neither did any of the people to whom I may have contributed money, including President George W. Bush, to whom I contributed $1,000.
I did not leak my wife's name; nor do I believe -- nor did George W. Bush. So if you're looking for whoever is politicizing this, my address is the wrong address.
SCHIEFFER: You are now a Democrat, though, are you not?
WILSON: Well, what I have said is so long as the president is surrounded by some of the senior advisers that he has, it would be impossible for me to support the re-election of Bush-Cheney.
But my votes have always been informed by my views on certain policy issues that are of importance to me. Those have traditionally been foreign policy issues. I was proud to be a member of the Bush I administration, in fact, to be his charges de affair in Baghdad during the first Gulf War, and his ambassador to African countries. I was equally proud to be President Clinton's senior director for African affairs at the National Security Council.
SCHIEFFER: Ambassador, thank you so much for being with us this morning.
WILSON: Nice to be with you.
SCHIEFFER: When we come back, we'll get a little perspective on this from a leading congressional Republican, and a leading congressional Democrat, in a minute.
SCHIEFFER: And we're back now with Congresswoman Jane Harman who is the ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee. Madam Vice Chairman, thank you for being here.
And, Senator Chuck Hagel, one of the ranking Republicans on the Senate Intelligence Committee.
You all just heard Joe Wilson. What's your response, Senator Hagel? I mean, he says that he believes that his wife was outed as an undercover operative by people who were trying to muzzle other members of the intelligence community.
SEN. CHUCK HAGEL, R-NE: No question it's a serious charge. That's why the Justice Department is actively now pursuing that serious charge with a very serious investigation. It needs to be cleared up quickly. The sooner this is behind us; the better off it is for the Bush administration, for the president's ability to govern; confidence, trust in his governance with our allies as well. And the sooner we can get this behind us, the more confidence and trust the American people will have in the process.
We have immense challenges out there today around the world, and it's not just a political dynamic but we have, I think, a proportion of challenges worldwide that we haven't seen probably since War World II.
SCHIEFFER: Well, get it over quickly, how do you do that? Are you satisfied with having the Attorney General do it? Should they just do it in the White House? Should you have a special prosecutor? Where do you go from here?
HAGEL: Well, a special prosecutor for me right now -- that's always an option. I don't think that would be required at this time. I have confidence in the Justice Department, the career professionals. They know how to do this. They'll do a good job. I have confidence in the Attorney General.
I think, aside from that, on a parallel track, the president should be asking some pretty tough questions...
REP. JANE HARMAN, D-CA: Yeah.
HAGEL: ...if he's not already. My guess is that he is asking some tough questions. He needs to get a hold of this himself. Call his chief of staff in, his national security adviser, the vice president, and say, `OK, what do we have here? This is serious. I want it fixed, and whatever happened, happened, and whoever it is or whomever the group is, will have to deal with the consequences but we're going to get it done.' I wouldn't wait for the investigation to end.
SCHIEFFER: Really? You'd just have the president try to get to the bottom of it himself or...
HAGEL: I'd let the investigation proceed, sure. That must proceed for other reasons, but the president, as the president himself has said, 'The buck stops here.' He needs to find out what's going on inside that White House. My sense is he's probably doing that.
HARMAN: Well, the leak was absolutely despicable. In a city that swims with leaks, this was at the top. Ambassador Wilson's wife was what's called a NOC; she had non-official cover. And in today's paper, Ken Pollack, who's an expert on all this, calls that the holiest of holies. It is absolutely imperative that we find these leakers. My guess is that we will find them, regardless of the investigation. Somebody out there will finally identify who these people are.
But I agree with Chuck. I think the president has a responsibility. I'm, frankly, surprised why it took this long to get energy put into this. I mean, this leak occurred in July. It is now early October. And I think the president should take charge of this. And I think the Attorney General may have to recuse himself if this investigation focuses on the White House since we all know that he had some campaign relationships with top political operatives there. But the Justice Department should look for, right now, someone who is disconnected from this administration, who has great respect, a Warren Rudman-type, who can take charge of the investigation.
SCHIEFFER: So you think maybe a special prosecutor would be a good idea?
HARMAN: Well, I think maybe it would be, but certainly a team focused on this who have no connection to the Bush re-election and no strong connection to the Bush-Texas crowd.
SCHIEFFER: What about this, what Congresswoman Harman is saying, about Ashcroft? Can he be objective about this?
HAGEL: Oh, I think he can. I have confidence in John Ashcroft. I served with him in the United States Senate. He is a man of immense integrity, and he's smart, he's tough. He will do the right thing.
Again, if a special prosecutor, a special counsel, might be warranted sometime in the future, that option is there. Right now I think we should let the system play out the way it is and find out some answers.
SCHIEFFER: Do either of you have an idea who the leaker was? I mean, you both have pretty good sources here. There are reports in all the news magazines this morning that this may have come out of the vice president's office, perhaps Scooter Libby, who his -- top aide -- Vice President Cheney's top aide. There are other reports that it could have been somebody else down the line.
HAGEL: I don't know. That's why we're having an investigation. The White House has come out and said that it was not Rove. They have, I think, said it's not Libby, was not Elliott Abrams, and specifically mentioning some in the White House. So we'll see.
SCHIEFFER: Well, is it legitimate for Republicans, Senator Hagel, to say that Ambassador Wilson here -- that it turns out he has given money to some Democratic candidates -- he pointed out this morning he's also contributed to Republican campaigns -- that he has his own agenda here and that he's just a Democrat trying to undermine the president?
HAGEL: My advice to my Republican colleagues on this and anyone else in my party is -- stay out of this. There is a serious national security matter.
HARMAN: Hear, hear!
HAGEL: I think we complicate it by trying to bring politics into it. I don't think the Republican National Committee chairman should be talking about it. I don't think any politician should be talking about it.
This is a matter that we need to deal with on the basis of the seriousness of the charge. These are national security issues. We may find out there's not much there, but I do not subscribe to -- one of the political dynamics of this is this some -- how some kind of a Joe Wilson political glancing blow -- shot at the president or at the Republican Party.
SCHIEFFER: And you're telling the politicians to stay out of it...
HAGEL: Yes, I am.
SCHIEFFER: ...I mean, the political operatives.
HAGEL: Yes. Here's the bigger problem I think, Bob. This president is going to have to govern. He's going to have to have the confidence of the American people to govern at a very difficult time. No one knows that more than this president. He's been confronted with things no president in the history of this country has had to deal with. That means he's going to need a consensus to deal with this.
We don't want to put this country in a position like we saw in Vietnam, where this country is bitterly divided on our efforts now to try to deal with the issues in Iraq, the Middle East, news complications of the last 24 hours there, Afghanistan, all the problems that we've got. He needs a consensus. And the less amount of politics in this, the better.
SCHIEFFER: OK. Congresswoman Harman, I'm sure you would agree with your Republican colleague there.
HARMAN: I strongly agree with that.
SCHIEFFER: But I want to ask you about something else, and that is that you and your Republican chairman of the House Committee, Porter Goss, sent a pretty strong letter in which you questioned some of the intelligence about whether or not there were nuclear weapons or weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, as I understand it.
We understand that some at the CIA are questioning your criticism of that. Where are you on all that? Did the CIA do a good job for the president on this?
HARMAN: Well, it's not just the president. It's the country.
HARMAN: Our committee has a history of tough questioning. That's what we're supposed to do. We're the Oversight Committee, and we write the checks for the intelligence community.
In the last Congress, Saxby Chambliss, who's now a Republican senator from Georgia, and I did a tough report questioning the CIA, the FBI and the National Security Agency in terms of what they did pre-9/11. This is a continuum. And this letter that Porter Goss and I sent was intended as constructive criticism.
I'm, frankly, disappointed that the CIA issued a kind of very short, tough press release and then a short letter accusing us of publishing our letter before they saw it and things of that nature. There is work to do
Our thrust -- the thrust of our letter goes to, first, the quality of collection. What sources did we have to make the case about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq? And then I would go beyond that and say: How good was our analysis?
I think, frankly, that the national intelligence estimate, which came out in October of 2002 and which has a key judgment, which says Iraq has chemical and biological weapons, was wrong. And we're learning that as Dr. Kay has been reporting to Congress on his fairly futile search so far.
SCHIEFFER: So -- what you're saying is that -- that your committee has come to the conclusion that one of the main reasons cited by the administration to go to war was not true...
SCHIEFFER: ...or at least was based on bad intelligence.
HARMAN: We're saying that the intelligence to support that case was weak, and we're calling for efforts to improve that intelligence because, for starters, Bob, we have a force protection issue in Iraq.
We have 150,000 troops on the ground. We have to know, our intelligence has to be good, to protect those troops. And then there, as Chuck was saying, are hard issues in Iran, North Korea, the Middle East, where intelligence, as far as I'm concerned, is our best defense in the 21st century.
SCHIEFFER: Let me ask both of you, quickly -- of course, we're about out of time -- you heard Ambassador Wilson this morning say he believes his wife's life may now be in danger. Do you think the government ought to offer her protection?
HARMAN: I think if her life is in danger, the government ought to offer her protection. I think the government has ways to know whether someone is threatened and should certainly be looking into that right away.
HAGEL: I agree exactly with what Jane said. We don't know all the pieces here, as we sit here this morning, but if there is the least possibility...
Rep. HARMAN: Yeah.
HAGEL: ...most remote possibility of her life being in danger, then the government owes that person protection and security.
SCHIEFFER: All right. Well, thanks to both of you very much.
HAGEL: Thank you.
HARMAN: Thank you.
SCHIEFFER: Back with a final word in just a minute.
SCHIEFFER: Finally today, a little California dreaming.
Arnold said he expected them to throw everything but the kitchen sink at him, but when they dredged up those groping stories and the complaints or the compliments he apparently once made about Hitler's public speaking skills, I think I may have seen the kitchen sink go flying by, too.
Someone asked me, `Why does the media put this stuff out? Is it really fair?' Hard to say, but hard to avoid when campaigns come down to no more than which candidate is the most famous.
There was a time when politicians started at the local level, and if there were skeletons, they came out then. Local leaders didn't want them to embarrass the party, told the flawed candidates to find other work, and that was usually the end of it. But these days, candidates no longer need the support of local bosses, nor do campaigns have to be about much more than who can get on television.
To become a candidate anymore requires no more than money or celebrity and the will to use them. That means a candidate can reach the top levels of politics with no real scrutiny. But that can't last for an entire campaign, even a short one.
A campaign has to be about something, and candidates will always point reporters to skeletons in the other guy's background and, fairly or unfairly, some of that will come out. In the past, it happened at the beginning of a campaign; now it comes at the end. And it can get nasty.
But don't blame this one on the media. The fault here is not in how campaigns are covered. It's about what we have allowed modern politics to become.
That's it for us. We'll see you next week, right here on Face The Nation.