Joseph C. Wilson

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Ambassador Joseph C. Wilson IV is a career diplomat who worked in one capacity or another for the U.S. Government from 1976 to 1998. Although he was the acting ambassdaor to Iraq at the outbreak of Gulf War I, Wilson achieved fame largely due to his role in the "Plamegate" scandal.



In early 2002, Wilson was sent by the CIA to Niamey, the capital of Niger, where he had originally been stationed as a junior Foreign Service officer 14 years previously. He was to use the wealth of contacts he had built up in Niger to investigate a report that Iraq had attempted to purchase a quantity of "yellowcake" (lightly processed) uranium from Niger. His investigation found no evidence that Iraq had purchased or attempted to purchase uranium from the sole uranium mining company in Niger, the French-owned COGEMA. This assessment was echoed in a parallel investigation that had been conducted by the then-Ambassador to Niger, Barbro Owens-Kirkpatrick, with the cooperation of Marine Gen. Carlton Fulford. Ambassador Wilson returned home, delivered his report on February 22, 2002 to the CIA and State Department that the information was "unequivocally wrong".

He then returned to his life in the private sector, and considered the matter closed.

On January 28, 2003, however, President George W. Bush included his now-infamous sixteen words in his State of the Union speech, using Iraq's alleged attempt to purchase the uranium as further evidence of the need to remove Saddam Hussein from power by force. After several months of behind-the-scenes attempts to get the White House to correct the President's claims, Wilson contacted a friend in the State Departement, and asked why that claim had been used even though it had been rejected by the intelligence community. He was assured that the British report included material other than the Niger report, and Wilson let it go.

When Arie Fleischer, Bush's press secretary, told a press gaggle that the 16 words did mean the Niger report, Joe Wilson again tried to contact that administration to warn them that they were on the wrong path. Finally concluding that the administration did not want to know, or admit the truth, Wilson decided he needed to go public to set the record straight. He wrote an op-ed piece in the New York Times entitled "What I Didn't Find in Africa," which was published on July 6, 2003.

Eight days later, columnist Robert Novak wrote a column in which he claimed a "senior official" in the Bush administration exposed Wilson's wife, Valerie Plame, as a CIA operative herself. The fact that she was a covert operative, along with the fact that the leak was politically motivated, led to a federal investigation (ongoing as of this writing, May 2004) into the "Plamegate" scandal.

Career Timeline

  • 1976-1978: General Services Officer, U.S Embassy, Niger
  • 1978-1979: Administrative Officer, U.S. Embassy, Togo
  • 1979-1981: Administrative Officer, State Department
  • 1981-1982: Administrative Officer, U.S. Embassy, South Africa
  • 1982-1985: Deputy Chief of Mission, U.S. Embassy, Burundi
  • 1985-1986: Congressional Fellow, offices of Sen. Al Gore and Rep. Tom Foley
  • 1986-1988: Deputy Chief of Mission, U.S. Embassy, Republic of the Congo
  • 1988-1991: Deputy Chief of Mission, U.S. Embassy, Iraq
  • 1992-1995: Ambassador to Gabon and São Tomé and Príncipe (concurrently)
  • 1995-1997: Political Adviser to Commander-in-Chief, U.S. Armed Forces Europe
  • 1997-1998: Special Assistant to the President and Senior Director for African Affairs, National Security Council


Wilson, Joseph (2004). The Politics of Truth: Inside the Lies that Led to War and Betrayed My Wife's CIA Identity. New York: Carroll & Graf. ISBN 0-7867-1378-X.


Related articles

External links

  • Wilson, Joseph (September 14, 2003). Seeking honesty in U.S. policy. San Jose Mercury News reprinted at Common Dreams News Center.
  • Wilson, Joseph (May 2, 2004). 'Administration went after me and my wife'. Miami Herald reprinted at Common Dreams News Center.
  • Wilson, Joseph (July 21, 2004). A right-wing smear is gathering steam. Los Angeles Times reprinted at Common Dreams News Center.
  • Profile: Joseph C. Wilson. Cooperative Research.
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