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Public Statements

On the Outing of a CIA Agent

Location: Washington, DC

ON THE OUTING OF A CIA AGENT -- (House of Representatives - July 14, 2005)

The SPEAKER pro tempore (Mr. Boustany). Under the Speaker's announced policy of January 4, 2005, the gentleman from Washington (Mr. Inslee) is recognized for 60 minutes.

Mr. INSLEE. Mr. Speaker, I have come to the Chamber this evening to address what many of us consider a very serious breach of our national security. The outing of a covert agent serving the Central Intelligence Agency is something that should not have happened, and now this House needs to get to the bottom of why it happened and how it can be prevented in the future.

We have many agents serving in a covert or undercover capacity who are serving with distinction in the United States, as we speak, around the world. These are men and women who have contributed and honored us with their service to try to provide for our safety, our personal safety. They sometimes live in tough circumstances. When they are covert, undercover agents, they frequently take great personal risks. They play one of the most potentially fatal games, which is to attempt to obtain information for the United States to protect us safely in our homes in this country. I think it is fair to say that on a bipartisan basis we honor their service and we respect their service, and we ought to protect them by not divulging their identity to anyone.

Their identity is something that must be held closely for their personal safety, for their family's personal safety, for our ability to pursue our intelligence in an effective manner, and even for the safety of the people around the world with whom they deal. Because when one blows the cover of an undercover agent, they put not only potentially their own lives in danger, but they endanger everyone they have ever had lunch with in these foreign countries who now become suspected potentially CIA operatives of the United States as well.

So I think it is fair to say that the illicit wrongful outing of a CIA covert agent is something very serious, something the U.S. Congress needs to be concerned about. And in this particular sad and sordid affair, we need to be concerned about. And that is why I would like to address this evening in my comments what happened in the outing of a particular covert agent by the executive branch of the United States.

And as many people know now, we have experienced a case in the last 2 years where the executive branch of the United States Government, the people who work by, for and now very closely to President George Bush were apparently responsible for blowing the cover of an undercover agent who worked with distinction with the Central Intelligence Agency. This is a very serious matter not only for the safety potentially of this agent but for our ability to maintain the integrity of our security services of the United States. And on a bipartisan basis, we need to commit the U.S. Congress to see to it that those things do not happen again. And to start that process, we need to know how it happened in this case.

Briefly, if I can summarize, and many people know these facts, but for purposes of a summary, I would like to summarize what happened in this situation. What happened is that, leading up to the Iraq war, the President of the United States went before the American people to try to build a case for the Iraq war. And one of his assertions that he wanted Americans to believe was that Iraq was on the cusp of obtaining nuclear weapons, and he and his Secretary of State and others brought a specter of a mushroom cloud frequently. And one of the things he did in the State of the Union, he stood right behind me in the Chamber, addressing the Joint Session of Congress, and told the American people that, essentially Saddam Hussein, that murderous thug in Iraq, had obtained uranium yellow cake, the material from which one would build fissionable materials, the heart of a nuclear weapon. And he told the American people that our intelligence had learned that Iraq had obtained uranium yellow cake from Niger, a country in Africa. And he did not say this was questionable; he said it was a fact. And he issued 16 words that later turned out to be false. And some time thereafter, we found, through an article written in the New York Times by Ambassador Joseph Wilson, that, in fact, Ambassador Joseph Wilson had been sent to Niger at the request of the Central Intelligence Agency. They requested Ambassador Joe Wilson, who had previously served in Africa and had knowledge of the African situation, to go to Niger to attempt to find out whether there was any truth to the fact whether or not Niger had sent uranium yellow cake to Iraq. And we subsequently learned and Ambassador Wilson had the courage, the foresight, the gumption to notify America that this was false, that, in fact, he had gone to Niger at the request of the CIA, fulfilled his patriotic duty; had the gumption to go into this difficult place, which is not exactly the Club Mediterranean, fulfilled his duty; and came back and reported to the CIA that this assertion that yellow cake came from Niger was, frankly, wrong, that it was highly unlikely that the documents were accurate that someone had relied upon to suggest this uranium yellow cake had come from Niger. And he reported that these were likely forgeries.

He then reported to the American people that this was wrong. And it turns out that, actually, there were at least two other reports that had been circulated in the CIA suggesting that what the President said was wrong. So the American public learned that what the President said in the State of the Union Address was wrong; it was false.

At that point, the response from the administration was that Ambassador Joe Wilson was correct. It was wrong, and that it was a mistake, that this should not have been in the State of the Union Address. It was an error. It was, in fact, false, and that Ambassador Joe Wilson was correct. And now Secretary of State Rice and others were very candid at that point, saying that what the President said never should have been said. And they essentially admitted that Ambassador Wilson was correct in his report to the CIA.

But then, what did this administration do? It turns out that, instead of thanking Ambassador Wilson for his work, instead of calling him up and saying, Thanks, Joe, for your work in Africa, we are sorry we made a mistake, glad it got cleared up, what did they do? It turns out that someone in the executive branch of the United States with secret information about a secret agent of the United States Government blew the cover of Joe Wilson's wife, thereby potentially endangering an undercover agent, thereby destroying the integrity of our national security information, thereby jeopardizing others for whom Joe Wilson's wife had worked and possibly violating the criminal laws of the United States of America.

Not exactly the kind of response Joe Wilson got from the first President Bush, because in our disclosure, for a moment, I would like to introduce Ambassador Joe Wilson to those who may be listening about who this gentleman is. He is a fellow who served with distinction in the Foreign Service of the United States in several countries, including Africa. He was our last Foreign Service agent in Baghdad before the first Persian Gulf War. And he was a pretty gutsy guy when he was in charge of the affairs of our embassy in Baghdad; gutsy enough that when Saddam Hussein threatened to hang or execute any American who tried to get Americans out of the country, Saddam was going to threaten to hold them hostage, to try to prevent the attack on the forthcoming attack in the first Persian Gulf War, threatened to kill anyone who tried to preserve and protect Americans there, Ambassador Wilson's response was to hold a press conference with a noose around his neck and basically said, Come and get me, Saddam, I will be the first to challenge you because I am taking my people home safely. And Ambassador Wilson did. We did not lose a Foreign Service person, extricating them from Iraq before the first Persian Gulf War happened. And one of the reasons that happened, one of the reasons, is that we had Ambassador Joe Wilson on the job to challenge Saddam Hussein, to stand up to that murderous thug, and deliver his people back to America without a single loss of life. He showed some courage then.

In fact, the then President Bush, who effectively hired him, who gave a press conference, on October 22, 1990, telling the world that we had a very capable, effective person there, Joe Wilson, that Saddam can talk to. Later, on January 30, 1991, the first President Bush wrote a handwritten note to Ambassador Wilson, and it is in a book that the ambassador wrote; a handwritten note from the first President Bush said, ``Dear Joe, both Barbara and I appreciate your note of January 25. Even more, we appreciate your service to your country and your courageous leadership while you were in Baghdad. Good luck. Many thanks.'' Signed personally, ``George Bush.''

The reason I note this is that, very unfortunately, we have seen a circumstance now where the people who could have been thanking Ambassador Wilson for bringing the White House's error to their attention and to the public's attention instead are running around, and I do not know how else to categorize them other than attack dogs, trying to destroy the credibility of Ambassador Wilson. And it is very unfortunate because this is a gentleman who was honored by the first President Bush, served with distinction, and really did not deserve to have his wife attacked, his wife's career damaged, if not destroyed, really did not deserve to have the entire force of the administration of the United States come down on him and now have these multiple attacks on his reputation going on across this country; a person who has supported Republicans in the past, gave money to the first Bush campaign, was a bipartisan person before someone in this President's administration tried to destroy his wife's career, and did so. And now we have this very unfortunate attack on Ambassador Joe Wilson going across this country.

Why is that? Well, the reason is that, fortunately, Ambassador Wilson had the temerity to tell the truth. He had the temerity to stand up to the administration and blow the whistle on something they did that was wrong. And what they did that was wrong was to tell Americans that Saddam had uranium yellow cake from Niger. They admitted that they were wrong but now are trying to attack the credibility of the person who told the truth. It is very unfortunate. And they are embarrassed by that; rightfully so. And how do we know that? Well, we know what the response has been for the last year and a half while questions have been asked as to whether or not the President's close confidants were responsible for this outrage of blowing the cover of a secret agent. How do we know that?

Let us look at what the White House has done, whether they feel some potential embarrassment about this. Has the White House been forthcoming and straight with us about the involvement of people, including the Deputy Chief of Staff of the White House? Let us find out. Let us look at some quotes by the President's spokesperson. His name is Scott McClellan. He is the official spokesperson for President George Bush. Mr. McClellan was asked on July 22, 2003, the question: ``Scott, has there ever been an attempt or effort on the part of anyone here at the White House to discredit the reputations or reporting of former Ambassador Joe Wilson, his wife, or ABC Correspondent Jeffrey Kofman?''

McClellan: ``John, I think I answered that yesterday. That is not the way that this White House operates. That's not the way the President operates. No one would be authorized to do that within this White House. That is simply not the way we operate, and that's simply not the way the President operates.'' Really?

Continuing, he was asked if Karl Rove did that, and Mr. McClellan responded, ``I haven't heard that. That's just totally ridiculous. But we've already addressed this issue. I just said, it's totally ridiculous.''

Was that a slip of the tongue by Mr. McClellan? No. In fact, Mr. Rove joined in that. On September 29, ABC News, Owen asked him, Mr. Rove: ``Did you have any knowledge or did you leak the name of the CIA agent to the press?'' Rove: ``No.'' At which point Mr. Rove shut his car door and bid adieu. Really?

On September 29, 2003, a question was asked to Mr. McClellan: ``Has the President either asked Karl Rove to assure him that had he nothing to do with this or did Karl Rove go to the President to assure him that he ..... ''

McClellan: ``I don't think he needs that. I think I've spoken clearly to this publicly ..... I've just said there's no truth to it.''

Question: ``Yes. But I'm just wondering if there was a conversation between Karl Rove and the President or if he just talked to you and you're here at his ..... ''

McClellan: ``He wasn't involved. The President knows he wasn't involved.''

Question: ``How does he know that?''

McClellan: ``The President knows.''

Well, the question is, as was famously put, what did the President know and when did he know it? Because for a year and a half now, this White House and this administration and this President have been telling us that neither the Deputy Chief of Staff nor anyone else he knows of was responsible for this outrage. Really?

So we continue with this litany.

Scott McClellan: ``I have made very clear from the beginning that it is totally ridiculous. I have known Karl for a long time, and I didn't even need to go ask, because I know what kind of person that he is, and he is someone that is committed to the highest standards of conduct.''

Continuing, September 30, 2003: When asked, ``What would George Bush do if he found out someone was responsible for this?'' And the President said, ``Listen, I know of nobody, I don't know of anybody in my administration who leaked classified information. If somebody did leak classified information, I'd like to know it and will take the appropriate action.''

Well, we are waiting for the appropriate action, because we since have been told by the Deputy Chief of Staff's lawyer that, in fact, he told a press agent himself personally that Joe Wilson's wife was working for the Central Intelligence Agency shortly after Ambassador Wilson came forward and told the American people the truth, I think 3 days before Mr. Novak printed an article to that effect.

We now know that, in fact, the Deputy Chief of Staff was involved in a disclosure that Joe Wilson's wife was, in fact, working for the CIA. But it was not just a few of those comments. We look at Mr. McClellan's comments later on.

On October 10, Mr. McClellan was asked, Question: ``Scott, earlier this week you told us that neither Karl Rove, Elliott Abrams, nor Lewis Libby disclosed any classified information with regard to the leak. I wonder if you could tell us more specifically whether any of them told any reporter that Valerie Plame worked for the CIA.''

McClellan: ``I spoke with those individuals, as I pointed out, and those individuals assured me that they were not involved in this. And that is where it stands.''

Question: ``So none of them told any reporter that Valerie Plame worked for the CIA?''

McClellan: ``They assured me that they were not involved in this.''

That was not the case. Mr. McClellan was either told inaccurately by at least the Deputy Chief of Staff, or Mr. McClellan has told us a story that is not true. We do not know what it is at this point, but we do know a couple of central facts that are pivotal here. We know that a war started. Mr. Speaker, 1,700 Americans-plus of our sons and daughters will never come home from the sands of Iraq. We know that the reason for that is the President of the United States told Americans that a mushroom cloud could be imminent because, in part, Iraq had uranium yellow cake. We know that that was false.

We know that Ambassador Joe Wilson, sent by the CIA to report on that told the CIA that that was false. We know that when he told the American people the truth, that, in fact, a falsehood that had been told that is partly responsible for a war that has resulted in 1,700 Americans dead and 13,000 of our sons and daughters seriously injured. We know that he has now suffered the slings and arrows of an outraged administration that blew the cover for his wife who was a covert agent for the CIA.

We know those central facts, because the Deputy Chief of Staff's attorney now has told us the truth after a year-and-a-half of falsehoods from this administration, of giving America false information about how this outrage occurred.

Now, that was wrong. We had to have a bipartisan consensus, and I think there is in this Chamber, that both Republicans and Democrats believe it is wrong to blow the cover of an agent. The reason we believe this is very simple. We think there is a bipartisan consensus in this Chamber and in this country that secret agents ought to remain secret, and no President of either party or anyone working for the President with access to the secret information ought to blow that cover. That happened here.

So we have to ask, Were there excuses for that? Are there excuses that we should accept that? Are there excuses that we should buy? Are there excuses that allow our secret agents and our national security to be jeopardized? Well, some people are saying this should be excused, it should be swept under the rug, Congress should not look into it, we have no business asking hard questions of the administration. The White House has suggested they are not going to talk about it. They were happy to talk about it when they said they were not involved, but, boy, as soon as they found out they were involved, they do not want to talk about this and they want Congress to just shrink away and go home quietly and not find out what happened here.

We think we need to find out what happened here. So let us see what the excuses are that they have proposed. I have been listening carefully to the White House, people now working for the President. I have been listening carefully to their political allies around the country. What excuses do they proffer for this misconduct?

I really see three. First, they argue that because the Deputy Chief of Staff did not spell out the names, the letters of the name of this secret agent, that he should be excused from destroying her covert status, because he did not use the name Valerie Plame or Valerie Wilson, he did not use those letters. All he said was, it was Joe Wilson's wife.

Well, Mr. Speaker, when you think about it, unless Joe Wilson was a polygamist, we knew exactly who he was talking about. If somebody says your wife is an undercover agent, it is pretty clear to the neighbors in the neighborhood and where she works, you know who he is talking about. In fact, it is interesting that during my comments of the last few minutes, I have been referring to the Deputy Chief of Staff of the White House. I never said the name Karl Rove. Never spelled out the K and the R, but we know who I am talking about. That is why anyone who wanted to know whether Valerie Wilson is a secret agent knows exactly who we were talking about and anyone she has ever talked to in her covert capacity around this world knows exactly who we are talking about, and everyone who she had lunch with in her work, working on weapons of mass destruction in the CIA, knows who he was talking about. That dog just will not hunt.

It is, frankly, insulting to the American people that their administration and their political allies argue that it is okay to out a CIA agent, as long as you do not use their name or their Social Security number. You can tell them whose wife it is, you can tell them where they work, you can tell them where they live, you can show a picture of them, but as long as you do not spell out their name, it is hunky-dory with the American people. It is not. It is wrong. It is terrible. It is an abuse of democracy and the people who work for us as undercover agents, and it will not stand.

The second excuse they use, they say, well, the Deputy Chief of Staff was just being innocent here; he was just trying to clear up some confusion about who ordered or asked Mr. Wilson to go to Africa. We know it was the CIA and, frankly, how the CIA made a decision, I am not sure is of any particular importance to anyone. I mean, what importance is it who ordered Mr. Wilson to go to Niger? If it was one person, does that change the fact that we have 1,700 dead in Iraq? Does it justify the President in using false information to precipitate a war? Does that make it okay? I frankly do not understand what difference it made, except for an effort to damage Ambassador Wilson's credibility, which apparently was going on here, sadly.

But be that as it may, let us just ask ourselves, if the Deputy Chief of Staff wanted to clear it up and said it was not the Vice President who precipitated this expedition to Niger, he did not have to mention Joe Wilson's name, his wife's name or identify her. He simply could have said it was not the Vice President, it was someone else at the CIA.

Now, ask yourself, why did the Deputy Chief of Staff not simply tell the reporter it was somebody else at the CIA instead of what he did say, which was, it was Joe Wilson's wife? Why did he not do that? I would like to know the answer to that question, and Congress deserves an answer to that question.

That is why the Deputy Chief of Staff ought to come to Congress under oath and answer these questions about what happened in these circumstances. That is why we have filed today, with the gentleman from New Jersey (Mr. Holt) leading this effort, a resolution of inquiry that would simply compel the White House to turn over, and the Secretary of State and the CIA and the Defense Department, documents pertaining to this whole affair.

Because, frankly, there may be a whole bunch of other people besides the Deputy Chief of Staff of the White House responsible for this outrage. Mr. Novak said there were at least two people within the administration who identified Valerie Plame as an operative. An operative means undercover agent. In Mr. Novak's own lexicon, you can check it out and do a Nexus search and find out when he says operative, he means undercover agent. But we know that is what happened. But there may be others involved in this, and this Congress needs to get to the bottom of who those people are and how that happened, to make sure it does not happen again. Because, frankly, Americans have a right to be disenchanted with the President's failure here of not getting to the bottom of this.

Mr. Speaker, the President has been working about 3 feet from the Deputy Chief of Staff for a year-and-a-half and, as far as we know, has never said, Karl, what went on here? What was the deal here? Were you involved in this in any way? As far as we know, the President has never asked the person working with him on an hourly basis what happened here. It does not look to me like a President who wants to get to the bottom of this whole thing and clear out this nest of subterfuge as quickly as he can. The American people deserve that. That second excuse just does not pass the laugh test.

The third excuse that I have heard proffered by the attack dogs defending this abuse is that Mr. Wilson did not vote for President Bush this time. He is a member of this loathsome, underworld group called Democrat. Well, I am not sure it is actually true, since Ambassador Wilson supported the candidacy financially of actually both Republicans and Democrats in the past. He has actually supported them about equally, since he got a congressional letter from the guy who hired him, the first President Bush because of his courageous work in Baghdad. He does not look like a particular pacifist to me that is sort of on the left wing of the spectrum at all.

Now, after the administration of President Bush destroyed the career of his wife and jeopardized her safety, he probably did not vote for this current President, but I am not sure that is a reason to violate the security laws of the United States potentially and blow the cover of a covert agent.

I guess what these people on the right wing are saying is that it is okay, it is acceptable, it is consistent with American ethics to go after a man's wife as long as he is a Democrat. It is okay to destroy the covert and protected status of our secret agents, as long as they are related to somebody who might have voted for a Democrat in their life. I disagree with that. I disagree. I believe that covert agents who are putting their lives on the line for America ought not to be abused, I do not care what their political situation is. I do not care if they have held signs calling for the removal of President George Bush from the White House.

This is not the way America is supposed to act. We expect more of our administrations. No administration has the right to punish political activity in this country, and no political administration has the right to punish an American who told the truth to power, who pointed out that an administration started a war based on a falsehood. Nobody has that authority in a democracy.

I, frankly, do not care what Ambassador Joe Wilson's political inclinations are, because I know one thing, I know one thing for sure: Americans deserve to be treated fairly. And when this administration attacked a man's wife and exposed her to danger and violated the national security and removed the integrity of our national security, it was wrong. I do not care what party Joe Wilson is in. It was simply wrong.

So we have now looked at three excuses that the administration has offered for the outing of a covert agent in the United States of America. This identity thing is a laughable argument. They clearly destroyed the cover of this agent. The argument that somehow they were simply innocent does not wash, because here is another reason I have not addressed: it does not matter what the motivations were for the Deputy Chief of Staff to blow the cover of a secret agent. It may have been virtuous; it may not have been virtuous. It does not matter. The fact of the matter is, the national security of the United States has been jeopardized.

This secret agent's covert status has been blown. We really do not, perhaps should, care what the motivation was. We know that at least two people, if Mr. Novak was, assuming he is telling the truth, there are at least two administration officials who willfully blew the cover of this agent. Whether they were angelic or demonic does not matter. It was wrong. It damaged our security, and it should not stand.

And the third thing is that Ambassador Wilson should be punished. Rightfully, he got what he deserved and his wife got what she deserved, because he did not vote for George Bush this time. That does not comport with American values of democracy. So these excuses, they have been offered, do not remove the necessity for the United States Congress to act in our oversight role of the executive branch. The judicial system is not the only branch of Government that has an obligation to protect Americans from the train of abuses of the executive branch.

We know there is a pending investigation of the criminality of this matter. Whether this is criminal or not, by the way, there may be no indictments ever filed in this case; I do not know the answer to that. But even if there are no indictments filed in this case, I am convinced, and I think a number of my colleagues are convinced, that this was not good for the national security of the United States. It was unfair. It was wrong. It was unjustified. There is no excuse for it.

It violates, if not the felony laws of the United States, the code of democracy and the way we expect our administration to handle national security.

So we need to get to the bottom of this, and Congress needs to act. I also may note that we will hear the argument that Congress should not act because there is an ongoing criminal investigation. I am sensitive to that. I am a former prosecuting attorney. And I am sensitive to that.

Fortunately, we are told that that investigation has now completed interviews of people in the administration they sought to interview. And it should be in no way difficult in pursuing the Congressional investigation of what happened in this case on a two-track basis. And it is necessary, not just from a national security standpoint; it is necessary from a democratic standpoint, with a little d, the democracy for all of us, in all parties. The reason is, we have seen this movie before.

You know, when administrations, when they have the whistle blown on them, when they are not totally being candid with the American people, they very frequently go into this defensive crouch. And the defensive crouch is, they do two things, maybe three: First, they do not share the honest information with the American people. Second, they say things to the American people that are not true. And third, and this is what I think happened in this case, I believe they try to destroy the credibility of the people who are criticizing the administration.

This happened in my lifetime in one egregious case where Daniel Ellsberg published the Pentagon Papers that exposed the multiple falsehoods of Richard Nixon's administration. President Nixon was not being candid to the American people about the War in Vietnam, and Mr. Ellsberg and other whistle blowers disclosed the truth about the Vietnam War.

And the Nixon administration's response was immediately to attack Mr. Ellsberg. And what they did in that case, they burglarized Daniel Ellsberg's psychiatrist to try to get, you know, the psychiatric records on Mr. Ellsberg to damage his credibility. And it was a reaction to Daniel Ellsberg telling the truth.

Now, in this case, what happened, and we cannot pry into one one's motivation 100 percent, but it certainly makes me suspicious, at least, that what we are seeing is an attack on the credibility of Ambassador Joe Wilson by attacking and punishing his wife.

Is that the way America is supposed to work, that when you tell the truth about an elected official, and it turns out that you were right and the elected official was wrong, that the President of the United States, his administration attacks your wife?

Is that the way America is supposed to be? To try to damage you through a shot across the bow, to make sure everyone else in the CIA and everybody else with information knows if you say anything bad about this administration, look at what we are capable of doing to your family.

Pretty good intimidation. Did not intimidate Ambassador Joe Wilson. He was not intimidated by Saddam Hussein, and he was not intimidated by the Deputy Chief of Staff of this administration. He is not easily intimidated.

So the fact of the matter is, what is sad about this situation is, instead of the White House saying, you know, instead of the President saying, I am going to get an affidavit from 20 of my top lieutenants, I am going to demand them to have an affidavit on my desk by 5 o'clock tonight telling me exactly what they know about this so I can make a decision about whether they get fired or not; the President said, I am not going to do anything about it. I'm going to let the criminal prosecution go ahead and hope that the Fifth Amendment and Miranda and grand jury secrecy rules and everything can delay this as far as possible, and so far, it has taken a long time.

Yes, we have these issues. We have had to work through the investigation. So I guess, to some degree, it has not worked, but what is sad about this is that the attacks on Ambassador Wilson continue today.

Now, remember, Ambassador Joe Wilson is the guy who had the courage to point out a falsehood in the State of the Union address. That is not easy. You got to understand, when you challenge the most powerful man in the world, President George Bush, it is not easy, to point out that in this particular instance the President was wrong in what he told the American people. And he was right.

We know that because Secretary Rice has said on multiple occasions that, if the President had known what Ambassador Wilson reported, they would never have put this in the State of the Union address. Now, we are told that what Ambassador Wilson reported never got to the President. That is most unfortunate. But the point is, it took a lot of gumption for Ambassador Wilson to point this out to Americans.

And yet, today, this administration has condoned, clearly condoned the majority party operatives, the political operatives in a national attack on Ambassador Joe Wilson for just doing his job.

His job was to go to Niger and report the truth. He went there and did that. It was no picnic. He was right. He pointed out to the American people what was true about this situation. And what was his reward from the administration?

It reminds me of a quote from Shakespeare, if I do not botch it: Cry havoc and let slip the dogs of war. And that is what they are waging right now on Ambassador Joe Wilson.

I think it is most unfortunate. Instead of joining forces on a bipartisan basis today for Congress to get to the bottom of what happened here, they have started this smear campaign against Ambassador Joe Wilson, a person who has conducted himself with honor and has done great service to the United States.

And they did perhaps even worse to his wife, the former but no longer able to act as a covert agent for the CIA. And I think that is sad. And it is not consistent with what we should expect from our presidents or from our administrations. We can do better, Republicans, Democrats, Independents, they all deserve better in this situation. We cannot let this happen again.

President Bush is never going to stand for reelection again. His electoral prospects are not important in this. Politics are not important in this. What is important for Congress to do is to find out a away to prevent this from happening again, to make sure that future administrations know that these excuses are not going to be acceptable to the American people. It is very important that Congress go on record saying that presidents in the future cannot just wink and say, well, go ahead, go ahead and blow the cover for this agent because it might help us politically in one way or another. Just do not spell their name, because then we can get away with it.

It is for Congress to say, that is inexcusable. It is important for Congress to say that whether you are a Republican or a Democrat in this country, if you've got a close family member who is a covert agent, it does not matter who you voted for, it does not matter who they voted for, it is wrong to blow their cover and create personal danger for them.

It is important for Congress to say that. It is important for my Republican colleagues to join me in saying that. It is important that this be a bipartisan statement. And I am hopeful that this resolution of inquiry, I am hopeful that my Republican colleagues will have the gumption to join us in saying, you know, what we need to do to get to the bottom of this.

There is actually a little bit of hopeful signs that I can report to Americans, and that is that there was a suggestion by a Republican chairman the other day that he may entertain hearings that would look at issues pertaining to breaches of national security, including this one.

This may not be the only issue we have in maintaining confidentiality of our national security. I think that is a positive sign. I hope that it is followed. I hope that we can fulfill our congressional responsibilities jointly, in a bipartisan fashion.

So, in conclusion, I am just here to state one central American principle: Top secret spies serving the United States need to stay secret. No administration, no matter how powerful, no matter how popular, of either party should ever be able to get away and offer excuses for blowing the cover for an agent in this regard.

I am here to say that the United States Congress owes an obligation to the American people to get to the bottom of how this happened. We need to make sure that this does not happen again, to make sure that Congress draws a line in the sand, to indicate how serious this issue is, and that this country can move forward in a bipartisan way to make sure that our national security is protected for all members of the greatest country in the world, which is America. And one of the reasons it is the greatest country in the world is that Congress has fulfilled an obligation to blow the whistle on executive branches of government when they have abused either the national security or the rights of Americans. And we need to make sure that job gets done.

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