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CNN LARRY KING LIVE
Interview With Joseph Wilson
Aired May 3, 2004 - 21:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
LARRY KING, HOST: Tonight exclusive escaped hostage Thomas Hamill's family on the news of his daring weekend breakout from three weeks of captivity in Iraq.
How did he make his getaway and how is he? We'll get the latest from Thomas Hamill's grandmother Vera Hamill, his aunt Coleene Higginbotham, and his cousin Rhonda Cooper. And then Ambassador Joseph Wilson, his first live primetime interview on the outing of his own wife as a CIA operative and who he thinks might have been behind it. All next on LARRY KING LIVE.
KING: By the way, this is a kind of historic night in CNN history, we're broadcasting from the new CNN facility in the brand new Time Warner building in the heart of Manhattan. This is the first live broadcast out of this studio on CNN. We're proud to be a part of it. We begin with Macon, Mississippi and Vera Hamill, Coleene Higginbotham and Rhonda Cooper, the grandmother, aunt, and cousin respectively of Thomas Hamill who is safely on his way or in Germany already. Coleene, how did you hear of his escape?
COLEENE HIGGINBOTHAM, THOMAS HAMILL'S AUNT: Kellie called me as soon as she heard the word from KBR, and she was just so excited. She said, (UNINTELLIGIBLE).
KING: Rhonda, had you given up hope?
RHONDA COOPER, THOMAS HAMILL'S COUSIN: No, sir. We haven't never given up hope.
KING: Even though they threatened to kill him, you always thought he would come through?
COOPER: Yes, sir. I think we've all just had a peace about it.
KING: Vera, how did you hear about it?
VERA HAMILL, THOMAS HAMILL'S GRANDMOTHER: Well, I heard it from my daughter. She called me. And I was just so thrilled, I was just thanking the Lord.
KING: I am having difficulty hearing Vera and we are having some satellite connection problems. I hope that clears up. Coleene, do you know what condition he's in now?
HIGGINBOTHAM: He seems to be in very good condition. Kellie has talked to him several times and she said he talks just like his normal self.
KING: Rhonda, have you heard from Kellie?
COOPER: Since she's left...
KING: Have you heard from Kellie, Rhonda?
COOPER: I haven't talked to her since she's left...
KING: I want to apologize, folks, but we are obviously having a misconnection reaching them. We'll have to take a break and when we come back, if we can't re-establish the family we'll go right to Ambassador Wilson. You're watching LARRY KING LIVE. We're sorry about that. We'll be right back.
KING: We're back. We'll try to make a better connection and if we have any problems we'll just apologize but Coleene Higginbotham is the aunt of Thomas Hamill and Rhonda Cooper is the cousin of the former hostage, Thomas Hamill. Both are in Macon, Mississippi. I had a difficult time hearing from Vera and we apologize for that. The grandmother, but she is also there. Where is Kellie now, Coleene?
HIGGINBOTHAM: Kellie is in Houston, waiting to know whether she's going to be seeing her husband soon.
KING: Is she expected to fly from Houston to Frankfurt?
HIGGINBOTHAM: It depends on how long it will take for Tommy to get medical attention.
KING: Rhonda, do you have any indication when he'll be home?
COOPER: No, sir. But we haven't heard. I guess it just depends on how long it takes them to work on him in the hospital.
KING: What are they planning in Macon, Coleene, are they going to have a big welcome home?
HIGGINBOTHAM: I hear there's going to be a big parade.
KING: I know how excited you all must be. It must be terrific. And we'll check with you again. We appreciate you spending some time with us. Coleene Higginbotham and Rhonda Cooper in Macon, Mississippi, the aunt and cousin of Thomas Hamill and we apologize about the connection there but we have a loud generator sound, but apparently the word is Kellie is still in Houston, still planning to head to Frankfurt. He in Frankfurt. They have to wait for medical condition before he comes home and then there will be a big celebration when he does come home and we'll follow that story. We now welcome to LARRY KING LIVE, Joseph Wilson, the former United States ambassador, senior U.S. diplomat in Baghdad during Operation Desert Shield. In fact, he was the last American official to meet with Saddam Hussein prior to the start of the first Gulf War. He's the author of the new book, "The Politics of Truth: Inside the Lies that Led to War and Betrayed My Wife's CIA Identity." There you see his cover. He has, by the way, endorsed John Kerry, working on behalf of his campaign as well.
In February of 2002, they asked the then retired diplomat Joe Wilson to travel to Niger to investigate claims of a connection between Niger and Iraq on uranium. He went, he find no experience and then the State of the Union address and I guess you know the rest. What happened after that?
JOE WILSON, FMR. U.S. AMBASSADOR: Well, after the...
KING: When you saw the address were you shocked?
WILSON: The address, when the president gave the address. He talked only about uranium from Africa and there were four countries in Africa that produce uranium one of which is Niger, the other three are Gabon, Namibia and South Africa. So long as he was talking about Africa, it wasn't clear to me that he was talking about Niger. It was really only in March when the forged documents came out and the head of the International Atomic Agency Dr. ElBaradei said that these documents were not authentic and the State Department spokesman made it clear that it was those documents on which we based the conclusion that Iraq was attempting to purchase uranium from Niger.
KING: So you then wrote an op-ed piece? Is that how you went public with this?
WILSON: I didn't go public initially. I spent three months really talking on background to journalists as well as talking directly to officials within the administration, close to the administration, urging them to correct the record. At the end of the day, this was one of the pillars that underpinned the case for war with Iraq particularly the nuclear part and obviously the doomsday bomb, the atomic weapon is what most Americans fear, that is, the threat coming out of Iraq.
KING: And they refused to correct.
WILSON: They didn't. As the story started circulating Dr. Condoleezza Rice, national security adviser, was interviewed on "Meet the Press" in June and she said that well, maybe someone in the bowels of the agency, referring to the CIA, might have known something about this but no one in my circle. That was simply not true. As it turns out, not only by what I knew then, but as it turns out in the aftermath of the article that I published.
KING: But it was such a short brief little passage.
KING: Almost overlooked. I mean, it was certainly covered, but it wasn't the lead story.
WILSON: Indeed, but nonetheless, if you take a look at the way the president constructed the argument, one, first of all, nuclear weapons are obviously the weapon of mass destruction that we feel. The president said that we cannot wait for the smoking gun to become a mushroom cloud. Then he said, Saddam is only the sort of softball size fissile material away from having a nuclear weapon. We have these aluminum tubes that could be used to make that fissile material, and lo and behold he's attempting to purchase the raw material that would go into the centrifuges that would then become the missile material, and then become the nuclear weapon.
Now, without that chain, you have no case for nuclear weapons.
KING: So you go public by an op-ed piece, right?
WILSON: Well, finally, after having encouraged the government to be truthful about this, and as I've said in the book, I consider this to be a civic duty. At the end of the day, that's what citizens do in our democracy. You hold your government to account for what it says and what it does.
KING: And by the way, Joseph Wilson has had a long and distinguished career. That button you wear, that little emblem, is for what award?
WILSON: That's the Defense Distinguished Service Award, I got when I was political adviser to the commander in chief U.S. armed forces Europe, when we did the deployment to Bosnia.
KING: How long did you serve the government?
WILSON: I served the government 23 years.
KING: Now, was it the government's response to that article, to leak about your wife?
WILSON: Well, initially, the administration acknowledged, within about 24 hours of the publication of the article that, yes, indeed, that charge never should have been in the State of the Union address.
KING: So they said it was wrong.
WILSON: I said fine, that's good. My question has been answered. I called my government to account. It took a long time, I had to go public with it, but yes, the government has said so. So I backed off, and a week later there's an article in "The Washington Post," published by journalist Bob Novak, in which he says -- he drops in the middle of the article, Joe Wilson's wife is a CIA operative working on weapons of mass destruction.
KING: That was true, right?
WILSON: Well, we could not say it was true until such time that it became apparent...
KING: But it was true?
WILSON: That it was true, yes.
KING: Now, we contacted Bob Novak for a response to Ambassador Wilson's book. He has no comment on the book. But he did address the issue of the column when he appeared on CNN's "CROSSFIRE" September 29 of 2003. Let's watch Mr. Novak then.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ROBERT NOVAK, CO-HOST, CROSSFIRE: Nobody in the Bush administration called me to leak this. In July, I was interviewing a senior administration official on Ambassador Wilson's report when he told me the trip was inspired by his wife, a CIA employee working on weapons of mass destruction. Another senior official told me the same thing.
As a professional journalist, with 46 years experience in Washington, I do not reveal confidential sources. When I called the CIA in July, they confirmed Mrs. Wilson's involvement in the mission for her husband, on a secondary basis, who is a former Clinton administration official.
They asked me not to use her name, but never indicated it would endanger her or anybody else.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WILSON: Well, I think when he went to the CIA, the CIA said, don't publish it. He later said, either in that interview or in another interview, he said he got a soft no but not a hard no. My question for Novak is what part of no don't you understand?
Now, as a matter of fact -- by virtue of the fact that they opened an investigation on this, that's a clear indication that at least at the CIA, they think seriously enough of this to refer to Justice. And I would remind not just Mr. Novak but everybody that when people were leaking the names of CIA operatives in the first Bush administration -- and I am a Bush -- first Bush administration political appointee. He's the one who made me an ambassador. So it's not just that I'm a Clinton political appointee.
But in that first Bush administration, the president came out and he called people who leaked the names of CIA operatives the most insidious of traitors, and that is what happened in the case of leaking my wife's name.
KING: So you're saying the person who gave that name to Novak in a sense was committing a traitorous act?
WILSON: What I'm saying is what President George Herbert Walker Bush said about it is good enough for me.
KING: Do you know who leaked it? WILSON: Well, I have my suspicions. And what I lay out in the book, what people have told me as I've sat at the intersection of information going back and forth on this, a lot of that information has been published. A lot of the information is actually coming out now. There was an article in "The New York Daily News" just the other day by Ken Bassenette (ph), in which he basically said that the grand jury is looking very closely and hard at Karl Rove and Scooter Libby, the vice president's chief of staff.
KING: Is that who you believe?
WILSON: Well, it's not so much who I believe. What I try and do...
KING: What you know?
WILSON: What I try and do in this is share all the information that circulates within Washington, but which has not yet become widely known, because a number of these journalists are fearful of going to print with it.
KING: Since, Mr. Ambassador, they had admitted that the thing was in error, why carry it further? Why leak a name? What's the big deal? The story should have ended there. We admitted, you are going to go away.
WILSON: Yeah, I agree.
WILSON: Well, in my judgment, I think the president, and after he determined or he found out that there was a falsehood in his State of the Union address should have been looking for the person who put it in this address. That's what a normal CEO would do. You fire the guy who have embarrassed you, not turn your sights on the person who really sort of just challenged you on the assertion that you had made.
My assessment after I thought my way through why they would leak Valerie's name was that if it were a rational act on the part of the government, it was clearly designed to intimidate others and keep others from coming forward to talk about things that people were beginning to leak around town. Analysts coming forward and speaking on background that they were intimidated by the numerous visits to the CIA by the vice president and members of his staff, things like that.
So my assessment was, as despicable as the act was, the logic in it would have been that if you do a Wilson to us, we will do a Wilson to you.
Later on, "The Washington Post" came out and they quoted a senior administration official as saying that this was pure revenge and spite. Now, these people who did this are paid by the taxpayers. They're paid to be stewards of our national security. And for them to act out of revenge and spite strikes me as not a terribly rational act.
KING: Rove denies this, of course.
WILSON: Well, I don't know if he's publicly denied it, but certainly his spokesman has denied it. Irrespective of that...
KING: In a briefing, the White House press secretary said Karl Rove wasn't involved.
WILSON: Right, that's what the White House spokesman has said. Now, White House spokesmen and senior White House officials have said a lot of things all throughout this.
KING: What damage did it do to your wife?
WILSON: Well, it certainly changes her career irretrievably. I mean, it's hard to imagine now that she's going to be able to travel overseas, or certainly certain things that she cannot do.
KING: She's still with the CIA?
WILSON: She still goes to work every day and she still attempts to make this country safer for Americans. She was working on weapons of mass destruction and proliferation issues.
KING: How does she feel about it?
WILSON: Well, I think, obviously when she first read the article and she -- after her gut stopped wrenching, she really wondered what the inclusion of these two sentences added to the story? And in fact, if you go back and you read the article, it doesn't add anything at all.
Afterwards, as she would wake up every morning and see her name above the fold in some of the nation's papers of record, she began to refer to it as an out-of-body experience.
KING: The two of you posed for "Vanity Fair," right?
WILSON: Yes, we did.
KING: We have that picture. Can we show it?
WILSON: It's a good picture.
KING: That's you and your wife.
WILSON: That's correct.
KING: What was the occasion of posing?
WILSON: Well, "Vanity Fair" had contacted me and asked me if they could do a profile on me...
KING: After the story broke?
WILSON: After the story broke, yes, absolutely. And we looked at "Vanity Fair," we saw that they had done a story on the war cabinet, they had done an interview with Mr. Wolfowitz. We thought that, yes, this would be a good opportunity, given the extent to which we were being attacked, not just me, but also Valerie -- Congressman Jack Kingston saying that, well, she was probably nothing more than a glorified secretary, and we thought it was useful to do.
KING: We'll take a break and come back, and we'll pick up with more.
The guest, Ambassador Joseph Wilson. The book, "The Politics of Truth: Inside the Lies That Led to War and Betrayed My Wife's CIA Identity." At the bottom of the hour, we'll be joined by two distinguished members of Congress, Congressman Christopher Shays, Congresswoman Jane Harman. And of course, Ambassador Wilson will remain with us. Your phone calls will be included. We'll be right back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Listen, I know 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 we'll take the appropriate action.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: We're back. By the way, Colin Powell will our special guest tomorrow night for the full program. The United States Secretary of State Colin Powell tomorrow night.
We're in New York. Our guest is Joseph Wilson, former U.S. ambassador author of "The Politics of Truth."
You wanted to add on the "Vanity Fair" thing.
WILSON: I think it's important for people to understand that the minute the Novak article came out, valley's cover was blown. If only 150 people read that article, 149 of them were intelligence chiefs in Washington. And they were running her name and her curriculum (UNINTELLIGIBLE) through their files by noon that day. The only reason why we put her in glasses and a scarf for the "Vanity Fair" article was to ensure that she would not be a recognizable figure on the sidewalks for somebody who might think that the CIA was a symbol of everything he hated.
KING: How has she dealt with this emotionally?
WILSON: She's tough. You don't get into her business intangibles you can handle high-stress situation. She's very tough. And she's very good at what she does.
KING: Do you have children.
WILSON: We have two. A set of twins 4-years-old an she juggles the responsibilities of motherhood, the responsibilities of taking care of me and the responsibilities of working.
KING: What have you heard about the administration's investigation as to the leaker?
WILSON: Well, once the investigation got into the hands of the special council, which took a while, and into the hands of the FBI agents responsible for that. I'm absolutely convinced they're doing everything they can to get to the bottom of this.
KING: You are?
WILSON: Sure, absolutely. The fact they haven't been able to bring this to closure despite what you showed the president showing he wanted to get to the bottom of this suggests that one either the president isn't serious or two he doesn't have any authority over his own staff or three, they're being insubordinate. But, it's been seven months now. And we're not talking about hundreds officials. And it's very clear...
KING: Isn't it hard to find the leaker?
If one person called Novak and he leaked it, and no one else heard the call, how are you going to find the call?
WILSON: Well, according to the "Washington Post" article, there two people who leaked to six journalist. Now for two people in a coordinated fashion, that sort of suggest that there was a meeting.
KING: And Novak was only one who used it.
WILSON: Novak's who's the only who used it. But Novak says in his interview with you that he in fact did not get called.
KING: Do you bear him ill will?
WILSON: I bear him a lot of, I suppose, personal ill will for being so reckless and irresponsible, not so much for the story, but as I point out in the book prior to even getting the confirmation that gave him what he needed to write the story, he was walking down the street ran into a stranger who said, hey can we chat? I know who you are. One of these things where you know a famous person.
And during the course of that conversation he blurted out to the stranger that my wife was a CIA employee. Now, turns out that that stranger knew me. Now what are the odds of that in a town of a million people? So the question I have is if he blurts if out to a stranger who happens to know me, how many other strangers is he blurting it out?
Without having the confirmation that allows him to go to print. Now that is extraordinarily reckless.
KING: You think it was irresponsible?
WILSON: Absolutely it was irresponsible.
KING: The administration also points out that you're now partisan. You're endorsing the president's opponent, just because of this?
WILSON: Well the administration likes to deflect attention from the facts here. I was sent out to look into whether or not Saddam Hussein was attempting to purchase uranium from Africa. Now that was a national security question. Nuclear bombs kill Americans, they kill Republicans or Democrats. The president of the United States, despite the fact there were three reports in the file saying there was nothing to this allegation. Despite the fact that as the vice president said on another interview that he had asked the question of a CIA briefer and they came back and told him there was nothing to this. Despite the fact there were two memos in the files to the national security adviser and her deputy and a telephone call, the president used a lie in the State of the Union Address. Now I did my civic duty. I exercised my civic responsibility as a citizen to call my government to account for what it said. The government then launched this partisan attack on my wife and myself. So if there is partisanship it is in the attack on my family and on my good name.
KING: And is that why you joined the Kerry campaign?
Have you ever endorsed a candidate before?
WILSON: I have never been honored. I've never been invited to endorse a candidate before. I'm just a simple civic servant. I was foreign service officer. I was an political appointee for George Herbert Walker Bush. I was very comfortable in that role. I was very comfortable when we did the first Gulf War. I make that clear in the book.
KING: Scowcroft and all...
WILSON: Scowcroft, and Jim baker...
WILSON: Well, Cheney, I didn't know. As, he likes to point out he never met Joe Wilson, I'm equally pleased to point out I never met Dick Cheney. Well, certainly, Scowcroft and the president and Jim Baker.
KING: So why have you endorsed John Kerry?
No only endorsed you're working for him.
WILSON: Well, no I'm not working for him in the sense that I'm not drawing a salary. What I have done, I have endorsed him and I serve on an advisory committee that advises the campaign, that advises the foreign policy adviser. That's a policy thing.
KING: Had this not occurred, you would not have done that? WILSON: Had this not occurred, I would have still been a part of the advisory committee, because advisory committees shape what the policies are going to be in the event there is a new administration. It is more than just politics, it is policy. Now what happened was when my note right quotient went up I was invited to endorse him. I was delighted to do so. And it is more than obviously what they did to Valerie, it is what they have done in this policy towards Iraq. This is disastrous foreign policy.
KING: You don't agree with the war.
WILSON: No I don't agree with the war. I've always though, and I've wrote five articles in the back of the book, saying this may not be the brightest thing we've ever tried to do. I outlined in there exactly some of the reasons why, in an article that appeared last September and regrettably much of what I suggested has actually come true.
KING: What is Hussein like to deal with?
WILSON: Well, when of course, he was in power, he wore the mantel of leadership quite casually on his shoulders. He was very intimidating. You would see his staff along the wall, and he would turn their to them and they would act like -- like a deer or antelope at the watering hole when the lion raises his head from drinking. In my meeting with him, my one on one meeting, four days after invasion in Kuwait, I had not slept for four days, so it was a bit of a rough meeting of both us. Went at it for about an hour.
KING: We'll take a break and come back. We'll be joins by Congressman Chris Shays, Congresswoman Jane Harman of California and a little while we'll include your phone calls.
Ambassador Wilson remains with us. Colin Powell tomorrow night. Don't go away.
KING: We're back on LARRY KING LIVE, first night broadcasting from the new Time Warner Center in New York. The first broadcast out of this bureau on this network.
Continuing with Ambassador Joseph Wilson, the author of the new book, "The Politics of Truth: Inside the Lies That Led to War and Betrayed My Wife's CIA Identity."
Representative Christopher Shays now joins us, Republican of Connecticut. He's here in New York. Chairman of the Government Reform Subcommittee on National Security, Emerging Threats and International Relations, a member of the Select Committee on Homeland Security, recently returned from his fifth trip to Iraq.
And in Washington, Congresswoman Jane Harman, ranking minority member of the Permanent Select committee on Intelligence, a member of the Select Committee on Homeland Security, Democrat of California.
Congressman Shays, what do you make of what Ambassador Wilson has said?
REP. CHRISTOPHER SHAYS (R), CONNECTICUT: Well, some serious stuff. Not quite to the level that you probably think it's to the level. I mean, bottom line is, his wife should never have been disclosed as a CIA agent. Amazing to me that someone in the White House thought that that was significant and that somehow it would harm Joe.
So it was really stupid. It was wrong, immoral. They should be found out. They should be possibly prosecuted if they work for the government.
But it's not the biggest issue facing our country right now.
KING: But how big? You said it's not big. On a scale of 10, is it a three, is it a seven, is it a what?
SHAYS: On the scale of 10, I think it's an old story.
KING: Old story. Do you favor the continued investigation into who leaked?
SHAYS: And that's part of the story. The story is that it's being investigated. People are being brought before the grand jury, and I think they will be found out.
KING: Congresswoman Harman, what are your thoughts before we have the ambassador respond?
REP. JANE HARMAN (D), CALIFORNIA: Wow. I think if you ask the CIA, especially former agents, they would call this the holiest of hollies. Outing an undercover agent is a despicable act. It is, as George H.W. Bush said, a traitorous act, and this is going too slowly. The leak was last July. The investigation was asked for by the CIA in September. The special prosecutor was appointed in December. It's five months later than that. There's a full investigation going on, but when are we going to hear where this leads? It's important to find these people in real time. It's been almost a year.
KING: Do you want to comment, Ambassador, to what Chris Shays said, that it's certainly despicable but old story?
WILSON: Sure. No, I think Chris is right in that, that it is an old story, and it's still around because in fact it has not been brought to closure. And the reason it has not been brought to closure is because somebody, the people who are doing this are stonewalling, they're just simply not coming forward, despite the fact that the president has said, as you pointed out here in your clip there, that he wanted to get to the bottom of this.
So either he's not serious when he says that, or else his key staff are being simply insubordinate.
And we're not talking about hundreds of people. We're talking about people who live at the nexus of policy, national security, where they have security clearances to get into those conversations, and politics, where they have a political agenda, which in this case they wanted to defend and decided that that was more important than exposure of a national security asset.
KING: Does that bother you, Congressman?
SHAYS: It does bother me. I mean, I would think that the president would basically be able to sit down with his folks and say, this is despicable, I want to know who it is and I want him to come clean, and I want the system to deal with it.
So I do agree with Joe on that. You know, I would be a little troubled if Jane somehow interprets my calling this an old story as being not significant in the sense that you do not want to disclose who works in the intelligence community. What I'm troubled by...
KING: Hold on, Jane.
SHAYS: ... what I don't understand is who in the White House would have thought that somehow disclosing that...
KING: Yeah, what's the point?
SHAYS: Yeah, what is the point? I mean, Joe Wilson had and has had a very distinguished record. He did his job. The bottom line was, it wasn't what the White House may have wanted to hear or what I wanted to hear. But it was reality.
HARMAN: Well, two points. First of all, the 16 words in the 2003 State of the Union message were wrong. And as Ambassador Wilson pointed out earlier on your show, there was reason in this administration to believe they were wrong, and yet they went ahead. The vetting process was poor. That's one point.
The second point is the president did speak out in September, saying I want the leakers found. He spoke out again this February, and it hasn't happened.
This is a pattern now. He spoke out today on these dastardly deeds in the prison, Abu Ghraib in Baghdad, which I think is the most disturbing story I've heard in 12 years in elected office. I've never heard anything like this. In a moment, the searing image of the prisoner with the bag over his head and the wires coming out of his body has erased 1,000 acts of kindness and courage in Iraq, winning the hearts and minds. I'm stunned by this. The president spoke out again today. Are we going to hear this same thing six months from now when nothing has happened?
This is a question of competence and leadership. And it is important to round up the leaker or leakers of Ambassador Wilson's wife. It sends a huge message to those who take risks as undercover agents, that they may be outed if for some reason somebody doesn't like what they're doing.
KING: Are you saying, Mr. Ambassador, that this instance may be an example of others?
WILSON: Well, I've said that, yeah, that I think that it's very clear that there's a pattern of deception that has gone on, the hyping of the war. Clearly the argumentation that led to the sort of case for the ties to terrorism has not been borne out. The liberation argument is one that of course is very difficult, and very politically costly when you get in too bogged down, as we have gotten in now. And now of course we're talking about the real reason we went into war was to change the dynamics or to bring the almighty's gift of freedom to the Iraqis.
We constitute our armed forces to defend the United States against foreign enemies and threats against our people.
SHAYS: You know, I think Ambassador Wilson is kind of going a little too far here. I mean, even Woodward's book, we knew that George Tenet said, you know, you're going to find this stuff, it's going to be a cakewalk.
And I think that statement gets a little overlooked. There was the sense that we were going to find it. And this was one part of it. But I can tell you this, I voted to go into Iraq. And the issue of the yellowcake had nothing to do with that. I do agree with Jane, the real issue today is the torture, or the perceived torture.
KING: How shocked were you by that?
SHAYS: More shocked than you can imagine, and more concerned than you can imagine. Having been there five times and seeing the wonderful men and women who serve our country. And these idiots who would have...
KING: Do you think they just cracked out? Do you think something mentally happened? I mean, what do you guess on this?
SHAYS: Well, you know, I don't want to guess. All I know is that, one, to have done it was wrong. Secondly, to think they would want pictures of it blows me away. And there are going to be men and women in our armed forces who are going to lose their lives because some Iraqis will have lost even more faith in us, and will do some pretty terrible things to our people because of what these idiots did.
KING: Do you expect swift justice here, Jane?
HARMAN: I'm very worried about this, Larry. As I said, the president spoke out today, but rounding up the usual suspects, 12 or 14 fairly lower level contractors and military folks isn't going to get this thing done.
We're hearing, at least from some people who have been questioned, that this goes higher up. I want to know where it goes. I want my president, my commander in chief, to stand up, not through his spokesman, and say, this happened on my watch, I'm appalled and shocked, and I will get to the bottom of this quickly.
I didn't hear the word quickly. I also didn't hear him say these words today. And there's a pattern here that's really troubling me. There's a pattern in this undercover agent leak, there's a pattern in the failure of post-war planning in Iraq. There's a pattern with respect to the failure to find WMD and own up to the intelligence mistakes. And now again we hear about these prisons. It's a question of competence and leadership.
KING: I want to get a break and go to phone calls. One other question in the area, Joe, do you think your credibility is hurt by endorsing another candidate?
WILSON: Well, I think -- I think people will try to take a hit at my credibility. But again, we're talking about national security here. We're not talking about partisan politics. I would also point out that this leak of Valerie's name has been an incredible distraction for me in the debate both on getting into Iraq and the way ahead in Iraq. And I spoke out extensively about what I thought we should do and should not do. And as the congressman knows, I was against an invasion, conquest, occupation war. I was for hard diplomacy with the credible threat of military action to get after the perceived threat of weapons of mass destruction. And that's all in the book. So this is more than just the leak of my wife's name.
But I spent two-and-a-half years in Iraq. I was responsible for dealing with the Iraqis on getting thousands of Americans out of there in the first Gulf War. This administration, not only didn't ask me what I thought about this, but they didn't ask anybody who had spent any time in the region and were bona fide experts on what the consequences might be before they went in there.
SHAYS: Can I say I think it's unfair to say that the administration didn't speak to anyone. I don't think the ambassador knows who the administration spoke with or not. That's kind of his problem in terms of his book. The speculation of who might have leaked. I mean what happens if it wasn't Karl Rove, what is the damage he's done to Karl? What happens if it wasn't if it wasn't...
KING: But in his place you can understand his...
SHAYS: You know what, if you attacked my wife, I would do a lot of irrational things. Let me just finish. But I think he's gone a little too far, but I understand it. You attack my wife, I'm going after you.
WILSON: Let me point out, it's not speculation. This is not speculation. These are what people have told me, a lot of this has been published in newspapers.
KING: You've heard it from confident, from reliable...
WILSON: These are people close to the grand jury, close to the White House.
KING: Naming Rove and...
WILSON: That's correct. And again, until such time as somebody comes out and brings this to closure, seven or eight months later, I'm very comfortable with the story.
KING: We'll get a break and include your phone calls, and we'll have Jane's comment and then your phone calls as well on this edition of LARRY KING LIVE. Don't go away.
KING: Before we take some calls, Congresswoman Harman wanted to add something to the last discussion -- Jane.
HARMAN: Oh, I wanted to say this is not about speculation, Larry. We have a competent prosecutor who is investigating. One thing that gave me pause today, however, was the editorial in today's "Wall Street Journal" slamming Jamie Gorelick for these allegations of building a wall between prosecutors and intelligence agents but this editorial quoted the prosecutor in this case, Pat Fitzgerald (ph) and it raises some questions about his objectivity.
KING: All right, Let's get some calls. Bloomfield, Connecticut, hello.
CALLER: I would like to commend Ambassador Wilson for his many years of service. And I would like to ask him what his perceptions are of the ethics regarding Robert Novak's journalistic integrity in disclosing his wife's name?
WILSON: Well, thank you very much. First of all, I think it's important to understand that when I joined the foreign service I swore an oath to defend and uphold the constitution of the United States. And obviously one of the elements of the constitution is the bill of rights and freedom of the press is a consequence I would defend Bob Novak's right to publish anything he and his editors want to publish for as long as I live. That's just part of what we do.
I think that it did not add anything to the story. If you go back and read the article, it's very clear it doesn't add anything to the story. And I also question what part of no he didn't understand when he spoke to the CIA. And with respect to his conversation with the stranger on the street, I find that reprehensible.
KING: Santa Barbara, California, hello.
CALLER: Hello, Larry. Ambassador Wilson, will your wife still receive her salary since it's no fault of her own?
WILSON: She still goes to work every day and does her best to defend us against enemies -- foreign enemies and weapons of mass destruction.
KING: Detroit, hello.
CALLER: Yes. Ambassador Wilson, why is Mr. Robert Novak not being held accountable for his violation of federal law?
KING: Did he violate federal law? WILSON: In the intelligence Identities Protection Act, my understanding is there's an out, there's a loophole there for journalists and I think it's probably a correct loophole. You want journalists to be able to protect their sources and be able to investigate and go after these stories in government, to hold government to account. That's why you have these protections for the (UNINTELLIGIBLE) of state.
SHAYS: The bottom line is that Novak harmed Ambassador's Wilson wife and he harmed the president of the United States. He made no contribution and he is an experienced journalist that had to know that it was just wrong to disclose a CIA agent.
HARMAN: Yes, but the leaker wasn't Novak. The leaker was somebody who worked in this administration, probably was somebody who worked in this administration somewhere and who violated federal law. That's who we have to find quickly. And send a message, both to the hardworking undercover operatives at the CIA and to the world that we won't tolerate this. There are leaks every day, this secret Defense Department memo on these abuses in the prison were printed in part in my hometown newspaper, the "Los Angeles Times" today. That's the first time I saw it. It hadn't been sent to the House intelligence committee and it's shocking. We really have to stop the way these leaks work but you can't blame the journalists for trying to print the truth.
SHAYS: Let me just say, I think it's still wrong to disclose a CIA agent if you're a journalist or not and you can use freedom of the press to do it. I just think it's wrong. And the other thing I do want to say, Jane, you're getting overly excited about a pattern here. I think we're being a little bit unfair to the president about our concern or his concern about the tortures in Iraq. I know he is absolutely horrified and I believe with all my heart and soul that he is doing everything he can in making sure the military is doing everything it can to deal with this. I'm absolutely convinced of that.
KING: Martha's Vineyard, Massachusetts. Hello.
CALLER: Hello, Larry. Does the ambassador hold a grudge against Mr. Novak and if he does, what would he like to do if he met him on the street?
WILSON: I actually ran into Mr. Novak at the airport, we were flying out to the Iowa on the same airplane and we were cordial. We didn't really speak other than to sort of nod and say hello but again, I think the important thing to understand here from my perspective is the person who violated the national security of the country in the first instance was the person who gave the name to Mr. Novak and to others. And even if, it's important to understand, even if the special prosecutor cannot bring this case to prosecution or to conviction, the very fact that the CIA referred it to the Justice Department for investigation is a clear indication, clear proof that the national security of the United States was betrayed. SHAYS: I would quickly like to say if they don't find someone to prosecute, it will be very harmful to the president. It's in his best interest, the administration's best interest, the government's best interest...
KING: No matter who it is.
SHAYS: To find the individual and prosecute them.
KING: We'll be back with our remaining moments and some more phone calls and we'll be back with our remaining moments and some more phone calls right after this.
KING: We're back with our guests. We go to Ellijay, Georgia, hello.
CALLER: Thank you, Larry, very much. Ambassador Wilson, don't you think that Saddam Hussein has been captured and economy and the stock market are doing so well, don't you think President Bush will be re-elected?
WILSON: He may well be reelected. Certainty American voters will decide that in November. My hope is this book will help enrich that debate. The president has said he wanted to run on his record, and I have a number of things to say about the record. The book, by the way, is much more than just a discussion of the leak about my wife, it's an entire discussion of the run up to the second Gulf War based on my own experience in foreign service and in Iraq during the first Gulf War.
KING: And you support the first Gulf War?
WILSON: Indeed I did. As I pointed out in book, I spoke to Al Gore shortly before I voted on the first Gulf War. He will tell you that I was the last person he spoke to and took my views. Which were, that the only way your were going Saddam Hussein out of Kuwait was to have a credible threat of force. Which is a position I articulated in this war as well.
KING: Tampa, Florida, hello.
HARMAN: Larry, can I say something on that.
KING: Yes, I'm sorry. Go ahead, Jane.
HARMAN: Well, I wanted to say that I supported the resolution on this war and I strongly support staying the course as I know Chris does. I just wanted to commend Chris' efforts. He's on the front page of "Congressional Quarterly" this week for going to Iraq, although it was an unauthorized trip, or not approved by Jerry Bremer in Iraq to try to find out how we're spending our money there. It is critically important that we understand how the supplemental appropriation bill, $160 million are spent and I just want to say that I recently learned that 80 percent of out of funding for terrorism is funded through supplementals not a regular budget. And this is a wrong way to doing it, and I wanted to commend Chris for trying to do oversight.
KING: Do you two intend to campaign for each other?
SHAYS: You know, if Jane is a vice president candidate, she'll make it a much stronger ticket.
KING: You would fear that ticket more then.
SHAYS: I would fear that ticket, I wouldn't vote for that ticket, but I would fear that ticket.
KING: Tampa Florida, hello.
CALLER: Yes, Larry. My question is with the release of photos of Coalition Troops abusing Iraqi prisoners, do they feel in support for the United States establishing a democracy in Iraq to be waning and this could further fuel for the troops in Iraq?
WILSON: This is a terrible development. It's hard to gauge the depth of the reaction in the Arab world, but I can tell from you my experience here, the humiliation will be felt far and wide and will make our job all that much more difficult. It is a very serious development.
SHAYS: The Iraqi people are very proud people. They were even a little concerned with how they saw Saddam portrayed. This is, as the ambassador said, just deadly.
HARMAN: I can't imagine anything much worse, Larry. As I said...
KING: Question is what effect will it have on continuing events?
HARMAN: I think it will have a big effect. I think that this picture, the pictures that we've all seen all over the world, have wiped away a thousand acts of kindness and generosity. Cleaning the wells, and rebuilding the hospitals and carrying the school books that our soldiers and civilians have engaged in over the last year. We have to win the hearts and mines to win the war on terror. We're good at fighting that war, we're not good yet at winning that war. This undermines our effort going forward and it is critical we get to the bottom of this and not round up just the lower level folks, but find who outsourced some of this work to contractors who didn't have to abide by military rules? That's one of the allegations out there. And it's a very, very serious charge.
KING: What are you doing for a living?
WILSON: Well the book is out. So I'm obviously out promoting the book. And we'll see what happens after this year is over. KING: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) Some sort of -- would you go into the Kerry administration?
WILSON: I spent five years in business after I retired from the foreign service. With respect to any potential Kerry administration I haven't really thought about it. If there was something that was useful for me to do yes, but I'm not looking for a position in the Kerry administration.
KING: Just back again from Iraq, we less than 30 seconds, do you see an end game?
SHAYS I think it's absolutely essential that we transfer power. I think I will feel a lot better when the State Department interacts with the Iraqi government, than when Defense is doing it. Defense should fight the war, they should not run the country.
KING: Thank you all very much, ambassador. The ambassador's book again, "The Politics of Truth: Inside the lies That Led to War and Betrayed my Wife's CIA Identity."
Ambassador Joseph Wilson, Congressman Shays, Congresswoman Harman.
I'll be back in a couple of minutes to tell you about tomorrow night. Don't go away.
KING; Tomorrow night, secretary of state, Colin Powell.
Don Imus and Mrs. Imus will be with us Wednesday night.
Thursday night, Maria Shriver.
Right now -- hey, we were very proud to inaugurate this fantastic new studio in this great building, the Time Warner Building. Aaron Brown you will feast here next -- well you won't feast, they closed the cafeteria at 3:00. But you will have a great time in this building. This is really a super set up.
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