Drip, Drip, Drip

This is a partial transcript of Special Report with Brit Hume, October 1, that has been edited for clarity.

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BRIT HUME, HOST: This Capitol City is in one of its periodic frenzies over the question of who told reporters that Joseph Wilson's (search)  wife worked for the CIA, but there is also the question about Joseph Wilson's mission for the CIA, how it came about and how it was carried out.

For more on that we are joined by a 10-year veteran of the CIA, he is Reuel Marc Gerecht, now a fellow at the American Enterprise Institute (search) here in Washington.

Welcome to you, sir.


HUME: Do you not…by the way, you don't…you didn't have independent knowledge did you of Wilson's wife's identity or presence in the agency, did you?


HUME: All right. Talk to me about the Wilson mission. We know that Vice President Cheney had made an inquiry to the CIA, probably without any orders given, to find out about…what about theses reports of attempts to acquire uranium, or whatever, in Africa.

And the result of that was this mission. Do you know anything? How…why would they have chosen Joseph Wilson to carry out this mission? You got any ideas?

GERECHT: Well, it's very odd. I mean the agency does not normally employ former ambassadors to go out sleuthing for information about the exported yellow cake to Iraq.

That is something that would be kept in house. I think one can speculate and probably Ambassador Wilson was designated because one, I don't think the agency actually considered it a very important mission.

If it had been, they would have sent one of their own. Also the connection to his wife that she, I understand, works in the Nonproliferation Center. It wouldn't be surprising, if in fact, that connection led to him going there.

HUME: And then…what about the mission and the way it was executed? What does your experience tell you about what he did when we went down there from what we know of it and how that would normally compare to the way the CIA would normally investigate such a thing?

GERECHT: Well, I mean you'd have to say that operationally, it's a bit odd if not sloppy. Because I mean again, if you assume that this is an important mission, that in fact the export of the possible yellow cake…the possible export of yellow cake to Iraq is something that you want to look at, you would not normally send an ex ambassador, who is a very public official, to attempt to sleuth out that type of information. Because people are not going to naturally sort of tell you and say, oh, by the way, yes, of course, we were exporting yellow cake.

It's something that would have to be handled with incredible discretion. It would have to be and probably using back channels. It would have to be take something that would take a good deal of time, not something that usually comes under a former ambassador's portfolio.

HUME: Now, he went down there by his own account in the later article he wrote for The New York Times about it and said that he talked to a lot of people. But he described himself as being down there for 10 days. I think it was 10 days or something like that, drinking sweetened mint tea and talking to a lot of people.

First of all, what about his subsequently reporting his mission in The New York Times? This was a CIA mission presumably this was not…was this by CIA regulation, would this have been considered something you don't go around talking about public or not?

GERECHT: Well, no. I suspect that it doesn't usually come under the portfolio of something that you would have public conversations about. Again, you have to be careful there; he is a former ambassador.

And I think the agency obviously even employing him to do something like this; it realizes there's going to be a public angle to it. I think that that would have to be considered from the very beginning. Which again, depending upon the agency's perspective could have been not the most astute choice on their part.

HUME: Now, we're given to believe that CIA Director Tenet did not even know about this, which I…which is…I suppose a lot of people would find incredible.

Obviously, it's a big agency; it does a lot of things. Information filters up; one assumes there are things I'm sure he doesn't know about until they are discovered or reported on.

But what does this whole episode suggest to you about the attitude of the agency toward what the administration was trying to do, if anything?

GERECHT: Well, I mean, again, it's…the whole thing is odd. I mean if in fact, the Tenet…the CIA was responding to a vice-presidential inquiry, a query on this about what was actually going on...

HUME: Because Cheney is said not to have even known that the CIA was doing this.

GERECHT: That it beggars the imagination a bit to believe that the director would not have known, because this is the type of high-profile issue that would have gone to the head of the Nonproliferation Center, would have gone to the head of the Clandestine Service.

And just for the simple bureaucratic desire to cover your derriere, you would want to ensure that, in fact, higher-ups knew about this affair and would approve of it.

Now, it is possible to imagine that the Director Tenet didn't know. If in fact, the agency was looking upon this whole mission in sort of a nonchalant attitude and didn't internally believe the intelligence and it didn't really care all that much about the mission.

It was just something they wanted to do so that if someone, the vice president or someone else made an inquiry...

HUME: Filed an inquiry. Right.

GERECHT: ... did you do anything about it, they'd say, well, we dispatched Ambassador Wilson to do it.

HUME: Does this suggest any kind of bureaucratic rivalry, in fighting policy disagreement to you at all?

GERECHT: Well, it may have. It's hard to tell at that time.

Certainly, without impugning Ambassador Wilson's character, his integrity, it's not improbable to assume that the people who designated him, who chose him to go on this mission were perhaps aware that he was very hostile to the notion of a war in Iraq.

And that by choosing an individual with that disposition perhaps they were hoping for a negative result.

HUME: Great. Got to go now. But thanks very much for coming.

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