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RENEE MONTAGNE, host:

President Bush has intervened in the case of Lewis "Scooter" Libby. The former top aide of Vice President Cheney was convicted of perjury and obstruction of justice in the investigation into the leak of a CIA operative's identity. Yesterday, the president commuted Libby's two-and-a-half year prison sentence.

We're joined now by former Ambassador Joseph Wilson. He was a critic of the Bush administration's Iraq policy and the intelligence that led to the war in Iraq, and his wife Valerie Plame Wilson was the CIA operative whose name was disclosed. Ambassador, good morning.

Mr. JOSEPH WILSON (Former Ambassador): Good morning.

MONTAGNE: Now, Scooter Libby was convicted. He was found guilty of lying under oath and obstructing the investigation into the leak of your wife's identity. He wasn't pardoned. How much difference does it make that he won't go to jail?

Mr. WILSON: Well, in respect to whether he's pardoned or commutated, the fact of the matter is there's now no incentive for him to cooperate with the investigation into the underlying crime, into the leak. And the president has exasperated that. In fact, in my judgment, he has raised some suspicions that he in fact may be an accessory to the obstruction of justice by the short-circuiting of the judicial process.

MONTAGNE: No one has been charged with actually leaking your wife's identity. And Libby's own supporters have complained that he's a sort of fall guy. But what hard evidence do you have that there is more information that hasn't already come out and that he would know about it?

Mr. WILSON: First of all, the special prosecutor himself has said there remains a cloud over the vice president's eyes. There is, in fact, a lot of evidence out there that a crime was committed. My wife was a covert CIA officer. That has been acknowledged by the CIA repeatedly. Mr. Libby was convicted by a jury of his peers. That sentence was confirmed by the appellate court. And to his supporters who say he was a fall guy, that may well be. But a fall guy for who? That is the question that is still on the table.

MONTAGNE: Now just quickly back to his punishment, however. The president has said his decision to commute Libby's sentence still leaves what the president calls a harsh punishment, and his supporters think so, too: a felony conviction, a quarter of a million dollar fine, damage to his professional reputation. Presumably, you are not impressed by that?

Mr. WILSON: No. I think what the president has done - he's short-circuited the system of justice, he's undermined the rule of law. Remember, this is a president who, when the pope appealed to him not to execute the first woman to be executed in a Texas jail, he smirked. This is not a president. This is not a person who gives pardons or clemency lightly. Therefore, the question must be asked: Was there a quid pro quo?

I think at a minimum the president owes the American people an explanation. And if he won't give the explanation - I wouldn't expect him to because I believe this administration is corrupt to the core - I believe the Congress should exercise its full plenary powers to do an appropriate investigation into this matter, beginning with the text of both the president's and the vice president's interviews with the special prosecutor during the course of the investigation.

MONTAGNE: And you and your wife still have a civil suit against Scooter Libby, Vice President Cheney, Karl Rove and Richard Armitage. Now, that's the man who has acknowledged that he disclosed your wife's identity to reporters.

Mr. WILSON: Well, all of them did. Mr. Cheney was the architect of this campaign of character assassination. And the people who executed this strategy were Mr. Rove, Mr. Armitage and Scooter Libby. All three of them are deeply implicated in this. And Mr. Libby is the only one to be caught and actually be convicted of a crime. That doesn't mean the other two weren't involved in the criminal activity.

MONTAGNE: Thank you very much for joining us.

Mr. WILSON: Thank you very much.

MONTAGNE: Ambassador Joseph Wilson speaking to us from Santa Fe, New Mexico, where he now makes his home.

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