Oct. 27, 2016
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Anson Stevens-Bollen

The Santa Fe Connection

Emails to and from Hillary Clinton show a close relationship with Joe and Valerie Plame Wilson

August 10, 2016, 12:00 am

If Hillary Clinton ever makes a campaign stop in Santa Fe, she’ll have a place to crash.

As of 2012, the Democratic presidential nominee has an open invitation from Valerie Plame Wilson and Joe Wilson to visit them in the City Different, where the couple lives in what the New York Times describes as a “sprawling adobe house on a ridge overlooking the Sangre de Cristo Mountains.”

Clinton maintained close ties with the Wilsons while she served as secretary of state, long after the couple had fled Washington for the private sector, according to emails declassified by the State Department amid a federal investigation of the presidential candidate’s personal server. Requests for favors and meeting arrangements are intermingled with intimate well-wishes and fawning praise. Nuclear weapons, the Iraq War, Benghazi and Naomi Watts all make appearances in the messages, which span 2009 to 2012.

Plame Wilson, the former CIA operative, these days writes spy novels and advocates for Global Zero, the international nuclear disarmament movement. Wilson, a diplomat who served as an advisor to Bill Clinton on Africa affairs, does consulting work, often lending his international expertise to nonprofits and private companies.

On numerous occasions, as Politico first reported, Wilson reached out to Clinton concerning his work for Symbion Power, an electrical engineering company that does business in Africa and the Middle East. The company in 2009 had trouble securing a contract administered by USAID for a hydroelectric project in Afghanistan.

Those already working on the project “should just get out and let companies like Symbion, who have a proven track record get in there and roll up our sleeves,” Wilson wrote. Clinton forwarded the message to her staff, and a month later, USAID opened up the bidding process to Symbion. The contract ultimately went to a different company. That same year, Wilson also alerted Clinton to Symbion’s bid for a contract to install power lines in Tanzania. This time, the company was successful.

Wilson in 2011 messaged Clinton again about Symbion’s work in Africa, asking her to resolve a dispute with General Electric CEO Jeff Immelt on a call. (Wilson filed a lawsuit against Symbion last year, claiming the company failed to pay him and misrepresented itself as an American company.)

Other strings were easier to pull. In a 2012 message, Wilson encourages Clinton to meet his friend, the television producer Kirk Ellis, at a national fine arts reception. “He is a leader in the rich cultural and art world here in Santa Fe and a genuinely nice person,” Wilson wrote.

A day later, Ellis responded, “Can never thank you enough for arranging that intro.”

In 2011, Plame Wilson personally invited Clinton to a Global Zero summit at Yale University, where the candidate attended law school. “We would be truly delighted and honored if you could consider attending this special event that will be so effective toward inspiring and igniting young people’s passion and concern about the nuclear threat,” she wrote.

Clinton couldn’t fit Yale into her schedule, but ensured the couple that her office would be “well-represented for such a significant event.”

Other messages from the Wilsons express foreign policy concerns, past and present. When it looked like the US Senate would fail to ratify a new arms-reduction treaty with Russia, Wilson made clear his and Plame Wilson’s alarm.

In his longest and perhaps most remarkable memo to Clinton, Wilson details a trip he made to Baghdad in 2010, illustrating scenes of destruction and devastation resulting from the US-led invasion of Iraq.

“I have struggled to find the correct historical analogy to describe a vibrant, historically important Middle Eastern city being slowly bled to death,” he wrote.

Wilson characterizes the war as a complete failure. In a memorable passage, the former diplomat expresses his disgust over “horribly bellicose” and “racist” t-shirts sold at a base exchange. “Shirts with mushroom clouds conveyed the Baghdad weather as 32,000 degrees and partly cloudy. Others referred to Arabs as camel jockeys and those were the least offensive,” he wrote.

"I met Naomi Watts last weekend and we talked about you and Valerie and how amazing you both are!"

Wilson and Plame Wilson unwillingly entered the national spotlight in 2003 after a conservative journalist, informed by a leak from the Bush administration, revealed Plame Wilson’s identity as a spy. It is widely believed that Plame Wilson’s outing was in retaliation to column Wilson wrote in The New York Times debunking the administration’s claim that Saddam Hussein sought to purchase yellowcake uranium from Niger, a central piece of George W Bush’s justification for invading Iraq.

It wasn’t always business. A handful of emails show diplomat-to-diplomat camaraderie between the secretary of state and the former ambassador. Wilson offered his condolences the day after the 2012 attack on the US embassy in Libya, which killed four Americans. He knew one of the victims, former Navy SEAL Glen Doherty, from an effort to curb the influence of Christian Dominionism in the US military. Of Ambassador Chris Stevens, Wilson wrote, “He knew the risks, and as you and the President noted, was willing to take them to make the world a little bit better.”

On a more light-hearted note, consider this subject line Clinton sent to Wilson in 2012: “I met Naomi Watts last weekend and we talked about you and Valerie and how amazing you both are!” She left the body of the message blank. (Watts portrayed Plame Wilson in Fair Game, the feature film adaptation of the former spy’s memoir.)

Wilson responded the next morning. He wished Secretary Clinton luck during a meeting scheduled that day with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov. “I don’t know how you find the time to write us when you are so busy saving the world! You are the one who is amazing,” he wrote. “Have a great holiday season. We will be at Renaissance weekend this year. Best to WJC and Chelsea. Much love.”


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