Joseph C. Wilson, a key player in the messy run-up to the 2003 Iraq invasion and whose ex-wife, Valerie Plame, went from secretive CIA officer to household name, died Friday at his home in New Mexico.
Mr. Wilson, who was 69, died of organ failure, according to a Washington Post report that quoted Ms. Plame. The couple divorced in 2017.
A former diplomat, Mr. Wilson was thrust into the headlines after the CIA dispatched him to Africa to investigate whether Saddam Hussein had purchased enriched “yellowcake” uranium from Niger.
He couldn’t produce evidence of the purchase during a fact-finding mission in 2002, undercutting President George W. Bush’s claim in his 2003 State of the Union address — citing British intelligence — that Iraq was able to develop weapons of mass destruction. The claim served as a pretext for the Iraq invasion that March.
Mr. Wilson called out the Bush administration for relying on secondhand intelligence, leading to a confrontation with the White House that spilled into the public eye.
Columnist Robert M. Novak wrote that while Mr. Wilson wasn’t a CIA officer, his “wife, Valerie Plame, is an agency operative on weapons of mass destruction.”
Suddenly outed, Ms. Plame was forced to leave the CIA.
She and Mr. Wilson sued Vice President Richard B. Cheney, his former chief of staff, I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby, and adviser Karl Rove on the belief they leaked Ms. Plame’s name to Mr. Novak.
Though the suit didn’t go anywhere, Mr. Libby was convicted of perjury, prompting a commutation of his prison term by Mr. Bush and a pardon from President Trump.
Ms. Plame is running for Congress in New Mexico, hoping to replace Democratic Rep. Ben Ray Lujan as he seeks a Senate seat.
Mr. Lujan expressed “profound sadness” at the news of Mr. Wilson’s death.
“Ambassador Wilson was a devoted patriot who put country and duty before politics and who had the courage to speak the truth in the face of extreme criticism,” he said. “With his passing, our country lost a faithful public servant.”