Monday, September 29, 2003

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Not exactly like father, like son

Leadership and conviction:

"Even though I'm a tranquil guy now at this stage of my life, I have nothing but contempt and anger for those who betray the trust by exposing the name of our sources. They are, in my view, the most insidious, of traitors."

George H.W. Bush, remarks at the Dedication Ceremony for the George Bush Center for Intelligence, 26 April 1999.

Lack thereof:

"White House officials said they would turn over phone logs if the Justice Department asked them to. But the aides said Bush has no plans to ask his staff members whether they played a role in revealing the name of an undercover officer who is married to former ambassador Joseph C. Wilson IV, one of the most visible critics of Bush's handling of intelligence about Iraq."

Mike Allen, "Bush Aides Say They'll Cooperate With Probe Into Intelligence Leak," Washington Post, 29 September 2003 (emphasis added)

Fair or unfair comparison? Too soon to tell.

In the story, when asked about the possibility of an internal White House investigation, White House press spokesman Scott McClellan said:

I'm not aware of any information that has come to our attention beyond the anonymous media sources to suggest there's anything to White House involvement.

That's the best spin to put on the story, because it's true -- with the exception of Novak himself, all of the sources for this story have been anonymous.

We'll see how long this holds up.

A final point -- I really, really, want this story to be wrong. I find the prospect that there are people in the White House capable of such actions to be distasteful. If the entire story turns out to be bogus, great. If not, then this is going to be a long and bumpy ride.


UPDATE: Josh Marshall links to an Esquire story highlighting how Bush Sr. and Bush Jr. differed in their approach to Karl Rove.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Pejman Yousefzadeh argues that it would be wrong to expect President Bush to take a more active role in the investigation:

[L]eaks aren't going to be stopped or be discovered merely by having the President call in suspected leakers, and interrogate them about whether or not they talked out of turn. If it was so easy to stop leaks, past Administrations would have tried that tactic a long time ago.

But as Dan well knows, life is not a Perry Mason movie. The culpable do not break down and confess their sins merely as the result of close questioning. And the Administration likely knows this, which is why they aren't going to waste time calling in the many aides who work at the White House in order to find out who has been leaking the story. So I'm not sure that Dan's excerpted quote is evidence of a lack of leadership and conviction on the part of the Administration. Rather, it is likely evidence of the monumental task that is before the Administration in finding out who--if anyone--might have leaked Valerie Plame's name to the media.

Pejman has a point about the futility of catching leakers (though Mark Kleiman disagrees). There is a difference, however, between your garden-variety leak and what took place in the Plame affair, which was a violation of federal law.

I'm not saying George W. Bush should be whipping out the magnifying glass as part of an investigation. I am saying that the President could display a touch more of the outrage that his father hinted at four years ago. That, in itself, would send a powerful message to his staff.

posted by Dan on 09.29.03 at 12:57 AM


Not quote all anonymous. There's Wilson himself, who says he was contacted by the other reporters that were allegedly tipped off by the White House. And in the Post story you link, he names Andrea Mitchell as one of those reporters. Mitchell hasn't commented, but we're no longer completely in the dark.

posted by: ogged on 09.29.03 at 12:57 AM [permalink]

"not quite." sorry.

posted by: ogged on 09.29.03 at 12:57 AM [permalink]


Sequence of interesting posts - nice job of balanced presentation where others have been *really* reactionary.

Particularly like the line on the comparision being too early to tell - you're right, it is. Should this issue be true, the question will be answered as there is only one correct action in this matter for George W. Bush to have taken (past tense) - the minute the issue was public he should have found the culprits, fired them on the spot and notified the FBI & Justice of probable cause for investigation.

Any other action by Bush - today, tomorrow or next month - answers the question in principle. Though points can still be awarded for right action.

posted by: Jon on 09.29.03 at 12:57 AM [permalink]

Heads must roll (prolly), if true. Bush can keep up deniability quite a while, but this dirty tricks stuff is just the kind of arrogant behavior to be expected by "yes" men competing to see who can be the biggest brown-noser to a sitting pres.

Bush did good on Iraq. Most of the rest of his program is terrible. If any Dem (Dean?) can admit that it was good to boot Saddam, but Bush's regime needs changing too, Bush will be vulnerable. (Of course, most of the Dem program is no better than Bush's -- but at least the Reps in Congress will keep a Dem pres. in check.)

posted by: Tom Grey on 09.29.03 at 12:57 AM [permalink]

Listen, if it is true that someone high up in Bush's administration committed a fedral offence, then Bush should be in deep doo-doo. This story has been doing the rounds for two months now; it appears that the CIA has been stonewalled and forced into taking the 'nuclear' option of leak and prosecute. There are 6 journalists who know the names of the leakers, Wilson probably knows too; why doesn't Bush?

posted by: max on 09.29.03 at 12:57 AM [permalink]

and as a bare MINIMUM Bush should have made it clear by now that he takes it very seriously - all we've had up to now are McClellans vacuous responses about 'anonymous' sources - even though we now know two of the six journalists - and Condi saying the JD is investigating, but me? National Security Advisor, me? , what could this possibly have to do with me?

posted by: max on 09.29.03 at 12:57 AM [permalink]

Thanks for quoting the most relevant portion of today's WaPo story, that Bush has NO interest in dealing with this.

Amazingly, some people seem to take this simply as hard politics. Another example of W's moral clarity, the ability to do what is necessary to fight the good fight. Yet this is so far beyond what is fair fighting, I cannot fathom the lack of outrage in some places.

The question is not who are the leakers. The leak happened. Novak got the leak, and the WaPo reported that six other reporters got the leak. Unless one feels that BOTH Novak and the WaPo reporters made up the leak, there is no doubt that the leak happened. What matters is that such a leak could occur.

Filegate? The central question stands in this case, not who leaked, but who knew. How could or should ANYONE in the Bush upper echelon know the names of CIA operatives.

posted by: Vital Information on 09.29.03 at 12:57 AM [permalink]

Go to any newsource you'll find this story. Go To any blog, read the comments, do the math. The (vast) majority rules - this was a wrong act.

Was the act itself as serious or as insignificant as some's opinions present is still largely a matter of opinion and one ultimately for the justice system to decide.

But not the impact of this issue to the Bush Administration.

This could be "the turning point to the end". "The straw that broke the camel's back". The BA "is fair-game" and the "flood-gates are opening".

Don't ya just love old adages...

posted by: Jon on 09.29.03 at 12:57 AM [permalink]

Please. Given the willingness of at least one senior administration official to name names to the Post, finding out the culprits shouldn't be that difficult. Especially given the narrow universe of sources that could have identified the two presumptive felons (Tenet, maybe Powell).

If he doesn't know already (something I find highly unlikely), Bush could find out the identities of the leakers in fifteen minutes.

Given that, I'm not really sure what endgame the White House is playing for. This story has legs, and given that at least nine people (the six journalists, the two leakers, and the senior administration source behind the Post story) know the identities, this is going to get out. If Bush looks AT ALL like he's stonewalling, then you start to skirt perilously close to impeachment territory.

In my mind, the best result for the administration is to ascertain the identity of the leakers, fire them, and mount a concerted effort to play up several somewhat-mitigating factors (the fact that Plame wasn't exactly doing James Bond stuff, the fact that the officials misguidedly felt that they were responding to a blatantly partisan attack, etc).

It's got to be Rove. If it was anyone else, this approach is a no brainer.

posted by: Joe on 09.29.03 at 12:57 AM [permalink]

You said "I'm not saying George W. Bush should be whipping out the magnifying glass as part of an investigation."

But in fact many people know who the leakers are. In the WaPo story on Sunday the source would not name them "on the record," which means that he did name them, but not for publication. I think that everyone in the news business in Washington knows who the leakers are, and for the president to not know requires blinders. So don't talk about a "magnifying glass."

posted by: don on 09.29.03 at 12:57 AM [permalink]

The politically interesting question here is whether the Bush Administration has learned anything at all about political damage control, which would require locating, sacking and if necessary prosecuting responsible officials. Letting the Democrats howl about this for months is . . . well, you'd think that after DUI-gate in 2000, Bush would have learned the lesson about getting the dirty laundry done ASAP, regardless of how highly-placed the responsible officials are, rather than let the opposition choose the time and place. And that's especially true if the truth isn't as bad as it seems.

posted by: Crank on 09.29.03 at 12:57 AM [permalink]

Assuming that it is Rove - which is not proven by any stretch of the imagination, but likely given his modus operendi dating back to his College Republican days - GWB faces a real dilemma. He's pretty much lost without Rove and can't just fire him. You can't go around dismissing mision-critical unreplacable employees and keep the business running. A Rove departure would significantly lower his re-election chances.

My guess is that they try to stonewall as long as possible - with Ashcroft in charge of the investigation, stonewalling is a likely to be successful - "We have investigated ourselves and found no wrongdoing whatsoever."

And if stonewalling doesn't work, try to blame it all on Ari.

posted by: uh_clem on 09.29.03 at 12:57 AM [permalink]

Bush is correctly setting rules for the next year's campaign. He will not respond or make any of his staff respond to anonymous accusations in the leftwing media.

If he responds to this, the stuff from the fan will be sticking non stop.

There is no story.

posted by: erp on 09.29.03 at 12:57 AM [permalink]


Why should Bush be held to a standard that Clinton never was?

In December of 1998, federal judge Royce Lamberth published an opinion in the Commerce Dept case explicitly laying out evidence that he found convincing that the White House chief of staff (I think Panetta) and his assistant had obstructed justice by advising Commerce staffers to destroy documents and hide evidence which he had ordered to be produced.

Did Clinton investigate the felonies committed in his White House and his Commerce Dept? Of course not, instead, those Commerce staffers implicated in the obstruction of justice were given a special dinner in their honor and awarded medals! Read the cases.

Anyone who pretends to be simply shocked, shocked that a federal law MAY have been violated when they blissfully ignored many blatant felonies a few years ago is merely making a fool of himself.

If you didn't get incensed about crime in the White House in the last administration, don't expect anyone to take you seriously now when you get offended by mere allegations of conduct which is nothing by comparison. You have no credibility.

posted by: on 09.29.03 at 12:57 AM [permalink]

I am confused about which of this stuff the SCLM made up:

Wilson saying reporters called him for comment on the leak? Novak reporting his information? WaP0 reporting that it was told of the leaks and the cold calls? The CIA asking DOJ to investigate?

The best Bush can do is not ignore the story, but treat it with the seriousness it demands. Just cut the culprit and move on.

posted by: Vital Information on 09.29.03 at 12:57 AM [permalink]

> with the exception of Novak himself, all of the sources for this story have been anonymous.

Okay. The White House has now confirmed that the CIA has asked the DOJ to investigate this matter. That moves the story out of the realm of "anonymous sources, who knows if it's true" into "The CIA thinks this is serious enough to investigate."

So we have two confirmed facts:

1. Novak published a report saying that Valerie Plame was a CIA agent. Inarguable.

2. The CIA has asked the FBI to investigate this matter. Confirmed by Condoleeza Rice. This means that Valerie Plame must in fact be a CIA agent -- otherwise there would be no crime. Falsely claiming that somebody is a CIA agent is not a Federal crime.

This means that we know that somebody did in fact tell Robert Novak that Valerie Plame was a CIA agent. That's not based on anonymous sources; that's fact. And it's a Federal crime. Perhaps that "somebody" is NOT a Bush administration official. The odds are against it.

This has moved beyond being a left-wing media slur. Anonymous sources broke the story; named sources are confirming it.

posted by: Jonquil on 09.29.03 at 12:57 AM [permalink]

I've got to amplify a point made in Vital Information's post above: Why did the White House know the identity of an undercover CIA agent? I can't imagine that the CIA makes a practice of disclosing the names of its undercover assets to the administration.

Admittedly, I'm working from little more than a Fleming/Ludlum/Clancy-level knowledge of intelligence here, but can you imagine the President's Daily Briefing including, e.g. "...and our infiltrator into Al-Qaeda, Fred Jones, aka Mullah al-Jones, reports an operation is being planned..."?

If White House political types know who our spies are, that's the CIA's fault as well. And if they don't know, then the leak came from the CIA.

posted by: See-Dubya on 09.29.03 at 12:57 AM [permalink]

[L]eaks aren't going to be stopped or be discovered merely by having the President call in suspected leakers, and interrogate them about whether or not they talked out of turn. If it was so easy to stop leaks, past Administrations would have tried that tactic a long time ago.

Apples and oranges. It's only hard for administrations to suppress leaks that are harmful to them. This leak was intended to help Bush, and he should be fully capable of getting to the bottom of it if he so desires.

Also, this administration is not past administrations. It has been unusually effective in stopping even harmful leaks, mostly because of its willingless to employ ruthless tactics. For them to plead incapacity now is awfully self-serving and unconvincing.

posted by: JP on 09.29.03 at 12:57 AM [permalink]

If he doesn't know already (something I find highly unlikely), Bush could find out the identities of the leakers in fifteen minutes.

which, to my speculation, is why we get the verbiage 'bush has no plans to ask his staff,' rather than a flat denial.

posted by: danelectro on 09.29.03 at 12:57 AM [permalink]

"If White House political types know who our spies are, that's the CIA's fault as well. And if they don't know, then the leak came from the CIA."

Or someone on the National Security Staff, who has legitimate reason to know classified information, told the political side.

Condi: Well, Karl, you know this whole Niger thing, some of the WMD reports I've been seeing from CIA were authored by this woman, Valerie Plame, who's married to this Wilson guy.

Unka Karl: Really Condi? Hmmm, that's interesting.

posted by: on 09.29.03 at 12:57 AM [permalink]

IIRC, Cheney's office asked for Wilson to go to Niger in the first place. Assuming that people there would have the pull and connections to find out such things, it leads to Cheney, or some of his direct subordinates.

posted by: Barry on 09.29.03 at 12:57 AM [permalink]

I think it might be a salutary experience for the White House to bring in the FBI to give everybody who had access to the relevant information the third degree. Too often have political types leaked important information with reckless disregard for the consequences.

With respect to intelligence and national security, there are no garden-variety leaks of classified information. Somebody at the Pentagon leaked successive versions of our war plans to the New York Times this time last fall. Even semi-informed observers can detail the pedigree of various intelligence sources from leaks in the Washington Post. In this era of utter disrespect for secrets that safeguard lives, sweat, and treasure, we are hemorrahging, and it needs to stop.

I think that the national interest would be served by a trial and prison time, pour encourager les autres. Then maybe we can harness the fires of partisan hatred and retaliation for a through housecleaning of those who leak at all levels of government.

posted by: Ray on 09.29.03 at 12:57 AM [permalink]

The anonymous source defense obviously can't fly. Plame was a covert agent; we know this because the CIA asked the DoJ for an investigation. Novak (and at least six other reporters) got the call that she was a covert agent.

If Wilson, the Post, et al, is basing this on unreliable anonymous sources: how then did anyone find out that Plame was a covert agent, which, in fact, she is?

This story isn't made of air.

posted by: G C on 09.29.03 at 12:57 AM [permalink]

The legal and national security questions are not nearly as straightforward as "she worked for the CIA; therefore she was covert; therefore a felony has ocurred".

I muddy the waters in a longish post at my humble blog. Bit of an experimental format - due to tech diffuculties, my links are not available.

It is fairly easy to conjure scenarios where she was an undercover agent, national security has been compromised, but she is not legally "covert". or, scenarios where she was legally "covert" but security is not compromised. Or both, or neither.

That said, I agree (emphatically) that Bush needs to take an interest in this. Pretending it may not have happened is silly.

I also think it is a mistake to view the White House as monolithic on this. My guess is that a "protect Cheney and his staff" faction is responsible for the calls, amd the non-response. Eventually, Rove will show up as a good guy (no, really) to protect the President. Meanwhile, a bit of leak-counter leak, and confusion.

Oh, and Andrea Mitchell commented on "Imus in the Morning". She did get a call, she won't discuss sources, but she thought the info was irrelevant, so she didn't use it.

posted by: Tom Maguire on 09.29.03 at 12:57 AM [permalink]

Jonquil and GC have it exactly right, I think. It's pretty simple - if the CIA is calling for a Justice investigation, then it's almost certain that Plame actually was an undercover CIA agent in some capacity. So, Novak must have gotten this fact from somewhere. Where would he have gotten the info if not from the administration sources that he himself claims provided it?

I'm all in favor of avoiding rushes to judgment, but I'm having trouble coming up with any plausible scenarios in which someone in the Bush administration didn't deliberately and illegally out Plame to attack Wilson.

posted by: Nick on 09.29.03 at 12:57 AM [permalink]

Actually, I'll amend that last sentence to "a plausible scenario in which someone in the Bush administration didn't deliberately out Plame in the process of attacking Wilson," since it's not clear whether the people involved actually meant to cause harm with the disclosure of Plame's status itself, or were simply trying to use his wife's supposed involvment to undermine Wilson's credibility.

posted by: Nick on 09.29.03 at 12:57 AM [permalink]

FYI, Just heard a news snippet to the effect that Plame wasn't a covert agent per se, but some sort of analyst -- apparently the CIA's concern is that b/c of the leak, some of her information sources might be endangered -- whether physically or simply as valuable sources, I don't know. True report? Heck if I know.

In fact, I think I'm going to tune this whole event out for, say five or six days. By then the fog should have burned off sufficiently to form an actually useful opinion. If, on the other hand, the fog is thicker, I bet this will end up being a super serious problem for Bush.

posted by: Twn on 09.29.03 at 12:57 AM [permalink]

"Why should Bush be held to a standard that Clinton never was?"

Uh, because people may very well die (if undercover agents are outed)?

And let's not forget that the House voted to impeach Clinton, so there goes THAT argument.

This a serious crime, and this kind of underhanded action fits Rove's past practices. My money's on him...

posted by: Your Worst Nightmare on 09.29.03 at 12:57 AM [permalink]

I guess one way that this could be considerably more innocuous than it looks is if (as some are suggesting) Plame's CIA status wasn't classified, or was only sort of classified, or something like that, and thus divulging it was no big deal. But then, why the call for a Justice investigation? I don't see why the CIA would take that step unless the disclosure involved some possibility of harm or wrongdoing.

posted by: Nick on 09.29.03 at 12:57 AM [permalink]

no one seems concerned that Plame's networks--networks that were specifically targeted towards WMD proliferation--were rolled up. forget, for a moment, the politics of this. republican, democrat, it matters not. here is what should concern every american--a specialist whose entire job was to smoke out those who could hurt us most, e.g. terrorists or rogue states with WMD, particularly nuclear ones, has been outed, and her network most likely has been rounded up. one can only speculate, but chances are "rounded up" is a euphemism for killed. And let's say that there is a 10% chance that one of those sources who has now been burned was pursuing, oh, say a lost Ukrainian stockpile of enriched uranium, or a belarussian missile that "fell off the back of a truck" or so on. and that trail is now cold. and that missile or material is later used against us.

this is why this story matters. this is why this offense should be punishable as treason (and the death penalty should be an option--i say this as someone firmly opposed to it but in this case if it exists it should be used as a scare tactic), this is what Bush 41 was saying in his now famous quote. Now the partisan in me could take this mighty far, and say that it perfectly encompasses everything that i fear and loathe about our administration, its secretiveness, its mendacity, its inability to discern the difference between moral rectitude and political success... but it doesn't matter. even minus that last sentence EVERY person of moral character, right/left/inbetween, should be enraged by this, and by bush's lack of caring about it.

posted by: robert green on 09.29.03 at 12:57 AM [permalink]

Nick - you seem to be pretty thick. The Justice Department is investigating WHETHER a crime has been committed in the first place. To take another example, was a crime committed in the Filegate scandal? If not, why was there an investigation?

posted by: Al on 09.29.03 at 12:57 AM [permalink]

About Rove's modus operendi - Josh Marshal shared this nugget today:

"Sources close to the former president [George H.W. Bush] say Rove was fired from the 1992 Bush presidential campaign after he planted a negative story with columnist Robert Novak about dissatisfaction with campaign fundraising chief and Bush loyalist Robert Mosbacher Jr. It was smoked out, and he was summarily ousted".

"Why Are These Men Laughing?" Ron Suskind
January 2003

All signs point to Rove. Ribbit.

posted by: on 09.29.03 at 12:57 AM [permalink]

A note: the Justice Department's involvement does not by itself suggest that criminal behavior is suspected (although in this case, I think it may well be).

Since CIA has no authority to investigate breaches of operational security in the government (outside of CIA itself), I believe standard procedure is to turn security investigations over to Justice.

posted by: Ray on 09.29.03 at 12:57 AM [permalink]

Josh Marshall is being cited as a source? Give me a break. I stopped reading his blog years ago when everything was known about Clinton including the pardons, he still declared himself a Clinton supporter. If he can suspend belief to that extent, his opinions must be suspect.

This is a non issue. All lefties across the planet and beyond (those would be Gray Davis supporters) have been given their marching orders to start things moving in their own corners of the world.

posted by: erp on 09.29.03 at 12:57 AM [permalink]

And your dislike for Josh Marshall impacts his ability to quote Esquire how?

posted by: Lev on 09.29.03 at 12:57 AM [permalink]

It's instructive to watch the conservative media and the con-bloggers trying to digest the idea that BushCo outed a CIA operative (and endangered her and her co-workers, not to mention years of work) for reasons of pure pettiness.

The smarter cons are doing the Vizzini Defense: "It's in-con-CEIV-a-ble that the Bush team would do this!" They fully acknowledge that burning a CIA operative and endangering her and her fellow operatives is inexcusable, so they try to pretend that it's impossible.

However, as Mr. Drezner shows, that particular canine is showing all the signs of being unable to hunt. To leak a story to multiple journos in this fashion took time, planning, and people.

The dumber cons are shuttling back and forth between three basic modes: The Bitch Deserved It, She Wasn't That Important Anyway, and the ever-popular It's All Clinton's Fault! This, while pleasing to the rubes among the punters, is serving to disgust the more honorable/sensible/intelligent among the cons, so not many folks outside of a few truly idiotic bloggers and the folks at the National Review online are running with these gambits.

Meanwhile, as a public service:

Again, it wasn't just Novak that they told about Plame. They outed her to Andrea Mitchell (aka Mrs. Alan Greenspan) and at least five other journos.

This wasn't just something done in the heat of the moment. This was done in cold blood, with malice aforethought.

posted by: on 09.29.03 at 12:57 AM [permalink]

Yo, this isn't distasteful, it's felonious.

posted by: vachon on 09.29.03 at 12:57 AM [permalink]

1. It's not a "crime," is it, if Ms. Plame was not, in fact, a "covert operative" ? This appears to be in doubt.

2. Clifford May said Amb. Wilson was "probably correct" when he said it was "highly doubtful" that any transaction took place. But, as May added, that was not what was claimed by Bush, only that Saddam TRIED to purchase uranium. This has not been disproved as yet, and apparently British intelligence still says it' so.

posted by: Mike Lion on 09.29.03 at 12:57 AM [permalink]

This is a bit of an excerpt from the current MSNBC article on Plame-gate, addressing some of the concerns raised in this commentary:

CIA lawyers sent the Justice Department an informal notice of the alleged leak in July, two senior officials told NBC News on Monday.
Although that letter, which was not signed by CIA Director George Tenet, was not a formal request for an investigation, the Justice Department could have opened one at that point, lawyers said. It remained unclear whether it did so.
CIA lawyers followed up the notification this month by answering 11 questions from the Justice Department, affirming that Plame’s identity was classified, that whoever released it was not authorized to do and that the news media would not have been able to guess her identity without the leak, the senior officials said.
The CIA response to the questions, which is itself classified, said there were grounds for a criminal investigation, the sources said.

posted by: Vital Information on 09.29.03 at 12:57 AM [permalink]

Just a thought:
Perhaps Plame had been a case officer but is now working as an analyst. It is even possible that this change in her job function coincided with her marriage to Wilson.

In this case, seemingly contradictory aspects of this story would make sense. It would be possible that a) the leaker assumed that her profession was known and thought he/she was committing petty backbiting rather than a felony, b) real damage could have been done to sources she worked with prior to switching roles, c) the leaker would have been more willing to use Novak, who was hostile to admin policies on Iraq but is known to traffic in catty tidbits.

It's hard to see how these things all would be true if the leaker knew the downside to revealing Plame's employer.

If my guess is correct, an act of extreme pettiness on the part of the leaker may result in jail time. A lesson for future jackasses to contemplate.

posted by: JAB on 09.29.03 at 12:57 AM [permalink]

Fact #1: Valerie Wilson works for the CIA. She goes (went, rather) by Valerie Plame.
Inference: there's no reason for her to be going by a different name if she had no covert status at all. More than likely, she's some sort of analyst rather than a 007-type spook, but the name "Plame" must be involved in some things that probably are covert. We don't know that for certain, but I'd bet real money that that's the case.

Fact #2: Valerie Plame's name appeared in a Novak column (who's no Bush-basher) and he has not retracted the story. "Two senior administration officials" were cited by Novak. The SAO designation refers to something in the ballpark of 15-20 people, from what I can tell, all of whom being people you've heard of. We also know that somebody, most likely these same two guys, called at least five other reporters, one of them apparently being Andrea Mitchell.

Fact #3: Revealing the name of an undercover operative of the CIA is an aggravated felony and a breach of national security.

Fact #4: The CIA has referred the matter to DOJ.
Inference: The CIA probably has a very strong case to be made, since it's not like the CIA just accuses top officials in the WH of breaching national security on a regular basis. They didn't do this for kicks. These charges are about thisclose to treason. Since this issue has been fermenting since mid-July, you can also infer that the CIA tried to take care of this behind the scenes (this is the CIA). Evidently, that failed, so Tenet decided to dump this in Ashcroft's lap publicly. Again, this being the CIA, if Ashcroft drags his feet on this, I bet we'll hear more interesting things coming from the CIA.

You can argue with my conclusions but you can't argue with the facts. If you think this is some sort of leftist conspiracy, fine. J. Wilson is highly thought of by Bush 41. He served under Bush 41 and Clinton, and Reagan also, if I'm not mistaken. The Josh Marshall interview indicated to me that Wilson isn't much of a partisan. Novak is the one who let the cat out of the bag.

I've been saying this for about six months now: the thing about Watergate wasn't the break-in itself, it was the clumsy cover-up. It took an awful long time for the press to heat up to it (Nixon won 49 states in '72, and everybody already knew about Watergate). Once the press warmed up to it, you had an awful lot of people who had to keep their stories straight. It's not the event itself that causes the real damage, it's the lies, the second-order and third-order lies--the lies about the lies.

Oh, and this Admin. has numerous quotes on record about how leaks are bad, and they don't seem to be jumping to investigate two of their own leaking to the press.

One more thing: Clinton has nothing to do with any of this. I promise I'll stop saying "imagine if Clinton had done this" if anyone on the right promises to accept at least the possibility that two high-ranking individuals on Bush's staff are provably felons.

posted by: nota bene on 09.29.03 at 12:57 AM [permalink]


I'll try to explain again. If Plame's status at the CIA was public information that could be disclosed without breaking laws or causing significant harm, there would seem to be no reason for the CIA to request an investigation of the White House, because there would have been no possibility that disclosure would have been a federal crime. I'm not sure how much clearer I can make this.

Anyway, the info from the MSNBC article that Vital Inf. quotes appears to substantiate the point. Quote: "CIA lawyers followed up the notification this month by answering 11 questions from the Justice Department, affirming that Plame’s identity was classified, that whoever released it was not authorized to..." Doesn't seem to be a lot of room for interpretation there. Presumably the CIA's lawyers would be pretty authoritative sources on this question.

posted by: Nick on 09.29.03 at 12:57 AM [permalink]

JAB writes: " Perhaps Plame had been a case officer but is now working as an analyst. It is even possible that this change in her job function coincided with her marriage to Wilson."

And is precisely the kind of job function change that a woman operative would seek if she wanted to start a family.

posted by: Jon H on 09.29.03 at 12:57 AM [permalink]

Nick, you're still trying to make too much of very little, I submit.

The CIA has spies and analysts. The few lawyers it has generally try to keep the CIA from violating the law; they aren't prosecutors.

The Justice Dep't has prosecutors. That's what they're all about. They look at facts; they look at the law; they decide if they believe a crime has been committed and if so, they proceed accordingly.

You don't want the CIA to make its own conclusions about whether a crime ahs been committed, especially with such an important and comparatively new law, the violation of which can literally have life-or-death consequences beyond the substantial political scandal-type consequences. If I were a lawyer or even a senior administrator at CIA, regardless of how "covert" Mrs. Wilson's role was or wasn't — even if she ran a cash register in the cafeteria! — I'd punt this to DoJ in a New York minute because anything else could look like a cover-up.

So the fact that CIA has asked DoJ to take a look means that your government is working in the way it's supposed to when these sorts of allegations are made, as all right-thinking believers in the rule of law, from both right and left of center, must agree. It tells us absolutely nothing about whether a crime has been committed. That's why we have not only smart and capable prosecutors at the DoJ, but also that other branch of government, the ones with the funny robes and such.

posted by: Beldar on 09.29.03 at 12:57 AM [permalink]

RE: Valerie Plame --

Yes, she WAS an operative, NOT just an "analyst" as Novak now claims he meant to say.

Check this out:

>The current spin from administration defenders within and without the mainstream media is that Valerie Plame was only an analyst, and not an operative. This, somehow, is supposed to lessen the blow of an administration willing to attack the families of its critics. Yet the characterization of Plame as an analyst is factually incorrect. For one, Robert Novak himself indicated as much in the original report that birthed this scandal. “Wilson never worked for the CIA,” wrote Novak, “but his wife, Valerie Plame, is an Agency operative on weapons of mass destruction.”

>Ray McGovern, who was for 27-years a senior analyst for the CIA, further confirms the status of Plame within the CIA. “I know Joseph Wilson well enough to know,” said McGovern in a telephone conversation we had today, “that his wife was in fact a deep cover operative running a network of informants on what is supposedly this administration’s first-priority issue: Weapons of mass destruction.”

>McGovern further elaborated on the damage done when such an agent has their cover blown. “This causes a great deal of damage,” said McGovern. “These kinds of networks take ten years to develop. The reason why they operate under deep cover is that the only people who have access to the kind of data we need cannot be associated in any way with the American intelligence community. Our operatives live a lie to maintain these networks, and do so out of patriotism. When they get blown, the operatives themselves are in physical danger. The people they recruit are also in physical danger, because foreign intelligence services can make the connections and find them. Operatives like Valerie Plame are real patriots.”

There you go.

Valerie was an operative who ran a network of informants looking into Iraq's alleged WMD.

(You all remember the WMD, right? The supposed reason we invaded Iraq in the first place? The stuff we mocked Hans Blix for not finding, and now can't find ourselves even though we have a significant portion of our forces doing nothing BUT look for WMD?)

Considering that Bush supposedly is so all-fired to find the WMD, why did he let Karl Rove trash the very person who was doing the most actual work in looking for WMD?

posted by: Phoenix Woman on 09.29.03 at 12:57 AM [permalink]

it's a shame that the weekly standard didn't look for robert novak's name in karl rove's call records while they were looking for wesley clark's. if they had maybe all this would be cleared up by now. ah well, maybe karl rove will let journalists look through his coll logs a second time?

posted by: kevin lyda on 09.29.03 at 12:57 AM [permalink]

Beldar, the argument that CIA has no clue and is just punting this to Justice would have made sense back in July, when the CIA sent their first letter requesting that the DoJ look into the matter. It's been months since then - if Plame's CIA employment was such that disclosing it posed no significant legal or ethical problems, they've had plenty of time to figure that out. Instead, the investigation is moving forward. Note that according to MSNBC, Justice asked the CIA whether Plame's status was classified and its release was unauthorized, and the CIA said yes.

There may be other reasons to doubt that a crime was committed or that White House people were responsible, but the "Plame is no big deal" argument doesn't fly, as far as I can tell.

posted by: Nick on 09.29.03 at 12:57 AM [permalink]

God Almighty. It took all the way down to BELDAR's post for much sense to come of this. Oversight - especially of NATSEC type orgs - needs to come from separate agencies and departments.

ANd I hope all of the Anti-Bush types see the next shot coming in the tail-end of that last sentence: She is an "Agent" merely by employment of her named organization. So quit playing with the language in order to play pretend that's she's out and about with Boris and Natasha.

And by the the way, we're all of us here at our little cell "classified" - it refers to my security rating, my bosses, and everyone in the damn building - top include our janitorial staff. Yes - they, too, have a security classification. Guess maybe now they can tell the women at the bar that the work they do is "classified".

But , wow - 50 plus posts? It's good to see all of the maggots come to the fish. Better bisquits for the crew. Your opinions are so noted.

posted by: Art Weleesley on 09.29.03 at 12:57 AM [permalink]

>Inference: there's no reason for her to be going
>by a different name if she had no covert status
>at all.

Please. I know many women who have normal careers, and go by their maiden name at work. It is just simpler, expecially if you write a lot of signed work.

It is much more likely that something resembling the following happened:
1) Valerie Plame was an operative of some sort - probably CIA's "man" at some embassy somewhere. In that capacity she received information, directly or indirectly, from covert agents - spies.
2) In that capacity, she met Mr. Wilson, whom she married. She decided that she wanted a more settled job, so she put in for, and received, a transfer to a more analytic desk job at HQ, but continuing to work under her original name. Her employment status remains classified, to protect sources she worked prior to the transfer.

3) While at that desk job, she pointed out that her husband had some experience in Niger, and he was picked for the mission. This was recorded in some timeline.

4) Some doofus on the White House security staff read this timeline, or read something else she had written and happened to recognize the name. Either way, in a water-cooler conversation with someone on the political staff, he said something to the effect of: "Didya know that that Wilson guy who's giving you so much grief was recommended for the assignment by his wife? Yeah, she works for CIA, some kind of analyst or something. No, it isn't classified - I mean, why would they classify the name of some desk jockey?"

4) This political guy passed this on to his superiors. Someone - Rove or whoever - decided, "Eh, why not, 'X' and I are talking to Novak and a few others about Wilson this afternoon, if it comes up, We can drop this in."

5) The rest is rather sordid history. No one KNOWINGLY violates the law, or KNOWINGLY blows any sources. But sources may have been blown, and the law has been violated. And if "whoever" is Rove, Cheney, or one of their top deputies, then the administration's reaction would be typical. Not pretty, or moral, but typical for politicians.

posted by: rvman on 09.29.03 at 12:57 AM [permalink]

If it was Karl Rove, what can Bush do? That's the real hangup here: what happens to Bush w/out his brain?

posted by: xenu on 09.29.03 at 12:57 AM [permalink]

Hypothetically, If this thing blew up real big, all the way to the top, and Bush ended up being brought up for impeachment, would the charges also include his AWOL status from National Guard during Vietnam?

posted by: ROTFLMAO on 09.29.03 at 12:57 AM [permalink]

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