Wednesday, October 1, 2003
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Drezner gets results from Republicans!!
There's been a small hue and cry on the left half of the blogosphere that Republicans aren't taking the Plame game seriously. However, this ABC News poll suggests that they do take it seriously. Among Republicans only:
The primary partisan difference is over whether the White House is fully cooperating -- Republicans think yes, Democrats no. Still, Republicans can't be accused of ignoring the issue.
For the full results of the poll, click here.
Developing...posted by Dan on 10.01.03 at 08:50 PM
I'm not sure if I'm a Republican, but I'm more sure that with this Plame thing, there's no there there. One of the great sins attributed to anonymous leakers is that they revealed that Plame is Wilson's wife -- but this is in Wilson's Who's Who entry. And leaving that aside, I know as someone who's worked in corporate security-related areas, using something as clear as a maiden name -- likely a public record in a dozen areas -- is hardly "deep cover". People are routinely told not to use things like maiden names as e-mail passwords. Sorry, this is not revealing that 007 is Bond, James Bond.
So I continue to have a hard time understanding why a level-headed and intelligent person would fall for what seems to be inside-the-beltway mendacity of a fairly elementary sort.
So Dan, let's not hide behind hypotheticals and so forth: what do you feel is the alleged crime here? Given the worst scenario, what confidential data (a maiden name???? Get real!) was revealed? What damage was done? How do the circumstances fit the alleged violation, specifically?posted by: John Bruce on 10.01.03 at 08:50 PM [permalink]
John, I really don't understand this line of argument. Here are two different pieces of information:
1. There is a person named John Smith, who is married to Sally Smith.
2. There is a person named John Smith, who is married to Sally Smith, and she works for the CIA.
The name "Valerie Plame" is not the problem. The identity "Valerie Plame, who works for the CIA is the problem. That was confidential information, and revealing it is against the law. That's why the CIA asked for a Justice Department investigation.posted by: Ted Barlow on 10.01.03 at 08:50 PM [permalink]
Incidentally, I find the responses to this questionnaire a testament to the fundamental decency and good sense of the American people, regardless of party affiliation. I think (I hope, anyway) that most of the criticism that Daniel has been aimed at specific commentators who have tried to downplay the significance of the charges, or distract people with irrelevant smears about Wilson. As far as broad-brush criticisms of "Republicans," I'd like to do my small part and apologize if I wrote anything that could reasonably be read that way.posted by: Ted Barlow on 10.01.03 at 08:50 PM [permalink]
"that Daniel has noticed has been aimed...", that should have said.posted by: Ted Barlow on 10.01.03 at 08:50 PM [permalink]
"Republicans can't be accused of ignoring the issue"
Your post is misleading. The hue and cry is directed at the apologists and hypocrites in the right sphere of the media and the blogosphere. Not at Republicans in the public at large, concerning which the poll results are reassuring.posted by: Gabriel Gonzalez on 10.01.03 at 08:50 PM [permalink]
The name "Valerie Plame" is not the problem. The identity "Valerie Plame, who works for the CIA is the problem. That was confidential information, and revealing it is against the law. That's why the CIA asked for a Justice Department investigation.
No one seems to yet know exactly how "confidential" this information is and exactly what her job was. The answers to these questions would speak to whether anything actually occurred that was "against the law" according to the 1982 statute. According to Robert Novak, the investigation is a routine one, and one of this type is done every week or two.
The "smears" about Wilson, which aren't really smears but are mere re-statements of the man's extremist viewpoints, are relevant insofar as this all started with Novak trying to investigate why this administration would send this man, of all people, on the mission to Niger. Besides that, the guy ain't exactly publicity shy now is he, so how can we avoid talking about him?
The poll shows nothing about the "goodness and decency of the American people" it merely shows that if the hysterically anti-Bush mainstream news media can hammer a story in to people's heads round-the-clock, they'll eventually think it's a big deal. The poll is a self-fulfilling prophecy. ABC screams about something 24/7 and then takes a poll asking if people have heard about it.posted by: Eric Deamer on 10.01.03 at 08:50 PM [permalink]
Eric, your response doesn't really adress Ted Barlow's point.
It wasn't a secret that Joe Wilson was married. It wasn't a secret that his wife was Valerie Plame. But it may well have been a secret that Valerie Plame was a covert CIA operative. For that reason, isn't it irrelevant that Joe and Valerie Wilson didn't keep their marriage a secret?
We know that Barbara Bush is married to a former Director of Central Intelligence. Does that make her a spook, too?posted by: Jim Clark on 10.01.03 at 08:50 PM [permalink]
I think that this story may help address some of your remaining questions about just how covert Valerie Plame was, and just how many people knew about it.
Here's why Wilson is irrelevant: If he was selling poisoned milk to schoolkids, or if he was rescuing cats from trees, none of that changes the essential charge that a member of the White House staff outed a covert agent. That's against the law. There's no "the agent's spouse was a extremist" clause.
Having said that...
Wilson's unpaid trip to Niger was in February 2002. It predates any of his controversial statements. It even predates any serious debate about war in Iraq. Wilson donated money to political campaigns over the years. 71% went to Democrats, which would indicate that he's a Democrat. 29% went to Republicans, which would seem to indicate that he's not an extremist.
Why was Wilson sent to Niger? Here are some potential reasons:
He had been a State Department officer in Niger in the mid-1970s. He was ambassador to Gabon in the early 1990s. And in 1997 and 1998, he was the senior director for Africa at the National Security Council and in that capacity spent a lot of time dealing with the Niger government. Wilson was also the last acting US ambassador in Iraq before the Gulf War, a military action he supported.
For his work in Iraq, he was sincerely praised by George H.W. Bush. Bush wrote to him, "Your courageous leadership during this period of great danger for American interests and American citizens has my admiration and respect. I salute, too, your skillful conduct of our tense dealings with the government of Iraq….The courage and tenacity you have exhibited throughout this ordeal prove that you are the right person for the job.”
As far as "the hysterically anti-Bush media", you and I seem to live in different worlds. I guess we'll have to agree to disagree.posted by: Ted Barlow on 10.01.03 at 08:50 PM [permalink]
Wilson doesn't appear to be a hack, but the accusation is irrelevant in any event. Based on what we know today, Wilson was right about Niger; even George W. Bush admits that the "sixteen words" shouldn't have been included in the SOTU address. And Wilson's testimony isn't at the core of the leak investigation anyway -- after all, he has no first hand information about anything other than his trip to Niger. If the only one who talks is Wilson, this thing is dead.
The attacks against Wilson are are a red herring, much like the attacks against Plame.posted by: Jim Clark on 10.01.03 at 08:50 PM [permalink]
Was Wilson right about Niger? All he claims is that there were no documents lying about with signatures on them affirming that some kind of deal was at some kind of stage in a routine process. Bush claimed that Iraq had sought uranium from Africa, and the British stand by it. I don't see the basis for Wilson's credibility, or the resulting "BUSH LIED!!" that resulted from his NYTimes' piece.posted by: rastajenk on 10.01.03 at 08:50 PM [permalink]
Drezner gets results from Republicans--who cares? Can Drezner get results from the Red Sox? There's the question of the week.posted by: Kelli on 10.01.03 at 08:50 PM [permalink]
It seems to me that if Valerie Plame were working under cover, she wouldn't be using anything like her real name. If I apply for a loan, I've got to give the name of my employer, and I'm pretty darn sure that all but the most covert CIA employees would provide that employment in their mortgage, auto, or consumer loan applications. Clearly the knowledge that someone works for the CIA is not critical -- if you can see them turn into the Langley parking lot in the morning and park in employee parking, this should not be a stretch.
Saying Joe Smith's wife works for the CIA is not a violation of the law, or many loan officers would be in prison right now, it seems to me.posted by: John Bruce on 10.01.03 at 08:50 PM [permalink]
"Saying Joe Smith's wife works for the CIA is not a violation of the law, or many loan officers would be in prison right now, it seems to me."
Saying "Joe Smith's wife works for the CIA" is a crime if Joe Smith's wife is a covert CIA operative. I don't know much about the CIA, but I doubt that covert agents park in the "spy section" of public CIA parking lots or list "spook" as their occupation on mortgage applications. If they do, it's no wonder we don't get good intelligence.posted by: Jim Clark on 10.01.03 at 08:50 PM [permalink]
John and Eric,
I fail to see the point of your posts. The CIA deemed that Plame's identity (as a CIA agent) should be protected and that is all that matters.
One might contend, as I have heard several people state, that revealing that Plame was a CIA agent did not comprimise any operations, did not endanger anyone, and was just the revelation of the name of a secretary. But what is the point of these statements? It is the people that granted Plame undercover status who make the determination that her name and occupation should be protected and the parameters of how to protect her status.
When the CIA asked the Justice Department to investigate they were making the judgement that the leak was a problem. Do you dispute that the CIA has the authority to try to protect the identity of any agent they deem in need of protection? Are you proposing new methods of protection that experts who have dealt with these issues for years have not thought of?
Scott McClellan made a big deal yesterday during his press conference that only the specific issue at hand should be focused on. So let's please follow his advice. Someone leaked Plame's identity. Let's just try to find out who and why.posted by: Rich on 10.01.03 at 08:50 PM [permalink]
Rich, one of the big issues is Plame's exact status. As Glenn Reynolds has said in several forums at this point, "we don't know". However, if she (as it appears) was working under her maiden name (and how many people do this these days?) at Langley, this is hardly support for any supposition that she was "undercover". As a legal amateur, I would still think you'd want to look for evidence of intent to keep her status confidential, and this would include using a completely different name, not just a maiden name. The CIA, I know from occasional interaction with its employees, can be very squirrely, taking a cloak-and-dagger approach to very simple things ("gee, how many employees do you have in the Los Angeles office?" I once asked someone who worked there. The answer was shifty-eyed blather about how I didn't need to know).
A CIA employee getting all shifty-eyed and saying we'd prefer you not say is not necessarily invoking actual covert sanction. So I'm skeptical that anything remotely illegal, or indeed even naughty, has occurred here.posted by: John Bruce on 10.01.03 at 08:50 PM [permalink]
Novak has more to say as the "he contradicted himself" meme dies a slow death...posted by: HH on 10.01.03 at 08:50 PM [permalink]
I still don't understand the "working under her maiden name" issue. If she's holding herself out as an "energy consultant", why does it matter what name she uses? The secret isn't who she is. The secret is what she really does.posted by: Jim Clark on 10.01.03 at 08:50 PM [permalink]
There is no substantive new information regarding the degree of her covert status in the NYT story. There are simply more anonymous quotes saying that she was covert and Joe Wilson claiming that she was "a real life Jennifer Garner".
That cover story, standard for American operatives who pretend to be diplomats or other federal employees, was not an option for Ms. Plame, people who knew her said on Wednesday. As a covert operative who specialized in nonconventional weapons and sometimes worked abroad, she passed herself off as a private energy expert, what the agency calls nonofficial cover.
I'm not sure exactly how to read this. One option is that they got this information from anonymous "people who knew her". Another option is that the "people who knew her" are the neighbors, quoted below in the article, and all that this paragraph really means is that her neighbors didn't know she worked for the CIA. A very cynical interpretation is that at leat one of these people is Joe Wilson. In any case, the relationship between the first sentence and the second sentence isn't clear, so the source of the claim that she was a "covert operative" is not clear.
On the other hand, from the CNN transcript, Robert Novak is continuing to be firm and consistent in saying that he was told that she worked for the CIA as an aside and as if it wasn't a big secret. He also says he has his sources which say that she was not a covert operative.
Also, there are reports from various Washington insiders that they knew that Valerie Plame worked for the CIA and that many people in Washington knew, so they didn't think it was a secret.
I think we can safely put the fiction of someone going around cold-calling reporters with the "leak" based upon Novak's convcing refutation of it today.
The CIA is asking for an investigation though. This could mean a number of things:
1) She actually was or had been at some point covert or more lilely kinda sorta semi covert. Whoever told Novak made a mistake, not realizing that she was covert, because a lot of people in town already knew she worked for the CIA. (most likely, IMO)
2) She actually was or had been at some point covert or more likely kinda sorta semi covert. Whoever told Novak meant to leak intentionally, for some sort of baffling, incomprehensible reason. (I guess it's possible)
3) She never really was a covert CIA operative, and Wilson is just trying to find a way to indulge his Jennifer Garner fantasies and get Karl Rove frog marched out of the White House in handcuffs. (somewhat likely)posted by: Eric Deamer on 10.01.03 at 08:50 PM [permalink]
"I think we can safely put the fiction of someone going around cold-calling reporters with the "leak" based upon Novak's convcing refutation of it today."
I haven't heard any refutation from Novak on this point, convincing or otherwise. He hasn't denied that someone in the Bush administration tried to plant this story with others. He just says that he initiated the contact he had, not the administration. Here's an excerpt from the interview linked above:
BLITZER: ... the quote part is correct, "I didn't dig it out. It was given to me".
NOVAK: I just told you it was given to me. I didn't dig it out of the files there.
Let me tell you this. There are people putting out stories that the White House was trying to find a pawn to put out this information. They went through six people...
BLITZER: ... to smear Joe Wilson.
NOVAK: Yes. And finally came to me. That's not true. As I have told you in detail this story, nobody came to me. Nobody came to me. I never said that. The story in "Newsday" is absolutely incorrect. It's not in my quotes. They never came to me. I went to them in reporting that story.
BLITZER: Other reporters are suggesting that they got these calls, but they didn't do anything...
NOVAK: I don't know if they did or not.
But I resent -- and I resented it when you said it the other day, I really resented when you said that they went to six people and finally found Novak. That is just not the truth. Nobody came to me with this story. I was reporting on Joe Wilson...
BLITZER: This was your initiative?
NOVAK: Entirely.posted by: Jim Clark on 10.01.03 at 08:50 PM [permalink]
In the text you site he is firmly refuting the idea that six reporters were contacted with this information and he, the seventh, finally took the bait. He also firmly denies that he ever indicated that to the Newsday reporters, and if you read the original Newsday article his account makes sense.
He obviously has no way of knowing beyond a shadow of a doubt whether this happened or not, but it was only sloppy reporting by the Newday reporters that created the impression that he said so before.
Anyway, it just doesn't make any sense. If you read the orignal colum, it's obvious that he set out, of his own initiative, to write a column about why Wilson was sent to Niger. If the point of the column was to intentionally disemminate information which had been intentionally leaked to him why would he bury that material in paragraph six of a ten paragraph piece?posted by: Eric Deamer on 10.01.03 at 08:50 PM [permalink]
Novak flatly says he doesn't know whether others were contacted. Accordingly, he plainly does not and cannot "refut[e] the idea that six reporters were contacted with this information." Nor does he have any basis to say that the disclosure to him wasn't a planned leak. It's entirely possible that Novak's inquiry was, from the perspective of the leakers, a happy coincidence. The only issue Novak raises is who called whom.
Whatever Newsday may have said, the Washington Post says it got its information from a "senior administration official," not from Novak. Novak isn't in any position to dispute that, either.
I don't see what Novak's intentions have to do with it. The important issue here isn't whether Novak intended to out Plame, but whether a "senior administration official" did. As Novak himself confirms that he got his information from not one but two "senior administration officials," it's unclear how anything Novak says could conceivably put that story to rest.
Novak and Wilson have both become peripheral players. The focus on them is misplaced.posted by: Jim Clark on 10.01.03 at 08:50 PM [permalink]
I understand your point better now regarding intent and circumstances. But regardless of the degree the CIA attempted to conceal Valerie Plame's identity the fact is that it was not supposed to be disclosed that she worked for the CIA.
As I view it the most innocent outcome would be that someone in the administration had this knowledge simply by chance and disclosed it to Novak not being aware of what was disclosed. All this implies is that someone else did not treat the classified information with as much care as they should have (but that is understandable because it was just one of those things that was classified by routine). However there is no evidence to support that scenario (and only limited evidence to refute it).
The CIA has determined there should be an investigation into this leak so this is something that concerns the CIA to some level. I can wait to find out the details of Plame's status and the circumstances around the leak, but I think that to diminish the importance of finding the truth behind this at this stage is not the right course.
BTW: I still don't see an issue with using her maiden name. I think a story in the NYT today said that she was in "non-official cover" (remember the NOC list from Mission Impossible). The issue is not what name she used in her operations, but that her name not be linked to the CIA.posted by: Rich on 10.01.03 at 08:50 PM [permalink]
Robert Novak gets a pass instead of being charged with a lesser form of treason, because he is a credentialed journalist. This is a specific exception in the 1982 law.
Novak confesses to the underlying crime as a full participant.
Cover stories, now, are developing with misleading information in a stupid blundering tunble into the elements of a felony conspiracy charge. Indeed, this affair makes the Watergate break-in look like the simple stupid burglary that it always was.
Leaking Valerie Plame's status as a NOC is the single most despicable act by a White House appointee or office holder since the treasons of Alger Hiss in the 1940's and the post-office actions of Aaron Burr two centuries ago.
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