Thursday, October 2, 2003

previous entry | main | next entry | TrackBack (4)

Today's Plame Game meter

Level of outrage rising slightly. Why?

  • Eric Boehlert's Salon piece undercut Robert Novak's credibility just as badly as Joseph Wilson's exaggerations undercut his credibility. The key grafs:

    On CNN Monday, Novak recounted how the story came about: "In July I was interviewing a senior administration official on Ambassador Wilson's report when he told me the trip was inspired by his wife, a CIA employee working on weapons of mass destruction."

    In Wednesday's column Novak again stressed how the information about Plame practically fell into his lap, almost as an afterthought from a Bush insider. He wrote it came up "during a long conversation with a senior administration official." And, "It was an offhand revelation from this official."

    Yet back in July, he gave a much different account to Newsday: "I didn't dig [the Plame tip] out, it was given to me," he said. "They thought it was significant, they gave me the name and I used it."

    Novak's statements this week directly contradict what he said three months ago. [UPDATE: Novak told Wolf Blitzer yesterday that the Newday reporters misunderstood what he said in July. However, in the same transcript, he acknowledges the accuracy of the above quote.]

  • Surprisingly Boehlert buries the lead with this graf from the story:

    [A] former senior CIA intelligence officer confirms to Salon that Plame is both an analyst and an officer who works undercover, and was undercover when Novak outed her. Now that her identity has been exposed she cannot again work overseas, and the network of agents she once oversaw may be at risk.

    I think this falls under the "unbelievably disturbing' category.

  • From today's New York Times:

    "It's slime and defend," said one Republican aide on Capitol Hill, describing the White House's effort to raise questions about Mr. Wilson's motivations and its simultaneous effort to shore up support in the Republican ranks.

    I'd be more comfortable if the White House directed a little more outrage at the leak itself and less about the peripheral issues. [But isn't this just an example of spin control, which all administrations do?--ed. Let's go to this Chicago Tribune story and compare and contrast, shall we?:

    [T]he leaking of classified information is not a common occurrence and the Bush administration has reacted aggressively when it has occurred.

    Shortly after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks, Bush ordered that classified briefings to the Senate and House intelligence committees be cut off because, the White House charged, Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) had revealed classified information when he told reporters that the U.S. had intercepted a call from a suspected terrorist. The briefings were later reinstated.

    In June 2002, the White House threatened to have the FBI investigate lawmakers to determine who leaked information about two Sept. 10, 2001, messages intercepted by U.S. intelligence officials that some said provided a warning about the attacks the next day.

    In both of those instances, the White House felt it necessary to take an active role. Now it's "slime and defend?"]

    My suspicion is the White House strategy won't work. First, it doesn't jibe with the poll numbers. Second, it will alienate key Republicans. The Times sttory concludes with:

    [O]ne Republican with close ties to the administration said the White House was monitoring five Republicans in Congress, all of whom have an independent streak on foreign policy and intelligence matters: Senators John McCain of Arizona, Richard G. Lugar of Indiana, Chuck Hagel of Nebraska and John W. Warner of Virginia, and Representative Porter J. Goss of Florida.

    Cue Hagel in today's Washington Post:

    As the White House hunkered down, it got the first taste of criticism from within Bush's own party. Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-Neb.) said that Bush "needs to get this behind him" by taking a more active role. "He has that main responsibility to see this through and see it through quickly, and that would include, if I was president, sitting down with my vice president and asking what he knows about it," the outspoken Hagel said last night on CNBC's "Capital Report."

  • According to Josh Marshall and the Los Angeles Times, speculation is shifting now from Karl Rove to Lewis Libby, Cheney's chief of staff. I'm not going to comment, other than to quote Marshall: "A mountain of rumor doesn't amount to a single fact."
  • [Hey, you haven't addressed Brad Delong's questions yet!!--ed. If I get a chance I will try to do so this evening. But your readers want a response now!--ed. Then they should read Eugene Volokh's post about the distinction between work and fun in blogging.]

    posted by Dan on 10.02.03 at 11:11 AM


    In this interview with Wolf Blitzer, Novak addresses directly the "contadiction" Boehlert sees:

    Essentially Novak says he didn't dig out the VP information -- he asked a question about why Wilson was appointed and got the VP info as a part of the response. He doesn't regard that as "digging it out".

    But I do think you ought post a link to the Novak interview having posted one to Boehlert.

    That seems reasonable to me.

    I have to say that I think it a bit unfair to parse with the finest of knives comments by various people in this whole affair. I think such parsing would find us all to have been contradictory at some point in our writings.

    The crux to me is that either Novak lied (and is lying) or the Post's anonymous source lied. I am inclined to believe Novak, both because he signs his stuff and because the "pure revenge" motive seems unlikley to me, whereas Plame and implied nepotism as an exculpation of why someone inimical to the administration was picked for a sensitive mission rings true.

    Personally, I doubt that Novak's source had any idea that Valerie Plame was a covert CIA agent. I assume he knew her, or of her, as an overt CIA employee.

    posted by: John Lederer on 10.02.03 at 11:11 AM [permalink]

    An unamed CONGRESSIONAL staffer says the WHITE HOUSE'S strategy is to slime and defend??? How would he or she know? I wonder who the staffer worked for, McCain or Hagel?

    I've been around DC enough to know that WH is not trading information with Hill staffers on this. Believe me, WH is alone on this one. Congress has oversight responsibilities, why would you give your strategy to someone who could turn around and use it against you? That quote was pure BS.

    President Bush, going back to Bush 1, has long hated leaking. We're supposed to forget this track record now? I'm sure he wants to get to the bottom of this as everyone else.

    posted by: Greg Blankenship on 10.02.03 at 11:11 AM [permalink]

    1. Question: Would Libby fit into Novak's characterization that the leaker wasn't a partisan hack? I don't know much about Libby.

    2. I watched that Hagel interview on CNBC. Although I can't find a transcript, I seem to recall the interviewer explicitly asking Hagel if he would talk to the VP if he were president. That is, I believe, why Hagel's answer included the VP reference, not because he was trying to pin it on someone in the VPs office. I thought the WaPo quote to be significantly misleading because of this. Ditto with Marshall and Co. pilling on.

    posted by: KK on 10.02.03 at 11:11 AM [permalink]

    Relevent question of the day:

    It seems the majority of articles and commentary on this issue imply that the mysterious top white house folks shopped the story around to various news outlets and then settled on Novak when nobody else would bite.

    Is it possible that the story was this: Novak publishes his story. THEN someone from the administration calls various news outlets and says "looky here at Novak's story! Why don't you investigate to see if Wilson's wife was responsible for hiring hubby?"

    It doesn't strike me that this theory is out of line with what has been disclosed. It also seems more in line with Judy Woodruff's statements than the implicit assumption that is contained in the outrage over this matter.

    Also -- just curious -- If Novak's new story is true, was a crime committed by his source? And would a crime have been committed if the reporter cold calling was done after his story came out? (And how would you prove the crime -- the perp could always claim he was merely calling attention to a story on the public record.)

    posted by: appalled moderate on 10.02.03 at 11:11 AM [permalink]

    Okay, let's see. Salon, WaPO, LAT, Marshall, DeLong. So left-leaning publications and bloggers still have their phasers on kill? Not too big a surprise.

    Maybe you should broaden your reading material a bit.

    Someone please explain to me the contradiction contained in the Salon piece.

    Oh, and the "former CIA intelligence official" couldn't possibly be good old Larry C. Johnson again could it?

    posted by: Eric Deamer on 10.02.03 at 11:11 AM [permalink]

    apalled moderate,

    I think you're exactly right about the first...then scenario. I tried to spell it out here.

    And Eric, though it pains me to agree with you, I had the same thought about Johnson, who I found completely convincing at first and now I'm beginning to wonder about.

    posted by: ogged on 10.02.03 at 11:11 AM [permalink]

    ogg & a.m.,

    yes, that's the consensus view from yesterday's comments. the only problem with it is the sunday WaPo article that broke the "scandal" explicitly says that calls were made before the Novak piece ran. the source was that now-infamous senior administration official. it all turns on whether that's correct or not.

    what about tenet being the source for Novak's piece. not a political hack. novak says he got the "leak" while interviewing a senior administration official shortly after wilson's nytimes editorial. logical that novak would call tenet. also, apparently tenet didn't know that the proliferation folks sent wilson to niger until after it happened. then, after tenet allows the iraq/africa/yellowcake reference into the state of the union, he get burned because of wilson. he was to take blame publicly and say that the sentence should have never made it into the speech. tenet has got to be pissed off at wilson (and perhaps the people who sent him). so he talks to novak and says: wilson was sent there because of his wife.

    what about it?

    posted by: KK on 10.02.03 at 11:11 AM [permalink]

    KK, are you saying Tenet leaked and then asked for an investigation of the leak? That seems like a stretch.

    And yes, I do think the WaPo article is incorrect as to timing.

    posted by: ogged on 10.02.03 at 11:11 AM [permalink]

    The WaPo specifically quoted a reporter who wished to remain anonymous because of legal issue that he or she received the call before the Novak story.

    posted by: Aaron on 10.02.03 at 11:11 AM [permalink]

    I'm with Eric.

    'In Wednesday's column Novak again stressed how the information about Plame practically fell into his lap...'

    'Yet back in July, he gave a much different account to Newsday: "I didn't dig [the Plame tip] out, it was given to me," he said.'

    That lying bastard Novak! First he says it practically fell in his lap, then he says it was given to him. Just like a Republican!

    posted by: Tom Bowler on 10.02.03 at 11:11 AM [permalink]


    Is this the WaPo article we're talking about? I don't see that claim from a reporter, but from the senior official. Maybe I have the wrong article?

    posted by: ogged on 10.02.03 at 11:11 AM [permalink]

    Hagel is right. The White House needs to contain this. Knowing that, how can we expmain their actions?

    One explanation is right now is that they know who this is, and that it was sanctioned from right up to the upper levels. Unless someone can be convinced to offer themselves up as a sacrifice, the WH may being forced to adopt a seige mentality. The President may be avoiding asking his staff a question that would force them to choose between lying or being incriminating.

    Bush is also famous for his code of personal loyalty. If someone was doing this under the good auspices of the WH, Bush may be loathe to do the politically expedient thing and hang them out to dry. Clinton it may be noted, would be unlikely to have hesitated.

    posted by: Oldman on 10.02.03 at 11:11 AM [permalink]

    Dan, I appreciate you being one of the few people from "your side" who finds the outrage, but I wonder about your comment about Wilson. As Josh Marshall has summed up, what does Wilson, have anything to do with the leak. Or to put it as I put it in the comments of another blog: If a woman was raped yet her husband was a really bad guy, perhaps even mistreated her (and he's not the rapist), would that excuse the rape?

    Regarding Novak and his changing story, what difference does that make either. There is multiple other ways we know the leak took place. 1) The WaPo's story which quotes someone who sez he knows the leaks took place. 2) which also reported the leaks. 3)Howie Kutz who says he knows reporters who recieved the leak. 4) Howard Fineman who also said he has heard information that supports that the leak took place (I think, I am taking this one from distant memory). 5) Andrea Mitchell who admitted getting the leak, although possibly not in the same form as Novak. 6) Wilson, who sez reporters contacted him for comment after getting the leak--I know this one undermines my point above, and for the sake of argument, I am willing to limit the list to 5 sources beyond Novak.

    posted by: Vital Information on 10.02.03 at 11:11 AM [permalink]

    I found a lot of useful stuff here:

    Balanced Fare - We Report, You Deride

    « Valerie Plame Wilson - A Straw In Wind For Novak | Main | Valerie Plame Wilson - The Motive Was News Management »

    October 01, 2003
    Valerie Plame Wilson - A Better Draft
    I am attempting to gather the stories everyone is buzzing about. Please don't anyone feel left out, this is a work in progress, and I welcome suggestions."

    of which this seems the most plausible speculation I've seen about Plame's work for the CIA:

    "Monday, September 29, 2003

    What did Mrs Wilson do at the CIA?

    In the ongoing Wilson/Plame “scandal” the press and the pundits are confused about what exactly did Mrs Wilson do at the CIA. Some reports say that she is an Operations Officer (a spy!), others a simple analyst, and the CIA itself is non-committal. Both the moral and the legal implications revolve around her job description. If she is an analyst, then, it is argued there can be no moral or legal culpability. However, if she is a spy then the leakers, if they exist, are both guilty of violating the law and burning a clandestine officer.

    I have no personal knowledge of the situation, but there is another possibility – she may have been a Collections Management Officer (“CMO” or a “reports officer” in the old parlance). This would be an “in between” position that would explain the various classifications as an analyst and a clandestine service officer. The CIA describes the position thusly: ..."

    posted by: Tom Holsinger on 10.02.03 at 11:11 AM [permalink]

    "Bush is known for his personal loyalty"? Sure he is. Just ask George Tenet. Or Linda Chavez. No: Bush is known for *demanding* personal loyalty; it only flows in one direction.

    My enjoyment of seeing the GOP squirm and squirm like corkscrews is undercut by sheer outrage that that the Bush WH outed a CIA agent for pettyrevenge on a man who was, BTW, right in his charges that BushCo played fast and loose with intel in order to get a war going.

    And, yes kids, it *is* funny that an ideological block willing to go to the mattress to impeach over personal conduct is having just the hardest time figuring out how to react to actual felonious-treasonous behavior.

    posted by: SurelyYouJest on 10.02.03 at 11:11 AM [permalink]

    I think Oldman is definitely on to something. It seems clear that in the past this administration has been able to find leaks and stop them. Sure they have not stopped them all, but the general perception among the public is that they are a well-disciplined bunch.

    I think if it was some junior staffer or some non-White House official they could easily go back to phone records and show there was no contact between senior people and Novak during the time period in question. (BTW: They did this a few days ago to show that Wes Clark had no contact with Karl Rove in the period immediately after 9/11 as some Clark comments hinted).

    Given that it seems the White House could make this go away, each day they don't raises the suspicion that there is some reason they don't want it to go away (i.e. someone senior was involved in some incriminating manner). It just makes me wonder why they are letting this go on and launching all these irrelevant (but perhaps not incorrect) attacks on Wilson.

    Another interesting angle is that Bush asks for loyalty from his staff and says he will restore integrity to the White House. These two things can be (not always are) opposed to each other. Loyalty to a person who does something wrong often leads to a sacrafice of integrity. It will be interesting to see which is more important when push comes to shove.

    My final thing to raise on this is just slam all the politicians for their amazing two-faced statements on this issues. If this had happenend in the Clinton White House every Republican in Washington and on TV would be calling for Clinton's head on a platter. Democrats are no better with their calls for a independent council when a few years ago independent councils were akin to the SS in their thinking. Let's at least give this a few days (or even better weeks) to see what a justice dept. investigation is able to produce before trying to open the same kind of disgusting investigation Clinton was subject to.

    Maybe I am naive, but I am amazed by how the politics of "my side winning" dominates every issue no matter how serious.

    posted by: Rich on 10.02.03 at 11:11 AM [permalink]

    The most hilarious moment of this whole business came today in the NYTimes editorial (am I the only one who find it hard to take seriously an editorial that appears on the same page as Maureen Dowd?). There was the expected Bush/Ashcroft bashing, but toward the end there was this: "The Justice Department should focus its attention on the White House, not journalists." Yes, the NYTimes knows what happens when light is shined on journalistic practices and ethics - reporters are fired, upper level executives are fired, stock prices, along with reputations, go down. The NYTimes knows when journos are examined, bad things happen---and it's not good for business either!

    posted by: Paladin on 10.02.03 at 11:11 AM [permalink]

    Aaron et al.,

    Some perspective is called for here, that and a suitable application of common sense.

    There was a lot of confusion caused in part by the original WaPo story that Allen and Priest broke, and since their initial reporting they've backed off some of the hotter rhetoric as evidenced in subsequent stories. Initially they reported that calls were made to six reporters prior to Novak's story going to press - Andrea Mitchell was one of those contacted about the Plame-Wilson story - but according to NBC she was not contacted until AFTER Novak's story went to print. That admission came out the Monday after the WaPo article broke (which was on a Sunday). In subsequent stories Allen changed his reporting of this from, "...a senior administration official said that before Novak's column ran, two top White House officials called at least six Washington journalists and disclosed the identity and occupation of Wilson's wife." to "An administration official told The Washington Post on Saturday that two White House officials leaked the information to selected journalists to discredit Wilson.".

    That is a significant development for two reasons. First, the fact that Allen and Priest relied on a single source for the story is highly unusual. When it's something of this magnitude (in journo parlance that would be something big enough to bite you in the ass if you're wrong) it's generally considered prudent to have at least two sources before running with a story. One source is speculation, two is corroboration. Second, the later version changes the meaning of the story and weakens it substantially. The first implies a concerted effort to out Plame and use her status to discredit Wilson - a heinous act that is probably criminal (only probably because as we all know, the law is an ass). The second is not illegal at all, Novak had already blown her cover. In that context the later re-write makes the calling of the six other reporters merely unseemly and inept, not criminal.

    Novak has repeatedly asserted that no one in the Bush Administration leaked the information to him, rather he was given the information during the course of two different interviews with Senior Administration Officials. On their face this seems to be contradictory, but it is not inconsistent when one considers that Novak often identifies people associated with the Whitehouse by the current Administration (Bush, Clinton, etc.). So no one in the Whitehouse talked to Novak, but someone in the Administration (whom he characterized as a non-pol) did, this means either State or Defense. Low and behold in the Washington Post today they indicated that the DOJ investigation will now extend beyond the Whitehouse to ...(drumroll please) State and Defense.

    There are a few old sayings that would apply hear, the first is never attribute to malice that which can be explained away by incompetence, and the other is Occam's Razor: Of two competing theories, all things being equal, the simpler one is to be preferred.

    I'm not a huge believer in conspiracy theories, and quite simply Novak's version of events fits with everything else we know quite well. The cold-calls were most likely made AFTER Novak's story went to print. A single source is not the most reliable nail to hang your hat on and sometimes even pros like Allen and Priest can make a mistake when the stakes are high enough. The speculation that Rove wasa part of this started with Wilson's rantings at a Public Forum hosted in Shoreline Washington, and he has since retreated from his assertians. The press can hope for another Watergate, the LLL wingnuts can Pray for another Watergate and the Republicans can dread another Watergate but that won't make it so.

    I stand by my prediction that in the end we'll see a few State Department Officials fired and the resignation of a few aides and that is all. The law is indeed an ass in this case.

    posted by: Robert Modean on 10.02.03 at 11:11 AM [permalink]

    The Wall Street Journal's Best of the Web posted something today indicating that no violation of 50 USC 421, et seq., occurred.

    Plame must have had a covert overseas posting within the past five years to be covered by the act (50 USC 426). Here is Jim Taranto's comment:

    "Wilson's bio says he worked for President Clinton as a special assistant between June 1997 and July 1998, which means he was based in Washington when he met Plame. If their kids are three years old, they would have been born in 1999 or 2000, and it seems reasonable to surmise that she was not stationed overseas as an expectant or new mother. If she has been stationed overseas during the past five years, then, the Wilson-Plame romance would have to have been a long-distance one at least during its first two years. So far as we are aware, no one has asserted that it was."

    posted by: Tom Holsinger on 10.02.03 at 11:11 AM [permalink]

    Today's OpinionJournal has some veeerrryy interesting new information.
    First, If Valerie Plame hasn't worked overseas in the last five years, and it seems as though she hasn't, there is no possible crime here and no scandal.
    Second, on the poll issue, it turns out most of those answering the Washington Post hadn't read or heard anything about the scandal, and their opinion was based entirely on what the poll told them about it. Results in these situations are very suspect.

    posted by: Bill on 10.02.03 at 11:11 AM [permalink]

    Robert Modean does some interesting parsing, that *could* be true, but I think are rather besides the point. As I was SO busy parading on Tuesday, it is already clear (to me) that criminal liability will be hard to prove. And criminal liability has nothing to do with whether a leak took place.

    It's going revolve around two central questions. First, Plame's status may have been classified, but if her status was not really protected, outing her may not be criminal. This is the trade secret defense. Second, there is the question of intent. If the leaker believed that he or she was not leaking classified information, well it might not be criminal.

    Yet, in the end of the day, it still leaves Bush with the hardly glorious campaign tagline for 2004, not technically illegal. To quote myself again, from another blog, the Godfather Part II may be a great movie, but as a recipe for governance, not a good model.

    posted by: Vital Information on 10.02.03 at 11:11 AM [permalink]


    My point was not to parse past events, merely put them in perspective. Though you may be right, it may be futile at this point to get everyone to stop hyperventilating over every late breaking story - even as it invariably turns out to be a staff reporter's summary of yesterday's recap of Monday's overview of Sunday's breaking expose of Saturday's report that the DOJ had initiated an investigation into a leak - I will persist in trying my best.

    As to the other points, I agree with you - there are two central questions was Plame's status really protected and if so, can intent be proven. The first is still quite murky, and every interview with a seasoned spook of 20+ years, all of whom apparently knew her personally, does naught but muddy the waters. As to the second, unless there is a tape somewhere of the leaker twisting his ACME Villain's Stick-On Mustache (available in midnight, auburn and wheat) while snarling "Now we have them my pretties!", I think it'll be damned hard to prove.

    BTW - nice Godfather quote, and quite apropos.

    posted by: Robert Modean on 10.02.03 at 11:11 AM [permalink]

    This is a little bit of a side issue (it's not exculpatory), but Plame is the mother of three year old twins. How much overseas undercover work do you think she's planning on doing?

    As to DeLong's fantasy, I like Jim Pinkerton's interpretation of CIA motives better: Tenet is pushing this issue to protect himself from dismissal for incompetence (which, I agree with Pinkerton, he richly deserves).

    posted by: Tony on 10.02.03 at 11:11 AM [permalink]

    Tony, interesting point. As James Taranto pointed out in todays "Best of the Web", Plame and Wilson met six years ago (1998) at a Washington cocktail party. Wilson worked in DC during '97 and '98 and the couple have three year old twins, meaning she was likely pregnant for most of '99. I find it highly unlikely that she worked as a field operative overseas while pregnant, so she's likely been in the country for at least the past five years - figuring she's been in DC since she met Wilson.

    The statute that governs this situation (the Intelligence Identities Protection Act) defines a covert agent as someone who serves outside the United States or has within the last five years. So if she has been in country since 1998, she doesn't qualify and NO CRIME has been committed.

    posted by: Robert Modean on 10.02.03 at 11:11 AM [permalink]

    There's another question to ask here, and it goes to a certain wooziness surrounding the whole idea of a scandal in this matter: it reminds me of the question UFO skeptics ask about why, if a civilization is advanced enough to fly to our planet, the best it can think of to do when it gets here is frighten the yokels with flashing lights. By the same token, let's say W himself is highly agitated about all this 16-words skepticism about the Iraqi nuclear program, and wants to get back at the people who are sowing doubt.

    Joseph Wilson, I hate to say it, is a marginal player here. When you think of all the things people in the Nixon or Clinton administrations have been accused of doing against their enemies, the BEST anyone can think of is outing the putative covert status of a marginal player's wife??? I mean, with IRS audits, FBI investigations, bogus "background checks", dirty tricks, sneaky but allowable personnel moves, character assassination, calling the reporter's boss, so on and so on and so on and so on, the BEST W and his evil minions can come up with is this business of getting one of six reporters to blow a secret agent's cover, said "secret agent" being the wife of a marginal player in the whole deal? I don't get this. That so many people should buy this rather anemic conspiracy theory is puzzling as well -- much, I suppose, as UFO skeptics are puzzled.

    posted by: John Bruce on 10.02.03 at 11:11 AM [permalink]

    Some good stuff from ABC's The Note:

    The Note hears quite a bit these days from Americans who used to work in the White House for the last Arkansan to run for president with Bruce Lindsey's help.

    Every day (except on days we don't) we will print the best e-mail we get in this category.

    Today, a Clinton White House veteran of the scandal wars raises all of these insidery questions (assuming in some cases "facts" not necessarily in evidence) to The Note — some fun, some important, and some both:

    "If 'Post' 2X6 is true, how could 6 reporters fail to see the significance of the White House 'outing'? Even a casual Langley observer understands that's not SOP."

    "Again, if 2X6 is true, don't the leakers see the handwriting on the wall and out themselves? With Novak, Newsday and Andrea in the know, this is no Woodsteinian tight circle."

    "Did Dana interview Mike for the passage in Tuesday's 'Post' or was it a non-'Postie'?"

    "Finally, and most importantly, how did the White House 'learn' that she was a covert operative? In 5+ years at 1600, I never once heard/learned/read/happened upon the name of an 'operative'? Names are redacted in the PDB and referenced only as 'humint'; Agency reports are redacted for names, and even the briefers who show up every day presumably disguise their identities; you don't take them to lunch at Breadline. So, if you don't stumble upon this factoid, you were looking for it. If so, why?"

    posted by: KK on 10.02.03 at 11:11 AM [permalink]

    Dear Surely,

    If you had really been paying attention, you would have realized that forcing G. Tenet to eat the blame publicly for the "16 words" regarding Niger in the first place this year is the reason why this is happening at all. He was forced to eat these words reportedly by a call from Condi herself - note not the President. Yes the President is loyal to a fault - this time protecting Rice who is the real insider and who normally would have been responsible for not passing on the warning about the iffiness of the intel. To underline this point, to try to kill the story when *that* didn't work (G.T. is if nothing else a champion infighter) they had to have the Deputy Nat. Sec. Advisor Hadley take the rap for not "forwarding the CIA memo".

    As for Linda Chavez, anyone who was paying attention at the time would have remembered that Ms. Chavez failed to disclose the status of her employee during her job screening, so the President didn't feel compelled to go the mile for her when she got ambushed over it.

    Remember that - in this Admin full disclosure ranks highly. That being the case, one can read the W.H. actions as a obtuse defense of someone who was fighting the "good fight,"

    posted by: Oldman on 10.02.03 at 11:11 AM [permalink]

    Dear John Bruce,

    Get yer ignoramus head out of your arse. If you haven't registered it, on main street (as indicated in a WaPo reported poll) this is *already* a serious issue. Trying to minimize and dismiss the issue out of hand is a dead issue. Even if you don't believe anything wrong was done (a mind-boggling leap of reasoning by itself) then the time for "it was no big deal" as a defense was over.

    posted by: Oldman on 10.02.03 at 11:11 AM [permalink]

    The only answer I have here is what several pointed out earlier in this thread, that the Opinion Journal's Best of the Web points out that of those saying the issue was serious, approximately the same number said they'd never heard of it before! So in effect, these are people trying to be cooperative in answering a hypothetical question. A meaningless poll, it seems to me, if the respondents hadn't heard of the issue.

    posted by: John Bruce on 10.02.03 at 11:11 AM [permalink]

    Dear John Bruce,

    Don't know where they taught you logic sonny but when about two thirds of the people say they've they've heard of the story and two thirds of the people say it's serious...

    Then most people have heard of the story and most people think it's serious.

    Furthermore if your defense is that " allot people haven't heard of it yet," then that's real weak - cause they will hear about it pretty quick the way things are going.

    Right now, Republican politicians are scratching their heads and thinking "Why doesn't GW give up a sacrificial lamb? He's done it plenty before."

    The answer is that maybe it's someone who doesn't want to be sacrificed, or they don't want to sacrifice that person, or maybe just maybe it goes all the way to the top.

    Fineman's Newsweek story has a two good points. Don't fuck with the CIA - something this Admin did badly - is one. The other is that his source on the inside said that yeah, aides were doing it, but they thought it was part of the standard partisain smear bullshit cause they thought Wilson had set them up on the Niger thing.

    Hence the hypothetical attributed Rovism of "she's fair game." Whether or not that is true, if Fineman's inside source is correct then this could have been sanctioned at all the way from the Top. Even perhaps set in motion with a Presidential or Vice-Presidential growl "Let's get that bastard. (Wilson)"

    If so, then loyalty or perhaps the fact that someone was smart enough to keep some proof of that directive is probably motivating the current political attempt to ride things out and deny everything.

    posted by: Oldman on 10.02.03 at 11:11 AM [permalink]

    Well, I suppose if I encountered a UFO believer and suggested that an advanced civilization that could travel to our planet might be able to think of better things to do than chase deputy sheriffs down rural roads in flying saucers, I might expect a similar response. What I'm hearing is a certain amount of hyperventilated speculation here, it seems to me, which seems to be common to many who think there's something to this. Of all the victims, why Plame (but they're after her, apparently, only to get at Wilson)?

    But then, why Wilson? If I were an evil Chief Executive, wouldn't I want to nail, say, Dennis Kucinich long before I went after a third-string retired diplomat? Wouldn't I have enough resources to do so? This becomes more entertaining by the moment.

    posted by: John Bruce on 10.02.03 at 11:11 AM [permalink]

    Novak did not contradict himself... his explanation holds up, despite the wishes of Salon... funny how Novak simultaneously a) "doesn't matter" yet b) it matters enough to "debunk" him.

    Hey maybe he's not telling the truth. But there's no contradiction whatsover.

    posted by: HH on 10.02.03 at 11:11 AM [permalink]

    So has Ann Coulter had anything to say?

    posted by: Jon H on 10.02.03 at 11:11 AM [permalink]

    Robert M writes: "So if she has been in country since 1998, she doesn't qualify and NO CRIME has been committed."

    BZZT wrong. The law makes no mention of how long the person had to have spent overseas. It doesn't require long-term postings. A week's trip undercover would suffice. A day working in Paris, undercover, would suffice. An afternoon working in Cancun, undercover, would suffice.

    If Mrs. Wilson has served at all , undercover, outside the US, since July of 1998, she's covered under the law.

    I think Mrs. Wilson could have managed a number of short trips, or even longer trips, before she got pregnant.

    Taranto's an objectively pro-treason idiot and just making shit up.

    posted by: Jon h on 10.02.03 at 11:11 AM [permalink]

    Eric D writes: "Oh, and the "former CIA intelligence official" couldn't possibly be good old Larry C. Johnson again could it?"

    Former CIA anti-terrorism (and pro-Iraq War) guy Vincent Cannistraro (sp?) has gone public too, saying:

    "Plame "ran intelligence operations overseas," said Vincent Cannistraro, former CIA counterterrorism operations chief.

    Her specialty in the agency's nonproliferation center was biological, chemical and nuclear weapons and "recruiting agents, sending them to areas where they could access information about proliferation matters, weapons of mass destruction," Cannistraro said."

    From the NY Daily News. Sorry, no link.

    posted by: Jon H on 10.02.03 at 11:11 AM [permalink]

    Tony writes: "This is a little bit of a side issue (it's not exculpatory), but Plame is the mother of three year old twins. How much overseas undercover work do you think she's planning on doing?"

    Novak was told by his official CIA contact that Plame "would probably never again" do work outside the country.

    But that "never again" means that she *had* done work outside the country. Which shows she wasn't a deskbound paper jockey in the past.

    posted by: Jon H on 10.02.03 at 11:11 AM [permalink]

    Robert Modean writes: "The speculation that Rove wasa part of this started with Wilson's rantings at a Public Forum hosted in Shoreline Washington, and he has since retreated from his assertians."

    The speculation also started with Rove's history of dirty tricks and suspected involvement in smears. And his 1992 leak to Novak, which got him fired from the G.H.W. Bush campaign.

    posted by: Jon H on 10.02.03 at 11:11 AM [permalink]

    The consensus around here has, I believe, been that first Novak got the initial leak (perhaps from someone outside of the WH), and then the WH tried to peddle the Novak story to discredit Wilson's partisan efforts. The only problem with this interpretation has been the WaPo senior administration source who says the WH called six reporters with Plume's name before the Novak piece -- but many believe that's bogus. I too held those views, but now I'm not so sure because:

    1. The WaPo today is sticking by their source, using the same language and timing as in the Sunday article (i.e., "senior admin.," "top white house" and timing before Novak).

    2. Fineman's Newsweek piece today (which is, btw, essential reading):

    "The moment that piece hit the op-ed page of the New York Times, it was all-out war between the pro- and anti-war factions, and between the CIA and its critics. I am told by what I regard as a very reliable source inside the White House that aides there did, in fact, try to peddle the identity of Joe Wilson’s wife to several reporters. But the motive wasn’t revenge or intimidation so much as a desire to explain why, in their view, Wilson wasn’t a neutral investigator, but, a member of the CIA’s leave-Saddam-in-place team."

    I now believe the WaPo "senior administration" source may be telling the truth, and it's probably Tenet.

    posted by: KK on 10.02.03 at 11:11 AM [permalink]

    "If Mrs. Wilson has served at all , undercover, outside the US, since July of 1998, she's covered under the law."

    What are you basing this on? There is no reason for a judge to define "serve" as station, or living, or as you define it. It depends on the law, you seem to be just guessing.

    Also, the law requires the US to be taking affirmative measures to conceal her identity and the leakers to know this. Even if she did serve out of country in the past 5 years, it might be that the US wasn't taking "affirmative measures" and so no law was broken. And even if affirmative measures were taken, there is nothing to indicate the leakers knew of her covertness, unless you buy into crazy guesses at the motives based on the total and utter evilness of the administration.

    posted by: Reg on 10.02.03 at 11:11 AM [permalink]

    Fineman's Newsweek piece today:

    posted by: KK on 10.02.03 at 11:11 AM [permalink]

    Good point about the Congressional staffer. I was pissed when I read "slime and defend" until I read it was a Congressional staffer. Specter, Hegel, McCain, quit hiring democrats.

    posted by: Reg on 10.02.03 at 11:11 AM [permalink]

    Reg writes: "What are you basing this on? There is no reason for a judge to define "serve" as station, or living, or as you define it. It depends on the law, you seem to be just guessing."

    No, I'm using common sense.

    The law makes no stipulation about the minimum length of time required.

    Nor would it make any sense to limit it. It is entirely conceivable that a CIA operative could be sent on a short mission out of the country. It would hardly make sense to have a covert operative be 'exposable' if they were only out of the country on periodic one week visits, but not for six-month deployments to a particular station.

    Sorry, that doesn't make sense, and would defeat the purpose of the bill.

    posted by: Jon H on 10.02.03 at 11:11 AM [permalink]

    OK kids, there are two uncontrovertible facts in evidence:
    1. We are all discussing Valerie Plame, a covert CIA officer.
    2. The FBI is investigating the unauthorized disclosure of the identity of a covert CIA officer.

    Given these two facts, what the hell difference does it make what Novak, Priest, Allen, Wilson, Newsday, unknown congressional staffers, or your mother-in-law has to say about anything?

    The identity of a covert CIA officer somehow got from authorized persons to unauthorized persons, therefore a crime has been committed. Period.

    posted by: Flory on 10.02.03 at 11:11 AM [permalink]

    "a crime has been committed. Period."

    You have no idea what your talking about. Read the statute, nobody knows enough facts to say whether the law has been broken or not.

    Jon H: "No, I'm using common sense."

    Its too bad that the law doesn't always follow common sense. Statutory interpretation doesn't always follow common usage of words, in some bills, its rare. It depends on the court, they will use common sense of course, but they will look at past cases, the legislative history of the bill, whether "served" is used in other statutes and how it has been interpreted in those statutes, and on their own political preferences.

    Just because something makes sense when interpreting a statute, that isn't a very good indicator of what a court will do.

    posted by: Reg on 10.02.03 at 11:11 AM [permalink]


    Don't forget the Constitution's effect on statutory interpretation. Interpretations which leave a statute constitutional are preferred to those which make it unconstitutional. Taranto picked up on that, and on the requirement for a criminal mens rea (intent). And criminal statutes are always interpreted narrowly.

    40 USC 426 will be interpreted so as to make the whole non-disclosure act constitutional. We don't have a British-style Official Secrets Act, so there can't be criminal liability without fault here. An accused must have had access to information that the operative was both covered by the non-disclosure law, and that the government was trying to keep the operative's identity/operative status a secret.

    Prosecution of a 50 USC 421 offense would be difficult under the best of circumstances, and these aren't.

    I don't believe there was any criminal offense here, am confident that one can't be proved, and certain that the government won't try.

    That aside, if anyone in the Bush White House is dirty, my money is on Libby being the one who asked, "Will no one rid me of this troublesome priest?" Wilson's claim about Rove was never credible to me. Libby is. It's a modius operandi issue.

    I just wish there was more sex involved. This is fun.

    posted by: Tom Holsinger on 10.02.03 at 11:11 AM [permalink]

    In order for the law not to have been broken you have to assume that the CIA is giving out the names of covert operatives like cereal prizes. They don't. They give out such info under very tightly controlled situations to very select people. One of those people, who knew she was covert and knew the CIA was guarding her identity, passed that info on to unauthorized persons. That's all it took to break the law. We do know enough. The law was broken. Period.

    posted by: Flory on 10.02.03 at 11:11 AM [permalink]

    Okay. So if Salon is right, Plame was covert when Novak outed her. But here is the question that I think gets missed. Was her employment at CIA covert?

    One can be a covert employee at CIA, an overt employee, and it seems to me that she could also have a covert job but her employment at CIA was overt.

    And that is what Novak and his source said. That she worked at CIA, without specifying whether she was covert, overt or any other kind of vert.

    posted by: Ben on 10.02.03 at 11:11 AM [permalink]

    Well Flory, you must know facts that nobody else does.

    posted by: Reg on 10.02.03 at 11:11 AM [permalink]

    I wasn't referring to the original post story. Here's the quote:

    "Another journalist yesterday confirmed receiving a call from an administration official providing the same information about Wilson's wife before the Novak column appeared on July 14 in The Post and other newspapers.

    "The journalist, who asked not to be identified because of possible legal ramifications, said that the information was provided as part of an effort to discredit Wilson, but that the CIA information was not treated as especially sensitive. "The official I spoke with thought this was a part of Wilson's story that wasn't known and cast doubt on his whole mission," the person said, declining to identify the official he spoke with. "They thought Wilson was having a good ride and this was part of Wilson's story." "

    posted by: Aaron on 10.02.03 at 11:11 AM [permalink]

    No Reg, I just ground my assumptions in the real world.

    posted by: flory on 10.02.03 at 11:11 AM [permalink]

    Actually you're mistaken on two points. First, while no one is accusing the CIA of giving out the names of covert operatives like cereal prizes, for the law to be in effect the CIA must be taking affirmative measures to conceal such covert agent's intelligence relationship to the United States. The CIA confirmed that she worked for them and warned Novak off using her name rather weakly. Properly handled the CIA shouldn't have acknowledeged she worked there at all. In fact, had they officially denied she worked for them Novak doubtless would have witheld her identity even though his own internal source confirmed her employment. Second, unless you know much more than the rest of us, you're making a large assumption as to what the leaker actually knew. At least two people other than Novak have said that Plame's working for the CIA was known in Washington - an open secret as it were. It's conceivable that the source who talked to Novak knew she worked for the CIA but was unaware that she was or had been covert. There is one overriding factor that must be considered - the intent of the leaker(s). The law is specific as to intent as so noted in 50 USC § 421-4(A).

    Jon H.,

    So Sorry, but you seem to have a problem with reading comprehension among other things. If you'll check I'm sure you'll find that 50 USC § 426-4(A) is applicable here, specifically it requires Valerie Plame to be both an officer whose identity is classified AND to have served outside of the U.S. within the last five years. Thus when I wrote, "So if she has been in country since 1998, she doesn't qualify and NO CRIME has been committed." In country meaning that she's been in Washington D.C. since 1998, i.e. not working overseas.

    I never predicated the statement on the grounds that she couldn't have gone overseas while pregnant, just that I thought it unlikely that she would have worked as a covert agent overseas while waddling about all preggers. Of course, it's entirely possible that she left the twins with her mom and went with hubby to Niger, acting in the capacity of a covert agent. Then yes, she is covered under the law. But unless she was outside the U.S. sometime in the last 5 years acting as a covert agent for the CIA, NO CRIME was comitted. I honestly don't see why you cannot grasp something so elementary.

    BTW, nice cheap shot at Taranto - very relevant to the discussion. How's the old saw go..."If you have the law on your side, argue the law. If you have the facts but not the law, argue the facts. If you have neither the facts nor the law on your side, pound the table and shout." Keep shouting Jon, someone's bound to believe you.

    posted by: Robert Modean on 10.02.03 at 11:11 AM [permalink]


    Apologies, that citation should be 50 USC § 421(A) with regards to intent. Otherwise my point stands.

    posted by: Robert Modean on 10.02.03 at 11:11 AM [permalink]

    Robert Modean,

    Cite correction: 50 USC 421(a) and 421(b) are the statutes requiring specific intent. There is no 50 USC 421-4(A). Go here:

    50 USC 426(4)(A) contains the definition of covert agent potentially applicable to Plame.

    posted by: Tom Holsinger on 10.02.03 at 11:11 AM [permalink]

    Robert Modean writes: "Thus when I wrote, "So if she has been in country since 1998, she doesn't qualify and NO CRIME has been committed." In country meaning that she's been in Washington D.C. since 1998, i.e. not working overseas. "

    Show me where the law would not cover a one week trip to debrief a source in Karachi.

    Please, I'd love to see it.

    Her twins are 3. Are you saying she was in gestation for 21 months? Humans gestate for 9 months. 3 years + 9 months does not equal 5 years. Do the math. Use a calculator if you have to. We'll wait. Don't break a sweat. It's okay if you have to ask someone for help.

    There was more than a year when she could have spent some period under cover outside the United States.

    If she were pregnant in July of 1998, as you wish to believe, she would have had the kids in March of 1999, in which case they'd be four and a half now. This is not the case.

    Which would mean there is no biological reason why she couldn't have spent some time overseas in the last 5 years, even though that time was almost certainly in 1998 or early 1999.

    Which is still covered under the law. So that part of the law most likely applies.

    posted by: Jon h on 10.02.03 at 11:11 AM [permalink]

    Reg writes: "Its too bad that the law doesn't always follow common sense. Statutory interpretation doesn't always follow common usage of words, in some bills, its rare. It depends on the court, they will use common sense of course, but they will look at past cases, the legislative history of the bill, whether "served" is used in other statutes and how it has been interpreted in those statutes, and on their own political preferences."

    I would expect that they would place significant weight on the intelligence agency definition of serving, as opposed to, say, the USDA definition of serving.

    It's relevant to consider how the CIA goes about its business, and in what ways do covert agents serve abroad.

    If it's common for CIA agents to go on short trips, that would be highly relevant. I find it extremely unlikely that the CIA only sends out people on long-term assignments and a short trip would be a fluke.

    Other definitions of "served", such as a six-month military deployment, are far less relevant.

    posted by: Jon h on 10.02.03 at 11:11 AM [permalink]

    Jon H,

    You really do have a reading comprehension problem. I thought that my example - pointing out she would be covered if she went to Niger with Wilson and was acting in a covert capacity - made it clear that we weren't in disagreement. I assumed it was understood that when I said in country I meant that she hadn't worked outside of the U.S. in an official capacity for the CIA since 1998. Obviously I was mistaken so let me try this again. - WE AREN'T IN DISAGREEMENT ON THAT POINT. I was simply saying that if she hasn't left the country to work in a covert capacity since 1998, then the law did not apply pursuant to 50 USC § 426-4(A). Your example is a perfect illustration of how the law does in fact apply, assuming she went to Karachi under cover to debrief the agent. OK? Yeesh.

    As for her twins, yes they are Three and it's wonderful that in sex-ed these days you kids are actually learning some useful facts, like gestation times and such. Now I'm not saying she was preggers for 21 months, but I am saying that I've yet to meet a woman that wanted to start popping out ankle biters 3 months after she met a guy. So unless you have the catalogue that Wilson used to ordered his "ACME Brand CIA Trophy Wife, complete with the child bearing hips and Turbo Family® package", I'm assuming things work the same in Washington. In that case meeting, getting married and having three year old twins takes longer than four years.

    I dated my wife for almost 2 years before we got engaged and we were engaged for over 9 months. Most people I know dated for over a year before they got engaged and the engagement can last up to a year. Going from a reasonable set of assumptions, noting that they met in 1998 at a cocktail party in Washington...I figure 1 year dating + 6 months engaged + 9 months pregnant + 3 year old twins equals about 5 years and 3 months. See, I can do math - didn't even have to count on my toes this time.

    Of course the question is, was she ever out of the country on business? We don't know. If she was, and it was covert Company business, then yes - she's covered. If not, and I'm betting not, then she's not covered.

    posted by: Robert Modean on 10.02.03 at 11:11 AM [permalink]

    Robert Modean writes: "Now I'm not saying she was preggers for 21 months, but I am saying that I've yet to meet a woman that wanted to start popping out ankle biters 3 months after she met a guy."

    They met in 1997, according to a story in the Times. They seem to have had the kids in 2000. That leaves plenty of time for courtship and marriage before having kids.

    Also, she's 40, and these seem to be her first kids, so there was incentive not to wait too long.

    I would say the "Wilson and Plame went to Niger" theory is unlikely, due to the kids. But there was plenty of time there for travel overseas to meet with agents and sources before she had the kids.

    "1 year dating + 6 months engaged + 9 months pregnant + 3 year old twins equals about 5 years and 3 months."

    The year of dating and the six months engaged would be time she could have traveled. It only becomes untenable once she becomes pregnant, when she might not have been leaving her *bed* let alone the country. (A friend had twins. Wasn't easy).

    posted by: Jon H on 10.02.03 at 11:11 AM [permalink]

    Tom Holsinger,

    Thanks for the link, I caught it right after I posted - preview is our frined, no?

    BTW, my interpretation of 50 USC § 421(a-b), would be that 421(a) applies if the leaker knew that Plame was a covert agent because there were intelligence reports that indicated she was or had been a covert agent, while 421(b) is more applicable if the leaker learned that she was a covert agent through authorized access to intelligence data.

    I see it being very difficult for them to get anyone under 421(a) but not as hard under 421(b), what are your thoughts on that?

    posted by: Robert Modean on 10.02.03 at 11:11 AM [permalink]

    Jon H.,

    1997? Damn I have to get better at counting back. I'm always off on that though and it causes me no end of grief. Of course you're right, that does leave plenty of time for courtship and marriage before having kids.

    I've thought a lot about the first 15 to 18 months as well, and I have to say that having been in the field (projecting here of course) I can see her wanting one last mission or op overseas before settling down. Then of course once the twins come, life as they know it changed forever.

    Haven't had any ankle biters of my own yet, but my cousin had twins last year and the wife's best friend just gave birth to a little girl, now she's starting to get that catch in her voice when she talks about kids so it's just a matter of time I'm sure.

    posted by: Robert Modean on 10.02.03 at 11:11 AM [permalink]

    Post a Comment:


    Email Address:



    Remember your info?