Thursday, October 2, 2003

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Drezner gets results from Howard Fineman!

Fineman's Newsweek piece is the new "must read" on the Plame Game [Hey, he stole your line!!--ed. Get me Fox's lawyers, stat!!]. Lots of good stuff, but what I'm pleased about are these grafs:

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.

And on Tenet’s part, it was time for payback—whatever his past relationship with the Bush’s had been. First, he and his agency had been humiliated, caught by the White House trying to distance themselves from the president’s speech. Then the CIA was forced to admit that it had signed off on the speech. Now one of its own investigations was coming under attack, as was one of its own undercover staffers.

This is basically what I said in my TNR piece from yesterday:

When different parts of the executive branch are locked in constant conflict, the result is a permissive environment. Officials become used to the notion that they will have to act as aggressively as possible to win an argument. Lines of communication between different parts of the executive branch become frayed or severed. Add weak oversight to the mix, and you have a situation in which bureaucratic entrepreneurs will be tempted to push their agendas to the point where ethical rules are violated--or laws are broken.

In the Reagan administration, this management style contributed to the Iran-Contra fiasco. In the Bush administration, the battles over Iraq's WMD program have led to open hostility between the Defense Department and the CIA. The leaks and counter-leaks over Nigerien yellowcake have escalated to the point where the Justice Department is investigating whether anyone in the White House violated federal law and jeopardized national security by outing the identity of an undercover CIA operative.

Advantage: Drezner!!

UPDATE: Chris Sullentrop makes a similar point in this Slate essay.

posted by Dan on 10.02.03 at 11:15 PM


Dan gets results, lately I have been checking in with your blog before reading MSNBC. And on that note, I comment on your Fineman comment without having read the sourced piece. Let me say the following:

Us lefties are particuliarly abhorant of Fineman. No one else probably in the mainstream media has gone so far out of their way to promulgate a certain image of GWBush. He is, without the certain extras, Andrew Sullivan in clad in conventional wisdom.

Fineman's comments, I hope put to rest any issue about Novak and Novak's ever changing story. Can we just all know agree that the White House was peddling Plame stuff.

I've maintained for a few days that the Bushies would use technical defenses to avoid criminal liability. I am ashamed at myself for not anticipating the chutzpah defense.

I mentioned this over in a lefty blog, but it really is amazing that in the period when the Repubs were trying hard to forward the meme that the left wing just hated Bush in ways that were never seen before (cf David Brooks), we have, not only the revelation of the leak to get Wilson, we have the smear-Valeray follow-up, the subsequent attacks on Wilson, even the attacks on Larry Johnson, because he put forward information against your side. Pretty hard to convince anyone that your side is being unfairly bullied when that is your record for the week.

posted by: Vital Information on 10.02.03 at 11:15 PM [permalink]

Why is Fineman calling her Victoria instead of Valerie?

posted by: Sven on 10.02.03 at 11:15 PM [permalink]

So basically, after reading the Fineman Article... The WH should just come out and say...Well the law requires that the US be keeping her identity secret... Guess what we are the chief executive...and the US is not keeping her identidy secret(The CIA is not the US) ...HA... Then the WH says "Additionally, the CIA has institutionalized failure, and nepotism; as such, We are seeking the resignation of director Tenet, and most of the senior staff. The CIA failed this country on 9/11, on Iraq, and on NK, (AND SO ON) and unless their failed leadership is removed the CIA will fail this country in the war on Terror." Then the media looks and says...What the heck just happened...the whole thing goes away quickly because most Americans (I believe) abhor the idea that the CIA is undermining the President. And either Dem or Rep President, this kind of CYA by the CIA is unacceptable.

Dan-you do a great job, but it's time your irritation subside and realize that if the CIA and the WH get into a food fight (No Matter Who is The President) the WH HAS to win. After all...then the whole point of electing a president is irrelevant if entrenched bureaucrats can control the president's actions.

posted by: Bill S. on 10.02.03 at 11:15 PM [permalink]


You know the old joke about the solipsist who bores everyone to tears talking about himself, then finally turns to his companion and says, "enough about me, what do YOU think about me?" That's how I'm feeling about the "Drezner Gets Results" byline. You never used to be full of yourself and sanctimonious, but you're veering that way on the Plame story. As a loyal reader who has bookmarked you for months, I'm begging you to stop. Please.

posted by: Kelli on 10.02.03 at 11:15 PM [permalink]

The WH has to win? That is a scary thought. I think the flaw in your comment however is to think of this as just a food fight. A violation of law has occurred if the facts are correct. If they are then someone needs to be prosecuted. Period. Even if it is the President himself. The ends do not justify the means. With your logic of the WH has to win Mr. Nixon would never have been held accountable. And last I looked the country survived his not winning quite well.

posted by: DC on 10.02.03 at 11:15 PM [permalink]

Before someone beats me up...I do not believe the President is guilty of the leak or ordered it. I was just saying that the idea that the WH must win taken to it's fullest extent would mean that the President is above the law. And we all know that is not what we want.

posted by: DC on 10.02.03 at 11:15 PM [permalink]

My meaning when I say the WH has to win a food fight, only means...the WH has to win a food type fight. Watergate was different, a crime to affect an election. If anything, this appears to be a manufactured scandal on the part of the CIA, maybe a law was broken, but I bet nearly everyone who reads this blog, and many others commit crimes everday, some serious others not, under many laws the penalty for what is thought to be minor is huge. What appears relatively clear is that the CIA did not bother to think Plame's identidy was worth protecting until they could get some mileage against the WH by proclaiming it was.

The idea that every violation of the law has to get prosecuted is preposterous, that is far far from ever the case. Plame seems to be an individual who wasn't that important to the CIA, BUT once the CIA saw that they could get mileage out of saying she was really really covert she becomes more and more undercover. This kind of shell game with the CIA is annoying, and the President needs to control the CIA is my main point...The CIA mustn't control the President.

posted by: Bill S. on 10.02.03 at 11:15 PM [permalink]

"I bet nearly everyone who reads this
blog... commit crimes every day"

Yeah... I think I'm going to make that my new tag line.

posted by: Dan on 10.02.03 at 11:15 PM [permalink]

I meant no offense Dan, just that one is very good at obeying every law 24/7. Speeding being only the most common (albeit minor) offense.

posted by: Bill S. on 10.02.03 at 11:15 PM [permalink]

Enough on the broken laws. It's too early to tell if laws were violated. The relevant statutes require that the leaker know Plame was covert. My understanding it that WH folks don't typically get that kind of information (am I wrong?). Couple that with the likelihood that her job didn't appear from the outside to be a covert one (although technically may have been) -- especially if you believe Novak's CIA sources.

It is perhaps more likely that the Newsday's CIA source (who made crystal clear that Plame was undercover) may have more to worry about in terms of criminal liability than anyone at the WH.

posted by: KK on 10.02.03 at 11:15 PM [permalink]

I agree with Kelli above. Is there some way we could do an intervention?

posted by: Eric Deamer on 10.02.03 at 11:15 PM [permalink]

Bill S: "I meant no offense Dan, just that one is very good at obeying every law 24/7. Speeding being only the most common (albeit minor) offense."

Speaking for myself, I out six agents every day before breakfast.

Oops! My bad.

posted by: Jon H on 10.02.03 at 11:15 PM [permalink]

Although outing a CIA agent as part of internecine bureaucratic warfare would be disgusting and criminal at any time, you and Fineman miss that in this case, it's exceptionally wicked because the question of Nigerien Yellowcake is settled. As far as the accuracy of their respective contentions, the White House's allegations of WMD ("We know where they [WMD] are, between Tikrit and Baghdad"—link is to DoD's own site) have been found to be B.S., every last one. The CIA, under enormous pressure to conform to the White House’s and Achmed Charlatan Chalabi’s so-called intel, didn't get it 100% right on everything, but they did about Niger even before the infamous State of the Union address.

In this time frame, the White House's behavior is not like, say, an unsportsmanlike conduct foul during the heat of the football game. It's members of the losing football team ambushing and beating up the winners in the parking lot after the game is over.

posted by: Andrew Lazarus on 10.02.03 at 11:15 PM [permalink]

It's exceptionally wicked because Ms. Plame's work was tracking nuclear weapons materials. The disruption of her networks and contacts arguably facilitates the feared threat oft stated by Dr. Rice, Bush, and others in the administration -- that we would be visited by a mushroom cloud in America. And this for some bit of partisan gain. FUBAR.

posted by: mrp on 10.02.03 at 11:15 PM [permalink]

"Although outing a CIA agent as part of internecine bureaucratic warfare would be disgusting and criminal at any time, you and Fineman miss that in this case, it's exceptionally wicked because the question of Nigerien Yellowcake is settled."

Nope, but more importantly, the question of African uranium (the actual SOTU claim) is not settled in the slightest.

posted by: HH on 10.02.03 at 11:15 PM [permalink]

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