Wednesday, October 8, 2003
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Level of outrage rising rapidly
On Monday, President Bush sounded tough on the Plame Game:
Link via Josh Marshall. The most generous thing I can say about this statement is that it's factually correct. All Bush is saying is what Jack Shafer said last week about the likelihood of finding leakers.
The thing is, Shafer's just a reporter -- Bush is the boss of whoever leaked the story. Exactly what kind of message does Bush send to that person in saying this to the press? Basically, that you'll never get caught. What does this message say to the FBI investigators? Chill out, we don't expect you to find anything.
Developing... and not in a way that I like.
UPDATE: In a lot of the comments on my Plame Game posts, there's a suggestion that Bush could find out who the leaker was with a thorough grilling of his senior staff. Mark Kleiman (who's moved off blogspot, I see) makes a similar suggestion).
Eugene Volokh provides a straightforward reason why this is not likely to be the case. Note that Eugene's post assumes that the leaker did violate the law. If Tom Maguire's "colossal but unintentional blunder" theory were true, Volokh's logic is slightly weakened (the leaker may be convinced that even if he did not violate the law, he'd get railroaded given the press attention this has received).
Note that this does not excuse Bush's statements from yesterday, however. The leaker's incentive structure doesn't matter -- Bush should be making clear what his preferences are on this issue. And yesterday's statement indicates that he's not all that worked up about it. Shame on him.posted by Dan on 10.08.03 at 10:25 AM
Well, it is correct to say that six reporters (presumably) know who the miscreants are in this matter, but aren't saying, although there's no First Amendment protection that prevents them from doing so. And in fact, from what I read, they're gossiping among themselves about the names. So I think there's an element of hypocrisy here. Think about it -- if national security has in fact been compromised, which is certainly the tack that's been taken by the "usual suspects" here, one would expect the identity of the dirty dog(s) to be given up. But no such thing, I suspect in part because the press players in this recognize that it's all a cynical game.
The other question is that this scandal isn't following the productive scandal model -- in other words, one juicy leak, then a couple hours or days later, another juicy leak, etc., until a clear picture begins to emerge of what happened. Think Watergate, Troopergate, Paula Jones, Monica. In all these cases, new information kept coming out that maintained interest.
We don't have any juicy leaks for some time here, just spinning by Wilson and the couple's presumptive allies. Nobody's come up with credible assertions of how Plame's even covered under the law. I note that Lehrer on The News Hour last night referred to Plame as "covert" -- the best we know is that she may have been this at one time, but we don't have good info on how recent this was. If there were information here that went against the senior admin officials, one would expect it to come out. It hasn't.
I'm not saying more info won't come out that will make it clear that Plame was outed while in recent covert status -- but it isn't coming out in the way that allows a scandal to build. Right now this is the creature of an interested press trying to keep the thing going with info that's some weeks old and getting staler by the day.
This is also, by the way, apparently Glenn Reynolds's opinion, as he points out similarities between the press manipulating the Schwarzenegger story and the Plame story. This is not just far-right fantasy.posted by: John Bruce on 10.08.03 at 10:25 AM [permalink]
Is it not obvious by now that the WH is employing the stonewall defense?
How long before they start claiming Executive Privilege?
Bush's protestations to the contrary, he is most definitely not interested in exposing who outed Valerie Plame. When he says that he is confident that the Justice Dept. will do a "good job" I think we all know what he considers a "good job" to be - bury this thing so deep that nobody ever brings it up again.
Dan, I appreciate your integrity in trying to get to the bottom of this, but in the end it's very likely that you're going to be frustrated by a White House that's circled the wagons and covered up everything it can.
What are you going to do when it becomes impossible to deny that a cover-up is in progress?
posted by: uh_clem on 10.08.03 at 10:25 AM [permalink]
I'm a little confused about your outrage here. Just because he's boss doesn't mean the culprit is any more likely to fess up to something that might land him in jail, or, at the very least, put a very black mark on his record.
I thought his comment was trying to stick it to the press for protecting a criminal under the guise of a "leak". Its one thing to print and act on information or "leaks" from whistle blowers, but this is hardly that.
Yes, he was factually correct, something I prefer over the more politic and cynical response usually given. This leaker(s) should not be protected by the press, who, in my thinking, is just as guilty as the leaker, even those that didn't bother to print the leak, but still won't divulge the source.posted by: h boswell on 10.08.03 at 10:25 AM [permalink]
Apparently the spectre of Executive Privilege has already been raised. Check out this morning's Boston Globe.
"Despite President Bush's repeated pledges of full cooperation, administration officials yesterday refused to rule out invoking executive privilege to shield some documents from Justice Department investigators looking into whether someone in the White House illegally leaked the name of a CIA operative."
It's all so predictable. The leaker must be quite senior if Bush is resorting to this already.posted by: Doug on 10.08.03 at 10:25 AM [permalink]
It's worth pointing out as well the pretty flimsy pretext on which the press was able to create a "news event" to allow kicking this can a little farther down the road: the deadline for senior admin staffers to turn in their phone logs, etc., to the WH Counsel, with some informal questions to Bush during a photo op at a cabinet meeting. Again, there's nothing new here. I'm not sure what Dan or others want Bush to do, when it seems to be there isn't even credible evidence that a crime has been committed.
I have a hard time working up a sense of outrage here. The only way you can do it is by overanalyzing. Maybe it helps to live in California, where we've had more fun with our own media cynicism.posted by: John Bruce on 10.08.03 at 10:25 AM [permalink]
From John Bruce:
"Nobody's come up with credible assertions of how Plame's even covered under the law. I note that Lehrer on The News Hour last night referred to Plame as "covert" -- the best we know is that she may have been this at one time, but we don't have good info on how recent this was. If there were information here that went against the senior admin officials, one would expect it to come out. It hasn't."
I think you've got it exactly backwards.
If this were just a tempest in a teacup, we'd be hearing about it from the Bush administration. After all, there's no legal prohibition on "revealing" what isn't secret, and confirmation that Plame was just an analyst would defuse the scandal. I wouldn't expect public disclosures about Plame's covert activities, but I would expect disclosures if Plame weren't engaged in covert activities.
We conspicuously aren't getting much detail about Plame's CIA career -- that's why no one can make the case publicly, one way or the other. But I think the silence is ominous.
If it was No Big Deal to out Plame, it's unclear why CIA would go nuclear on it, and even less clear why DOJ would launch a criminal investigation. (You don't need an investigation of the White House and the departments of state and defense to determine whether Plame was covert -- they got that from CIA.) Nor would it make sense for White House Counsel Alberto Gonzalez to say DOJ was seeking information about the exposure of an "undercover" employee of the CIA, and it would be inexplicable for George Bush to describe the leak as a "criminal matter".
It may be that what currently looks like a duck and quacks like a duck is instead a duckbilled platypus, but that's not the smart money bet.posted by: Jim Clark on 10.08.03 at 10:25 AM [permalink]
As I was driving in this morning listening to the radio I was thinking about the denials from Mr Rove and Mr Abrams and others I guess....but has anyone asked them if they know who the cuplrits are? There is an awful lof of plausible deniability going on arond here from a group that vowed they would do things differently. I think that is what is causing the most consternation...that in the finally analysis they all stonewall and try to hide the ball. The daily WH press briefings are painful to listen to. The President should take some of his swagger and use it with his staff and get to the bottom of this. You call in all the senior guys and put the question to them...did you provide this leak....do you know the person or persons who did....have you heard any discussions about who might be involved in this....they are all fine upstanding people and would never resort to the kind of tales spun by their predecessors....especially if the president brings them into that hallowed space of the oval office since He has brought so much dignity back to the place.posted by: Jon on 10.08.03 at 10:25 AM [permalink]
John, maybe I'm misinterpreting you, but you seem to be holding on to the belief that Plame was not really undercover. From today's Washington Post profile:
"Her activities during her years overseas remain classified, but she became the creme de la creme of spies: a "noc," an officer with "nonofficial cover." Nocs have cover jobs that have nothing to do with the U.S. government. They work in business, in social clubs, as scientists or secretaries (they are prohibited from posing as journalists), and if detected or arrested by a foreign government, they do not have diplomatic protection and rights. They are on their own. Even their fellow operatives don't know who they are, and only the strongest and smartest are picked for these assignments."
You've been defensive about the administration, but clearly this woman was a real asset to intelligence. She isn't someone that we should be outing, ever, even if five years had passed. To out her to get revenge on a political opponent simply boggles the imagination. Is there some part of you that's angry about this?posted by: Ted Barlow on 10.08.03 at 10:25 AM [permalink]
It's a criminal matter because someone's reported a crime -- with what motivation, we don't know. However, all that we hear -- such as in http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A58650-2003Oct7.html -- still tells us nothing that shows concrete info that she was overseas within the past 5 years, or that the CIA was taking measures to conceal her identity at the time of the "leak".
And this is, we can be sure, the latest and greatest from Plame, Wilson, and their supporters. It seems to me that you can argue that the CIA is being close-mouthed due to national security -- but the kind of kissy-kissy coverage in the WaPo on thi is nothing if not coy. They're shifty-eyed and paranoid when it suits them, and they'll give out other info like candy when it does as well.posted by: John Bruce on 10.08.03 at 10:25 AM [permalink]
More from John Bruce:
"It's a criminal matter because someone's reported a crime -- with what motivation, we don't know. However, all that we hear -- such as in http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A58650-2003Oct7.html -- still tells us nothing that shows concrete info that she was overseas within the past 5 years, or that the CIA was taking measures to conceal her identity at the time of the 'leak'."
Once again, John, why would CIA go nuclear if it knew there was no problem? Why would DOJ launch a formal criminal investigation to identify the leakers if the leakers committed no crime? Why would Alberto Gonzalez call Plame and "undercover" agent if she weren't? Why would George Bush publicly emphasize the severity of this "criminal matter" if he knew it was No Big Deal?
And are you seriously waiting for WaPo to provide you with details about Plame's recent covert activities? Or for CIA to publish the efforts it undertook to maintain Plame's secret cover? Really?
You put nouns and verbs together like a smart guy, but your arguments suggest you're closing your eyes, covering your ears, and saying, "Neener, neener, neener . . . "posted by: Jim Clark on 10.08.03 at 10:25 AM [permalink]
Yes, of course the press is clearly manipulating this story to hurt Bush. That explains why they sat on it for two months after it broke in July.posted by: JP on 10.08.03 at 10:25 AM [permalink]
The six-thousand pound elephant in the room is that Bush could easily end this whole thing with a couple of phone calls and/or personal meetings.
"Did you do it?"
Within an hour or so he'd know. Maybe not to the degree of certainty that would pass muster in a court of law, but enough to root out the culprits.
My hunch is that these calls happened already, and the culprits are too valuable/loyal to lose. Hence the siege mentality.
posted by: uh_clem on 10.08.03 at 10:25 AM [permalink]
I'm entitled to draw conclusions about matters in the news based on my overall life experience, a little like what a juror is expected to do in evaluating the evidence in a trial. First, I don't think anyone would deny that what's happening here is inter-agency or inter-branch politics, whatever you may feel is the truth of the Plame circumstances. The business of reporting a putative "crime" (which was apparently done by the CIA's General Counsel's office) was, I would suggest, not a purely motivated act -- it's part of the whole cynical dance. Among other things, George Tenet, described recently in the WaPo as a "survivor", would likely "survive" a bit longer with his cronies if there's a big squabble over somebody in the WH compromising the CIA. Bush can't fire him until long after this dies down now -- and I believe Dan's opinion here has been that Tenet or someone like him needs firing.
I would repeat, since several people have re-emphasized here the potential serious nature of the facts alleged in the charges, that no public spirited members of the press have come forward to resolve this potentially serious breach of national security. They could resolve it very quickly. They aren't doing so.
I would also point out the remarkable circumstances of Wilson's and Plame's life as portrayed in the WaPo -- big house in DC (some very, very upscale neighborhoods there), red white and blue napkins, many, many socially prominent friends who say they -- oh, my gosh, NEVER SUSPECTED she's a covert agent.
I grew up in part in this environment (Bethesda-Chevy Chase-NW DC) -- ugh. These are all the right people circling the wagons. Ugh.posted by: John Bruce on 10.08.03 at 10:25 AM [permalink]
I erred above. George Bush didn't call the leak a "criminal matter". According to the New York Times, he called it a "criminal action":
President Bush said on Monday that the unauthorized disclosure of an undercover C.I.A. officer's identity was a "very serious matter" and "a criminal action" as the White House announced that at least 500 of its 2,000 employees had responded to a Justice Department demand for documents as part of an investigation into the source of the leak.
Remind me again why it's doubtful that the leak was a crime? If it was No Big Deal to out Plame, what the heck is George Bush talking about?posted by: Jim Clark on 10.08.03 at 10:25 AM [permalink]
Our CEO President...more apropos than ever.posted by: Not Ed Meese on 10.08.03 at 10:25 AM [permalink]
Oh no! The President had a moment of sheer candor with the press!posted by: Another Rice Grad on 10.08.03 at 10:25 AM [permalink]
Um... Rice Grad, I think this is the kind of candor we can do without. Moreso than with anything else he's said, this makes it sound like a coverup. He's confident we'll find WMD in Iraq, but these leaks, well... it's a large administration!posted by: paul on 10.08.03 at 10:25 AM [permalink]
As to why one might doubt whether a crime has occurred even though the CIA has filed a criminal referral, the answer is that the Intelligence Agents protection statute requires that the agent be covert; that the leaker had the intention of outing an agent known to be covert; and that the Government had been taking steps to conceal her identity.
The CIA may know the answer to whether she was covert; only an investigation can determine what the leaker knew and intended.
There is a lot of evidence suggesting that her status was a puzzle even at the CIA - their spokesman confirmed to Novak and TIME that she was CIA. And we note that TIME is not included in the criminal referral, so we presume their conversation was authorized.
Phelps and Royce were also named in the investigation for an unauthorized leak (a week later) confirming that she had been covert at one time; this fact was of of interest to the general readership, but probably already assumed by rival intel agencies; hence, the argument that TIME got a pass because they did not compound the damage doesn't impress me.
SO, the CIA was chatting about her job there to Novak and TIME, and that was OK; a WH aide does it, and we KNOW that he knew she had been covert at one time. I don't think so.
I think it was an ghastly error, but not criminal, under that statute anyway.
As a WH officer with a security clearance, the leakers may be covered by a broader "don't tell secrets" law, which doesn't allow for stupidity. But that possibility has not been dissected widely enough for me to have seen it.
Oh, and Bush claimed that Saddam had not allowed inspectors into Iraq. Maybe back then he meant "unfettered inspectors", who knows?
But as to whether he has carefully considered whether this is a criminal "action", "matter", "investigation", "situation", or "referral", I have my doubts.posted by: Tom Maguire on 10.08.03 at 10:25 AM [permalink]
John Bruce is a true believer. His mind will twist the evidence in whatever way minimizes his cognitive dissonance.
Dretzner has some true believer tendencies but seems to be at least partially trying to grapple with these anomalous data. But he is clearly having trouble.
Dretzner: you probably find this hard to believe in your present condition, but you have been a victim of brainwash a la the 70's era USSR. The entire Republican political edifice is based on lies and propaganda. From Reagan with the supply-side hoax and Iran-Contra, to Bush I's lies about how much he knew about Iran-Contra and his pardons of the guilty parties, to Bush II's WMD hoax and now his willingness to tolerate treason in the White House, its all one BIG LIE.
Dretzner, my friend, if you keep tugging on this thread you will eventually unravel the whole sweater. Please do, and reject these dishonorable liars and their party. We're struggling on the Democratic side and need all the help we can get.
We are in a position like Germany in the early 30's. Please recognize this and help us before it is too late. You don't want to look back on your life 20 or 30 years from now and be ashamed.
Sincerely, The Foolposted by: The Fool on 10.08.03 at 10:25 AM [permalink]
John Bruce: Try taking off your Bush-O-Vision sunglasses for about five seconds. What _exactly_ are you claiming here? Are you saying that Plame is NOT an agent? This seems to be a popular claim at the moment; it's an easy excuse to make: "She's just some low-level whatever, so none of this matters."
How about answering a couple of questions, in as straightforward a manner as you can manage:
1. Do you believe Plame is or has been a covert operative?
and finally...let's throw in the bonus question:
6. Do you believe that there are senior administration officials in the White House who KNOW who leaked?posted by: Ross Judson on 10.08.03 at 10:25 AM [permalink]
correction: that's "Drezner," not "Dretzner." Sorry.posted by: The Fool on 10.08.03 at 10:25 AM [permalink]
For Russ Judson, no matter what style eyeglasses or contacts I may wear, it seems to me that Plame's status, as several have said here, is very vague. People have been using loosely terms like "agent" or "operative" that may or may not have technical meanings. Same with "covert".
So I can't claim that she was or wasn't a "covert" "agent" or "operative". The more specific question is whether she was serving overseas within the past 5 years, and whether the CIA was taking active measures to conceal her identity or employment status (again, this is vague). The answer is that I don't know. I don't see how the facts exist to be twisted here.
What I do know is that the lady lives with her second husband as his third, apparent "trophy" wife in what is described as a "spacious" house in what I assume is a very, very nice neighborhood in DC, with neighbors presumably numbering among those with inherited wealth, high-level diplomats, senators and congresspeople, big-deal lawyers, etc. etc. etc. (this is strongly implied in today's WaPo story).
I wuold add to this the observation that was made after 9/11 that the reason we couldn't infiltrate al Qaida was that this wasn't the type of duty that the "nocs" or "covert" "agents" or "operatives" preferred. Rather than get one's hands dirty, it was presumably more desirable to groom one's career from closer to home. Plame strikes me as very much in this category. I don't see what twisting of facts I need to do here, I've known people like this all my life.
So I strongly suspect this is not the kind of person who would serve the kind of duty covered under the statute.posted by: John Bruce on 10.08.03 at 10:25 AM [permalink]
Ross: don't even bother arguing with John Bruce. I tried that last week and found out that, no matter how much good evidence you present, he is a completely committed Republican true believer and it will not persuade him at all. In his current condition, he is no longer capable of questioning anything the Republican party does. As far as he knows, whatever Bush and the Republicans do is good. His job, as he sees it, is to figure out how to fit new data into his predetermined conclusion.
It's a creepy thing to see up close and in detail.posted by: The Fool on 10.08.03 at 10:25 AM [permalink]
Fool, what in the world does Republicanism have to do with this? It seems to me that the players in this cynical game are in both parties and concerned primarily with variations on feathering their nests, seeking publicity, furthering their careers, preserving their jobs, so on and so forth, exactly as nearly all human beings do, irrespective of party.
What I find difficult to try to believe is that ANYONE here has pure motives -- but if anyone does come close, I hate to say it, it's probably W, though likely not his staffers -- they're also cynical, but they're not giving up "covert" "agents" deliberately.posted by: John Bruce on 10.08.03 at 10:25 AM [permalink]
You can tell when an issues been beaten near death by the inculcate groans of the gallery.posted by: Jon on 10.08.03 at 10:25 AM [permalink]
To Tom Maguire:
Your "ghastly error" hypothesis may well prove true. It has always seemed incredible that a "senior administration official" would knowingly out a covert agent, particularly for such small stakes. I wouldn't be surprised if the leaker(s) didn't know Plame was covert. As you say, that would bear on criminality, at least under the most widely cited statute.
I see less cause to doubt Plame's covert status. Before making the referral to DOJ, the CIA presumably knew whether she was covert, where she had recently been posted, and what steps it had taken to maintain her cover. It's hard to believe that the CIA would have triggered a criminal investigation of the White House if it knew that the leak was of no consequence. And without solid evidence from the CIA that Plame was covert, it's hard to believe that DOJ would have commenced a high profile criminal investigation of the White House. Finally, if this whole thing could be cleared up by confirmation that Plame wasn't covert, it's hard to understand why that hasn't happened.
In any event, the legal questions are important, but not dispositive. Outing Valerie Plame was stupid, wrong, and potentially damaging to national security even if she hadn't been overseas in the prior five years. I'm still betting duck, and not platypus.posted by: Jim Clark on 10.08.03 at 10:25 AM [permalink]
John: Are you trying to be "sincere" with me? God, you're creepy. I hate what those people have done to people like you.posted by: The Fool on 10.08.03 at 10:25 AM [permalink]
But look at the pattern of what we're learning. We're still learning nothing new about Plame's technical status. The reason some give is that the CIA won't divulge it. This may be the case now, but this information will in fact need to become public if the matter comes to indictment or trial. May as well get it out. And keep in mind that the CIA has folks as capable of leaking when it suits them as anyone else. Nobody's leaking anything that would contribute to the idea that either national security or Plame's personal safety was compromised.
Instead, what we're learning is fascinating to me, at least -- we're learning more and more about Plame's lifestyle, her neighborhood, her neighbors, her love life (all via a presumptive friend, neighbor, and WaPo reporter). This lady is a member of the social whirl. Interestingly, this is the sort of person who traditionally has been CIA, and if the leftist folks posting here and opining elsewhere were consistent, they'd be saying that this kind of upper-class (or upper-class wannabe) dilettante is exactly what's made the CIA the useless organization it's likely always been.
I continue to think this is a bunch of very well-off insiders protecting their own turf. I don't frankly, see fertile ground for "progressives" to defend the kind of folks who are making their appearance in this episode.posted by: John Bruce on 10.08.03 at 10:25 AM [permalink]
Tom Maguire: You state "There is a lot of evidence suggesting that her status was a puzzle even at the CIA - their spokesman confirmed to Novak and TIME that she was CIA." According to the following transcript from Sunday's Meet the Press", the CIA was a bit more specific in discouraging Novak than he paints them. Here is the url: http://www.msnbc.com/news/976515.asp?cp1=1
Novak: No, I didn't commit a crime by publishing her name. If she is a covert operative and the person who gave me the name knew that, which I'm not sure, I'm not sure she's a covert operative, Tim. I have one source at the CIA who says she was not a covert operative. I don't know for a fact. The official spokesman at the CIA I talked to, most recently this week, said she operated undercover. That is not exactly a covert operative. What kind of cover it is, I don't know. Whether it was in a fictitious firm or a real firm, a non-official cover, those things have not been disclosed in detail by the CIA. And I think a lot of the reports in the press are maybe true and they may not be true.
Why exactly would Bush be able to make a few calls and get to the bottom of the matter? Does he have some magical lie-detector powers that we have not previously been made aware of? Sure, he can try playing the loyalty card, but I'm sure the alleged "leaker" knows that he is out of a job in any case, so he'd have no reason to confess.
Also, Bush made a valid point--he has a large Administration, and not all of them are personally loyal to him, since the Administration includes career officials, many of whom predate him in office. On these people, there is some likelihood that the loyalty card won't work. What exactly is his other option? Threats?
Frankly, I don't believe the assertion that Bush could resolve this at any time. There has been no plausible evidence that this is true. On the other hand, there are DC area reporters who very obviously COULD resolve this at any time, and they have chosen not to do so. If you actually care about a quick and honest resolution to this matter, why not direct some of that outrage at the reporters? Exposing what they know should wrap up the whole matter in a matter of days.posted by: Sam Barnes on 10.08.03 at 10:25 AM [permalink]
John Bruce, so far when challenged to describe what a top-secret undercover agent would look like that Valerie Plame doesn't look like, you suggested that an undercover agent wouldn't have a CIA parking permit on his or her car.
I repeat: I am more than willing to let Ms. Plame's undercover status be determined by the parking stickers on her car, and I would like to bet several thousand dollars (all I can afford right now) on the side.
You continue to repeat that she isn't a covert agent on the basis of, well, on the basis of nothing more than you don't want her to be, and she's a girl.
Plame had a day job utterly unrelated to the CIA, or any other branch of the USG. That's undercover. Now all the time and energy to train her and set up her networks is wasted, not to mention the grave danger to her contacts abroad. Probably one of the most despicable acts perpetrated by a member of our government ever, excepting of course those by a spy secretly working for another country.posted by: Andrew Lazarus on 10.08.03 at 10:25 AM [permalink]
I have a question on the "executive privilege" possibility. I thought that executive privilege was invoked to protect the Executive branch from requests for documents and information from the Legislative branch. The DOJ is part of the Executive branch, so I don't see how executive privilege would enter into a request/demand for documents and information *within* the Executive branch. Could someone with knowledge clarify?posted by: Michael Ham on 10.08.03 at 10:25 AM [permalink]
For those who want definitive info on what kind of work and status Plame had, and how serious a matter it is to those who know her and who work with her that she has been betrayed, here's an excerpt from an article in today's WaPo:
The publication of her name left CIA officers aghast. "All the people who had innocent lunches with her overseas or went shopping or played tennis with her, I'm sure they are having heart attacks right now," said one classmate of Plame's who participated in covert operations. "I would be in hiding now if I were them."
Plame underwent training at "The Farm," as the facility near Williamsburg, Va., is known to its graduates. As part of her courses, the new spy was taken hostage and taught how to reduce messages to microdots. She became expert at firing an AK-47. She learned to blow up cars and drive under fire -- all to see if she could handle the rigors of being an undercover case officer in the CIA's Directorate of Operations, or DO. Fellow graduates recall that off-hours included a trip to the movies to watch the Dan Aykroyd parody "Spies Like Us."
Her activities during her years overseas remain classified, but she became the creme de la creme of spies: a "noc," an officer with "nonofficial cover." Nocs have cover jobs that have nothing to do with the U.S. government. They work in business, in social clubs, as scientists or secretaries (they are prohibited from posing as journalists), and if detected or arrested by a foreign government, they do not have diplomatic protection and rights. They are on their own. Even their fellow operatives don't know who they are, and only the strongest and smartest are picked for these assignments.
For the past several years, she has served as an operations officer working as a weapons proliferation analyst. She told neighbors, friends and even some of her CIA colleagues that she was an "energy consultant." She lived behind a facade even after she returned from abroad. It included a Boston front company named Brewster-Jennings & Associates, which she listed as her employer on a 1999 form in Federal Election Commission records for her $1,000 contribution to Al Gore's presidential primary campaign.
Administration officials confirmed that Brewster-Jennings was a front. The disclosure of its existence, which came about because it was listed in the FEC records, magnifies the potential damage related to the leak of Valerie Wilson's identity: It may give anyone who dealt with the firm clues to her CIA work. In addition, anyone who ever had contact with the company, and any foreign person who ever met with Valerie Plame, innocently or not, might now be suspected of working with the agency.
Geez fool, stop embarassing yourself and shut up.
"His job, as he sees it, is to figure out how to fit new data into his predetermined conclusion."
Fool, this describes you perfectly. Your predetermined conclusion is that this is Bush's fault and he should take the fall, or at least somebody high up to hurt Bush's reelection chances.
"We are in a position like Germany in the early 30's. "
Is this the new leftist way to say Bush=Hitler?
What the hell is the matter with you. Get some perspective.posted by: Reg on 10.08.03 at 10:25 AM [permalink]
Also, there is still an issue as to whether she is covert for the purposes of the statue. She must served overseas in the past 5 years and the US must still be taking affirmative measures to keep her covert.
"For the past several years, she has served as an operations officer working as a weapons proliferation analyst."
Well, this seems to be the cause of some confusion. Until we know whether the US was taking measure to keep her covert (which seems to be yes) and whether she has served overseas in the past 5 years (we don't know) the issue is unresolved.
Lets look at the arguments in this thread:
"No crime was committed, it's just that some biased person claims there was a crime"
The CIA has in their possession, sufficient evidence to believe that a crime was committed.
You really don’t want to go there. Let’s suppose that your rival for a promotion at work murders your spouse. You get it all on videotape and there are witnesses. You go to the police with the evidence. Do you really want them to apply this logic: “Well, we would arrest the guy, but you’re obviously biased since you would get a promotion if we arrested him. Based on this we feel that no crime was committed”. We can argue about whether it's slimy to benefit from another's criminal prosecution, but it does not forgive the crime.
Huh? I know I missed a few lectures in my logic course back in college, but I don’t see how this follows. At any rate, the final assertion is incorrect. See my answer to argument one.
Go back to the start of my post and reread.posted by: Punkerdubh on 10.08.03 at 10:25 AM [permalink]
Well, it seems like several folks are making inaccurate paraphrases of some of the points made on this thread, and setting them up as straw men to knock down.
Just at random -- Plame doesn't have a nice house in the burbs. Plame is living, it appears, in one of several parts of DC that make the New Jersey horse country or Beverly Hills look like public housing projects. If you've ever driven up Mass Ave, you know what I mean. Newport pales. She is living a life of genuine wealth and privilege, and the people who are speaking up for her (worrying about "innocent lunches"
It appears that she went through "noc" training in the early 1980s and had all kinds of neat stuff like how to drive under fire, etc. etc. etc. This says nothing about what she's done more recently. Larry C. Johnson was apparently in the same class, and hasn't done anything beyond be a talking head for some years now.
Because the CIA made some type of referral to the DOJ doesn't mean much, especially absent other info that will need to be made public to prove a crime was committed.
I'll certainly let someone paraphrase me as saying "we don't have clear information that an agent's identity was leaked as covered under the relevant law, and until I have that info, I'm entitled to suspect that no crime was committed." I'll certainly change my mind when clearer information becomes available, but I strongly suspect that it won't. That's what makes horse racing.posted by: John Bruce on 10.08.03 at 10:25 AM [permalink]
Dude, you have no idea what you're talking about. Mass Ave is famous for its think tanks -- it doesn't particularly stand out for housing. The area she lives in is nice but by D.C. standards nothing special. The real money is in places like Georgetown, Chevy Chase, Potomac, McLean, Great Falls, etc.posted by: The Fool on 10.08.03 at 10:25 AM [permalink]
Oh god. Reg is an even worse true believer than John Bruce. In fact, much worse. I think Reg was the model for Hoffer's book on the subject.posted by: The Fool on 10.08.03 at 10:25 AM [permalink]
Sam Barnes wrote:
I'll let someone more eloquent and better connected than I make that argument. See:
Agreed. Unfortunately, once a reporter discloses a confidential source, he or she will never ever be trusted by anyone with confidential information again. In other words, for a reporter to go public on this is a career ender.
It would be nice to think that these reporters would put national security ahead of their own careers, but that ain't gonna happen. And it's not really fair to ask someone to commit career suicide because of somebody else's foul-up.
Of course, were they compelled to testify under subpoenea they would have a plausible excuse for outing the leakers. Normally subpoenaing reporters is a last-resort option, to be used only after all other leads are exhausted.
But much as some people might relish the prospect of Bob Novak being grilled by the left-wing version of Ken Starr, that's not how things work nor how they should work.posted by: uh_clem on 10.08.03 at 10:25 AM [permalink]
Mass Ave is also known as "Embassy Row", and while the embassies, while opulent, are often converted mansions, there are many other places in the area that continue to be private residences. The area surrounding American University is very upscale -- there are numerous highly upscale areas in NW, including where Hillary Clinton now lives. There's lots of money in Georgetown (this fits my argument), but the fact is that DC -- inside the District -- is still very near the US social pinnacle. Just from the WaPo story, Plame appears to be orbiting in these circles, having married into them.posted by: John Bruce on 10.08.03 at 10:25 AM [permalink]
Which do you prefer? A meaningless mouthing of Clinton-esque words that mean nothing (like how we will do everything in our power to bring terrorists to justice, and then do nothing), or express an honest appraisal of the situation?
People who have a problem with the the President's statement are just suffering from a form of political correctness that adds nothing to the debate.
If the leaker doesn't want to be found, and if the journalists don't divulge any names, then there is a high probability that the President is correct.
After all, do we know for sure who DEEP THROAT is, lo, after these many years?posted by: Owain on 10.08.03 at 10:25 AM [permalink]
Yeah but dude, its foreigners who live in those embassies and the point is that EVERYONE who is or was a player in the federal gov't, i.e. ambassadors like Wilson, as well as every single prominent member of the Bush Administration and every single member of Congress lives in those same kind of places.
But, hey its nice to see a Republican who is into class warfare.posted by: The Fool on 10.08.03 at 10:25 AM [permalink]
Fool, I don't quite see where we disagree on this. The socially prominent, and certainly the movers and shakers of both parties, not excluding Joseph C. Wilson IV and his charming wife, most certainly do live lives of wealth and privilege. This has been one of my points all along. It leads me to disbelieve that the current Mrs. Wilson, having worked so hard to reach her position, would want to go back to Ickystan and run agents.
If "class warfare" means a distrust of people of inherited wealth and privilege, and we agree on this, we're probably members of the same club. I don't extent this distrust, though, to middle class people who earn the money to buy SUVs. Is this where we disagree? I don't see how Republicanism comes into it.posted by: John Bruce on 10.08.03 at 10:25 AM [permalink]
You are one confused Republican. I got news for you. If distrust of inherited wealth and privilege is really a beef you have, you might want to rethink your slavish devotion to Dubya.posted by: The Fool on 10.08.03 at 10:25 AM [permalink]
Why? The analysis of why some folks hate W often goes to the "traitor to his class" factor -- he appears to be as close to a sincere populist as someone from Skull and Bones at Yale can be. He's less of a wannabe than many other prominent figures.
Or take Schwarzenegger, a figure now being compared to Reagan in some ways -- certainly self-made. You neglect this factor in Republicanism. Remember that many of the truly wealthy -- let's say Jay Rockefeller, Warren Buffett, apparently Bill Gates, and others such, in fact OPPOSE tax cuts. Two reasons: even they figure they can only drive one Rolls Royce or fly one Lear Jet at once, so marginal rates are neither here nor there at that level (for the middle class, though, that's a very different issue). But also, they like the game predictable, with them in control.
If you're a populist, you ought to reconsider whether it's a good idea to support Kennedys, Rockefellers, Harrimans, and other very wealthy fortunes.posted by: John Bruce on 10.08.03 at 10:25 AM [permalink]
Dan (our gracious host here, and let's not forget it) says in the update:
In a lot of the comments on my Plame Game posts, there's a suggestion that Bush could find out who the leaker was with a thorough grilling of his senior staff. Eugene Volokh provides a straightforward reason why this is not likely to be the case.
Well, we can speculate on whether it would be easy or even fruitful for Bush to find out for himself who leaked. But we'll never know if the guy doesn't even try it.
Maybe he'd come up empty, but at the very least he could order a review of the phone logs, emails and appointment calendars. Has he done even this much? We know that the WH staff bent over backwards at the behest of the National Review to prove that Wes Clark never called Karl Rove - can't they do the same with Bob Novack at the request of the FBI and the CIA?
As Josh says:
President Bush says he wants to get to the bottom of this, but all his actions say otherwise. That’s the whole story in a nutshell.posted by: uh_clem on 10.08.03 at 10:25 AM [permalink]
John Bruce, stifle your envy.
Number one: there are opulent and also much less than opulent houses around Mass Ave. I know, I live there; where do you live? The article doesn't provide information from which it can fairly be inferred that the Wilsons are terribly wealthy; that's speculation on your part. And if you think "Newport pales," I can only conclude you've never been to Newport, or at least not to the north shore. There are no five-story, forty-room mansions on five acres along Mass Ave.
Number two: what the hell does this have to do with anything, anyway? You never really explain why it's relevant. I'd like to give you the benefit of the doubt, but a less charitable reader might well conclude that you are merely trying to suggest that Plame is some unsympathetic limousine liberal who deserves whatever she gets.
Number three: what does peeing into a bottle at a stakeout have to do with anything? Is that really what you think covert CIA employees do? You have field assets for that. You would expect a senior covert agent to be someone who could travel widely and mix with well-connected people in various countries without arousing suspicion.posted by: Questioner on 10.08.03 at 10:25 AM [permalink]
Lets review the bidding.
Evidence that Plame was covert:
(1) CIA told DOJ she was covert and requested a criminal investigation of the White House.
(2) DOJ was confident enough about (1) to launch a criminal investigation of the White House to find the leaker(s).
(3) White House counsel Alberto Gonzalez called Plame an "undercover employee of the CIA".
(4) Numerous former CIA agents say she was covert.
(5) George Bush called the leak "a criminal action".
(6) If Plame weren't undercover, the Bush administration could defuse the scandal by saying so, but has instead suggested just the opposite.
Evidence that Plame was not covert:
(1) The CIA has predictably declined to reveal details about her covert operations and the efforts it took to protect her cover.
(2) Reporters haven't rolled over on their confidential sources.
(3) Plame lives in a big house with fancy napkins.
The truth is whatever it turns out to be, but the No Big Deal arguments still sound like "Neener, neener, neener" to me.posted by: Jim Clark on 10.08.03 at 10:25 AM [permalink]
Questioner, I've said several times that I think it's relevant because, of those who comment on the potential outcomes of exposure to someone in Plame's situation, they stress that this is "dangerous" work, requiring training in shooting AK-47s, potentially putting people at risk who go innocently buying Gucci accessories with such covert assets.
The job appears to require skills other than urbanity, which you seem to stress in saying it requires "someone who could travel widely and mix with well-connected people in various countries without arousing suspicion". I go back to the comment post 9/11 that the CIA's "agents" or "operatives" had been unwilling to do what might have been necessary to infiltrate al Qaida. My suggestion has been that Plame seems to fit this category of agent -- i.e., the category of no practical use to our intelligence objectives -- and thus I am skeptical that she'd be working in any field that might actually require either a covert ID or overseas travel (other than putting Bunny and Fred at risk shopping on the Ku-damm or the Champs Elysees).
I don't see rich wannabes putting in the effort to do the real work. This is part of my personal conclusion based on the evidence I see.posted by: John Bruce on 10.08.03 at 10:25 AM [permalink]
Dear Mr. Bruce,
Get yer head out of yer ass. The President of the United States himself has said that this is a "very serious matter" and "a criminal action" as indicated by DD here. Continuing to argue that she wasn't a real spy has no traction.
To others, while it may be convenient to suspect the President of a cover-up that hasn't been demonstrated yet. Personally, my reflection is that the man is out of touch enough and capable of enough looking in the other direction for it to be that he truly does not know - at least yet. The truth which we can all probably agree on however is that the President could be allot more enthusiastic about it if he wanted to. As it is he's probably hoping they never pin it on anyone or get's very far with it.
From everything we know and the limpid cooperation with the probe, we can surmise that his outrage is a little manufactured. However it would be going too far to assume that he knows who the culprits are. Yet even if a personal demand in private to his coterie lead to no results, if he really cared then he would at least try. It would send an internal message that this was too far, rather than the message that is being adopted now which is that "We have to go along with this".posted by: Oldman on 10.08.03 at 10:25 AM [permalink]
Jim Clark's excellent post above so thoroughly blows your position out of the water that you are now little better than the knight in "Monty Python & The Holy Grail" who hops on his one remaining limb, with blood spurting from multiple fatal wounds, all the while exclaiming, "It's only a flesh wound!"posted by: The Fool on 10.08.03 at 10:25 AM [permalink]
John, this whole "rich wannabe" thing on your part is just so much name-calling. You have no evidence for it. It's just a smear.
You don't have any idea what Plame did overseas. Your supreme confidence that it was nothing more than shopping and lunch-eating is unbecoming. And the idea that the only useful agents are those who infiltrate enemy organizations is just silly. Someone has to recruit, monitor and coordinate among those people. I would not be surprised to learn that that is exactly the kind of thing Plame did. And if so, her exposure is indeed dangerous--to all of them. Or do you somehow know she isn't intelligent enough for that kind of work?posted by: Questioner on 10.08.03 at 10:25 AM [permalink]
Well, rereading Jim Clark's post, I've still got questions:
1. Even assuming everything is as alleged, Plame was covert by definition of the law, the CIA was keeping her role confidential, etc., we don't have the specific facts that lead to this. They will need to come out by the time of a preliminary hearing or indictment for whomever is arrested for the leak, if all this is true. (Maybe an attorney who specializes in these matters can correct me or expand on this). But so far, there's been nothing specific.
2. Jim Clark is inferring that the facts exist by citing various remarks that may not have been well thought out. Taranto in the WSJ today suggests that W misspoke by referring to a "criminal" issue. The investigations may or may not result in the determination that a crime has been committed. And heaven forbid that the CIA's general counsel would have a political or bureaucratic motive in making the referral.
3. And yes, doggone right, Plame lives in a big house with fancy napkins, and the WaPo reporter was IMPRESSED. We're inside the beltway in the social stratosphere here -- and don't ignore the fact that these folks DO think Bush was a traitor to what they feel is their class (as I'm sure they felt about Poppy, too -- TEXAS????????)posted by: John Bruce on 10.08.03 at 10:25 AM [permalink]
I've said several times that I think it's relevant because, of those who comment on the potential outcomes of exposure to someone in Plame's situation, they stress that this is "dangerous" work, requiring training in shooting AK-47s, potentially putting people at risk who go innocently buying Gucci accessories with such covert assets.
John Bruce, at the moment I'm studying Computer Science.
What I am saying, is that just because someone doesn't appear to be willing to do dirty work, doesn't mean that they are willing.posted by: Kristjan Wager on 10.08.03 at 10:25 AM [permalink]
"are willing" should of course be "aren't willing"posted by: Kristjan Wager on 10.08.03 at 10:25 AM [permalink]
Reg writes: "Well, this seems to be the cause of some confusion. Until we know whether the US was taking measure to keep her covert (which seems to be yes) and whether she has served overseas in the past 5 years (we don't know) the issue is unresolved. "
Reg, put yourself in the shoes of someone at the DOJ.
It would be quite simple to check with the CIA to find out if Plame had been undercover overseas in the past 5 years prior to Novak's first column.
But you don't bother. You go on ahead and start the process of collecting information from the Bush administration. Thousands of people are inconvenienced, papers are being copied, it's a giant pain in the ass.
A few months later, after even more inconvenience, and more press that makes Bush look bad, someone discovers that Plame wasn't covered by the law because she hadn't been overseas within 5 years.
What does this DOJ person's career look like?
A pile of crap; he'll be working at Taco Bell soon.
Unless, that is, you think Ashcroft would let such a stupid oversight occur. There's no way Ashcroft would let the investigation go on if exculpatory evidence were so easily obtained.
The fact that DOJ has allowed the investigation to get to the point of disrupting the operations of the Bush administration is a very good sign that they did this very simple examination of Plame's service record and found that yes, indeed, she has been overseas, undercover, in the last 5 years, and is covered by the law.
Given that the administration is collecting records, it's 100% likely that Plame fulfills her end of the law - she was overseas, undercover, within 5 years.
President Bush should ask the justice dept investigators to supoena the reporters--at least some of whose names they should have been able to get from Wilson. When a crime is committed they don't have the right to protect their sources especially since they are doing a lot of background talking and without their corroboration or a confession by the guilty party it would be difficult to prove anything anyway.
John Bruce writes: "And heaven forbid that the CIA's general counsel would have a political or bureaucratic motive in making the referral."
And you think John Ashcroft would fail to validate the referral, making sure that Plame was in fact covert, before investigating the White House and inconveniencing the man who kept Ashcroft from being just "the guy who was beaten by a dead man"?
Just because the CIA won't show you the evidence of Plame's work record doesn't mean they won't show the DOJ's investigators.
John: take a good look at yourself. Can't you see that you're going out of your way to do whatever you can to defend Bush, no matter what evidence you're presented with? What is it with you Republican cyborgs? Don't you have any self-respect?posted by: The Fool on 10.08.03 at 10:25 AM [permalink]
Kristjan, even if I didn't know about his covert work, it seems to me I'd respect the instructor for his knowledge of computer science. My guess is that if I got to know him, leaving aside his military experience, I'd probably sense some type of integrity and inner strength that would make me not-very-surprised to learn about his other side.
However, marriage to a wealthy playboy type and setting a table with red white and blue napkins -- the details I've heard -- don't lead me to similar conclusions with Plame. I could be wrong, which I've said over and over, but until more facts come in, I'm entitled to make judgments based on the facts I have.
Those who disagree are simply making their own judgments; where I would differ would be to say that they're drawing more inferences and hoping for more facts not in evidence than I am. That's what makes horse racing (where, however, those who make the right calls stand to make much more money than they do here).posted by: John Bruce on 10.08.03 at 10:25 AM [permalink]
Jon H, at some point the CIA does have to show its hand. And in fact there are two outcomes here: either the whole thing blows over (no leaker is identified or there is no violation), or there is a violation and the violator is identified. At that point the CIA does have to show its hand.
But typically the prosectution leaks like crazy before even this point. The fact that nobody's leaking from the CIA/DOJ side suggests there's nothing there.posted by: John Bruce on 10.08.03 at 10:25 AM [permalink]
John Bruce writes: "However, marriage to a wealthy playboy type and setting a table with red white and blue napkins -- the details I've heard -- don't lead me to similar conclusions with Plame."
Plame was in the CIA for 12 years before she met Wilson.
This has nothing to do with wealth, class, or privilege, or political inclination. You're just sexist. It all boils down to you not believing that a woman could be a covert spy.
The reason you accept Kristjan's teacher's being willing to take dirty jobs is that Kristjan's teacher is a man.
It is very interesting watching the fever swamp left say, "George Bush said it so it must be so. Argument over". The left has spent the last six months calling Bush a liar, but now when it suits their purposes, they're more than willing to let him do their thinking for them.
My understanding of the law is she must have been on covert, overseas assignments or missions within the last five years. If that isn't proven it isn't a crime. Just because it isn't a crime doesn't mean it wasn't wrong or a bad thing for Plame to be outed, but then it becomes a question of morality not law.
If it's a question of morality, then her value as an agent becomes a topic for consideration along with several other things. Mr. Bruce has been arguing (as have I in previous sections) that it is not likely Plame had much value as an agent.
I am more than willing to admit that I don't know whether her work was valuable or not. It just annoys me to see people who also don't know her value as an agent, play up her outing as the worst thing to happen to the American intelligence community since Aldrich Ames.
BTW, I thought the left hated the CIA. I guess consistency is the hobgoblin of etc.
I think John Bruce should be stuffed and mounted. Seriously. The man's a treasure: a Bush-worshipper who still believes no crime was committed in outing Valerie Plame even after Flight Suit Lad himself says that outing Plame was a criminal action.posted by: Jesurgislac on 10.08.03 at 10:25 AM [permalink]
John Bruce writes: "at some point the CIA does have to show its hand."
They already showed it to DOJ.
You'd have to be nuts to seriously believe that John Ashcroft would launch an investigation of the White House without first taking the simple step of checking Plame's travel records. No overseas trips, no case, no need to investigate the White House.
Ashcroft isn't CIA. He isn't a lefty. He isn't a Democrat. He's a loyal Bush appointee. What's the motivation for him to needlessly antagonize his boss?
It wouldn't be a security breach to announce if Plame had *not* been overseas in the last 5 years.
There's no reason not to check, and there's no reason not to announce the results if the check is negative.posted by: Jon H on 10.08.03 at 10:25 AM [permalink]
MiguelS writes: "My understanding of the law is she must have been on covert, overseas assignments or missions within the last five years. If that isn't proven it isn't a crime.
Why would Ashcroft launch an investigation of administration documents without first checking CIA travel records to make sure Plame had been overseas, undercover, within 5 years?posted by: Jon H on 10.08.03 at 10:25 AM [permalink]
Of course, Dan, if Bush had said "I'll get to the bottom of this by calling every single person on the federal payroll in my office for a grilling," the response from Democratic partisans would have been exactly the same (based on the reasons Eugene Volokh points out--the grilling approach almost certainly won't work, particularly if the leakers are at the David Kelly level). So in terms of the partisan game, Bush is screwed no matter what he says. Marshall et al. want Rove fired whether or not he's actually responsible for the leak (for reasons that have nothing to do with Valerie Plame; frankly, the only conclusion I can reach is that they're afraid of his alleged "magical political powers").
That being said, a "but I'll try it anyway" would have gone a long way in my book...posted by: Chris Lawrence on 10.08.03 at 10:25 AM [permalink]
Dear Mr. Bruce,
People marry for all sorts of reasons. I'm sure that Wilsons' good looks, status, and money didn't hurt his cause. However, having a spouse with a security clearance might have been a big incentive. It's no fun hiding things from people you love.
As for her taste in men and lifestyle somehow proving that she couldn't have been a spy, they probably helped. He goes around to foreign countries, she tags along and then slips away to do her thing. Also while you can dress down, it's hard in order to go higher than your station in life suddenly. Her husband's status probably opened doors for her work.
Now stop being silly. Or is it that only poor people get to be spies? She served her country; that should be enough for you. You don't know Valerie Plame. You don't know if she's got the right kind of stuff or not. So shelve it.posted by: Oldman on 10.08.03 at 10:25 AM [permalink]
First of all, imply that I am a lefty and one day you and I will have words sir. My family has been conservative since ... well ... forever. Another thing, are you arguing against the President then?
The President has said that he considers this a serious matter and that the act was criminal. I know allot of Republicans on the street who are going to listen to that, and take him at his word. Frankly, I don't think GW is a liar. In fact, he probably tells the truth - as he sees it - more than most politicians do. Liberals who accuse him of lying don't understand the man. There is a gap between his rhetoric and his words, but it is the gap of insular wishful thinking rather than the gap of malicious deception. He genuinely doesn't see things that way.
Whether or not that is the more damning inditement, to be so out of touch with reality, I leave to the individual reader.posted by: Oldman on 10.08.03 at 10:25 AM [permalink]
Oldman writes: "He goes around to foreign countries, she tags along and then slips away to do her thing"
Probably not. I think she probably did her thing on her own, since she started long before she met Wilson.
You have an ex-ambassador and a CIA agent. These are not people likely to suffer from separation anxiety whenever they're apart.posted by: Jon H on 10.08.03 at 10:25 AM [permalink]
I can't help but detect some sexism on this board and in the general press. Some men can't seem to see Ms. Plame as anything more than a tea-sipping ambassador's wife, a dilitante, the wronged wife of a powerful man. Judging from the Post story and other sources, Valerie Plame was apparently a top operative in the CIA's Directorate of Operations - the highest echelons of the CIA. Her specialty was the administration's top priority: WMD. Her area of operations: the middle east. Was she responsible for intelligence related to Iraqi nuclear ambitions? She was at a minimum influential enough at the agency to get her husband sent to Niger. Could she have been in charge of the operation and actually tasked her husband for the assignment? Maybe she wanted to send someone she could trust. Who knows? Did she ever meet with high administration officials regarding WMD? How well known to the administration was she? Was she one of the "unhelpful" CIA analysts that wouldn't cook the intelligence on Iraqi WMD? Did the leakers primarily know her from her work and only incidentally know Wilson? Could that explain their knowing she was an operative and their using her undercover name Plame rather than Wilson? Could her role in WMD intelligence put her into conflict with the administration? Could she be a member of the team Cheney babysat during his visits to CIA headquarters prior to the war in his attempt to obtain the strongest case possible against Iraq? What would be the response of the Bush loyalty fetishists at the WH to a "team member" who attacked them by proxy through her husband's NYT op-ed? Is that why she was "fair game"? Did the high administration official who leaked that the outing was revenge against her husband do so because he was appalled at the leak or actually as a diversion from the more explosive allegation that it was a calculated direct hit against her and a none too suble warning to other spooks to keep their opinions out of the press? I don't know, but I can't imagine that if the roles were reversed and Plame was the husband and Wilson the wife we'd be more interested in Plame's role and less fixated on Wilson. We'd see James Bond and not Ms. Moneypenny.posted by: fastback on 10.08.03 at 10:25 AM [permalink]
Dear Jon H,
I have no doubt that Valerie Plame was supremely able to operate independently. My point was that counter to suggestions from my brethren on the right, her husband's lifestyle probably furthered her cover and her service to this nation rather than diminished them. Afterall, being married to a plumber in Queens and trying to be a covert operative probably weren't going to be very compatible. The take off in 'True Lies' (Viva la Arnie) is a kind of light-hearted fictional spoof on this topic with how you try to mix the two concepts.posted by: Oldman on 10.08.03 at 10:25 AM [permalink]
You are correct and this is what we have to consider. Most other countries are generally more sexist about women than the USA. If they could have such difficulty conceiving of Ms. Plame as an undercover operative, then she was fucking gold for the CIA when she operated with contacts in nations that make US levels of sexism look enlightened.posted by: Oldman on 10.08.03 at 10:25 AM [permalink]
I wanted to clarify some of the points I made earlier.
First, I am persuaded that Ms. Wilson was covert at some point in her career, and that outing her damaged national security. Since she was married six years ago and has four year old twins, I smell "Mommy track", and suspect she is working as what looks, to the casual NSC passer-by, like an analyst. Whoda thunk?
I think alternative motives are (1) revenge; (2) intimidation of other leakers; (3) news management.
Revenge? If the leakers really knew she was covert and would be operating in the field, then they included six reporters in a criminal act. Smooth. Why not tell business contacts that Amb. Wilson is persona non grata, and ice his African consulting business?
Intimidation? The leakers sure scared the heck out of any CIA types who were thinking about submitting a signed article to the NY Times. Whether our CIA has adequate tradecraft to leak to a sympathetic reporter without being detected is an open question. My guess is, conventional leakers were unfazed.
News management? Wilson was being depicted as the distinguished retired Ambassador, an expert in the region, and tough on Saddam - if he is a skeptic, shouldn't we all be?
But wait, say the leakers! He is not some disinterested third party - he is the husband of a CIA agent; her see-no-evil CIA has pooh-poohed the neocons worries about Iraq for years!
Which, to some folks anyway, might seem like a reasonable point to make about just how hard he looked, and how we should interpret his findings. (Which, BTW, he misrepresented in the NY Times.)
Now, some may insist it was revenge; I think the news management theory is credible, although neither can be proven at this point.
SO, to answer Ross's questions:
2. What evidence would convince you of 1? Keep in mind that the CIA itself will neither confirm nor deny anything secure, as a matter of principle and procedure.
3. If Plame is currently a covert operative, is it a crime to out her?
**If you know she is, and have intent, yes.**
4. If Plame WAS a covert operative, is it a crime to out her?
**Very much depends. Which is why the law is not a great guide to this, since outing her is still a bad thing.**
5. Do you believe her identity was revealed as a political act? That is, to punish and/or intimadate.
**No, it was legitimate attempt to present an alternative view of Wilson's credibility and motives. The WaPo has a source who was contacted that supports this, as does Novak.**
and finally...let's throw in the bonus question:
6. Do you believe that there are senior administration officials in the White House who KNOW who leaked?
**I bet they have some good guesses. What is knowledge? OK, Yes. And given the circumstances, it is not clear that letting the process play out is wrong.**
1. Are you open to the possibility that some White House staffers were simply trying to get their story out, and made a mistake?
2. Does it trouble you that the CIA spokesman did not emphasize to Novak (or TIME) not to publish? The WaPo is quite clear that reporters cooperate all the time - the "secrecy" around Kobe Bryant's accuser comes to mind.posted by: Tom Maguire on 10.08.03 at 10:25 AM [permalink]
Tom Maguire writes:
They married five years ago and they have 3 year old twins.
They *met* six years ago.
No go and adjust your theories to take that into account.posted by: Jon h on 10.08.03 at 10:25 AM [permalink]
Tom Maguire writes: "2. Does it trouble you that the CIA spokesman did not emphasize to Novak (or TIME) not to publish? The WaPo is quite clear that reporters cooperate all the time - the "secrecy" around Kobe Bryant's accuser comes to mind."
It does not trouble me. I don't think there was a good way for them to do it which would have satisfied Novak. Too strong and he would have said "A ha! It's a coverup".
Had they said "no", or "cannot confirm or deny", he might still have run the story. "Administration official says she's CIA, CIA denies it" is really not that much of an improvement.
It clearly would be a bad idea to give him more information about her, because he leaks like a sieve and has no moral compass, and is a tool of the administration.posted by: Jon H on 10.08.03 at 10:25 AM [permalink]
In answer to Tom Maguire's sensible questions (even though he didn't ask me):
1. Are you open to the possibility that some White House staffers were simply trying to get their story out, and made a mistake?
Yep. As I said above, I think Tom's "ghastly error" hypothesis may well prove to be the truth.
2. Does it trouble you that the CIA spokesman did not emphasize to Novak (or TIME) not to publish? The WaPo is quite clear that reporters cooperate all the time - the "secrecy" around Kobe Bryant's accuser comes to mind.
I don't know what was said to Novak (or TIME) and don't find Novak a credible source. I also think it's a tricky business figuring out what to say in those circumstances. Nevertheless, if those who spoke to Novak and TIME blew the drill, that is indeed troubling.
Of course, that wouldn't let the leaker(s) off the hook.posted by: Jim Clark on 10.08.03 at 10:25 AM [permalink]
The issue of sexism has come up here -- even in these times, I think it's appropriate to look with a slight chuckle at a marriage by a woman to a man 13 years older, with a lot of money. As someone said, we marry for lots of reasons, and some marry wealthy older men. This legitimately goes into the overall pot, it seems to me.
But actually, the person Plame reminds me of most, ever since I read the WaPo piece, is Martha Stewart. The red white and blue napkins helped, but the big house and the nice ladies talking about how she does positive things for everyone clinched it. Now, Martha Stewart is a real person, not a stereotype. But people have strong opinions about Ms. Stewart and people like her, without, it seems to me, necessarily referring to sexism or stereotypes.
So I think Plame is the Martha Stewart of spies. I simply can't take this thing seriously.posted by: John Bruce on 10.08.03 at 10:25 AM [permalink]
John Bruce rights:
"I think Plame is the Martha Stewart of spies."
I'm sure no offense was meant. In the same vein, I'd say you're the Al Morale of internet posters.posted by: Jim Clark on 10.08.03 at 10:25 AM [permalink]
D'oh! Obviously, John Bruce "writes" -- the last thing he does is "rights".
I hate homonyms.posted by: Jim Clark on 10.08.03 at 10:25 AM [permalink]
OK, good point, the twins are three years old. Since my theory is that anyone who met her in the last few years (for example, since the change of Administration in 2001) might make the erroneous assumption that "once an analyst, always an analyst", I don't think my theories change at all.posted by: Tom Maguire on 10.08.03 at 10:25 AM [permalink]
Reg, YOU "shut up". You're the James Brown of the troll business, but there's never any point to anything you say.posted by: Zizka on 10.08.03 at 10:25 AM [permalink]
Nothing about her suggests "spy."
This is John Bruce's idea of an argument that she was _not_ a spy?
And this is supposed to be the blog where the smart conservatives hang out? [Giggle]posted by: Cervantes on 10.08.03 at 10:25 AM [permalink]
I wonder why anyone bothers to argue with John Bruce anymore. He's been offering the same "she wasn't really covert" BS on at least three comment threads to Dan's postsa dn got shot down each time with hard facts like the one's Jim Clark offered. Next thread, he starts at zero again. Reg behaves just the same AFAICT, which is a pitty, since he used to be a serious commenter at MY.
"it's 100% likely that Plame fulfills her end of the law - she was overseas, undercover, within 5 years"
Heh, Zizka, sorry I'm ripping on your friend The Fool, but all he does is call names and insult people. People like that do best to shut their mouths. Better be careful before I lump you into that category. Me a troll, what on earth are you talking about.
Also, I haven't read closely enough but it does seem that Bruce isnt making a very strong argument against her covertness.
I'd respond to this, "Reg behaves just the same AFAICT" but I don't know what it means.posted by: Reg on 10.08.03 at 10:25 AM [permalink]
My point about the sexism of downplaying Ms. Plame's role at the CIA and her level of responsibilities is that it isn't helpful in teasing out her role in this tangled mess. She wasn't Martha Stewart or Ms. Moneypenny. She had been trained as a top undercover agent. She was as late as the outing using the CIA front company as her employer of record. She probably was on a "mommy track" of sorts in that after 15 years in the field she had reportedly risen to the level that she managed a team of 4 or so operatives. She wasn't wielding her explosives and AK-47 anymore. She reportedly had enough influence at the agency as late as February 2002 to get her husband sent on the mission to Niger. How did she exercise that influence? Only tangentially or was she as a 15 year veteran top CIA undercover operator/analyst working for the Directorate of Operations managing assets in the field and specialized in middle eastern WMD issues either in charge of or highly involved in a Iraqi WMD assessment? I don't know, but her credentials and the limited reports of her activities suggest she very well could have been. And it's no secret that the CIA held a much less fevered view of Iraqi nuclear capability than administration insiders. Ms. Plame is the victim here, not Wilson. She lost her career. She was attacked. Occam's razor would lead us to believe since she was the victim, she was the target. Playing this scandal off as some bank shot against Wilson gone awry plays into the administration's hand. If the leak wasn't intentional, it's not criminal. And between the two scenarios of a hamhanded attack against Wilson gone bad by unwitting administration officials vs. a calculated outing of an uppity CIA agent who broke Bush administration loyalty by taking her criticism outside the agency, only one of those scenarios could be proven unintentional in the courts of justice and public opinion.posted by: fastback on 10.08.03 at 10:25 AM [permalink]
Where do we get the idea that Wilson was the target? Well of course from that anonymous high administration official, the supposed voice in the wilderness, the leaker who claimed to know the real leaker's motivations. Was it a bout of ethics or did he only feign disgust as he planted the most favorable and legally defensible scenario in the national press? I think it was Teresa Nielson Hayden who said she hates this administration because it's turned her into a conspiracy theorist. I relate.posted by: fastback on 10.08.03 at 10:25 AM [permalink]
Tom, I don't think there is any evidence that Plame worked as a CIA analyst, with its overtones of lessened secrecy or even open employment. The word "analyst" appeared in right-wing circles only subsequent to the leak as part of Operation Toothpaste Back Into Tube. Novak's original column used the correct word, "operative", which he is now trying to downgrade into "analyst". It's not a pretty sight.
John Bruce, besides the parking permit (not taking the cash bet?), what are the other distinguishing marks of a covert agent? A trenchcoat? A host of aliases? A penis? Explain in 100 words or less why undercover figures can't use a heavy, seemingly frivolous social schedule as part of their cover, with special attention to Zorro and The Scarlet Pimpernel.
Tom and Dan again: I'm willing to concede the possibility of your massive mistake scenario, if you will agree in return that the evidence is also consistent with a deliberate, malicious, premeditated act authorized in advance or covered up in retrospect at the very highest levels.
Now, GWB's barely veiled message to the leakers yesterday to hang tough, that no one ever finds leakers, makes me think my scenario is more likely, but that's for another thread.posted by: Andrew Lazarus on 10.08.03 at 10:25 AM [permalink]
Speaking of new threads, you may want to check out this new thread.posted by: Dan Drezner on 10.08.03 at 10:25 AM [permalink]
Reg writes: " Judging from what we know, I'd put it at about 75% likely. The most convincing evidence is that this is still being looked into. I wouldn't put it at 100 because there is lots we don't know, and even if we did know everything, there doesn't seem to be a lot of certainty as to what the law requires as to "affirmative measure" to conceal one's covertness."
I don't consider that as being "Plame's end" of the law. I figure there are three parties: Plame, the CIA, and the leaker.
Plame's part is her travel record for the last 5 years, because it's bounded by having kids.
The CIA's part is whether active steps were taken to maintain cover; some of this would be beyond Plame's control, such as what the CIA spokesman was saying.
The outer's part is the knowledge and intent part.
The first two parts can be pretty well determined without involving the Administration. The third part can only be determined once you find who did it, if then.
Because the Plame part is easy to determine (check records, ask her, etc) I'd guess that's 100% - she was undercover, and did travel under cover within 5 years. They wouldn't have gone into the White House if this hadn't checked out. This was probably the second thing they verified, after verifying that she was covert at all.
The CIA's part: I think the CIA was able to make a convincing case that it was actively maintaining her cover. This might fall apart in a trial, but I doubt it. (More likely to fall apart on the leaker's side.) Anyway, I think the DOJ considers this to be fulfilled, and wouldn't have gone into the White House if this weren't the case.
The outer's part remains unknown, and will remain so until someone spills or the person is caught some other way.
"As I've been saying the whole time, the real question is whether the leaker knew that Plame was undercover. No evidence either way, and there won't be until we know the leaker. From the way it sounds, the only people who know for sure are Novak and the leaker, and it is unfair to blame Bush for not being able to uncover this. I don't think they have any idea. "
I think Bush could be a whole lot more creative. Rounding up dozens of people and locking them up indefinitely without evidence didn't used to be a problem for him. He's being quite wimpy about this.
A carrot and stick approach would be a good start - promise a pardon to the first person who comes forward.posted by: Jon H on 10.08.03 at 10:25 AM [permalink]
The reason you accept Kristjan's teacher's being willing to take dirty jobs is that Kristjan's teacher is a man.
Actually it's not a teacher, but a co-student (it's an open question why he feels it is necessary for him to take this education).posted by: Kristjan Wager on 10.08.03 at 10:25 AM [permalink]
"Tom and Dan again: I'm willing to concede the possibility of your massive mistake scenario, if you will agree in return that the evidence is also consistent with a deliberate, malicious, premeditated act authorized in advance or covered up in retrospect at the very highest levels."
That said, change "consistent" to "not inconsistent" in the above proposition, and I concur. A minor change in emphasis only.
I certainly hope I haven't come across as having pre-judged this - I have been posting on this for a long time, and conceded a long time ago that ghastly scenarios could not be ruled out.
I am hoping the "truth" (if we ever know it) isn't too grim, but it is surely just a hope.posted by: Tom Maguire on 10.08.03 at 10:25 AM [permalink]
This is not my idea originally, but it one of the best so far: Bush orders all the likely suspects to release Novak from any privlige concerning any conversation here relevant. End of one story - beginning of another.posted by: JGH on 10.08.03 at 10:25 AM [permalink]
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