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July 21, 2003

VALERIE PLAME UPDATE....A few days ago I blogged about a David Corn column in The Nation in which he suggested that the White House had exposed Joseph Wilson's wife, Valerie Plame, as a CIA operative in order to discredit Wilson himself. But Corn's column was hedged and it was unclear exactly who exposed Plame and exactly what Plame's role at the CIA was. Today, Wilson provides some additional information:

In an NBC News exclusive, Wilson says his family is the subject of a smear campaign. Wilson tells NBC News the White House deliberately leaked his wife’s identity as a covert CIA operative, damaging her future career and compromising past missions after he criticized the administration on “Meet the Press” and in the New York Times.

So according to Wilson, his wife was a covert operative, and it was White House officials who outed her.

If Wilson's charges are accurate, this is ugly, very ugly....

UPDATE: Paul Krugman picks up on the Valerie Plame story in his Tuesday column.

Posted by Kevin Drum at July 21, 2003 09:01 PM | TrackBack


Comments

Incredible stuff. Absolutely stunning. If true, this would imply that a cabinet-level appointee was involved in, if not responsible for, one of the most irresponsible (if not treasonous) acts that a government official could commit.

If this spreads, it'll make the 16 words look almost minor.

Posted by: Demosthenes at July 21, 2003 09:19 PM | PERMALINK

And as a sidelight, it's Andrea Mitchell doing the reporting.

The same Andrea Mitchell who sent the scathing (some would say pissy) email about the Bushies not playing footsie with the press.

To quote Monty Python:

More than a coincidence?
I think not!

Posted by: edub at July 21, 2003 09:27 PM | PERMALINK

Here's hoping that fury-of-a-woman-scorned stuff holds true for Mitchell.

Posted by: Molly at July 21, 2003 09:36 PM | PERMALINK

It's a front-page story at www.newsday.com.

quote:

Novak, in an interview, said his sources had come to him with the information. "I didn't dig it out, it was given to me," he said. "They thought it was significant, they gave me the name and I used it."

quote:

A senior intelligence official confirmed that Plame was a Directorate of Operations undercover officer who worked "alongside" the operations officers who asked her husband to travel to Niger.

No sign of the story at CNN or, of course, Fox.

Posted by: Jon H at July 21, 2003 09:52 PM | PERMALINK

It's strange. The Niger allegations had effects over thousands of lives, in the US, in Iraq, in Africa, and in our allied nations.

Yet it is the personal which becomes, and rightly so, the most objectionable action taken by the adminstration in this situation.

There should be prison terms for whoever did this, and resignations on the part of superiors.

Posted by: SamAm at July 21, 2003 09:53 PM | PERMALINK

Oh, and for the conspiratorily-inclined ;^), I note that Talking Points Memo is down this AM.

Probably *just* a coincidence.

Posted by: Jon H at July 21, 2003 09:57 PM | PERMALINK

FWIW, earlier this evening I looked up the relevant law on the matter.

It's the Intelligence Identities Protection Act of 1982, and (excerpting) it says:
"Whoever, having or having had authorized access to classified information that identifies a covert agent, intentionally discloses any information identifying such covert agent to any individual not authorized to receive classified information, knowing that the information disclosed so identifies such covert agent and that the United States is taking affirmative measures to conceal such covert agent's intelligence relationship to the United States, shall be fined under title 18 or imprisoned not more than ten years, or both." The full text from the US Code has more, but that's the most relevant section.

Posted by: Lis at July 21, 2003 09:58 PM | PERMALINK

Krugman, sounding somehow less shrill, and more understated:

Think about that: if their characterization of Mr. Wilson's wife is true (he refuses to confirm or deny it), Bush administration officials have exposed the identity of a covert operative. That happens to be a criminal act; it's also definitely unpatriotic.

Unpatriotic?

How about treasonous? Or has that term been copyrighted by the pro-McCarthy crowd?

So the Bushies have managed to out a CIA covert, damaging not only national security but this woman's life (she's the mother of toddler-aged twins, btw; she'll be very careful any time she enters a taxicab in London from now on), all to send a political message that you don't mess with Texas.

Nice move, Bushies. I'd sooner enter into a chess match with Kasparov than I would a "leaking contest" with the CIA.

Posted by: edub at July 21, 2003 09:58 PM | PERMALINK

Nothing says Republican tenure like a coupla felonies and Presidential pardons.

Posted by: squiddy at July 21, 2003 10:08 PM | PERMALINK

I wonder if this will whet the appetites of the press, so they'll really tear into the 9/11 report, and if so, will it distract from the Iraq scandals, or will they manage to cover two stories at once?

Posted by: Jon H at July 21, 2003 10:16 PM | PERMALINK

Nothing says Republicans in the White House like an assault on the foundations of our government. I'm talking Watergate and Iran/Contra, leaving out the present situation. Only Gerald Ford is not tarred with that brush.

Posted by: etc. at July 21, 2003 10:22 PM | PERMALINK

If this is true, you should all be as scared as I that conservatives--who represent/influence millions of people--are blowing this off. It seems these dolts will tolerate personal destruction as long as it's done by a born-again fool.

Posted by: Steve Story at July 21, 2003 10:23 PM | PERMALINK

Appending to my previous post, according to Title 8, Chapter 12, Subchapter I, Section 1101, this offense is considered an "aggravated felony"

As far as press appetites are concerned, Suburban Guerrilla suggested that the Bush lovefest was partly caused by lazy reporters. As long as things were going well, they could coast. But "Reporters lost their protective cover. The thing that allowed them to rationalize their laziness, their cowardice and their buddy-buddy relationships with sources got blown sky-high with this one, and now they have to punish Bush."

It's going to be a bumpy ride...

Posted by: Lis at July 21, 2003 10:26 PM | PERMALINK

Please, please someone correct me if I'm wrong, but this looks like, to my untrained eye, a fairly open and shut violation of the aforementioned law.

Is that a correct assumption (forgetting the political wrangling which will ensue, and just looking from a legal standpoint)?

Posted by: SamAm at July 21, 2003 10:33 PM | PERMALINK

Meanwhile ... Down at the Wal-Mart, people choose the magazine with J-Lo's ass on the cover.

Posted by: squiddy at July 21, 2003 10:34 PM | PERMALINK

Lis wrote: "the Bush lovefest was partly caused by lazy reporter"

Also, being tough on Bush was unlikely to advance anyone's career.

Now that there seems to be a juicy scandal, it's possible to score some points, so some are waking up a little.

(Financial scandals like connections to Enron hardly count, because those would only help the grey people on the business desk. Who cares about them?)

Posted by: Jon H at July 21, 2003 10:36 PM | PERMALINK

The Krugman column noted the eagerness of some pundits on the right to accuse critics of the administration of aiding and comforting our enemies. Krugman offered Frank Gaffney as an example, but made no mention of William Safire's recent column, which went even further than Gaffney's along the "aid and comfort" line. Do New York Times rules forbid explicit criticism of one's fellow NYT columnists?

Posted by: Jeffrey Kramer at July 22, 2003 01:55 AM | PERMALINK

Eeek...

SamAm:I don't see ANY wiggle room on this. Whoever leaked that broke the law big-time.

And you're right. This has potential to be even a bigger scandel. After..how in the hell can this be justified? It can't. It's virtually impossible...although I'm sure some people will try.

Posted by: Karmakin at July 22, 2003 02:49 AM | PERMALINK

Well, good thing the "politics of personal destruction" were eliminated by this administration.

Posted by: Rob at July 22, 2003 03:22 AM | PERMALINK

I sure do hate to lower the level of discourse on this subject, but every time I see her name in print I hear this song:

(free and legal download)

Oh, Valerie Plame...

Posted by: theperegrine at July 22, 2003 04:58 AM | PERMALINK

Y'know... Novakula was against the war, wasn't he? At least, I seem to remember two or three remarkably sane columns questioning the whole farce.

And now, he's gabbing away about "senior administration officials," thus lobbing this flaming turd straight into the White House. Could that have been his intention all along? Go with the WH leaks, then rat 'em out and watch the fun? Maybe Novak is a closet liberal! Maybe even a member of his local public radio station!

Or is my tinfoil hat too tight?

Posted by: jupiter at July 22, 2003 05:04 AM | PERMALINK

"Do New York Times rules forbid explicit criticism of one's fellow NYT columnists?"

The NYT does have an extensive array of forums, including a forum for each of its regular columnists. Sometimes, the columnists participate.

Why don't you post this question there? Let us know what the answer is.

Posted by: raj at July 22, 2003 05:06 AM | PERMALINK

Am I correct to think the only entity with standing to prosecute this offense would be either the Justice Department, or a special prosecutor appointed by congress?

Posted by: Jeremy Osner at July 22, 2003 05:11 AM | PERMALINK

Jeremy-


AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIGGHHH!!!!!!

Posted by: theperegrine at July 22, 2003 05:17 AM | PERMALINK

Jeremy-

My apologies. I saw the terms 'Justice Department' and 'special prosecutor' in close proximity and panicked. But even if one were to be appointed by Congress (which is Republican at the moment, in case you've forgotten) rather than the Attorney General it's still an idea that best remains buried with the 'independent counsel law'.

IMHO.

Don't scare me like that this early in the morning.

Posted by: theperegrine at July 22, 2003 05:29 AM | PERMALINK

In a live interview this morning with the Today Show's Katie Couric, Joe Wilson explained that this controversy was not about him or his wife, it was about the 16 words in the SOU. He reiterated that this was a smear campaign, not so much against him -- he's already spilled what he knows, after all -- but to intimidate anyone else from coming forward with what they know.

When Couric suggested Wilson was a Democract, Wilson said (and this is a paraphrase): "The White House is trying to say that the only reason I'm telling the truth is because I'm a Democrat. If that's the case, what does that make the Republicans?"

Posted by: Jim E. at July 22, 2003 05:35 AM | PERMALINK

Jim E-

I noticed that he stopped well short of stating that his wife's exposure as an undercover agent will potentially threaten her life, or the lives of her acquaintences...so at least there's that.

Posted by: theperegrine at July 22, 2003 05:48 AM | PERMALINK

If she was a covert agent, why would the CIA confirm she was? That's not something they do. They would neither confirm nor deny she worked for them if she was indeed a covert agent, even if SHE came out and said she was. The whole thing reeks of Oliver Stone conspiracy nonsense.

Wilson is complaining about being smeared, but his positions on the war and the comments he has made in the past leading up to the war are fair game. If the people who believe him want to quote President Bush I and his praise for Wilson, then they should accept the criticism of Wilson and his far left positions he has taken in the past as well.

Posted by: Jay Caruso at July 22, 2003 05:58 AM | PERMALINK

Jay Caruso,

You're right -- the CIA would NEVER out a covert agent. Joe Wilson said that conservative columnist Robert Novack, who broke the story, told him that the CIA was not his source for "outing" Wilson's wife -- his source was two White House officials. That's why Wilson is saying the White House is behind the smear campaign.

Posted by: Jim E. at July 22, 2003 06:03 AM | PERMALINK

Jay Caruso,

Whatever political positions Wilson may have taken in the past, it has nothing to do with his truthfulness now. In fact, no one has disproved a single thing he has said about his Niger trip.

With that said, what "far left" positions has Wilson taken? Can you provide "links"?

Posted by: Jim E. at July 22, 2003 06:06 AM | PERMALINK

Jay Caruso writes: "Wilson is complaining about being smeared, but his positions on the war and the comments he has made in the past leading up to the war are fair game. If the people who believe him want to quote President Bush I and his praise for Wilson, then they should accept the criticism of Wilson and his far left positions he has taken in the past as well."

The problem with your theory, Jay, is that Robert Novak is the one who wrote about his wife first, not Wilson.

How, exactly, do you justify bringing his wife into it *at* *all*?

How does the administration's illegal outing of a CIA operative, Wilson's wife, have *anything* to do with Wilson's political positions, past or present?

Posted by: Jon H at July 22, 2003 06:11 AM | PERMALINK

More moronic, off-topic crapola from Jay Caruso. Quelle surprise. Evidently treason doesn't have much resonance for him.
Hey - traction. NYT and NBC. Mark Kleiman has a series of good posts on this, explaining why he thinks this could be very big.
etc., Ford pardoned Nixon! Lest we forget. I smell a pardon (or two) here and a post in a future GOP White House, if we have one in the next thirty years (A boy can dream). They can run as the Crook Party.
GOP Presidencies since Nixon:
Nixon: Watergate
Ford: Watergate pardon
Reagan: Iran-Contra
Bush I: Iran-Contra pardons
Bush II: this s**t
Vote GOP in 2004.

Posted by: John Isbell at July 22, 2003 06:17 AM | PERMALINK

Jay Caruso wrote: "If she was a covert agent, why would the CIA confirm she was?"

1. I've been out of the news cycle. I didn't know that the CIA had officially commented on Ms. Plume's position in the agency. Does anyone have references (links) on that?

2. Why would the CIA confirm that high-ranking administration officials had committed treasonous acts? Maybe because they can?

Payback is a b*tch, ain't it? ;)

Posted by: dasboat at July 22, 2003 06:38 AM | PERMALINK

dasboat:

In an article running at www.newsday.com today (7/22/03) it says:

"A senior intelligence official confirmed that Plame was a Directorate of Operations undercover officer who worked "alongside" the operations officers who asked her husband to travel to Niger."

So it's not an official CIA statement. The CIA, to my knowledge, hasn't officially made a statement.

Posted by: Jon H at July 22, 2003 06:43 AM | PERMALINK

John Isabell-

Jay Caruso doesn't seem to be fully aware of what's going on, but he is right when he says that accusations of partisanship are fair game. Such accusations can be easily dispelled in Wilson's case, so why sweat it?

Posted by: theperegrine at July 22, 2003 06:46 AM | PERMALINK

dasboat-

In the Today show interview this morning, Wilson says that when Robert Novak originally called him for comment on his article exposing Valerie Plame that Novak told him his sources were CIA. When Wilson spoke to Novak again after publication Novak corrected himself and said he misspoke, that his sources were in fact 'administration officials' as stated in the article.

That's where Jay Caruso is getting confused. But as it stands Novak, Wilson and Time Magazine all assert that the information came straight from the White House.

Posted by: theperegrine at July 22, 2003 06:50 AM | PERMALINK

theperegrine,
I think you are being a tad too generous about Jay Caruso's "confusion." I don't think he suffers from it as much as he's trying to spread it. No one -- and I mean no one -- has ever suggested the CIA leaked the info on Wilson's wife. Well, except for Mr. Caruso.

Posted by: Jim E. at July 22, 2003 07:00 AM | PERMALINK

"Jay Caruso doesn't seem to be fully aware of what's going on, but he is right when he says that accusations of partisanship are fair game."

What's Jay Caruso's political affiliation, anyway?

--K

Posted by: Kynn at July 22, 2003 07:18 AM | PERMALINK

Well obviously somebody decided to defend this..

Re:Novak, he is strongly conservative, but he's more of an actual journalist than most of the rest of them combined. He's a throwback to the more honorable conservative commentators. The true "loyal opposition" if you will.

Posted by: Karmakin at July 22, 2003 07:19 AM | PERMALINK

Jim E-

That isn't correct. According to Wilson himself Robert Novak originally told him the leaks came from the CIA. Novak has rescinded this and now claims his sources were from the Bush Administration, a far more likely scenario that has been corroborated by Time Magazine.

So the CIA was implicated, but apparently it was in error.

Posted by: theperegrine at July 22, 2003 07:21 AM | PERMALINK

Caruso is a radical freak. He has no problem in having the Executive blow the limbs off Iraqi children based upon lies.

Some of those parents gave up and buried their children with limbs out of the casket. They couldn't find all the parts.

Feal the fear, Jay. It's all going down right before your eyes--Bush is finished. Citizens understand knifing a political opponent by hurting his wife--which is also an agrravated felony. They don't get the evil of preemptive war based upon lies--not all of them, not yet--but they will get this.

Going after a man's wife. Now there's chivalry.

Posted by: citizen_slept at July 22, 2003 07:32 AM | PERMALINK

Jim E., you need to improve your reading comprehension skills. I didn't say the CIA outed her. If you had actually read Novak's piece you would have seen this line:

The CIA says its counter-proliferation officials selected Wilson and asked his wife to contact him.

Since when does the CIA confirm or deny the existence of covert operatives? The Newsday story confirms it, but I just think it it's strange.

I think Wilson penning a piece for The Nation calling Bush an 'imperialist' qualifies him as a lefty.

And Isbell, and complete idiot of your caliber shouldn't be commenting on the intelligence of others. You're about a (half) step up from that mongoloid dave.

Posted by: Jay Caruso at July 22, 2003 07:35 AM | PERMALINK

I think Wilson penning a piece for The Nation calling Bush an 'imperialist' qualifies him as a lefty.

or, maybe it qualifies him as a follower of Pat Buchanan.

remember, not everyone who thinks Bush's war was stupid is a "lefty".

Posted by: ChrisL at July 22, 2003 07:41 AM | PERMALINK

Caruso is a radical freak. He has no problem in having the Executive blow the limbs off Iraqi children based upon lies.

Now there's an intelligent argument.

Kynn, I am one of those Nazi type conservatives who support gay rights including civil unions, adoptions and the Employee Non-Discrimination Act. I also favor the decriminalization of most drug offenses, oppose crap legislation like The Patriot Act and the Internet Decency Act. I support broadening the Earned Income Tax Credit for poor working Americans.

You know. The kinds of things us 'radical freaks' support.

Posted by: Jay Caruso at July 22, 2003 07:44 AM | PERMALINK

Jay Caruso: Wilson penning a piece for The Nation

That wasn't Wilson, it was David Corn.

http://www.thenation.com/capitalgames/index.mhtml?pid=823

Posted by: squiddy at July 22, 2003 07:53 AM | PERMALINK

remember, not everyone who thinks Bush's war was stupid is a "lefty".

like Novak. This can't just be dismissed as some "far left" political attack. I always thought this was about much more than those "16 words", and now, thanks to the grown-ups at the Bush WH, it most certainly is.
After reading that veteran intelligence officials' memo, and now this incident, I'd say the administration is one big national security risk. It's disturbing.

Posted by: Ringo at July 22, 2003 07:58 AM | PERMALINK

citizen slept:

I think your attack on Jay Caruso is uncalled for. One of the things I enjoy about Kevin's comments section is that it attracts a diversity of views, not just those who agree with Kevin.

Yes, Jay is politically to the right of many of the people here, but you're certainly not going to win him (or anyone else) to your side by calling him names. Jay's a good guy, in spite of the wrongness of his opinions. 8^)

Posted by: Daryl McCullough at July 22, 2003 08:02 AM | PERMALINK

Raj;

It takes a week, I've just found, to be given posting rights on a NY Times columnist forum. (And just based on my quick first reading, there isn't any participation from the editors or columnists on those threads, just a few Freepers who hang around to call Krugman a commie and a few others who hang around to call the Freepers morons. IOW, the standard of discourse on the New York Times comment boards seems far, far below that which generally prevails on a decent blog like this one.)

Posted by: Jeffrey Kramer at July 22, 2003 08:02 AM | PERMALINK

Caruso is one of those monsters who could never, ever put himslef in another human's shoes. These people can do the most foul and evil deeds to other humans because they simply cannot imagine what it would be like to have it happen to them.

Jay Caruso falls in love, marries and has a daughter who looks just like his wife. Sometimes in the mornings he sees so much of her in that beautiful liitle face he cries--just for a few seconds, but it's just incredible to see this kid.

The nation has been at war but Jay and his wife eke out an existence. Things seem to have gone to hell and life is hard, but at least there is the company of loved ones and shining hope for the future in that awe-inspiring beauty of his daughter.

The President of the Unites States decides to lie about the threat Jay's country poses to the US. Jay never even heard the missile coming--it slammed into his house at 0400.

By 1100 Jay has found most of his daughter--he still can't find an arm and a foot. More bombs and missiles arrrive, so they make a crude cairn in the rubble and flee. That was the last Jay ever saw of his daughgter, a torn bit of dress under a pile of rocks as he and his wife fled.

Citizens who believe in such a scenario--which was repeated at least 500 times in this war--are indeed radical freaks. They look like you and me, but make no mistake, they are evil personified. They dismember children based upon lies and laugh about it. Freaks. Radical......evil.......FREAKS.

Posted by: candy_land at July 22, 2003 08:06 AM | PERMALINK

Geez, I only asked for references for an official CIA statement about Plume. It appears that none exist. The closest thing to such a statement was the original Novak piece, which he has now corrected from "CIA" to "administration" (e.g., not CIA).

As to why the CIA, officially or unofficially, would confirm Plame's CIA rolel, a reason might be that they don't like it when one of their agents is outed for political gain. They have an interest in preventing it from happening in the future. One way to do this is to embarass the guilty party.

Posted by: dasboat at July 22, 2003 08:07 AM | PERMALINK

candy_land-

Chill out, man! You're harshing my mellow.

Posted by: theperegrine at July 22, 2003 08:09 AM | PERMALINK

Notice how Jay Caruso joins the thread, and we're off on a goose chase, correcting him on who wrote the Nation article, defending Wilson from charges of being "far left" (means: criticized Bush one or more times), and generally not talking about the fact that Bush's administration apparently violated a federal law (whose passage was influenced by Bush's father) by outing a covert CIA operative. Oh, and he's questioning other posters' "reading comprehension skills".

If somebody in Bush's administration outed a covert CIA operative, they broke the law, plain and simple, and incidentally, have also laid to rest any doubts that anyone might have as to whether the preening, spoiled, vindictive, spiteful children are in charge. Jay Caruso can brag about the liberal positions he supports all he wants (somehow those right-wingers never seem to hear American lefties say "I support the use of the military when it's justified", but here, we're supposed to marvel at Caruso's claims to broad-minded centrism), but the real test would seem to be, will he go "far left" native, and criticize Bushies for breaking federal law, and abusing the power of their office?

Posted by: Demetrios at July 22, 2003 08:09 AM | PERMALINK

"....you're certainly not going to win him (or anyone else) to your side by calling him names."

I could care less about attempting to get people "on my side." People do not change from reading a blog, especially that monster Caruso.

Maybe a few citizens will get it and refuse to be lied to the next time. We've already killed the children, it's far too late to change somebody's mind.

Posted by: citizen_slept at July 22, 2003 08:09 AM | PERMALINK

citizen slept says: I could care less about attempting to get people "on my side."

To me, that's tantamount to not caring what government does, what wars it fights, what laws it passes.

Posted by: Daryl McCullough at July 22, 2003 08:25 AM | PERMALINK

correcting him on who wrote the Nation article

I said Wilson wrote AN ARTICLE for The Nation. I didn't say he wrote THE article in question. Cmon people.

Wilson was also a keynote speaker for Education For Peace In Iraq Center, an organization that is opposed to the war, all sanctions and even the no-fly zones.

Besides that, Wilson HIMSELF said that Saddam had chemical and biological weapons. So once again we're back to the canard that this war was started over nukes, when it wasn't.

Posted by: Jay Caruso at July 22, 2003 08:28 AM | PERMALINK

squiddy--Jay is right on this one. He's referring to this article by Wilson, published February 13, 2003. Wilson says that the rationale for Gulf War II is basically what the PNAC says it was, and argues that that is an extremely bad idea. I don't think this proves he's far left--he starts off with praise of Gulf War I, which is not exactly preaching to the choir in the Nation. The position seems like reasonably mainstream State Department stuff, actually--a lot of foreign service professionals weren't pleased with the idea of remaking the Middle East.

Does anyone have the timeline of when Wilson started making public pronouncements? This article appeared two weeks after SOTU. Perhaps Wilson started to go public with his war opposition after he realized that Bush was still using the intel he'd discredited.

Jay--Isbell's actually pretty smart. And he's right--Wilson's partisanship is off topic.

I don't know the CIA's policies on blown agents. But we have two choices:
(1) Once an agent was blown, the CIA decided to confirm her identity in order to make it clear that the blower had committed a crime.
(2) Bob Novak and two reporters for Newsday both made up the confirmation and attributed it to CIA officials.

(2) is the one that reeks of Oliver Stone conspiracy nonsense. The CIA seems to have decided that it's worth their while to confirm Plame Wilson's status. If I were the Bush administration, I would be frightened.

Posted by: Matt Weiner at July 22, 2003 08:28 AM | PERMALINK

Matt - Ah. I see.

Doesn't make Wilson a partisan, though.


(Aside to Peregrine: Harsh up, man! You're mellowing my harsh-o. This IS the mudslinging internet! "If we ain't fightin, we ain't gettin' our money's worth")

Posted by: squiddy at July 22, 2003 08:35 AM | PERMALINK

The EPIC speech was June 14, 2003. So that fits with my story: that Wilson started speaking out against the war in Iraq after he learned that Bush was using discredited intelligence.

(Also, at that date, EPIC's opposition to no-fly zones was pretty moot.)

Posted by: Matt Weiner at July 22, 2003 08:35 AM | PERMALINK

theperegrine,
Novack has rescinded nothing since he never wrote that his sources came from the CIA. According to Wilson, Novak contacted him before the column in question was printed. Novak, according to Wilson, told Wilson that his sources were from the CIA. When Wilson read the column and noticed Novack mentioned "senior administration sources," not CIA sources, he contacted Novak to inquire. Novak told Wilson he had misspoke when he called him originally. The only person who thought the CIA was implicated was Wilson -- and that was in private. The CIA has never publicly been associated as the source of the smear of Wilson, so I think Jay Caruso is guilty of trying to confuse the subject.

Jay Caruso,
Thanks, but I don't think I need to improve my reading skills. Even theperegrine agrees with my understanding of your original post. In your post above (5:58 am), you asked: "If she was a covert agent, why would the CIA confirm she was? That's not something they do. . . . The whole thing reeks of Oliver Stone conspiracy nonsense." You clearly were misstating the facts of the case.

It is interesting that you accuse me of misreading what you wrote, and then you proceed to try to defend what you wrote by citing Novak's column. What you failed to quote were his previous sentences, in which he actually describes (explicitly) who his sources were: "Wilson never worked for the CIA, but his wife, Valerie Plame, is an agency operative on weapons of mass destruction. TWO SENIOR ADMINISTRATION SOURCES TOLD ME his wife suggested sending Wilson to Niger to investigate the Italian report. The CIA says its counter-proliferation officials selected Wilson and asked his wife to contact him." (Emphasis mine.)

And your definition of "far left" must also include President George H.W. Bush, right?

Posted by: Jim E. at July 22, 2003 08:43 AM | PERMALINK

He has no problem in having the Executive blow the limbs off Iraqi children based upon lies.

How does one apply for the job at the Pentagon picking out the little brown babies to aim the missiles at? That sure sounds like a fun -- not to mention extremely important -- job.

Do they have, like, a preselected pool of baby targets, or do they rely on ground assets to pick then out, or what?

Posted by: Phil at July 22, 2003 08:48 AM | PERMALINK

Really, this whole issue of Wilson's alleged partisanship is also a canard. It makes no difference, except to equally partisan types such as Jay.
As has already been noted, someone such as Buchanan or Novak could have written articles(and probably did) which were equally critical of this particular war.

So, did Robert Novak, who, although I usually disagree with him, still has a lot of journalistic integrity, did he fabricate this story? So far, I see credible evidence that a WH official committed a serious crime and very little to the contrary, except some lame "Wilson is far left" bullshit.

Posted by: Ringo at July 22, 2003 08:55 AM | PERMALINK

"Really, this whole issue of Wilson's alleged partisanship is also a canard."

Yep.

I don't recall seeing an exemption in the law against outing covert agents, where it's okay to out an agent if she's married to a person with politically incorrect views.

Posted by: Jon H at July 22, 2003 08:58 AM | PERMALINK

It's not so much that Wilson has politically incorrect views as he went public with the truth.

Posted by: Jim E. at July 22, 2003 09:04 AM | PERMALINK

Ringo,
Exactly right. the wingers want to make Wilson the story, even though accusations regarding the administration's actions don't rest on Wilson's word alone. It's much too late for that.

In other words, Jay, nice try with the ad hominems, but Wilson's party affiliation is irrelevant here.

Posted by: Jonathan at July 22, 2003 09:13 AM | PERMALINK

squiddy-

There's proper mudslinging and then there's useless self-righteous (sorry candy-land) polemic. In my opinion the grave issues we're now confronting within the federal government and abroad are too important to be filed away under the usual tabs in the dogma cabinet. They need to be examined objectively.

Thus, paradoxically, I'm trying to lighten the mood.

I'm just full of contradictions.

Posted by: theperegrine at July 22, 2003 09:18 AM | PERMALINK

Jim E. writes: "It's not so much that Wilson has politically incorrect views as he went public with the truth."

In the Bush administration, truth is politically incorrect.

Posted by: Jon H at July 22, 2003 09:30 AM | PERMALINK

The Valeria Plame matter has some of the same elements as the case of David Kelly, the Brit scientific adviser who committed suicide.

Posted by: Roger Bigod at July 22, 2003 09:45 AM | PERMALINK

As to whether a law was broken, and first, repeating the law, from the 9:58 post:

Whoever, having or having had authorized access to classified information that identifies a covert agent, intentionally discloses any information identifying such covert agent to any individual not authorized to receive classified information, knowing that the information disclosed so identifies such covert agent and that the United States is taking affirmative measures to conceal such covert agent's intelligence relationship to the United States, shall be fined under title 18 or imprisoned not more than ten years, or both." The full text from the US Code has more, but that's the most relevant section.

So, "open and shut", as SamAm said at 10:33 PM? Hardly.

Suppose a White House staffer told Novak "I think the wife suggested him for the trip - I heard she is with the CIA in some capacity." With that clue, Novak then digs up the rest.

Did the staffer divulge information "knowing that the information disclosed so identifies such covert agent and that the United States is taking affirmative measures to conceal such covert agent's intelligence relationship to the United States?" Please. Maybe the staffer should not have been passing on rumors, but the staffer would, in this example, neither have known the agent was covert or suggested to Novak that the agent was covert. As simple denial from the CIA would have preserved her cover.

Instead, and this takes us to Jay Caruso territory, we have this from TIME:

...Some government officials, noting that Wilson's wife, Valerie Plame, is a CIA official who monitors the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, intimate that she was involved in his being dispatched Niger...

And TIME has moved the story, so my old links to it are not working. But the point is, that at least in the early version, TIME attributed her background to "government officials" in a story that carefully distinguished between "Administration" and "government" officials. So, why was the CIA on record with TIME about her role there?

As to Novak, he did not give a source (in his column) for the info about her background. The reported conversation between Wilson and Novak comes, I infer, from a television broadcast I have not seen.

However, in his column, Novak mentions both CIA and Admin sources. (a fact that Corn left out of his article). The "Full Novak":

"...Wilson never worked for the CIA, but his wife, Valerie Plame, is an Agency operative on weapons of mass destruction. Two senior administration officials told me Wilson's wife suggested sending him to Niger to investigate the Italian report. The CIA says its counter-proliferation officials selected Wilson and asked his wife to contact him. "

So, there we are. No source for her Agency involvement, "admin" for her role in picking him for Niger, "CIA says" that she was asked by the CIA to contact him. Which suggests that the CIA is in a positon to ask her what to do, which suggests that the CIA confirmed to Novak that she worked there. Why, Caruso and I wonder, would they do that?

Posted by: Tom Maguire at July 22, 2003 09:56 AM | PERMALINK

Nice try, Tom, but Novak has stated that he did not dig up Plame's name, he was given it unsolicited by two senior Bush administration oficials.

Open and shut. Somebody (two senior Bush administration officials) should be prosecuted.

Posted by: Chuck Nolan at July 22, 2003 10:07 AM | PERMALINK

Tom--
I think we can agree, though, that this at least passes the Lelyveld standard--it's worth looking into, even if we haven't yet proved that someone committed a crime. (Even when Corn wrote his article, which was hedged with the "something nasty may have happened" line--in fact, even Dean's question #4 is hedged with "may have.")

We now know for certain that a CIA operative has been blown. That's bad. The Administration seems to have had a motive, the CIA not. Even if the textual clues are ambiguous, it merits investigation--no one's suggesting hauling anyone to Gitmo yet.

Another possibility is that the senior Admin official said something legal to Novak, and Novak then bluffed confirmation out of the CIA. Still, a screwup which merits investigation (even if the finger points to the CIA). Also, I would go for something a little stronger than the staffer "shouldn't have been passing on rumors"--hinting at the identity of CIA agents is pretty damn indiscreet, even if it's technically legal.

(If the official knew she was an operative but not that she was covert, there's still a problem--what's the point of covertness if everyone knows?)

Posted by: Matt Weiner at July 22, 2003 10:15 AM | PERMALINK

If true, the official who revealed Plame's status is criminally treasonous.

I don't think we will ever find out who told, because the reporters will never reveal it. So I would like to focus on a slightly different angle. Was Joseph Wilson sent to provide cover for his wife's investigation? I certainly hope so, since his investigation of 'did you cheat? how about you?' seems awful. But if so, we probably need to see her report to get an accurate read of what was going on.

Posted by: Sebastian Holsclaw at July 22, 2003 10:27 AM | PERMALINK

Sebastian writes: "If true, the official who revealed Plame's status is criminally treasonous.

I don't think we will ever find out who told, because the reporters will never reveal it."

Then it's time to consider impeachment if the Bush administration doesn't force out whoever it was.

The Bush administration didn't just out a covert CIA agent, they outed a CIA agent who dealt with WMD. Which are kinda important nowadays, aren't they?

Posted by: Jon H at July 22, 2003 10:42 AM | PERMALINK

While I concede Novak's wording -- "the CIA says" -- is murky, I read it as him indicating he was getting this information from the "senior administration officials," not the CIA directly. (See the previous two sentences from Novak's column, which I posted at 8:43. Tom Maquire also includes them in his 9:56 post.) In addition, Joe Wilson, on national TV this morning, said that Novak specifically told him his sources were NOT from the CIA. As the facts stand now, Novak's sources were from the administration, not the CIA, and to say otherwise isn't true (based on what is now known).

As far as the attribution used in Time, "governement sources" is conveniently vague and could refer to the White House, CIA, or the Post Office. It is conjecture to state flatly that "government sources" means the CIA. We don't know that to be the case.

Heck, maybe the CIA is the one leaking this info -- I have no idea. But no one has gone on record saying they are the ones leaking while Novak (and Wilson) HAVE said the White House has been leaking on this matter. The point is, it needs to be investigated because this is a serious charge.

Posted by: Jim E. at July 22, 2003 10:56 AM | PERMALINK

Am I correct to think the only entity with standing to prosecute this offense would be either the Justice Department, or a special prosecutor appointed by congress?

Well, and the Congress itself, under the impeachment power. You don't have to be President to be impeached.

Posted by: cmdicely at July 22, 2003 11:07 AM | PERMALINK

Can I hold the phone here? TIME has moved the story, and changed it, and my first impression is that the change is big. Here we go:

...some government officials have noted to TIME in interviews, (as well as to syndicated columnist Robert Novak) that Wilson's wife, Valerie Plame, is a CIA official who monitors the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. These officials have suggested that she was involved in her husband's being dispatched Niger...

Well, you recognize the quote I cited in the post above. But the parenthetical addition strikes me as a big deal.

Developing....

Posted by: Tom Maguire at July 22, 2003 11:13 AM | PERMALINK

Tom Maquire,

I don't follow the significance of the the Time excerpt you quote from. Can you enlighten us (and provide a link)? I'm confused. When you say "moved and changed the story" do you mean they've edited their previous story, or do you suggest they've furthered what we now know?

The way I read it, Time magazine says it has the same exact sources as Novak. Since Novak already said (in his column and to Wilson) that his sources came from the White House, not the CIA, I don't see the big deal.

How do you read it?

Posted by: Jim E. at July 22, 2003 11:32 AM | PERMALINK

Sorry, here is a link to the revised TIME story.

Now, Jim E (10:56) makes a fair conceptual point - "government" sources certainly need not be CIA, and might include the White House. (or the Post Office? Maybe the source was Lance Armstrong...)

Sorry. Anyway, as a practical matter, the TIME story seems to make a distinction between "Administration officials" and "government officials", but I won't take space to excerpt it here.

But if you accept that, then that is why the TIME revision is significant.

Now, Novak's column refers to admin and CIA sources. Actually, to reconcile what TIME says with what Novak says, we have to accept that "admin" officials told Novak that the wife was involved, and then both CIA (Novak) and "government" (TIME) told Novak that the wife was involved in at least "contacting" him.

However, TIME is quite clear that the "government" source they shared with Novak told TIME and Novak that "that Wilson's wife, Valerie Plame, is a CIA official who monitors the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction."

Now, Novak does not source that in his column. Maybe he got it from the White House (or anywhere) and the CIA confirmed it.

But a perfectly plausible explanation is that the White House said, in effect, "cherchez la femme" (but never in French); Novak then got a CIA chap to blab about her background and her role in contacting Wilson; and TIME got the chatty CIA chap to repeat it for them.

Proving nothing. Maybe the CIA chap is playing fall guy for a buddy in the White House.

My points are - there may be exclusively non-White House sources, in which case the story is "CIA Outs Own Agent"; or, there may be a more elaborate cover-up. But we don't know, and we don't need folks telling me that it is open and shut that White House people committed a felony.

It is also clear that this story is taking off, so we ought to find out the truth, or at least a well rehearsed lie, soon enough. On that, Jim E and I hold common ground.

Oh, and since we know that Novak had "admin" sources for at least part of his story, having Wilson confirm that doesn't really move me. Not having seen the televison show, natch.

Posted by: Tom Maguire at July 22, 2003 11:35 AM | PERMALINK

Tom,

But notice this between the TIME and Novak stories.

Novak says: "Two senior administration officials told me Wilson's wife suggested sending him to Niger to investigate the Italian report."

TIME says: "And some government officials have noted to TIME in interviews, (as well as to syndicated columnist Robert Novak) that Wilson's wife, Valerie Plame, is a CIA official who monitors the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. These officials have suggested that she was involved in her husband's being dispatched Niger ..."

Both TIME's "government officials" and Novak's "two senior administration sources" make the suggestion to both TIME & Novak that Plame influenced the decision to send Wilson to Niger.

TIME says that it was these same officials who ID'd Plame as a CIA officer to both Novak and TIME.

This makes it pretty clear to me that it was the Administration who broke Plame's cover --- not the CIA, not some random government official, not even Lance Armstrong.

And all this parsing is moot if you accept that Wilson is truthful about what Novak told him, which is that Novak confirmed it was Administration people who outed Plame to him.

Posted by: Henry Shieh at July 22, 2003 11:50 AM | PERMALINK

"his investigation of 'did you cheat? how about you?' seems awful"

Sebastian, you're looking at thea administration talking poits rather than at how Wilson actually conducted his investigation. He concluded that the record keeping procedures surounding extraction and sale of uranium were such that a covert sale of a significant quantity of uranium would not have been possible--European investors, UN inspectors, and the Nigerien government would have all had to have been in on the scheme, which doesn't seem likely. That's not quite the same thing as saying he simply elicited a denial from everyone..

Posted by: rea at July 22, 2003 11:56 AM | PERMALINK

My reading of the public information from Wilson is that he was completely trusting the institutional structure Niger and its partners. That level of trust seems inappropriate in this case. Espcially since France had been dealing with Iraq clandestinely for years.

I'm perfectly willing to believe that it would be difficult to 'divert' uranium that had entered the official tracking system. I also have no doubt that a corrupt government could insure that the uranium was diverted before it entered the official tracking system.

Posted by: Sebastian Holsclaw at July 22, 2003 12:18 PM | PERMALINK

Tom Maquire,

I agree with what Henry Shieh writes above in response to your post.

I think Time is clear that its sources regarding Wilson's wife are the same sources used by Novak. If using different sources, why else would Time mention Novak? Unless and until Novak publicly disputes Wilson's version of their phone conversation, I think it's also clear Novak had sources from the administration, not the CIA. Between his column and TV appearances, Novak will have plenty of time to reject Wilson's version of the phone call in the days ahead.

I also think that since "government sources" can be a synonym for "administration sources," the writer employed it for stylistic reasons. The variation makes for better reading as opposed to seeing "administration sources" a dozen times in a short article.

But as you said, we both agree this needs to be looked into. I have no idea if a felony was committed (but I'm confident Novak didn't commit one).

Posted by: Jim E. at July 22, 2003 12:19 PM | PERMALINK

Pardon my ignorance in removing uranium from the ground, but don't you have to mine it? A mine isn't like a little bitty operation. You need tons of the uranium ore. Those mines have got to be pretty public knowledge. Wilson's point, I think, was the "official tracking system" would be pretty hard to get around.

Posted by: nota bene at July 22, 2003 12:21 PM | PERMALINK

theperegrine: that may be right, but it is off-topic, as I stated. On-topic is this: did the Bush White House identify a covert CIA WMD asset in a fit of pique, thus ending her career and possibly resulting in the deaths of several CIA WMD assets around the globe? If so, that's a pity for us all, because they're useful. Jay missing this point is either moronic or amoral, take your pick. Possibly both. As I said: more moronic off-topic crapola from Jay Caruso. Sigh.
Good thread, and this from squiddy: "This IS the mudslinging internet! "If we ain't fightin, we ain't gettin' our money's worth")." I was about to refer to Tom Maguire, but the swine beat me to it. Mark Kleiman has a good series of posts on this debate, linking to Tom who unlike Caruso has I think some relevant right-wing points in this discussion. Getting our assets killed is a big deal, so I recommend reading them both. Krugman also has a column on this.

Posted by: John Isbell at July 22, 2003 01:37 PM | PERMALINK

Nota bene, I'm not sure what your mining point means. Tons of ore really isn't all that much. I have a friend working on a case where a public company hid 20 digging and trenching trucks from a bankruptcy. It would be trivial for a government to overlook a certain mine's production for a month. If you wanted to be more tricky you could understate the production of a number of mines. Good heavens, you can smuggle whole ships in and out of Africa, it would certainly be possible to hide, divert, and deliver hundreds of tons of ore without it showing up on the official records. It might be detectable by other means, but Wilson relied on the safeguards of the official records. It is tough to rely on the official records of high-tech Western countries. It is crazy to rely on the official recordkeeping of a deeply corrupt nation. (And before anyone bothers making snide comments about US corruption, please realize that the level of corruption in the US doesn't detract from this argument at all).

Posted by: Sebastian Holsclaw at July 22, 2003 01:59 PM | PERMALINK

Sebastian Holsclaw,

Forgive me for intruding on a conversation you are having with another poster, but I think your speculation is way off base. Bush partisans (of which I am not one) are quick to point out that the whole uranium dispute is about a line in which the President said Saddam "sought" uranium. No one -- and I mean no one -- has credibly asserted that Saddam actually acquired uranium. I've noticed you expressed doubt upon Wilson's competency regarding his Niger investigation and I thought I'd point out you're worried about something no one has asserted has even happened. Wilson was sent out to see if Saddam merely sought uranium; we already know he doesn't have it. (Besides, two other government investigators, former ambassador to Niger Barbro Owens-Fitzpatrick and four-star Marine Gen. Carlton Fulford, also debunked the Saddam-sought-uranium allegation independent of Wilson.)

Posted by: Jim E. at July 22, 2003 02:21 PM | PERMALINK

Jim, you are quite right. I took my eye off the ball and got sucked into a silly debate. (Wheee, I love mixed metaphors). Wilson's investigation into the official safeguarding procedures is completely off point when his mission was to determine whether or not Saddam sought uranium from Niger. His investigation (at least so far as it has been revealed) was wholly inadequate.

My point about the ease of hiding the actual transaction from official records is much stronger when you are merely trying to hide the initial negotiations.

Posted by: Sebastian Holsclaw at July 22, 2003 02:27 PM | PERMALINK

Sebastian Holscaw,

You do make an excellent point about the easiness of lying in "official" documents and hiding transactions. But it can also work in reverse. In Sunday's Washington Post, a reporter in Iraq interviewed several former high-ranking members in Saddam's military. Some of them told her that they were so afraid of displeasing Saddam that they frequently lied to him and oversold him on their progress, going so far as pretending to have manufactured and successfully tested a artillary piece when they had done neither.

We've supposedly found a treasure-trove of documents in Baghdad. Even if they "document" a WMD programs (which is different than finding actual weapons) I wonder how reputable they are. Should we trust them knowing that Saddam's subordinates lied to Saddam and gave him rosy scenarios all the time?

Posted by: Jim E. at July 22, 2003 02:44 PM | PERMALINK

This willingness to break laws in order to intimidate anyone who might speak out against this administration is Nixonian and proves that this administration is thoroughly corrupt.

Posted by: Mike at July 22, 2003 02:45 PM | PERMALINK

mcclellan clears everything up:

Q The Robert Novak column last week identified the wife of Ambassador Joseph Wilson as a CIA operative who was working on WMD issues. Novak said that identification is based on information given to him by two administration sources. That column has now given rise to accusations that the administration deliberatively blew the cover of an undercover CIA operative, and in so doing, violated a federal law that prohibits revealing the identity of undercover CIA operatives. Can you respond to that?

MR. McCLELLAN: Thank you for bringing that up. That is not the way this President or this White House operates. And there is absolutely no information that has come to my attention or that I have seen that suggests that there is any truth to that suggestion. And, certainly, no one in this White House would have given authority to take such a step.

Q So you're saying --

MR. McCLELLAN: I'm saying that that is not the way that this President or this White House operates, and I've seen no evidence to suggest there's any truth to it.

Q Are you saying Novak was wrong in saying that it was two administration sources who were the source for --

MR. McCLELLAN: I have no idea who "anonymous" is. I often wish --

Q It's not anonymous. He says senior administration officials.

MR. McCLELLAN: That would be anonymous.

Q Well, that would be senior administration --

Q Like the guy who briefed us last week?

MR. McCLELLAN: Whether it's anonymous senior administration officials or just anonymous sources, it's still anonymous.

Q Is Novak lying? Do you think he's making it up?

MR. McCLELLAN: I'm telling you our position. I'll let the columnist speak for himself.

Q You're saying, flatly, it did not happen, nobody --

MR. McCLELLAN: I'm telling you, flatly, that that is not the way this White House operates. I've seen no evidence to suggest that there's any truth to that.

Q That's different from saying it didn't happen. Are you saying, absolutely, it did not happen?

MR. McCLELLAN: I'm saying no one was certainly given any authority to do anything of that nature. And I've seen no evidence to suggest there's any truth to it. I want to make it very clear, that is simply not the way this White House operates.

Q If it turns out that somebody in the administration did do that --

MR. McCLELLAN: I'm not even going to speculate about it, because I have no knowledge of any truth to that report.

Q What's the extent of your knowledge? Don't you want to get some more facts? I mean, how do you know that no one in the administration -- Robert Novak has been around for a long --

MR. McCLELLAN: If I could go find "anonymous," Terry, I would.

http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2003/07/20030722-5.html

Posted by: d at July 22, 2003 02:54 PM | PERMALINK

Great excerpt from the press conference, d! Couldn't help but notice he didn't even question the veracity of Mr. Novak's reporting. . .

Posted by: Jim E. at July 22, 2003 03:00 PM | PERMALINK

I'm sorry, but after Ari, McLellan is bush-league. The press corps seems to feel the same way. Poor guy.

Posted by: John Isbell at July 22, 2003 04:20 PM | PERMALINK

Argh, this is why I hate reporters sometimes. Even if this is going to hurt the Bush administration, I need to know who the hell told Novak this information so I can make an informed decision about what the hell is going on here.

Posted by: Sebastian Holsclaw at July 22, 2003 04:46 PM | PERMALINK

Sebastian- from olds 88 on the Kos boards;

Consider the absurdity of "smuggling" this much yellowcake:
Worldwide yellowcake production is outstripped by yearly consumption. Because of its scarcity, yellowcake production is measured in pounds, not tons. So the annual 500 tons Saddam ficticiously requested = 1 million pounds. Niger's total annual production is controlled by a French company and is presold under strict security.

So:

Worldwide yellowcake production:
about 100 million pounds.

Niger's 2001 annual production:
3.77 million pounds

Saddam's ficticious stash as a percentage of World/Niger production:
about 1%/27%

So this absurd plan requires sneaking a quarter of annual production out of Niger without anyone noticing...when the world market is desperate for whatever yellowcake it can get...right.

Sources:

World Production

Niger Production

Seymour Hersh's excellent atricle
http://www.haloscan.com/comments.php?user=dailykos&comment=003471#34434

The links to the sources work if you follow the link to the comment.

It does seem unlikely that one could skim off 27% of the annual production of just about anywhere without being noticed.

Posted by: etc. at July 22, 2003 04:53 PM | PERMALINK

I hope to respond to Jim E (12:19), and Harry S (11:50)

Here's Harry:

...But notice this between the TIME and Novak stories.

Novak says: "Two senior administration officials told me Wilson's wife suggested sending him to Niger to investigate the Italian report."

TIME says: "And some government officials have noted to TIME in interviews, (as well as to syndicated columnist Robert Novak) that Wilson's wife, Valerie Plame, is a CIA official who monitors the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. These officials have suggested that she was involved in her husband's being dispatched Niger ..."

Both TIME's "government officials" and Novak's "two senior administration sources" make the suggestion to both TIME & Novak that Plame influenced the decision to send Wilson to Niger.

TIME says that it was these same officials who ID'd Plame as a CIA officer to both Novak and TIME.

OK, End Of Harry. Well, not literally, God forbid.

Now, my clever, yet simple explanation - look at Novak's next sentence: "The CIA says its counter-proliferation officials selected Wilson and asked his wife to contact him."

So, Novak has both "sr. admin" officials AND "CIA says" officials telling him that Ms. Wilson was involved in getting Wilson on the trip. TIME found the CIA guys, who admitted to TIME that they had also talked with Novak.

At the risk of extreme tedium (for you guys, I live for this s***), let me illustrate with a hypothetical screenplay:

Novak talking with two sr. admin officials: "Did the White House suggest Wilson for the trip to Niger?"

Sr. Admin: "No, we heard his wife suggested him. Valerie Plame."

Bob Novak: "Who is she, what does she do?"

Sr. Admin: "No idea".

Bob Novak: "Who would know?"

Sr. Admin: "Aren't you paid to figure things like that out?"

Novak then figures that, since Tenet said the CIA picked Wilson, he should call the CIA. Slick.

Novak: "I heard Valerie Plame is Wilson's wife and suggested Wilson for the trip. Who is she, State, Pentagon, what?"

(Long dramatic pause) CIA agent: "Well, she may have been involved. She works in Foley's WMD division, so it makes sense. I heard they ran his name by her out of courtesy, and asked her to set up a meeting, but maybe you know more".

Let's stop there. Novak then writes what he writes, and I insist that, in this example, the sr. admin officials did not commit a felony. Now, I cannot tell you why what the CIA guy did is not a felony - maybe it is, and that is bad. But it is different from "The White House did it".

So, TIME gets involved. The sr. admin officials won't talk. TIME gets ahold of CIA guy, who repeats his story and mentions that he talked to Novak.

TIME writes what they wrote.

Novak talks to Wilson, who asks whether Novak got his wife's name from the White House. Novak says yes.

Wilson says what he says. He is telling the truth, but his story is incomplete.

Now, I am NOT saying that my scenario is "what happened", or even the most likely explanation of what happened. I am saying it fits all the "facts", and is not unreasonable.

And in this scenario, the White Hosue is "innocent", the CIA did something weird (without knowing more about Ms. Plame, it is hard to figure why they are so forthcoming), Wilson is telling the truth, and Novak and TIME have accurate stories.

Granted, it is easy enough to create scenarios where a felony is committed by people in the White House. But my guess is that those scenarios are not so much more probable than the one I proposed that we must conclude that "The White House did it".

And on the question of whether TIME uses "administration" and "government" interchangeably, it is, IMHO, clear from their story that they are well aware of the difference.

Posted by: Tom Maguire at July 22, 2003 06:03 PM | PERMALINK

The other interesting thing here is that what we are now hearing from administration flacks is that Wilson's report actually supports the idea of Iraq going after yellowcake sales.

What's interesting about this is that the previous explanation was that "this was a low-level operation and we never saw that document in the first place."

Obviously, at least one of these explanations must be ...ahh... counterfactual.

Time for the incomparable billmon to get on board.

Posted by: p mac at July 22, 2003 06:34 PM | PERMALINK

Perhaps Saddam could not have actually received huge amounts of yellowcake from Niger. That doesn't change the question of what he was seeking, which is the Bush quote in question.

Posted by: Sebastian Holsclaw at July 22, 2003 07:04 PM | PERMALINK

Sebastian-
The way I see it, the CIA said it was bogus, the State Dept. said it was bogus, the act itself was improbable, but Bush was able to find some one, some where, who thought it might be plausible, so he cited the credulous source, and omitted the incredulous ones. Now, that may not be identical to a lie, but I think it is a very close relative of a lie.

Posted by: etc. at July 22, 2003 08:16 PM | PERMALINK

Law professor Jeff Cooper give us the legalese on this case. Is Robert Novak in trouble here?

The Politics of Personal Destruction

Whoever, having or having had authorized access to classified information that identifies a covert agent, intentionally discloses any information identifying such covert agent to any individual not authorized to receive classified information, knowing that the information disclosed so identifies such covert agent and that the United States is taking affirmative measures to conceal such covert agent's intelligence relationship to the United States, shall be fined not more than $50,000 or imprisoned not more than ten years, or both.
- 50 U.S.C. section 421(a)

Go read the rest of Coopers comment on this subject--The administration has taken an ill-advised turn from defending its actions to attacking its critics. Bad enough that someone in the White House attacked ABC News correspondent Jeffrey Kofman (who had reported on declining military morale in Iraq) as not only openly gay but--gasp!--Canadian. But it now appears that someone sought to retaliate against administration critic Ambassador Joseph Wilson by revealing that his wife, Valerie Plame, played a role in sending him to Niger to investigate claims of Iraqi uranium purchases last year--revealing, in the process, that Plame is (or was, as her cover is now blown) a covert CIA operative.

And some of the subsequent comments like this one by Liz.

If true, this is more than just an escalation in interdepartmental conflicts. It's an aggravated felony! I've posted the relevant law to this location. It's illegal to "intentionally disclos[e] any information identifying [a] covert agent."
Interestingly enough, the law was pushed by George H.W. Bush.

Posted by: Lis on July 22, 2003

Posted by: Cheryl at July 22, 2003 08:23 PM | PERMALINK

I believe there is a journalist exception, except for journalists who do this routinely (and I learned that at the CalPundit's comments, but where?). Novak should be OK, but it would be interesting to see if a court would order him to reveal his sources.

And Tenet's statement on July 11 pointed out that the Wilson report was not conclusive, despite Wilson's rather high opinion of it as given in the Times on July 6. This is a point that the press has happily ignored, since theyare playing Wilson as David v Goliath. Everyone loves a whistleblower, even if they are not fully accurate.

Posted by: Tom Maguire at July 22, 2003 09:00 PM | PERMALINK

Opposition to the invasion of Iraq was not really a left-right thing, it was more a matter of consience. Every religious leader in this country opposed this war except for a large group of Southern Baptists, and a few others. "W's" own minister opposed the war. Several of international stature also opposed the war.

Now, when religious teaching and political direction come into conflict, which way does the left go and which way does the right go? I suspect lining up Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell is not really the correct path, but it does not answer the question.

Posted by: MacMan at July 22, 2003 09:18 PM | PERMALINK

And heaven knows, Tenet has absolutely no reason to downplay Wilson's report, now does he?

Now if you and Sebastian want to continue denigrating Wilson, might I suggest that you actually read his report before you continue to do so? Because right now, you're both coming off as a tad ridiculous.

Posted by: PaulB at July 22, 2003 09:28 PM | PERMALINK

I read as much of his report as I can find. Is the whole thing floating around somewhere?

Posted by: Sebastian Holsclaw at July 23, 2003 01:09 AM | PERMALINK

Tom, very nifty maneuvering there! And no, I'm not "over" literally.

Let me see if I have your scenario down. Novak's second sentence says that his CIA source said that the CIA selected Wilson and then asked Plame to contact him. Thus, it is possible that it was a CIA source who ID'd Plame to Novak & TIME both.

Maybe. Possibly. Things will have to come out in this story. But allow me to point out an issue with your scenario that make my White House scenario a bit more plausible in my opinion.

The CIA has zero motive in pointing out that Plame is Wilson's wife and that she had input on his decision. Why would the CIA blow one of its own DO undercovers? To give Novak a scoop? NEWSDAY has money quotes from tons of former and current intelligence officers today and yesterday that indicate they see this, if true, as a huge betrayal.

The White House, OTOH, has every incentive to attack Wilson's credibility. Making it look like he was not genuinely qualified to investigate the issue, but rather that he got the job on account of his wife, helps this along.

Meanwhile Wilson himself has ID'd Administration sources as the ones who blew his wife's cover. He cites a conversation with Novak as his source. Novak, AFAIK, has not come out and denied this.

All this makes the Administration MORE likely to be the source than the CIA. We'll have to see how the case develops, and I'd love to get Novak on record as to where the exact ID of Plame came from, but I don't think there's any question of who was MORE likely to have leaked her identity.

Posted by: Henry Shieh at July 23, 2003 05:15 AM | PERMALINK

Well, I've been pretty amused by some of the hypotheticals that have been floated in defense of the administration, and I sort of hate to see it end, but Novak says it was the administration who told him.

Back to the drawing board.

Posted by: julia at July 23, 2003 05:27 AM | PERMALINK

The fun never ends! Was it over when the Germans bombed Pearl Harbor?

And my very strong impression, from the Newsday story here, is that they are re-printing Novak quotes from the Corn piece and his own column.

From Newsday, we see:

Definitely Corn - Novak, in an interview, said his sources had come to him with the information. "I didn't dig it out, it was given to me," he said. "They thought it was significant, they gave me the name and I used it."

Looks like Novak's original column - Novak reported that his "two senior administration officials" told him that it was Plame who suggested sending her husband, Wilson, to Niger.

Unless I missed something, they added nothing new there.

Oh, and just to reassure Henry, I am not handicapping this and saying that my theory is more likely. At this point, if I had to bet, I would say, uhh, well, we aren't betting, so why should I address that hypothetical?

Let me re-start: I am just saying that other non-delusional explanations are available.

And as to why "the CIA" would out one of their own, good point. But individuals within organizations have rivalries, and hostilities. In fact, I once heard that some people who worked with me didn't like me. Go figure.

And Wilson did, in his July 6 story, say that he considered his report to be definitive. The CIA had not seen it that way, which means someone in the CIA had their professional judgement wacked by Wilson in the Times. Maybe the person's attitude is, screw the guy, his wife picked him for heaven's sake, how credible is he?

That concludes this portion of "One Life To Spin".

Posted by: Tom Maguire at July 23, 2003 08:34 AM | PERMALINK

Tom Maquire,
Do you think it is "delusional" to think the White House might have outed an undercover CIA operative who happens to be married to a whistle-blower? Lest you forget, she was outed by somebody. (I'm responding to line in one of your recent posts.)

Your screenplay notwithstanding (tip: keep your day job), we know for a fact that the White House, at a minimum, was at least one source for the leak, if not the ONLY source for the leak. There is zero evidence in the public record that shows the CIA leaked anything to Novak. For you to believe otherwise means you are don't trust the "Prince of Darkness" and his own explanation for his sourcing.

Finally, partisan politics aside, does it really matter whether the leaks came from the White House or the CIA? Shouldn't we all be freaked out by this leak, no matter the source? Or will you sleep better knowing the CIA blew the cover of one of its own (which makes no freakin' sense)?

Posted by: Jim E. at July 23, 2003 09:24 AM | PERMALINK

Correction: the White House provided TWO different sources for the same leak, not one, as I wrote above.

Posted by: Jim E. at July 23, 2003 09:26 AM | PERMALINK

But individuals within organizations have rivalries, and hostilities.

Yeah, I can see the headlines now:

CIA outs agent in intra-departmental tiff

Remember. There's no straw so small that someone, somewhere, won't grasp at it ...

Posted by: Paul at July 23, 2003 09:46 AM | PERMALINK

"But my guess is that those scenarios are not so much more probable than the one I proposed that we must conclude that "The White House did it"."

Nah, I'd say mine is a lot more likely, actually.

"But individuals within organizations have rivalries, and hostilities. In fact, I once heard that some people who worked with me didn't like me. Go figure."

I doubt anyone ever hated you at your job enough to (1) commit a felony in order to totally wreck your career (2) cause possible irreparable harm to the security of the United States (3) possibly cause the deaths of people who worked in conjunction with your company. But hey, I could be wrong.

Posted by: Henry Shieh at July 23, 2003 10:14 AM | PERMALINK

Well, remember, the standard of proof here is apparently whether it's within the realm of possibility that they would have done so...

Don't worry about it. It's just good ol' Tom, riding around the comments board on his latest hobbyhorse.

Posted by: julia at July 23, 2003 01:16 PM | PERMALINK

Again and again I see Valerie Plame described in almost the exact same words: "energy analyst for a private firm." Not that I want to "expose" the lady any further...but with Sierra Club/Judicial Watch's release of some pretty, ahem, interesting docs from (ptui!) Dick's Energy Task Force and the general stench of oil that wafts over this administration and all their acts, I got to wondering just who in the samhill this gal might be working for in her day gig, as it were. I've searched, but to no avail.

I ponder that and the identity of the forger of the Niger docs. In my quite humble and perhaps naive opinion, if we knew the answer to these questions, we'd be able to make contextual connections that would bear some interesting (and probably hideously deformed) fruit.

On topic: Treason- yep, indubitably. And it seems crystal clear to me that Novak said it was BushHyenas who painted the target on Ms. Plame, not the CIA.

[re-initiate cloaking device]

Posted by: Rhondda Francis at July 24, 2003 01:14 PM | PERMALINK

That's where Jay Caruso is getting confused. But as it stands Novak, Wilson and Time Magazine all assert that the information came straight from the White House.

Where is it written that it came "straight from the White House"? All I read was "senior administration officials" as the ones being responsible. Who are a "senior administration officials"? Do they have to work in the White House? Could it be someone from the CIA? Novak's column seems to open up that possibility in the same paragraph with "The CIA says its counter-proliferation officials selected Wilson and asked his wife to contact him."

If she were a CIA undercover agent why would the administration out her? They can read the same law books as the average idiot on this thread. If the CIA outted her? Why would they do that to their own agent? And surely have a copy of the same law books everyone seems to have. They did it for a petty political smear? People are dumb but not that dumb. There must be something more to it.

Also apparently Wilson refuses to directly say that his wife is(was) an undercover agent. He seems cagey on details about his wife and keeps to the line that what happened is a warning to others. He doesn't seem to know what his wife is up to:

"Wilson, while refusing to confirm his wife's employment,"

"If what the two senior administration officials said is true," Wilson said,"

Maybe he thought the mother of 4 small children was working the window at Burger King all day instead of spying for the CIA. What else hasn't she told him? I think that I would know, or at least have a sneaking suspicion, that the mother of my small children was a CIA agent. Wilson is not a dummy from Arkansas after all.

I haven't seen a good story on this yet. Novak's article wasn't even about the CIA-Plame issue. Korn's has so many "if"s in it and relies heavily on Novak's story that it is worthless in my view. Time's story briefly mentions the alleged smear before going into Wilson's activities. Newsday cover it but to me there are a lot questions that they did not get answered. Klugman? He is not my idea of an unbiased source for anything.

My questions would be is "Is Plame an undercover operative? What was her actually employment status? How long had she worked for the CIA in an undercover status? Was she a field operative or did she work on the research desk? Was her cover "blown" by the Novak story? Why or Why not? Who blew it? Will that person or persons be prosecuted under law XXXXXX? When? or Why not?" That would be a good start.

Before we start impeachment hearings we should at least have some basic facts.

Posted by: Dennis Slater at July 24, 2003 02:44 PM | PERMALINK

Monday Sept. 29, 2003.

Wilson admitted this morning on Good Morning America that he had made up that Karl Rove had leaked his wife's name. He also is still not answering the question of whether is wife was just an energy analyst and not an operative in the clandestine service. It looks like this guy is just playing politics. Today it was also announced that
Plame spoke at an engagement last year and said she was an analyst for the CIA.
Looks like Schumer is playing some folks as pawns.

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