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September 29, 2003

WAS VALERIE PLAME REALLY AN UNDERCOVER CIA AGENT?....Via Mark Kleiman, the Washington Post — which owns the Plame story so far — tells me that at least one aspect of this story is even more disturbing than I originally thought. I've been vaguely assuming all along that Plame was most likely someone who worked in the private sector but who occasionally did jobs for the CIA or perhaps simply briefed them on her business dealings periodically. Nope:

She is a case officer in the CIA's clandestine service and works as an analyst on weapons of mass destruction. Novak published her maiden name, Plame, which she had used overseas and has not been using publicly. Intelligence sources said top officials at the agency were very concerned about the disclosure because it could allow foreign intelligence services to track down some of her former contacts and lead to the exposure of agents.

So, to recap:

  • Plame really was an undercover analyst working on WMD issues.

  • Two top White House officials blew her cover.

  • They seem to have done it in a weird attempt to discredit her husband, Joseph Wilson ("He doesn't really know anything about Africa, they just sent him there because his wife called in some favors....")

  • The CIA claims that exposing her could endanger other agents.

  • The President of the United States doesn't seem to care much about this.

On the positive side of things, at least the press is finally on top of this. It's the top story on Google News at the moment, and I assume that there are now enough people working on this that the truth will come out fairly quickly. Maybe by tomorrow, almost certainly by the end of the week. In any case, I'm certainly a lot more encouraged that we'll get to the bottom of this than I was on Friday.

Posted by Kevin Drum at September 29, 2003 10:34 AM | TrackBack


Comments

You forgot the word "allegedly" numerous times in your post. Of course, I guess that doesn't metter if you've already made up your mind without all of the facts.

Posted by: Al at September 29, 2003 10:40 AM | PERMALINK

Don't you idiot liberals realize this is all part of the flypaper strategy?

Just as we're bringing peace to Iraq by enticing terrorist attacks there, we will find the WMD by publicly crippling our intelligence agencies in order to lull Saddam into a false sense of security.

I find it especially amusing how your traitorous fifth column is actually HELPING Bush in this issue, by exposing this story. Probably the best move for you America-haters would be to just let this one slide under the rug...

Posted by: scarshapedstar at September 29, 2003 10:40 AM | PERMALINK

This has gotta be hurting!

Rush is on the air right now implying/saying:

Wilson is anti-Bush and not credible.

His investigation in Africa was worthless.

Plame's position was not secret.

The journalists reporting the story said all sorts of contradictory things about Niger, the Speech, the war, etc. They are not credible.

Posted by: Brendan at September 29, 2003 10:46 AM | PERMALINK

I wonder if Georgie's been given any of the Post's articles from his "objective" staff. Maybe he doesn't know anything at all about this.

Posted by: slappy at September 29, 2003 10:50 AM | PERMALINK

Talk about digging himself in deeper now:

Iraq, 9/11 Still Linked By Cheney - (Washington Post)

In making the case for war against Iraq, Vice President Cheney has continued to suggest that an Iraqi intelligence agent met with a Sept. 11, 2001, hijacker five months before the attacks, even as the story was falling apart under scrutiny by the FBI, CIA and the foreign government that first made the allegation.

The alleged meeting in Prague between hijacker Mohamed Atta and Iraqi Ahmed Khalil Ibrahim Samir al-Ani was the single thread the administration has pointed to that might tie Iraq to the attacks. But as the Czech government distanced itself from its initial assertion and American investigators determined Atta was probably in the United States at the time of the meeting, other administration officials dropped the incident from their public statements about Iraq.

Not Cheney, who was the administration's most vociferous advocate for going to war with Iraq. He brought up the connection between Atta and al-Ani again two weeks ago in an appearance on NBC's "Meet the Press" in which he also suggested links between Iraq and the Sept. 11 attacks.

Cheney described Iraq as "the geographic base of the terrorists who have had us under assault for many years, but most especially on 9/11." Neither the CIA nor the congressional joint inquiry that investigated the assault on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon found any evidence linking Iraq to the hijackers or the attacks. President Bush corrected Cheney's statement several days later. ...

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A14901-2003Sep28.html

Posted by: David W. at September 29, 2003 10:52 AM | PERMALINK

Kevin says:
Two top White House officials blew her cover.

The original Novak article says:
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.

Where are you getting the information that 2 White House officials blew her cover?

Posted by: Ron at September 29, 2003 10:57 AM | PERMALINK

that "She wasn't very undercover anyway" story is making the rounds. Atrios links to a NatReview piece that basically says "Everyone (including me) knew, she was CIA anyway. what's the big deal?"

it's a fair question, i think. If everyone already knew, then the "leak" wasn't much of leak.

Posted by: ChrisL at September 29, 2003 10:58 AM | PERMALINK

It was good enough for Nixon
it was good enough for Reagan
it was good enough for Clinton
and it's good enough for Bush

Gimme that old time independent counsel
gimme that old time independent counsel
gimme that old time independent counsel
hey, it's good enough for me!

Iraq, 9/11 Still Linked By Cheney - (Washington Post)

President Bush's aides promised yesterday to cooperate with a Justice Department inquiry into an administration leak that exposed the identity of a CIA operative, but Democrats charged that the administration cannot credibly investigate itself and called for an independent probe.

White House officials said they would turn over phone logs if the Justice Department asked them to. But the aides said Bush has no plans to ask his staff members whether they played a role in revealing the name of an undercover officer who is married to former ambassador Joseph C. Wilson IV, one of the most visible critics of Bush's handling of intelligence about Iraq. ...

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A17129-2003Sep29.html

Posted by: David W. at September 29, 2003 10:59 AM | PERMALINK

True enough, Ron, although you could INFER that those two administration sources told Novak (that's what Corn infers in his original article). Of course you could also infer from the very next sentence that the CIA ITSELF told Novak -- that sentence reads "The CIA says its counter-proliferation officials selected Wilson and asked his wife to contact him."

Posted by: Al at September 29, 2003 11:01 AM | PERMALINK

Isn’t conceivable that White House administration officials, hot under the collar when Wilson’s article was published in the NYT, called on a few folks at the State Department and asked who is this jack-ass?
Isn’t it conceivable they heard the tidbit about Ambassador Wilson and the second wife he acquired on an overseas posting, a wife who worked for the Directorate of Operations?

Isn’t it conceivable it was the press phoning the White House looking for a reaction to Wilson’s article and got one, prompting them to call the CIA looking for confirmation?

If Mr. Tenent or one of his aides planted the story in Washington Post as to how two white house aides called on six journalists to smear a critic of the Presidency, is he prepared to answer questions as to how Ambassador Wilson was vetted for this assignment?

So how about it, Mr. Tenent? Why is the CIA wasting time and energy that should be spent fighting terrorism instead? Is it merely coincidental this story coincided with the release of a letter castigating our intelligence services for having no sound intelligence on WMD in Iraq?

If you get chance, drop into a bookstore and peruse the last few chapters of former case officer Robert Baer’s See No Evil. It’s an astonishing portrait of the CIA.

I too want those phone logs released. Only it isn’t a senior aide in the White House I’m looking to see jettisoned

Posted by: pshaw at September 29, 2003 11:02 AM | PERMALINK

ChrisL, that's wrong. The assertion is that "insiders" knew that Wilson's wife was CIA. The key word is "insiders". Each of whom would be committing a felony by leaking that information to anyone, especially a non-"insider" who would spread the information widely.

So, with that in mind, did all of these people also know her maiden name "Plame", which she apparently didn't go by except on assignments? The argument by the National Review you reference is weak and merely a defense of the administration.

Whether some "insiders" knew Wilson's wife was CIA is irrelevant, and especially since very few undoubtedly knew the name she went by on assignment. I've said all along that there's a difference in reporting or leaking that Wilson's wife is CIA, and actually giving away her name, which is not Wilson in this matter.

Posted by: freelixir at September 29, 2003 11:03 AM | PERMALINK

If Mr. Tenent or one of his aides planted the story in Washington Post as to how two white house aides called on six journalists to smear a critic of the Presidency, is he prepared to answer questions as to how Ambassador Wilson was vetted for this assignment?

That's easy. Wilson had extensive experience in Niger, and if you check his record you'll see that. Just because he's ideologically opposed to the Bush Administration doesn't mean he can't conduct an investigation for the U.S., or that he will purposely look away from evidence for WMD. Take off your brown shirt.

So how about it, Mr. Tenent? Why is the CIA wasting time and energy that should be spent fighting terrorism instead? Is it merely coincidental this story coincided with the release of a letter castigating our intelligence services for having no sound intelligence on WMD in Iraq?

What time and energy is the CIA wasting? They're trying to figure out what agents, in the field of
WMD, have been exposed by this leak. What investigations and cases. Pshaw, are you really this dumb? The leak exposed cover operations investigating WMD. That is the war on terror you numbskull!

It's probably not coincidental, but don't try to tell me that the Bush Administration is innocent of these timed releases and leaks, especially since the crux of this is a very timed leak itself!

Oh, this is tooooo easy. Pshaw, go home, and take a few aspirin. Hopefully you'll feel better tomorrow...though I warn you, that report so critical of the CIA is really going to be turned critical on the Bush Administration's abuse of the whole intelligence process.

Oh well.

Posted by: freelixir at September 29, 2003 11:09 AM | PERMALINK

um, or were you kidding pshaw?

Posted by: freelixir at September 29, 2003 11:11 AM | PERMALINK

Thanks pshaw--we now know that outting CIA agents isn't something the CIA should worry about.

Posted by: Rob at September 29, 2003 11:12 AM | PERMALINK

Well at least one of those "facts" is wrong. Wilson's bio mentions her name explictly.

Posted by: Kevin Aylward at September 29, 2003 11:20 AM | PERMALINK

"So, with that in mind, did all of these people also know her maiden name "Plame", which she apparently didn't go by except on assignments?"

I don't know who knew her by her maiden name, but it really is irrelevant. Anyone who wanted to know Wilson's wife's maiden name could easily find it online on Wilson's official bio at the Middle East Institute, which says that Wilson "is married to the former Valerie Plame and has two sons and two daughters".

http://www.mideasti.org/html/bio-wilson.html

Google, you know.

Posted by: Al at September 29, 2003 11:21 AM | PERMALINK

You beat me to it by one minute, Kevin Aylward.

Posted by: Al at September 29, 2003 11:21 AM | PERMALINK

Sounds like the talking points have been worked out, if Rush is beating the counterpoint drum.

Who wants to bet Glenn will soon cut the Gordian knot of his confusion and start pointing to indeed and heh sources that imply that everyone knew Plame was CIA, it's just a "technicality," Wilson is "a little bit nutty and a little bit slutty," the "left wing" CIA did all the leaking, Karl Rove doesn't leave footprints when he walks in the snow, Bush "knows" Rove didn't do it because his daily briefing have indicated nothing of the kind, this is all beltway "inside baseball" so run along long kiddies, nothing to see here.

Posted by: xian at September 29, 2003 11:23 AM | PERMALINK

For all the righties leaping to the defense of the administration over the Plame affair. Here are your talking points for next week.

1) We at least believe in "innocent until proven guilty" unlike you liberals.

2) ...

Sorry, that's all I can come up with and it probably won't wear very well. Better to just hide out for awhile.

Posted by: dennisS at September 29, 2003 11:23 AM | PERMALINK

ChrisL, that's wrong. The assertion is that "insiders" knew that Wilson's wife was CIA. The key word is "insiders". Each of whom would be committing a felony by leaking that information to anyone, especially a non-"insider" who would spread the information widely.

even if Clifford May (author of that National Review piece) is a Washington "insider", he's not a member of the group of people who should legally know about whether or not this woman was undercover CIA. he's a reporter, not a member of the intel community.

if he (and "everyone") knew her status before the Novak story (presumably May wasn't one of the Mysterious Six), then the law was broken some time before Wilson came along. sure, it's probably still illegal for the WH to tell the story again. but if it was already common knowledge, it somewhat lessens the sheer audacity of the crime. no?

i still hope someone high up gets a trip to the big house, but i'm not holding my breath.

Posted by: ChrisL at September 29, 2003 11:23 AM | PERMALINK

The Note today has a good list of the next phase of the scandal, including questions to be asked:

"One veteran of the Clinton legal controversies asks all these questions, some of which were addressed at the gaggle:

Has President Bush made clear to the White House staff that only total cooperation with the investigation will be tolerated? If not, why not?

Has he insisted that every senior staff member sign a statement with legal authority that they are not the leaker and that they will identify to the White House legal counsel who is?

Has Bush required that all sign a letter relinquishing journalists from protecting those two sources? Has Bush said that those involved in this crime will be immediately fired? If not, why not?

Has Albert Gonzalez distributed a letter to White House employees telling them to preserve documents, logs, records? If not, why not?

Has Andy Card named someone on his staff to organize compliance? If not, why not?

White House officials who might have legal or political exposure on this are going to have to decide whether to hire lawyers or not, and the White House counsel's office is going to have to decide what legal help they can and should provide to officials if and when the DOJ wants to talk to them."

It will be interesting to see if any of those questions are asked and if any of the actions are taken.

Posted by: dwight meredith at September 29, 2003 11:26 AM | PERMALINK

Argh, there seems to be a lot of newspaper-speak which is muddling the issue. For instance someone just tried to tell me that "in the CIA's clandestine service and works as an analyst" could still include people who are openly (thus not secretly or undercover) affiliated with the CIA. Simple English would suggest otherwise, but after all the confusion about terms of art such as 'Top White House Officials' and 'Top Administration Officials' I don't know anymore.

To clarify one conservatives position, (mine): If a Bush official revealed the identity of a SECRET employee of the CIA, I'm appalled. Non-secret employees I don't care about.

Posted by: Sebastian Holslcaw at September 29, 2003 11:31 AM | PERMALINK

I find it hard to believe that "everyone" knew Valerie Plame was CIA, because if it was common knowledge, the right-wingers would have been all over this when they were looking to discredit Wilson. He's been smeared repeatedly from the right, and we're supposed to believe that all those people knew his wife was CIA and they just didn't mention it, even though it's common knowledge and there's "no harm" in telling us about it?

Please.

--Kynn

Posted by: Kynn at September 29, 2003 11:34 AM | PERMALINK

Go to counterspin. Apparently the person claiming that Plame's role was "well-known" is Cliff May, former director of communications for the RNC. Someone just "happened" to commit a felony and tell him about her role around the time of the initial Wilson flap, you see. He's not exactly Joe Ordinary.

I think this piece of evidence actually makes things worse for the Bush admin rather than better. Maybe the effort to expose her was more widespread rather than less so? Perhaps we need to find out more about who committed a crime by telling Mays this?

Marc

Posted by: Marc at September 29, 2003 11:39 AM | PERMALINK

Anyone who knew enough to be specific about the number of journalists who were called knows who did the calling. If the press can't figure it out or if the administration doesn't 'fess up in 72 hours, then I predict the names will come out via the same source.

Posted by: elliottg at September 29, 2003 11:41 AM | PERMALINK

Something tells me that the Bush-at-all-costs gang here would have had a very, very different attitude if this involved Clinton.

I would not. It's an inexcusable crime that could get people killed. Hypocrites.

Marc

Posted by: Marc at September 29, 2003 11:42 AM | PERMALINK

Here's what is undermined if "everybody knew" that Winson's wife was CIA: under the statute (50 USC 421), the prosectuion must prove that the Administration leaker(s) KNEW that the CIA was trying to keep her identity undercover. Well, how does one prove this if her identity is all over town?

Posted by: Al at September 29, 2003 11:42 AM | PERMALINK

I don't really understand the concept of an ambassador's wife being a secret agent. No one in the country of the embassy trusts an ambassador's wife to be anything other than an agent for her country. So she can't be developing contacts because contacting them would endanger them from the get go.

I also don't understand being an undercover operative under your maiden name.

Something else is going on here, and I'll unhappily admit that I don't understand it.

Posted by: Sebastian Holsclaw at September 29, 2003 11:48 AM | PERMALINK

"CIA lawyers followed up the notification this month by answering 11 questions from the Justice Department, affirming that Plame’s identity was classified, that whoever released it was not authorized to do and that the news media would not have been able to guess her identity without the leak, two senior U.S. officials told NBC News."

"The CIA response to the questions, which is itself classified, said there were grounds for a criminal investigation, the sources said."

http://www.msnbc.com/news/973047.asp?0cv=CA01

Posted by: Kevin Brennan at September 29, 2003 11:50 AM | PERMALINK

The only person who has claimed that he knew was a top RNC communications operative. The fact that someone told him could be a part of the same conspiracy as the July leaks.

And it is quite clear that the CIA was trying to keep it secret. This "she was already compromised" line of defence will fail - it's actually worse for Bush than the alternative, because it widens the circle of lawbreakers.

drip, drip, drip...

Marc

Posted by: Marc at September 29, 2003 11:54 AM | PERMALINK

Sebastian,

I would think that the general assumption would be that the ambassador's wife was not anybody of particular significance and her role would be primarily social, and as such there would be a tendency to dismiss her as a possible agent. So it seems to me that it would be a decent enough cover for a "non-illegal" (an agent operating under diplomatic immunity). Certainly she might be watched, but less so than others in the embassy. It's normal for some embassy staff to be affiliated with intelligence agencies, and the point of the game is to have your agents be the least likely candidates possible.

Posted by: Kevin Brennan at September 29, 2003 11:54 AM | PERMALINK

Interesting, Kevin. The CIA response was ITSELF CLASSIFIED! And somebody leaked it! We need an investigation into THAT LEAK TOO!!

Posted by: Al at September 29, 2003 11:55 AM | PERMALINK

Why isn't Novak being prosecuted for outing Valerie Plame? The law is quite explicit and freedom of the press doesn't give him the right to commit an act of treason.

Posted by: Ian at September 29, 2003 11:55 AM | PERMALINK

Sebastian: I suspect that's why she operated under her maiden name when doing the intel work, although she changed her name when she got married.

Marc

Posted by: Marc at September 29, 2003 11:56 AM | PERMALINK

AI,

Follow me back to the Clinton follies (and try not to get too much crap on your shoes) ...

For Clinton to have committed perjury, he had to tell a lie that he knew was a lie and stated as such. It's a specific-intent crime.

Clinton haters (aka Bush defenders) were all outraged at Clinton's sophistries dodging the specific-intent basis of the perjury allegations (the "meaning of the word 'is'" and all that). Will they now refuse to credit similar sophistries and circumlocutions regarding Ms Plame's status etc?

HA!

Posted by: Brendan at September 29, 2003 11:56 AM | PERMALINK

Josh Marshall's latest posting on TPM says: "[Cliff] May also argues that the whole disclosure isn't such a big deal since it was somehow widely known that Valerie Plame was CIA. To this I would only say, Cliff, pursuing this line of inquiry/argument could lead to some really awkward surprises. Just heads up."

Usually I'm smart enough to follow what Josh is talking about, but can anyone translate his penultimate sentence for me?

Posted by: Diane at September 29, 2003 11:58 AM | PERMALINK

I believe in the old adage "If you can't do the time, don't do the crime". I'd like the truth and whoever gets burned, gets burned.

But as I pointed out earlier the original Novak article does not say who gave him the information that Plame was working for the CIA. How come y'all are jumping on the White House?

Posted by: Ron at September 29, 2003 12:02 PM | PERMALINK

Brendan - Clinton won that one, didn't he? HA, HA!

It is not at all clear that the alleged leaker knew that the CIA was trying to keep her identity secret.

Posted by: Al at September 29, 2003 12:03 PM | PERMALINK

Ron,

Read down a few posts. People are jumping on the White House because a report Sunday specifically said the leak came from there.

Posted by: Kevin Brennan at September 29, 2003 12:08 PM | PERMALINK

Diane, here is TAPPED on the subject:
http://www.prospect.org/weblog/
Clifford May of NRO does not disappoint:
It's the top story in the Washington Post this morning as well as in many other media outlets. Who leaked the fact that the wife of Joseph C. Wilson IV worked for the CIA?
What also might be worth asking: "Who didn't know?" . . .

On July 14, Robert Novak wrote a column in the Post and other newspapers naming Mr. Wilson's wife, Valerie Plame, as a CIA operative.

That wasn't news to me. I had been told that -- but not by anyone working in the White House. Rather, I learned it from someone who formerly worked in the government and he mentioned it in an offhanded manner, leading me to infer it was something that insiders were well aware of.

[TAPPED asks] So now it's OK to violate the law and expose national security secrets as long as someone else did it too? It's a wonder Julius Rosenberg's lawyers didn't think of that one. Any time the guilty parties want to come forward and offer this as their defense, Tapped will welcome it, but if they're interested in staying out of jail they'll probably want to stick with the stonewalling plan.

Posted by: Robuzo at September 29, 2003 12:13 PM | PERMALINK

Usually I'm smart enough to follow what Josh is talking about, but can anyone translate his penultimate sentence for me?

IMO, it's to do with just who in the White House knew about Plame being a CIA agent. And that would be a clue about who leaked that information to Novak. If it was 'widely known', then we can surely find out who specifically does and ask them under oath if they had anything to do with the leak.

Posted by: David W. at September 29, 2003 12:16 PM | PERMALINK

"I would think that the general assumption would be that the ambassador's wife was not anybody of particular significance and her role would be primarily social, and as such there would be a tendency to dismiss her as a possible agent."

That isn't the general assumption at all. The general assumption is that everyone directly affiliated with an ambassador is effectively a spy. Practically every country treats other country's ambassador's like that. That is why she clearly couldn't have been meeting with agents and the like--she is already treated as a spy even if she isn't affiliated with the CIA.

If she is just an analyst, this whole thing has already been blown way out of proportion, and it makes no sense to me that she would have been an undercover agent, because it that would involve setting up an agent whose cover is automatically blown even before she arrives in country.

Posted by: Sebastian Holsclaw at September 29, 2003 12:21 PM | PERMALINK

It is not at all clear that the alleged leaker knew that the CIA was trying to keep her identity secret.

So they're just incompetent, or someone in the administration is privy to info on CIA agents which they never should have had?

The CIA certainly seems to think it's a serious matter. If "everyone knew who she was anyway", I don't know why they'd demand an investigation like this.

This one isn't going to be so easy to brush off as "no big deal".

Posted by: Ringo Mountbatten at September 29, 2003 12:28 PM | PERMALINK

Brendan - Here's a Clinton hater - nah, I don't hate him, I just dislike him - who's appalled at what I think this Administration did with Plame.

What I don't understand is, how the Administration can come out and just deny the whole thing. There are 6 journalists out there who know who really did the leaking. Even if the 6 are probably all right-wingers like Novak, you have to believe at least one will advance his career and spill the beans. So either there is some kind of explanation which excuses the Bush Administration (just kidding!) or these guys think that they can just brazen it out (sorry, this reminds me of Clinton!). Anyway, I don't think it will work, because there's one thing that Americans can't stand, and that's a loser. And Bush smells like he's losing one big-time for the U.S. in Iraq. Maybe things will improve, but Bush better hope they do so quickly, or he'll get hung for Plame.

Posted by: Andrew Boucher at September 29, 2003 12:29 PM | PERMALINK

Something tells me that the Bush-at-all-costs gang here would have had a very, very different attitude if this involved Clinton.

Not a chance. I may be a liberal and a Bush-hater, but I'm also an idealist who takes my ethics seriously. If this is true (and it is not proven that it is), I don't care about the party of the White House that pulled the stunt. It's despicable.

I have a ton of ethical complaints about the Clinton WH, even though I think that administration was better on average for the country than this one - by a lot.

Posted by: IdahoEv at September 29, 2003 12:30 PM | PERMALINK

Not only that, but wouldn't whoever told Mr May that info be guilty of the same crime of exposing an undercover agent? If "everyone" knew in those powerful repub circles, then that's a lot of guilty power players...

Posted by: Abe at September 29, 2003 12:37 PM | PERMALINK

Kevin
I read down a few posts, the talk here seemed to be that "everyone knew", there were some miscellaneous links but I didn't see one where it was clear who leaked. Wilson himself claimed Rove did it, Rove says he didn't. The Washington Post article referenced the Novak article, and the Novak article does not say who gave him the information.

So I'm still in the dark.

Posted by: Ron at September 29, 2003 12:43 PM | PERMALINK

For those folks who say "everyone knew:" When did everyone know? Did they know before Wilson went to Niger? After he published the editorial in the Times? When?

And if everyone knew, then why did the two White House people need to call up all those journalists and tell them what they knew already?

Posted by: House of Toast at September 29, 2003 12:53 PM | PERMALINK

Sorry, but the WaPo quote doesn't wash. Whoever wrote that about Plame doesn't know anything about the intelligence services. "Case officer in the CIA's clandestine services" is lame and awkward and wghoever wrote it hasn't been around the CIA. She's an analyst. She may or may not have had a TS clearance. Her work was undoubtedly desk bound technical analysis. The story hits Bush harder if she's an undercover agent who has been dangerously outed by the White House cowboy and his evil minions. Nope.

Posted by: Doug Rivers at September 29, 2003 12:58 PM | PERMALINK

The story hits Bush harder if she's an undercover agent who has been dangerously outed by the White House cowboy and his evil minions.

Ya think?

Doug, something I've discovered over the past couple of days: it's only a felony to disclose a covert agent's identity if the agent has worked overseas for the CIA within the last five years. As the CIA are pressing for investigation, and according to a British news source, they're carrying out a wide-ranging investigation of all Plame's contacts overseas... I think they take it seriously. The question is, why don't you?

I think we can say this is an example of Really Dumb Republican thinking: not "It didn't happen!" but "The whole thing is a CIA plot!" Yeah... so according to *this* theory, the CIA are now conspiring to bring down an American President? Interesting...

Posted by: Jesurgislac at September 29, 2003 01:08 PM | PERMALINK

I thought the idea that the CIA is willing to try to bring down an American President had quite a bit of pull in some liberal circles.

;)

Posted by: Sebastian Holsclaw at September 29, 2003 01:13 PM | PERMALINK

Even if the 6 are probably all right-wingers like Novak, you have to believe at least one will advance his career and spill the beans.

Not necessarily. Novak has been doing this for 40 years and there would be no risk to his career for him to publish anything. A less experienced reporter might worry about damaging contacts within the White House (and therefore his or her own career). For obvious reasons, Bob Novak has no such problems. He might be a bit archconservative for my tastes, but he is a real professional.

Posted by: Dr. Squid at September 29, 2003 01:18 PM | PERMALINK

Doug Rivers writes: ""Case officer in the CIA's clandestine services" is lame and awkward and wghoever wrote it hasn't been around the CIA. She's an analyst. She may or may not have had a TS clearance. Her work was undoubtedly desk bound technical analysis."

An ex-CIA agent just said on the BBC that a clandestine service case officer is the person covert agents report to.

I'm inclined to believe a former CIA agent before I'll believe things you're pulling right out of your ass.

If you've never heard of the CIA's clandestine service, you definitely don't know what you're talking about.

Posted by: Jon H at September 29, 2003 01:23 PM | PERMALINK

From what I have read, Valerie Plame Wilson's cover was that she worked for an energy company of some sort, but that she actually was an analyst tracking and/or analyzing info about WMD sales. Wilson was actually an ambassador only from 1992-1995. Perhaps they married after he was ambassador. I have read that at the time he went to Niger, they had young twin daughters, but she still worked for the CIA. Perhaps her job has changed over the course of their marriage. Someone described them as having met during one of his "overseas postings;" if this is correct, it could have been Europe (1995-1997), not necessarily while he was ambassador.

Posted by: Mimikatz at September 29, 2003 01:28 PM | PERMALINK

Here's a description of what a case officer does, from an article at Newsmax.com:

"Case officers are the Agency's elite corps, and as such they are entrusted with the most sensitive national secrets the U.S. possesses. Because of this trust, they must pass the most rigorous background investigations imaginable, including periodic polygraph examinations. Once hired, the case officer's job is to handle operational cases and assets; this is to say the case officer recruits and directs foreign indigenous spies, who are known as "agents.""

http://www.newsmax.com/archives/articles/2002/7/22/194709.shtml

About the author:

F.W. Rustmann Jr. is a 24-year veteran of the CIA's clandestine service and author of "CIA, Inc.: Espionage and the Craft of Business Intelligence."

Posted by: Jon H at September 29, 2003 01:29 PM | PERMALINK

So I am to believe that the wife of an ambassador, someone who would automatically be watched by the hosting government, was SECRETLY recruiting agents in say Baghdad, where Wilson was stationed from 1988 to 1991? As in, without being under direct observation of the Iraqi government? This can't be true. I know our CIA is incompetent in many areas, but I refuse to believe that they are that incompetent.

I guess the only good news if that were true is that no agents are at risk from the revelation in that case, since they were already all compromised.

For the moment I will hope that the reporter got the job title wrong, or that Plame had a different job description. Because if that were true not only did some Bush leaker do something awful, but also we have a much worse CIA than I already suspected.

Posted by: Sebastian Holsclaw at September 29, 2003 01:50 PM | PERMALINK

Sebastian Holsclaw writes: "So I am to believe that the wife of an ambassador, someone who would automatically be watched by the hosting government, was SECRETLY recruiting agents in say Baghdad, where Wilson was stationed from 1988 to 1991? "

Perhaps you're getting messed up by the fact that an Ambassador retains the title after they no longer are an actual Ambassador, for some reason.

Plame may have married Wilson when he was an ex-ambassador.

I've not seen any indication of how long they've been married. It's entirely possible that she *was* a case officer, but stopped when she got married (or before) because that really wouldn't be conducive to having kids, of which they apparently have two.

I figure she became an analyst when she decided to have kids, possibly when she married Wilson. That would just be sensible.

According to the relevant law, she could have stopped being a covert agent up to five years ago and revealing the identity would still be illegal. That being the case, she could have stopped being a covert case officer in 1998, married Wilson, and moved into an analyst position that would require less travel.

In any case, there's no reason to assume they were married in 1988-1991.

Posted by: Jon H at September 29, 2003 02:03 PM | PERMALINK

OK, lets find out when she was married and put random speculation to rest. My whole problem with this story is that no one with the facts bothers to give them to us. It is like the 'I don't trust Clark's character but won't tell you why' story.

Posted by: Sebastian Holsclaw at September 29, 2003 02:21 PM | PERMALINK

recruiting agents in say Baghdad, where Wilson was stationed from 1988 to 1991

huh? how on earth did you come up with Baghdad? as long as we're speculating, why not Eastern Europe, where there are loose Nukes all over the place and it's reasonable to have a case agent or two?

if she was a case agent her contacts were presumably located in countries where she traveled under her "non-official cover" as an energy company analyst. this pretty much rules out Iraq since Gulf War I. and God help anybody she might have hung out with in Uzbekistan...

quit while you're ahead, friend. even if this doesn't actually go anywhere, it's not defensible on "too shocking to be true" grounds...

Posted by: radish at September 29, 2003 02:32 PM | PERMALINK

I'm not speculating, her husband was stationed in Baghdad in the very years I mentioned. I didn't just make it up. I've been trying to find out how long they have been married, too. Do your own research rather than just mud slinging.

Posted by: Sebastian Holsclaw at September 29, 2003 02:35 PM | PERMALINK

radish writes: "huh? how on earth did you come up with Baghdad?"

That's where Wilson was stationed as Ambassador from 88-91. If he had been married to Plame, and *if* they'd been in the same place (not necessarily a safe assumption, she might have stayed elsewhere for her career), then Plame would have been in Baghdad.

But there's no mention I've seen of them being married that far back.

If they met outside the US, we might not even be able to find out where they met, because that would reveal that she was active in that location at that time.

Posted by: Jon H at September 29, 2003 02:36 PM | PERMALINK

Ron wrote: "How come y'all are jumping on the White House?"

Because the Washington Post's source said that two White House officials shopped this around. Tom Brokaw confirmed that White House officials had called Andrea Mitchell with this information. In short, the White House is implicated.

Posted by: PaulB at September 29, 2003 02:56 PM | PERMALINK

sorry. the dismissiveness of Sebastian's post got my goat. the choice of Baghdad seemed calculated to minimize the seriousness of the outing but in retrospect I see that I went off half cocked. the point I was trying to make is that outing agents is dangerous period - your incredulousness is the only thing implying any CIA incompetence.

as it happens Wilson and Plame were not in fact married until like 1998 so she could have handled agents in Iraq prior to 92. she could also have handled agents anywhere that she traveled - either before or after that time... that's my point.

Posted by: radish at September 29, 2003 04:00 PM | PERMALINK

Mea culpa. I was wrong about the name Valerie Plame. If it was that easy to figure out her maiden name, by a Google search (something the administration couldn't do in the case of the Niger documents, by the way), then I was wrong about that.

Not that it matters, but that would also change my argument, from saying it might be okay to say something about his wife's position at CIA, to it's definitely not okay to say that.

Why? Because the whole point is her identity being revealed as a CIA agent. I was assuming she would still be fairly unknown if spoken of solely as "Wilson's wife", but if this is not the case, which seems to be the case, then saying anything in regards to her and her covert CIA missions is not apropos (if that's the correct word).

Talk about a meaningless refutation. The whole point is that the crime is divulging her identity, and blowing her cover and any operations that she was connected to. This was done by the leakers, for nefarious political reasons, and they should be punished. Novak should be morally censored, for a short period, but ultimately cannot be blamed legally for sharing the information.

I wouldn't pursue him anyway. The others should be given a harsh penalty, which in some way seriously inconveniences their lives for at least a period of 5 years. We're talking about national security and WMD here. Not small potatos, and part and parcel of the war on terror, which is really about an impossible war against the spread of WMD which could be used by terrorists of any stripe or variety.

Muse on that for awhile. The war on terror is the pursuit and tracking of WMD. Plain and simple. There seemingly will always be terrorists, the suffering and desperate defenders of whatever belief they carry, unless we somehow institute a utopia of some kind. With that in mind, the real challenge is keeping the increasing power and miniaturization of weapons technology out of desperate or radical hands.

Posted by: freelixir at September 29, 2003 04:27 PM | PERMALINK

For those slow to catch on:

""CIA lawyers followed up the notification this month by answering 11 questions from the Justice Department, affirming that Plame’s identity was classified, that whoever released it was not authorized to do and that the news media would not have been able to guess her identity without the leak, two senior U.S. officials told NBC News."

"The CIA response to the questions, which is itself classified, said there were grounds for a criminal investigation, the sources said."

http://www.msnbc.com/news/973047.asp?0cv=CA01"

Posted by: Lorenzo at September 29, 2003 10:14 PM | PERMALINK

I seem to remember Ms. Plame being described as "being known to her friends as" an energy company consultant or analyst in the initial reports in July.Can anyone provide a link to this article? Wouldn't this imply that she was indeed a covert operator? Would the cover of energy analyst tend to imply a mostly nuke flavor to her work? Any thoughts?

Posted by: shakes at September 29, 2003 10:30 PM | PERMALINK

Sebastian:
The general assumption is that everyone directly affiliated with an ambassador is effectively a spy. Practically every country treats other country's ambassador's like that. That is why she clearly couldn't have been meeting with agents and the like--she is already treated as a spy even if she isn't affiliated with the CIA
This is ludicrous. Have you served as an ambassador, or have you spent a lot of time working for embassies? Since the middle ages, countries have assumed that embassy missions include spies, but they most certainly do not operate on a general assumption that everyone directly affiliated with an ambassador is effectively as spy. It is not true that practically every country treats other countries ambassadors (or embassies) like that. If that were the case, it would be all but impossible for ambassadors and embassy missions to get any work done. I respect your arguments most of the time, my friend, but in this case you are just plain making stuff up.

We don't know (but maybe we soon will) when Plame and Wilson married, but it's possible that she could still have been carrying out covert activities while married to the chief of mission. For one thing, that's probably not a position where you're going to hide an agent. For another, their marriage doesn't have to have been publicized. It's quite possible for embassy personnel to sleep together without being married, you know...

Posted by: Keith at September 30, 2003 09:31 AM | PERMALINK

They weren't married until 1998? I really want to know this, but the only thing I've seen is speculation that it would make sense for them not to be married until 1998.

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