September 29, 2003

THE PLAME AFFAIR: DAMAGE CONTROL ROUNDUP....I don't know whether to be surprised at conservative reaction to the Plame affair or not. They've definitely circled the wagons, and their main lines of defense seem to be these:

All in all, this is a pretty disappointing performance from people who claim to take national security seriously.

The bottom line remains pretty much the same: A couple of top Bush administration officials blabbed about a clandestine CIA operative to the press in order to try to discredit her husband, and now they're covering it up. Either you think that's OK or you don't. I don't.

POSTSCRIPT: So what remains? Two main things: understanding Plame's real role at the CIA, and figuring out who the two leakers were.

Based on some emails I've gotten, I suspect that Plame was a pretty serious undercover operator, although perhaps some years in the past. And there are too many people who know the names of the leakers for that to stay secret very much longer.

It might be a couple of days or a couple of weeks, but both of these questions are going to be answered. When they are, the Bush loyalists peddling the excuses above are going to have to put up or shut up.

Posted by KEVIN DRUM at September 29, 2003 10:28 PM | TrackBack


Comments

Come on Kevin, be fair: tacitus and Daniel Drezner are pretty concerned about the affair.

Posted by: anon at September 29, 2003 10:32 PM

> Maybe the leakers didn't know Plame was covert. I
> guess that's possible, and if it's true it means
> they were just ignorant rather than felonious.

How does this work? If A finds out through legit means that Plame is CIA but somehow misses the covert part and reveals her identity, is that any different than knowing and leaking? Or if B tells A she's CIA but skips the covert part, is B or A guilty of a crime? Does it make a difference whether A is entitled (by virtue of clearance) to the info?

Posted by: rr at September 29, 2003 10:42 PM

Come on Kevin, be fair: tacitus and Daniel Drezner are pretty concerned about the affair.

But they aren't "peddling the excuses above", now are they? And they obviously don't think it's ok, so Kevin wasn't talking about them.

Posted by: exgop at September 29, 2003 10:42 PM

You know what would tickle my irony bone in just the right way? In the next few days, we see a story begin "According several sources in the media who wished to remain anonymous, the leakers are...."

Posted by: Aaron at September 29, 2003 10:43 PM

It might be a couple of days or a couple of weeks, but both of these questions are going to be answered. When they are, the Bush loyalists peddling the excuses above are going to have to put up or shut up.

Or else make up some new excuses. Being a Bush loyalist these days isn't for the faint of heart, and requires a certain mental agility to keep going from excuse to excuse. I'm sure they can come up with new reasons for blaming somebody other than George or his sainted administration.

Posted by: jimBOB at September 29, 2003 10:46 PM

My guess is whoever ends up being fingered will have signed lots of papers agreeing not to disclose this sort of thing; these are mandatory before you can get a security clearance. I don't think they'll get far in court with professions of ignorance.

Posted by: jimBOB at September 29, 2003 10:50 PM

Yes, I should emphasize that there are some conservatives taking this seriously. I applaud them for that, since it's hard to do this when it involves your own side. I don't think any of us can pretend to have a completely clean slate in that regard.

However, the large majority are trying to pretend nothing wrong has happened. That's pretty despicable.

(Or, worse, that *Clinton did way worse* so why get upset when our guy does it? But that's mostly been by wingnuts in comments, so it doesn't really count.)

Posted by: Kevin Drum at September 29, 2003 10:56 PM

We know nothing until we know what Plame's job was, and whether her identity as an employee of the CIA was classified information. That puts everything else in context. Her "outing" falls somewhere between felonious and innocuous, and there is nothing weak-kneed about reserving judgment until someone other than an anonymous source speaks up.

Posted by: Steve at September 29, 2003 10:56 PM

Very nice grounding of the story, Kevin. My theory is that the two ``outers'' of Valerie Plame are going to be offered up as sacrificial lambs in hopes of sealing off even more damaging stuff. That's pure speculation, but I think it addresses the contradication between McClellan's assertions that Bush is really concerned enough to fire someone and the White House's concurrent total lack of interest in conducting an internal probe to find out who did the outing. This is an unspinnable contradiction: If you think someone should be fired why avoid finding them and firing them?
Because you don't want them to spill their guts.

Posted by: secularhuman at September 29, 2003 11:00 PM

You forgot

  • I categorically can't trust anonymous sources. These appear to be many different anonymous sources on different levels corroborating each other. It's more implausible that such a conspiracy could exist that all these sources are inaccurate in the same way than it is implausible that the White House could have made such a stupid mistake.
  • Notes:

    - Relies on mischaracterization of "anonymous": it's anonymous to us, but the reporters know the identities of their sources.

    - Saying "I can't trust the sources" implies the sources are somehow wrong without coming out and saying that directly, and the speaker couldn't support what s/he is only implying.

    Posted by: taktile at September 29, 2003 11:05 PM

    Seve:
    "Her "outing" falls somewhere between felonious and innocuous..."

    If her outing falls on the innocuous side of your ledger why would the CIA have referred anything to the Justice Dept? Presumably her employers know whether she's covert or not.

    Posted by: Flory at September 29, 2003 11:07 PM

    Drezner has indeed been taking it seriously, but I commend unto you the comments section of his "What might cause me to switch parties" post. You will indeed see examples such as Kevin cited in this post, and more.

    Posted by: Linkmeister at September 29, 2003 11:14 PM

    So, is it possible she wasn't classified as covert now that she's working as an analyst, and the fools in the White House thought they could get away with it? Still, again, why would the CIA think they have a case?

    Posted by: alias at September 29, 2003 11:14 PM

    I posted the following earlier tonight on 'Hullabaloo".


    What was it Bush said to Snow in that televised interview last week? Something like: "I never read the papers, and rely on my staff to keep me informed"?

    The administration knew the CIA was about to refer the matter to Justice. That the s**t was about to hit the fan. They had time to position themselves. And that was their best shot.."I don't read papers..I rely on staff."

    I believe George Bush signed-off on this leak. Either before, or (perhaps) after the fact, he acquieced in blowing the cover of a CIA operative. His announced intention not to quizz his staff about it lends itself to this (admitted) specualtion. If he already knows, why bother to ask? If he doesn't know, why not ask? Wouldn't you in his shoes?

    But he does know. More to the point, this whole mess cannot be covered up. Too many reporters know what's what, and who's who.

    The President of the United States committed an impeachable offense. In so doing, at least 6 journalists and their editors were drawn in to the godawful mess. What arrogant, politically incompotent fools this Texas crew have finally, irrefutably proved themselves to be.

    Bush's final line of defense is (will be) that he never had a clue. That he relied on his exclusively on his staff to tell him what's happening.

    At least 6 journalists and their editors are sitting on one of the most explosive stories in the history of the United States.

    More to the point, the administration official(s) who contacted them have positioned themselves to hereafter be remembered as 3rd rate Benedict Arnold's in the collective memory of the American people. Even if they were merely "following orders". But especially if they deny Bush had a clue about what was happening under his very nose.

    When the shoe finally drops, all I will have to say is : "Good riddance to bad rubbish".

    ..........................

    And in the interim between that post and now, this little nugget was unearthed from the Washington Post:

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

    The journalist, who asked not to be identified because of possible legal
    ramifications, said that the information was provided as part of an effort
    to discredit Wilson..."

    So, not only do the guilty parties know who they are; and other reporters; and their editors- but now lawyers- perhaps even entire legal divisions- are in the know.

    When will the American people be let in on this secret of secrets?

    Posted by: Sovereign Eye at September 29, 2003 11:21 PM

    Frankly, acknowledging that "something bad has probably happened" falls a little short of an applause line for me, not that it doesn't look good by comparison. When I hear calls for an independent counsel coming from my right I'll grant their seriousness. But I'll still suspect their motives.

    Posted by: D. Case at September 29, 2003 11:25 PM

    The most interesting development in this very interesting day:

    Bush has committed to firing the leakers.

    And he can't take the position that there was no leak. The leakers definately exist.

    And, we know that it's fairly widely known who the leakers are because of all the media they called. (Who thought of this cockamaimie plan?) So choosing a convenient scapegoat is impossible.

    Result: the real leakers are going to get fired. The first Administration officials to lose their jobs -- hopefully not the last.

    Now, when Bush committed to firing the leakers, did he already know who they are? Or is he flying blind?

    Posted by: grytpype at September 29, 2003 11:55 PM

    I found this bit interesting from the Ron Suskind piece you linked above:

    "Sources close to the former president say Rove was fired from the 1992 Bush presidential campaign after he planted a negative story with columnist Robert Novak about dissatisfaction with campaign fundraising chief and Bush loyalist Robert Mosbacher Jr. It was smoked out, and he was summarily ousted."

    Here's hoping Rove didn't learn his lesson.

    Posted by: Mel at September 29, 2003 11:58 PM

    Oh, and don't forget the pressure to criminally prosecute the leakers will be enormous.

    Very Watergatey.

    Posted by: grytpype at September 30, 2003 12:02 AM

    Sovereign Eye,

    Come to think of it, that Fox interview special did seem especially odd. Little advance notice, hardly any publicity or hype (and pleasingly low ratings). Could it be that it was thrown together at the last minute, precisely so W could inoculate himself from the storm they knew was coming (by claiming that he only knows what he's explicitly told by staff--which from any reasonable perspective is an appalling and embarrassing claim, but in light of this weekend's events seems spookily clever)? Just a thought...

    Posted by: Pierre Menard at September 30, 2003 12:20 AM

    Everyone knew Jeffrey Kofman was both gay and Canadian, but that didn't stop the White House from contacting people and trying to spread it around.

    Posted by: phil at September 30, 2003 12:21 AM

    Kevin, you are on FIRE man.

    I've been fascinated by this story since it first popped up this summer, and have read every thread here, and on Tac, Kos, and Drezner the last three days.

    But wow... of sixteen articles currently on your front page, TWELVE are about this single issue.

    Posted by: IdahoEv at September 30, 2003 12:47 AM

    I can't honestly decide if I want this to be true or not. For it to be true is astonishingly revolting -- as cynical as I am I don't want to believe even the evil neocons are capable of this kind of thing. At the same time, I've already come to the conclusion that this administration is corrupt and criminal to the core and destroying the country I love at something approaching the speed of light, and I'm about willing to accept the existence of any crime so long as it gives us a lever to send them down in flames.

    But I'm holding back conclusions for now, now matter how strong the evidence. And I agree with you that it's incredibly strong.

    But I got burned in July, two days after blogging about the Capitol Hill Blue story about a CIA analyst who was personally present to hear Bush say "If the current CIA operatives can't prove the WMD case they had better find some who can". CHB named the CIA operative, on the record. When the credibility was doubted, publisher Doug Thompson went on the record defending his source as a trusted personal friend of twenty years. And the next day, retracted the story after learning that his trusted source and friend of twenty years was a fiction and had been feeding him twenty years of lies. A fraud who blew it all on one last story that had 24 hours of major cover.

    Whether it really was a 20-year fraud, or whether Thompson made up a wicked hoax just for fun, a very convincing news story about a scandal turned out to be 100% bunkum.

    So, it seems, anything can happen. I think the evidence is strong that some people in the WH are in serious sh*t, but at this point I'm not going to jump to conclusions until someone gets dragged before a grand jury and has plenty of evidence thrown in their faces.

    Or, rather, this time I ain't gonna hop to to someone's "frog" until AFTER I've seen the culprit do the frogmarch.

    Posted by: IdahoEv at September 30, 2003 12:51 AM

    Good work Kevin (and Dan too).
    I like the anonymous source leak suggestion! I guess it's Rove, and will be time for him to go.

    ... to Iraq? New Bridge LLC is perhaps going to be the main lobby/ gatekeeper of rich US companies? (See Josh Marshall).

    Too bad the Left can't yet admit that Iraqi freedom is good. When they do, but only after, Bush's (team's) other dirt will get more airing by responsible moderates & conservatives.

    Posted by: Tom Grey at September 30, 2003 12:55 AM

    Can we take a step back folks? Now I want to see this administration fall as much as most of you, but I'm a bit disconcerted at how just about every anti-bush person out there is assuming that the WaPo's anonymous source spoke the truth. Granted 98% of what comes from the freepers mouths is garbage, but we at least need to grant them that almost nothing is proven. Between the CIA and Cheney we are dealing with absurd levels of secrecy in power. There are a lot of things we don't know. Could it be Wilson or Tenet actually did the leaking? Unlikely, but its still possible.

    All signs point to the White House being as guilty as a Republican in a whore house, but lets not freeper our facts. Lots of allegations are going round, but very little are getting said on the record. Jury is still out, lets not take some anonymous source's word as gospel.

    Posted by: Ae at September 30, 2003 12:58 AM

    Tom Grey: "Too bad the Left can't yet admit that Iraqi freedom is good. When they do, but only after, Bush's (team's) other dirt will get more airing by responsible moderates & conservatives."

    I'm pretty left on some issues and I 100% agree that Iraqi freedom is a very good thing. I was against the invasion, but now that it's a fait accompli I accept that it happened and we can't pretend we didn't do it. The US is in very deep karma territory here and nothing less than a superb job at nation-building will save our credibility. 87 billion does not sound excessive _provided that_ the great majority of that money goes to Iraqis.
    I think Iraqi reconstruction is far too important to leave to the current band of corrupt bozos. They're pretty good at wrecking things, but not so good at putting them back together.

    Posted by: Michael Farris at September 30, 2003 01:11 AM

    Ae wrote: "..lets not take some anonymous source's word as gospel".

    You've got a lot of damn gall citing a reasonable objection in the face of my political bloodlust. There's one in every crowd, I guess.

    Posted by: Sovereign Eye at September 30, 2003 01:31 AM

    Tom Grey:

    I'm about as left as they come on most issues, but I've been saying for months that Iraqi freedom and the removal of Hussein as a dictator were the single major good outcome of an otherwise unjustified and unwise invasion.

    It's not a black and white world and I'm happy to admit it.

    Posted by: IdahoEv at September 30, 2003 02:01 AM

    I'll add another persistent thing I've seen coming up: the allegation that Joseph Wilson did a pisspoor job in Niger because he was biased against the administration.

    To which I can only say: Excuse me?

    The Niger yellowcake story, back in February 2002, was a real enough question in the minds of the CIA and other intelligence agencies, to dispatch three people to Niger to find out the truth of it. All three apparently came back and reported that the story was bogus.

    This did not stop Bush and Co, despite protest from the intelligence agencies, from inserting a reference to it into the SOTU.

    And in September 2003, we don't have to take Wilson's word for it that the story was bogus. That the yellowcake story was based on forged documents is known: that it shouldn't have been in SOTU is admitted by Bush himself: that Saddam Hussein didn't have a nuclear weapons program that he'd need to buy yellowcake for is known. Wilson evidently did a good, effective job in Niger.

    For which he is being reviled by conservatives because he didn't bring back the information the administration wanted, and therefore he must have an anti-administration job.

    Posted by: Jesurgislac at September 30, 2003 02:38 AM

    anti-administration bias, sorry.

    Posted by: Jesurgislac at September 30, 2003 02:39 AM

    I think that Bush should leave them alone!
    Why on Earth does he go there?! God will punish him, because he's making war and troubles the whole nation of other people!

    Posted by: George at September 30, 2003 02:59 AM

    Ae used "freeper" as a verb. As in "let's not freeper our facts".

    And that's pretty neat.

    Posted by: andrew at September 30, 2003 03:02 AM

    I'm going to assume first that whoever leaked the information did so knowing it was illegal. Not knowing won't save them from prosecution, of course - ignorance of the law is no excuse and in cases where the violation can be clearly objectively measured the relative level of ignorance won't mitigate sanction either.

    This leads us back to why, though - why take the risk? Surely for the politicos working in the WH there were other avenues to get at Wilson. The entire conduct of this affair begs a few questions:

    - did whoever sanctioned this believe the CIA would be compliant and not pay any serious attention to this incident? Is political influence over the Agency that great?

    - if the answer to the above is 'no', did they then believe Justice wouldn't get involved? Therein lies the problem here, I think - there's still a very distinct possibility that whatever emerges from the DoJ won't be what many want. There are plenty of ways to cool this down. Have the DoJ investigate *very slowly*, wait until the media storm blows over and then release any report in extremely couched terms. Have Justice deliberately avoid focusing on any substantive issues; rather focus on the fact that there was a technical - rather than substantive - breach of the law (if that).

    The media giveth and the media taketh away. The second this thing can't be reduced to a sexy byline anymore, and it seems a bit stale, it's over and the administration will escape mostly unscathed.

    Posted by: Downunder at September 30, 2003 03:10 AM

    " so W could inoculate himself from the storm they knew was coming (by claiming that he only knows what he's explicitly told by staff--"

    The old Bush "out of the loop" explanation. Must be genetic.

    Posted by: Robuzo at September 30, 2003 03:24 AM

    I was wrong. The right remains resolutely in denial.

    Don't you folks read the newspapers? The CIA has lodged a complaint with the Justice department and the FBI is investigating the White House. This has long ceased to be the subject of conjecture.

    Even the president has said "I want to get to the bottom of this", though we're not told what he wants to do once he gets there.

    Posted by: bad Jim at September 30, 2003 03:24 AM

    That's a pretty fair round-up, Kevin, although I think you're (tentatively) assuming the worst of the situation.

    Best case: Every insider knew Plame was CIA, and the (Tenet) leak is wrong. Result: the people who told Novak should be fired, and we should find out why the White House doesn't have policies in place to prevent this.

    Worst case: Two White House officials did actually call six reporters to tell them Plame was CIA, in a deliberate attempt to intimidate Wilson or exact some kind of revenge. I have a hard time understanding this, but if true, people should certainly go to jail.

    Posted by: J_Mann at September 30, 2003 03:48 AM

    I think Iraqi reconstruction is far too important to leave to the current band of corrupt bozos. They're pretty good at wrecking things, but not so good at putting them back together.

    And it appears that the Bush Administration is less interested in reconstructing Iraq than in using Iraq as an opportunity to loot the treasury for the benefit of its buddies in industry according to Paul Krugman. His column is a worthwhile read, even for the hard righties as long as they can stand the shrill tone.

    Posted by: JLowe at September 30, 2003 04:01 AM

    Too bad the Left can't yet admit that Iraqi freedom is good. When they do, but only after, Bush's (team's) other dirt will get more airing by responsible moderates & conservatives.

    Well look, you've had here two whole members of the Left "admit that Iraqi freedom is good." Usually, when two members of the Left say something that the Right doesn't like, the Right is more than happy to consider that a quorum. So I'd say now it's time for "responsible moderates and conservatives" (that age-old alliance; moderates and conservatives working side-by-side, like always) to start airing the Bush team's "other dirt."

    No moving the goalposts, now. Don't come back and say that the Left has to admit that tax cuts increase government revenue or that Joseph McCarthy was a hero before you and the moderates will start airing Bush dirt. You promised.

    So. Which Bush dirt are you and the moderates going to start with first?

    Posted by: Demetrios at September 30, 2003 04:08 AM

    Maybe the leakers didn't know Plame was covert. I guess that's possible, and if it's true it means they were just ignorant rather than felonious. But these are senior people we're talking about, and they know better. You don't blab about CIA agents to the press. Period.

    The problem with this line of defense is simply that old latin chestnut: Ignorantia legis neminem excusat.

    I mean what kind of a fucking defense is that? We leaked the name of a CIA operative/analyst, but we didn't know she was covert. Hey, I smoked it, but I didn't know it was marijuana.

    Posted by: j at September 30, 2003 04:41 AM

    Ae used "freeper" as a verb. As in "let's not freeper our facts".

    And that's pretty neat.
    Posted by andrew

    Ever see a conservative gleefully comment on the ~technique~ of someone else's political comment? Lord, those people are single-minded! That probably explains their lack of sense of humor [proven also by the so-called cartoon strip 'Mallard fillmore.']

    Posted by: Rick B at September 30, 2003 05:03 AM

    Hey, I smoked it, but I didn't know it was marijuana.

    "I forgot armed robbery was against the law."
    -Steve Martin

    Posted by: apostropher at September 30, 2003 05:19 AM

    I should emphasize that there are some conservatives taking this seriously. I applaud them for that, since it's hard to do this when it involves your own side. I don't think any of us can pretend to have a completely clean slate in that regard.

    kevin, idahoev and others...

    thanks for the reminder that this is not a football game where our role is to be loyal fans of our team no matter what.

    we are citizens of our country and the world before we are democrats & republicans & ...

    Posted by: selise at September 30, 2003 05:22 AM

    Ever see a conservative gleefully comment on the ~technique~ of someone else's political comment? Lord, those people are single-minded! That probably explains their lack of sense of humor [proven also by the so-called cartoon strip 'Mallard fillmore.']

    I thought the verb was "freep". But I seem to be out-voted.

    Which should rightfully mean I win.

    Posted by: P6 at September 30, 2003 05:23 AM

    C'mon, Kevin. It is the fault of The Clenis!

    Posted by: MattB at September 30, 2003 05:53 AM

    There is a petition to demand an independent investigation from the DOJ at www.pfaw.org/go/independent_investigation . I feel like there isn't much else folks can do, so this is something.

    Posted by: T at September 30, 2003 05:56 AM

    bad Jim says
    I was wrong. The right remains resolutely in denial.

    I see very few right wingers that aren't interested in seeing this pursued. I'll be miserable, but I'll go find a dozen quotes for you if you don't believe.

    J Mann says
    That's a pretty fair round-up, Kevin, although I think you're (tentatively) assuming the worst of the situation.

    I will agree that the right wingers are (tentatively) assuming the best of the situation. The truth probably lies somewhere in between.

    Posted by: Ron at September 30, 2003 05:57 AM

    j writes: "I mean what kind of a fucking defense is that? We leaked the name of a CIA operative/analyst, but we didn't know she was covert."

    Especially when Rove was almost certainly involved in scripting the 'leaks are baaaad' kerfuffle back in 2001.

    Posted by: Jon H at September 30, 2003 06:04 AM

    I see very few right wingers that aren't interested in seeing this pursued.

    Ron, I'm seeing plenty of right wingers who are trying to pursue this story in the wrong direction - trying to smear Wilson, or Plame, or the CIA. I can find you a dozen quotes of that kind, if you like.

    Posted by: Jesurgislac at September 30, 2003 06:04 AM

    CNN, NBC, WaPo, and Newsweek have all referred to CIA sources and/or a CIA letter saying Plame's role was classified (CNN's source says she ran agents) and the media would not have known about her role unless there was a leak. I think the only questions are
    1. Who are the leakers?
    2. How will they be discovered? (FBI, Congress, the Press, volunteer, etc.)
    3. Will they be pardoned?

    Posted by: Galois at September 30, 2003 06:05 AM

    Kevin,

    Remember all we've been told. This White House is very disciplined and that they have no leaks. This story was not "leaked" to the press, it was handed to them in a "disciplined" methodical fashion.

    Posted by: Brian at September 30, 2003 06:22 AM

    I heard a good bit of misdirection on Fox news last night. A couple of times they suggested "can we do anything about this treasonous Novak disclosing her identity?" but nothing about the leakers of course. Rather amusing.

    Posted by: some guy at September 30, 2003 06:28 AM

    It seems to me that the ostriches are more willing to believe Novak, who has changed his story, than the CIA itself with regard to Plame. In order to perpetuate the argument that Plame was some sort of glorified secretary, you'd also have to argue that the CIA doesn't know what her job was, and that they were wasting DOJ time by demanding an investigation. Sorry, but I can only swallow so much crap at one time.

    Now, I know that Wilson is the biggest anti-Bush partisan the world has ever seen, but he was on NPR yesterday, and he said that only a very small circle of high-level officials would have known about his wife and her job, it sure as hell wasn't common knowledge divulged at D.C. cocktail parties. But as was noted, you don't have to believe Wilson at all, the fact that CIA is pursuing this should tell you something. And this fits into the pattern of corrupting intelligence for political purposes, which those veteran intelligence officials have been talking about. Not the same sort of thing as what Cheney has been doing, but the leaders set the tone.

    Seems to me that Wilson is more anti-Rove than anti-Bush, since he worked for Bush Sr. Hell, I think even Bush Sr. is anti-Rove.

    Posted by: Ringo Mountbatten at September 30, 2003 06:36 AM

    You know, the tools in the media can misdirect this story all they want, but it won't go away, because the folks at the CIA are pissed, and can't be so easily dismissed as partisan Bush-haters.

    Posted by: Ringo Mountbatten at September 30, 2003 06:41 AM

    Apostropher:
    "I forgot armed robbery was against the law."
    -Steve Martin

    I'm dating myself, but isn't that supposed to be:
    - "How can you be a millionaire and not pay taxes?"
    - "I forgot."
    From his "excu-u-use me" skit?

    Posted by: Keith at September 30, 2003 06:46 AM

    Very good article and string of comments.

    There are a couple of nagging thoughts that keep occurring to me.

    Possessing a security clearance does not provide absolute access to classified information at or below the level of the clearance. All access has two elements - right to know, and need to know.

    It is entirely locigal to believe that the "senior administration official" had the right to know details of operations within the CIA, but it is much less logical that they would need to know details of names of operatives and agents.

    This implies to me two sets of possibilities. The first is that the SAO either worked in NSA where it is conceivable that such details would be known, or at the CIA. Second, if the SAO is within the WH, it is very unlikely that such details would be known. It's inconceivable to me that persons that high in the administration "need to know" details of operations, including names of operatives. Which then leads to another set of possibilites.

    A SAO in the WH would have to go searching for information to use to discredit Wilson, or to intimidate others in the future. They would have to search for details about Wilson that lead to Ms. Plame and her responsibilities. Some person in, logically, either NSA or CIA, provided the information.

    All this seems to me to imply that the guilt goes much below the level of SAO. Some lower level persons also had to be involved. Otherwise, the SAO would, or at least should, not know details about Ms. Plame. In my opinion, this certainly leads to the conclusion that the leak was not accidental, that the leaker knew the seriousness of the act, and that there is and will be a concerted effort to cover.

    In any case, this whole thing is going to get nasty, and those at lower levels othan the SAO had better be doing a CYA dance also.

    Posted by: JMP at September 30, 2003 06:49 AM

    JMP writes: " Some person in, logically, either NSA or CIA, provided the information."

    Or the National Security Advisor's office. I'd think Condi, and maybe her assistant, would know.

    Possibly also Cheney's office. Or even the Pentagon.

    I do think someone gave the information to Rove outside of normal channels. But I think there are people in the White House who would know Plame's identity; it wouldn't have to be someone from CIA or NSA.

    Posted by: Jon H at September 30, 2003 06:54 AM

    Jesurgislac says
    Ron, I'm seeing plenty of right wingers who are trying to pursue this story in the wrong direction

    I will agree that the right wingers have a different set of theories. But it is liked I said yesterday: we have a dearth of facts (we know that Plame's CIA employment was leaked, but not who and not why). Naturally everybody has their favorite "theory", what makes the rights hypotheticals any more "wrong" than the lefts?

    Posted by: Ron at September 30, 2003 06:55 AM

    Too bad the Left can't yet admit that Iraqi freedom is good.

    Can I just admit that Iraqi freedom would be good if there were any? Iraqis currently live under a military dictatoship that is quite ineffectually trying to suppress chaos and rebellion. The fact that it is an American military dictatorship does not make it "Iraqi freedom".

    Posted by: SqueakyRat at September 30, 2003 06:55 AM

    Well, Kevin, if you are expecting us conservatives to wear the hair shirt over this before all the facts are out, you're crazy. Like Steve said, until we know more from credible sources about Plame's job status it's hard to guage the seriousness of the offense, and as you noted, until we know more about the source, it's hard to judge who's really at fault. I'm more than willing to place blame once the facts are clearer; they're getting there, but the gaps that remain are important ones.

    Let's be frank here: some of the arguments listed above won't fly once the facts are out, but some may, and it makes sense to consider the possibility that this may not be as bad as the worst possible interpretation. I haven't seen anybody - at least anybody I put any stock in on the Right - saying there shouldn't be a thorough investigation of this, or that Bush should go all Clinton on us and start obstructing investigations, tampering with witnesses, hiding documents, etc. If you're expecting us to all start putting up Howard Dean yard signs and run up the white flag in the war on terror just on the allegations we've got so far . . . well, I for one wouldn't want you on a jury, let's say that.

    Funny how the people who are so sure we've got proof of high Administration misconduct here were pushing a much more hyper-skeptical view of the evidence when the issue was Saddam Hussein. But then, we knew that the Left trusted Saddam more than Bush, didn't we?

    Posted by: Crank at September 30, 2003 07:06 AM

    Josh Marshall just posted a letter from the President's counsel Mr. Gonzales informing all WH personell to preserve any and all documents that may be relevant to the justice depts. investigation. There goes the theory of the "analyst" nonsense.

    Posted by: Nanute at September 30, 2003 07:10 AM

    Naturally everybody has their favorite "theory", what makes the rights hypotheticals any more "wrong" than the lefts?

    Because some of them don't withstand the most basic scrutiny. Claiming that "everyone knew who Plame was anyway" is contradicted by the CIA demanding an investigation.

    Claiming that it could have been anyone in the gov't who exposed her is contradicted by the fact that only a vey small circle of people, fairly high up the ladder, would be privy to such information.

    As you can see from Kevin's post, it's pretty easy to knock down most of the right's talking points on this issue, that's why their theories are "wrong", and makes folks like Sullivan and Instahack look like tools.

    Posted by: Ringo Mountbatten at September 30, 2003 07:11 AM

    what makes the rights hypotheticals any more "wrong" than the lefts?

    Well, not when the rights are operating with the known facts. But where the rights are trying to chase the wrong rabbit, their whole hypothetical theory is going to be wrong. Trying to base hypotheses (for example) on "Wilson musta done a crap job in Niger because he said there was no yellowcake there!" is really not going to work. Neither, at this point, is basing hypotheses on "Plame was never a CIA operative!" And so on.

    Posted by: Jesurgislac at September 30, 2003 07:11 AM

    Crank, anyone who's still coming out with crapo like But then, we knew that the Left trusted Saddam more than Bush, didn't we? is clearly not in touch with reality.

    Posted by: Jesurgislac at September 30, 2003 07:12 AM

    A few quick points:

    • Some people actually would like to see facts and evidence, instead of speculation and anonymous sources, before making accusations that someone else is a felon. I believe such people are called ... hmmm, what was that term? ... Oh yes, "civil libertarians." That one resists jumping to conclusions, by itself, says nothing about the conclusion one will ultimately reach.

    • As for "what kind of defense is it" if someone didn't know Mrs. Wilson was "covert" (and that is itself a defined term in the 1982 statute): It's a defense built into the statute. It's not a crime to blow a covert agent's cover unless you actually knew that he/she was covert and also knew that the gov't was taking "active measures" to keep it that way. I'm not saying that there's a factual basis for this defense -- how could I, not knowing who the leaker was? But it is fair to say that such a defense theoretically exists; although actually, it's not even a "defense," because it's an element of what the gov't would have to prove in a successful prosecution.
    • The CIA's expertise and mandate do not include investigating alleged domestic crimes. It has a strong and legitimate institutional interest in reporting any plausible, even arguable claims that the confidentiality laws have been violated to the appropriate branch of the gov't, which is the DoJ. But you cannot infer from that referral that CIA "believes a crime has been committed" or anything of the sort.

    Ae notes above that the "jury is still out." That's not a strong enough reservation: No jury as been picked, no indictment has been issued, no finding of probable cause has been made, and even the preliminary investigation by the responsible arm of the government apparently is well underway but far from complete. By no means am I minimizing the seriousness of the allegations that have been made. But there are clearly some loose cannons roaring -- among them former Amb. Wilson. If you're already looking forward to Dubya's impeachment proceedings (or the spectacle of Karl Rove in particular being frogmarched in handcuffs out of the White House), I suggest you pause a moment, take a deep breath, and check to see just how wadded up your panties already are. If we're all committed to the "rule of law" -- and from my perspective on the right, I gladly give the benefit of that doubt to most of you on the left, certainly including our distinguished host here on CalPundit -- then let's let the process work the way it's supposed to, rather than rushing to convict a still-unnamed pair of defendants in a court of blogospheric opinion.

    Posted by: Beldar at September 30, 2003 07:13 AM

    But then, we knew that the Left trusted Saddam more than Bush, didn't we?

    And nice to see that, when all else fails, you can still dust off the old "pro-Saddam" smear.

    Posted by: Ringo Mountbatten at September 30, 2003 07:14 AM

    Jes writes: "Well, not when the rights are operating with the known facts. But where the rights are trying to chase the wrong rabbit, their whole hypothetical theory is going to be wrong."

    My favorite is the theory that the whole thing was not to get back at Wilson, but rather in order to get back at Plame for some supposed partisan activity on her part.

    Despite there being absolutely no indication that she has done anything other than act honorably and responsibly.

    Even if she suggested her husband for the Niger job, he is certainly qualified for it; nepotism would be a stronger charge if Joe Wilson's prior career had only consisted of, say, running oil companies into the ground in Texas.

    Posted by: Jon H at September 30, 2003 07:16 AM

    All part of an ongoing pattern with this adminstration: punish truth-tellers, coddle liars and incompetents.

    Posted by: Tom at September 30, 2003 07:19 AM

    As the air slowly leaks out of la affaire de Plame, wouldn't some humility be proper. After all, just two days ago we had Rove being frog marched off to jail in an orange jump suit after ruining the career of an undercover, double-nought spy. So now we know Wilson is a super partisan and lied/greatly exagerrated the Rove angle, all of the sources are still conveniently anonymous, Novak said that no one from the WH called him. So, maybe, MAYBE, somebody some place inadvertently revealed Ms. Plame was a CIA analyst. Thats your scandal folks. Maybe the name that will most remembered regarding this err, exercise, is not Valerie Plame but Emily Litella.

    Posted by: Doug Rivers at September 30, 2003 07:20 AM

    But you cannot infer from that referral that CIA "believes a crime has been committed" or anything of the sort.

    You're right, they make referrals when they're bored and having nothing better to do.

    Posted by: Ringo Mountbatten at September 30, 2003 07:21 AM

    Beldar writes: " But you cannot infer from that referral that CIA "believes a crime has been committed" or anything of the sort."

    From the Washington Post:
    "Senior intelligence officials said yesterday that the CIA filed what they termed a "crime report" with the Justice Department in late July, shortly after syndicated columnist Robert D. Novak, citing two unnamed administration sources, identified Wilson's wife by name. The CIA report pointed to a "possible violation of federal criminal law involving the unauthorized disclosure of classified information."

    Sure looks to me that they believe a crime has been committed.

    Posted by: Jon H at September 30, 2003 07:23 AM

    Doug Rivers writes: "As the air slowly leaks out of la affaire de Plame"

    In reality:

    Text of an e-mail to White House staff Tuesday from counsel Alberto R. Gonzales about the Justice Department's investigation about the leak of a CIA officer's identity:

    PLEASE READ: Important Message From Counsel's Office

    We were informed last evening by the Department of Justice that it has opened an investigation into possible unauthorized disclosures concerning the identity of an undercover CIA employee. The department advised us that it will be sending a letter today instructing us to preserve all materials that might be relevant to its investigation. Its letter will provide more specific instructions on the materials in which it is interested, and we will communicate those instructions directly to you. In the meantime, you must preserve all materials that might in any way be related to the department's investigation. Any questions concerning this request should be directed to Associate Counsels Ted Ullyot or Raul Yanes in the counsel to the president's office. The president has directed full cooperation with this investigation.

    Posted by: Jon H at September 30, 2003 07:26 AM

    >>Too bad the Left can't yet admit that Iraqi freedom is good.

    Someone in the NYT letters page today said it better than I could:

    "The assurance of a credible and accountable American democracy is more important than any goal in Iraq."


    Posted by: Andy X at September 30, 2003 07:27 AM

    I agree that the right is latching onto everything they can to spin this in the most positive light for Bush (were you surprised at this?).

    I also see everyone on the left latching onto everything they can to spin this in the most damaging light for Bush (and I'm not surprised at this).

    Yes, you can demand an investigation; and I'm supporting the use of a Special Prosecutor (not that my support has any bearing...), situations like this are why we have them. But take a deep breath, and let's wait for some good facts.

    Posted by: Ron at September 30, 2003 07:34 AM

    CNN is reporting "Other CIA sources told CNN on Monday that Plame was an operative who ran agents in the field".

    The White House memo asking people to co-operate with the leak incvestigation says that Plame was "an undercover CIA employee".

    And Jim Henley, who actually knows a CIA analyst, says that people who are not undercover CIA agents are supposed to admit it so that the people who actually need to lie about it can do so.

    So it's time to give up the claim that this is not a breach of national security. In fact, it was, and a very serious one.

    Posted by: Kevin Brennan at September 30, 2003 07:36 AM

    You know, sometimes I find it's comforting to rely on the moral clarity of Donald Rumsfeld for guidance:

    Rumsfeld: [...] No, I'll tell you about leaks. When a person takes classified information and gives it to someone who is not cleared for classified information, whether the person's from the Pentagon or any department of government, they're violating federal criminal law. And they ought to go to jail. That's not complicated.

    Kalb: What are the laws they are violating? Just --

    Rumsfeld: The laws relating to classified information are quite strict as to who may be given access to that information. And so to the extent that people violate the rules with respect to classified information, they are breaking federal criminal law.

    Now, they are also potentially putting people's lives at risk, and that's a very -- it's a terrible thing to do.

    Source: Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld conversation with Marvin Kalb, The Kalb Report: Journalism at the Crossroads, April 10, 2002
    http://www.fas.org/sgp/news/2002/04/dod041002.html

    Posted by: sktsee at September 30, 2003 07:39 AM

    Jesurgislac - If you really think the same standards of proof are being applied here as were applied to evidence showing, for example, connections between Saddam and terrorist organizations, you have not read too many comment threads on this site.

    Posted by: Crank at September 30, 2003 07:39 AM

    Great summary of the defenses. Still, as I have been commenting all morning, it will all boil down the the sentiment, "not technically illegal."

    Push comes to shove, that is going to be the lone argument coming from the right. It's gonna be, "yea, yea, leaks are bad, yada, yada, yada", but this was not a criminal leak.

    We're gonna be hearing this a lot going forward:
    Aint no crime if it aint classified

    Posted by: Vital Information at September 30, 2003 07:41 AM

    "Novak's column doesn't matter anymore"

    Hahahaha!

    This is hilarious, since the ENTIRE KERFUFFLE is based on Novak's column! Typical leftwingnut attitude exhibited by Kevin - we'll believe someone like Novak ONLY when it suits our purposes. If it doesn't, we'll we'll believe he's lying.

    Posted by: Al at September 30, 2003 07:44 AM

    The line that the leakers did not know she was under cover is undermined by the consideration that she currently goes by her married name-Wilson- though the leakers specifically outed her under her maiden name- Plame-a name she appears to have reserved for under cover operations.

    Posted by: Harpo at September 30, 2003 07:47 AM

    No Al.

    Stop. Think.

    As I tell my 3-year old. Breathe.

    Novak's column is now irrelevant because others, including the CIA and the Justice dept, have already weighed in.

    A week ago we could debate whether a crime had been committed or wheter Plame was even part of the CIA. No longer.

    You need new talking points.

    Posted by: GT at September 30, 2003 07:49 AM

    Al:
    I think Kevin's point is that 1)Novak never says Plame was not an operative (in fact he says the opposite) and more importantly 2)Numerous sources have confirmed that she was covert, she ran agents, the info was classified, the media would not have known this without a leak, the leak is serious. Kevin Brennan above links to the CNN article with their National Security correspondent flat out stating "She ran agents." The same article quotes Woolsey (former CIA head) and Powell saying this is a serious leak endangering lives and intelligence. The "it wasn't a serious leak" line isn't going to cut it.

    Posted by: Galois at September 30, 2003 07:52 AM

    If you really think the same standards of proof are being applied here as were applied to evidence showing, for example, connections between Saddam and terrorist organizations, you have not read too many comment threads on this site.

    Crank, I have noticed parallels. And amazing instances of doublethink. On Tacitus's blog, for example, one right-winger posted twice (within two minutes of each other, literally): once to say that we shouldn't assume that accusations proved guilt (that is, just because Wilson says Karl Rove did it, doesn't mean Rove is guilty) and we should follow due process of law. And then to say that all the prisoners at Guantanamo Bay deserve to be locked up without due process of law because they have been accused of terrorism. I'm sure you're bright enough to realize that the same rules apply in both cases: if it's wrong to override due process of law in one case, it's equally wrong in the other. Accusation is not the same as guilt.

    Your claim that there was "evidence" that Saddam Hussein had connections with terrorism is more of the same. The right-wingers who are now insisting that rigid standards of evidence should be applied to accusations against administration officials, were then accepting the loosest of anonymous rumors as fact.

    It would have been great if right-wingers who are now demanding rigid and high standards of evidence before they pronounce judgement on the Plame case, had been ready to apply the same rigid and high standards of evidence before they fell into line behind Bush and Co to support the war on Iraq. Didn't happen, though.

    I know not all right-wingers are as idiotically hypocritical as you are. You should stick to the LGF site - having someone like you hanging around on more open blogs gives all right-wingers a bad name.

    Posted by: Jesurgislac at September 30, 2003 07:52 AM

    I would have to say that no, I'm not surprised at the GOP reaction. It's perfectly understandable. Perhaps I shouldn't find it so funny. But I do.
    A great swathe of GOP pundits have already taken a stand on this issue. What they do in future as this develops is really irrelevant at this point. They've taken their stand on what matters. I sure won't be forgetting it.
    I'll also remember Dan Drezner and Tacitus. I already had an opinion of Tacitus, I didn't really know Dan Drezner. Now he's been tested in the fire. That doesn't happen often.

    Posted by: John Isbell at September 30, 2003 07:53 AM

    If you read the statute, you see that no one is guilty unless they knew that the US was taking affirmative action to conceal the person's relationship to the US.
    We don't know if the CIA was taking affirmative action to conceal her relationship, it doesn't seem so judging from the response Novak got.
    We also don't know if the leakers knew that the US was taking affirmative action to conceal her relationship.

    Kevin writes:
    "Maybe the leakers didn't know Plame was covert. I guess that's possible, and if it's true it means they were just ignorant rather than felonious. But these are senior people we're talking about, and they know better. You don't blab about CIA agents to the press. Period."

    Kevin is right, there is no felony here if the leaker's didn't know that the CIA was trying to keep Plame covert, and therefore there was no violation of the law, and therefore there is no scandal.

    Posted by: Reg at September 30, 2003 07:57 AM

    I haven't seen anybody pick up on this. This seems to be the key questions, was the CIA taking affirmative action to keep Plame concealed, and did the leakers know Plame was covert?
    If either of these is no, then there is nothing here.
    If the answer to both is yes, it is likely the law was violated.
    Why isn't anybody asking these questions? The left won't ask them because framed in this way, it shows that there is no way we can say right now that the law was violated. However, the longer the WH waits to come forward the more I will think they did something wrong, though they just might be waiting for justice to do its job, thinking if they come forward claiming they had no such knowledge the scandal will blow up higher, rather than just waiting for justice to see that they had no knowledge and dropping it.

    Posted by: Reg at September 30, 2003 08:03 AM

    This seems to be the key questions, was the CIA taking affirmative action to keep Plame concealed, and did the leakers know Plame was covert?

    This may or may not be relevant legally. I don't know and I don't trust legal analyses that take a few paragraphs of a law and interpret it. Unless you have legal expertise in this particular area chances are you are missing something either other applicable laws you don't know about or rulings by the courts. It's clear both the CIA and the Juustice Dept, both much better qualifed than you comment on this, believe a law may have been broken. The CIA because it made the referral and the Justice Dept because it has now moved from a preliminary investigation to a full fledged one.

    But even if you are correct and it turns out that technicaly no law was broken I doubt this means there is no scandal, assuming the current reportting, that Plame's status was outed by WH officials is correct. If it is proven, say, that Rove 'outed' Plame (just to pick a name at random!) but he did not technically commit a crime I think there will be considerable political fallout in any case.

    Posted by: GT at September 30, 2003 08:10 AM

    One of the side benefits of this coming to light is that, as BushCo's methods become increasingly open to public scrutiny, it becomes increasingly easier for the media and other (formerly cowed) whistleblowers to come forward. By 2004, it will be obvious (except maybe to the Cranks of the world) that the king never did have any new clothes.

    Not that only one term in office will be any consolation to our children and grandchildren who will have to pay for it.

    Posted by: chris at September 30, 2003 08:15 AM

    Kevin, your trolls are finally recovering their spirits, thus confirming my opinion of them. Most of what they're saying now is obsolete, considering that Justice, the FBI, the CIA, and the White House Counsel have all gotten involved. But they keep plugging away, fighting for honor like an overmatched football team down 30 points in the fourth quarter.

    As far as prejudging the case here, there isn't an indictment yet, and there hasn't even been an investigation. What's got our "panties in a bunch" (thanks, guy, I have a lot of respect for you too) is our premonition that the whole thing will be fixed, and that the Bush administration will continue to be able to continue to violate its own supposed principles with complete impunity. With more and worse to come.

    At the present time, the Bush administration is carrying the conservative standard. If conservatives are happy with that, it tells us something about them. Many of them indeed seem to be unfazed so far, treating this as just another partisan football.

    Posted by: Zizka at September 30, 2003 08:17 AM

    Legalistic defenses are unbecoming to a party whose IC argued that Bill Clinton obstructed justice by lying about a blowjob to his friends.

    Posted by: D. Case at September 30, 2003 08:18 AM

    I would amend Kevin's (and others') lists. I think the CIA filing, the DOJ investigation, and the various White House announcements and memos make it pretty clear that it's a serious matter for which Heads Will Roll.

    Whether they also go to prison is another matter, but this is now as much a political isuue as a legal issue, so somebody's gotta take a fall.

    Which leaves as the only current question, WHO will take the fall? As somebody in some post somewhere noted, it will be the lowest-ranking people that are credible. Boy, the knives must be out in the OEOB today!

    The legal investigation is another matter. The WH obviously will try to say, they sinned, they were fired, case closed, and the DOJ will go into deep stonewall mode. But if the media and the Dems can keep the story alive, then there will be pressure on the sacrificial lambs to DEAL.

    "What did the president know, and when did he know it?"

    Posted by: bleh at September 30, 2003 08:18 AM

    As seen on Atrios, Plame made a donation to Al Gore in 1999 (OpenSecrets.org) - Her employer is listed (I will not repeat, it is a (former) CIA front) but needless to say it's not the CIA.

    Whatever her status at the CIA was, this is evidence that it was clearly "covert".

    Posted by: Sovok at September 30, 2003 08:19 AM

    We don't know if the CIA was taking affirmative action to conceal her relationship, it doesn't seem so judging from the response Novak got.
    We also don't know if the leakers knew that the US was taking affirmative action to conceal her relationship.

    As to the first part, you're right that we don't know for sure, but the CIA demanding an investigation sure indicates that they wanted her identity concealed--since Novak appears to be in CYA mode, I wouldn't rely so much on what he's saying now.

    Now whether the leakers knew that she was to remained concealed, again, you're right that we can't say for sure, and that might be what saves some people from prosecution. But from what I've read, only a handful of people knew what her position was, and it seems that they certainly should have know that she was clandestine.
    But yeah, we just have to wait and see.
    But it's great to know that so many on the right have suddenly become such big humanitarians and civil libertarians. Really.

    Posted by: Ringo Mountbatten at September 30, 2003 08:20 AM

    1)Was the CIA taking affirmative action to keep "the woman's" identiy concealed?

    Yes, according to CIA sources cited by CNN and NBC. Even Novak (who can't get his story straight) admits the CIA told him not to use her name.

    2)Did the leaker's know she was covert?

    That can't be answered until we discover who the leakers were. I wouldn't say if the answer is "no" then there is no scandal. The question would then become how did the leakers know what they knew. Classified information was released endangering lives and intelligence. The WH agrees this is very serious.

    (Interestingly NBC has removed all references to the operative's identity. She is now the "unnamed" wife of Wilson. Isn't it a little late now to try to hide her name?)

    Posted by: Galois at September 30, 2003 08:20 AM

    Reg writes: "I haven't seen anybody pick up on this. This seems to be the key questions, was the CIA taking affirmative action to keep Plame concealed, and did the leakers know Plame was covert?
    If either of these is no, then there is nothing here. "

    I think that only applies to the law against outing an agent.

    The law against leaking classified information might still apply.

    Posted by: Jon H at September 30, 2003 08:24 AM

    By definition having her use a different name indicates they were trying to keep her "covert."And I don't think any of the right wing blowhards who are relying on the phrase "affirmatively taking steps to keep" something secret can have thought very hard about *where* keeping something secret happens. If, for example, ms. plame worked on or authored classified information and her name was not routinely on papers presented to people without high classifications then that strikes me as "affirmatively taking steps to keep..." If someone with any kind of high level classification read anything without her name on it and went to any trouble to ascertain 1) her name 2) her connection to wilson and 3) to then out her that would all seem to involve a kind of interference with ordinary CIA policy to "keep things secret" within the meaning of the "affirmatively taking steps..." Affirmatively taking steps to keep things secret does not have to mean running and shooting Novak as soon as he expresses an interest in her.

    Going at it from the other end if the WH decided to smear Wilson and just kept looking for something, anything with which to tar him and his family one could argue that they just stumbled on the fact that his wife had another career but it should not have been evident it was a CIA career, or that she was in a position to recommend him for the Niger job unless they also did another digging through classified stuff to discover that. Publishing that information seems to me to be ipso facto a violation of the law because once you argue that her status as in the CIA *and* working on WMD was not common knowledge (and Novak admits it wasn't since he called the CIA to check adn tried to confirm with Wilson) you have to assume a deliberate effort to go around whatever normal CIA secrecy policy is.

    Again, the one group of people who should know are the CIA and they sure seem pissed.--aimai

    Posted by: aimai at September 30, 2003 08:24 AM

    Zizka
    I, personally, would be willing to carry an investigation as far as is necessary for your satisfaction. I like to see the guilty punished.

    But in light of your comment ...our premonition that the whole thing will be fixed... makes me afraid that nothing will satisfy you unless it involves Bush's impeachment. Because it seems to be the general opinion that Bush was definitely involved and nothing short of that will satisfy.

    I will bring up Kevin's comment
    ...these questions are going to be answered. When they are, the Bush loyalists peddling the excuses above are going to have to put up or shut up.

    No sir, y'all's minds are not made up yet.

    Posted by: Ron at September 30, 2003 08:25 AM

    As to the first part, you're right that we don't know for sure, but the CIA demanding an investigation sure indicates that they wanted her identity concealed...

    Really? It "sure indicates" that? Maybe it just indicates some pissed off people in Langley are rubbing their hands, licking their chops and saying "Payback's a bitch, Karl."

    Posted by: P. B. Almeida at September 30, 2003 08:25 AM

    bleh writes: " I think the CIA filing, the DOJ investigation, and the various White House announcements and memos make it pretty clear that it's a serious matter for which Heads Will Roll."

    I think Daddy Bush's name on CIA headquarters makes it pretty clear that Heads Will Roll If Junior Wants To Stay In Daddy's Will.

    Posted by: Jon H at September 30, 2003 08:28 AM

    Your summary of the right-wing damage control of the Plame affair is excellent... But this "shorter" version is funnier.

    My brainses are hurting, yesss...

    Posted by: Alex R at September 30, 2003 08:31 AM

    Novak, the author of the orginal story that Kevin wants to conveniently remove from the picture, on CNN's Crossfire pretty much shot this non-issue down. Kevin is getting desparate to keep this in play.

    How can the original author and the source of the accusation that the administration outted Valerie Plame to get back at her husband by calling Robert Novak was based on the article that Novak wrote be removed from the picture at this point?

    Please recall that every left-leaning blog in American accused the administration of calling Novak to reveal Plame's identity thus committing a crime based solely on Novak's story.

    Here's how it looks this morning:

    Novak is preparing an article on Wilson's trip to Niger. The CIA asked Wilson to go to
    Niger to check out whether Iraq bought yellowcake from Niger. Wilson was a natural choice because of his contacts in the region.

    Novak interviews Wilson for the story.

    Novak interviews officials in the CIA for the story.

    Novak asks the CIA how and why Wilson was chosen to go to Niger. The CIA tells him that Wilson's wife, Valerie Plame, who works for the CIA suggested his name. This scenario was actually suggested and rejected by Mark Kleiman in his excellent reporting on this issue because it probably did not smear the White House.

    Novak asks Wilson to verify this information and Wilson tells Novak that he will not talk about his wife's role in the matter. Wilson obviously is sensitive to getting his wife's name in the media because she is a government employee and had little or nothing to do with the controversy involving him and the administration that he brought on himself. Wilson HAS NEVER directly said his wife was a covert operative. Wilson has repeatedly said this story (the yellowcake story) is not about his wife.

    Novak decides to include the information about Wilson's wife in the story.

    Novak (recall that he is the original author of the story) has said:

    1. No one in the administration called him about Valerie Plame and her position in the CIA. The White House had nothing to do with Valerie Plame's name being in the story.

    2. No one, the CIA or Wilson, told him that Valerie Plame was a covert operative whose identity needed to be protected.

    3. Valerie Plame is an analyst with the CIA and not an undercover or covert operative.
    The fact that the White House and CIA in the face of wild accusations based on Novak's article have gone into CYA mode is not evidence of wrong doing on Novak's, the CIA's or the White House's part. It is a reasonable action in the face of a barrage of criticism.

    It is utterly despictable that Wilson and many others have accused Karl Rove and the White House of orchestrating a campaign to personally destroy Wilson. Wilson has withdrawn his lie about Rove being the source of the information about his wife without apology but the fact that he maliciously lied remains.

    Posted by: Wilbur Jones at September 30, 2003 08:34 AM

    Actually, Ron, I think most people here are hoping to see Rove go down. I doubt that many people expect to see Bush get convincingly conntected to this, and I'll even go so far as to say that I doubt he was personally involved (beyond, at most, some "who will rid me of this turbulent priest"-style commentary).

    At this stage, I think there's no real doubt that there was a very serious breach of national security here for fairly petty reasons. The open question is who was responsible for it.

    As for how hard CIA pushed Noval, well, in the words of Sir Humphrey Appleby, "he that would keep a secret must keep it secret that he hath a secret to keep".

    Posted by: Kevin Brennan at September 30, 2003 08:35 AM

    Really? It "sure indicates" that? Maybe it just indicates some pissed off people in Langley are rubbing their hands, licking their chops and saying "Payback's a bitch, Karl."

    I think I'm just going to stop assuming that certain people are playing stupid, and just assume that they really are.
    Sure, the CIA, DOJ and FBI are all part of the plan to get Rove.
    Of course, there will be more than just "some" pissed off people at CIA, depending on how this all shakes out.

    Posted by: Ringo Mountbatten at September 30, 2003 08:35 AM

    the dems smell blood and are circling- I thought that they were all vegaterians nowadays.

    Do you think being the wife of a former US Ambassador is a great cover story? I do not think so. Especially after he 1) goes to Niger asking questions about IRaq and WMD, 2) writes a Times article outing himself as working for the CIA and 3) has you listed on two of his on line bios by your super secret spy name Plame.

    Call me nieve but if she is in fact a spy and uses Plame as her cover, than the CIA is really a scary place.

    Posted by: zionblogster at September 30, 2003 08:35 AM

    **Now, I know that Wilson is the biggest anti-Bush partisan the world has ever seen... --Ringo Mountbatten**

    I'm seeing this assertion going unchallenged both here and at other sites. Wilson is on record as having donated $1000 dollars to the Bush campaign in 1999. He worked for both Reagan and Bush I.

    Perhaps Wilson can now be described as an anti-Bush partisan. I would venture to guess that this occurred after the Bush admin. recklessly attacked his wife thereby damaging her career and endangering her life. Prior to that he seemed to have the same sort of policy disagreements that many moderate Repubs have with Bush admin, but nothing more.

    Posted by: Found A Peanut at September 30, 2003 08:36 AM

    Once again, she WAS Covert!

    WILSON, VALERIE E MS
    WASHINGTON,DC 20007
    [Non-CIA Employer Deleted](Sovok)
    4/22/1999
    $1,000
    Gore, Al

    This is the smoking gun that her identity was being actively concealed!

    Posted by: Sovok at September 30, 2003 08:39 AM

    I am referring to 50 USC 421. Sections A, B, and C all require that the leaker have knowledge that the US is taking affirmative steps to conceal the identity of the agent.

    There is evidence on both sides suggesting that the CIA was or wasn't currently taking affirmative steps to conceal her identity, and we don't know anything about the leakers' knowledge of those steps.

    My only argument is that it is not clear right now whether the law was broken, and that these are the questions that should be asked. If it turns out the law was broken, I will call for prosecution, and I want an real investigation by the DoJ to find out.

    As for the right circling the wagons, they aren't. They are remaining agnostic right now. Listen to Rush limbaugh today, yesterday he said himself that conservatives would not allow the WH to get away with compromising national security, but that he wants to wait and see what facts come out. That doesn't sound like the wagon circling that occurred during the Clinton years by those on the left.

    As far as employing legalistic defenses, scienter is an element in nearly every criminal offense, and is not a unique or frivolous legal argument.

    Posted by: Reg at September 30, 2003 08:41 AM

    Wilbur,

    That little rant of yours is about a week too late.

    Posted by: GT at September 30, 2003 08:42 AM

    Just a suggestion, Brooks has an excellant piece in the Times today, and before too much more scandal mongering takes place, I suggest everybody on the left and right read it. (no time to find a link).

    Posted by: Reg at September 30, 2003 08:43 AM

    I'm sure you're bright enough to realize that the same rules apply in both cases: if it's wrong to override due process of law in one case, it's equally wrong in the other.

    Well, we're headed off topic here, but this is the essential point that has divided Right and Left on the war on terror: the Left's idea that terrorism is no different than anything else, that if we have certain procedural protections in place for, say, pickpockets and potheads and embezzlers, we must bind ourselves to the same protections where there is a serious risk that someone is acting in concert with known and dangerous terrorist organizations, that we must bind ourselves to the same standards of proof before we take any action to head off mass murder by states that are known bad actors in the myriad ways that Saddam's regime was. This attitude is precisely why the thought of a Democrat in the White House any time soon (other than Lieberman) terrifies me. I was targeted once before, and I don't want that to happen again.

    Rights and standards of proof are important things, not lightly to be overriden. But they are not absolutes, to be clung to like the mast of a sinking ship. We do have to treat terrorism differently than we do ordinary law enforcement.

    Turning back to the Plame affair, the other thing here is that most of the new allegations and evidence we're talking about here has just come out in the past 2-3 days. A lot of us are still digesting it, and may come to different conclusions before long. But I refuse to be bullied into that before I've had time to digest what the facts are and where they are coming from.

    Posted by: Crank at September 30, 2003 08:46 AM

    reg,

    A real investigation has now been started by the DoJ. Let's see where it goes. They now the applicable law better than you and will be able to decide if a law has been broken. Clearly they have reason to believe it may have, which is why their preliminary investigation is now a full one.

    I still think that if there was a WH leak on Plame, even if it turns out not to be technically illegal, there will be ample political repercussions.

    Posted by: GT at September 30, 2003 08:46 AM

    Howie's Feeling the Heat!

    And we all know perfectly well he was one of BushCo's many Plaming Creatures.

    Posted by: David Ehrenstein at September 30, 2003 08:47 AM

    Thank you Kevin Brennan for some sanity.

    I think there's no real doubt that there was a very serious breach of national security here for fairly petty reasons Strike the "very serious" and I agree, after all, if it was "very serious" I would hope the CIA would have either denied ever hearing of Plame (your later point) or at least expressed in the strongest terms that Novak should not have used the name.

    The breach of security for petty reasons, I am right with you there.

    Here's my question for you: Let's say Justice finds grounds for investigation (seems pretty clear at this point), and they appoint a Special Prosecutor (keep's y'all happy). When all's said and done they find some low level lackey and hang him out to dry. Could they find enough evidence and justification to keep you from believing that Rove was actually behind this?

    Posted by: Ron at September 30, 2003 08:47 AM

    Reg writes: "I am referring to 50 USC 421. Sections A, B, and C all require that the leaker have knowledge that the US is taking affirmative steps to conceal the identity of the agent. "

    Yes, and that law may not have been broken depending on the specifics, particularly whether the leaker can convincingly claim ignorance.

    But if she was covert, and her association with CIA was classified, then there may be other laws that were broken, just because classified information was leaked.

    The main problem with prosecuting leaks is just getting someone to identify the leaker. If they can't identify this leaker, then neither law can be enforced. If they can identify the leaker(s), then even if they duck the covert agent law, the more general law against leaking classified information may still apply.

    Posted by: Jon H at September 30, 2003 08:49 AM

    Reg's question is actually two questions:
    1) Did the people who leaked to the press know Plame was undercover?
    2) Did the people who told them know Plame was undercover?

    Unless, of course, one of the leakers had security clearance in which case we're talking about the same set of people.

    If I remember correctly, the law makes it illegal to disclose the information to anyone without the required clearance. It seems pretty likely to me that someone who knew she was covert disclosed it to someone, since I don't know how you find out that someone's a CIA operative without knowing or checking whether they're covert. But I don't see how we find this out for sure until we know who was involved.

    Also keep in mind that this is probably not the only law that could've been broken. I would be pretty surprised if there was not a more general ban on disclosing classified information to the press.

    And finally, even if it wasn't illegal, it was still very very wrong.

    Posted by: Katherine at September 30, 2003 08:51 AM

    Sovok - If Plame lied about her employer when making campaign contributions to Al Gore, that may tend to show that the CIA wanted her identity concealed. Or, it may tend to show that she made a false statement when donating money to Al Gore (she'd hardly be the only one), even if only for the inocuous purpose of not wanting to advertise that a CIA employee was donating big dollars to a political candidate. A bit more context is required to call that a smoking gun.

    Posted by: Crank at September 30, 2003 08:52 AM

    So should the person who leaked this be punished as severely as the DoD person who leaked Linda Tripp's employment records?

    Posted by: MattJ at September 30, 2003 08:53 AM

    Sure, the CIA, DOJ and FBI are all part of the plan to get Rove...

    Ringo, there need not be an orchestrated, pre-meditated "plan" to get Rove. CIA poobahs may be simply taking advantage of a situation handed to them on a silver platter. DOJ and FBI are involved because media allegations (and White House defensive posturing) demand they be involved.

    I doubt very much that Chuck Schumer and other Deomocratic bigwigs are part of any "plan", to "get Rove" either, but that's not going to stop them from taking full political advantage of this story.

    Posted by: P. B. Almeida at September 30, 2003 08:54 AM

    Listen to Rush limbaugh today, yesterday he said himself that conservatives would not allow the WH to get away with compromising national security, but that he wants to wait and see what facts come out. That doesn't sound like the wagon circling that occurred during the Clinton years by those on the left.

    That's odd, here I was thinking that it doesn't sound like anything Rush Limbaugh, or any conservative commentator on the right, did during the Clinton years (that is, "wait and see what facts come out").

    Posted by: Haggai at September 30, 2003 08:55 AM

    When all's said and done they find some low level lackey and hang him out to dry. Could they find enough evidence and justification to keep you from believing that Rove was actually behind this?

    I can accept that Rove wasn't behind this, but it's highly unlikely that it was just a low level lackey, how would he have had such knowledge without getting it from a higher level official, who would have been breaking the law?

    Remember, only a small circle of people, at high levels, should have known about Plame. Anyone else who claims to have known must have received the info as a result of someone else breaking the law.

    Posted by: Ringo Mountbatten at September 30, 2003 09:00 AM

    It's certainly possible that the leakers could squeeze out of a conviction by hanging their case on how well they understood that Plame was covert, or on the precise meaning of "active measures" of the CIA to protect Plame's identity.

    This might diminish the political damage somewhat. Yet, if the facts are what they would appear to be, the parties involved, major players in the administration, WILL have to be fired, and the vicious politics going on at the WH supposedly imbued with honor, integrity, and moral clarity will forever stain and define the Bush administration in the eyes of the American people and of history.

    Posted by: frankly0 at September 30, 2003 09:01 AM

    Crank, arguing that where terrorism is concerned it's enough to accuse people of being terrorists and then have them locked up is why the US is losing the war on terrorism: the Bush administration lacks respect for real sources of information and prefers yes-men.

    As witness, the outing of Plame, and the smearing of Wilson. Both of them seem to have been the kind of people who provide real information.

    As witness, too, Bush's judgement of the prisoners in Guantanamo Bay: "These were illegal combatants. They were picked out off the battlefield, aliens aiding and abetting the Taliban." This is, in plain truth, a lie. (Or indicative of rampageous ignorance.) Many of the prisoners at Guantanamo Bay are Afghans, ergo not "aliens": many were not picked out off the battlefield, but arrested elsewhere - in Bosnia, in Pakistan, in Ghana. Bush either doesn't know anything much about the Guantanamo Bay prisoners, or he does but he prefers to lie about them. Who knows which?

    Posted by: Jesurgislac at September 30, 2003 09:06 AM

    What's really odd is that, so far, these journalists have been more circumspect about their RIGHT to protect their sources than the anonymous officials were concerning their DUTY to protect one of their own.

    The exception to this is Novak, who's done both. As with the Clark story, always willing to be sent out on a hatchet job.

    Posted by: Grand Moff Texan at September 30, 2003 09:07 AM

    CNN says this morning that Plame was indeed a covert operative. It seems very likely that sombody's head will roll for this; the only question is how big the head will be.

    And, as Kevin says, Novak's argument that he was given this information in an "interview" rather than a phone call is ridiculous -- he still wasn't supposed to be given it (even if one ignores the Post's story last night that another journalist, who wants to remain anonymous "for legal reasons", says he did get such a phone call). Novak is often referred to as "the Prince of Darkness", which is a base smear -- the real Prince of Darkness isn't nearly that stupid.

    Posted by: Bruce Moomaw at September 30, 2003 09:14 AM

    Question: where did the charge that the White House was trying to smear Joseph Wilson orginally come from?

    Answer: Joseph Wilson, if I recall correctly, first made the charge. This is the same made who falsely accused the all-powerful, all-knowing Karl Rove of masterminding some kind of machiavellian plot to reveal or actually revealing his wife's identity.

    Does anyone have any problems with Wilson's lack of honesty and his blatant partisanship? All charges about White House involvement in being the sources of Novak's original couple of sentences about Plame and evil wrong doing orginated from this public liar's lips.

    Why did Wilson think someone was out to get him just based on a couple of sentences in Novak's article about his wife that Novak had asked him about previously? Sorry, that sounds like Wilson has low-grade paranoia to me.

    To base the intricate structure of an entire scandal on comments from this man is a little risky to say the least.

    Posted by: Wilbur Jones at September 30, 2003 09:20 AM

    ...A bit more context is required to call that a smoking gun...

    Fair enough, context like if the employer listed was the CIA front she worked for. She would have to have *something* to tell her friends and aquaintances, right?

    And who cares who she gave to, I suppose if she gave to W it would be OK?

    Posted by: Sovok at September 30, 2003 09:23 AM

    Wilbur--anyone want to lead this horse to water?

    Posted by: Ringo at September 30, 2003 09:23 AM

    There are some questions I wish some reporters would answer. Some of them may be in the public domain, but I haven't been able to find the answer.

    1) How long has Plame been married to Wilson? This question is important for a bunch of indirect reasons. Unless the CIA is way more screwed up than I ever suspected (and I have a good imagination) they wouldn't be running agents through an ambassador's wife. If the two have been married for quite some time, the chances of her actually being an 'operative' are very low.

    2) Who are the government 'sources'. There really isn't any reason for the 6 reporters who were contacted with this story not to tell us. It provides a fairly important peg for our understanding of the story. The morphing of their description leads me to suspect that the identity isn't as highly placed as we are discussing. But alternatively the reporters could be purposely sowing confusion. In any case it is highly irritating.

    3) This should really be number 1, but I know the information isn't in the public domain. WAS SHE A COVERT AGENT? Which really translates into: was national security endangered and/or were the lives of agents endangered? This is the crux of the story. If there were no real national security problems, this becomes an insider scuffle. The CIA should pursue it to protect its perogatives in designating 'agents', but otherwise it becomes mostly an unimportant story about a fued between an anonymous 'official' and Wilson.

    Posted by: Sebastian Holsclaw at September 30, 2003 09:26 AM

    Uh, Wilbur, the partisan Mr. Wilson spent several years working for Bush Sr. And HE never told Novak his wife worked for the CIA at all; indeed, for a long time afterwards he refused to confirm to other reporters that she was. Somebody else spilled the beans on that to Novak. Given the level of vindictiveness involved, my money is on Rove.

    Posted by: Bruce Moomaw at September 30, 2003 09:27 AM

    Sebastian, regarding how long Plame has been married to Wilson, see my analysis towards the end of the Novak: Don't Blame Me comment thread.

    Posted by: Jon H at September 30, 2003 09:35 AM

    Ron: "When all's said and done, they find some low-level lackey and hang him out to dry. Could they find enough evidence and justification to keep you from believing that Rove was actually behind this?"

    That, of course, depends on whether the low-level lackey is upset enough at being hung out to dry that he spills the beans on any higher-ups who might have ordered him to do it (assuming, of course, that anyone did). You may recall that something similar happened back in 1973... If said lackey doesn't even try to spill the beans on any higher-ups, we must assume that either (A) there really weren't any, or (B) the guy is a fanatic on the G. Gordon Liddy level. His silence would obviously sharply reduce the probability that someone higher up was responsible; it equally obviously wouldn't completely eliminate it.

    Posted by: Bruce Moomaw at September 30, 2003 09:36 AM

    A couple of top Bush administration officials blabbed about a clandestine CIA operative to the press in order to try to discredit her husband, and now they're covering it up.

    Who exactly is covering it up? Did I miss something?

    Posted by: Jay Caruso at September 30, 2003 09:36 AM

    Sebastian:

    Your talking points are at least two hours obsolete. Please refer to the latest memo from White House Counsel.

    Posted by: squiddy at September 30, 2003 09:39 AM

    Hesiod has an interesting theory. Perhaps the outing was directed at Valerie more than at Joe. Remember those stories of Cheney going over to Langley to bully the CIA into giving him the intelligence he wanted? Maybe Valerie was one of the agents refusing to give him what he wanted. She was a WMD expert, after all.

    Posted by: Emma Anne at September 30, 2003 09:39 AM

    JonH, I read your speculation that they were married in 1998, and have already had it quoted to me as proof that they were in fact married in 1998. You are basically assuming she is an agent and therefore wouldn't have married an ambassador until 1998. I'm assuming that knowing when she was married would tell us how likely it is that she was an agent. So I'd like to KNOW when they were married, rather than speculate based on preferred outcome. (Actually I would really like to just KNOW if she was an agent, but that doesn't seem like a likely request) :)

    Posted by: Sebastian Holsclaw at September 30, 2003 09:42 AM

    Emma writes: " Perhaps the outing was directed at Valerie more than at Joe. Remember those stories of Cheney going over to Langley to bully the CIA into giving him the intelligence he wanted? Maybe Valerie was one of the agents refusing to give him what he wanted. She was a WMD expert, after all."

    Actually, that is more supportive of the theory that Plame was outed as a threat to the CIA in general. I doubt she was the only agent not producing what Cheney wanted.

    There are also other intelligence analysts in other agencies who also didn't agree with the interpretations Cheney wanted, like the Air Force people who didn't think Saddam's unmanned aerial vehicles were capable of use in WMD attack, but rather were just for surveillance.

    Posted by: Jon H at September 30, 2003 09:42 AM

    Sebastian, I'll answer your 3rd question with another question:

    If Ms. Plume wasn't a covert agent, why is there an investigation by the DOJ at the request of the CIA in the first place?

    The fact that the request to the DOJ is classified itself seems to indicate that Ms. Plume was, but that seems to be a leap of logic that a lot of people on the right are refusing to take.

    Posted by: Dark Avenger at September 30, 2003 09:48 AM

    Here super secret spy name is listed in two of her husban's online bios. The CIA would have to assume that the bad guys have seen this. So she has to be working under the cover a wife of a former ambassador who outs h9imslef as a CIA worker in the Times. How can this be trying to conceal her identity. She was compromised by hubby if there was anything to compromise:
    bios http://www.cpsag.com/our_team/wilson.html
    http://www.mideasti.org/html/bio-wilson.html

    Come on people - use the old grey matter. Valerie Plame can not be a covert cover, it is on the web. Small changce that being the wife of a Bush bashing ambassador is a cover but not much.

    Posted by: zionblogster at September 30, 2003 09:48 AM

    zionblogster:
    Do you think being the wife of a former US Ambassador is a great cover story? I do not think so. Especially after he 1) goes to Niger asking questions about IRaq and WMD, 2) writes a Times article outing himself as working for the CIA and 3) has you listed on two of his on line bios by your super secret spy name Plame.
    Well, the argument is that she's an analyst now and was involved in more covert activity before the recent events you've mentioned. So your point is...?

    Call me nieve but if she is in fact a spy and uses Plame as her cover, than the CIA is really a scary place.
    Tut-tut. Surely you can do better than this. Do you have any evidence supporting your skepticism, or just idle speculation?

    Posted by: Keith at September 30, 2003 09:51 AM

    As i said elsewhere:

    the endgame, seen already is Andrea Mitchell or Dan Rather on the witness stand in a federal court revealing a source and doing perhaps terminal damage to an administration.

    And Karl Rove or Hadley or Cheney at the defense table calling her a liar

    No matter what the outcome her career would be over.

    Which I think was the point.....the CIA was telling the White house that the press would protect them, and White House telling the CIA that the press ain't shit

    Were Woodward and Bernstein ever supoened (?)

    Posted by: bob mcmanus at September 30, 2003 09:52 AM

    zionblogster -- Her name and relationship to here husband are not relevant to her status as a covert agent. Please refer to the new talking points from White House Counsel: "Criminal investigation", "cooperate with Justice Department", "retain all communications"

    It's already rained, quit arguing over what the weather's going to be like today.

    Posted by: squiddy at September 30, 2003 09:52 AM

    Too bad the Left can't yet admit that Iraqi freedom is good.

    To paraphrase Ghandi:

    Iraqi freedom? I think it would be a great idea.

    --Kynn

    Posted by: Kynn at September 30, 2003 09:55 AM

    Sebastian writes: " You are basically assuming she is an agent and therefore wouldn't have married an ambassador until 1998. "

    I'm assuming that if she weren't an agent, there would be no case being pursued.

    I'm also assuming that if she had been a covert agent, but more than 5 years ago, there would be no case being pursued.

    I'm assuming that being married to an ambassador would have prevented her from advancing in the CIA - covert or not - so she wouldn't be important enough to be suggesting her husband for investigative trips to Niger (if that's how it happened).

    I'm also assuming the ambassador wouldn't have married someone until he got out of US service and settled down in one place. He seems to have tried to make it work before, and it didn't work. (He has two sons. When he talks about the threat to his wife, he mentions his daughters but not his sons, which suggests to me they are either adults or live with an ex-wife).

    My scenario works, with reasonable assumptions that reflect common sense behavior by the people involved.

    Now, if you want to propose a scenario where a woman can marry an ambassador, spend the next 10 years moving around the world but not being an agent, and then suddenly become a prominent WMD analyst at the CIA, you're welcome to do so.

    Posted by: Jon H at September 30, 2003 10:02 AM

    Wilson, a man on a mission, has been keeping the WH conspiracy thing in the news totally without proof with what he says are quotes from unknown "reporter" and a "producer":

    "The Washington Post reported that Wilson said he believes Bush?s senior advisor Karl Rove "at a minimum condoned the leak," but said he has no evidence Rove was the original leaker. Wilson said "My knowledge is based on a reporter who called me right after he had spoken to Rove and said that Rove had said my wife was fair game." He said that conversation occurred on July 21.

    Wilson also said a producer from another network told him about the same time that, "The White House is saying things about you and your wife that are so off the wall that we won't use them.""

    "Wilson has been bitterly complaining that Bush's political advisor Karl Rove was behind the "outing" of his wife. Last month, he told a Seattle audience that he wanted "to see if we can get Karl Rove frog-marched out of the White House in handcuffs."

    On Monday, the ambassador recanted his accusation that Rove made the calls to journalists, but said that Rove "condoned it.""

    Meanwhile Novak has shown that he has been entirely consistent:

    "Novak yesterday denied that he had been approached with the information. On CNN?s Crossfire he said: ?Nobody in the Bush administration called me to leak this. In July I was interviewing a senior administration official on Ambassador Wilson's report when he told me the trip was inspired by his wife, a CIA employee working on weapons of mass destruction.?

    In a July 22nd article in Newsday, Novak says ?I didn't dig it out, it was given to me. They thought it was significant, they gave me the name and I used it." "

    and

    " He added Monday during ?Crossfire,? the program he co-hosts on CNN, that the officials did not call him to leak the woman?s name. He said the disclosure came when he was interviewing one of the officials about Wilson?s mission to Niger and the official told him that Wilson?s wife had a hand in arranging the mission and that she was a CIA employee.
    Novak said that when he called to confirm the information, a CIA official asked him not to use the name. That official, however, did not say there would be any danger to the woman or her sources if her name were disclosed, Novak said."

    Novak was not called with the information about Plame. He was given the information during an interview.


    Posted by: Wilbur Jones at September 30, 2003 10:05 AM

    CIA tells him [Novak] that Wilson's wife, Valerie Plame, who works for the CIA

    Novak said it wasn't CIA who told him. Nice try, though.

    Actually, it wasn't a nice try. I think you contortionists could do better.

    Posted by: davebanjo at September 30, 2003 10:07 AM

    Wilbur, how come your lips move when the White House speaks?

    Oh, right. Barley.

    Wiiiiilbur...

    Posted by: squiddy at September 30, 2003 10:17 AM

    I don't like to assume scenarios when there are actual facts out there available. Ms. Plame got married to Mr. Wilson at a very specific time. People other than me know what that time is, and I would like to know what that time is. You are assuming the facts the way you want the facts to be.

    Posted by: Sebastian Holslcaw at September 30, 2003 10:21 AM

    Sebastian writes: "You are assuming the facts the way you want the facts to be."

    I'm assuming the facts the only way it makes sense.

    Posted by: Jon H at September 30, 2003 10:24 AM

    Keith

    "Do you have any evidence supporting your skepticism, or just idle speculation?"

    Dude, use your brain.

    If you where a spy, would you want it to be easily found on the web (until pages drowned by this story)that you are the wife of a former United States Ambassador?

    If she was formerly a covert op and has contacts in place and used the name Valerie Plame and now does not but here husband lists that name in his online bios including a Saudi think tank, there cover is blown and they have to be pulled out. Wilson then rats himself out in the Times as a CIA worker. Keith you have to be pretty thick or blinded by your hatred of Bush to miss the issue.

    What the hell is tut-tut - save that for your kids big guy. IF the CIA is using people with covers easily found on the web to be suspect, you understand how they screwed up on 9-11. WHo ever leaked this should be punished but the whole Wilson Plame affair just shows that the CIA needs to be cleaned out.

    Posted by: zionblogster at September 30, 2003 10:25 AM

    Sorry Kevin, but as a conservative blogger there are some valid questions being raised by us about some of the evidence...questions which you are quick to brush off as "excuses".

    If a crime was committed then those responsible should be fired and prosecuted. The evidence is way too murky at this point, though, to jump to any conclusions, so I'm wondering if you're also willing to put up or shut up if you turn out to be wrong?

    Posted by: Randal Robinson at September 30, 2003 10:35 AM

    Wilbur, how come your lips move when the White House speaks?

    Oh, right. Barley.

    Wiiiiilbur...

    I pointed out some facts in the case. You responded with an attack on me.

    Oh, right....... I understand.


    Posted by: Wilbur Jones at September 30, 2003 10:37 AM

    Looks very bad for someone in the administration. This is making Bush look bad which is going to be very bad (history shows us) for someone who works for him. If Rove actually did this, he clearly is not the evil genius that everyone thinks he is. This crossed the line into criminal behavior and accomplished nothing.

    Doesn't look too good for the Wilson's either. Politics is a contact sport and Ambassador Wilson decided to play ball...hope his family survives his ball playing itch. He'll get a nice job with some liberal think tank now but his wife may need to join Dick Cheney in his secure location. Those WMD dealers are probably not nice friendly folks.

    Posted by: Ratherworried at September 30, 2003 10:56 AM

    neener neener neener i can't hear you!

    Posted by: davebanjo at September 30, 2003 11:06 AM

    "I'm assuming the facts the only way it makes sense."

    Yes you are assuming the facts the only way it makes sense FOR THE STORY THAT YOU WANT.

    I would prefer to have the facts and not have to worry that I'm making stuff up to fit my own story. I would prefer to have the facts so that I could judge the story from the facts.

    Posted by: Sebastian holsclaw at September 30, 2003 11:13 AM

    Yes you are assuming the facts the only way it makes sense FOR THE STORY THAT YOU WANT.

    And you're doing almost the same thing. Only with you, it's:

    I would prefer to have the facts so that I could judge the story from the facts.

    We've got an awful lot of facts, but the main ones: Plame was a CIA covert operative. Novak outed her. Two people senior in the administration told him and six other reporters in Washington that Plame was a covert operative, thus committing a felony offense.

    We don't yet know who, nor how, but it looks a bit silly to be refusing to feel outrage that a member of the administration committed a felony offense seven times over.

    Posted by: Jesurgislac at September 30, 2003 12:09 PM

    What I'd like to know is why, if/when Novak called the CIA to confirm that Plame worked for them (when they supposedly confirmed but asked him not to use her name), they didn't do what you're supposed to do concerning covert agents, which is answer, "Who in the hell is Valerie Plame? Never heard of her."

    Posted by: Phil at September 30, 2003 12:44 PM

    Doug says: "So, maybe, MAYBE, somebody some place inadvertently revealed Ms. Plame was a CIA analyst."

    MAYBE someone inadvertently calls at least six different journalist and mentions the same CIA WMD operative's name to all of them? Must be more of that faith based stuff ;-).

    Posted by: Morgan at September 30, 2003 12:52 PM

    CIA OPERATIVE 'OUTED', leaked ?

    It does not matter if "CIA OPERATIVE" is TRUE.

    The damage to the individual "OUTED" and their personal contacts is the same as if it were TRUE.

    The CIA has to respond as if it were true, whether it is true or not.

    It does not matter if the "OUTER" knew anything at all. The damage all around is the same as if it had been TRUE all along. It is just one of those things that cannot be denied in any practical sort of way in the real world of global espionage.

    SO ... it is possible that the premise is FALSE, the OUTER Knew it was FALSE, and things are just getting out of hand because it can't stand, either way.

    Posted by: Freddie at September 30, 2003 01:33 PM

    If it was common knowledge in town that Plume was a CIA operative (as it seems to have been), then obviously the leaker could have been one of very many people, and being informed by a higher official would be absolutely unnecessary, and unlikely.

    Posted by: Chris Bordeman at September 30, 2003 01:53 PM

    >Too bad the Left can't yet admit that Iraqi freedom is good.

    Guy sells me a house that he says is in tip-top shape and will only appreciate in value over time. I'm initially skeptical but take his word that it's worth sinking my life savings in. Immediately after closing I discover rats everywhere, termites in the wall, and it's on top of an Indian burial ground. The house will require a fortune to render habitable. My kids' college trust fund is gone and my friends think I'm the world's biggest sucker. I complain.

    Guy says, "You know, ingrates like you really piss me off. Why can't you admit that a roof over your head is good?"

    Posted by: TK at September 30, 2003 02:20 PM

    zionblogster:
    Good comeback. Very well thought out. Very witty, especially the "dude" part. Your reasoning is that someone who was known in country x, y, or z as an energy company analyst was suddenly revealed to anyone with a brain as CIA because she married a senior state department official? Yeah, I'm sure that's what counterintelligence guys in Iraq do: "By the Prophet, that woman later married the deputy chief of mission, so she must have been a spy."

    Dude, I'm using my brain, and I don't see the Q.E.D. here. All you've shown is that one can find out that they're married by using the web. That doesn't show that she was a covert operative.

    Now explain for us slower types how it is that this affair shows that it's the C.I.A. that needs to be cleaned out, rather than some group a bit to the Maryland side of Langley, VA.

    Sebastian:
    you are assuming the facts the only way it makes sense FOR THE STORY THAT YOU WANT
    Pot. Kettle. Black.

    You said on a parallel thread that countries routinely assume that everyone directly affiliated with an ambassador is a spy, so Plame couldn't have been an effective agent... b/c even if she wasn't affiliated with the CIA she would already have beem treated as a spy.

    That's just plain wrong. That's not just a case of assuming facts, it's misstating some facts, and making a whole bunch of stuff up. C'mon guy, I depend on you to be someone whose arguments I respect, even if I disagree with them.

    Posted by: Keith at September 30, 2003 04:00 PM

    No keith, it is an actual fact that countries routinely assume that everyone directly affiliated with an ambassador is a spy. I'm not assuming that. That is in fact what happens to people affiliated with an ambassador.

    Posted by: Sebastian holsclaw at September 30, 2003 04:43 PM

    You know what I'm curious about? If Ms. Plame was involved with WMD, was she close to knowing something that they didn't want her to know? Cause her career is over now, she won't be getting anymore info, she's out of the loop. That was effective, wasn't it?

    You know what else I'm curious about? Remember duirng the election, when "someone" mailed that debate tape to the Gore campaign? Some low-level flunky took the dive for that, but it was totally in keeping with Karl Rove's kind of tricks. So, what low=level flunky will go down for Rove this time?

    I wonder whatever happened to that girl who took the dive? She got fired at the time, but you know she got paid off later.

    Posted by: Ruth at September 30, 2003 09:07 PM

    It is strange that you write about a legal issue without bothering to examine the law itself.

    Under the law (50 USC s.421), a crime exists only if (a) Plame is a "covert AGENT" (emphasis added), and (b) that "the United States is taking affirmative measures to conceal such individual's classified intelligence relationship to the United States." This law does not cover employees of the CIA sitting comfortably in the Langley HQ. It covers agents in the field whose lives and work are at risk if identified as such.

    So, where is the evidence that Ms Plame is/was a "covert agent"? You cite a WAPO story that is unsourced; why do you believe it? That is not objective or verifiable evidence by any standard; that is just newspaper gossip.

    Further, what evidence do you have that the US gov't (the CIA) took any "affirmative measures" to keep her identity secret?

    Objectively, where is credible evidence of a crime? And if there is none, given Mr Wilson's political agenda, too damn bad if he doesn't like the publicity.

    Posted by: Clarence at October 1, 2003 02:21 AM

    Sebastian:
    it is an actual fact that countries routinely assume that everyone directly affiliated with an ambassador is a spy. I'm not assuming that. That is in fact what happens to people affiliated with an ambassador
    No, Sebastian, that's not an actual fact, it's not a virtual fact, it's not a fact at all, because it's untrue. Have you ever, in any capacity, been affiliated with an embassy? Do you have any evidence, any at all, to back up this assertion? I mean, if this is as you claim a "fact," surely there's a way to prove it.

    Since the middle ages, it has been the practice to assume that some members of an embassy mission are engaged in espionage activity. It has not been the practice to assume that everyone directly affiliated with an ambassador is a spy. That's ridiculous. If that were the case, it would be all but impossible for members of an embassy mission to get anything done, and the office of the ambassador would be renedered irrelevant and meaningless.

    Posted by: Keith at October 1, 2003 03:25 AM

    Clarence:
    where is the evidence that Ms Plame is/was a "covert agent"? ... That is not objective or verifiable evidence by any standard; that is just newspaper gossip
    The CIA, Plame's colleague Larry Johnson, the Department of Justice, and the White House Counsel seem to think that Ms. Plame is/was a covert agent. Here's Alberto Gonzalez:
    "Department of Justice... has opened an investigation into possible unauthorized disclosures concerning the identity of an undercover CIA employee." Maybe you know something they don't? If so, your country needs you! Better phone the White House and set them straight on this matter.

    Posted by: Keith at October 1, 2003 03:39 AM

    Keith,

    Thanks for the snotty comment. Obviously, I only claim that I have read the statute, and I pointed out that you appear not to have read it.

    Re Plame's job, Johnson is the only person to date who claims that Plame was once a covert agent, and CNN gave us no specific detail on his background and credibility. Have you noticed that neither Plame nor her husband have made that claim? Why not?? If she was "covert agent" within the meaning of the law, and her cover was blown, then why wouldn't she or Wilson tell that to the media?

    The CIA & DOJ are investigating whether a crime has been committed; they have not reached a conclusion....but you sure have. Do you have such a high opinion of Ashcroft that a DoJ investigation is convincing? Honestly??

    Further, your silence is curious on the other "leg" of the "crime" (the requirement that the US gov't has taken "affirmative measures" to keep her identity a secret); Novak confirmed her employment with the CIA itself.

    Posted by: Clarence at October 1, 2003 05:55 AM

    I saw a man on CNN this morning try to infer that the media was responsible for blowing the agents cover. To me it is a good thing someone came forward with the information that this agent?s cover was compromised. Otherwise our enemies may have used that information to their advantage. You can't assume that these people only told the media.

    Posted by: Ken Coleman at October 1, 2003 07:13 AM

    I believe that the question of whether or not she was "covert" has already been answered.

    1) If she wasn't covert, then no actual crime has been committed.

    2) One person who would know for sure if she was covert or not, is George Tenet.

    3) George Tenet is the one who instigated the criminal investigation.

    Connecting the dots, I'd say she was an undercover agent.

    Posted by: benr242 at October 1, 2003 12:55 PM

    benr242 (or whatever):

    You infer, assume.......and can not point to a single bit of verifiable fact.

    "One person who would know for sure if she was covert or not, is George Tenet."

    And he has NOT made that claim, has he? Do you see a single quote, in any newspaper, in which Tenet makes that claim? (No........)

    You read into this what your political biases want to see.

    Posted by: Clarence at October 1, 2003 01:08 PM

    Keith,

    I asked earlier:

    "Have you noticed that neither Plame nor her husband have made that claim? Why not?? If she was "covert agent" within the meaning of the law, and her cover was blown, then why wouldn't she or Wilson tell that to the media?"

    No reply.......

    "The CIA & DOJ.....have not reached a conclusion....but you sure have. Do you have such a high opinion of Ashcroft that a DoJ investigation is convincing?"

    No reply.......

    "your silence is curious on the other "leg" of the "crime" (the requirement that the US gov't has taken "affirmative measures" to keep her identity a secret)"

    No repy......

    Since you started this thread with your comments, perhaps you should recall a line from a Monty Python movie:

    "run away! run away!"

    Posted by: Clarence at October 1, 2003 01:15 PM

    Here are a few (of hundreds) links that show Tenet pushed for the investigation. Its also been on every news channel (including Fox News, if thats what you watch). And as for my quote you included in your post... are you seriously trying to imply that the CIA Director doesn't know, or couldn't very easily find out, whether she was a covert CIA agent?

    http://www.msnbc.com/news/937524.asp?0cv=CB10#BODY

    http://portland.indymedia.org/en/2003/09/272504.shtml

    http://www.talkleft.com/archives/004417.html

    Posted by: benr242 at October 1, 2003 01:26 PM

    Clarence:
    I didn't start this thread with my comments. If you'll scroll to the top, you'll see that the first comment is by "anon" and that I came in somewhere after the 50th post.

    As for "no answer... run away," I have a job, and I don't live in your time zone. But it's always easy to assume the worst of your opponents and accuse them of cowardice, especially when you don't have to do so face-to-face, eh? Brave, brave, brave Sir Robin.

    As for my "snotty comment," as far as I can see, my reply was to your question, not to the statute. The White House Counsel's statement was carefully worded to imply that Plame was a covert agent... unless you think he was referring to some other covert agent. Are there reasons others have not said this directly? I don't know, and I suspect you don't either. Could be legal reasons. Who knows. Have the CIA and DOJ "reached a conclusion"? CIA certainly seems to have concluded that an undercover agent was outed. DOJ has concluded that this is worth investigating. Have they concluded which if any laws were broken? Probably not. That's what investigations are for.

    Again, if you know something the White House doesn't know, please give them a call. I'm sure Alberto Gonzalez, as well as Scott McClellan, who has not disputed the term used in repeated questions about "an undercover official" would welcome the extra information.

    Posted by: Keith at October 1, 2003 09:47 PM

    It seems evident that none of the posters on this thread know the laws. I sure don't. But, I'm guessing that by the time the investigation is complete the White House lawyers will be pretty conversant with all the applicable statutes. They will have enough mitigating circumstances and "out of the loop"s that some mailroom clerk or janitor in the WH basement will lose a week's pay for his/her indiscretion.

    Posted by: lewish at October 1, 2003 09:56 PM

    This is about more than national security and the crime of exposing agents. If the WH admits ANYTHING they are defacto admitting to petty political destruction of reputations. There are still people who believe this is an honorable truthful administration.
    Listening to McClellan justify why the WH didn't need to ask anybody about this had me furious until a fem,aale reporter basically asked MY question. The admin has based deregulation on self-regulation. The WH should also 'police' itself but is arguing that it is not their role, that only DOJ can investigate. Hypocracy at its best.

    Posted by: Carolyn in Baltimore at October 2, 2003 05:24 AM

    We can all bet that the Bushittes have all the bases covered. Actually, they have had a heads-up since July. If you think they haven't gotten their crooked ducks in a row since then, you'd have to be in Oz. No doubt, they have already picked out their sacrificial lambs who will take the dive for Rove.

    - Kathy

    Posted by: Kathy Lindy at October 2, 2003 05:52 AM
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