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October 01, 2003

THE WAGONS CIRCLE EVER MORE TIGHTLY....The Weekly Standard, perhaps wisely, is keeping quiet about the Plame affair, but not so NRO. I was disappointed that they didn't have anything new yesterday for me to make fun of, but today they make up for it with this James S. Robbins entry in the Karl Rove Talking Points Sweepstakes. Most of it is just the usual pathetic effort to pretend that the real story is Joe Wilson's mint tea drinking habits, but there's a bit more than that. Here are the highlights:

James S. Robbins

Calpundit

[Joseph] Wilson's purported influence has been inflated to the point where otherwise sensible people (and some not-so) are alleging that the inner circles of the White House had to resort to felonious leaking to discredit him.

That's exactly right. And isn't the fact that this whole sordid episode was launched "purely and simply for revenge" against a minor political nuisance pretty revealing about the fundamental ruthlessness of the Bush White House political operation?

The flap about the putative outing of Wilson's wife Valerie Plame as a CIA employee is not the important story in this affair as far as I am concerned. The only reason this incident has any legs is the eagerness of the press to set themselves on scandal autopilot. "It seems like the good old days, doesn't it?" CNN's Aaron Brown said, hoping perhaps to bring back the good old ratings.

Look! It's the media's fault!

Although oddly enough, as we'll see, Robbins doesn't seem to actually follow the media very closely.

But the props have been knocked out from under this manufactured conspiracy. Robert Novak clarified that the information about Ms. Plame was not exactly leaked but arose in the natural course of his interview process.

The best way to leak is to make it look natural, isn't it?

In any case, this is old news. Novak admits that a top White House official did volunteer the information about Plame, whether "naturally" or not, and the Washington Post and others have already reported that several other journalists were also contacted. I guess Robbins doesn't read the Post.

It also appears that she was not an "operative" (a term that Novak innocently misused, implying she was a clandestine service officer), but an analyst, which there is no crime in revealing. So we are left with a leak that wasn't a leak, about a secret agent who was evidently neither secret nor an agent.

Not true: see here and here. Apparently Robbins doesn't read MSNBC or CNN or watch PBS either.

As for the explosive charge that Karl Rove was the mischievous mastermind behind the whole affair, the Honorable Mr. Wilson simply flat out lied about that one.

Wilson definitely went too far, but he had reason. As he's mentioned before, and repeated to Ted Koppel last night, a reporter told him back in July, "I just got off the phone with Karl Rove. He tells me your wife is fair game." And the Guardian's Julian Borger says several reporters have already privately named Rove. We can add Nightline and the Guardian to the growing list of media representatives Robbins seems unaware of.

What a hack. Do guys like Robbins really think that by simply ignoring 90% of the story they can make it go away? This kind of performance may win them brownie points from the RNC, but it will just make them look foolish when the facts finally emerge. Reality awaits, James.

Posted by Kevin Drum at October 1, 2003 12:45 PM | TrackBack


Comments

I find it interesting that the administration is talking about firing the person that leaked this, rather than jailing them.

Especially since this administration went to great lengths to jail Jonathan Randall, who leaked non-classified, non-security related information. See http://writ.news.findlaw.com/dean/20030926.html for an analysis of that case.

Also it's a lot easier to cover up the real culprit if you fire someone. Find someone willing to take a dive for the team, bring them out and fire them (don't prosecute), then quietly give them a lucrative position at a friendly think tank.

It would be a lot harder to find someone willing to go to jail to sustain a cover-up.

Posted by: Tom Haviland at October 1, 2003 12:51 PM | PERMALINK

Borger was on Michelangelo Signorile's XM show, did anyone hear it? I think it is no longer clear whether the Rove phone calls Borger refers to took place before the Novak article. He may be talking about the post-Novak "fair game" calls.

Posted by: grytpype at October 1, 2003 12:52 PM | PERMALINK

more than just brownie points from the RNC, don't forget the thousands/ millions of people who are looking for some way to ignore the facts. This is why Bush's comment's on Iraq's ties to Sept 11 caused so much fuss, many people had already signed up for the administration's group think and hearing a contradiction from the top leads to many doubts.

Posted by: jjj at October 1, 2003 12:55 PM | PERMALINK

I like Jim Geraghty's column better. http://www.nationalreview.com/geraghty/geraghty200310010843.asp. His defense appears to be that the Bush administration is no worse that Bob Torricelli. Haahaahaahaa.

The beauty of this scandal is the way it perfectly captures the Bush administration's (along with the right-wing echo chambers) insincere interest in national security. Until now, consolidating political power and the agenda of furthering crony capitalism appeared consistent with national security.

However, this episode demonstrates that any commitment to national security is merely out of convenience. If homeland security jeopardizes tax cuts, or if a successful rebuilding of Iraq requires ceding some control to the U.N., or if compromising intelligence efforts would further a smear campaign, national security falls by the wayside.

Hopefully, this will be a lightbulb going on moment for the public.

Posted by: Chuck Smith at October 1, 2003 12:56 PM | PERMALINK

Are we playing Excuse Bingo?

Cool.

Posted by: squiddy at October 1, 2003 12:58 PM | PERMALINK

Re: Calpundit's "Not true: see here and here. Apparently Robbins doesn't read MSNBC or CNN or watch PBS either"


My addition: Or read publicly available White House internal memos- which state that she was "undercover."

Posted by: bradh at October 1, 2003 01:00 PM | PERMALINK

Here's the best guess I've seen at Plame's actual job status in the CIA. from: http://thecr.blogspot.com/2003_09_01_thecr_archive.html#

It seems that there would be a real legal issue as to whether the US was taking affirmative action to conceal her identity if this is her position in the CIA. (not to mention whether the leaker knew of such action)

"I have no personal knowledge of the situation, but there is another possibility – she may have been a Collections Management Officer (“CMO” or a “reports officer” in the old parlance). This would be an “in between” position that would explain the various classifications as an analyst and a clandestine service officer. The CIA describes the position thusly:

“The Central Intelligence Agency's Clandestine Service Collection Management Officers are the connection between the Operations Officer in the field and the U.S. foreign policy community, both in the United States and abroad. As a Collection Management Officer you will guide the collection of intelligence and direct the dissemination of that intelligence. Managing the collection effort requires contact with U.S. policy makers to determine what they need to know and then communicating those requirements to the Operations Officers in the field for collection.”

The Operations Officer, mentioned above, is the person of who we think of when we say spy. It is his (they are predominantly male) job to recruit and maintain contact with intelligence agents (agents are foreign nationals who agree to spy for us in return, typically, for money). The Operations Officer is the one who does the leg work.

The CMO collect the information from the Ops Officers and pass them along to the right users. They do not run agents nor have any agents publicly associated with them. The CMO (predominately women) usually work from Langley (approx. 2/3 of their careers) and, when abroad, are usually in no more danger than a typical foreign service officer. Unlike analysts, however, CMO report to the Directorate of Operations (like the Operations Officers) and assume a cover when working.

The cover assumed by both Ops Officers and CMOs when abroad is typically that of State Department employees. This allows them to maintain diplomatic immunity. The CIA runs very few “illegals” (officers without official cover) and they are never CMOs.

I think that Plame may have been a CMO for several reasons. First, is the general confusion about her job. “Real” Ops Officers don’t think of the CMOs as covert officers in the same sense as them and would likely consider them to be analysts (they don’ run agents and spend most of their time in HQ). At the same time the do not belong to the Directorate of Intelligence, so they are not technically analysts. Her being a CMO is the only way to explain the confusion surrounding her job – nobody confuses Ops Officers for analysts. Second, but less consequentially, she is woman – women in the DO are more readily found as CMOs. For many years, and Plame seems to have been with the Agency for a while, women were “encouraged” to go CMO. Until I hear otherwise, I will assume that this is what she does."

Posted by: Reg at October 1, 2003 01:01 PM | PERMALINK

I found it amusing to compare quotes from today's NRO coverage of the Plame scandal to a few quotes from the National Review's half-decade obsession with the lewinsky scandal.

Posted by: JNelsonW at October 1, 2003 01:05 PM | PERMALINK

'Reg', what part of the word 'undercover' (as per the White House memo mentioned prior to your post) don't you (and the person you quoted) understand?

Trying to bullshit about Plame's status only makes you look like a brown-noser for Bush, IMO.

Posted by: David W. at October 1, 2003 01:08 PM | PERMALINK

We know from the Post already that she was in the field and that she belonged to the Directorate of Intelligence. It seems to be the general assumption that she became an analyst after the birth of her children, hence the confusion, I suppose. But her covert status would still need to be maintained in order to protect her former contacts. That's my read of it, anyway.

Posted by: Issa at October 1, 2003 01:09 PM | PERMALINK

Also, this guy is no more of a hack than Drum. Most of his arguments deal with clarifying statements made by the left and the media that aren't supportable by the facts.
Its not clear whether she was an operative or not, see my last post. There is certainly confusion on the topic.
Also, Novak's account makes this seem a lot less of a big deal if its true. If Novak's account is correct, he was interested in determining how Wilson got the job, the source said oh his wife who is at the CIA pushed for him to go, not knowing she was undercover or that this was a secret. This certainly wouldn't be a violation of the law, though it is still a leak and something Bush ought to clamp down on.

The story of the 6 reporter calls seems more problematic, as far as the law being broken. I can't think of how that fits into this yet, unless the facts are wrong, or the leaker, or other leakers perhaps, began making calls with the information.

Posted by: Reg at October 1, 2003 01:09 PM | PERMALINK

Ugh. Clifford May's effort over at the TNR debate is just awful. Spencer Ackerman is going to rip him a new one tomorrow morning. Yikes.

Posted by: JP at October 1, 2003 01:09 PM | PERMALINK

Nina Totenberg on NPR right now says, according to what she's heard from her source, Justice must have determined that Wilson's wife was covert, that it was not widespread knowledge that she worked for the CIA.

Posted by: Jon H at October 1, 2003 01:11 PM | PERMALINK

As for the WH memo, it may be that they are as confused as everybody else on Plames status. As I said, if that guy is right and she is a CMO, it depends on the legal definition of covert to determine whether she fits or not. It is certainly debatable.

Posted by: Reg at October 1, 2003 01:12 PM | PERMALINK

While we're talking about people not reading: Kevin, did you not bother to read Novak's latest column? Where does it say that his source was in the White House? "Senior Administration official" is not the same. So to say that "Novak admits that a top White House official did volunteer the information" is a lie.

Posted by: Thomas at October 1, 2003 01:12 PM | PERMALINK

Reg, *blink*

seriously? wow, the denial runs deeper than I thought.

Posted by: ChrisS at October 1, 2003 01:13 PM | PERMALINK

Undercover is not sufficient under the statute. The requirement is that the leaker know the government is taking "affirmative action to conceal . . ." Sending her hubby to Nigeria and subsequently allowing him to write a NYTimes op-ed about her specialty would seem to indicate her cover wasn't that high a priority.

Speaking of which, who sent Wilson to Niamey, and why are we reading about CIA trips in the NYTimes op-ed pages?

Posted by: Cecil Turner at October 1, 2003 01:13 PM | PERMALINK

This might be OT but I was reading some comments on a live chat at the WAPO online and Vernon Loeb said this:

"Vernon Loeb: I won't be doing this. I don't think it's my job to try to figure out how other journalist's sources are. "

I think he meant who other journalist sources are but my question is (the chat was over when I got to read this) is this not the story and if the journalist do not go after the story what are they there for..to protect each other? This has been a sad day for the media. This story has been out the for 2 months and it is to the media's shame that they have not made more of an issue of this. I have always enjoyed Mr Novak's columns but he should have been held accountable by his colleagues long ago for this breach. Check the Capital Gang transcripts...you will not see this subject one time....I wonder if they will discuss in on Saturday....and if they do will Mr Novak be away on vacation. This is very sad...coming from someone who has always supported the media. I am very appreciative to your bloggers!!

Posted by: Jon at October 1, 2003 01:13 PM | PERMALINK

Reg, the theory that Plame was a CMO, with State Department cover, doesn't mesh with the information that she's been operating under cover as an energy analyst.

Posted by: Jon H at October 1, 2003 01:13 PM | PERMALINK

Jeez, this guy's just as clueless as the hacks over at freerepublic.

Why doe these right-wingers hate America and the CIA so much?

Posted by: sockeye at October 1, 2003 01:18 PM | PERMALINK

It is clear from what Johnson said on the NewsHour, and also the USA Today article, that Ms Wilson was a clandestine field officer working with "unofficial cover" (private firm) and that at some point in the recent past she stopped being a field operative, got married, had twins, and now works as a analyst in the Non-Proliferation Center, where Scooter Libby and the VP encountered her at briefings they attended. They probably did not think that she had been a covert operative (if they thought at all), but she clearly was. The CIA probably didn't think they had to say before each meeting, "Oh by the way these people (or the follwing people) are or have been covert operatives so don't go around disclosing their names." They thought they were dealing with grown-ups. That is what is so wrong here--the recklessness, the fecklessness, the willingness to politicize intelligence, to smear opponents, just because you think you are right. It's not the commission of a crime per se, but the ruthlessness and recklessness of people who are desperately trying to shore up a policy that failed because it was based on false premises.

Posted by: Mimikatz at October 1, 2003 01:20 PM | PERMALINK

Reg, if she wasn't covert, that could have been revealed immediately and there would be no scandal. Get it? Better turn on Fox to receive the lastest talking points, yours are stale.

Posted by: grytpype at October 1, 2003 01:21 PM | PERMALINK

My money has always been on Scooter.

Posted by: Ken at October 1, 2003 01:22 PM | PERMALINK

I agree, May spends too much time focusing on Wilson.

I have one request for all you lefties dying for a scandal.
Focus on the facts, and try to make a case based on the facts. That is what will convince conservatives, such as myself, who want to know what actually is going on here.
When a conservative disputes your assumptions, he isn't "circling the wagons", he is trying to make you be fair and stick to the facts. When a conservative disputes what has been established as fact, by all means fire away.
For example, the question as to whether plame was covert is very complicated, as there can be many things going on. If we are talking law, there is a legal definition of covert that nobody has shown includes Plame's job. Also the law requires affirmative measures to keep her covert. We don't know that yet either, as legal determinations such as this usually require an examination of all the facts, not just the ones favorable to your side.

Posted by: Reg at October 1, 2003 01:23 PM | PERMALINK

Kevin writes:

"That's exactly right. And isn't the fact that this whole sordid episode was launched "purely and simply for revenge" against a minor political nuisance pretty revealing about the fundamental ruthlessness of the Bush White House political operation?"

I almost fell out of my chair. Why? Where was this same "outrage" when Billy Dale was fired from the White House on a trumped up charge so the Clinton's could put in someone of their choosing? The irony and hipocracy are thick on this one.

This moral outrage is killing me. Stop it please! O Chr*st, a rib just fell out when my side split from laughing so hard.

If you people on the left were actually serious about character and integrity, I'd take this a little more serious. But this is just blatant political partisianship and it stinks to high heaven to me.

I'm off to the Doctor now to have my side sewn back up.

Posted by: Black Oak at October 1, 2003 01:23 PM | PERMALINK

Reg,

Concede the obvious and move to the next step: sadness.

It will help you find closure.

We're here to help.

Posted by: Sovok at October 1, 2003 01:24 PM | PERMALINK

>I'm off to the Doctor now to have my side sewn back up.

See if he can reattach your head.

Posted by: grytpype at October 1, 2003 01:25 PM | PERMALINK

If the goal of the Bush Admin was to punish Wilson then how did outing Plame achieve this?

Posted by: Neil at October 1, 2003 01:27 PM | PERMALINK

Remember, when someone on The Wrong Side actualy cares about the details of the law, that looks like brown-nosing!

When someone on The Right Side cares, of course, that's patriotic devotion to the Rule of Law.

And, of course, only The Wrong Side are partisan hacks. The Right Side is merely attempting to See Justice Done.

Does that summarise well enough?

(PS. Snide remarks about brown-nosing and Fox Talking Points don't do you (plural generic) much credit, any more than claims to DNC Hackhood (or whatever equivalent you prefer) do from the Other Side. Maybe, just maybe, if we could refrain from that crap, the entire political discourse might be the tiniest bit improved all around? Refraining from overstated comparisons with Free Republic members is appreciated, as I imagine the reverse is so with overstated comparisons to denizens of Democratic Underground or Indymedia.

Is the slightest attempt at a political discourse free of the coarsest, most invidious partisan sniping that much to ask? I try, and think it would be help[ful to everyone's case if everyone would do so.)

Posted by: Sigivald at October 1, 2003 01:27 PM | PERMALINK

Neil: by (attempting) to discredit him (the WH argument being he got the Niger assignment through nepotism), and by ruining his wife's career.

Posted by: grytpype at October 1, 2003 01:28 PM | PERMALINK

grytpype,

You're right. I laughed my head and my ass off too. This whole thing is comical. And I want the guy who leaked the info to be hung from the lampost. You guys just can't see the irony of this whole thing because you hate Bush so much. HAHAHAHAHAHA!

Posted by: Black Oak at October 1, 2003 01:28 PM | PERMALINK

Black Oak, make sure the doctor doesn't get your head and your ass switched around when he reattaches them. Your head is the one with two cheeks.

Posted by: grytpype at October 1, 2003 01:30 PM | PERMALINK

Neil,

Now, I ain't married, so maybe I'm getting this wrong somehow, but I would think that destroying your wife's career would be a punishment, no?

Posted by: Kevin Brennan at October 1, 2003 01:31 PM | PERMALINK

Reg writes: " Also the law requires affirmative measures to keep her covert. "

It also requires that she's been working under cover outside the country within the last 5 years.

When Novak called the CIA to confirm, he was told she would probably "never again" be sent on a foreign assignment, but that means she had been on foreign assignments.

One can intuit that she hasn't done one since she had babies, but that only excludes 2 or 3 years or so.

Posted by: Jon H at October 1, 2003 01:32 PM | PERMALINK

That also sounds plausible Mimikatz:

"Ms Wilson was a clandestine field officer working with "unofficial cover" (private firm) and that at some point in the recent past she stopped being a field operative, got married, had twins, and now works as a analyst in the Non-Proliferation Center, where Scooter Libby and the VP encountered her at briefings they attended. They probably did not think that she had been a covert operative (if they thought at all), but she clearly was."

If this is true, it is likely no laws were broken. Though she is a covert agent if she served outside the country within the past five years, it is still questionable whether the US was taking affirmative measure to conceal her current job status. Though this certainly is possible.
It is also questionable whether the leakers knew she was trying to be kept undercover.

Posted by: Reg at October 1, 2003 01:32 PM | PERMALINK

Both Wilson and a retired CIA officer stated quite clearly last night on Nightline that she was undercover. And the very fact that a criminal investigation has been referred is a de facto confirmation from the CIA itself. What more do you need?

And the interview included another clue suggesting that Rove was the leaker.

http://nuisance.blogspot.com/2003_10_01_nuisance_archive.html#106503812827948805

Posted by: Alex at October 1, 2003 01:33 PM | PERMALINK

Reg, you don't seem totally clueless, just not fully following the little twists and turns here. I refer you to the words of a registered republican, Bush campaign contributor, and ex-CIA analyst, on NewsHour:

"LARRY JOHNSON: Let's be very clear about what happened. This is not an alleged abuse. This is a confirmed abuse. I worked with this woman. She started training with me. She has been undercover for three decades, she is not as Bob Novak suggested a CIA analyst. But given that, I was a CIA analyst for four years. I was undercover. I could not divulge to my family outside of my wife that I worked for the Central Intelligence Agency until I left the agency on September 30, 1989. At that point I could admit it."

This is only one quote, but it nicely sums up the consensus opinion. All other indicators as well imply this to be the case, including (but not limited to) both white house memos identifying her as "undercover", the CIA's finding of facts as related to the Justice Dept. after the initial complaint, and the fact that the CIA, the DoJ, and the FBI are all moving forward with investigations. All of these strongly suggest that there is indeed SOMETHING sensitive about her identity.

Posted by: Spork at October 1, 2003 01:34 PM | PERMALINK

But was it likely that outing Plame would lead to any accusations of nepotism or ruin her career? Has anyone really been concerned that Wilson's wife was involved in his getting that mission?

I am not convinced that if someone was going to get Wilson that they would use this approach sinnce the outcome is hardly guaranteed to appaer as a punishment.

Posted by: Neil at October 1, 2003 01:35 PM | PERMALINK

OT: Rod Dreher on the Corner:
"I wrote in today's Dallas Morning News a column about how newsrooms are unfriendly places for conservative journalists, and how conservatives who go into daily journalism should deal with it."

Conservatives don't seem to have any trouble getting on the op/ed page. Maybe the problem isn't their politics, but their methods. They seem to find it more comfortable in an environment where they don't have to worry about facts.

Posted by: Jon H at October 1, 2003 01:36 PM | PERMALINK

Ken:
My money has always been on Scooter.

I think Ken is right.

This old story from Slate is worth re-reading. It would be interesting to know if Dick Durbin is now willing to disclose whom Tenet named as the source of the yellowcake reference. This bit of now-forgotten news may have been one of the early salvos of the war we are now witnessing between the CIA and the America-haters.

If Novak is sticking to statements that, paresed correctly, moderately resemble something similar to near-facts, then my guess is the leak went something like this:

1. Novak asks his source Libby about Wilson, Cheney, yellowcake and the CIA. Libby tells Novak about Plame.

2. Novak calls Rove, whom he knows to check with before running any story. Rove says, "oh you know about that."

3. Rove and Libby then decide this is a news-worthy story and, deciding to "fuck [Wilson] like he's never been fucked before," leak Plame's identity to at least 5 other reporters, none of whom run the story.

Does the above seem credible?

Posted by: sockeye at October 1, 2003 01:36 PM | PERMALINK

Public Nuisance has picked up some clues from Wilson's appearance on News Hour that Rove WAS one of the leakers.

http://nuisance.blogspot.com/2003_10_01_nuisance_archive.html#106503812827948805

Posted by: grytpype at October 1, 2003 01:36 PM | PERMALINK

"This whole thing is comical."

Yeah,that's why the CIA's response was: "Oh, ha ha ha, good one. You really got us there. Ho ho ho. Whose name are you going to leak next? Ha ha ha"

Posted by: nameless at October 1, 2003 01:36 PM | PERMALINK

Reg!

The CIA would not have gone nuclear on the WH if they did not have solid evidence that a crime had been committed.

THEY know her "status" much better than YOU do.

Oh no! Reg surfed our website and found out that Plame was just an analyst, sorry John, our bad, will you please call off your full-blown criminal investigation now?

It's OK, you'll feel better after a good, long cry.

Posted by: Sovok at October 1, 2003 01:39 PM | PERMALINK

Neil: "If the goal of the Bush Admin was to punish Wilson then how did outing Plame achieve this?"

1. BushCo didn't expect Wilson to fight back.
2. Wilson, when asked, said he thinks another intention was that BushCo was trying to intimidate future whistleblowers, not just to punish him.
3. #2 would have worked if BushCo hadn't been so cocky about trying to a) lay the blame of Iraq (bad intelligence) on the CIA; b) willfully twist intelligence in order to justify political ends. This story was going nowhere until the CIA decided to press its case.

So, BushCo once again shows they are the masters of bad planning and bad execution. What's new?

Posted by: chris at October 1, 2003 01:39 PM | PERMALINK

The WaPo says she's 40. Working undercover for three decades isn't likely. If she stopped being a field op prior to getting married and her twins are now 3, it's approaching 5 years at a minimum.

Posted by: Cecil Turner at October 1, 2003 01:39 PM | PERMALINK

>But was it likely that outing Plame would lead to any accusations of nepotism or ruin her career?

Ruin her career, for sure.

And the WH was actually making accusations of nepotism against Wilson.

Posted by: grytpype at October 1, 2003 01:39 PM | PERMALINK

Mimikatz, that's definitely my take on what happened, thanks for putting it into such logical form. Looking at it from this angle, we have at least two interesting conclusions to draw:

1) in this version the strict conditions of the 1982 law are not met and no actual crime was committed, despite the clear ethical problems; and

2) the actual object of intimidation and vindictiveness might very well have been Plame, rather than Wilson, if she was one of the CIA balking at the neocon version of the WMD hype.

which would mean it's Libby and then Novak called Rove to confirm.

Posted by: Issa at October 1, 2003 01:39 PM | PERMALINK

'What more do you need?'

A credible defense where the simplest actions of the administration fall into an incomprehensible abyss, thereby making it impossible for any person to make sense of the matter.

Posted by: Thomas at October 1, 2003 01:39 PM | PERMALINK

Agreed Spork, I think there is something sensitive about her identity.
The quote, the WH memo, etc. is not evidence that her job fits the legal definition of covert, or that the CIA has taken affirmative measure to conceal her position. It suggests it, but because the law is fuzzy on such topics, and our facts aren't very good, its tough to say. That guys quote doesn't say whether she was in foreign service within the last 5 years. She got married in 1998, I think, and I don't know how old her kids are. If in 1998 she became an analyst, she might not be a covert agent under the law.

I am only interested in putting the facts together so I know whats going on. Washington has lots of stupid games with its reporters, WH and administration oficials, and so on, and as in all the Clinton cases, I don't think the truth comes out of such affairs so easily.

Posted by: Reg at October 1, 2003 01:40 PM | PERMALINK

In 2), I should probably have said "as much as Wilson" rather than, er, "rather than."

Posted by: Issa at October 1, 2003 01:40 PM | PERMALINK

nameless,

You miss my point. What's comical is the feigned outrage. See my post above about Billy Dale.

When the leaker is found out I'll volunteer to drive the auger bit through his/her eye sockets with my Dewalt drill. I don't have a problem with punishing the leaker. I just think it can't be said about the Left when it's their guy in the hot seat.

Posted by: Black Oak at October 1, 2003 01:40 PM | PERMALINK

Reg writes: "It is also questionable whether the leakers knew she was trying to be kept undercover."

They may simply not have considered it. Or cared. They may have just assumed "it's his wife, she must not be doing anything significant".

It is hardly unreasonable to expect them to find out before exposing a CIA WMD analyst right after a WAR over WMD in the midst of a WAR on terrorism in which WMD is considered a major threat.

Gross negligence is not much of a defense.

Posted by: Jon H at October 1, 2003 01:41 PM | PERMALINK

Cecil:

Three decades, not 30 years.

Hence: 80's, 90's & 00's

Posted by: chris at October 1, 2003 01:41 PM | PERMALINK

Reg, I have read that her kids are 3.

Posted by: Issa at October 1, 2003 01:41 PM | PERMALINK

"What's comical is the feigned outrage"

Is the CIA feigning outrage?

Posted by: nameless at October 1, 2003 01:42 PM | PERMALINK

nameless,

No! the feigned outrage by most everyone here and in particular Kevin Drum. He writes

"That's exactly right. And isn't the fact that this whole sordid episode was launched "purely and simply for revenge" against a minor political nuisance pretty revealing about the fundamental ruthlessness of the Bush White House political operation?"

That's absolutly comical when looked at when the Democrats were in the WH a few years ago. Personnel files were fair game, as well as trumped up charges, to "do what was needed to be done".

Posted by: Black Oak at October 1, 2003 01:46 PM | PERMALINK

Actually Reg, w/r/t your post at 1:32, I believe that the relevant part of the statute would be whether or not the leaker knew about the status of the CIA employee.

If Libby had met Plame at those CIA meetings, then he might not have known that she was covert. However, I get the impression that the CIA isn't supposed to let accidents like this happen, and that there is usually a paper trail, so I suppose we'll see.

In this version, those "pressure" visits from Cheney and staff look a whole lot worse than they already did. I imagine that practice will be stopped pronto.

Posted by: Issa at October 1, 2003 01:46 PM | PERMALINK

I just realized -- Black Oak is talking about Travelgate! I think we have a real true believer on our hands here.

Posted by: grytpype at October 1, 2003 01:49 PM | PERMALINK

Chris,
"For three decades" means for 30 years. "In three decades" would mean what you wrote, but that isn't what he said.

Jon H,
Negligence is a perfect defense under the statute. As is disclosing the information second-hand.

Posted by: Cecil Turner at October 1, 2003 01:51 PM | PERMALINK

grytpype:

They're cute until they start traveling in packs.

Posted by: chris at October 1, 2003 01:52 PM | PERMALINK

...it's approaching 5 years at a minimum...

Nice job! So SOL on the "outing" charge may have expired, now they can only get the perps for leaking classified information.

I'm glad you're looking out for them.

Posted by: Sovok at October 1, 2003 01:52 PM | PERMALINK

Cecil Turner writes: "The WaPo says she's 40. Working undercover for three decades isn't likely. If she stopped being a field op prior to getting married and her twins are now 3, it's approaching 5 years at a minimum."

Wilson was on foreign postings until 1997. A 1997 bio on the web somewhere describes Wilson as having two children, but doesn't mention a wife.

An earlier 1992 bio mentions two children and a wife, so he clearly divorced after 92, but hadn't married at the time the 1997 bio was written.

The 2002 bio I've seen that mentions Plame says he has four children.

So they probably married in 1998 or later. July of 1998 would be within the 5 years limitation of the statute.

She could still be undercover, of course, even if she's not travelling overseas anymore.

Posted by: Jon H at October 1, 2003 01:53 PM | PERMALINK

Spork.

She didn't work undercover at CIA for three decades, considering she joined at 26. Maybe he meant the 80's, 90's, and 00's - or maybe Johnson was exaggerating.

Wilson's political affiliations make me a bit suspicious - truthout.org isn't exactly fair and balanced - so I'll wait and see.

IMO, most of this is just a very poor understanding of the intelligence community and how it works.

The point that sticks for me is whether this was truly a smear or a threat. It doesn't make much sense as a threat - but I don't think trying to determine whether there was an intentional breaking of the law is helpful to the administration. I can't imagine intentionally breaking a covert. There might be a smear that went wrong because the White House did not know she was covert - thus the investigation.

If someone in the Bush White House did in fact try to smear Plame or Wilson, regardless of whether they knew she was covert or not, this will put a big black mark on the administration in my mind.

Of course - that leaves me where? Perhaps if the Democrats were serious about national security or had any credibility after the Clinton scandals, I might be persuaded to change my vote. Would that make me start campaining for Dean or Clark? No way.

Would it make me sick - and would I vote for a different Republican in the primary? - hell, I'd donate money to them.

If it's true. The story of the Boy Who Cried Wolf should be required reading for Krugman fans.

Posted by: TheYeti at October 1, 2003 01:53 PM | PERMALINK

Great moments in the passive voice, chap. 282: "The outrage has always been made known":

from the latest TPM:

QUESTION: Why did the President sit on his hands two-and-a-half-months ago and not ask his staff?

MR. McCLELLAN: I'm sorry, I answered this question very clearly at the time that it came up, and you need to go back and look at what I said then.

QUESTION: But where was the outrage?

QUESTION: The President often says he gets his news not from reading the papers or watching TV, but from aides because he's very busy. Do you know if this was brought to his attention? Was he aware of this on July 14th or 15th, or in that time frame, either by reading it himself, or was it brought to his attention? I'm not asking you whether he said anything should do anything about it, but was he aware of this in a timely window --

MR. McCLELLAN: On July 14th?

QUESTION: When the Novak column came out, which I believe was July 14th. It was within that time frame.

MR. McCLELLAN: Call my predecessor. No --

QUESTION: Within a couple of days of that.

MR. McCLELLAN: John, I haven't even asked that question.

QUESTION: Scott, it seems like a good question to ask.

MR. McCLELLAN: I'm sorry?

QUESTION: That would be a good one if you can take it.

QUESTION: It's probably worth following up on.

QUESTION: When did he become aware of this?

QUESTION: Right.

MR. McCLELLAN: Sorry?

QUESTION: When did he become aware that --

MR. McCLELLAN: That there was an allegation that someone leaked classified information? When was that first --

QUESTION: No, no, that an undercover official of the United States government had been outed. When did the President of the United States know that? When was he informed of that? And what was his reaction? Where's the outrage, I think, was the question that was asked.

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, the outrage has always been made known.

Posted by: sockeye at October 1, 2003 01:53 PM | PERMALINK

Cecil, maybe he slightly misspoke on live TV. The dates work out fine if we give him the slightest bit of doubt on this one.

Posted by: Issa at October 1, 2003 01:54 PM | PERMALINK

Cecile:

Oh go back to conujugating verbs somewhere. Obviously that's what he meant. Just read most of these posts and see how many people misspell, drop words, etc. The guy was live. It was a transcript. He didn't have the time to measure every expression. Cut the guy some slack.

Bush can't even read from a TelePrompter, for Christ's sake!

Posted by: Chris at October 1, 2003 01:55 PM | PERMALINK

Cecil Turner writes: " Negligence is a perfect defense under the statute. As is disclosing the information second-hand."

It's a defense under the statute, but it's not enough to keep a person's job or to avoid staining the administration. It shows that senior administration officials aren't serious about the war on terror.

However, there's negligence and there's negligence. They might have known they were exposing a CIA agent, but not bothered to find out just how secret.

Posted by: Jon H at October 1, 2003 01:56 PM | PERMALINK

Yeti:

"She didn't work undercover at CIA for three decades, considering she joined at 26. Maybe he meant the 80's, 90's, and 00's - or maybe Johnson was exaggerating. "

Yes, it's mostly likely he did indeed mean "worked for the CIA IN three decades", rather than FOR three decades. If he was indeed just exaggerating, does this discredit everything else he said? Are you willing to apply that standard to all involved parties?

"Wilson's political affiliations make me a bit suspicious - truthout.org isn't exactly fair and balanced - so I'll wait and see. "

I don't care if he's Abbie Hoffman, it doesn't really have fuck-all to do with revealing his wife's identity as a CIA operative (to use Bob Novak's term).

"IMO, most of this is just a very poor understanding of the intelligence community and how it works."

Well, I'll admit to that. However, all people in a position to know whose opinions are available to us seem to think it's a big deal. Like the head of the CIA for instance. He might know.

"Would it make me sick - and would I vote for a different Republican in the primary? - hell, I'd donate money to them. "

There's hope for you yet :D I don't care what party affiliation you wear, but integrity is sorely lacking on both (all) sides. I hope things like this (and Clinton's fuckups) drive all americans to demand integrity from their leaders.

Posted by: Spork at October 1, 2003 02:13 PM | PERMALINK

Chrissy,
I don't know what he meant. I just know what he said can't be true. And exaggerating to make a point favorable to his case undermines his credibility.

Jon H,
They may also have figured Wilson compromised his wife when he wrote his NYT op-ed. In any event, if you want to claim a violation of that particular statute, it's a difficult standard to meet.

Posted by: Cecil Turner at October 1, 2003 02:16 PM | PERMALINK

Right wing hack apologists would be advised to sit this one out, at least until the administration's evolving party line starts to show signs of stable convergence.

Your illogical hack arguments will be recorded and used against you in the future.

Posted by: Hackticus at October 1, 2003 02:17 PM | PERMALINK

You know, the constant references to who Wilson gave money to, and in which administrations he worked, really give me pause -- are we getting to the point where you have to show party affiliation to prove your trustworthiness? Isn't that a feature of some other governments we'd really like to avoid?

Posted by: Diane at October 1, 2003 02:17 PM | PERMALINK

Here's an interesting suggestion from the Fray on Slate: What if everyone has this all wrong? What if the target was indeed Valerie Plame and Joe Wilson was the excuse? Probably far-fetched, but worth thinking about. here's the comment from Slate:
Subject: Maybe everyone has this all wrong....
"From: ejk_
Date: Oct 1 2003 6:19AM

....

Then it occured to me. Everyone assumes that this had something to do with Wilson. Wilson went to Niger. Wilson reported on the bogus uranium deal. Wilson revealed the State of the Union lie.

But what if this wasn't about Wilson. What if this was all about Plame? After all, she is a CIA agent with a specialty in NBC weaponry, and one that would not finesse her reporting to fit the latest nut job theories of the Rove/Wolfowitz White House.

Perhaps she was instrumental in all the CIA reports that came back before the war stating that it was very unlikely that the Iraqis had any Nuclear programs and equally unlikely that they had stockpiles of CB weapons. If there were enough reports like this stacking up on White House desks with Plame's name on them, perhaps the Mayberry Machiavellis decided it was time for her to go.

Now I doubt that they sent Wilson on the mission for that purpose - how would they know that Wilson would roll on them or that it would become a big story. But after it became a big story, perhaps they saw this as an oppurtunity to get rid of an agent that has been a thorn in their side and cause Wilson some grief too.

The only stickler is that revealing an agent's identity is a felony. Of course, if this was coming out of Carl Rove's office (We will fuck him. Do you hear me? We will fuck him. We will ruin him. Like no one has ever fucked him!), perhaps it is not so surprising. This is a man who has for a long time considered himself above the law."

Food for thought...

Posted by: lou at October 1, 2003 02:19 PM | PERMALINK

If this is true, it is likely no laws were broken. Though she is a covert agent if she served outside the country within the past five years, it is still questionable whether the US was taking affirmative measure to conceal her current job status.

Haven't you seen the notices in the Post? Every month or so they take out a full page ad with a big headline that says "The following people absolutely do not have covert job status at the CIA".

Posted by: Roger Bigod at October 1, 2003 02:19 PM | PERMALINK

It's true, the standard here is difficult to meet, but if the best they can do is, "we figured she was compromised when he wrote his op-ed" -- when she was never even mentioned in it -- well, then they should probably get defense attorneys.

Posted by: Issa at October 1, 2003 02:19 PM | PERMALINK

lou -- interesting stuff. See my post at 1:39. great minds think alike.

Posted by: Issa at October 1, 2003 02:22 PM | PERMALINK

Have any reporters asked Bush Sr. what he thinks about this whole episode? Yeah, I know, it'll just be a "No comment, cuz I have a son that's as dumb as a fencepost."

Whoops, Freudian Slip there dude!

Posted by: WK at October 1, 2003 02:23 PM | PERMALINK

I think it is safe to say, from the information out thus far, that the President wasn't involved directly with this smear tactic.

From Ken at the previous entry. I'm not sure I see why. In fact, the information that Wilson is claiming in the Counterpunch piece yesterday seems to indicate there's a tie between the Bushes and Wilson. If that's the case, who would have been the angriest when Wilson went public and made W look like a liar or an incompetent? The Right keeps complaining that this is not way to carry out a vendetta. If some underling did it, it only makes sense to handle it quietly in August and avoid this firestorm. It's too early to focus exclusively on Rove or Cheney. Junior should be considered too.

Posted by: Allen Brill at October 1, 2003 02:25 PM | PERMALINK

lou, I think the problem with that theory is that the White House had problems with intelligence analysts in general, not just Plame, and not just in the WMD area she was in.

Another example was the Iraqi UAV's, which the government wanted you to think were for spreading WMD in the US, but intelligence analysts said weren't made for that and could only be used for surveillance and recon.

If she was targeted, it was only to make her an example and thus intimidate everyone else in the intelligence community - tell them they're expendable.

I do think it's a mistake to say they just outed her to slap Wilson. But I think it'd be a mistake to think it was a personal slap at his wife, or even the two of them.

The fact that the CIA seems to have stoked the fire again suggests that outing Plame had an effect far beyond she and her husband.

The CIA appears to be pissed.

Pissed like someone at the administration had implicitly threatened the lives of thousands of their people.

Posted by: Jon H at October 1, 2003 02:25 PM | PERMALINK

If there was ever a simple, easy to use, "scum or not scum" test the Plame affair is it.

So far all the folks and magazines and papers and institutions seem to be separating just like one would expect.

Bushies are scum, folks. Admit you made a mistake, admit your integrity center got out of whack somehow and you've been shilling for scum and move on. You don't have to become liberal, just stop being scum.

Posted by: Tim at October 1, 2003 02:26 PM | PERMALINK

As a practical matter, they CIA probably complies if they don't have her on public employment lists and do have her on classified lists. Her front job at the energy consultant firm is also a point. Also, any nondisclosure agreements she signed, as well as penalties she would be subject to for going public.

No doubt, the CIA considered this point before the referral to Justice.

Posted by: Roger Bigod at October 1, 2003 02:28 PM | PERMALINK

This is beginning to look more and more like a molehill being turned into a mountain by a lot of partisan emotion. Many seem to take as "truth" one snippet of information that supports their view.

It sounds as if Plame was once a covert CIA employee, but has not been for some time.

It sounds likely that administration officials would know that she works for the CIA, less likely that they know she was once covert. If they did not know she was once covert, there is no culpability, moral or legal to saying she works for the CIA. At a minimum to know she was covert it seems likely, a political appontee would have to know what her status was during the previous administartion when he was not in the administartion.

If you believe Novak, then there was no attempt here to seek revenge but a response to an obvious question -- why choose Wilson, unfriendly to the administration, to investigate in Niger?

The core question is whom do you believe-- Novak or the WaPo's anonymous administartion source who claims the proactive calls and an act of revenge?

I am inclined to believe Novak, even with due regard for the possibility he wants to avoid any culpability, simply because he signs his name to hic columns and isn't an anonymous source.

Posted by: John at October 1, 2003 02:30 PM | PERMALINK

OK, deep breath. Now, in a low, calm tone of voice, "JOE WILSON IS IRRELEVANT TO THIS STORY!" Other than filling in some background details, what he does is totally irrelevant. He could be, or do, or be affiliated with, ANYTHING, and it wouldn't change the fact that his wife worked for the CIA, and the White House revealed that information to the media. Nothing else matters. All else is a distraction. The only important thing to discover is the transmission path of the information. The mere fact of her status, and its revelation, appear to constitute an act somewhere in the range of "really really bad and dumb" to "flat out treason". Anything in that range is worthy of contempt.

Posted by: Spork at October 1, 2003 02:32 PM | PERMALINK

John, there simply would not be a CIA complaint and certainly not a Justice Dept investigation if there weren't the barest minimum of conditions met that the law had been broken. Meaning that she was still considered covert. How many times do we have to go over this?

Posted by: Issa at October 1, 2003 02:33 PM | PERMALINK

If she joined at 26, and is now 40, she joined in 1989 or so. Larry Johnson, our "source" for the undercover status of Ms. Plame, says he was in training with a Valerie P who was in clandestine services. He LEFT the CIA in 1989, after several years. Thus, the Valerie P he was referring to entered the agency several years before Ms. Plame. This suggests that Mr. Johnson is potentially in error in describing her as "definitely undercover". (And being undercover in 1989 doesn't mean she is still. She may, you know, have gotten a promotion, or requested a desk job when she got married.)

I actually don't doubt that she used to be covert. I just think she has been the type of person Reg describes for a few years. If that few is less than five, someone still has a big problem.

Offhand, I would say there is some "Senior Administration Official" who is in desperate need of a firing, but isn't necessarily a candidate for the big house. THIS is why leaks are bad - the leaker may be leaking more than he knows.

Posted by: rvman at October 1, 2003 02:34 PM | PERMALINK

That's a little too categorical and adamant above, sorry. But as far as I can tell, intentional vs. unintentional revelation of an operatives identity only changes the severity of the law being broken. Unintentional disclosure does not appear to exonerate the leaker. Can anyone clarify the appropriate laws?

Posted by: Spork at October 1, 2003 02:37 PM | PERMALINK

I just want to know how you made that chart.

Posted by: John Cole at October 1, 2003 02:37 PM | PERMALINK

Spork, were you referring to me or rvman? In any case I was being adamant because I do think it's a precondition of there being any case at all (under a, b, or c of the statute) that she is a covert CIA operative.

And the one piece of cut-and-dried evidence that we have is that there is enough to go on for the DoJ to launch an investigation.

Posted by: Issa at October 1, 2003 02:41 PM | PERMALINK

...This is beginning to look more and more like a molehill being turned into a mountain by a lot of partisan emotion...

[Insert wingnut troll name here]

The CIA would not have gone nuclear on the WH if they did not have solid evidence that a crime had been committed.

This story "broke" when a "Senior [Bush] administration official" talked to the WaPo - I suppose s/he did it out of "Partisan emotion"?!

Concede the obvious and move to the next step: sadness.

It will help you find closure.

We're (still) here to help.

Posted by: Sovok at October 1, 2003 02:41 PM | PERMALINK

It sounds likely that administration officials would know that she works for the CIA, less likely that they know she was once covert. If they did not know she was once covert, there is no culpability, moral or legal to saying she works for the CIA.

I think it ultimately depends on what the meaning of "know" is.

Posted by: Allen Brill at October 1, 2003 02:41 PM | PERMALINK

Issa:
No, I was referring to myself. I'm getting dangerously near ranting about the flim-flam being spread around.

Posted by: Spork at October 1, 2003 02:42 PM | PERMALINK

Ah, gotcha. Cheers.

Posted by: Issa at October 1, 2003 02:44 PM | PERMALINK

The one thing that bothers me about this idea that Libby or Cheney might have met Plame at the CIA in a meeting, and not known she was covert, is that from everything I've read the intelligence services have ridiculous paper trail requirements from which no one is exempted.

So, SOP should no doubt be that before going into such a meeting they would have had to sign something that acknowledged the status of the participants. But perhaps this is expecting too much.

Posted by: Issa at October 1, 2003 02:47 PM | PERMALINK

Attention trolls and others:

Poll: Independent Investigation Favored
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A29560-2003Oct1.html


My summary: A large majority, cutting across party lines, thinks it is a serious matter (83% of the 68% who have heard of the Affair), that a special prosecutor should be appointed (69%), that someone in the White House is likely responsible (72%), and that those responsible for the leak should be both fired (91%) and criminally charged (82%).

Posted by: grytpype at October 1, 2003 02:49 PM | PERMALINK

Jesus Christ, don't you rightwingers understand that when Plame met with other WMD operatives, no matter how long ago, her, and their, movements were probably noted by hostile governments.

Plame was outed as a CIA empoyee in July. As a result, those same operatives could very well have been "disappeared", with a bad result for our anti-WMD efforts in the "War on Terror".

So, continue your asshat parsing of the word "covert" traitors. Your partisanship is more important than country.

Posted by: Ras_Nesta at October 1, 2003 02:55 PM | PERMALINK

What is really ticking me off is that some are attempting to shift the issue to "was something bad done" from "just how bad is this". That someone in the White House is playing with fire is apparent. How big the fire was is not.
In the best case scenario, where her status is not an issue, and it's just petty mudslinging, it's still a piss-poor way to run things. I'd expect our administration to be able to stand on facts, not whispered smears (I know, everyone does it. Doesn't make it OK). That they would even skirt the edges of national security issues for personal payback is beneath contempt. I just wonder (I'm lying, I'm totally partisan and I really do have a visceral dislike for this administration) where their priorities lie?

Posted by: Spork at October 1, 2003 02:56 PM | PERMALINK

Tim says
You don't have to become liberal, just stop being scum.

From what I've been able to gather, we'd have to call for Bush to be impeached before the day is out to gain any credibility from the left.

Posted by: Ron at October 1, 2003 03:00 PM | PERMALINK

How many times do we have to go over this?

over and over and over again, because no matter how stupid the defenses are getting the wurlitzer can always win with volume.

Posted by: danelectro at October 1, 2003 03:01 PM | PERMALINK

After reading recent comments, I see that Kevin can add a new Bush-apologist talking point to the chart. The statute in question requires that the prosecution show that the accused knew that the CIA was actively protecting the agent's identity. Since this may be difficult to prove in a court of law and, judging by the WaPo article about the statute, has never been tested in a court case, then ***drumroll*** we can not tell based on the current information if there is sufficient evidence to convict.

Two answers to this point -

- There is still probable cause.
- This legal point doesn't exculpate the leaker(s) from being political scum with no regard for national security or morals.

Posted by: lefty skeptic at October 1, 2003 03:07 PM | PERMALINK

If the purpose was to discredit Wilson, that could have been done at any point after he first started talking to reporters in May but before he went public in July. If you read Nicholas Kristof's May 6 column in the New York Times, he clearly states that it was a former African ambassador who was sent to Niger to investigate the yellowcake story. If you're sitting in the Vice President's office, it probably wasn't that hard to figure out that Wilson was that man, given that he had experience in both Niger and Iraq. (Wilson said in an interview with Talking Points Memo that as a matter of procedure his name would not have been included in his report on his trip to Niger; what I'm trying to say is that nonetheless it wouldn't have been that hard for Cheney and his people to figure out his identity.) So basically from May until July it's hard not to believe that Cheney [by which I really mean Cheney and his circle] knew that Wilson had gone to Niger.

Now, why didn't they leak the fact that the guy who was debunking the Niger story was married to a CIA WMD analyst before Wilson outed himself? The nepotism smear would have been equally effective if it had come out while Wilson was still anonymous, and would actually have inhibited Wilson from stepping forward and attaching his name and reputation to the allegations since to do so would have blown his wife's cover. (According to the story on Wilson in today's Washington Post, Valerie Plame is 40, which suggests that she could have had a good number of years of CIA service ahead of her. And though the CIA may say she was unlikely to go overseas again, it couldn't be totally ruled out.)

The only explanation that makes sense to me is that the leak was deliberately designed to smear Wilson and serve as an object lesson to others who might think of stepping forward. I think Cheney passed Plame's identity to Rove, knowing what Rove would do with it. (Also, no one would believe that someone from Cheney's office would not have a clue about the seriousness of what they're doing, while Rove and his circle can take advantage of plausible deniability.) Rove probably was not the person who actually leaked the name to the press but I bet that if at McClellan's next press conference reporters started running down a list of names that included Don Bartlett and Matt Schlapp the name of the person who did the informing would be disclosed posthaste.

Posted by: Patience at October 1, 2003 03:11 PM | PERMALINK

lefty skeptic writes: "judging by the WaPo article about the statute, has never been tested in a court case, then ***drumroll*** we can not tell based on the current information if there is sufficient evidence to convict. "

WaPo is wrong, someone was convicted under this law in 1985.

However, that person worked at CIA, so would probably have known how secret the leaked identities were.

Posted by: Jon H at October 1, 2003 03:12 PM | PERMALINK

Ron:
Well, that would be a good start. The purge would have to go far deeper before you got any actual respect though. Seriously though, all you would have to do to get grudging respect from the left would be to have an honest discussion of goals and methods. For instance, if I question why our VP's old company seems to precisely fit the new bill of requirements drawn up for Iraqi reconstruction, convincing me WHY it's the best fit would go a lot further than just saying I hate America. The whole casting of the left and the right as "The Other" is a bunch of crap. If we want our country to succeed, we all have a common goal. It's easy to get blinded by a cult of personality (hello Deaniacs and Bushies), but much harder to maintain sight of how to best realize our goals. Crap like this Plame affair does nothing positive, no matter how you see it. To not hold those responsible to account is purely a failure of personal ethics, not an issue of party affiliation. To discourage this investigation is to place party loyalty above the welfare of all Americans. Come on people, it's a CIA agent working on WMDs. Tell me again how having this known is in any way good for the general welfare of our country.

Posted by: Spork at October 1, 2003 03:15 PM | PERMALINK

Funny that some people seem to believe that "partisan emotion" only applies to the side that is really in the least amount of potential trouble here.

Billy Dale was legally fired by a guy at whose pleasure he served because he commingled funds in a way that made it impossible to find out if he was dishonest or just just abysmally INCOMPETENT. His excuse? "We've always done it this way...well, recently, anyway."

Dumbass.

Posted by: Julia Grey at October 1, 2003 03:20 PM | PERMALINK

To not hold those responsible to account is purely a failure of personal ethics..

I agree, and I'm more than than willing to hold whoever is responsible to account.

But I, and my fellow right wingers have already agreed with this!. What else do you want from us?

Posted by: Ron at October 1, 2003 03:23 PM | PERMALINK

Shorter Black Oak: Hey, look, Bill Clinton!

Posted by: Kynn at October 1, 2003 03:24 PM | PERMALINK

Every month or so they take out a full page ad with a big headline that says "The following people absolutely do not have covert job status at the CIA".

True, Roger, true. But the they also don't take out a full page ad saying who does have covert job status, either.

If one was aware that Plame was a CIA employee, and was likewise aware that this was "common knowledge" (within certain circles), why would it occur to one that this fact is a secret?

What if the CIA simply does a poor job keeping this sort of thing confidential? Perhaps the agency just doesn't jump though hoops trying to keep under wraps the status of former spies. CNN is reporting that Plame was indeed oversees at one point as a spy, but the story also implies she had been stateside for some time now. My impression (and I'm sure I'm not the only one) is that Plame's CIA job was one of the worst-kept secrets in Washington among insiders and elites.

What if the leaker simply had no idea Plame's status was "covert", but was indeed aware she works for the CIA, and furthermore thought she had an analyst job in WMD? Again, a number of aspects of this story strongly suggest this may be the case, notwithstanding her cover job as an energy analyst.

After all, if you knew "of" Plame (and her CIA job) but didn't know her personally, you likely never would have heard of her energy job "cover".

We may all find out otherwise, of course, but then again, we may not.

Posted by: P. B. Almeida at October 1, 2003 03:26 PM | PERMALINK

Ron, unfortunately you've got some trolls lolling about here and there, reducing the s/n ratio. Sometimes tough to separate wheat from chaff, is all.

Posted by: Issa at October 1, 2003 03:28 PM | PERMALINK

P.B., I've seen quite a lot of commentary and there seems to be a number of anecdotes floating around that actually she did maintain her cover. Do you have any refs other than the Clifford May piece?

Posted by: Issa at October 1, 2003 03:34 PM | PERMALINK

I try to be reasonable. I try to not resort to mud-slinging, but instead to have reasonable arguments. I tried earlier with this issue, and I am ashamed to admit that I was pulled down to the mud-slinging level.

If all us right wingers now look like trolls, maybe it isn't us.

Fortunately it is time for me to crawl back under my rock for the evening. I'll catch up in the morning.

Posted by: Ron at October 1, 2003 03:37 PM | PERMALINK

This may have been posted. Johnson or someone said Ms. Wilson started in 1985 or 1986, so he meant '80's, '90's and 00's. I have read somewhere she was abroad within the last 5 yrs. I think that one motive for it was to undermine the idea that Wilson's report was a "CIA report," which would have some cachet, but rather that this was just some guy whose wife worked for the Agency so they sent him. My supposition that it was Libby is based on the Timothy Noah 7/17/03 Slate article about who put the yellowcake back in the SOTU, confirmed by the USA Today article, which places him at the Non-Proliferation Center. Again, I can't stress too much that the issue isn't whether a law was broken in the technical sense, although that is important, but the fact that there are apparently high up folks here who engage in smear tactics without regard to the damage they might cause, politicize the intelligence process, refuse to alter their world view in light of actual facts, and who have led us into a very expensive and, to them, unexpectedly dangerous situation in Iraq. And who want to repeat the exercise in other countries.

Posted by: Mimikatz at October 1, 2003 03:44 PM | PERMALINK

Wilson was the former ambassador to Gabon, which I would be hard pressed to find on a map without some thought, and I love geography. I doubt very highly that he (or his wife) would be considered "among [the] insiders and elites" of Washington. More like a minor ex-diplomat who had some cool stories from living in Baghdad during the Gulf War. Most stories that have quoted people who were actually friends of the Wilsons, rather than Republican operatives, say that they honestly believed she worked as an energy analyst (and at this point, they would have nothing left to lose by saying that they knew all along she was CIA).

Posted by: Patience at October 1, 2003 03:50 PM | PERMALINK

Well for me the gray area is between (a) whether some fairly stringent requirements for a felony conviction can be met, and (b) what degree of actual damage to ongoing anti-WMD operations occurred.

In other words, actual damage to national security may have occurred, even if charges cannot be brought, nor a conviction obtained.

What then? Beyond the political theater?

Posted by: GeorgeG at October 1, 2003 03:50 PM | PERMALINK

"I try to be reasonable. I try to not resort to mud-slinging, but instead to have reasonable arguments. I tried earlier with this issue, and I am ashamed to admit that I was pulled down to the mud-slinging level.

If all us right wingers now look like trolls, maybe it isn't us.

Fortunately it is time for me to crawl back under my rock for the evening. I'll catch up in the morning.

Posted by Ron at October 1, 2003 03:37 PM"

I appreciate this. I admit I may have strolled into troll-land. I can't say how important it is to have open, honest discussion on all fronts. It will better all of us to discuss this reasonably.

Posted by: Spork at October 1, 2003 03:51 PM | PERMALINK

If the perpetraitor of this felony gets off because of the moronic "Duh!...I didn't know she was covert, so no harm, no foul." defense, then we really have become completely corrupt.

There will be no clearer demonstration that there is a different set of laws for white powerful people.

As Ben Franklin said on the last day of the Constitutional Convention, September 17th 1787,:
"…there is no form of Government but what may be a blessing to the people if well administered, and believe farther that this is likely to be well administered for a course of years, and can only end in Despotism, as other forms have done before it, when the people shall become so corrupted as to need despotic Government, being incapable of any other."

Posted by: Ras_Nesta at October 1, 2003 04:00 PM | PERMALINK

Do you have any refs other than the Clifford May piece?

Issa: I haven't even read the Clifford May piece. But for starters, I saw Novak about an hour or go on CNN. He's sticking to his story, and maintains that CIA sources told him Plame was (I'm paraphrasing) "just an analyst".

I know a lot of people may not be crazy about Novak, but I don't know that his credibility is at issue here. He's not naming sources (as well he should not) but at least he's willing to go on record about the details of his involvement in this story. Not EVERYBODY can be stupid enough to be lying on national television. He's always got the option of saying "I can't comment on that" if some aspect of the story arises on which he cannot truthfully comment.

Also, CNN (not Novak personally) was just reporting Plame was working stateside. I know the CIA is not supposed to engage in domestic espionage, so, that further suggests to me that, at the least, her status may have been ambiguous to those around her. Again, if you happened to know that Plame was a CIA employee but you yourself didn't have a security clearance (and so really you weren't suppposed to know she worked for the agency) how the heck would you know she possessed protected "covert" status?

It is indeed a fact (apparently) that Plame's employment at the CIA was under the "Operations Directorate" (or whatever the specific name of the hardcore "spooks" division is), thus giving her "protected" status. But if Novak's telling the truth about what his CIA source told him (namely, that she's "just an analyst") then this implies to me confusion even within the agency itself regarding her status. Or, at the very least it implies they don't have very good controls in place set up to guard against inadvertent beans-spilling of covert employees' staus.

I think this aspect of the story is key. I'm sure we'll find out more details with time.

Posted by: P. B. Almeida at October 1, 2003 04:04 PM | PERMALINK

This entire debate is fascinating on many levels. I don't understand the perspective of those who insist that it isn't a big deal; if the story is true, it is a big deal - quite possibly one of the worst betrayals of national security ever to come out of a presidential administration. Outing an agent is just something that you don't do, legal or not.

But at the same time, I don't understand the perspective of those who seem happy about it. If it's true, it's terribly sad - pathetic, really, in a way that nothing in national politics has been in a really long time.

I've been hoping that it wasn't true; the flurry of reports this week has me left believing that it must be. I cannot express how utterly disappointed in the administration that leaves me.

Posted by: aphrael at October 1, 2003 04:08 PM | PERMALINK

PB writes: "how the heck would you know she possessed protected "covert" status?"

I would think the White House, if not the government in general, would have policies about this sort of thing.

It would be rather odd for someone at that level of government to just assume a person at CIA is not covert.

Wouldn't standard practice more likely be to assume otherwise unless confirmed?

Posted by: Jon H at October 1, 2003 04:12 PM | PERMALINK

In other words, actual damage to national security may have occurred, even if charges cannot be brought, nor a conviction obtained.

What then? Beyond the political theater?

The bad guys win. The CIA and government employees realize that whistle-blowing is hopeless and that any resistance to the neocon program is futile and dangerous. OTOH, if you agree with their program, it's wonderful.

Posted by: Roger Bigod at October 1, 2003 04:14 PM | PERMALINK

"Wilson was the former ambassador to Gabon, which I would be hard pressed to find on a map without some thought, and I love geography."

Posted by: Patience at October 1, 2003 03:50 PM

From http://www.cia.gov/cia/publications/factbook/geos/gb.html#Geo:

"Natural resources:
petroleum, manganese, uranium, gold, timber, iron ore, hydropower"


Hhhhhhhhhmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm.

Gee, could there be a connection?
Perhaps, Wilson might have had some knowledge of
the African uranium mining industry and people?
Perhaps he spent some time in Iraq, in the 1980's,
and has some knowledge from there?

Posted by: Barry at October 1, 2003 04:22 PM | PERMALINK

Does this qualify as a Fisking?

Posted by: Dan at October 1, 2003 04:24 PM | PERMALINK

I know a lot of people may not be crazy about Novak, but I don't know that his credibility is at issue here.

Novak has no criminal liability. He won't be charged and is completely free to lie about checking on her status. The only difference it makes is that it makes him better. So he has an incentive to lie, with little chance of being found out.

Posted by: Roger Bigod at October 1, 2003 04:27 PM | PERMALINK

Whoa -- I think we leap to assume that the DOJ investigation proves that there is a prima facie case.

If we believe Woolsey there are about 50 investigations a year, they are routine, and there is a regular proceudre at the CIA for referring them to the DOJ.

If we believe Novak -- this was not a high level "red hot" referral, but a low level one.

I assume that the DOJ would know (or easily find out from the CIA) whether VP had been covert in the last 5 years.

I assume that the only way to find out whether the leaker knew this is to well, err, ...investigate?

But I do agree that the fact of the investigation would strongly imply that she has been covert in the last 5 years. And that is one element.

But.. it could easily be an innocent (not just legally but morally) statement by someone that she works for the CIA because he has no idea that she was once covert.

certianly I am a bit more impressed by the motive of "imply nepotism" to explain the bad (for the administration) appointment of Wilson to investigate, than the "this is revenge" motive.

Posted by: John at October 1, 2003 04:36 PM | PERMALINK

"it is still questionable whether the US was taking affirmative measure to conceal her current job status."

Not in the least. If you've been following the story, you know her "cover" was that she was working as an energy analyst for a private firm. She was still living under that "cover". That's sufficent. As long as she's living under a government-established cover, the government is taking affirmative measures to conceal her job status. It's not a high threshold.

Posted by: rea at October 1, 2003 04:37 PM | PERMALINK

Or, at the very least it implies they don't have very good controls in place set up to guard against inadvertent beans-spilling of covert employees' staus.

The controls were good enough to have worked for 50 years or so, until this administration decided to punish the CIA for political incorrectness.

Posted by: Roger Bigod at October 1, 2003 04:41 PM | PERMALINK

Novak has no criminal liability. He won't be charged and is completely free to lie about checking on her status.

Roger, there is that little matter of his professinal credibility, and his (no doubt lucrative) column writing gig for 300 newspapers. Again, I can imagine there might be things he wouldn't want to talk about, but, it seems to me that most adults go to great lengths to avoid lying. Novak's got plenty at stake.

Posted by: P. B. Almeida at October 1, 2003 04:44 PM | PERMALINK

The controls were good enough to have worked for 50 years or so, until this administration decided to punish the CIA for political incorrectness.

Roger: Really? Care to enlighten us with some statistics on how good the CIA's controls are? Numbers of covert employees? How many of them outed over the last 50 years? Is the number one the CIA considers acceptable? Unacceptable? What about family members? Are they kept in the dark successfully? Actually, don't waste your time here, you should be contacting WaPo.

Posted by: P. B. Almeida at October 1, 2003 04:53 PM | PERMALINK

From the standpoint of keeping the columns, Novak should lie. It makes him look like he was trying not to damage national security. But he may well be telling the truth. And it doesn't affect any of the important issues.

Posted by: Roger Bigod at October 1, 2003 05:00 PM | PERMALINK

John writes: "But.. it could easily be an innocent (not just legally but morally) statement by someone that she works for the CIA because he has no idea that she was once covert."

It wouldn't make any sense for White House staff to assume any CIA staffer was not covert. It would make more sense for there to be established policies that cover this sort of thing, and which would prevent the outing of a CIA asset.

At the very least you'd expect there to be a policy of never mentioning a CIA asset without checking with the CIA first.

"certianly I am a bit more impressed by the motive of "imply nepotism" to explain the bad (for the administration) appointment of Wilson to investigate, than the "this is revenge" motive."

Why would it be nepotism when Wilson has had CIA contacts since long before his wife even entered the CIA?

Wilson entered the Foreign Service in 1976. His wife entered the CIA in the mid-late 80s.

Anyone working in embassies abroad would have contact with CIA staff, whether they know it or not. Certainly by his 1988 posting to Baghdad he would have been dealing with CIA people; probably earlier than that.

Posted by: Jon H at October 1, 2003 05:01 PM | PERMALINK

Actually John, I believe that the number 50 a year refers to complaints by the CIA to the DoJ about leaks. I think they are very rarely elevated to the status of full-blown criminal investigation, apparently much to the frustration of the spooks. I could be wrong on this -- IANAS

(I Am Not A Spy)

Posted by: Issa at October 1, 2003 05:03 PM | PERMALINK

err, crap.

I misread what John was getting at. Sorry.

Well, anyone who does think Wilson got the job due to nepotism, read my post above.

Posted by: Jon H at October 1, 2003 05:03 PM | PERMALINK

Roger: Really? Care to enlighten us with some statistics on how good the CIA's controls are? Numbers of covert employees? How many of them outed over the last 50 years? Is the number one the CIA considers acceptable? Unacceptable? What about family members? Are they kept in the dark successfully? Actually, don't waste your time here, you should be contacting WaPo.

The number outed isn't large. Cases come up every few years. But the ones I know of are deliberate, like Agee's outing of multiple agents. The number outed because someone was mistaken about the distinction between open and covert is, AFAIK, zero.

Posted by: Roger Bigod at October 1, 2003 05:33 PM | PERMALINK

Re: 'And isn't the fact that this whole sordid episode was launched "purely and simply for revenge" against a minor political nuisance pretty revealing about the fundamental ruthlessness of the Bush White House political operation?'

---
What a brilliant piece of deductive reasoning. Bush's White House (which is obviously _the_ culprit) is fundamentally ruthless. HENCE, it blows the cover of a critic's wife for revenge. Makes sense to me!

What possible gain could this type of "revenge" bring? If I am a villainous Bushie and want to get back at Wilson IV for publishing a pissed off op-ed in the Times, wouldn't there be 1,000 other ways to go about this, all of them less public, less tracable, and more hurtful? Ones that did not involve shooting my own intelligence agencies (on whom I rely) in the foot?

Funny how your political enemies are the most brilliant connivers, or the most bumbling savages, depending on the preferred conclusion.

Posted by: Pliny at October 1, 2003 06:46 PM | PERMALINK

Black oak, you seem to think that anyone who supported Clinton is thereby disqualified from criticizing Bush. Hmm. Does it work the other way, as well? You can't defend Bush against his opponents unless you also defended Clinton? You can't criticize Bush-bashing unless you criticized Clinton-bashing equally?

Look, it's a fact of life that we are all biased in one way or another, and that we notice the speck in another's eyes and ignore the log in our. Yeah, yeah. We all know that.

But Clinton is really not the issue here. The issue is whether the "outing" of Valerie Plame is a serious legal and ethical breech, and if so, who is guilty. Maybe Clinton arranged to have Buddy (his dog) assasinated to prevent him from selling his story to Regnery, but how is that relevant?

Posted by: Daryl McCullough at October 1, 2003 06:52 PM | PERMALINK

"It wouldn't make any sense for White House staff to assume any CIA staffer was not covert. It would make more sense for there to be established policies that cover this sort of thing, and which would prevent the outing of a CIA asset."

Hmmm. What would that policy be? Seems to me things become rather paradoxical. Does CIA employment become sort of like sex in Victorian England-- evryone knows it is there but no one talks about it?

Posted by: John at October 1, 2003 07:04 PM | PERMALINK

To Reg, who keeps finding ways to disbelieve the obvious.

There cannot be a criminal investigation if in fact she was not covert. Her lack of status would preclude an investigation. There would be nothing to investigate because there could not be a violation of law. Now, isn't it obvious that she was covert because the CIA and the Justice Dept., which must know the truth of her status, are proceeding with the criminal investigation? HOw could the CIA credibly refer the matter for prosecution if she was not covert? Why would Justice move forward if she was not covert? Isn't this fairly obvious? How can you see any credibility in the canard that "she was not covert"? And once you realize that it is impossible to maintain this nonsense, isn't also obvious that those who continue to peddle this nonsense are apologists at best (stooges at worst).

Posted by: DMBeaster at October 1, 2003 09:30 PM | PERMALINK

I think that those who peddle this nonsense could be worse than stooges. I'll go with George, Sr. and call them insidious traitors. After all, they are becoming accessories to the crime. It's win at all costs all the time for Bush, Rove, reg, and their ilk.

Posted by: elliottg at October 2, 2003 05:10 AM | PERMALINK

Query:

The WaPo's anonymous source and Michael Novak seem to be in pretty clear conflict.

The WaPo's anonymous source said that the two people spreading this tory called 6 reporters.

Have any of those reporters come forward and said "yes, I was contacted"?

Posted by: John at October 2, 2003 05:52 AM | PERMALINK

Actually there are several reasons for going ahead with the investigation regardless of Ms. Wilson's vert status.

1) It maintains the ambiguity as to her job. She is not, nor ever can be covert ever again, but what the heck does she do?

2) It would be political suicide for either Bush or Tenet to stop the investigation. Many of the ones claiming the fact the investigation is going on is proof of her covertness, will be the first to scream cover-up if Tenet or DoJ came out and said "she ain't covert, so no crime was committed"

3) There is the question how did the source know she worked at CIA? If the leaker found out on the cocktail circuit, no crime. If the leaker found out while handling classified material, then and only then do you have a crime. Again this is true regardless of her vert status.

4) The media attention does shine a spotlight on Mr. Wilson and what appears to be a rather shoddy job of investigating the uranium story.

One last point. Novak knows who the leaker is. Once Novak turns him in, this thing can be settled in 5 minutes. And there are some reporters who know who tried to leak to them. But none of these news types is fessing up, and so we have this nice mystery that only the public does not know who the leaker is, and whether it is a leak or not.

Come on Bob, Andrea, fess up. I am getting tired of this sideshow

Posted by: ben at October 2, 2003 06:43 AM | PERMALINK

I just love the casual sliming of Wilson, with no basis for the sliming. From today's New York Times:

Officials said on Wednesday that sending Mr. Wilson to Niger in February 2002 to investigate the leads reflected a belief that the uranium report was not serious enough to warrant starting more ambitious clandestine information gathering.

"The D.O. thought this smelled," an official said about the Directorate of Operations, the espionage arm of the agency. "Rather than waste a lot of time and collect on this caper, this was a way to find out quickly if it merited more effort."

The agency turned to Mr. Wilson because of his contacts in Niger, where he had worked. He has said that Ms. Plame did not make the decision to send him. She is an operations officer in the counterproliferation division of the Operations Directorate. The division conducts clandestine operations that involve unconventional weapons in countries like Iran, Iraq and North Korea.

Wilson did exactly what he was supposed to do. He used his contacts and his experience to look into whether it was credible that such a large quantity of enriched uranium could be surreptitiously redirected to Iraq. His conclusion, supported by two other investigators at the time, was that it could not.

In short, Wilson did exactly what he was supposed to do, carried out exactly the investigation he was supposed to carry out, and had the results of his investigation corroborated by two other investigators. Moreover, he did this without pay.

And for this, he is now being excoriated for doing a "shoddy job," by the likes of Ben. This is disgusting.

Posted by: PaulB at October 2, 2003 09:36 AM | PERMALINK

Ben wrote: "Actually there are several reasons for going ahead with the investigation regardless of Ms. Wilson's vert status."

Your little analysis is moot, Ben. The CIA confirmed in their memo to the DoJ requesting the investigation that she was covert.

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