July 11, 2004

The TPM Defense: "Splainin" or Spinning?

Josh Marshall: "I'll dispense with the literary prologue and get right to the point."

The point?

Don't like the story? Well, trash the journalist who wrote it.

Here's Marshall:

Susan Schmidt is known, happily among DC Republicans and not so happily among DC Democrats, as what you might call the "Mikey" (a la Life Cereal fame) of the DC press corps, especially when the cereal is coming from Republican staffers.

Wow, that's pretty inside baseball and I'm just a lawyer over here in far-away London.

But I will say one thing.

TPM's trash the messenger approach sounds straight out of "Big Time" Dick Cheney's playbook, huh?

Classy. (Btw, don't miss Josh's, er, slightly different tone about a prior WaPo story dealing with l'affaire Plame...)

And, let's remember--it's the Washington Times that's the conservative paper in town, folks.

Note too, of course, this whole Plame/Wilson story is pretty sensitive given all the legal going-ons and such.

You think WaPo Exec Editor Leonard Downie Jr. might have vetted Schmidt's piece for accuracy?

Of course he did.

But he's doubtless noshing on all the G.O.P. 'cereal' too....probably just "run(ning) with what [he] got from the majority committee staffer who gave [him] the spin."

But let's get to the substance of Marshall's post, shall we?

First, Josh writes:

The claim with regards to the back-and-forth was always that the CIA struggled to get the uranium references out of the October 2002 Cincinnati speech and then failed to do so -- though why presicely is less clear -- when the same folks at the White House tried again to get it into the 2003 State of the Union address.

Josh quotes some language from the SSCI report on Niger to try to support his claim; but he doesn't quote this part on p. 49 (warning: PDF)

In a written response to questions from Committee Staff, the White House said that on September 11, 2002, National Security Council Staff (NSC) contacted the CIA to clear language for possible use by the President. The language cleared by the CIA said: "Iraq has made several to buy high strength aluminum tubes used in centrifuges to enrich uranium for nuclear weapons. And we also know this: within the past few years, Iraq has resumed efforts to obtain large quantities of a type of uranium oxide known as yellowcake, which is an essential ingredient of this process. The regime was caught trying to buy 500 metric tons of this material. It takes about 10 tons to produce enough enriched uranium for a single nuclear weapon.

So what, you say. No mention of Africa, right?

Wrong.

P. 51, another statement cleared by the C.I.A., and I quote:

"...we also have intelligence that Iraq has sought large amounts of uranium and uranium oxide, known as yellowcake, from Africa."

Josh, why didn't you point us to this language in the report too?

After all, the crux of the issue is simply whether Bush's infamous 16 words in the SOTU were a purposeful lie or not (aside, of course, from whether Iraq was actually trying to get uranium from Niger or not--an issue Marshall doesn't appear to care too much about--so consumed is he on trying to land a 'gotcha' scoop on the forgery story):

Here they are again: "The British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa."

Hell, Bush didn't even have to say it was the British govt.

He could have said it was his own (courtesy of Langley).

P.66:

On January 28th, 2003 the President noted in his State of the Union that "...the British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa." At the time the President delivered the State of the Union address, no one in the IC [intelligence community] had asked anyone in the White House to remove the sentence from the speech. CIA nuclear analysts and the Director of WINPAC told committee staff that at the time of the State of the Union, they still believed that Iraq was probably seeking uranium from Africa, and they continued to hold that belief until the IAEA reported that the documents were forgeries.

Now the forgeries are a whole other issue, and I'll have more on that another time (including the 'fruit of the poisonous tree' ("FOPT") argument Marshall is, er, marshalling for going forward use...).

But, for today, I think you'll agree, the bipartisan SSCI report flat out debunks the Bush lied meme.

I mean, doesn't it?

Now, on the whole matter of whether Plame recommended hubbie for the Niger mission.

Let's visit the TPM archives for a golden oldie with Joe Wilson.

Joe Wilson:

For those who would assert that somehow she was involved in this, it just defies logic. At the time, she was the mother of two-year-old twins. Therefore, sort of sending her husband off on an eight-day trip leaves her with full responsbility for taking care of two screaming two-year-olds without help, and anybody who is parent would understand what that means. Anybody who is a mother would understand it even far better. Secondly, I mean, the notion somehow that this was some nepotism, that I was being sent on an eight-day, all-expense-paid--no salary, mind you--trip to the Sahara desert. This is not Nassau we were talking about. This is not the Bahamas. It wasn't Maui. This was the Sahara desert. And then, the only other thing I can think of is the assertion that she wanted me out of the way for eight days because she, you know, had a lover or something, which is, you don't take lovers when you have two year old kids at home. So there's no logic in it.

I won't embarrass Joe Wilson by dissecting how hugely lame the above is.

It's very, very obvious just how breathtakingly pas a la hauteur it all is.

It would be risible, if it weren't so sad, really.

Note too, of course, that Wilson never quite gets around to flat-out categorically saying "no"--my wife wasn't involved in putting me up for the Niger mission (at least in this TPM interview).

Note instead all the obfuscatory bolded language--"no logic in it", "it just defies logic" etc.

A good investigative reporter, therefore, might have pressed him harder on this point --especially given all the diversionary absurdities about the kiddies, lack of extra-marital high-jinks, and that we're talking the Sahara and not Harbor Island.

But regardless, how do all of Wilson's protestations square with the SSCI report?

Not well.

Not well at all, I'm afraid.

The CPD reports that officer told Committee staff that the former Ambassador's wife "offered up his name" and a memorandum to the Deputy Chief of the CPD on February 12, 2002, from the former Ambassador's wife says: "my husband has good relations with both the PM and the former Minister of Mines (not to mention lots of French contacts), both of whom could shed light on this kind of activity.

Don't miss this part either:

The former Ambassador's wife told Commitee Staff that when CPD decided it would like to send the former Ambassdor to Niger, she approached her husband on behalf of the CIA and told him "there's this crazy report" on a purported deal for Niger to sell uranium to Iraq.

You know, defending Joe Wilson's credibility right now is kinda like defending Ahmad Chalabi's.

It's a losing hand.

It's not just that the odds are stacked in favor of the dealer--it's that one can't even put together a full hand because Wilson's credibility is eroding at such lightning speed.

Put differently (all together now): you gotta know when to hold 'em; know when to fold 'em; know when to walk away....know when to run....

Note: Josh addresses the whole legal 'outing' issue too (see Jonah Goldberg and Pej on that.)

I'll have more on all this soon; ie. the FOTP issue...

UPDATE: Don't miss this veritable Plameapolooza over at Tom Maguire's space.

Posted by Gregory at July 11, 2004 11:48 PM
Comments

Good job. You will enjoy another part of the same interview (p. 19 of the .pdf), which I used as the basis for my post (pretty darn subtle hint, that).

Here we go, highlights only:

WILSON: ...Now, I think I mentioned to you earlier the context in which my trip was initially discussed, and I will tell you that at the meetings it was discussed, and at the meeting where it was proposed that I go out there, there was nobody at that meeting that I knew.

Ahh. What did the Senate report say on p. 40?

On February 19, 2002, CPD hosted a meeting with the former ambassador, intelligence analysts from both the CIA and INR, and several individuals from DO's Africa and CPD divisions. The purpose of the meeting was to discuss the merits of the former ambassador traveling to Niger. An INR analyst's notes indicate that the meeting was "apparently convened by [the former ambassador's wife] who had the idea to dispatch [him] to use his contacts to sort out the Iraq-Niger uranium issue." **The former ambassador's wife told Committee staff that she only attended the meeting to introduce her husband and left after about three minutes."**

Perhaps she was in her deep-cover disguise, and he didn't recognize her. Or he forgot...

I posted here:

http://justoneminute.typepad.com/main/2004/07/backfill_on_jos.html

Posted by: Tom Maguire at July 12, 2004 04:26 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

What's the significance of footnote 6 on page 47?

Posted by: Irving at July 12, 2004 04:58 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Gregory:

Nice dissection. It must be a residual from the two terms of Clinton, but I smelled Wilson a mile away. The "nuanced" language, the "what is, is" and the "its all about me" symptoms were prevalent from the outset.

The substantive questions:

1. Will Joe Wilson be required to appear before a grand jury?

2. When will Richard Clarke be held to account, after stating that someone in the FBI was responsible for flying the binLadens out post 9/11 and then fessing up that he was soley responsible.

Posted by: Capt America at July 12, 2004 07:17 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Marshall is a political hack. Granted, he isn't as bad as Joe Conason or his brethern on the right like Sean Hannity, for example; but he is, in a word, dishonest.

Posted by: Craig at July 12, 2004 12:09 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

The truth doesn't change when new facts come to light. TPM has been spinning in the mire for a while. TPM is now covered in mud, and discredited for what it is.

Posted by: moptop at July 12, 2004 12:58 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Greg - outstanding. Thank-you.

Cap - Exactly. But, Oh! the Grand political theater that it made. Where were you in the the Summer of 2003. Those electric days -Why, the magazine sales alone surely excuse the peddlers of any wrong doing...

Craig? Do you have time for a sidebar?

Posted by: Art at July 12, 2004 01:04 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Regarding footnote 6 on page 47:
It supports the CIA Iraq nuclear analystÕs assessments that:
1. Iraq wanted to procure uranium from Africa, and
2. Niger could possibly supply it.

The parentheses at the beginning of the footnote designate the footnoteÕs classification. Given the number of letters blacked out, the classification must include some sort of restricted distribution / special handling / no foreign dissemination caveats. In other words, the analystÕs supporting information came from a variety of sources that the report writers were able to verify and appropriately classify.

On another point, we don't know that Wilson has not appeared before a grand jury. He'd have to announce it for us to know, no?

Posted by: The Kid at July 12, 2004 01:28 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Well, I guess they can claim their support for capitalism and pusuit of the mighty dollar excuses the lies.

Posted by: Lord Whorfin at July 12, 2004 01:29 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

My beef with Marshall in this whole thing is that he's mischaracterized Mikey by implication. The point of Mikey, or so his brothers say in the ad, is this: "He won't eat it." "Yeah, he hates everything." But he *does* like Life cereal...because it's *good*!! Marshall needs to get his metaphors straight. This slur on Mikey will not stand!

Posted by: John Lilly at July 12, 2004 02:13 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Having read several discussions of this issue, I would conclude that 1) Wilson was recruited/recommended to go on this mission by his wife, 2) his wife primed him by describing the event under investigation as a "crazy idea", 3) despite confirmation by other intelligence agencies the CIA accepted Wilson's analysis that there was no truth to the accusation (even though Wilson admits that his source in Niger confirmed Iraq had sent reps to Niger looking for yellowcake).

At this point I have two questions:

- Did Wilson lie when he reported back to the CIA or did he tell them exactly what his source told him, i.e., that his source had been approached by an Iraqi about trade and his source assumed it was about uranium?

- Was Wilson's wife involved in the analysis that led the CIA to conclude there was no truth to the accusation about Iraq/Niger?

Posted by: Daniel at July 12, 2004 02:13 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

John Lilly is, of course, exactly right.
Culture matters, and if we can't even get these guys like these to get their "oh-so-clever" retro, Miller-esque quips right, why should we believe anything else they write?

Posted by: Art at July 12, 2004 04:17 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Nice back and forth.

However, whether you like Wilson or think he is a lying insufferable blowhard, outing a CIA agent is illegal. Period.


Here is a post that says it better than I can from NR's the Corner
Quoting from www.nationareview.com/thecorner/corner.asp ...

"From another reader:

Jonah- Not to be a negative Nancy here, but legally speaking (and contra your correspondent), the mens rea term of "intent" speaks to the actus reus element of the agent's cover being blown and nothing else. So as long as you intended for that result to happen (and you satisfy the other elements of the crime, namely knowing that Plame was covert), it doesn't matter if it was because you really hated them and wanted them dead, or because you wanted to demonstrate that their husband was a clown, or because you think they're just a fantastic government agent and you want them to get accolades for their accomplished service. The intent element is still satisfied. And while your correspondent makes the point that the "screw her husband" intent is more morally culpable than the "you can't take this clown seriously" intent, the fact that the latter intent isn't as bad as the former isn't a defense to the charge that the latter intent is still a crime. You can't defend a manslaughter charge by arguing that it wasn't murder. (You could, but it wouldn't have much traction in front of a judge). Of course, the reason Marshall suddenly cares so much about statutory construction is that his political argument just fell apart. So he's still full of it, but he's right legally. Your reader, [Name withheld] "

Hmmm, funny how y'all are the 'rule of law' guys until it touches this administration.

See you when the indictments come down .....

Posted by: aburns at July 12, 2004 04:22 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

I'm not sure why the fact that the CIA cleared the Africa statements is being presented as some kind of gotcha on Marshall. Isn't that what he said?

"The claim with regards to the back-and-forth was always that the CIA struggled to get the uranium references out of the October 2002 Cincinnati speech and then failed to do so -- though why presicely is less clear -- when the same folks at the White House tried again to get it into the 2003 State of the Union address."

I think the "failed to do so" is intended to mean that, for reasons unknown, the CIA failed to struggle - not that it struggled but failed to succeed.

As far as Wilson's wife goes - you note that he never comes out and says that she didn't send him. I would suppose that people whose wives are undercover CIA operatives develop a habit of speaking circumspectly about this sort of thing. I mean, if you ask a CIA agent if they're a CIA agent, and they say no, is their credibility destroyed?

Posted by: drosophilo melanogaster III at July 12, 2004 05:34 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Well, apparently you took the bait :-)

Posted by: penney at July 12, 2004 07:16 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Gregory, and others - a text version, searchable version of the Senate report is available at an MIT website. Don't tell Andrew or he will crash their server!

http://web.mit.edu/simsong/www/iraqreport2-textunder.pdf

Posted by: Tom Maguire at July 12, 2004 07:46 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

>Susan Schmidt is known...pretty inside baseball...

Hmmm. I'm not even near the loop and I know to look for Ms. Schmidt's articles. She's the Judith Miller of the WaPo. She's made some pretty serious mistakes over the last ten years--god knows why the WaPo hasn't fired her--and all of her "mistakes" benefit the GOP.

Picking on Mashall's put down of Schmidt is like picking on Instapudit for calling Michael Moore a liberal.

Posted by: no. 6 pencil at July 12, 2004 08:08 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Hmmm.

Ok.

1. Why did Valerie Plame *want* to send Joe Wilson to Niger for weeks? From his account it wasn't for any personal reasons, yet there has to be a reason doesn't there? From my point of view it would either have to be political or economic.

So he was engineered to go to Niger to either earn money for the family accounts or he was sent there as the initial step in a CIA's insider political operation.

Either way it's extremely questionable in both ethical and legal ways.


2. Ok. So you're a dictator, a tyrant and a maniac. You've got loads of cash an a burning itch to have your own nuke. So where *do* you go to get yellowcake? How many sources are there that aren't in Africa? And how many of these non-African sources are shady and corrupt enough that you could purchase the yellowcake without either tripping over regulators or investigators?

Anyone?


3. Since when does a major US government agency allow a verbal only report? I've done contract work for the US Army and I had to write reports when attending local meetings!


4. "However, whether you like Wilson or think he is a lying insufferable blowhard, outing a CIA agent is illegal. Period."

Actually that's incorrect. The question is whether or not Valerie Plame was a covert agent when she was outed. The facts uncovered so far indicates that she wasn't covert and was in fact working as staff analyst at the CIA headquarters. If this is true then no law was broken. Which might explain why nobody has bothered to question Robert Novak about this. If a law had been broken you'd think the very first action would be to arrest Robert Novak and wring the information out of him.

*shrug* So I guess we'll be waiting a long time for those indictments. Funny thing to me is that other people have outed covert agents with no actions taken. Then again that person was a Democratic Congressman so what the hell.

Frankly what amazes me more than anything is that the Democratic Party, an organization that has hated and feared the CIA for forty years, has now embraced the CIA.

It's not that I don't like Democrats. It's just that they're completely out of their minds.

Posted by: ed at July 12, 2004 08:18 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

However, whether you like Wilson or think he is a lying insufferable blowhard, outing a CIA agent is illegal. Period.

And as we all know, the guiding principles of the left are truth, justice, and, uh, the convenience of the CIA. Vigorous debate that attempts to explore Wilson's qualifications be damned.

I have a very hard time believing that a conviction for outing a CIA agent would be upheld by an appeals court. There is such a thing as free speech.

Posted by: Floyd McWilliams at July 12, 2004 08:21 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Floyd,

It's only illegal if that the intent was to out her. Now it seems clear it was part of a rebuttal to Wilson's argument that he was unbiased.

Posted by: Dave at July 12, 2004 08:56 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

It appears to me that the CIA has developed many of the same problems as the State Department. It's become a self-perpetuating entity that serves its own interests, not necessarily those of the country or administration its supposed to be serving. Like State, it seems to sometimes have more sympathies with the 'international community' than with the US.

Posted by: ronnie schreiber at July 12, 2004 09:57 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

"The facts uncovered so far indicates that she wasn't covert and was in fact working as staff analyst at the CIA headquarters"

Patently untrue. This is Novak's defense and it has been debunked. She was covert and had been for quite a while.

And it does not matter why you wanted to out her. If they (Whitehouse officials) purposely outed her knowing she was a CIA agent then they broke the law. It is a pretty common sense law. Not a good thing to reveal a security asset of the United States (their competency and politics aside) .....

These arguments are starting to sound down right Clintonian. You can attack the accuser all you want and hey, maybe you'll score a few points ....

But it won't change the fact that the law was broken.

If they indict someone in the Whitehouse - it will be funny to see all the smoke and mirrors you conservative bloggers throw up. I thought the Clintonistas were good at this. You guys put them to shame.

Posted by: aburns at July 12, 2004 10:15 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Why on earth would the CIA be trying to get the uranium reference out of the speech if Wilson had confirmed it?

This doesn't make any sense. I'll have to read the PDF, perhaps that'll clear it up.

In any case, yellowcake is a long way from a bomb AND Iraq already had tons of yellowcake which the CIA knew about (according to Marshall.)

"Yellowcake from Niger" is just as weak a case for war as the rest of the Administration's presentation was. It's scary to an imaginative fearful audience who's unclear on the facts (and post-9/11, that tends to include a lot of us.)

I wanted war with Iraq, but even at the time of Colin Powell's presentation, the case for WMD seemed pretty weak.

For example, how did the 'aluminum tube' thing get into the Administration's bloodstream? No nuclear engineer ever said, "These are for centrifuges..."

http://webexhibits.org/bush/9.html

Everything you ever wanted to know about Iraq, aluminum tubes, and centrifuges:

http://www.isis-online.org/publications/iraq/aluminumtubes.html

the wesson

Posted by: TheWesson at July 12, 2004 10:27 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

OK, I scanned the relevant pages of the PDF.

The information that Joe Wilson turned up was:
1) Nigerian officials denied any agreement with Iraq to transfer yellowcake.
2) They admitted the possibility existed of some unofficial arrangement, but ...
3) They and many other people thought this would be difficult given the French control over the mines.
4) The Iraqis had approached a Nigerian minister with a proposal to "extend trade relations" which the *minister* thought meant that they would like to acquire yellowcake.

So here's the distortion of intelligence:
The Italian documents (thought at the time to be dubious and later found to be forged) plus this report that the Iraqis had contacted a Nigerian minister for 'trade' and been rejected plus some foreign intelligence source ("500 tons") = "Saddam has been trying to purchase uranium from Niger."

Undoubtedly Joe Wilson was miffed that his analysis ("no uranium from Niger to Iraq") was rejected - although talking to various government officials in Niger hardly constitutes a thorough investigation.

Also, Joe Wilson did not originally know about the Italian forgery (where the names were wrong etc) and should not have said that he did. He may have mistaken knowledge gathered from the news for his own personal knowledge.

The English source (or some foreign government source) for "Iraq trying to acquire 500 tons of yellowcake" is said to be something different from the Italian forgery. Don't know what right now. Should investigate.

the wesson

Posted by: TheWesson at July 12, 2004 10:55 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

I'd like to get Mr. Djerejian, Mr. Reynolds and Mr. Goldberg on the record about this ....

If, and I emphasize if, it turns out that Valerie Plame was a covert agent (irregardless of Best of the Web thinking you can't be covert and have had children. !?!) and it turns out that the a high ranking White House official outed her for whatever reason, then ... is that serious? Is that a violation of the law?

Posted by: aburns at July 12, 2004 10:59 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

> She's the Judith Miller of the WaPo.

Hey, No 6. I'm interested in your "inside baseball" on just what "value" (i.e., spin) she added to a relatively straightforward description of Jos Wilson's place in the Senate report.

Let's face it. I doubt Wilson's publisher will be making room for quotes from that report on the cover of the next edition of "The Politics of Truth" (assuming, for a moment, that there is one).

What a great name for his book, in retrospect.

Posted by: Bob Kunz at July 12, 2004 11:06 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Apparently the State Department's intelligence service strongly disagreed with the "500 tons" claim, too.

Timetable of WMD/uranium/Niger claims:

http://abcnews.go.com/sections/world/US/uranium030714_timeline.html

Hmm, the "500 tons" DOES seem to refer to the Italian forgery:

http://observer.guardian.co.uk/politics/story/0,6903,1248270,00.html

> Al-Zahawie's name also appears as a signatory of documents addressed to Niger diplomats in Rome, confirming a deal whereby Iraq would purchase 500 tons of uranium 'yellow cake' ore. These documents have proved to be forgeries and accepted as fakes by Washington and the IAEA.

So Italian forgery + a visit by Iraq's Vatican ambassador to four African countries including Niger = "Iraq is trying to acquire yellowcake from Africa."

>'It's perfectly reasonable to assume that the Iraqis weren't interested in Niger's millet or sorghum, but it's a real leap of faith to say that, through this visit, Iraq was seeking to purchase significant quantities of uranium from Niger,' Wilson said. 'It's not even circumstantial evidence.'

the wesson

Posted by: TheWesson at July 12, 2004 11:09 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

"1. Why did Valerie Plame *want* to send Joe Wilson to Niger for weeks? From his account it wasn't for any personal reasons, yet there has to be a reason doesn't there? From my point of view it would either have to be political or economic."

Maybe she thought it was an important job that he was uniquely qualified to do? "Hey, we need to find out something in Niger..." "Oh, Joe knows those guys." Nah.

Look, I'm not completely uncritical of Wilson. Even the Daily Howler is on his case about some stuff - particularly the way he keeps acting like his trip to Niger disproved Bush's general claim about "Africa", when that's clearly impossible, as Niger is not all of Africa. But you just wrote a sentence that appears to assume that any non-venal motivation cannot be considered as a possibility, for reasons you don't explain. When you go to sleep tonight and find yourself with your arm around Michael Moore in a dream, think about that instead of asking God why.

Posted by: drosophilo melanogaster III at July 12, 2004 11:49 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

The Wesson Š
It would be better if you used the SIC report as a basis for your research and claims Š some of the sources you cite are tainted. For example, the ABC News timeline entry for June 12, 2003 cites a WaPo article for which the SIC report names Wilson as the source. The ambassador was a busy little bee, pollinating with wild abandon.

aburns Š
What really makes sense is that a White House source did tell Novak that Plame worked for the CIA, but the sourceÕs knowledge came from the society / mover-shaker scene, or possibly from some mention in the hallway that WilsonÕs wife at CIA sent him, not from any knowledge of CIA covert operators or that she had been one. (The role of covert personnel is rather well compartmented and difficult to discern.)

Novak had to ask why the administration would send a known partisan on such a mission and likely got the response that the administration didnÕt know about the mission until it was over, that the CIA had dispatched Wilson because his wife recommended that he go, and his wife worked in non-proliferation at the agency.

Posted by: The Kid at July 13, 2004 01:43 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

It is certainly interesting and eye-opening from a left-liberal Canadian perspective to follow these events. All that I can conclude at this point, though, is that while Marshall may have been hasty, or dishonest, in emphasizing the legality of the Plame affair, there was still one inarguable misdeed committed by a "high-ranking official": a CIA agent's identity was revealed. Whether or not she was covert in the James Bond-style that I envision covertness as, she was, as an agent that had been in the field within the past five years, legally classified as a covert agent, and thus a law, or at least a guideline, was circumvented or broken by disclosing her identity. It doesn't matter if she is currently an operative; what matters is that her (former?) contacts in the Middle East and Africa, who may have been seen in public with her during her active days in the field, have had their safety jeopardized for cooperating with an American agent. So two things are ultimately clear, other than the obvious fact that Wilson fancied himself a media darling from the get-go and inflated his claims:

1) Foreigners will be further dissuaded from cooperating with CIA intel people: something as asinine as petty retributional Stateside politics may cause some bitter vindictive group/individual to out their contact;

2) As Marshall is now stressing, the fact remains that someone told Robert Novak that Valerie Plame was a CIA agent. Whether or not this was illegal, it was certainly petty. Why didn't the White House take the high ground and attack Wilson's character, rather than attempt to involve his wife in the affair? Whoever is behind the disclosure of Plame's identity may or may not be legally culpable, depending on what her official operative status was, but they must be made publicly accountable. You can't have such a rabidly petty individual operating with the public trust in hand, and thus the public must determine what their punishment must be. (Of course, following the media frenzy, they will be fired or forced to resign, but if you have a problem with that then you have a problem with public accountability.) Conservatives are supposed to get really excited when the public trust is abused by elected officials (or snivelling hangers-on like Karl Rove); thus, in the interest of maintaining a semblance of balance, perhaps the right-leaning critics of Marshall would care to devote more than a sentence to the violation of law/protocol by someone with enough authority to legitimately be considered a public menace?

Anyways, keep up the dialogue, as our own national public discourse is frightfully boring north of the border.

Posted by: Marfew at July 13, 2004 02:54 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Whether you like Wilson or not, these accusations that he is a liar are pure GOP spin.

If Plame simply volunteered her husband's name and outlined his qualifications to the CIA team, it hardly contradicts his statements that she didn't really want him to go or that she was even in a position to make the decision. And if it wasn't her decision, the charges of nepotism and political agenda are totally baseless.

Posted by: kis at July 13, 2004 06:41 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

For a leftist, Kis, you're not very good at conspiracy theories...(g)

But seriously - do you not see the conflict of interest in a government officer saying: " Hey, I know - Why don't we send my husband?"

Come now.

Posted by: Art at July 13, 2004 10:03 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

I think Josh Marshall has a good suggestion in one of his latest posts - if the outing (or whatever it was) of Valerie Plame is so all-fired AOK and hunky-dory and totally legal, why don't Novak's sources make themselves known? Why not save the law enforcement resources being spent on this (entirely pointless, you're telling me) investigation? Or could this still have them the teeniest bit worried? Hmm?

Posted by: Richard Riley at July 13, 2004 10:11 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

no, i don't see the conflict of interest. spell it out for me. did plame personally have the authority to make the decision to send wilson, or did she just recommend him? it seems to be the latter. if you refer a friend or relative to a job opening at your company, is that a conflict of interest? the CIA was free to choose not to use him.

and beyond that, what personal benefit did they accrue from wilson's going on the trip? i haven't seen anyone explain that either. it was unpaid. i already pointed out to ed upthread who was racking his brain for what angle they could have been working that, absent some kind of evidence either way, maybe he might want to at least consider the possibility that they weren't.

Posted by: drosophilo melanogaster III at July 13, 2004 11:19 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

dmel;
answer: nep*o*tism (nep'ehtiz'm)n. favoritism shown to reelatives, esp. in appointment to desirable positions.

editorial: Do we really need to start linking to government rules regarding federal office-holders, or can you just conceed the point so that we can move on...(moveon?)...because I'd really rather not work that hard on this.

Query: What potential life-altering event (for aging boomer plutocrats on 'the outs') is (still) scheduled to happen in November?

How do you like me so far?

Posted by: Art W at July 14, 2004 12:46 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

ItÕs conceivable Joe Wilson did not know his wife had twice fielded him job leads. He may have believed that his consultancy work and prior experience in the State Department carried weight among those he met. I imagine he socialized with her colleagues who would be in a position to make the decision to retain his services. It may have never occurred to him that she pitched his services and she may have never thought to mention it.

Although the assignment was unpaid, he does accrue intangible benefits as contacts within the agency may lend themselves to his consultancy work. If he had previously done business in Niger, a second trip, all expenses paid, would allow him to renew those contacts. If he markets himself as expert on the Middle East and Africa, seeking out those contacts is important. If he lectures, sits on panels and writes articles, these business trips and contacts will embellish his perceived expertise.

Posted by: nicole at July 14, 2004 01:43 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Conceivable? Yes. But "infinitely improbable" (to borrow from Adams) is what your searching for here.

Well argued - now ask yourseld this, Nicole: What level of infinite improbability must you reach in order to believe that the Plame's never discussed their busy days in bed together.

Surely you eventually figured out, as did I, how your diabolical misdeeds were found out the next morning, despite your absolute certainty that although mother was upset, thankfully dad was busy at work...

Posted by: Art W at July 14, 2004 03:02 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

look, i'm sorry, but a definition of nepotism doesn't explain to me what specifically the conflict of interest was here. plame didn't "appoint" wilson to anything. she referred him. it makes a big difference. giving your husband a job is nepotism. introducing him to other people who give him a job is networking.

i'll buy that the mission carried certain intangible benefits, even though unpaid, as per nicole. but it seems clear that wilson knew plame had something to do with him getting the job, since the report says she hung around the meeting for three minutes to introduce him. my question is just whether wilson was free to talk about it at the time he talked to TPM, etc. - right after plame's cover was blown, admitting that she was involved in sending him on the trip would be admitting that she was indeed CIA, which - the horse may have left the barn, but wilson clearly didn't want to confirm it publicly. neither did CIA for that matter.

Posted by: drosophilo melanogaster III at July 14, 2004 03:54 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

dmel;
"neither did the CIA, for that matter". Agreed. And you're kind enough to be polite. "Neither did the CIA, for some reason" I'd say.

Need more time on the nepo meme. Going to be away for abit - no slight intended,

Posted by: Art W at July 14, 2004 10:45 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Interesting comments--I have a few observations.

1. Valerie Plame's status--she was outed by Aldrich Ames 10 years ago--Wilson completely dramatized the danger to her and foreign sources.

She was undercover technically because she was a Career Trainee--all are undercover. Her immediate boss (Alan Foley, member of the former intelligence professionals providing all those quotes to press about manipulation of evidence) was not undercover and her name appeared on all CPD documents. It's completely plausible that there were those who didn't even know she was covert.

The Intelligence Identities Act was designed to protect agents abroad from being outed in efforts to sabotage national security. Therefore, specific criteria for a crime under this act must be met. It's not a given that a crime was committed.

It's most likely that when Wilson was going on all the news shows saying that Cheney and his office sent him and must have known he debunked the Niger reports, Novak went digging and was told by someone that Cheney wasn't the one who sent him, his wife did. That makes a lot more sense than the various reasons Wilson has provided.

2. Wilson does state in his book that his wife didn't send him and had nothing to do with his trip. No ambiguity there.

3. Wilson's characterizations regarding the difficulty of covert purchases of yellowcake are untrue. In fact, there was a Canadian article that outlined how easy it would be--unsecured transports over uninhabited deserts, not to mention yellowcake, unlike uranium, is not under international monitoring or regulation.

4. Nepotism is a moot point at the CIA. Family members are more likely to be hired due to security reasons.

5. Regarding the forged documents, since the committee found that Wilson hadn't seen the documents and the meeting notes and reports from the officers said that he hadn't even been informed of any of the foreign intelligence they were aware of, Wilson either lied when he said he knew about them before the trip, or someone, like his wife perhaps, had told him about them even though this information was classified. Or maybe his "French contacts" told him.

Posted by: Wendy at July 17, 2004 02:54 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Brahms, Johannes http://music.lowcost.us.com/list_285657/Music_CDs_Styles_Opera_Vocal_Featured_Composers_A_Z_A_to_B_Brahms_Johannes.php
Vocal Works by Brahms http://music.lowcost.us.com/list_577322/Music_CDs_Styles_Opera_Vocal_Featured_Composers_A_Z_A_to_B_Brahms_Johannes_Vocal_Works_by_Brahms.php
Britten, Sir Benjamin http://music.lowcost.us.com/list_64048/Music_CDs_Styles_Opera_Vocal_Featured_Composers_A_Z_A_to_B_Britten_Sir_Benjamin.php
Brodszky, Nicholas http://music.lowcost.us.com/list_589400/Music_CDs_Styles_Opera_Vocal_Featured_Composers_A_Z_A_to_B_Brodszky_Nicholas.php
Buzzi-Peccia, Arturo http://music.lowcost.us.com/list_589408/Music_CDs_Styles_Opera_Vocal_Featured_Composers_A_Z_A_to_B_Buzzi_Peccia_Arturo.php
C to G http://music.lowcost.us.com/list_583294/Music_CDs_Styles_Opera_Vocal_Featured_Composers_A_Z_C_to_G.php

Posted by: Brahms, Johannes at October 7, 2004 09:08 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink
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