July 13, 2004

Truth and Consequences

Then last week in The New Republic, the unidentified former ambassador to Niger confirmed to authors Spencer Ackerman and John Judis that the CIA had in fact sent his report to the vice president’s office. “They knew the Niger story was a flat-out lie,” he [Joe Wilson] told the magazine.

--Josh Marshall, in an old piece from the Hill.

The Central Intelligence Agency should have told the Vice President and other senior policymakers that it had someone to Niger to look into the alleged Iraq-Niger uranium deal and should have briefed the Vice President on the former Ambassador's findings.

--Conclusion 14, p. 74 of the SSCI report.

You know, Josh Marshall is very much in moving the goal-posts mode these days.

He's lost the battle that Bush knowingly lied in the SOTU (the 16 words).

It turns out the Veep wasn't aware of Wilson's mission contemporaneously.

And Marshall was, pretty much, flat out lied to by Wilson about whether his wife put him up for the Niger mission or not.

Listen, like Dan Drezner, I think it's damn serious to out a covert agent. Heads, pending resolution of some legal issues, should likely roll for it.

But Wilson is getting pretty radioactive right now with his credibility in a tailspin.

And journalists like Marshall swallowed his lies with alacrity.

If Josh and his ilk are going to poke fun at the Judith Millers--shouldn't they come clean on similar issues related to swallowing a load of bull?

A belated mea culpa, of sorts?

Josh is now going heavy on the 'fruit of the poisonous tree' theme (the argument that the forgery taints all the Niger intel).

Relatedly, he's likely still looking into questions like: Who was that forgery-wielding Italian security consultant? Who did he consult for? etc etc?

But I'm pretty confident that the FOPT argument won't get Josh and ilk where they want to get on this story (more on that soon). So's Johnnie Red-tippling Hitchens, by the way.

And, remember, that is after some mega-goal-post-moving.

Call it defining gotcha-journalism down.

It ends with a whimper; not a bang.

Bottom line: Marshall (and Spence Ackerman) approvingly quoted Wilson to the effect that Cheney (or at least his office) knew the Niger/uranium story was a flat-out lie pre-SOTU.

But the SSCI report explicitly states that the Veep wasn't even briefed on Wilson's mission during that time-frame.

It's just that simple.

Unless someone is going to start arguing the bipartisan SSCI report itself is a cover-up.

...Calling Michael Moore...

Posted by Gregory at July 13, 2004 11:21 PM
Comments

Is outing a CIA covert agent a crime or not?

Is it serious or not?

If white house officials knowingly outed a covert CIA agent for WHATEVER reason - did they BREAK THE LAW?

Your the rule of law guys right?

No BS, no smoke and mirrors required ...

A simple yes or no answer will do.

Posted by: aburns at July 14, 2004 12:44 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

What part of: "Listen, like Dan Drezner, I think it's damn serious to out a covert agent. Heads, pending resolution of some legal issues, should likely roll for it."

is aburns having trouble reading?

Posted by: lpdbw at July 14, 2004 01:50 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

aburns: Are you incapable of comprehending text? Can you read? Valerie Plame recommended her husband for the Niger mission (Senate report).

To do so she had to be at Langley. If she's at Langley, anybody who can stand on the right of way at the CIA gate can see she works there. SHE WASN'T COVERT!

Posted by: Harrison Bergeron at July 14, 2004 01:57 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Aburns,

It is a crime knowingly to out a CIA agent whom the agency was trying to keep covert. A "covert agent" is defined in the statute as:

(A) a present or retired officer or employee of an
intelligence agency or a present or retired member of the Armed Forces assigned to duty with an intelligence agency

- (i) whose identity as such an officer, employee, or member
is classified information, and
(ii) who is serving outside the United States or has within the last five years served outside the United States; or
(B) a United States citizen whose intelligence relationship
to the United States is classified information, and -
(i) who resides and acts outside the United States as an
agent of, or informant or source of operational assistance
to, an intelligence agency, or
(ii) who is at the time of the disclosure acting as an
agent of, or informant to, the foreign counterintelligence or
foreign counterterrorism components of the Federal Bureau of
Investigation; or
(C) an individual, other than a United States citizen, whose
past or present intelligence relationship to the United States
is classified information and who is a present or former agent
of, or a present or former informant or source of operational
assistance to, an intelligence agency.

I guess one factual question here is whether Mrs. Wilson served outside the US in the past five years in a covert capacity or otherwise fits in the definition of a "covert agent." I do not know the answer to this question.

If Mrs. Wilson meets the statutory definition of a "covert agent," and if the person who leaked her name knew that she was a "covert agent," and if that person intentionally did so in order to expose her identity as a "covert agent," then yes, of course, that's a violation of the statute.

Posted by: DBL at July 14, 2004 01:57 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

aburns: it all depends on whether she was a covert agent at that time according to the definition of the law... which, it looks like, SHE WASN'T.

Posted by: SDN at July 14, 2004 01:58 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

DBL: Thanx for the text. OK, she may have been overseas in the last 5 years. But since she recommended her husband (nepotism, anyone?) she's waived her protection.

Besides, he lied about it!

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

"Is outing a CIA covert agent a crime or not?"

Yes.

"Is it serious or not?"

It is serious.

"If White House officials knowingly outed a covert CIA agent for WHATEVER reason - did they BREAK THE LAW?"

Yes, if she was indeed covert (very doubtful), and the CIA took "affirmative measures" to conceal her CIA identify (they didn't, as Novak has stated).

We'll see what the special prosecutor says. For now, I'm in the same court as James Taranto: "Since Wilson appears to have lied about his wife's role in getting him the Niger gig, why should we lend any credibility at all to his claims about the leakers' motives?"

Joe Wilson is a liar, and a poor one at that. If aburns and others (like John Kerry, who proudly features an endorsement letter from Wilson on his campaign website), wants to celebrate Wilson as a saint, well, I think they should go right ahead and do it, because such actions will help President Bush get reelected.

Posted by: Chris at July 14, 2004 02:09 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

So is it a settled question that Plame was a covert agent?

I recall reports that Wilson's own bio lists his wife as a CIA agent. I also recall reports that she left the covert work to raise her children and so had surrendered covert status.

Then those questions just disappeared. I don't recall them ever being answered.

Posted by: Ignatius Byrd at July 14, 2004 02:18 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

"A simple yes or no answer will do."

Okay, aburns, then your answer is "Yes or no."

See, the law isn't written that way: you have to satisfy all of five conditions before it's against the law. Having worked in that business, I doubt very very much if all five are met. Why? Because one of those conditions is that the CIA must be actively trying to conceal the agent's identity.

According to Novak's original columns, when he asked the CIA to confirm Plame's identity, they said "Well, okay, she is a CIA employee, but we'd really prefer you didn't publicize it."

That is precisely the answer they'd give when asked to confirm the identity of a janitor or file clerk. The answer they'd give for a real live covert agent is "Who?"

Furthermore, if Plame were a real covert agent, then showing up on the cover of Vanity Fair would have been unthinkable, even in scarf and dark glasses. (Who does she think she is, Clark Kent?) Assuming she'd thought the unthinkable, even if she'd been blown in print, becoming photographically known would endanger her that much more -- as well as get her fired.

So I guess the real answer is "If they had outed a covert agent, it might be illegal -- but it looks like they didn't, so it wasn't."

Posted by: Charlie (Colorado) at July 14, 2004 02:27 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Is committing purjury in a federal civil rights lawsuit a crime or not?

Is it serious or not?

If white house officials knowingly committed purjury in a federal civil rights lawsuit - did they BREAK THE LAW?

Your the rule of law guys right?

No BS, no smoke and mirrors required ...

A simple yes or no answer will do.

Posted by: Richard R at July 14, 2004 02:41 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

So Plame wasn't a covert agent. It's as obvious as the right of way at the CIA gate. Okay...

But doesn't something so obvious mean that whole investigation was dead on arrival and CIA couldn't have made complaint? Doesn't that mean there was no reason for recusal by anyone? Doesn't that mean there was absolutely no reason for anyone involved to lawyer up?

And yet everyone involved sure is acting like we have a treasonous felony here. Go figure.

In fact I'll bet you the cost of retaining private counsel that these fuzzy intuitions that Plame wasn't covert are more fuzzy than intuituive.

Posted by: Bitter Mastermind at July 14, 2004 02:44 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

if Plame were a real covert agent, then showing up on the cover of Vanity Fair would have been unthinkable,

Wait -- you do realize we're talking about how Plame's identity was publicly revealed, right? You do realize that's the crime being investigated right now, right?

Or maybe you missed some of the story so far: see there was this newspaper column by this guy, Robert Novak...

Posted by: Bitter Mastermind at July 14, 2004 02:50 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Yeah, its just crazy to get a lawyer when your entire future is on the line.

People who get lawyers = guilty.

You need to think more clearly.

Posted by: Dustin at July 14, 2004 03:10 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

If you want to see something funny go to saloncruise.com. They've got Joe Wilson going on a cruise with Sid Blumenthal. Wilson's billed as the guy who "debunked the 16 words". It is too funny. I emailed Taranto and Jonah, but nothing there yet.

If you could let Instapundit in on this, I would appreciate it.

Thanks.

Posted by: NavySEAL Mom at July 14, 2004 03:11 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

And you need to read more carefully. I never said lawyer = guilt.

However I do suggest that the president hiring private counsel = a meaningful charge that can't be casually ignored.

If Plame was obviously not covert then: 1) Novak had no story 2) the CIA couldn't complain 3) Justice would have no reason to investigate 4) no one would need to take the investigation seriously.

"get a lawyer when your entire future is on the line"

You'd better belive it.

Posted by: Bitter Mastermind at July 14, 2004 03:20 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

I recall reports that Wilson's own bio lists his wife as a CIA agent.

I never saw that, and I sure was looking.

However, there were blog posts (OK, including mine) showing that his wife's maiden name was included on his bio - Wilson made a big deal of the "maiden name"aspect of the leak, which seemed a bit odd - knowing his name was enough, with Google, to find her maiden name.

Posted by: Tom Maguire at July 14, 2004 03:24 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

When you know the media is going to take the most damaging possible spin, true or not, you KNOW you need a lawyer.

Posted by: Harrison Bergeron at July 14, 2004 03:37 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

I guess Marshall is going to have to say that the Brits and French were listening to forged documents on those phone intercepts.

Speaking of poisonous trees- Marshall is climbing far out on a limb for someone who lied to him.

Posted by: Barry D at July 14, 2004 03:44 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Hmmph. The fist sentence of the previous post was meant to be in italics as a quote of an earlier post.

And the links disappeared (Hey, we want our HTML!).

Here they are - Links to posts on the Wilson bio story:

http://seamole.blogspot.com/2003_07_01_seamole_archive.html#105887178100510663

http://justoneminute.typepad.com/main/2003/07/ambassador_jose_1.html

Her "covert" status was described by Nick Kristof, in a piece that I believe has held up well. Summary - she had been covert at one time, but was transitioning away from that. From the column:

"...my sense is that Democrats exaggerate the damage to Mrs. Wilson's career and to her personal security, while Republicans vastly play down the enormity of the security breach and the danger to the assets she worked with."

http://www.helenair.com/articles/2003/10/14/opinions/a04101403_02.txt

Personally, I accept that Ms. Plame had technical covert status, or the CIA would not have provided a criminal referral. However, I will be very surprised if a crime can be proved, and I am not sure that a prosecutor with perfect knowledge would see that all of the elements of the statute would be satisfied.

And as to relentless pursuit of criminal leaks - leaking classified info is a crime that can jeopardize national security, right?

For instance, remember the 9/11 report that had the Saudi section redacted? Some folks leaked parts of it, thereby putting a strain on our relationship with a key ally in the War on Terror and harming our national security. And the motive was to embarass Bush. Punish the evildoers, right? We all want to lock these people up, don't we?

Well, no - Bush (arguably) was redacting too much, and the public does have a need to know. The media, and to a lesser extent the public, need leaks as a hidden check and balance.

So too, in the case of Ms. Plame - context counts. Although it matters not a whit *legally*, just as it did not matter with the Saudi leak (also unambiguously a crime), the fact is, she was not *really* covert, and her outing was almost surely an accidental result of trying to put out the truth about Wilson.

Or, if Dems want a policy of only criminalizing leaks to prosecute Republicans, well, let's say so.
My position for a long time has been that this should have been resolved with Congressional hearings/floggings. Instead, it will disappear into the legal system and never re-surface.

Posted by: Tom Maguire at July 14, 2004 03:47 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

I can stop anytime! But I thought the part of the Marshall column most desperately needing excerpting was this:

"...the pundits who had no trouble calling Bill Clinton a liar have suddenly decided lying is a very subtle, hard-to-define, complex matter. "

Evidently, it has also gotten tricky for the "Bush lied" crowd to spot other liars.

Just to round out the record, Nick Kristof gets mentioned in the Marshall column as triggering the debate with his June 13 column. Not quite right - he had a May 6 column with Wilson as a source (so Kristof later confirmed), but it caught less attention. Wilson was also a source for a June 12 WaPo story, which the Senate Report memorably debunked.

But it is impressive to see the errors in these reports, with Wilson as one source. He got a good platform for his stories.

Kristof, May 6, 2003
http://www.globalpolicy.org/security/issues/iraq/unmovic/2003/0506missing.htm

Kristof, June 13
http://www.cnn.com/2003/US/06/13/nyt.kristof/

WaPo, June 12
http://www.washingtonpost.com/ac2/wp-dyn?pagename=article&contentId=A46957-2003Jun11¬Found=true


WaPo reveals Wilson as source
http://www.washingtonpost.com/ac2/wp-dyn?pagename=article&contentId=A13696-2003Oct11¬Found=true

Posted by: Tom Maguire at July 14, 2004 03:55 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

If she wasn't covert - why the investigation?

If she wasn't covert - why did Bush get interviewed for 70 minutes?

If she wasn't covert why didn't that come out definatively?

But if she was covert, and someone did leak it and someone did commit a crime, then what should Bush do? (Let's say he had nothing absolutely to do with it, which by the way, I believe.) If Bush comes out and says, "Listen, the independent investigator has told me that members of my administration broke the law. That is unacceptable. They are fired - effective immediately." Then how does this hurt Bush? Couldn't he make the argument that he acted decisively - once again, and respected the rule of law?

Why is everyone assuming that it is A) not important or B) politically damaging? Couldn't the reverse be also true?

Posted by: aburns at July 14, 2004 03:58 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Does anyone really know what crime was involved in the criminal referral ? I mean, if Plame is not covert, exactly what is the special counsel appointed by Ashcroft doing ? There have been many reports that Bob Novak has not been interviewed, just what does that say ? Michael Ledeen has claimed that a person or persons have been trying to make the case that he generated the forged Niger documents; was he joking ? There have also been some stories (or rumours) that the forged Niger documents were generated by present or former CIA personel; is this being investigated ?

Posted by: J_Crater at July 14, 2004 04:03 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

I may be in error, but I believe Tenet's finding to Ashcroft leaves no doubt that a crime was committed. If Tenet would have told Ashcroft that at the time of the Novak article Plame was not covert the matter would have been dropped.
Based on this, I believe that the FBI, DOJ and Grand Jury investigation has been totally focused on who not if.
It also appears that the grand jury has moved well beyond the Plame outing and maybe focusing in on the whole niger document issue.
It does seem that a lot space (around 10%) was given to the Wilson/Niger issue which may be significant or not.
I sense that some of the current Wilson defense rhetoric has more with the upcoming indictments than with Wilson himself. I dont believe in Moore conspiracies but I also do not underestimate the Bush Spin Team. I feel that they are already presenting their case in public ala Ken Lay.
For a long time I have felt uneasy about the whole Wilson affair. There always seemed to be a force greater than the story importance keeping it alive. However I also believe that the grand jury investigation is the best hope of breaking the intelligence scam wide open.
Even those attacking Wilson seem to do so by avoiding the real issues brought out by the Committee report. For instance the Plame memo saying it would be a good idea if wilson went to Niger. The report and other stories print a picture showing that Wilson was no stranger at langly. However detractors turn the plame memo into a recommendation hoping that everyone will believe that the choice of Wilson was totally alien to the CIA prior to her memo.

Finally, here is a list of my Wilson questions that I think any serious journalist would have investigated but hasnt: (These are the same questions I sent Josh Marshall): 1) What was the nature of Mr. Wilson's work for the CIA in 1999? 2) Why did it take Wilson five days to travel to Niger? 2) Why was the CIA so insistent on sending Wilson when it was predetermined that the trip would be non-productive? 3) Why did the CIA clear the Wilson trip with the unnamed Foreign Intelligent Service one day after it had decided to send him? 4)If the Wilson trip was generated on a Cheney request for more information, why did the CIA not send Wilson to the country of the Foreign Service Intelligence rather than to Niger where the isssue had been addressed ad nauseum? 4) Was the Wilson slip regarding the documents an indication that his mission to Niger had more to do with procedures and names than with finding something that was not there? 5) Why did Wilson not go public in December when the State Department accidently left in the Niger reference in the State Department Fact Sheet? 6) when responding to a question regarding his wife from Robert Novak why did Wilson not alert him by say something like, "hey Robbie boy, I would not go there if I were you" rather than his "no comment" reply? 7)Why did the CIA agree not mention Wilson's name regarding his trip yet received no agreement from Wilson not mention his trip? 8) And finally, What other little jobs did wilson due for the CIA in his long and distinguished career in the FOREIGN SERVICE?

Posted by: paul m at July 14, 2004 04:10 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

“Why is everyone assuming that it is A) not important or B) politically damaging? Couldn't the reverse be also true?”

It could be important, it could be politically harmless.

It could also be stupid. As has been noted elsewhere, there are a number of innocent ways that an administration official could have given information to Novak that would allow him to connect the name “Plame” with the CIA.

For those interested, a copy of the Wilson bio formerly on the Middle East Institute website is here: http://www.fishkite.com/notes/ambassadorwilsonbio.htm

Posted by: The Kid at July 14, 2004 04:21 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Several people have commented that Tenets referral to Ashcroft implies a crime had been committed. Another, probably more likely scenario, is that Tenet referred the case to the Justice Department because of the ties to the White House. If there was no investigation, then the people who wish to see Bush lose in November, would have screamed coverup. Of course, if these same people don't see a White House employee doing the "Perp Walk" they will scream coverup -- no matter what the evidence.

Posted by: Richard Swan at July 14, 2004 04:40 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

"It could also be stupid. As has been noted elsewhere, there are a number of innocent ways that an administration official could have given information to Novak that would allow him to connect the name “Plame” with the CIA. "

Huh?

Your contradicting Novak's own words. Look at his original column on this. It says two high ranking administration officials told him this info (directly) ...

"Listen Bob, I am thinking of a word - rhymes with flame and three letters - not FBI, but ...."

Posted by: aburns at July 14, 2004 04:41 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

I wonder why some people aren't discussing the main point of Greg's blog above : How Josh M. et al, have been spreading the B.S. for the 'Bush lied!' crowd. Or at least how the SuperMegaBig Story of 'Bush Lied!", trumpeted across the front page of newspapers and on television nightly, was false.

Is it disingenuous for a troll to go on other's blogs and constantly change the discussion thread?

A simple yes or no answer will do.

Posted by: Les Nessman at July 14, 2004 05:01 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Don't you always follow the money when a crime is committed? Who has made the money in the book deal and has a movie deal pending. Who would not have made the money if Mr. Novak hadn't get tipped off. Who do we know that has all the information necessary to tip off Mr. Novak. Who is very partisan politically and would like to see a regime change? Just how much money has Mr. Wilson make from this brouhaha so far? Could this be possible, have people done something like this before? Didn't Martha Stewart just get some jail time for lying to federal agents, has Mr. Wilson done the same thing or is there a difference?

Posted by: Ron Nord at July 14, 2004 05:29 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Les, you're right. Let's get back to what Josh Marshall has been saying lately: "if the decision to reveal Plame's identity creates no political or legal problems for the leakers, why don't they come forward?"

And the answer to that is... uh... something about a poison tree? Look, if Plame wasn't covert, then there was no crime, and the guys who gave Plame up to Novak are legally safe. Which means having them come forward would do nothing besides removing an ugly albatross from Bush's neck. So what's everybody waiting for?

And Ron, if you really want to have fun with fantasies like Wilson ratting out his own wife, make sure you mix in the fact that James Sharp, the lawyer hired by Bush in the Plame case, is also the guy defending Ken Lay and a contributor to Kerry. It's an far more entertaining conspiracy theory cause it's true.

http://www.nytimes.com/2004/06/05/national/05sharp.html?ei=5007&en=e28dd29b89884feb&ex=1401768000&adxnnl=1&partner=USERLAND&adxnnlx=1089767264-A5mvafHuL0BglOlsUeUimA

[link courtesy Marshall, which is what this thread is supposed to be about after all]

Posted by: Bitter Mastermind at July 14, 2004 07:22 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Those who are claiming that the criminal referral from the CIA "proves" a crime was committed are missing two things: First, since the CIA did not know who leaked Plame's name to Novak, the CIA could not know whether those people knew that Plame was "covert" and that the Agency was trying to protect that status. Since such knowledge is REQUIRED for there to be a crime, the criminal referral cannot be proof of a crime. The only thing the CIA could have known is whether Plame had been in a covert position within the prior 5 years.

Second, even if the CIA strongly doubted a crime was committed, it had a very large incentive to treat Plame's outing as a big deal. Why? "Real covert agents" (as opposed to those who, like Plame, are transitioning to non-covert status) would feel a lot safer if the CIA was seen as being aggressive in protecting its covert agents' status.

Was a crime committed? I strongly doubt it. The identities of covert agents are not routinely disclosed to the White House. Such information is on a "need to know basis" and is not widely disseminated within the CIA. The fact that several (at least two) White House staffers knew Plame's identity as a CIA employee indicates the CIA was not trying to protect her covert status (ergo, no crime).

The most likely explanation: Someone at the White House asked why Wilson was sent instead of someone else. Someone at the CIA responded that Wilson's wife, Plame, a CIA employee, had suggested him for the job. The CIA guy may not have known Plame used to work covertly (else the guy would not have disclosed Plame's name or status as Wilson's wife to the White House). It fits the facts without requiring an assumption of evil motives on anyone's part -- which means it'll never fly with Bush's critics.

Posted by: David Walser at July 14, 2004 08:18 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

"If Plame was obviously not covert then: 1) Novak had no story"

Seriously, WTF? The Senate report just showed that Novak DID have a story, and it had zip, zero, nada to do with whether or not she was covert... Novak maintains his sources tell him she was not.

Posted by: HH at July 14, 2004 09:09 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

As Maguire points out, Wilson was a MAJOR source on what we "knew" about this scandal at the time... Therefore what you think you know about it may be totally false now.

Posted by: HH at July 14, 2004 09:19 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

"WFT ... Novak maintains his sources tell him she was not."

d00d, WFT indeed. Clearly Novak is an honorable man, and there's no way he'd use a potentially damaging information to inflate his ego. Clearly.

Of the six journalists called with the Plame leak, Novak must have been the one who chose to publish her identity due to, um... his boyish naivete? So in deference to the renowned modesty and restraint of this deeply honorable man who would never ever publish national security information just to hear his own name repeated over and over for years to come, I ask that you please allow me to retract point 1. Because clearly Novak's only concern was the foul stench of nepotism. Clearly.

Now as for all that other stuff about the Justice Department moving forward with a criminal investigation at the CIA's request and Bush retaining private counsel during an election year... Since Plame *obviously* was not a covert agent protected by law, I guess all this being done as some kind of clever reverse judo move? Some kind of massive slow motion head-fake where the entire Administration acts like a serious felony has occurred, but everyone knows (it's so obvious!) that no laws have been broken?

Of course. Why didn't I see it before.

Now if someone could just notify the grand jury before they get faked out too.

Posted by: Bitter Mastermind at July 14, 2004 10:33 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

How come Wilson and Plame are posing for a picture in a magazine that looks like a still from Basic Instinct? A scarf and dark glasses, that's a CIA disguise? This guy is yanking everyone's chain.

Posted by: Dave F at July 14, 2004 11:13 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Seems a reasonable question to ask: who benefited from Plame embroglio? My answer is Wilson. Also, who knew Plame was covert CIA? Maybe someone in administration, certainly everyone she or husband told.

Posted by: akral at July 14, 2004 01:31 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

BM and Auburns, how simple can I make this? Yes, I think she probably was covert, hence the high-level investigation, etc. But why would whoever spoke to Novak have known that? The point of covert status is that most people *don't* know about it, no? This person, whoever it was, told Novak that Plame worked for the CIA, but wasn't covert; the simplest explanation is that as far as that person knew, that was the truth. And all Novak wrote was that she worked for the CIA; it was *Wilson* who revealed to the world that Plame was covert (if indeed she was - we're still guessing on that).

And if the Person Who Spoke To Novak had no reason to suppose that Plame was covert, then *there was no crime*, whether or not she actually was. It is *not* a crime to reveal the identity of a CIA janitor or file clerk, and that's all anyone at the White House had any reason to think she was. Remember, the Novak story wasn't 'Wilson's wife works for the CIA', it was 'Wilson's wife (who works for the CIA) recommended him for the job'.

Oh, and what six journalists? The whole story that this was 'shopped around' came from Wilson. These six supposed journalists have never come forward, so why assume they ever existed?

Posted by: Zev Sero at July 14, 2004 01:38 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

I think the issue is the motivation of the leaker - if she was outed to punish Wilson as he claims, the act was despicable even if it wasn't illegal. If Novak's source was simply stating that Palme was the one who recommended Wilson, not knowing she was covert, it may be a technical violation of the law but hardly deserves a national debate.

This is what the investigation should determine.

Posted by: Daniel at July 14, 2004 02:01 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

I think that one interesting question is in identifying who precisely made the link between that she was a CIA employee and that she had been at one time (maybe within the 5 years) covert. As noted earlier, just identifying her as a CIA employee is not a crime, was significantly newsworthy in and of itself - given that she suggested that her husband be sent, and is likely protected by the 1st Amendment.

What has to be remembered is that the original newsworthyness was not in Plame being covert, but rather being a CIA employee, and in that role, suggesting (apparently in writing - contrary to Wilson's story) that her husband be sent to Nigeria. Also, it should be noted that very very few CIA employees are covert these days. Note the recent report indicating that one of the reasons that maybe Bush was misled on WMD in Iraq was that we didn't have any covert agents in place there.

Indeed, as someone pointed out above, at least indirectly, given the extremely small percentage of covert agents at the CIA, and that covert agents are more likely not to be identified as CIA employees by the CIA, merely identifying her as a CIA employee is probably just the opposite of outing her as covert.

So, again the question, who did make that link? Wilson? If so, then he arguably would be the criminal. (I don't exactly remember who initially said what here).

In any case, what the liberals keep missing (intentionally in many cases, I suspect) is that the real newsworthyness is that a Democratic partisan was sent on a sensitive mission to Niger at the suggestion of the CIA initiated by his wife, a CIA employee, and when that Democratic partisan returned, he told the press that he had told the administration that Iraq had not tried to get yellowcake from Nigeria, thus damaging President Bush's credability.

I put much of the blame for all of this on Wilson. If he had not acted the Democratic partisan in trying to damage Bush with his Nigeria story, then no one would have made the connection between his trip there and her employment, because it would not have been newsworthy. And also, much of the push for prosecution seems to have come from him, and potentially even the idenification of his wife as covert, instead of just a CIA employee - and if so, then maybe he is the one who committed the crime?

I see this as mainly an attempt to divert attention from the real story, that of why Wilson was sent to Nigeria in the first place. He shouldn't have been. The administration screwed up sending him there. There is no indication that he is or ever was the least bit nonpartisan and objective in this whole thing.

Why did the administration sign on to the probe? Very simply, for political cover. What is constantly missed is that contrary to Michal Moore and the ravings of the lunitic left, this is the cleanest administration in my memory (of 50 years). Nixon was brought down by trying to cover up Watergate. Reagan was damaged by some of the corruption going on during his administration, even though there is no indication that he knew any of it. Clinton had one scandal after another - though much of it was ineptitude and not corruption, per se.

Bush knows, as his predecessors should have known, that the coverup is often much worse than the underlying crime. Where would Clinton be today if he had admitted up front that he had had something going on with Monica? He would have just laughed - hey, boys will be boys, and it would have blown over in a day or two, if that. Because he tried to cover it up, he is one of two impeached Presidents - some legacy.

Posted by: Bruce Hayden at July 14, 2004 02:20 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

"I think the issue is the motivation of the leaker - if she was outed to punish Wilson as he claims, the act was despicable even if it wasn't illegal."

And any claims made by Wilson should be believed why?

He flat out lied about several highly salient points, all damaging to Bush and all flattering to his martyrdom. So if Wilson claims he knows the motivation of the alleged leaker yet lies about other more knowable facts such as whether or not his wife recommended him for the assignment, his credibility is highly suspect. Of course this has been pointed out in this thread already, which is why I'm surprised this line of argument is still being attempted by those who think there is a vast conspiracy by the Bush administration to lie about the Niger yellowcake.

Posted by: Brent at July 14, 2004 02:40 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

All of this Wilson/Plame business is great for partisan bickering, but it distracts from something we should all find troubling - that the President cited intel in the SOTU that no one in the United States had vetted. We also know that this happened despite the fact that the CIA had doubts about a simliar matter and had taken action to remove remarks pertaining to this from an earlier speech.

Posted by: MaB at July 14, 2004 02:47 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Aburns:

If you can't spell, why don't you get a spell checker?

Posted by: Uncle Mikey at July 14, 2004 03:05 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Quoting Aburns, (4:41 AM):

"Your contradicting Novak's own words. Look at his original column on this. It says two high ranking administration officials told him this info (directly) ..."

A popular misconception. Let's reprint the key paragraph:

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


If you take it sentence by sentence, we have *no source* for her employment claim; WH source for "she was involved in sending him"; and a CIA spokesperson confirming that she was asked to contact him.

If that was all the evidence (I assume there is a lot more by now), it is far from conclusive that the WH told Novak she was CIA, and it is not what he reports.

For example, they may have said to Novak, "we know it was a CIA sponsored trip; we know he is ex-State; and we have heard that she put his name forward. Maybe the CIA contacted the State Dept and asked for some candidates, and she is at State in a State-CIA liason role, who knows?. Our point is, it was not a serious investigation, as evidenced by the casual way Wilson was selected."

Novak learns elsewhere that she was CIA, writes what he writes, and here we are.

In fact, if these evil schemers at the WH planned this, they may well have chatted with counsel and leaked it this way by design.

Novak here
http://www.townhall.com/columnists/robertnovak/rn20030714.shtml

Lots of sources here
http://parkdep.blogspot.com/2003_10_12_parkdep_archive.html#106602273180043904

Posted by: Tom Maguire at July 14, 2004 04:40 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

"I put much of the blame for all of this on Wilson. If he had not acted the Democratic partisan in trying to damage Bush with his Nigeria story..."

Hey. Bruce. Watch it there, buddy. That's exactly what the "lunatic left" is saying.

But that's not really what you're saying, is it? That this whole Plame thing had nothing to do with facts and was pure political retribution for a report that made Bush look like a fool? Cause if you're suggesting anything of the kind, then that would make you some kind of michaelmoore-style crank...

And the flip side of this bizarre suggestion is that if Wilson had come back and said invisible blimps stuffed to the gills with superuranium had without doubt made countless trips to Iraq, then he would have gotten an attaboy and Plame would have gotten a raise.

Hah! That's a good one. Can you even IMAGINE this Administration offering praise to people who would lie for them? That's just crazy talk. This is the BUSH Administration here. Integrity. Truth. Honor.

Petty grudges? Cheap smear tactics?? Oh please. The people in this Administration would NEVER act out of partisan revenge. Bruce. Come back to earth, man.

As far as Plame being a "covert operative" or just a mere "high level employee at the CIA Directorate of Operations" I'll have to defer to all y'all's inside knowledge of the spy trade. If you feel like you have to repeat that she wasn't covert, over and over and over, well then I guess it must be true

However I have to say that it's a pity the CIA, Justice Department, and various counsel throught the Administration don't have your same level of polished insight into these matters. Have you considered signing an online petition that says "Plame was not covert, duh!" and forwarding it to the vice president's office? It seems like they could use the help.

Posted by: Bitter Mastermind at July 14, 2004 07:37 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Why not just look at this as a way to generate a lot of cash. Mr. Wilson has been proven not to be an honorable man, why not look at this like a way to sell, 1. Books 2. Movie rights. As a former police officer I met a lot of people like this and the jails are full of them, its called a scamming. The Democrats are so desperate to get anything of a derogatory nature on Bush they are easy to fool. They want to believe. It's no big conspiracy, its just a scheme to make money it looks like. How much did he make on the book deal, $400,000 plus? If he doesn't care for money, let him give it to charity. He got a book out in record time thats for sure. Has this guy given "sworn" testimony to any government official or agency or Committee? Does any one know? Remember, its a felony to pull the leg of investigators, poor Martha is doing time for that. Just look at this as a criminal endeavor and everything falls into place.

Posted by: Ron Nord at July 14, 2004 08:11 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

On whether the Tenet's call for an investigation was based on his belief that a crime was committed. http://www.usatoday.com/news/washington/2003-09-28-iraq-uranium-probe_x.htm

Bill Harlow, the chief CIA spokesman, would not comment on the leak allegation apart from saying how serious it is. "People spend years in the business developing contacts overseas who can be placed in danger," Harlow said. "This sets a precedent which can result in people being targeted and killed."

Posted by: paul m at July 14, 2004 08:48 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

The Presidential Press Briefing of 10/2/2003 appears to resolve the issue of whether or not Tenet was reporting a crime to DOJ:
http://www.scoop.co.nz/mason/stories/WO0310/S00027.htm

Q I did not mean to suggest that the President and his staff had no other focus or no other responsibilities; obviously, tremendous responsibilities. But this was one thing that had happened which the CIA's General Counsel has now determined a crime that hurt national security. Did the CIA -- Director Tenet or anyone else -- during the time period, mid-July, late September, communicate to the President or his staff that this was very serious, that it looked like it was heading towards a criminal investigation, that they wanted some cooperation from the White House?

MR. McCLELLAN: No, I'm not aware of any such conversation.

Posted by: paul m at July 14, 2004 09:07 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

"The Democrats are so desperate to get anything of a derogatory nature on Bush they are easy to fool"

So... Wilson had his wife recommend him to go to Niger, and then he lied about the uranium, which really WAS going to Iraq (somehow), and then HE told Novak his wife was a the spy who recommended him, which then netted him fame and glory, but then he lied about his wife recommending him becasue... he was tired of the spotlight I guess. But by then it didn't matter since he already had his book deal, ha HA!

And Wilson was able to do all this because the Democrats are so easy to fool.

Do I have that about right, Ron? Yeah, that sounds like a hum-dinger of a moneymaking scheme there.

Does this also have anything to do with how Bush was able to fool the Democrats into supporting a pre-emptive war by using false intellegence? You think maybe there were some book deals involved, which would make the whole war a self-serving publicity op for the Democrats? Hmmm, I see your point...

Well then. I guess we'd better make sure that Democrats no longer write the SOTU speeches for Bush -- they're just too darn gullible.

Posted by: Bitter Mastermind at July 14, 2004 11:29 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Criminals by their very nature aren't very smart. Mr. Wilson has made a lot of money on this, thats a given isn't it? He had that book out so fast he must have been writing it on his way to Niger. He is one of the few people who had all the information that Mr. Novak used in his story, right? He has been caught out in a lie, right? Finding out just who the criminal is in a crime is usually pretty easy, just look in the bank accounts, follow the money trail. Is this such an outrageous suggestion? This is standard procedure and why hasn't it been used in this case is strange. If you don't think that this is being driven by desperation by the Democrats to get something on Bush you haven't been following the New York Times and the LA Times etc. If you could forge some documents that Bush sold the moon to the Martians, Dan Rather would have it on 60 minutes this week. They are desperate for dirt.

Most people would think $400,000 plus dollars was a lot of money, milked right he could very well get over a million and a spot in the Kerry administration. Money talks and this was easy money, takes balls but easy. Ratting out a wife? Come on lets be serious, lots worse has been done to wives than this for a lot less. The opportunity and motivation was there, you would be remiss as an investigator not to take a hard look.

Posted by: Ron Nord at July 15, 2004 01:37 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

"Ratting out a wife? Come on lets be serious, lots worse has been done to wives than this for a lot less"

Oh.

Oh dear God.

You're serious.

You think it's possible that Wilson got his wife to recommend him, then he gave Novak dirt on HIMSELF, and then he lied about the nepotism which he himself engineered AND revealed, thereby discrediting himself as a reliable source, even while the initial assertions (false WMD intelligence) have been widely proved...
and he did this in order to get a book published.

You're serious.
You consider this a plausible theory.

Oooooh - kay. I think I can just about see the floor of rational discussion coming up, and yep, there it goes.

You win, guys. Plame was a completely public spy, Joe Wilson is a twisted Hitchcockian supervillian willing to publish or die, Bush and Cheney hired lawyers because the simply like hanging out with trial lawyers, and the Justice Department only has a criminal investigation because they're bored.

Tons of extra time over there in Justice.
There just ain't nuthin else to investigate, ya see.


Have a good night!

Posted by: Bitter Mastermind at July 15, 2004 02:36 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

What lies is Wilson supposed to have told? I've noticed two so far.

1. He said his wife didn't get him the unpaid job.

This is important mostly because it shows him lying.

2. He said he debunked the forgery early, at a time that the CIA officially hadn't seen it at all.

This is important because if it's true the CIA new it was a forgery very early and should have told the President etc, but otherwise they only found out much later.

Is there a third lie?

Posted by: J Thomas at July 15, 2004 07:21 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

The Wall Street Journal "outed" Mr. Wilson today[7/15/04] in their lead editorial as a liar. Also, instapundit.com has given information that Mr. Wilson works for the Kerry Campaign and is prominent on his web site. Better look at the Kerry site fast, would imagine it will disappear quickly and that Mr. Kerry will distant himself quickly. Both are very interesting bits of information. Anyone know if he gave testimony under oath or told these stories to a federal investigator? Mr. Wilson has given out misinformation during war time for his enrichment it seems, what did he option the movie rights for, any one know?

Posted by: Ron Nord at July 15, 2004 07:22 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

The supposed Wilson lie regarding the forgery:

On Feb 19th a meeting that involved Wilson, the CIA and INI went into detail regarding the claim that Iraq sought uranium from Niger. One of those details covered the report that the foreign intelligence service was now claiming that they had evidence that Iraq had SIGNED a contract with Niger. The committee report is quite clear in stating that Wilson was given a temporary SECRET clearance for the meeting.

On Feb 20th, Wilson was given talking points for his trip to Niger. The list was fairly generic and made no mention of the contract.

When he was debriefed, the DO states that he made no specifice reference to documents because Wilson lacked a security council. Da, I would see no reason for the DO to state anything since his function was get information not give information. I find it interesting that the DO would mention anything about a security clearance to the committee.

Of interest is that Wilson claims that he gave the debriefers a list of names that would appear on documents if the claim is legit. The DO says that Wilson supplied no such list of names. {One should read Hersh's Oct 2003 article which covers the stovepipe concept and the confesssion of a retired CIA agent regarding the forged documents.)

So on this particular example the committee plays very loose to support a claim that Wilson lied. It must remembered that the Cheney inquiry and the idea for the Wilson trip is generated by the detailed intelligence report that specifically says a contract was signed.

Posted by: paul m at July 16, 2004 12:15 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Wilson is a partisan hack, doing a dirty trickster's job. He's akin to Haldeman and the rest of Nixon's wretched crew. Whoever hired this guy should be fired, and I'm wondering when/if he gets charged with perjury, since the Senate evidently thinks he's lied to them.

The CIA is in for a major overhaul, if we're sending clowns like this to track down WMD leads. I'm surprised Osama hasn't sprouted a few mushroom clouds over here already, given this brand of foolishness.

Posted by: the funky spook at July 16, 2004 12:22 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Both the CIA and State Department are in need of major repair but first the CIA. When we allow the likes of a Mr. Wilson and his associates turn our government upside down with prevarication's of the worse sort; something is seriously wrong with in the organization. It is rift with political correctness and the onerous plague of diversity training and political partisanship which allowed for mistakes in time of danger and war. Not one person was fired after 3000 of our fellow citizens were incinerated, think about the ramification of that, $40 Billion Dollars spent and no one is to blame for an attack on our country. Some people should go down for some time, this is serious stuff and they should get serious time.

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