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October 04, 2005

Plame, Wilson, And Miller: The Wrong Conspiracy?

Clarice Feldman asks some interesting questions about the Judy Miller story. A long time ago I half-jokingly threw out the possibility that Miller (remember her WMD reporting?) could well have become aware of Plame's identity on her own through CIA contacts. This theory seems even more likely when you consider that Plame's identity seems to have been common knowledge among the media. Feldman elaborates on the CIA connection:

I see a bigger picture in the background, involving the CIA and conduct of the war in Iraq. I am persuaded that the CIA counter-proliferation group was incompetent, and actively involved in undermining the President's war on Iraq, working with the Kerry campaign, tacitly or not. I draw this conclusion partly from the fact that although Congress had long made regime change in Iraq a national policy, when we needed actionable intelligence we seemed to have little of value in our files at Langley; and also from the fact that throughout the runup to the war to the present, the press has been full of leaks sourced to unnamed CIA officers countering the Administration and those leaks were often – though not exclusively – related to counter-proliferation issues.

But nothing persuades me more of this than the factual record of the Wilson-Plame story. And it is my hope that this opportunity fully to investigate what happened in that office has been taken by the Special Prosecutor and his investigation will not conclude without shedding light on this apparent perfidy.

I have reviewed all the material I can find on this case, and I return to these mysteries:

(1) Why was Wilson, with no particular knowledge or qualifications, given this task by his wife's office?
(2)Why did he deny his wife had recommended him for that job and why did his wife, knowing from the outset of this matter that this was an issue, say to the Senate Intel Committee she no longer remembered how he'd been selected?(
3) Didn't the Committee discredit both of them when they said she was the moving force in his selection?
(4)Why was Wilson's report made orally?
(5) Why was he not made to sign an oath of confidentiality respecting this work?
(6) Why did Plame's counterproliferation office not disclose his report to the CIA head Tenet, so that when he vetted the Administration's evidentiary arguments for the war, he would have had that information?
(7) Why was Wilson given classified information months after his report about the forged documents on Niger ,which the Senate Intel committee found he could not have known about when he did his mission?
(8)And why did he lie after this point was made, and say he might have been confused when he claimed to have had seen it when he said he had?
(9)And where else would he have gotten that classified information, if not from his wife?

I became curious about this after reading this WaPo story over the weekend. Like most WaPo coverage of the Wilson-Plame affair, it completely glosses over the Senate Select Intelligence Committee's finding that Wilson lied - about several things. As usual, my head almost exploded on reading it. I was intrigued at Walter Pincus' peevishness - I have long wondered why he is so insistently and completely biased in his reporting of this matter. The SSCI finding on Wilson's allegations is a material fact with direct bearing on the story. Not to mention it - consistently and repeatedly, as Pincus invariably does - in a story like this this is tantamount to professional malpractice, yet the Post continues to allow him, and other reporters, to get away with it.

Feldman offers a clue, via Ed Morrissey, as to Pincus' motivation, as well as that of the NY Times, another serial offender on Wilson-Plame reporting:

The Senate Select Committee on Intelligence reached that conclusion in its report on Iraq War intelligence, and names Pincus himself as one of the dupes Wilson used to get out his misinformation. Why didn't Pincus bother to mention that? And why isn't Fitzgerald investigating Wilson and Plame for those leaks (the other dupe was NY Times Nicholas Kristof) for a possible CIA conspiracy to illegally undermine the foreign policy of the duly elected American government? The Post also claims that the Niger intelligence "was central to the White House's rationale for war," when plainly it was not. The vast majority of the intelligence from most Western nations had concluded that Saddam still had WMD, and that his lack of compliance with the sixteen UN resolutions on full, verifiable, and permanent disarmament demonstrated that he still retained that capability. Moreover, the trip that Wilson took actually corroborated that conclusion, as the prime minister of Niger told Wilson that the only purpose of a secret Iraqi delegation he could divine was to trade for yellowcake uranium -- which Wilson admitted to the SSCI bolstered, not undermined, the case for war against Iraq.

I find it little short of amazing that with all the conspiracy theorists and the After Downing Street-type groups out there, we may have a genuine conspiracy on our hands and no one is interesting in investigating it.

We have a reporter (Judy Miller) with a history of blowing federal investigations, who may well herself have been the source of the "leak" the administration's enemies are trying to use as a weapon against it.

We have an admittedly anti-administration CIA official who got her own husband a sweetheart deal on a trip to Niger where he (surprise!) didn't have to sign any confidentiality agreements (or worse, signed one and then violated it) and subsequently blabbed everything he "learned" to the NY Times. Great hiring recommendation from the "covert agent" - you have to love the sensitive handling of information here. It has all the hallmarks of the career spy, doesn't it?

Tradecraft...pure tradecraft. When someone is this inept, it begins to look deliberate.

We have a former ambassador who was then discredited for lying (to the NY Times) about "what he learned" while on that same trip. Again - great choice Valerie. For all the noise made about how she "can never work undercover again", honestly: who would ever trust her judgment after she recommended her husband for a sensitive operation, after which he blabbed a bunch of lies to the NY Times and was subsequently investigated and discredited by the Senate?

Personally, I'd say her career should have been over, regardless. But it will all have been worth it if Judy gets her book deal. (h/t spd)

We'll keep our fingers crossed.

Posted by Cassandra at October 4, 2005 08:53 AM

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Tracked on October 6, 2005 02:22 PM

Comments

I'm shocked, SHOCKED, that politics might have been going on at the CIA.
Quickly, round up the usual suspects at the White House!

Posted by: Captain Renault, your French conection today at October 4, 2005 11:46 AM

at first I read that as:

...a reporter (Judy Miller) with a history of blowing federal investigators...

I apologize for even thinking that. truly, I do.

Posted by: MacStansbury at October 4, 2005 01:02 PM

As I used to say to my oldest son,

"You lie like a big dog..." :)

I'm laughing so hard I can hardly type.

Posted by: Cassandra at October 4, 2005 02:07 PM

(1) Why was Wilson, with no particular knowledge or qualifications, given this task by his wife's office?

You have read Wilson's resume, right? He does have experience in Iraq and Africa.

(2)Why did he deny his wife had recommended him for that job and why did his wife, knowing from the outset of this matter that this was an issue, say to the Senate Intel Committee she no longer remembered how he'd been selected?

She never did specifically recommend him. Her supervisors did after she made a statement of fact. Do you remember every nuance of bureaucracy from several months ago?

3) Didn't the Committee discredit both of them when they said she was the moving force in his selection?

Huh? The moving force by definition had to be someone who had the authorization to assign him the mission. Plame did not have that authorization.

(4)Why was Wilson's report made orally?

Standard debriefing practice.

(5) Why was he not made to sign an oath of confidentiality respecting this work?

They didn't know his work would be important at the time. I'm sure it is SOP these days.

(6) Why did Plame's counterproliferation office not disclose his report to the CIA head Tenet, so that when he vetted the Administration's evidentiary arguments for the war, he would have had that information?

Tenet didn't ask. If the info didn't support the predefined theory he didn't want to know it.

(7) Why was Wilson given classified information months after his report about the forged documents on Niger ,which the Senate Intel committee found he could not have known about when he did his mission?

Good question. I'm sure Fitzgerald has asked it.

(8)And why did he lie after this point was made, and say he might have been confused when he claimed to have had seen it when he said he had?

Being confused is not lying.

(9)And where else would he have gotten that classified information, if not from his wife?

Haven't you heard? Classified info is a status symbol in DC. BMW dealerships in DC give out dossiers with test drives.

Look, y'all the CIA wouldn't be pressing this case if it was just a bunch of hot air. Rove and Libby screwed the pooch.

Posted by: John Gillnitz at October 4, 2005 04:57 PM

1. Wilson had no particular knowledge of, or qualifications for, investigative work. That was the point. Drinking mint tea with your chums and saying, "I say old chap, Saddam hasn't been poking around trying to buy any yellowcake has he? Wot, wot?" isn't exactly standard technique for the CIA.

2. Her supervisors recommended him on her say-so. Semantics: one was a precondition of the other. And I would certainly remember a recommendation involving my spouse, if for no other reason than that it normally involves conflict of interest concerns, which is a BIG HAIRY DEAL when you recommend someone for a government job. My husband would no sooner recommend me for anything involving his work than he would Satan - not because I'm not good, but because it would be a conflict of interest. He'd find someone else. He just got rid of an employee for doing the same thing. At any rate, Wilson lied about the whole affair:

The [SSCI] report states that a CIA official told the Senate committee that Plame "offered up" Wilson's name for the Niger trip, then on Feb. 12, 2002, sent a memo to a deputy chief in the CIA's Directorate of Operations saying her husband "has good relations with both the PM [prime minister] and the former Minister of Mines (not to mention lots of French contacts), both of whom could possibly shed light on this sort of activity." The next day, the operations official cabled an overseas officer seeking concurrence with the idea of sending Wilson, the report said.

Wilson has asserted that his wife was not involved in the decision to send him to Niger.
"Valerie had nothing to do with the matter," Wilson wrote in a memoir published this year. "She definitely had not proposed that I make the trip."

Ummm.... sounds like a lie to me.


3) Semantics again.

4) A report of that significance would have a written counterpart. They weren't making up procedure as they went along.

5) THEY DIDN'T KNOW IT WOULD BE IMPORTANT AT THE TIME??? Get real. That's why you have SOP - you don't entrust these decisions to people. Everyone signs the agreements. You work for the Agency you sign the agreement.

6) Good question. Don't know. Looks like they failed their boss - you don't passively wait for your boss to "ask" - you brief him on what he needs to know. Unless you're incompetent.

7) Good question.

8) Why did he claim to have seen it if he wasn't sure? Why did he mislead the Post? Why did the Senate conclude he misled them? All very interesting questions you haven't answered.

9.) As Sherlock Holmes once said, the most obvious answer is usually the right one. He lives with a CIA agent who works in the office the info came from yet you think some "outside source" gave it to him.

Right... maybe it was Deep Throat.

Posted by: Cassandra at October 4, 2005 05:22 PM

1. Wilson had no particular knowledge of, or qualifications for, investigative work.

Yet somehow he got the facts more right then the fiction the British cooked up.

2. And I would certainly remember a recommendation involving my spouse, if for no other reason than that it normally involves conflict of interest concerns

What conflict of interest could the Wilsons possibly have in this case? Ms. Wilson stated a fact. Her supervisors made the recomendation.

>Ummm.... sounds like a lie to me.

Really? Then were is the perjury charge? Someone remembering an event slightly different then someone else isn't a lie. Wilson said his wife wasn't involved because in a legal and bureaucratic sense, she wasn't.

4) A report of that significance would have a written counterpart. They weren't making up procedure as they went along.

I'm sure something was writen down someplace. If your mission is to find out if a idea is BS sometimes "This is BS" is all it takes.

5) THEY DIDN'T KNOW IT WOULD BE IMPORTANT AT THE TIME??? Get real.

At the time the Administration had made the decision to go to war and was looking for a way to justify it. They never counted on Wilson writing that Op-Ed.

6) Looks like they failed their boss - you don't passively wait for your boss to "ask" - you brief him on what he needs to know. Unless you're incompetent.

Tenet knew everything he needed to know: That war was inevitable and actual evidence to provide justification for it was secondary. Wilson and Tenet didn't fail the President. The President failed the country.

8) Why did he claim to have seen it if he wasn't sure? Why did he mislead the Post? Why did the Senate conclude he misled them? All very interesting questions you haven't answered.

I'm not sure exactly what "it" is.

9.) As Sherlock Holmes once said, the most obvious answer is usually the right one.

Except when it isn't. Either way the Grand Jury will sort it all out.

Posted by: John Gillnitz at October 4, 2005 05:59 PM

This going after Wilson is all very much besides the point. Quite honestly, it doesn't matter if he's an axe murderer; his wife was an innocent, and her cover was blown SOLELY to get at Wilson.

It breaks down like this:

a) Rove has admitted that he confirmed Plame's identity as a secret CIA employee to Cooper.

b) Plame's identity was classified. It could therefore only be obtained by someone *with* clearance.

c) Either releasing **or confirming** classified information to someone without clearance, is a FELONY.

d) The ONLY REASON Valerie Plame's identity was revealed, was to discredit Wilson.

Posted by: jim at October 4, 2005 06:56 PM

There is no "going after" Wilson. Only pointing out the results of a Senate investigation that your tax dollars paid for, even if you don't like hearing the results, Jim.

Actually, it breaks down like this:

In order for a crime to have been committed,

1. there must be evidence that the Plame's identity was leaked with "the intent to unveil a covert intelligence officer". The idea that the White House wanted to "discredit" Wilson is ludicrous when you consider the timing - the SSCI investigation did that for them, and Rove already knew it was coming out when Cooper contacted him - not the other way around, mind you - just before Rove went on vacation.

2. by someone who knew the CIA was taking active measures to keep the agent's covert status concealed".

Plame was driving through the front gate of Langely every day where she could be easily photographed. Not the way to "hide" a covert agent, is it? Her maiden name (cover name) appeared on Wilson's web site. Several of her friends and neighbors apparently knew she worked for the CIA. None of these things point to "covert status".

It is by no means certain that Ms. Plame was indeed a covert agent, that the CIA was currently actively trying to conceal her covert status, or that, if she was a covert agent, the leaker knew this.

The fact that Novak spoke with CIA officials shortly before releasing the story and they did not discourage him from publishing seriously casts doubt on the covert status theory.

That it was apparently common knowledge in DC social circles that Ms. Plame was a CIA agent, and that she subsequently appeared in deep cover on the pages of Vanity Fair casts even more doubt on this theory.

And by the way, this is bull:

Plame's identity was classified. It could therefore only be obtained by someone *with* clearance

Wrong. The CIA is leakier than an old bucket. They leak to the press all the time - read the papers. They leak information. They leak documents. And even those documents are sometimes handled by the wrong people internally - people without the right clearance.

And I'm not sure it has been established that her identity was classified, by the way.

Posted by: Cassandra at October 4, 2005 07:46 PM

I'm reasonably sure that the nefarious nations on this here planet DON'T read Vanity Fair...and were horribly surprised when their hostess turned out to be a Licensed-to-Kill gubmint agent.


Or that Honest Joe would turn up on every MSM Sunday Morning talk show to expose their ignorance.Darn that evil Karl Rove!!


Miller had a "get out of jail free" card for over a year from Libby, yet didn't use it.Makes a free thinker wonder..........just WHAT SOURCE was she protecting??

All that's missing here is Robert Redford rearranging the potted plants.


Greg

Posted by: Greg at October 4, 2005 08:48 PM

Methinks she was protecting her book deal.

Posted by: Cassandra at October 4, 2005 10:02 PM

Reason that the above theory doesnt make sense:

If it were true, then Rove, Bush, etc, would be on her ass like stink on sh@@ to indict, make her the fall-guy, etc. They'd be making public statements, and exposing her for the traitorous act she committed.

Instead, the top administration conservatives are curiously silent regarding her, and almost coddling to her. Makes me think that administration officials are trying to make sure they dont piss her off for some reason. Maybe because they fear her squeeling like a stuck pig if they tried to make her the bad guy.

Posted by: go1 at October 5, 2005 12:35 AM

Why would they do that?

The Senate came out with a report that says Wilson lied.

Do we read about it in the papers?

We do not. Day after day I open my paper and see references to Wilson as a "whistleblower" who "exposed" the Niger yellowcake thing or "accused the President of lying during the SOTU speech".

NEVER DO I SEE A REFERENCE TO THE FACE THAT THE SENATE CONCLUDED WILSON WAS LYING. THAT WHAT "HE LEARNED", RATHER THAN UNDERCUTTING THE NIGER STORY, IN FACT "BOLSTERED IT FOR MOST INTELLIGENCE ANALYSTS". THAT THE NIGER INTELLIGENCE WAS NEVER EVEN SEEN BY CHENEY AND NOT USED IN THE SOTU ADDRESS!

In short, the MSM continue to lie about this by omission on paper and on TV. In a free press society, the President can't stop them either. And you can't call someone easily on "not mentioning" something (even a material fact that totally changes the interpretation of a story) because it's not an explicit lie - just dishonest, biased, and unethical reporting.

Posted by: Casserole at October 5, 2005 05:45 AM

Why is it that even in the face of overwhelming evidence, admissions by key players and a full blown Special Prosecutor investigation that you cannot discuss the fact the a Republican can be guilty?

Posted by: Patco13 at October 5, 2005 11:11 AM

Oh... has the grand jury issued a finding on this 'overwhelming evidence'?

Hmmm...I must have missed the news report. Please provide the links for my review and I'll admit anything you want me to, on submission of facts.

Why is it that you already decided the outcome of a pending investigation?

Why is it that Democrats can't admit the an ALREADY CONCLUDED INVESTIGATION CONCLUDED THAT WILSON LIED?

Those are questions I'd like answered.

Posted by: Cassandra at October 5, 2005 11:18 AM

And by the way, I have never once said that Rove, or anyone else, is definitively not guilty. That is why we have a Special Prosecutor and a grand jury - to look at that very issue = whether there is sufficient evidence to bring this matter forward.

What I have said:

The elements of a crime are probably not present in this case. When I said that, I linked to the opinions of two of the primary people who wrote the law in question. Presumably they ought to know what it says. But I guess you know better, being an expert and all.

Posted by: Cassandra at October 5, 2005 11:21 AM

There is no "going after" Wilson. Only pointing out the results of a Senate investigation that your tax dollars paid for, even if you don't like hearing the results, Jim.

So, you're not going after Wilson - you're just going after Wilson, because there was a Senate investigation going after Wilson.

I stand corrected.

Actually, it breaks down like this:

In order for a crime to have been committed,

1. there must be evidence that the Plame's identity was leaked with "the intent to unveil a covert intelligence officer".

Come on; how can someone can obtain secret information, and not know that it's secret??

You'll of course, say that it might not have been secret.

Well, the CIA is pursuing it like it was classified; and no in the White House has yet to say that it was NOT classified. Which would have been their first and only arguable defense.

So that's pretty much it, for that argument. If you still want to contest it, I deal with that argument further, below.

Either Rove got the info himself, or someone who had access got it to him. Either way, Rove confirmed Wilson's wife's identity to Cooper, and then said "I've probably said too much."

And, as an aside, doesn't it bother you at all, that this is payback? That rather than fight Wilson's allegations on their facts - most of which have turned out to be correct - they go the backwards route of trying to smear his credentials?

The idea that the White House wanted to "discredit" Wilson is ludicrous when you consider the timing - the SSCI investigation did that for them, and Rove already knew it was coming out when Cooper contacted him - not the other way around, mind you - just before Rove went on vacation.

Uh-huh.

And after the SCCI investigation 'discredited' Wilson (where is that yellowcake, by the way?), it just so happened that Novak was contacted by two senior administration officials at the same period, for the article that *he* ran. And it just so happened that Miller was contacted at the same time. And it just so happened that all this occurred within a few days of Wilson's NYTimes Op-Ed piece, which hit the administration very hard at an inconvenient time.

Strange how that happened. That's quite a coincidence. But it must be a coincidence - otherwise Rove and others are guilty.

2. by someone who knew the CIA was taking active measures to keep the agent's covert status concealed".

Plame was driving through the front gate of Langely every day where she could be easily photographed. Not the way to "hide" a covert agent, is it? Her maiden name (cover name) appeared on Wilson's web site.

Dude,
a) lots of people work for the CIA, and aren't agents. [At least, as far as we know. :)]
b) did her maiden name appear on Wilson's website, under the heading "MY WIFE, THE CIA ANALYST"?
c) there's a difference in anonymity between driving through a gate, and having your name publicly linked with the CIA and then pushed to the front pages of worldwide newspapers.

Is she only provable as a cover, if she goes to work through a series of secret tunnels like Get Smart?

c) most importantly - the CIA says she was undercover!! And no one in the White House says she was not! Therefore she was almost certainly undercover!

I'm surprised to even have to argue this.

The fact that Novak spoke with CIA officials shortly before releasing the story and they did not discourage him from publishing seriously casts doubt on the covert status theory.

That is absolutely not true. In fact, the CIA asked Novak not to reveal her name.

That Novak then went ahead and did it anyway, and then later blamed the CIA for not telling him more firmly, kind of shows you a bit about Novak's personal character.

Furthermore, for the CIA to go one step further and *tell* Novak not to, would in itself risk confirming her status and identity.

That it was apparently common knowledge in DC social circles that Ms. Plame was a CIA agent, and that she subsequently appeared in deep cover on the pages of Vanity Fair casts even more doubt on this theory.

That she appeared on a magazine cover, once her cover was the top pages of all the worldwide papers for weeks, proves that she didn't have her cover blown??

And by the way, this is bull:

Plame's identity was classified. It could therefore only be obtained by someone *with* clearance

Wrong. The CIA is leakier than an old bucket.

First, most of the stuff that is leaked, doesn't come from the CIA - it comes from "Senior administration officials who choose not to be named". In fact, that's just how this classified info appeared in Novak's column.

But, second, even if it were true that the CIA leaks all the time - so what?

That still does not prove that the stuff that is leaked, is not classified!!

And I'm not sure it has been established that her identity was classified, by the way.

Well the CIA seems to be pretty sure. They are pursuing this, as if it means that their ability to protect their agents from being revealed, is deeply threatened.

Aren't you tired of twisting this all around in some way, so that it's Wilson's fault that the Administration blew his wife's cover to get back at him?

Posted by: jim at October 5, 2005 11:55 AM

You know, not to sound crazy and all, but if I had a job as a covert op, I would not go through the front gate of the CIA every morning.

And if I were working for another country, I would look at who went into the CIA every morning. You know, to see if someone who knew my countries secrets with might be going there.

But jim thinks that is so simple minded.

Maybe this explains why our intelligence sucks.

Posted by: KJ at October 5, 2005 12:14 PM

Judith Miller didn't any of the WMD reporting right. Everything she was hand-fed by bush boy and reported concerning prewar intelligence turned out to be a lie.

Why should anyone think Miller got Valerie Plame's correct information? If would be a first that she reported the truth.

bok bok, Chicken Hawk

Posted by: Gars Luber at October 5, 2005 02:44 PM

KJ,

The CIA is not a nightclub. There is no back door for their 'celebrities'. Unless Plame was telecommuting, she had no choice but to enter the premises just like everyone else.

The better solution is to not have simple-minded presidents who out our spies because their war lies are about to be exposed.

Does the truth matter here? Or is the truth just a rhetorical expenditure in the Chicken Hawk World?

bok bok Chicken Hawk

Posted by: gars Luber at October 5, 2005 04:34 PM

Well... Wilson was the ambassador of Iraq and Nigeria. He knew both parts of the world better than any Republicoward. Any other questions?

Posted by: Joe Thorn at October 5, 2005 04:37 PM

Does the truth matter here?

Absolutely. Which is why your sound affects are so entertaining for the adults in the room.

Posted by: KJ at October 5, 2005 04:41 PM

KJ,

The CIA is not a nightclub. There is no back door for their 'celebrities'.

I'm not KJ, but...

If she had been a covert op, she wouldn't be anywhere near Langley PERIOD. She wouldn't go in the front door. She wouldn't go in the back door. She wouldn't go in thru some underground tunnel. She wouldn't have gone there, PERIOD. No covert op would even go near Langley, much less inside.

The CIA goes to it's covert ops, not the other way around.

And Joe, I guess Shirley Temple is an expert on Ghana's political climes too.

Posted by: Masked Menace© at October 5, 2005 04:43 PM

This is funny stuff. You guys are very good about not reading the facts of the case, and very good at cooking up conspiracy theories that 1. Clear all Repubs or 2. Smear Democrats.

Alas, I guess facts don't mean much to Repubs anymore.

Posted by: BigRed [TypeKey Profile Page] at October 5, 2005 06:39 PM

And the guest commenters seem to be quite good this week at catchall statements that don't cite any factual sources in refutation.

Really persuasive argumentation technique: scream "liar" generically, then don't back it up.

Posted by: Cassandra at October 5, 2005 06:46 PM

OK, Cassandra; still waiting for a refutation of this point:

"most importantly - the CIA says she was undercover!! And no one in the White House says she was not! Therefore she was almost certainly undercover!"

Posted by: jim at October 5, 2005 07:40 PM

Jim:

I am very sorry, but this Miers thing has just about finished me. I just can't spend another minute on line. It's not fair to you and I apologize.

I will try in the morning to respond to your comment. I'm not ignoring you - I just had a crappy day and right now I can't deal with another thing. I hope you will understand, and again, I'm sorry.

Posted by: Cassandra at October 5, 2005 08:15 PM

Jim: Actually, Wilson himself said that Valerie Plame had not worked as a covert operator for the CIA for years. Therefore her recent disclosure as a "covert agent" cannot have been a crime because she was not one at the time of the alleged disclosure.

Posted by: WJSSR at October 5, 2005 11:52 PM

Cassandra wrote:
Why is it that you already decided the outcome of a pending investigation?

Well, they've got the rope, torches and pitchforks out and ready... it would be SO disappointing if they had to tromp on home after all the fuss.

Posted by: Patrick Chester [TypeKey Profile Page] at October 6, 2005 04:39 AM

Jim: Actually, Wilson himself said that Valerie Plame had not worked as a covert operator for the CIA for years. Therefore her recent disclosure as a "covert agent" cannot have been a crime because she was not one at the time of the alleged disclosure.

No; blowing her cover compromised the entire operation she had been in, the front company that she was working for, both of which continued after she wasn't working directly for them as an agent. Blowing her cover also put suspicion on *everyone* who had contact with her while she was under-cover - and also compromised people she had never met, who were working at that front company.

And the front company itself was part of an operation into preventing WMD proliferation.

This really is a big deal.

Posted by: jim at October 6, 2005 01:38 PM

I will try in the morning to respond to your comment.

That's all fine, and please, take your time. It's all discussion here. :)

Posted by: jim at October 6, 2005 01:41 PM

Jim:

This is one of the gentlemen I was referring to earlier, who actually drafted the law in question and so is quite familiar with both the intent and purpose of the law.

I purposely eschewed the normal sources I link to since you might accuse them of being partisan (WSJ, WaPo - though I find the Post biased on the other side :) I chose CNN because they hate Bush with all their guts and livers :D

The article is linked to my name.

Key quotes:

[the law] is so narrow it's only been used once in its 23-year history, and that was with one of our embassy officials in Ghana in a prosecution where she pleaded guilty to telling her boyfriend who the local CIA agent was.


...aside from maybe partisan politics, looking strictly at the law that you drafted, do you see any evidence, according to this law, any evidence of any criminal wrongdoing?

SANFORD: No, I think it's pretty clear that what Karl Rove said to Time magazine's Matthew Cooper doesn't even come close to the kind of knowing violation that is required by the act. Really, the act really requires an intent to harm national security, and that certainly can't be said in these circumstances, I think.

PHILLIPS: All right. Now, we've heard a lot about the act, but let's look at it, actually read this portion of Section 421 of the act:

"... knowing that the information disclosed so identifies such covert agent, and that the United States is taking affirmative measures to conceal such covert agent's intelligence relationship to the United States ..."

So in other words, what you're saying, the reason there is no evidence of criminal wrongdoing is because Karl Rove didn't do anything wrong because he didn't know that Plame was covert.

SANFORD: That's pretty clear from the notes, the e-mails that Time magazine released to the grand jury that [White House political adviser] Karl Rove said that [former Ambassador Joseph] Wilson's wife -- he didn't even use her name -- but Wilson's wife "apparently works" at the CIA.

It seems to me there's a substantial question whether she qualifies as the kind of covert agent that was envisioned by the act. There are very tight requirements for that.

And there is a substantial doubt whether the agency was taking the kind of affirmative measures to conceal her identity that the act talks about.

PHILLIPS: So, Bruce, how would you define a covert agent?

SANFORD: I think a covert agent under the act has to be someone who has deep cover, who is working abroad. Not just traveling abroad, but is stationed and working abroad sometime within the last five years.

And USA Today reported that Joe Wilson's book has even made -- if you do the timeline, the Wilsons were married in 1998. There's some question whether she was even abroad during the last five years.

She really had a desk job at [CIA headquarters in] Langley [Virginia] and was driving in and out of the CIA every day. That's not exactly deep cover.

PHILLIPS: Well, do you think that is the area that needs to be flushed out in a little more detail? Because obviously there is a criminal investigation going on. Somebody thinks that somebody did something wrong. Is it going to come down to defining her job, detail by detail?

SANFORD: Well, I think we'll have to -- Pat Fitzgerald, the prosecutor, will obviously have to see whether this act applies.

But if it isn't this act that serves as the basis for an investigation, he could always rely on perjury or obstruction of justice, the sort of lying to investigators that prosecutors have used time and time again in recent years.

PHILLIPS: Well, breaking the law or partisan politics, do you think Valerie Plame [Wilson's wife] is now damaged goods?

SANFORD: Well, ... it is worth remembering that when Robert Novak, the columnist, disclosed her identity in his column, he had called the CIA to tell them he was going to do that, and they didn't stop him.

They did not do what the CIA normally does in that situation if they want to protect or continue to protect somebody's identity. ...

They didn't call his syndicate. They didn't scream at him, say you're going to endanger her life or [en]danger her career, that sort of thing. They just sort of shrugged and said, "Well, I guess she won't be getting any more overseas assignments."

I don't think that's the kind of affirmative measures that the agency needs to be taking in order to invoke the statute.

Posted by: Cassandra at October 6, 2005 02:14 PM

This article, also by the two authors of the Act in question, is excellent and more detailed. Again, the article is linked to my name:

When the act was passed, Congress had no intention of prosecuting a reporter who wanted to expose wrongdoing and, in the process, once or twice published the name of a covert agent. Novak is safe from indictment. But Congress also did not intend for government employees to be vulnerable to prosecution for an unintentional or careless spilling of the beans about an undercover identity. A dauntingly high standard was therefore required for the prosecutor to charge the leaker.

At the threshold, the agent must truly be covert. Her status as undercover must be classified, and she must have been assigned to duty outside the United States currently or in the past five years. This requirement does not mean jetting to Berlin or Taipei for a week's work. It means permanent assignment in a foreign country. Since Plame had been living in Washington for some time when the July 2003 column was published, and was working at a desk job in Langley (a no-no for a person with a need for cover), there is a serious legal question as to whether she qualifies as "covert."

The law also requires that the disclosure be made intentionally, with the knowledge that the government is taking "affirmative measures to conceal [the agent's] relationship" to the United States. Merely knowing that Plame works for the CIA does not provide the knowledge that the government is keeping her relationship secret. In fact, just the opposite is the case. If it were known on the Washington cocktail circuit, as has been alleged, that Wilson's wife is with the agency, a possessor of that gossip would have no reason to believe that information is classified -- or that "affirmative measures" were being taken to protect her cover.

There are ways of perceiving whether the government was actually taking the required necessary affirmative measures to conceal its relationship with Plame. We can look, for example, at how the CIA reacted when Novak informed the press office that he was going to publish her name. Did the general counsel call to threaten prosecution, as we know has been done to other reporters under similar circumstances? No. Did then-Director George Tenet or his deputy pick up the phone to tell Novak that the publication of her name would threaten national security and her safety, as we know is done when the CIA is serious about prohibiting publication? No. Did some high-ranking government official ask to visit Novak or the president of his newspaper syndicate to talk him out of publishing -- another common strategy to prevent a story? No.

Novak has written that the CIA person designated to talk with him replied that although Plame was probably not getting another foreign assignment, exposure "might cause difficulties if she were to travel abroad." He certainly never told Novak that Plame would be endangered. Such a meager response falls far legally shy of "affirmative measures."

There is even more telling CIA conduct about Plame's status. According to the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence's "Report on the U.S. Intelligence Community's Prewar Intelligence Assessments on Iraq," when the agency asked Plame's husband to take on the Niger assignment, he did not have to sign a confidentiality agreement, a requirement for just about anybody else doing work for an intelligence agency. This omission opened the door for Wilson to write an op-ed piece for the New York Times describing his Niger trip. Did it not occur to our super sleuths of spycraft that a nationally distributed piece about the incendiary topic of weapons of mass destruction -- which happens to be Wilson's wife's expertise -- could result in her involvement being raised?

Posted by: Cassandra at October 6, 2005 02:26 PM

And in answer to your earlier question: if no crime was committed, why is there an investigation?

That is precisely the question the investigation is looking at. You cannot answer the question without holding an investigation, and you cannot dismiss allegations of this sort without creating the appearance of corruption.

I believe with all my heart and soul that would be wrong, as stupid and destructive as this whole affair has been. I have been saying this for a year and a half. Once started, it cannot be stopped.

Which is perhaps what was intended all along.

But we will have to wait until the final chapter to see what falls out. Neither you, nor I, know the answer.

We can opine all day and all night, but there are people tasked with investigating this matter. They will do their jobs. So be it. They may well be an indictment. If so, there will be trials.

*And until the jury has heard all the evidence, no one can really know with certainty if a crime has been committed*. I am content to let this play out. I mock it a lot, but I have never objected to the process one whit, despite what many of the Salon commenters seem to think. If I could not entertain the possibility that a Rethug :) might be guilty, I'd be demanding an end to the investigation. I have never once done that - in fact, I have supported it.

They are wrong.

Posted by: Cassandra at October 6, 2005 02:32 PM

And thanks, WJSSR :)

[hug]

Posted by: Cassandra at October 6, 2005 02:38 PM

Here are my latest thoughts on the subject--

http://americanthinker.com/articles.php?article_id=4902

Posted by: clarice at October 14, 2005 07:07 AM

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