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October 04, 2003

Oh my

Well, yes, there's been quite a lot of activity in my absence, but I'm confident that you're all up to speed on Rush's illegal drug activity, the various pathetic Republican damage control efforts on Valerie Plame (including Novak compounding his mistake by blowing the cover of the front company she worked for), and Arnold's sexual harassment and professed admiration for Adolf Hitler.

But did you catch Laura Bush at the National Book Festival, reading the following poem authored by none other than her husband?

Roses are red
Violets are blue
Oh my, lump in the bed
How I've missed you.
Roses are redder
Bluer am I
Seeing you kissed by that charming French guy.
The dogs and the cat, they missed you too
Barney's still mad you dropped him, he ate your shoe
The distance, my dear, has been such a barrier
Next time you want an adventure, just land on a carrier.

--------------------

October 01, 2003

Away

For a couple of days.

Think Karl Rove will still have a job when I get back?

--------------------

September 30, 2003

Another one bites the dust

Looks like the "she's just an analyst" excuse isn't going to fly.

This not an alleged abuse. This is a confirmed abuse. I worked with this woman. She started training with me. She has been under cover for three decades. She is not as Bob Novak suggested a "CIA analyst." Given that, i was a CIA analyst for 4 years. I was under cover. I could not divulge to my family outside of my wife that I worked for the CIA unti I left the Intelligence Agency on Sept. 30, 1989. At that point I could admit it. The fact that she was under cover for three decades and that has been divulged is outrageous. She was put undercover for certain reasons. One, she works in an area where people she works with overseas could be compromised...

For these journalists to argue that this is no big deal... and if I hear another Republican operative suggesting that, well, this was just an analyst. Fine. Let them go undercover. Let's put them go overseas. Let's out them and see how they like it...

I say this as a registered Republican. I am on record giving contributions to the George Bush campaign. This is not about partisan politics. This is about a betrayal, a political smear, of an individual who had no relevance to the story. Publishing her name in that story added nothing to it because the entire intent was, correctly as Amb. Wilson noted, to intimidate, to suggest taht there was some impropriety that somehow his wife was in a decision-making position to influence his ability to go over and savage a stupid policy, an erroneous policy, and frankly what was a false policy of suggesting that there was nuclear material in Iraq that required this war. This was about a political attack. To pretend it was something else, to get into this parsing of words.


I tell you, it sickens me to be a Republican to see this.

-Larry Johnson, a former counter-terrorism official at the CIA and the State Department.

Once again, Atrios has the link.

Meanwhile, on Hannity & Colmes, Hannity is chastising Democrats because they did not show this level of outrage when Kathleen Willey's personal information was released. Given the quote above, this transparent attempt to change the subject and downplay the seriousness of this issue can only lead one to conclude that Hannity is objectively pro-treason.

More

From TomPaine.com:

The current spin from administration defenders within and without the mainstream media is that Valerie Plame was only an analyst, and not an operative. This, somehow, is supposed to lessen the blow of an administration willing to attack the families of its critics. Yet the characterization of Plame as an analyst is factually incorrect. For one, Robert Novak himself indicated that she was an operative in the original report that birthed this scandal. "Wilson never worked for the CIA," wrote Novak, "but his wife, Valerie Plame, is an Agency operative on weapons of mass destruction."

Ray McGovern, who was for 27-years a senior analyst for the CIA, further confirms the status of Plame within the CIA. "I know Joseph Wilson well enough to know," said McGovern in a telephone conversation we had today, "that his wife was in fact a deep cover operative running a network of informants on what is supposedly this administration's first-priority issue: Weapons of mass destruction."

McGovern further elaborated on the damage done when such an agent has their cover blown. "This causes a great deal of damage," said McGovern. "These kinds of networks take ten years to develop. The reason why they operate under deep cover is that the only people who have access to the kind of data we need cannot be associated in any way with the American intelligence community. Our operatives live a lie to maintain these networks, and do so out of patriotism. When they get blown, the operatives themselves are in physical danger. The people they recruit are also in physical danger, because foreign intelligence services can make the connections and find them. Operatives like Valerie Plame are real patriots."

It's been fun to watch fair-and-balanced Fox try to spin this. And as for the B-listers from the right half of the blogosphere--well, let's just say that, with a few exceptions, any pretense toward nonpartisan independence of thought is rapidly being revealed as the charade it's always been. Word to the wise, from someone who acknowledged that Clinton was lying right out of the gate: if you want to ever have a shred of credibility, you have to concede the obvious. What were the motivations here? We don't know yet. Maybe it was vindictiveness, as Wilson believes. Or maybe the neocons, noted for their distrust of the intelligence they were getting (in retrospect, good intelligence which did not fit into their ideological preconceptions) believed that association with the CIA would discredit Wilson's story with reporters--his wife's CIA, and you know how skeptical they are. Maybe the full story will come out, maybe it won't. There's always more to the story than what the White House Press Secretary will tell you--you have to be very, very naive not to understand this--and most of what any of us who watch politics from a distance do is try to figure out what's really going on behind the scenes, as best we can, by reading various accounts, looking at the history of the players involved, and by applying basic common sense. Occam's razor is always useful--if you have to contort logic until it screams in order to come up with a story that fits your beliefs, then you probably need to reexamine those beliefs. Whatever is "really" going on here, the basic facts seem pretty clear: somebody in the White House burned a CIA operative for political gain. Beyond that we shall see--sooner rather than later, I would guess. And if it turns out there was any direct damage to national security, the Bushies might as well not wait for '04 to pack their bags.

HOT

Guardian reporter Julian Borger says, "Several of the journalists are saying privately 'yes it was Karl Rove who I talked to.'" Atrios has the Real Audio link.

Also, Calpundit has a good roundup of willfully obtuse right wing responses to the scandal. (Scroll down.)

--------------------

September 29, 2003

Game of chicken
QUESTION: All right. If that's the case, then why does he even need an independent investigation? Why doesn't he simply call those who are responsible to come forward --

McCLELLAN: Do you have something to bring to our attention? I mean, let me make clear, if anyone has information about this leak of classified information, they need to report it to the Department of Justice -- anyone.

The media types don't want to set a precedent of revealing anonymous sources (afterthought: and rightly so), and the White House knows it. So who blinks first?

Diebold

The other important story of the day is the whole touch-screen voting thing. There was an interview with Bev Harris, the writer whoís been on this story from the start, in Salon last week, and thereís one on Buzzflash today. Also The Agonist has a rundown.

Quick hits

The Defense Intelligence Agency says Ahmad Chalabi was, if you'll excuse a slight paraphrase, blowing smoke up administrationís collective ass. The House Intelligence Committee says that the Bushies used outdated and unreliable intel to justify the war. Dick Cheney is still linking 9/11 and Iraq. And on the Plame front, the White House says theyíll provide phone logs to Justice if asked--though they havenít been reticent in making phone logs public when it suits their purposes.

As for me, Iím still rushing to beat deadlines before I head up to give that talk in Geneva (NY, not Switzerland), so unfortunately Iím not going to have much time to comment on any of this for a few days. Keep checking Josh, Kos and Atrios--I have a feeling theyíll be on the case.

One more: White House officially denies that Rove was the leaker. This is significant for a couple of reasons. First, they're not in control of the story, they're playing catch-up. Second, if it was Rove--and remember, there are six other journalists to whom this story was shopped before Novak bit on it--then we're into "what did the President know and when did he know it?" territory.

Also, a quick thought as to why some of our friends on the right seem so befuddled by this "confusing" story--is it because they still believe the White House spin on the Niger story--i.e., that the uranium to which Bush referred in the SOTU speech was from some other unnamed African country, and therefore there was no reason for the White House to act vindictively toward Wilson?

All I know is, anyone who does not vociferously denounce this leak is clearly objectively pro-treason.

--------------------

September 28, 2003

To recap

From David Corn's initial article:

The sources for Novak's assertion about Wilson's wife appear to be "two senior administration officials." If so, a pair of top Bush officials told a reporter the name of a CIA operative who apparently has worked under what's known as "nonofficial cover" and who has had the dicey and difficult mission of tracking parties trying to buy or sell weapons of mass destruction or WMD material. If Wilson's wife is such a person--and the CIA is unlikely to have many employees like her--her career has been destroyed by the Bush administration. (Assuming she did not tell friends and family about her real job, these Bush officials have also damaged her personal life.) Without acknowledging whether she is a deep-cover CIA employee, Wilson says, "Naming her this way would have compromised every operation, every relationship, every network with which she had been associated in her entire career. This is the stuff of Kim Philby and Aldrich Ames." If she is not a CIA employee and Novak is reporting accurately, then the White House has wrongly branded a woman known to friends as an energy analyst for a private firm as a CIA officer. That would not likely do her much good.

This is not only a possible breach of national security; it is a potential violation of law. Under the Intelligence Identities Protection Act of 1982, it is a crime for anyone who has access to classified information to disclose intentionally information identifying a covert agent. The punishment for such an offense is a fine of up to $50,000 and/or up to ten years in prison.

Not really very hard to understand at all.

On a closely related note, Condi Rice was making the rounds this morning. I only caught her on Meet the Press, where she explained that the yellowcake uranium story made it back into the State of the Union address because everyone just plum forgot that it had been discredited.

I shit ye not.

MR. RUSSERT: But when you say that no one in our circles, and it was maybe down in the bowels of the Intelligence Agency, a month after that appearance, you said this, ďThe CIA cleared the speech in its entirety.Ē
And then your top deputy, Stephen Hadley, on July 23, said this.
ďDeputy National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley told reporters that he received two memos from the CIA in October that cast doubt on intelligence reports that Iraq had sough to buy uranium from Niger to use in developing nuclear weapons. Both memos were also sent to chief speechwriter Michael Gerson and one was sent to national security adviser, Dr. Condoleezza Rice, Hadley said.Ē
And George Tenet called Mr. Hadley directly and putóissued a warning on that information. Were you aware of any concerns by the CIA about this incident?

DR. RICE: First of all, the CIA did clear the speech in its entirety and George Tenet has said that. Heís also said that he believes that it should not have been cleared. And we apparently, with theóin October for the Cincinnati speech, not for the State of the Union, but the Cincinnati speech, George Tenet asked that this be taken out of the Cincinnati speech, the reference to yellow cake. It was taken out of the Cincinnati speech because whenever the director of Central Intelligence wants something out, itís gone.

MR. RUSSERT: Howíd it get back in?

DR. RICE: Itís not a matter of getting back in. Itís a matter, Tim, that three-plus months later, people didnít remember that George Tenet had asked that it be taken out of the Cincinnati speech and then it was cleared by the agency. I didnít remember. Steve Hadley didnít remember. We are trying to put now in place methods so you donít have to be dependent on peopleís memories for something like that.

Gosh, I guess we all forget things from time to time. What we had for dinner last night, or whether a key piece of evidence supporting a planned unilateral invasion is credible or not. Things like that. At least they're working on methods to supplement fallible human memory. And Condi, if you're reading this, might I suggest Post-It notes? You can just scribble a quick note to yourself -- yellowcake uranium story utterly fictional, say -- and stick it on your computer monitor, so that when you get to work on that State of the Union address, you and everyone else who vets the SOTU speech in the entire goddamned White House don't "forget" anything.

Update: here's the extent of Condi Rice's comments on the apparent "outing" of Valerie Plame:

MR. RUSSERT: Ambassador Joe Wilson was sent over to Niger by the CIA to look into this whole matter of selling uranium to Iraq. He came back with a report which was given to the administration. Then there was an article by columnist Robert Novak which cited two administration sources and identified Ambassador Wilsonís wife by name. She was an undercover agent at the CIA. There is now an investigation. The CIA has requested the Justice Department to look into this. Itís a crime to identify an undercover agent. And in this article in todayís Washington Post, a senior administration official said that White House officials called six reporters to identify, to out, if you will, Joe Wilsonís wife. What can you tell us about that?

DR. RICE: Tim, I know nothing about any such calls, and I do know that the president of the United States would not expect his White House to behave in that way. Itís my understanding that when a question like this is raised before the agency, that they refer it as a matter of course, a matter of routine to the Justice Department. The Justice Department will now take appropriate action, whatever that is, and that will be up to the Justice Department to determine what that action is.

MR. RUSSERT: What will the president do? Will he bring people in and ask them what they did?

DR. RICE: I think itís best since itís in the hands of the Justice Department to let it remain there.

Josh Marshall reacts:

The only response to this is: Why? Why can't the White House act on its own?

We now know that administration officials know who did it. We can guess. But they know. They even have a pretty good tally of how many journalists were called.

So the president knows that two of his top aides blew the cover of a CIA employee under non-official-cover to take revenge against one of the his critics, and that in doing so they almost certainly broke federal law. In the unlikely -- but possible -- event that he does not yet know their identities right now he could pick up the phone and find out in a matter of minutes.

But he's leaving them in place and, as far as we know, hasn't disciplined them in any way. He's waiting for the Justice Department to decide whether there should be a criminal investigation.

Why?

Because, of course, the entire administration is on its knees, praying fervently that this whole story blows over.

Jailhouse rock

Will Karl Rove soon be exchanging his suits and ties for a new wardrobe of prison denim?

David Corn was on this story early, and now it's made it into the Times and the Washington Post:

At CIA Director George J. Tenet's request, the Justice Department is looking into an allegation that administration officials leaked the name of an undercover CIA officer to a journalist, government sources said yesterday.

The operative's identity was published in July after her husband, former U.S. ambassador Joseph C. Wilson IV, publicly challenged President Bush's claim that Iraq had tried to buy "yellowcake" uranium ore from Africa for possible use in nuclear weapons. Bush later backed away from the claim.

The intentional disclosure of a covert operative's identity is a violation of federal law.

The officer's name was disclosed on July 14 in a syndicated column by Robert D. Novak, who said his sources were two senior administration officials.

--snip--

Wilson, while refusing to confirm his wife's occupation, has suggested publicly that he believes Bush's senior adviser, Karl C. Rove, broke her cover. Wilson said Aug. 21 at a public forum in suburban Seattle that it is of keen interest to him "to see whether or not we can get Karl Rove frog-marched out of the White House in handcuffs."

Afterthought: I certainly hope John Ashcroft sticks to his new get-tough-on-crime, no-plea-bargains policy in this case.

Update: for much more on this emerging scandal, go read Josh Marshall and Atrios.

--------------------

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