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October 04, 2003

Comments

Jane finch

Poor Bob Novak...he really jumped the shark today with his little "Gore supporters" piece in his ever-more-pathetic "it's all about me me me" ramblings.

Paul Zrimsek

This looks like becoming a recurring theme in the Plame Affair. First the blackguards revealed the secret connection between Valerie Wilson and Valerie Plame, and now this. But now it's ten times weirder: Assuming that the lady's job with Brewster Jennings was indeed her cover story, then not only was it public knowledge, but it existed for the very purpose of being public knowledge. Just what do these guys think a front organization is for, anyway?

narciso

Let me get this straight, this supposedly undercover operative, writes a campaign
check to Gore 2000, in her own name (In
order to keep up the fiction that Joe
Wilson was a Republican?)listing her
front company; Brewster-Jennings; what
Credit Delphine wasn't available. This
kind of irresponsible behavior is the
kind of thing that former Mullen & co
employee; Howard Hunt, in trouble. By the
way, this seems just within the 5 year
window, and she doesn't seem to have
been abroad. The irony that the previous
administration's mishandling of covert
information,and missapropriation of covert
assets (see Tamraz, Roger) made undercover
work, seems to escape many. I guess the FEC
is the leaker now

Cecil Turner

Funny thing about that "secret" connection between Valerie Wilson and Valerie Plame--it was listed in _Who's Who_ and Wilson's online Bio (as Tom helpfully pointed out earlier). The leak is bad, harping on the maiden name thing is silly.

The other thing that's humorous about this is the total pass given to Wilson for writing an op-ed about his CIA WMD fishing trip. Like nobody could ever figure there was a connection between himself and the CIA and do some checking. His insistence on being in the spotlight since couldn't be part of the problem either, could it? Naaah, besides, he's the victim.

Jon H

Cecil Turner: " Like nobody could ever figure there was a connection between himself and the CIA and do some checking."

Yeah, and Barbara Bush was the inspiration for Alias. How do I know? She's married to a former diplomat and spook. It's obvious.

Do you really think people automatically assume that someone who has a connection to the CIA must therefore have a cover CIA agent spouse?

Jay Caruso

I especially like Brad's advice to the White House that they tell Robert Novak to "shut up." This from the same people that went beserk, accusing the administration of McCarthyism and crushing dissent because Ari Fleischer said people sometimes have to "watch what they say."

This is just typical. The Democrats are going to seriously overreach and the public is going to see it as nothing more than politics.

Cecil Turner

JonH
Are you suggesting Wilson's article had nothing to do with his wife's cover being blown? Or that it's a totally unforeseeable consequence of his actions? Or that his continued high profile has no bearing on the case?

I'm supposed to believe Novak's reporting (after the initial disclosure) is a security issue, but Wilson is blameless? Nonsense.

Maybe I'm biased because I think it's bad form to boast of one's CIA missions. But it seems to me that if Plame's cover was really that important, Wilson might have foregone the the initial publicity stunt. And that it's a bit laughable to see pundits pillorying Novak for ongoing reporting while Wilson jokes about movie rights.

Julia Grey

Are you suggesting Wilson's article had nothing to do with his wife's cover being blown?

"She shouldn't have made me look like a fool in front of my friends. She knew I had a bad temper and I could hurt her. Therefore she was just asking for it."

Get a new one, bub.


Julia Grey

No, wait, it's worse. That should have read:

"HE shouldn't have made me look bad in front of my friends. He knew I had a bad temper and could hurt HIS WIFE. He was just asking for it."

Cecil Turner

Nice wife beating analogy. Not terribly convincing, though.

The victim here isn't Valerie Wilson, it's national security. Joseph Wilson is the first, and likely most egregious violator. And as he was holding forth on a topic he knew little about, but she was expert on, it's hard to believe they didn't compare notes.


Julia Grey

The victim here isn't Valerie Wilson, it's national security. Joseph Wilson is the first, and likely most egregious violator.

What was Joseph Wilson's national security violation?

Kirk Parker

Do you really think people automatically assume that someone who has a connection to the CIA must therefore have a cover CIA agent spouse?

Uh, people who don't automatically think the spouse is worth checking out are way, way too stupid to have the slightest connection to intelligence (pun not intended.)

Cecil Turner

Ms Grey,
According to Wilson, the only written report he submitted on his CIA fact-finding trip to Niger was to the NYTimes op-ed page. He claims the mission was "discreet" but not "secret." If he's telling the truth, he may not be in violation of any law, but he's certainly guilty of poor judgment.

What makes his article objectionable, besides divulging CIA methods (in this case reminiscent of _Spies Like Us_ and probably not critical), is that it appears to make publlic a general disagrement among CIA analysts. (Specifically, among WMD experts, which he probably knows something about, since he's married to one.) Disagreement among analysts is no big deal--but discussing it in public gives potential enemies a good idea of our intelligence picture, and by extension intel capabilities. It also tells foreign spooks what lies we are likely to believe, and assists them in disinformation. That's why it's illegal. Wilson didn't quite cross that line--maybe--but it would be logical to conclude if he and his wife agree on the basics, then she got outvoted when it came time to forward the intelligence estimate.

Now we get to whether or not it's got any redeeming social value. If "Bush lied about intelligence" is true, maybe it's important enough to violate a few security regulations in order to inform the electorate. But in this case, Wilson provides no important information. In the first place, the contention that Iraq was shopping for uranium in Africa is a peripheral issue--the only thing it shows is malicious intent, and the efforts of Saddam's regime to skirt UN weapons inspectors. Nobody contended he actually acquired the uranium, just that he tried. And even if he'd succeeded, the process to refine it would take months or years. His nuke program was several years from developing a weapon, and everybody knew it. Also, Wilson was probably wrong on the facts. There are at least two reports of an Iraqi trade delegation in 1999 trying to make a deal, and British Intelligence cites a further foreign source and claims the same thing. In the second place, David Kay's recent report shows undeniable evidence of malicious intent on Iraq's part, stashed WMD components, and continuing programs in defiance of UNSC resolutions. Wilson's inability to find yellowcake shopping is absolutely irrelevant, even if it were proof positive there wasn't any.

The bottom line is that I really have no argument with telling Novak to "shut the &%$@ up." But we should tell Mr Wilson the same thing.

JadeGold

Bravo, Mr. Turner!

You have perfectly reworded the rape defense of "wearing that short skirt, bitch was asking for it."

Extra credit points for skillfully interjecting a bad movie comedy as a rationale for compromising ntional security. Perhaps in your next tour de force, you could convince us Ishtar is reason enough to nuke the Middle East.

Swopa

It also tells foreign spooks what lies we are likely to believe, and assists them in disinformation.

It's a little late. Ahmed Chalabi already had that pretty well figured out.

Cecil Turner

Gotta love the high-minded discourse. If you can't discuss the issue intelligently, squeeze in an analogy with the other side as a wife beater or rapist (or Nazis, which I'm sure we'll get to).

Have fun. I'll check back later to see if there's any actual content.

Jon H

Kirk Parker writes: "Uh, people who don't automatically think the spouse is worth checking out are way, way too stupid to have the slightest connection to intelligence (pun not intended.)"

Well, gosh, isn't that what a cover is for? It's so that foreign governments see an energy company analyst, not a CIA agent.

A foreign government would look up Joe Wilson. They'd find him at the Middle East Institute, with possible Saudi connections. Saudis are pretty big in the energy industry, no? So it's entirely reasonable that he would be married to someone in the energy industry.

At least as reasonable as the automatic assumption that his wife is a spook, if not more.

TM

Well, following the last point, suppose someone is given the assignment of checking out Amb. Wilson's wife anyway. (This is back on July 6, when he publishes in the NY Times).

The wife is nearly invisible on the internet, but eventually, one digs up the maiden name, and the FEC filing. Now we have a company.

And the company is also, as best I can tell after a few minutes, invisible on the internet.

Does this make me suspicious, or do I just set it aside, and pick up the next item in the inbox?

That said, if someone can develop a logical trail suggesting this company does anything of interest at all, we are all ears.

And BTW, I wonder if this is a very American (Scandanavian?) attitude that the wife might work, and be important in her own right. If any sort of cultural bias is at work, the presumption may well be that she is at home with the kids.

All that said, Mr. Turner's basic point, that Wilson's piece was a long "Your CIA AT Work" story that might not have belonged in the NY Times if security was an issue, has some merit. Also, the Ambassador mentioned the 1999 trade mission to the CIA, but not to the NY Times readers.

JadeGold

Frankly, Turner's comments are a loosely-stitched patchwork of half-truths, mistruths, omissions, and fabrications.

Even if we are to take Turner's word for it and assume that Joe Wislson is an evil liberal bent on undermining the WH via lies and subterfuge--the proper response is hardly to expose his wife, a covert US intelligence operative. But, under no circumstances, should we take Turner's word for it.

According to Wilson, the only written report he submitted on his CIA fact-finding trip to Niger was to the NYTimes op-ed page. He claims the mission was "discreet" but not "secret." If he's telling the truth, he may not be in violation of any law, but he's certainly guilty of poor judgment.

Turner seems to be basing his case that since Wilson didn't file a report--he apparently did nothing and nobody in the WH would have known anything about what he did or didn't find. Turner deliberately omits the fact Wilson met with and briefed the US ambassador to Niger (who shared the fact she had debunked allegations of Niger uranium sales to Iraq with Washington)twice.

Upon his return from Niger, Wilson briefed both the CIA and the State Dept. as to his findings.

Further, there are at least four documents which summarized the findings of Wilson's trip. These reports were circulated through the State Dept., CIA, and the office of the VP.

For Turner to pretend that because Wilson didn't write a report is somehow important in light of the fact there were numerous briefings and reports generated by others--is simply deflection.

What makes his article objectionable, besides divulging CIA methods

Nonsense. Wilson notes, as does Turner, his mission to Niger was discreet not secret He was fact-finding; hardly a new or secret CIA method.

is that it appears to make publlic a general disagrement among CIA analysts.

In truth, there was no disagreement. Remember the basis of this entire matter was the issue of an alleged MOA for Niger to sell yellowcake to Iraq. Foreign intelligence agancies and the CIA had long believed the MOA to be bogus.


Cecil Turner

Ms Gold,
As I said nothing about Wilson being liberal, let alone the other nonsense you attribute to me, I think it best to ignore that part.

As to Wilson's trip, he does mention meeting with the ambassador, and other tea parties, but the point eludes me. The ambassador has a secure phone, diplomatic pouch, and presumably speaks to State on a regular basis. If anyone wanted to know the ambassador's views, it's a phone call away. And surely the ambassador can make the tea rounds. Why send Wilson at all? And if it's unclassified, why is it being reported the White House now making an effort to declassifiy it?

Finally, on the MOA, it was not the "basis of the entire matter." As Tenet makes clear in his statement, there were concrrns about a 1999 Iraqi business long before the documents even surfaced. And, of course, Iraq had purchased uranium from Niger back in the Osirak days, so it was a reasonable place to look.
http://www.fas.org/irp/news/2003/07/cia071103.html

As British Intelligence continue to maintain, their source is independent and credible. They specifically retained the information in their dossier against CIA advice, because they thought they had a better source (numerous cites available, here's a BBC one):
http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/americas/3061665.stm


Julia Grey

Turner, sorry, you did not make the case that Wilson in any way compromised national security by writing an opinion piece in the New York Times (months after the war), revealing only that he had made a trip to Niger regarding the uranium claim and had briefed regarding his negative findings long before Bush made his State of the Union address. Methods? Foreign governments are fully aware that the CIA sends people on discreet fact-finding tours and debriefs them on their return.

So we are back to square one. It's really very simple. Blaming the victim (or the victim's husband) will not work here. Wilson did not compromise national security, the people who outed his wife did.

However, I do admire the indefatiguable attempt to bury us in irrelevant detail and misdirection. It's probably the only way the administration's defenders will get the public's eye off the simple fact that a crime has been committed and the White House ignored it for months on end.

Cecil Turner

Well, at least we're being civil now. Obviously I disagree on the propriety of Wilson's trip to Niger and his subsequent reports. I don't find any of it credible, and think there's something wrong about the way it was assigned and conducted, particularly if Plame was involved in the assignment, as has been alleged. But that's clearly a matter of opinion, and you're entirely welcome to yours.

I don't find the victimology argument compelling. The leak is bad, but primarily as a security issue, not because it damaged Plame/Wilson's career. Again, a matter of opinion.

I rather like the "indefatigable attempt . . ." line. But some of the detail is necessary to understanding. Like the simple fact that if this had only been a question of MOA documents, a documents expert would be the logical choice to resolve it--not sending a former diplomat on a very questionable "discreet" mission and leaving him free to report his findings in the Times' op-ed pages. It seems to me likely that a good part of this controversy stems from disgruntled analysts in the CIA--very similar to the Dr Kelly case in the UK--venting through leaks. That's no more appropriate than the White House leaking, and just as criminal. And cries of "we're the victims here" do not impress. Cheers.

Swopa

if this had only been a question of MOA documents, a documents expert would be the logical choice to resolve it--not sending a former diplomat on a very questionable "discreet" mission

Why are these mutually exclusive choices? Why can't they have a documents expert look at the document . . . and have a diplomat who was personally acquainted with Niger's government officials at that time review whether ANY sale was feasible? Or, as Wilson himself describes it:

What I did is I went over and I looked in some detail at how the uranium business operates. Who makes up the consortium? When do they meet to discuss production schedules? How often do they need to revise production schedules? Who makes the decisions on who gets what out of the production that's done every year? Who operates the mine? Who is the operating partner? In other words, who actually has their hands on the product from the time it comes out of the mine to the time it's delivered to the ultimate customer.

Of course, it's obvious he can't have looked into any of this seriously, because he was drinking mint tea at the time . . .

Cecil Turner

Well, they could have done both, but they apparently didn't. According to all reports, the MOA documents wouldn't have stood up to any serious scrutiny . . . and yet they were subsequently provided to UN inspectors and promptly branded as forgeries.

My understanding is that Gen Fulford was the one checking the "hands on" part of the uranium trade. And he concluded it couldn't be surreptitiously diverted. Wilson appears to be superfluous to that effort, but perhaps he was to back him up.

And apparently there was something secret about his mission, because the CIA report is still classified (according to at least two sources). The mint tea is mostly a dig at his own account. And you can hardly accuse him of wasting government funds if he worked pro bono. But if the CIA assigned him a serious mission and received a classified report, it isn't public information. My objection is to the subsequent NY Times article.

Jon H

TM writes: "And the company is also, as best I can tell after a few minutes, invisible on the internet.

Does this make me suspicious, or do I just set it aside, and pick up the next item in the inbox?

That said, if someone can develop a logical trail suggesting this company does anything of interest at all, we are all ears."

Companies open and close all the time, and have various degrees of web presence. Many thousands of actual, operating companies have no internet presence at all.

One explanation that would work would be that the company were actually just formed as a tax vehicle for her own independent consulting work, and she had enough work from established clients and referrals that she didn't need to put up a website for the company to attract more work.

It really requires very little work to set up a company as a legal entity.

The company Joe Wilson put as his employer on the FEC form, "JCWilson International Ventures", doesn't have any web presence at all, but it probably does exist. It is most likely a company of the same form as I described above.

Just because you can't find anything on the web about a company, that's hardly reason to go off thinking the person must be CIA.

TM

Good point. JC Wilson International Ventures has been in the news, but lacks a website. And I know (since you mention it) that folks have set up interior decoration companies just to get dealer discounts at stores. Shocking, I said to my wife.

And as to whether Wilson was a credible investigator, I don't suppose we know whether he was the only person sent to check this out (which picks up on Swopa's point). Maybe ten other crack agents, and the CIA generally, are fuming because Amb. Wilson is putting on such a show, while they did the heavy lifting, and provided a serious, still secret debunking of the Africa-uranium-Saddam story.

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Wilson/Plame