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October 09, 2003

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Jane Finch

For me, the issue isn't whether the act was "criminal". There are serious ethical questions about public conduct that do not involve breaking the law, and I'm a tad nonplussed to see the "oh well it may not have been criminal so I'll still vote for the guy" rallying cry. "Bumbling" and "stupid" don't cover what was done, criminal or not.

The Clenis may have lowered the bar of public conduct, but it seems that Bush and his supporters like to keep it there. And that bodes ill.

Jane Finch

And please fix the tags! I was on a rant....

TM

Well, I have been saying that dire consequences are appropraite even in the "stupid but not criminal" scenario. In fact, I have called for a Congressional hearing with bright lights and a public (verbal) flogging.

As to fixing these tags, do you presume me to have some level of techinical skill, here?

Besides, I kind of like it...

Again

Nu?

ag

Et, nu?

Paul Zrimsek

It's possible that the "Oh well, it may not have been criminal so I'll still vote for the guy" rallying cry may actually be saying "Oh well, it may or may not have been criminal, but the election is definitely 13 months away so maybe I can put off deciding whether or not to vote for the guy until we actually know something."

TM

Yeah, that's what I am really saying!

HH

To this day, no one is seriously accusing Bush of involvment in the leak, they're just trying to twist his words and actions into the "he doesn't care" meme... but ultimately one doesn't vote for staffers, one votes for the president.

Alex Parker

Tom,

There is one important piece of evidence here: the Time Magazine Piece on July 17. http://www.time.com/time/nation/article/0,8599,465270,00.html

Relevant quote: "And some government officials have noted to TIME in interviews, (as well as to syndicated columnist Robert Novak) that Wilson's wife, Valerie Plame, is a CIA official who monitors the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction."

You've state before that you think this gov't official might be CIA, not administration--do you really think that's possible? It makes no sense in the context of the story. It suggests Jayson Blair-style reporting from the article's writers, since in the context of the article (the whole point of the article) is that the gov't official told Time magazine as part of a smear job. Are you charging Time with that type of duplicity? (I'm not saying it's not possible, I just want to clarify.)

Anyways, let's say for a second that Time's source was an administration official, but let's disregard Time's unsupported allegation that it was the same official who told Novak. And let's also presume Isikoff and Hosenball's theory is correct. That one admin. official innocently let Plame's name slip out to Novak, Rove (or whoever) read Novak's piece and then immediately (within a day or two) incorporated it into an already-rolling smear campaign? I guess it is possible, but it just seems a bit too well-coordinated to me.

Suppose the leakers' plan all along was to leak to one reporter, then spread it around after that. It actually makes a lot more sense, since Novak is a reliable conduit of information, and why would the leakers leave six chattering witnesses around Washington?

Cecil Turner

If the "insidery six" never happened (which is the only good explanation for why none of them came forward), I have to disagree with the "evil conspiracy" theory being bolstered. The six has always been the most compelling evidence against Novak's description of a relatively innocent slip. If that evidence evaporates, the only thing left is Novak--and his version is far less damaging.

On a related note, I was struck, while watching Meet The Press last week, with how Novak scowled at Dana Priest when she was talking about the "insidery six" source. It almost looked like he wanted to call her a liar. The camera kept panning back to him, so I must not have been the only one who saw something. This interpretation would seem to explain that as well.

If so, the air is going to leak out of this thing pretty quickly. Especially if Plame doesn't meet the cover requirement for the agent disclosure statute, we're left with a relatively mundane leak of classified information. And since the same charge could credibly be aimed right back at Wilson, the whole thing turns into a food fight with no winners.

TM

That TIME piece is deeply puzzling. In their latest print version, TIME (barely, as best I can tell) notes their own coverage, and says they referred to "officials", without clarifying "admin" vs. "gov't."

In the paragraph you are citing, they switch between Admin officials, like Fleischer, and Gov't officials, like Tenet. Could they be so sloppy as to describe a sr. WH aide as "government" in the same paragpah where Fleischer is "Administration"? My guess is not, but I can't prove it.

A recent WaPo story seemed to presume TIME had spoken to "Admin officials".

OTOH, TIME was NOT in the criminal referral, and no one talks about the mysterious leak to TIME; the WaPo describes their own chat with a "CIA spokesman" who spoke with Novak, so perhaps the same spokesman talked to TIME - since the spokesman is authorized, there is no criminality.

The full TIME paragraph:

Former Ambassador Joseph C. Wilson raised the Administration's ire with an op-ed piece in The New York Times on July 6 saying that the Administration had "twisted" intelligence to "exaggerate" the Iraqi threat. Since then Administration officials have taken public and private whacks at Wilson, charging that his 2002 report, made at the behest of U.S. intelligence, was faulty and that his mission was a scheme cooked up by mid-level operatives. George Tenet, the director of the Central Intelligence Agency, took a shot at Wilson last week as did ex-White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer. Both contended that Wilson's report on an alleged Iraqi effort to purchase uranium from Niger, far from undermining the president's claim in his State of the Union address that Iraq sought uranium in Africa, as Wilson had said, actually strengthened it. And some government officials have noted to TIME in interviews, (as well as to syndicated columnist Robert Novak) that Wilson's wife, Valerie Plame, is a CIA official who monitors the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. These officials have suggested that she was involved in her husband's being dispatched Niger to investigate reports that Saddam Hussein's government had sought to purchase large quantities of uranium ore, sometimes referred to as yellow cake, which is used to build nuclear devices.


Novak's original bit:

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.


So, I say "the CIA says" tracks what "government officials" told TIME.

Or, maybe TIME talked to the original leaker, who said, yeah, I gave this to Novak.

Worth noting - the Novak connection was inserted parenthetically around July 22; their first story did not have that.

TM

We drop the gloves - someone says that "the "Insidery Six" is too dorky". Dorky? C'mon, a subtle allusion to Spiderman and the "Insidious Six" is "dorky"?

Fine, "Select Six" works as a Lottery play. Everyone's a critic.

Alex Parker

Thanks, I knew it had been updated but I wasn't sure how. A few points:

1) It is my understanding that journalists can't be forced to testify about their sources, unless all other alternatives have been used. That could explain why Time was not part of the criminal referral. But I do know that the writers of the Newsday July 22nd piece were in the referral, so maybe that theory doesn't pan out. (Was Novak part of the referral?) Josh Marshall was perplexed by the inclusion of the Newsday writers, since they never had claimed to have been contacted by an administration official---they did, however, have an intelligence source who identified Plame as an undercover CIA operative. Beats me.

2) I'm still having a hard time understanding your CIA theory--why would the CIA tell them at that point, especially if they didn't know about the Novak column. (I'm asssuming if they knew about it they would have included it). Are you suggesting that this was all part of a CIA plot to set Bush up? This seems a bit too sophisticated even for the CIA. It is possible that the Time writers were trying to set Bush up, by trying to make a CIA official sound like a Bush admin. official--but note that the article makes no mention of the leak as being illegal. (They didn't even catch on, as David Corn did, that she was undercover. All they had to do was look at her bio and realize that she was supposedly an energy consultant).

3) It seems to me, that Time magazine is guilty either of sloppy wording, or extremely dishonest reporting. Of the two, the former seems to jive with other events much better than the latter.

P.S. Is there a link out there of the pre-July 22 Time story? That would be very informative.

Alex Parker

On my blog I've been calling them "Sexy Six," because it makes no sense whatsoever and therefore is cool. I agree "Insidery Six" is kinda dorky. Although I didn't know the Spiderman reference, adds a few cool points.

Jay Caruso

Not that I am into horn tooting per se, but this time I cannot pass up the opportunity.

I was on this one last night.

Ok, enough tooting.

Cecil Turner

Looks like it might have to change to "illusory six" or something similar.

TM

We encourage tooting. I am encouraging folks to click on Alex Parker's link, too.

I do not have a screen shot of the original TIME story -as best I could tell at the time, the only change was the insertion of the parenthetical comment about Novak.

Now, were they sloppy? Hyping their story and trying to pretend that they had more than just a CIA flack? Sworn to secrecy by a source that said, "this is radioactive, I can only talk on the record if you identify me as "government" - I agreed to "Sr. Admin" with Novak a few days ago, but that was then, and this is now"?

I don't know. But the CIA spokesman that talked to the WaPo also described his conversation with Novak to the WaPo, so he might have done that with TIME - he is a public, not covert, source.

Ray Radlein

P.S. Is there a link out there of the pre-July 22 Time story? That would be very informative

I don't have a link, but I did cut-and-paste quote that passage in an "are they really doing what it looks like they're doing here?" e-mail I sent out to some friends of mine on July 19 (i.e., before Time changed the online text). The relevant text, pulled from my "Sent" mail folder:

"Some government officials, noting that Wilson's wife, Valerie Plame, is a CIA official who monitors the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, intimate that she was involved in his being dispatched Niger to investigate reports that Saddam Hussein's government had sought to purchase large quantities of uranium ore, sometimes referred to as yellow cake, for the purposes of building nuclear devices."

TM

I saved this excerpt:

...Some government officials, noting that Wilson's wife, Valerie Plame, is a CIA official who monitors the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, intimate that she was involved in his being dispatched Niger...

Hmm, would I describe a chat with a spokesman with the word "intimate"? Maybe, if they said I should think twice about publishing it, as they did with Novak.

Or, if it was a very cool leak. It changed to this:

And some government officials have noted to TIME in interviews, (as well as to syndicated columnist Robert Novak) that Wilson's wife, Valerie Plame, is a CIA official who monitors the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.

Maybe the editor didn't like "intimate" either. And "Niger" lacks a verb, like "to Niger".

And that mistake appears a bit further down in the revised version:


These officials have suggested that she was involved in her husband's being dispatched Niger to investigate reports that Saddam Hussein's government...

Next check - the mysterious Google!

Bingo - these guys seem to have copied the whole original article.

http://www.apfn.net/messageboard/7-19-03/discussion.cgi.36.html

HH

"On my blog I've been calling them 'Sexy Six,'"

Yes but what if one of them is Helen Thomas?

Alex Parker

Thanks a lot for the plug, TM, I really appreciate it. (Although I'm not sure if the link is going to the right place--probably my bad. I'm really really new at this, and blogger.com software has been causing me plenty of problems).

Here was my point: The Time writers were sloppy if they identified the administration source as a government source (unless, as you say, that was a condition of the leak). They were dishonest if the leak was CIA, because the whole point of the article is that there had been an organized smear campaign from the administration, and they offered the leak as evidence of that. Maybe I'm just too trusting of mainstream media but this sounds like a job-losing offense and I just can't imagine the writers taking that risk.

But I eagerly await your surprise revelation.

TM

No, I am the one who is surprised - I thought the news that the TIME piece had been revised would come as a surprise.

Your new post is interesting - the original TIME piece does seem to exist in a universe that is parallel to Novak's world, even though it is dated July 16. I wonder if it really is some pre-Novak leaking we are seeing here.

Which takes us back to, why aren't they in the criminal referral, along with Novak and the two Newsday reporters who published a week later?

Paul Krugman mentioned the TIME story, so it is not as if it totally escaped notice. Man, if the CIA and DoJ missed this, my confidence in the investigation is not exactly soaring.

And the WaPo mentioned it several times last week. Puzzling.

Alex Parker

I think that the Newsday writers were in the criminal referral--are you referring to the guidelines sent by White House Counsel Gonzales to the White House staff? http://www.talkingpointsmemo.com/archives/week_2003_09_28.html#002027

But the thing is, the Newsday writers weren't contacted by the Novak leakers. They had a leak from an intelligence source, confirming Novak's assertion. (Remember as of 7/14, we knew that she was either an undercover officer or an energy analyst.) I don't see why they would be relevant to the investigation. Revealing her name after it was already out is no crime.

BJ

Question: are we saying here that Tenet is not be an Administration Official? I always thought that term applied to those in the larger set of Government Officials that serve at the pleasure of the President (as opposed to the civil service). Doesn't he so serve?

The CR

If there is tooting to be done, then I'd like to point out that that I was casting doubt on the "imaginary six" right here in these comments two days ago! (toot, toot)

http://justoneminute.typepad.com/main/2003/10/vpw_forensic_re.html

"My prediction -- Shallow Throat is a liar. There are no "Leaked to Six""

The more interesting question now is who is Shallow Throat and why did he lie to the WaPo. (I'm assuming that the WaPo wouldn't lie outright and their information about "the six" came from Shallow Throat.}

BevD

Now wait a minute here...isn't Novak one of the six reporters? Newsweek said on their MSNBC newsite right after the late Sept. story came out, that THEY had been given the information. Time magazine said that Libby had given them the story before the first Novak column. Cliff May said that he had been given the story before Novak's column made print. A reporter told the WaPo, that he/she had been given the information before the column. A reporter called Wilson before the Novak column appeared and warned him that they "were out to get him". Now, that's six, isn't it? Isn't realistic to assume that six were given the information before the first "outing" and six were called AFTER the Novak column appeared? Obviously, Chris Mathews and Andrea Mitchell were two of the six who were called AFTER the column appeared, in hopes that they would pump the story. Since Wilson was making appearances on t.v. talk shows after his NYT story appeared on July 6th (@), the focus would have shifted to that media, instead of print. Whose job is it to schedule tv appearances and do damage control in the media? Dan Bartlett. As communications director, it is his JOB to get the message to the media. It seems that there was ONE leaker who got the message out before Novak took the bait, and ANOTHER leaker who flogged the story AFTER the Novak story was printed. We then have a THIRD leaker, who told the WaPo that the leak was orchestrated from the very beginning.

Swopa

The Washington Post has a new story that makes the basis of this thread obsolete:

On July 6, Wilson went public. In an interview published in The Post, Wilson accused the administration of "misrepresenting the facts on an issue that was a fundamental justification for going to war." In an opinion article the same day in the New York Times, he wrote that "some of the intelligence related to Iraq's nuclear weapons program was twisted to exaggerate the Iraqi threat."

On "Meet the Press" that day, Wilson said: "Either the administration has some information that it has not shared with the public or, yes, they were using the selective use of facts and intelligence to bolster a decision in the case that had already been made, a decision that had been made to go war."

On July 7, the White House admitted it had been a mistake to include the 16 words about uranium in Bush's State of the Union speech. Four days later, with the controversy dominating the airwaves and drowning out the messages Bush intended to send during his trip in Africa, CIA Director George J. Tenet took public blame for failing to have the sentence removed.

That same week, two top White House officials disclosed Plame's identity to least six Washington journalists, an administration official told The Post for an article published Sept. 28. The source elaborated on the conversations last week, saying that officials brought up Plame as part of their broader case against Wilson.

"It was unsolicited," the source said. "They were pushing back. They used everything they had."

I posted today on my own site that the Newsweek article was really a disguised plea for the WaPo's source to recant. Looks like he rejected the invitation.

The new Post article also backs up my previous hunch that their source is inside the White House, as are at least two of the leakers.

Which means Bush may really be in deep s--t on this one.

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