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July 13, 2004

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TM

I first saw the idea with "Sym", BTW, so if he shows up here, props again.

J Mann

There's one easy way to see that the left is all wet on this.

Assuming Robert Novak is telling the truth, there are three guys to blame for blowing Plame's cover.

1) A Bush admin official told Novak that Wilson got the job because his wife recommended him. ("Bush Guy").

2) Novak called somebody at the CIA, and understood the CIA guy to have told him that the CIA preferred that he not print Plame's name, but that it wasn't that big a deal. ("CIA Guy").

3) Novak printed Plame's name and that she was a CIA operative. ("Novak").

Ok, there's not much anyone can do to Novak, but the left has shown absolutely NO INTEREST in tracking down CIA Guy, who apparently was in a position to protect Plame and failed to do so.

I doubt that CIA Guy committed a crime, and it's possible that Novak was lying, but if the left were really so outraged about poor Valerie Plame, shouldn't they be calling for Bush to find out who CIA Guy is, and, if Novak's right, to discipline or fire him?

Patrick R. Sullivan

The guy responsible for Plame's identification in the press is her idiot husband. IF, she actually was a covert operative (rather than an analyst) why did he go public in the first place? And with a false story.

He had to know he wouldn't be allowed to get away with it, and his wife's role in getting him the assignment would come out.

TM

Well, the WaPo talked to him, or to someone about him - we infer he is some sort of press spokesperson, so we doubt that his identity is a big secret.

When Novak told a CIA spokesman he was going to write a column about Wilson's wife, the spokesman urged him not to print her name "for security reasons," according to one CIA official. Intelligence officials said they believed Novak understood there were reasons other than Plame's personal security not to use her name, even though the CIA has declined to confirm whether she was undercover.

Novak said in an interview last night that the request came at the end of a conversation about Wilson's trip to Niger and his wife's role in it. "They said it's doubtful she'll ever again have a foreign assignment," he said. "They said if her name was printed, it might be difficult if she was traveling abroad, and they said they would prefer I didn't use her name. It was a very weak request. If it was put on a stronger basis, I would have considered it."

They blew it too, but as you say, no one cares.

It does make one wonder about the part of the statute that says the Government must be taking steps to protect her identity. Were these enough steps?

Paul Zrimsek

We've been here before, haven't we? "Why doesn't Bush just release his National Guard records, so we can all.... start speculating about how they were doctored?" (IIRC, Marshall's reaction was some snark about how easy it is to play hooky and still get paid.)

Who knows, perhaps it will be different this time. Let's some senior-but-not-all-that-senior administration official comes forth, admits that he tried to undercut Wilson's credibility by revealing that his wife got him the job, but that he had no idea she was covert and that no one higher up in the White House knew about it. Whereupon Fitzgerald calls off the probe at once, and Marshall says "Right-ho. Only thing he could do, really." A highly plausible scenario, no?

Brad DeLong

Two remarks:

First, *never* trust Novak. He says "it was a weak request," but he would say that, wouldn't he, no matter what kind of request it was.


Second, I want to know what your current interpretation of the Niger uranium story is. "It's a confused mess" would be a suitable interpretation. "The Bush administration followed its standard strategy of 'verdict first, evidence afterwards' and got tripped up by forged, phony documents" would be a suitable interpretation. "The CIA and the State Department tricked Bush by getting him to give a speech based on false intelligence--and then tried to pull the rug out from under him" would be a suitable interpretation...

TM

Deepthink? I don't believe your (c), the conspiracy theories.

Choice (a), "confused mess", is true but a bit obvious... I'll take it!

I think a more sympathetic version of (b) is "reality" - a "better safe than sorry" Administration that was not looking hard for reasons to exonerate Saddam failed to find the reasons.

The closest we got (for public consumption, anyway) was Colin Powell reviewing the intel before the UN speech, which one might argue was a bit late in the game.

That said, we go back to (a). Suppose the Admin had said, we have studied the heck out of this and as a current threat, Saddam really has been diminished. However, we need to maintain (biterly unpopular and divisive) sanctions indefinitely, and keep troops there indefinitely, because the UN is going to waffle around and eventually back-pedal.

Are we really safer? Maybe we do, maybe not (Hey, Kerry doesn't know either!). But Iraq (unlike Iran and NoKorea) looked like a problem we could actually "solve", and we may yet succeed.

I think it's pretty clear that, knowing what we know now, we would not have invaded. I am less clear on whether "not invading" would have been the right course.

OK, I may want to re-caveat this later, but I have to go.

sym

Novak IS the Prince of Darkness, after all.

The bit of my point that I think Tom missed is that BushCo is (I think, I'm not sure) on the record denying any of them leaked the name. If, instead of denying that that which obviously happened never happened, the SAO used the honest mistake defence from the beginning of the scandal, you guys in the VRWC would have a much better case. But as it is, aren't you just providing the SAO with an excuse after the fact? I agree that it seems like a good excuse based on our new info, but only bloggers are using it. Until actual Republicans in power start using it, why should we deign to answer the Djerijian challenge? (Though, yes, it would be nice if Drum and Kleiman et al. would acknowledge this new info). We're not about to give BushCo more credit than they give themselves.

sym

erm, crosspost
Furthermore, these attempts to blame the leak on the CIA guy, or Wilson himself are pathetic. Does anyone who writes an anti-Bush op-ed deserve to have all his family secrets exposed? The guy who told the media the identity of a CIA agent is the guilty party here.

My reading of the ethics of this case (rather than the legality) is different. When you say "that the leaker's motivation may have been just," do you actually believe leaking the name was the right thing to do? Just beacuse the smear was accurate doesn't mean it wasn't stupid, or illegal. I realize that Wilson may well have been an incompetent that was unfairly attcking Bush. But just because he did get his job through nepotism (though wasn't he an ambassador to both Iraq and Niger, and therefore as qualified as anyone for the assignment anyways? or did he get those jobs through his wife too?), doesn't mean it was in anyone's interest to find out that he only gets jobs because his wife's a spook. Couldn't have Bush just taken his lumps and ignored that aspect of Wilson's incompetence?

TM

Let's see - on "motivation was just", I meant motivation, which was, "promote the truth!". However, unless they had a MUCH stronger story than Novak printed - e.g., his wife has written ten memos arguing that there is no case against Saddam - than the deed itself was wrong. I don't think they had any real allegation, anyway, beyond nepotism and the CIA not taking it seriously. But it was not an unjust motivation, like revenge or intimidation.

Bonus quibble on that, BTW - this is my modified Bush Brute Squad theory. Suppose Rove, Libby, et all, have a neeting, and agree that Wilson is a PR nightmare. They also agree that, since his wife is CIA, they need to tread VERY carefully in exposing the sordid truth behind his recruitment.

So, they chat with a lawyer, review the law, and stage the leak very carefully so that nothing exactly illegal happens. I can imagine lots of ways to do that.

And why the ongoing tussle? Even if its "legal", its embarrassing. Right now, this looks like it will die with the special counsel, barring a surprise.

And on the subject of "If I Could Turn Back Time", apprently (if we can believe a Newsmax summary of a Ted Koppel report), most Senators, including such luminaries as the 2008 Dem Presidential nominee, would not change their war vote based on the new report.

Here is an excerpt which includes a quote:

Koppel reported: "We wanted to see whether the conclusions reached by the Intelligence Committee would have made any difference to the other senators who voted to authorize the war in Iraq, so we called them.

"Of the 42 we reached, only three said they would have changed their minds had they known then 'what they know now.'

"Among those who say they would not have changed their minds, a number of prominent Democrats, including Hillary Clinton, Joe Biden, Chuck Schumer and Tom Daschle."

Go figure. I guess I am being Kerryesque - must be an Irish thing.

IceCold

Brad, there's nothing more "confused" about the underlying story than before -- or than about most other intel matters that are not cut and dried. If anything, it's now less confusing, and Wilson's lack of seriousness and dependability are confirmed.

Wilson's original charges were implausible on their face, and instantly so, to anyone actually thinking about the situation. The SOTU referred to Africa, and Wilson had only a limited view of one of several African countries of interest (only now do we know he lied about even what he knew about that very small part of the puzzle, but that tends to confirm, not confuse). There was no reason to think Wilson could speak authoritatively or even interestingly on a Brit intel assessment -- then or now.

What "verdict before evidence"? The evidence in the form of assessments by foreign services -- prior to and completely unrelated to any forged documents, and probably concerning countries in addition to Niger -- came before the "verdict," which was no verdict but only a judgement that Iraq was believed to be in the market for uranium from Africa. I don't think the SSCI report spills all the details (unsurprisingly) on the guts of the matter, but Tenet has said that the entire estimate on Iraqi nuclear programs/intentions was not hung on the hook of any perceived uranium procurement activities, anyway.

"The CIA and the State Department tricked Bush by getting him to give a speech based on false intelligence--and then tried to pull the rug out from under him" would be a suitable interpretation..." Huh? First, in the real world the agencies don't collude to "trick" policy level people into saying things everyone else knows are untrue, and second, what "false intelligence"? Neither Wilson nor anyone else has provided any info allowing us to evaluate a Brit conclusion that Iraq was seeking uranium in Africa, much less to deem it "false" -- or if they have, I've missed it.

The Kid

Sym has gone further than the facts warrant.

The NYT op-ed piece is what got Novak’s attention.
Novak’s source did not have to give Novak Wilson’s wife’s name – the source may not have known it. Novak apparently contacted the source after Wilson’s op-ed piece appeared in the 7/6/03 NYT. Either before contacting the source or afterwards, Novak could have gone here:
http://www.mideasti.org/html/bio-wilson.html
and read: Joseph C. Wilson IV is married to the former Valerie Plame and has two sons and two daughters.
Novak probably asked why the administration sent a partisan player and got the response that the administration knew nothing about sending Wilson, that the CIA did it, that Wilson’s wife, works at the CIA, recommended that he be sent. The words "covert" or "undercover" did not need to be used.

The Kid

The Middle East Institute link (http://www.mideasti.org/html/bio-wilson.html) is dead - Ambassador Wilson’s consulting business or his Kerry advisor gig may have enabled him to quit the Saudi dole – but I did find that a kind soul’s kept a mirror – you can see Wilson’s bio here:
http://www.fishkite.com/notes/ambassadorwilsonbio.htm

richard mcenroe

What I find delightful is that at least three European intelligence services knew the yellowcake claim was true and could have confirmed it long before Wilson began his traveling geek act and Baghdad Josh Marshall ("we have many big and decisive stories... no really... I mean it...") got on his high hobby horse... God... aaggh... bless our valiant allies...

Pouncer

I wanna ask an elected prosecuter -- maybe one who ran on a platform of cracking down on illegal gun dealers -- what happens when detectives bring him a request for search and arrest warrents alleging drugs and guns; the warrent is issued; the bust goes down; drugs are found -- but not guns.

Do you prosecute those arrested? Or do you set them free and attack the detectives for bringing you a flawed case?

Specifically, I wanna ask that of former state prosecutor John Kerry.

The US legislative authority for war was essentially based on the United Nations resolution 1441. Aside from WMD (which encompass more illegal products than uranium-based bombs) Iraq was accused of building long range missiles, financing terrorists (not Al-Qaida specifically, but "terrorists" generally) holding Kuwaiti nationals hostage, violation of human rights of his own citizens ... a laundry list.

Frankly it's kind of embarrassing. It's almost as bad as Ken Starr shopping around for SOMEthing that Bill Clinton MIGHT have done that MIGHT be illegal ...

That said, if we asked Ken Starr the "guns and drugs" question we can be fairly sure that Kenny would prosecute, and not be too awful fussy about the detectives' errors.

We might guess the same of former federal prosecutor Rudy Guillani.

But I'm not at all sure what Kerry would say. Or do.

Given that he promises to deal with terrorism as "a law enforcement matter"; it's kind of important. Does he spend his efforts on busting evildoers, even if his investigators seem incompetent? Or, does his invest his energy in improvement -- or kicking ass -- among the investigators?

Old Grouch

Trying to kill bold.

Old Grouch

Again. Test.

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