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July 15, 2004

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The Kid

When you describe the 16 words as a Clintonian formulation, it sounds like the Bushies didn’t believe that there was a nuclear threat but wanted to convey the idea that there was. I regard the 16 words as the Bushies’ belief that there was a nuclear threat, but that this was the strongest assertion that the admittedly weak intelligence could support. For years our only real source of information was the weapons inspectors. (In fact, if you look through the SSCI report you’ll find one or two places where “weapons inspectors” fits quite nicely into blanked-out areas where the classification is also blanked out.) The administation believed in the "truth" of the threat but could not muster the facts given available sources, methods, and lethargy.

But I digress. If the outing of a covert agent is the suspected crime, let’s look at some facts that haven’t been reported widely. Like Ambassador Wilson’s role in the outing.

First, lets look at his contribution record (I’m too tired tonight to update the list – the below I pulled in September 2003):
Date Amount Target
3/26/1999 $2,000.00 GORE 2000 INC
5/13/1999 $1,000.00 KENNEDY FOR SENATE 2000
5/20/1999 $1,000.00 BUSH FOR PRESIDENT INC
2/10/2000 $500.00 RANGEL FOR CONGRESS 2000
6/25/2000 $500.00 ROYCE CAMPAIGN COMMITTEE
6/28/2001 $500.00 ED ROYCE FOR CONGRESS
2/13/2002 $1,000.00 HILLPAC
6/12/2002 $500.00 ED ROYCE FOR CONGRESS
9/20/2002 $500.00 BLINKEN FOR SENATE CAMPAIGN 2002 LLC
9/25/2002 $250.00 KEEP NICK RAHALL
5/23/2003 $1,000.00 JOHN KERRY FOR PRESIDENT INC.

Notes: Nick Rahall (Democrat, West Virginia 3rd district), although only 49 years old, is the granddaddy of all the Arab-American members of Congress – go here for juicy details; a good contribution for business purposes.
Blinken, doomed to lose, is a former ambassador.
Royce is House Chair of International Relations Subcommittee – Africa; a good contribution for business purposes.

I put that at $6,250.00 for Democrats, $2,500.00 for Republicans for those keeping score. But what’s more interesting is this:

Wilson, Joseph C. Mr. IV
4/22/1999 -$1,000.00
Washington, DC 20007
J. C. Wilson Intl. Ventures/Strateg -[Contribution]
GORE 2000 INC

Wilson, Valerie E. Ms.
4/22/1999 $1,000.00
Washington, DC 20007
Brewster-Jennings & Assoc. -[Contribution]
GORE 2000 INC

These two records show that GORE 2000 INC refunded $1,000.00 of the $2,000 he contributed on 3/26/99; the limit at the time was $1,000. On the same darn date of the refund, Wilson's wife was credited with a $1K contribution. Perfectly legal as far as campaign finance law goes, but note the employer listed for his wife. As we all should now know, Brewster-Jennings & Assoc was a CIA front company (see below). According to D&B, it was established in Boston, MA in May 1994.

According to NYT Nicholas Kristoff, himself suckered by Ambassador Wilson, in a 10/11/03 column:
First, the C.I.A. suspected that Aldrich Ames had given Mrs. Wilson's name (along with those of other spies) to the Russians before his espionage arrest in 1994. So her undercover security was undermined at that time, and she was brought back to Washington for safety reasons.

Ames was arrested in February, 1994. B-J,A was established in May of the same year? Does it seems likely that B-J,A was set up as cover for Ms. Plame and others in her situation? So did the good ambassador spill some of the beans in order to keep the $1k with Gore? Did he know she was covert, when she was covert, and when did he know it?

BTW, I should add that it was the FEC record and Wilson’s bio at the Saudi-funded Middle East Institute that allowed enterprising journalists to connect “Ms. Valerie E. Wilson” with Valerie Plame and B-J,A, exposing the latter as a CIA front as easy as 1-2-3, A-B-C.

But does this matter? Special prosecutors are known to wander about a bit, to stray from their original path down highways and byways that look promising. Is this special prosecutor taking too much time?

I’m content to wait until the fat lady sings “Devil with the Blue Dress On,” but will refrain from a too enthusiastic welcome.

TM

Re: Clintonian - good point, sincerity should count for something, and I can see where "Clintonian" connotes "I don't believe this myself, but I wish you would". I was thinking more as "carefully phrased to reveal only the good parts of 'the truth' ".

On the FEC/Brewster Jennings debacle, I was ,a href="http://justoneminute.typepad.com/main/2003/10/brad_delong_fas.html">aware of some of that.

A partial response - using the web to find that Joe Wilson was married to Valerie Plame, who worked at Brewster-Jennings (and donated as Valerie Wilson) may have been interesting to a foreign intel service that was rounding out their Wilson file, but did not "out" her as CIA.

Once Novak's column was published, anyone interested would learn about Brewster-Jennings pretty quickly.

But that may not be that big a deal based on the comment in this article:

Former intelligence officials confirmed Plame's cover was an invention and that she used other false identities and affiliations when working overseas. "All it [the B-J office] was was a telephone and a post office box," said one former intelligence official who asked not to be identified. "When she was abroad she had a more viable cover."

This may have been the type of problem someone alluded to in some column I can't place, when they said that her high profile marriage made her cover problematic - anyone foreign intel service studying Joe Wilson, globe-trotting former Ambassador now "consulting" (for whom?), might have also studied her, and wondered why Brewster-Jennings didn't seem to exist.

Or, your point, since she may have been compromised in 1994, B-J could not have been intended as a serious, lifetime, good cover for her and lots of other CIA agents. My guess, based on extensive reading of spy novels - Ms. Plame and very few others (if any) used that name on the business card they handed out at cocktail parties, but never on CIA business.

Paul Zrimsek

At the risk of sounding Clintonian myself, I'd call the 16 words "borderline Clintonian". The phrase "has learned", when used in the journalistic sense it was in the SOTU, carries a strong implication that the speaker is not in a position to independently vouch for the truth of the report. But it does quite emphatically vouch for the credibility of the report-- and reasonable people can differ about whather that's appropriate in a situation where a usually very reliable source is offering you a pig in a poke.

TM

Condi Rice with Wolf Blitzer, July 13:

As George Tenet has said, accuracy is not the standard. Of course, the sentence was accurate. But we were asking about confidence. And George Tenet rightly says that the agency cleared the speech, it should not have been cleared with that sentence in.

This was not a good PR fight for the Admin. But they should have pushed their own "good faith exception" harder.

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