Joe Wilson, aka "Mr. Incredible" will be
whining appearing on 60 Minutes about threats to his wife. Uh huh. Maybe, since Joe admitted to doing consulting work for the CIA in his NY Times op-ed (and the Senate revealed that he undertook a 1999 CIA mission), it is he that is imperiled. Or maybe the baddies are excited about the prospect of a twofer.
Closer to reality is Joseph DiGenova, a Washington lawyer and former US attorney who spoke to the Christian Science Monitor:
DiGenova adds that if the trial judge allows the references to classified information to remain in the indictment, defense lawyers will probably attack the CIA itself for failing to take the necessary measures to protect its own agent.
It was the CIA that enlisted the agent's husband, Joseph Wilson, for the sensitive mission in Africa, and it was the CIA that permitted Mr. Wilson to publicly disclose his role and publicly criticize the White House in an op-ed piece in The New York Times, diGenova says. In effect, the CIA set the stage through sloppy tradecraft for the disclosure of one of its agents.
Indeed - as the Boston Globe noted, her Brewster-Jennings cover was not designed to withstand any scrutiny at all.
The Washington Post surveys the damage done by the Plame leak, and delivers this reassurance:
There is no indication, according to current and former intelligence officials, that the most dire of consequences -- the risk of anyone's life -- resulted from her outing.
Bob Woodward's leaked version was even more reassuring:
WOODWARD: ... They did a damage assessment within the CIA, looking at what this did that Joe Wilson's wife was outed. And turned out it was quite minimal damage. They did not have to pull anyone out undercover abroad. They didn't have to resettle anyone. There was no physical danger to anyone and there was just some embarrassment.
The WaPo also presents a garbled paragraph that is more compelling in the re-edited version picked up by Newsday:
The CIA will not conduct a formal damage assessment until legal proceedings are complete.
Is that how it works when our national security is threatened and lives are on the line - the CIA waits a few years until the trials are over, then assesses the damage?
Come on, we see through this - if the CIA prepared a formal report, it would be subpoenaed as evidence, and the jury would laugh out loud at the "no damage" assessment. So the CIA filed a criminal referral in 2003, got the White House tied up in a two year investigation, and now they are laughing out loud. Well played, especially if you like a spy service that shrugs off executive oversight by inventing crimes and playing dirty tricks.
That said, Fitzgerald saw through their outing ploy, else, where are the indictments for the leaks to Novak and Pincus? However, Fitzgerald did not see through their mysterious "Forgettery Mind Ray" that was trained on Lewis Libby. Where is the justice?
FAIR AND BALANCED: Joe Wilson calmly appraised the hypothetical consequences of his wife's outing for David Corn in the article that ignited this scandal:
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."
Mr. Incredible also helped Katie Couric grasp the enormity of our peril:
COURIC: How damaging would this be to your wife's work?
Mr. WILSON: Well, you know, what was left out of my interview with Andrea Mitchell was--was my comment that I would not answer any specific questions about my wife. But hypothetically speaking, as others have reported, including TODAY, it would be--it would be damaging not just to her career, since she's been married to me, but since they mentioned her by her maiden name, to her entire career. So it would be her entire network that she may have established, any operations, any programs or projects she was working on.
Interestingly, threats to her physical safety are not mentioned here.
UPDATE: Let's add this, by Mr. Gerecht, a former CIA case officer and a resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute:
Truth be told, however, the agency doesn't care much at all about cover. Inside the CIA, serious case officers have often looked with horror and mirth upon the pathetic operational camouflage that is usually given to both "inside" officers (operatives who carry official, usually diplomatic, cover) and nonofficial-cover officers (the "NOC" cadre), who most often masquerade as businessmen. Yet Langley tenaciously guards the cover myth--that camouflage for case officers is of paramount importance to its operations and the health of its operatives.
Know the truth about cover--that it is the Achilles' heel of the clandestine service--and you will begin to appreciate how deeply dysfunctional the operations directorate has been for years. Only a profoundly unserious Counter-Proliferation Division would have sent Mr. Wilson on an eight-day walkabout in Niger to uncover the truth about uranium sales to Saddam Hussein and then allowed him to give an oral report.
UPDATE 2: From the Nov 15, 2003 WaPo, by Dana Priest:
Lives of lies shadow spies even when they leave CIA
Plame's case is different in that she was burned — not once, but twice. The first time was by Aldrich Ames, the CIA turncoat who is believed to have given the Russians the name of every covert operative in the Soviet/East European Division over 10 years beginning in about 1985.
Not knowing exactly whom he had outed, the CIA recalled hundreds of operatives, including Plame, for their safety. Still, her undercover status remained intact until July, when syndicated columnist Robert Novak identified her by name as a CIA "operative" in a column about her husband, former Ambassador Joseph Wilson IV, whom the CIA had sent to Niger to check on allegations that Iraq was seeking to purchase uranium oxide there.
It is difficult to assess the damage to national security from the Plame case without knowing her specific assignments. Between July and October, when the story of Plame's outing took on a much higher profile, the CIA was not officially assessing the damage from Novak's column. Nor was the agency taking, or recommending that Plame take, any particular security precautions.
The CIA has not launched a damage assessment, but in matters that involve law enforcement, such as the Justice Department's investigation into who leaked Plame's name and occupation to Novak, the CIA typically waits until the case is wrapped up so that nothing it unearths is subject to discovery in court.
But FWIW, here is the WaPo from Sept 28, 2003:
After the column ran, the CIA began a damage assessment of whether any foreign contacts Plame had made over the years could be in danger. The assessment continues, sources said.
STILL MORE: Andrea Mitchell got a minimal damage leak similar to Bob Woodward's.
And here is a Jan 30 2004 letter to John Conyers describing the criminal referral - the reference is to a leak of classified information, not a violation of the Intelligence Identities Protection Act.