David Corn, writing in The Nation, sneak previews the coverage in "Hubris" of Valerie Plame's job at the CIA:
Valerie Wilson was no analyst or paper-pusher. She was an operations officer working on a top priority of the Bush Administration. Armitage, Rove and Libby had revealed information about a CIA officer who had searched for proof of the President's case. In doing so, they harmed her career and put at risk operations she had worked on and foreign agents and sources she had handled.
Another issue was whether Valerie Wilson had sent her husband to Niger to check out an intelligence report that Iraq had sought uranium there. Hubris contains new information undermining the charge that she arranged this trip. In an interview with the authors, Douglas Rohn, a State Department officer who wrote a crucial memo related to the trip, acknowledges he may have inadvertently created a misimpression that her involvement was more significant than it had been.
In 1997 [Ms. Plame] returned to CIA headquarters and joined the Counterproliferation Division. (About this time, she moved in with Joseph Wilson; they later married.) She was eventually given a choice: North Korea or Iraq. She selected the latter. Come the spring of 2001, she was in the CPD's modest Iraq branch. But that summer--before 9/11--word came down from the brass: We're ramping up on Iraq. Her unit was expanded and renamed the Joint Task Force on Iraq. Within months of 9/11, the JTFI grew to fifty or so employees. Valerie Wilson was placed in charge of its operations group.
There was great pressure on the JTFI to deliver. Its primary target was Iraqi scientists. JTFI officers, under Wilson's supervision, tracked down relatives, students and associates of Iraqi scientists--in America and abroad--looking for potential sources. They encouraged Iraqi émigrés to visit Iraq and put questions to relatives of interest to the CIA. The JTFI was also handling walk-ins around the world. Increasingly, Iraqi defectors were showing up at Western embassies claiming they had information on Saddam's WMDs. JTFI officers traveled throughout the world to debrief them. Often it would take a JTFI officer only a few minutes to conclude someone was pulling a con. Yet every lead had to be checked.
"We knew nothing about what was going on in Iraq," a CIA official recalled. "We were way behind the eight ball. We had to look under every rock." Wilson, too, occasionally flew overseas to monitor operations. She also went to Jordan to work with Jordanian intelligence officials who had intercepted a shipment of aluminum tubes heading to Iraq that CIA analysts were claiming--wrongly--were for a nuclear weapons program. (The analysts rolled over the government's top nuclear experts, who had concluded the tubes were not destined for a nuclear program.)
Well. Unlike the Armitage "revalation", this story is not exactly testimony against interest - since it fits beautifully into Corn's preferred story line, we are left to wonder hwo hard he pushed his sources and how heavily he weighted (or discounted) less helpful information.
MORE: I'm still reeling - Ms. Plame was a senior officer in the specific CIA group that had spent the spring and summer of 2003 in a peeing contest with Dick Cheney. Well, I suppose his motive to out her might be greater than we expected. But guess what - Fitzgerald has investigated that for two years and has no case against Cheney.
And of course, her motive to be part of a politically motivated "Gotcha" game played by the CIA at the expense of the Vice-President is also greater than we expected.
This article does not really help with some outstanding issues, but here we go;
(1) Was Ms. Plame involved with orchestrating Joe Wilson's trip to Niger in 2002?
David Corn must be kidding when he tells us that
Hubris contains new information undermining the charge that she arranged this trip. In an interview with the authors, Douglas Rohn, a State Department officer who wrote a crucial memo related to the trip, acknowledges he may have inadvertently created a misimpression that her involvement was more significant than it had been.
Please - Ms. Plame was head of the JTFI Ops group, had proposed her husband for his 1999 trip to Niger, but was not involved here? Well, then, why does Libby's indictment include this:
7. On or about June 11, 2003, LIBBY spoke with a senior officer of the CIA to ask about the origin and circumstances of Wilson's trip, and was advised by the CIA officer that Wilson's wife worked at the CIA and was believed to be responsible for sending Wilson on the trip.
Court filings eventually established that 'senior officer' to be Robert Grenier. So why was he wrong about this - more bad intel from the CIA? My guess - Grenier accidentally told the truth; later, the CIA scrubbed their story a bit. (Gosh, does that mean the CIA might, like, lie? That is almost like running a covert op...).
(2) Was Ms. Plame covert? We still don't know - the statutory definition of "covert" requires that her employment is classified (check!) and
who is serving outside the United States or has within the last five years served outside the United States;
And does "served" mean "formally posted" or is a flight to Europe (or Jordan) on Agency business sufficient?
No one has ever been tried under this statute, so we don't know. However, I bet some inspired legla researcher could find some relevant case law regarding State Department definitions of "service" that might be relevant. FWIW Victoria Toensing, who helped draft the law, insists that "served" means "posted", but who knows?
THE NON-BARKING DOG: Per the story, Cheney met with folks from the CIA team. Well, if he met Valerie Plame professionally, that evidence would have been presented by Fitzgerald, who has strained to come up with anything at all suggesting that Libby knew her status was classified. So far, he has a warning Libby received *after* Novak's column had been published.
THE "ENFORCED" LEAVE: Why did Ms. Plame take what the Daily Telegraph described as a unpaid "enforced leave of absence" in June od 2004, which was long after the initial leak drama, long after the birth of her twins, but just before the embarrassing Senate Intelligence Committee report? Does "Hubris" probe this? I'll bet!
GET ME ROBERT GRENIER! If Grenier actually told Libby that Ms. Plame was on the JTFI as head of operations, wouldn't that be quite unforgettable, whether he also mentioned her classified status was disclosed or not? What did Grenier tell Libby, and how does it impact his "I Forgot" defense? That asked, Special Counsel Fitzgerald has surely poked at this.
NOT A MONOLITH: It's worth keeping in mind that the CIA was hardly monolithic on the question of Iraqi WMDs - just offhand, the CIA had "Joe" at WINPAC promoting aluminum tubes for uranium enrichment centrifuges, supported the notion that captured trailers were for mobile bio-weapons labs, and vetted Powell's not-so-good speech to the UN. Was the CIA sure Saddam had no WMDs? Not a slam dunk!
Actually, Libby's complaint to Judy Miller in the summer of 2003, when the WMDs went missing, was quite different - his view was that the CIA sent over hedged reports before the war, then back-pedaled when the WMDs weren't found.
ALL CONSPIRACIES GET A WHIFF OF OXYGEN: As noted above, if Ms. Plame was so central to the Iraq effort (as opposed, for example, to manning the CIA's Estonia desk), then all conspiracies get a boost, including this one from an unlikely source - Kevin Drum. His speculation - the timing of Wilson's leaks and public statements were driven by information held only inside the CIA and passed to him by his wife.
If they were exploiting her classified status and their spousal immunity to embarrass the White House, that's naughty. Of course, there is no evidence that Fitzgerald ever investigated this, and no likelihood that he will (but that's what the civil suit is for!).