The editors of the Washington Post have had enough of the Joe Wilson saga. Writing on the denouement - Richard Armitage provided the first leak to Bob Novak - they deliver this broadside:
...it now appears that the person most responsible for the end of Ms. Plame's CIA career is Mr. Wilson. Mr. Wilson chose to go public with an explosive charge, claiming -- falsely, as it turned out -- that he had debunked reports of Iraqi uranium-shopping in Niger and that his report had circulated to senior administration officials. He ought to have expected that both those officials and journalists such as Mr. Novak would ask why a retired ambassador would have been sent on such a mission and that the answer would point to his wife. He diverted responsibility from himself and his false charges by claiming that President Bush's closest aides had engaged in an illegal conspiracy. It's unfortunate that so many people took him seriously.
This editorial makes a book-end with the controversial WaPo editorial from a while back which explained that the related leak of portions of the National Intelligence Estimate was "A Good Leak". Since that editorial prompted a response from the NY Times (helpfully titled "A Bad Leak"), perhaps this latest WaPo effort will prompt a Times response as well.
As to why the WaPo might think that Wilson's "I am hero and victim" story was a load of nonsense, let's reprise the views of a few of their reporters. Quotes are (or will be) below, but briefly:
Bob Woodward, Pulitzer Prize winner and leak recipient, thought the story was overdone and national security was not harmed;
Walter Pincus, Pulitzer Prize winner and leak recipient, thought the behavior of the Administration was obnoxious but not criminal, and that partisan Democratic hype led to the investigation;
Dana Priest, Pulitzer Prize winner for her story on the CIA secret prisons, was not able to sleuth out any harm to national security as a result of the Plame leak.
Here is an eerily prescient Bob Wodward on Larry King Live (before his own role was announced):
WOODWARD: Now there are a couple of things that I think are true. First of all this began not as somebody launching a smear campaign that it actually -- when the story comes out I'm quite confident we're going to find out that it started kind of as gossip, as chatter and that somebody learned that Joe Wilson's wife had worked at the CIA and helped him get this job going to Niger to see if there was an Iraq/Niger uranium deal.
And, there's a lot of innocent actions in all of this but what has happened this prosecutor, I mean I used to call Mike Isikoff when he worked at the "Washington Post" the junkyard dog. Well this is a junkyard dog prosecutor and he goes everywhere and asks every question and turns over rocks and rocks under rocks and so forth.
KING: And doesn't leak.
WOODWARD: And it doesn't leak and I think it's quite possible that though probably unlikely that he will say, you know, there was no malice or criminal intent at the start of this. Some people kind of had convenient memories before the grand jury. Technically they might be able to be charged with perjury.
But I don't see an underlying crime here and the absence of the underlying crime may cause somebody who is a really thoughtful prosecutor to say, you know, maybe this is not one to go to the court with.
And a bit later:
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.
So people have kind of compared -- somebody was saying this was Aldridge James or Bob Hanson, big spies. This didn't cause damage.
Pincus believes that the Bush administration acted obnoxiously when it leaked Valerie Plame’s identity, but he has never been convinced by the argument that the leaks violated the law. “I don’t think it was a crime,” he says. “I think it got turned into a crime by the press, by Joe” — Wilson — “by the Democrats. The New York Times kept running editorials saying that it’s got to be investigated — never thinking that it was going to turn around and bite them.”
Columbia, S.C.: Great Work!
How do you answer critics who point out this may be a 'leak' that could potentially compromise national security, ala the Plame leak?
Dana Priest: I don't actually think the Plame leak compromised national security, from what I've been able to learn about her position. As for my article, we tried to minimize that by not naming the countries involved and, otherwise, no, I don't believe it compromised national security at all.
And more Dana Priest from May 4, 2006:
Valley Forge, Pa.: Hi Dana,
Thanks for doing these chats.
Now we are reading that Valerie Plame was involved with tracking nuclear proliferation/capabilities in Iran. Isn't this old news? (I seem to remember reading this same thing quite a while ago in the MSM - I don't generally read blogs)
From what you hear, was Ms. Plame working on Iran, how important was she to the tracking efforts, and how much has her "outing" really set us back?
Dana Priest: It was reported before that she worked on proliferation issues for the CIA. The leap in this new round of information is that her outing significantly impacted our current intel on Iran. I don't buy it. First, no one person who quit clandestine work four years ago is going to make that big of a dent in current knowledge. But also, nothing like this came up at the time of her outing and I believe it would have. Think we need some actual details. At present it just doesn't smell right.
KEEPIN' HOPE ALIVE: The chorus from the left will harmonize in response to this from the Wapo:
Unaware that Ms. Plame's identity was classified information, Mr. Armitage reportedly passed it along to columnist Robert D. Novak "in an offhand manner, virtually as gossip," according to a story this week by the Post's R. Jeffrey
...It follows that one of the most sensational charges leveled against the Bush White House -- that it orchestrated the leak of Ms. Plame's identity to ruin her career and thus punish Mr. Wilson -- is untrue.
Not necesarily! Although it takes a fantasist to imagine that the White House orchestrated the leak to Novak by way of Armitage (I bet I could find one!), what about the leaks to Matt Cooper and Judy Miller?
With Cooper, it is clear (to some) that after Karl Rove learned from Novak that a column about Wilson and Plame was imminent, Rove ruthlessly sat by the phone and waited for Matt Cooper to call him and ask about Niger.
Then when Cooper interviewed Libby the next day, Libby was so brutal and crafty that he never raised the subject of Ms. Plame, but offered something like "I heard that, too" when Cooper asked him about her.
And the Judy Miller leak? Libby was so intent on besmirching Wilson with the nepotism charge that he forgot to tell Judy that Ms. Plame had a role in arranging her husband's trip to Niger.
And Special Counsel Fitzgerald still can't prove that Libby was aware of Ms. Plame's classified status back when he was conspiring to punish Joe by outing hs wife. (Too bad Libby didn't use his psychic powers to get the truth about Saddam's WMDs...). Oh well - Fitzgerald only had two years to look into this. The truth will emerge any day now, or at least, within the next 24 business hours.
OVERLY OPTIMISTIC: I don't think this will work.
THE BEGINNING OF THE END: The WaPo thumped Joe Wilson when the SSCI report came out in July 2004, so they aren't exactly new to Wilso-phobia. John Kerry dropped Wilson from his campaign shortly thereafter.
CREATIVE LAWYERING: All of this will impact the Wilson lawsuit against Cheney, Libby, Rove et al, yes? Here is a clever suggestion from The Brainster:
...it looks like Rove and Libby didn't leak her name. But, considering that the money [Valerie Plame] was offered for her book was largely based on them doing so, it strikes me that she may still have a case. After all, now she's not going to make nearly as much dough. So maybe she can sue them for not leaking her name?
THE TRUTH IS OUT THERE: An email from Joe Wilson is printed at the Dem Underground:
You may have seen this morning's editorial in the Post. It manages to recycle pretty much every lie and smear over the past three years in a last ditch effort to divert attention from the facts, and the role the Post itself played both in the march to war and in the leak (see Woodward).
I know many of you are better versed in Plamegate than either Valerie or I and I also know that some of you will be addressing the editorial.
I want to let you know how much Valerie and I continue to be buoyed by your support and your dedication to getting the truth out and holding the administration and its lackeys accountable for the terrible policies they have foisted on our country and on the world. We must keep fighting.
As you think about this, our website (Wilsonsupport.org) has a copy of the letter I sent to the SSCI when its report first came out, challenging some of its conclusions. The LeftCoaster has a terrific study by eriposte on the whole Niger forgery case from beginning to end. Firedoglake and the Next Hurrah both have highly informative analyses of the case by skilled researchers and former prosecutors. I recommend them all as resoruces to jog memories. by this afternoon, I expect that our own team will have an updated set of talking points to distribute for your use as well.
First, I think there is a breakdown in the parallel structure - Firedoglake has the former prosecutor and The Next Hurrah has the skilled researcher.
Secondly, where is the mission-critical info about tin-foil hats?
MORE: It's only 6:15 PM on the East Coast, but at this writing I see nothing from the firedogs about the WaPo op-ed [Ahh, but at 4:05 PM, presumably Pacific time, we get this - see SELF AWARENESS WATCH, below]; The Emptywheel at The Next Hurrah has this post:
I'm not surprised by several things in the WaPo's disingenuous editorial on the Plame Affair today. For example, I'm not surprised it relies on the word, "primary."
But all those who have opined on this affair ought to take note of the not-so-surprising disclosure that the primary source of the newspaper column in which Ms. Plame's cover as an agent was purportedly blown in 2003 was former deputy secretary of state Richard L. Armitage. [my emphasis]
It's a word Novak conjured up when he went clean last month, and it seems designed to cast the majority of the blame on Armitage and away from Rove. Yet it relates solely to Plame's purported role in Wilson's trip to Niger; Novak never says that Armitage was his source for Plame's classified identity or name (he reverts to much less convincing stories to explain away his use of the word "operative," "Plame," none of which come from Armitage but which are more important to the story than Plame's general role)...
Uh huh. And nearly three years later, the lights will be burning in Special Counsel Fitzgerald's office this Labor Day Weekend as he continues to plumb these mysteries, right? Wrong. Well, according to the Times and WaPo, anyway - regardless of the gaps in the stories Novak has told us, Fitzgerald seems to have thrown in the towel on further investigations last June.
Next, call in the auditors!
First, Fitzgerald's investigation has been anything but costly (Christy, you think you could smack down Fred on this issue? because since you beat Byron silly on it, he has not made such a baseless suggestion).
The link is to a firedog post telling us that "In its first 15 months, the investigation cost $723,000, according to the Government Accountability Office."
Since The Next Hurrah has the skilled researcher, I am sure she will want to square that with this GAO report telling us (Appendix III) that in the six months from March to Sept 2004, Fitzgerald spent $584,899, including $487,089 for personnel compensation and benefits. Total expenditures for the six months ending in March 2005 were $112,550 and for the six months ending in Sept 2005 were $178,077. [OK - weirdly, the expenditures for the three months ending March 2004, while Fitzgerald took a lot of grand jury testimony, was only $27,000 - that seems way out of line with the other figures, but how am I going to audit the GAO?]
SELF AWARENESS WATCH: Classic comedy from Jane "Rape Gurney Joe" Hamsher as she describes "the perpetually bile-choked right wing blogosphere". Say it with me - I know what you are, but what am I?
To compound the comic effect Ms. Hamsher analogizes the Plame leak thusly, a few short, bile-free sentences later:
Incredibly it is somehow okay to rob the liquor store, shoot the owner, rape the cashier and spatter the walls with blood because someone else was caught shoplifting there the week before. It is the Sistine Chapel of bad faith editorials.
Always temperate, just as her readers like it.