Let's get into the Plame hearing conducted by Rep. Waxman today.
(1) Was Valerie involved in sending Joe?
"I did not recommend him. I did not suggest him. There was no nepotism involved. I did not have the authority," she said.
That conflicts with senior officials at the CIA and State Department, who testified during Libby's trial that Plame recommended Wilson for the trip.
Or here is Special Counsel Fitzgerald's indictment, point 7. And let's note that I am setting to one side the State Department people who also thought Ms. Wilson was behind the trip because they may have been misinformed.
Finally, John Podhoretz provides a funny bit of testimony telling us that, although she did not recommend her hubby for the 2002 Niger trip, Ms. Wilson went to her boss accompanied by the man who did, talked to her hubby about the assignment, and wrote the recommending email. She also (per the SSCI) had recommended her hubby for his 1999 trip to Niger. So please pardon our confusion about her obvious non-involvement here. (And how will this be treated in the movie? Will Val be dragged into her boss's office at gunpoint? Or depending on how they want to position the film, the producer could have the CIA waterboard her into giving up her husband's name - good looking woman, bondage, water everywhere... just thinking out loud and trying to help. TGIF.) [And here is Byron York double-checking with Sen. Bond that the Senate Intel Committee stands by its story.]
(2) Was Ms. Plame covert?
From Matt Apuzzo:
Plame also repeatedly described herself as a covert operative, a term that has multiple meanings. Plame said she worked undercover and traveled abroad on secret missions for the CIA.
But the word "covert" also has a legal definition requiring recent foreign service and active efforts to keep someone's identity secret. Critics of Fitzgerald's investigation said Plame did not meet that definition for several reasons and said that's why nobody was charged with the leak.
Also, none of the witnesses who testified at Libby's trial said it was clear that Plame's job was classified. However, Fitzgerald said flatly at the courthouse after the verdict that Plame's job was classified.
Plame said she wasn't a lawyer and didn't know what her legal status was but said it shouldn't have mattered to the officials who learned her identity.
"They all knew that I worked with the CIA," Plame said. "They might not have known what my status was but that alone - the fact that I worked for the CIA - should have put up a red flag."
She didn't know her legal status? She's so covert that not even she knows if she is legally covert! And we are more than three years into this. Oh, my - well, I don't know her status either. Maybe they call her the wind. (But they call the wind Mariah...)
The WaPo was OK on this issue this morning as well:
In the CIA's eyes, the revelation of Plame's name in any context, whether she was stationed here or abroad, gave away a national security secret that could have dangerous repercussions. When Novak's column unmasking her as a CIA operative was published on July 14, 2003, the CIA general counsel's office automatically sent a routine report to the Justice Department that there had been an unauthorized disclosure of classified information.
As part of normal procedures, the agency made a preliminary damage assessment and then sent a required follow-up report to Justice. Then-Attorney General John Ashcroft decided to open a criminal investigation but three months later recused himself because the probe led into the White House. Patrick J. Fitgerald, the U.S. attorney for northern Illinois, became special counsel and began to investigate "the alleged unauthorized disclosure of a CIA employee's identity."
In February 2004, after reviewing what the FBI had, Fitzgerald widened his investigation to include "any federal criminal laws related to the underlying alleged unauthorized disclosure," plus any efforts to obstruct the probe.
* * *
Some news stories created initial confusion over Plame's status by suggesting that disclosure of her name and employment may have violated the Intelligence Identities Protection Act of 1982. That law, passed in response to disclosure of the names of CIA officers serving overseas by former CIA employee Philip Agee, made it a crime to disclose the names of "covert agents," which the act narrowly defined as those serving overseas or who had served as such in the previous five years.
"Covert agent" is not a label actually used within the agency for its employees, according to former senior CIA officials. Plame, who joined the agency right out of Pennsylvania State University, underwent rigorous spycraft training to become an officer in the Directorate of Operations. (The term "agent" in the CIA is only applied to foreign nationals recruited to spy in support of U.S. interests.)
It is funny watching CREW try to lower the bar:
Plame's testimony today "will be very forceful and clear, and there won't be any question what classified means," said Anne Weismann, chief counsel for Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington...
No, there probably won't be any questions about "classified", since the key question is whether she was "covert" under the statute.
Let give some props to Rep. Tom Davis:
Rep. Tom Davis, the ranking Republican on the committee, said, "No process can be adopted to protect classified information that no one knows is classified. This looks to me more like a CIA problem than a White House problem."
Well, if this was a good day for the Wilso-philes, what would a bad day look like? I guess we need to see how the WaPo, Times, and LA Times spin it. But keep hope alive! The press did join in the suit arguing that there was no underlying crime, so there is at least a chance that some of the editors and reporters have apprised themselves of the issues. But forget about the columnists.
We Grade The Times:
(1) Was Valerie involved in sending Joe? Their coverage:
Ms. Wilson told the committee that, despite what has been written and said repeatedly, she did not recommend her husband for the trip to Africa. In fact, she said, she had unhappy visions “of myself at bedtime with a couple of two-year-olds” to handle alone if her husband went overseas. (The Wilsons have young twins.)
“I did not recommend him, I did not suggest him, there was no nepotism involved,” she said. “I did not have the authority.”
Ms. Wilson said she did sound out her husband about the trip after she was asked to do so, but that her husband was picked for the trip because of his background in Africa.
Nothing mentioning the trial testimony or the indictment.
(2) Was Ms. Plame covert? The closeet they come to acknowledging a controversy is this:
Soon afterward, Ms. Wilson was unmasked by Mr. Novak. That incident led to an investigation to find who had leaked her name, possibly in violation of the law.
Grade: Are you kidding? F.
And under "Random Noise" we will note this:
Administration critics have long asserted that Ms. Wilson’s name was leaked to intimidate others who differed with the White House.
Administration critics have long asserted many things. But did the Libby trial provide evidence that intimidating critics (or punishing Wilson) was the motive?
Just for instance, Richard Armitage of State leaked the Plame info to both Bob Woodward and Bob Novak. Would a reasonable reader conclude from the transcript that he was hoping to intimidate critics?
Did Karl Rove hope to intimidate critics by saying "I heard that, too" to Bob Novak (who was confirming the story he got from Armitage)?
Here is what Walter Pincus speculated about the motive of Ari Fleischer, who Pincus has said was his source:
I wrote my October story because I did not think the person who spoke to me was committing a criminal act, but only practicing damage control by trying to get me to stop writing about Wilson.
Well. If the new Times policy is to free-associate and print random speculation, they might try telling their readers that:
(a) Joe Wilson's critics think that his wife was involved, in some fashion, in sending him to Niger. As Libby said in his grand jury testimony, the implication is that Wilson is not an impartial judge of the White House - CIA intel dispute, a point which the press should have noted.
(b) Valerie Wilson did not have "covert" status as defined by the Intelligence Identities Protection Act. A reasonable special counsel would have at least disclosed that to the court and clarified that he was simply looking for perjury charges before having a reporter locked up for 85 days.
Hey, it has been asserted - we meet the Times standard.