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October 02, 2003



Has the thought occurred that the CIA source in Novak's column--at a time when Ms Plame's identity was not publicly known--was being coy about her undercover status so they were not the source of the information and because there is a criminal law which punishes anyone in government who reveals such information. Being indirect with a veteran Washington reporter is both understandable and prudent. By the time the conversation with Time occurred, her identity had been revealed and the CIA was free to acknowledge her real status.


The thought occurs. However, the CIA spokesman is meant to manage press relations - at a critical juncture when Novak looks like he might be about to publish, "coy" doesn't cut it. In fact, it falls into, "we had to destroy the village in order to save it". Look, the CIA guy should have said what it took to wave Novak off - better Novak knows a secret and keeps it, then he doesn't know for sure there is a secret, and tells the world.

As to TIME, well, the damage was done, but they have an even wider circulation than Novak. Anyway, why drag Newsday in a week later, and not TIME?

The CIA account in the WaPo is not even consistent with a "we told Novak, but he screwed us" defense. They blew it. Doesn't excuse the WH, but it does explain the (possible) confusion amongst staffers who just didn't know either.

This is the "stupid, but not evil" WH defense, with which I am ever so pleased.


One, the CIA was engaging in damage control from information that had already been illegally disclosed. Two, when you write "But if an authorized spokesman for the CIA is telling both Mr. Novak and TIME about Ms. Plame's status, how covert was she?", you neglect to consider that in the case of Novak, it is likely that the CIA would have confirmed the leak in order to try to dissuade him from publishing it if he had gotten the leak from someone Novak knew was high up enough to reliably know exactly that information, and that he called the CIA for warnings rather than confirmation also renders the question of why the CIA confirmed ridiculously obvious.

For Time, you have to remember there may be five other journalists who can confirm Novak's information, so it is not really odd that the CIA confirmed the leak to Time when someone in their staff probably recieved the leak and it had already been published by Novak. I think the issue of whether the CIA broke the law is absurd because it merely confirmed what was already illegally released to high-levels of the American media.


I am not suggesting (I hope) that he CIA acted illegally.

However, I am making a point which I should have excerpted from the WaPo story, and now have, in an update. Please pardon my redundancy:

The CIA occasionally asks news organizations to withhold the names of undercover agents, and news organizations usually comply.

This isn't some "Gotcha" game, where Novak cleverly tricks the CIA spokemans, who then says "you got me, print it". If the CIA had asked, regardless of who at the WH gave him the name, Novak would (probably) have withheld.

At a minimum, the CIA spokesman could have said to the WaPo, "Novak ignored our desperate pleas". Stick a knife in him that way. Instead, they say, well, I guess he misunderstood. Silly.


If you are retired, but have a wife who is an undercover operative with the CIA, and she was involved in sending you on a CIA (but not secret?) mission to Niger, and you return with some information you think is significant, and the CIA and President seem to have ignored your information; several months later, would you go public with it? Would you draw attention to yourself (and inevitably your wife) just to point out in a very public way what you think may be a deliberate mistake made by the CIA? Would you expect no one to notice that you have a wife, that she works, that her work seems related to the mission you are publicizing?

In my opinion, Wilson has carelessly outed his own wife, which is why he is trying so hard to put the blame on everybody else. I guess the temptation to use his little Niger mission as a way to discredit the current administration by arguing the (moot) point about whether or not we should have gone into Iraq was just too much for him. And, alas, the CIA is bordering on complete incompetence to have used the indiscreet husband of an undercover agent to do their work.


A boost for Novak from his Chicago editor:

When Steve Huntley, editorial page editor of the Chicago Sun-Times, opened his e-mail from Novak, he was unconcerned about exposing the identity of the CIA officer, whose husband, former U.S. Ambassador Joseph Wilson, was a vociferous critic of the Bush administration's policy on Iraq.

He did not call Novak to discuss it, he recalled, or ask about the "senior administration sources" who named the woman. Forty-six years of experience can go a long way.

"Bob Novak has a record of judgment and accuracy in his reporting," Huntley said. "There's not a doubt in my mind that had the CIA said this woman's life was in danger, he would have never have named her."


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