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October 09, 2003


Jane Finch

Agree...you don't let the Opposition (or in the US sense, opposition) fire your staff.

Jim Glass

One may remember when Reagan's people were proposing that people in the Administration be required to take lie detector tests to ID the sources of leaks, and George Schultz said "You do, I quit". And that was the end of that.

But there's another interesing person to be ID'd here who has been largely overlooked to date, as I heard Joseph diGenova, the prosecutor who sent Pollard to jail for life, explain on the radio this morning.

Mr. diGenova reminded us that when someone does a task for the CIA such as Wilson did they are
barred from talking about it, certainly publishing about it, without the CIA's approval.

There are lots of reasons for this, he explained. One of which is that if your wife really is a deep cover CIA agent, as soon as you announce that you worked for the CIA every security service in the world knows that she has a husband who does contract work for the CIA.

But the interesting thing in his view is that the Wilson op-ed in the Times that started this whole affair by attacking the Administration had to have been approved for publishing by someone in the CIA. Who approved it?

He said that if he was a reporter this would be a subject he'd be pursuing.

BTW, he also said that in his professional opinion it will be very difficult for a prosecutor to prove a crime has taken place within this whole affair.

Brad DeLong

What, then, should Mr. Card do?

Jim Glass

"...the President require all senior Administration officials to submit a sworn statement discussing whether they had conversations with Bob Novak or other reporters about Ambassador Wilson's wife "

Problem: *Assume* there is or may possibly be a felony here (and many call it "treason"!), not even a President can violate the Constitution to force an individual to make a self-incriminating statement. Considering the uncertain information many people will have about what went on, and the potential long reach of "accessory" status even after the fact, you will have a whole lot of lawyers advising a lot of clients not to sign any affidavit saying any dang meaningful thing, even if there's only a 1/100 chance of it causing them any problem. Then where are you? You can't even fire them for refusing to comply now. You've just institutionalized the mess.

Of course if there's no real risk of any felony having been committed then there's no problem here, but then there's no big problem anyhow. Just normal political games.

If there is a *real* national security issue here then the obvious quickest way to get to who-leaked-what is to use the fact that reporters basically have no legal privilege to not reveal their sources and simply bring in Novak and whoever it was who claimed "those people called six other journalists" and just ask them the relevant questions. Find out among other things if there really were leaks to six other journalists or not -- the 'organized effort' being the heart of any purported scandal.

If appearances are important to the press this could be done in private, maybe even on a 'psuedo-privilege' basis under which any information obtained would be used only to find a way to obtain the same information independently, so whatever the journalist says won't be used directly against the source -- deals like that are done. (Although in my mind that would be a bit kind.) In any event, the press if it chooses not to cooperate could hardly howl about how important it is to find out what it itself won't reveal in order to protect its financial earning power (valuing sources who give it good stories that boost readership above national security).

And as Pollard-prosecutor diGenova noted, it would also be a good idea to send an order over to Langley to produce the name of the CIA official who OK'd Wilson's Times Op-ed -- being that if his wife really was a valuable deep cover operative, the CIA had a clear interest in *not* advertising to the world via the newspapers the fact that her husband did contract work for it. In which case, somebody at CIA felt he had a higher duty to take a shot at the Bushies than to protect the deep cover operative. And if the public has the right to know who values politics above NOCs on the Bushies' side they have the right to know who does the same thing on the CIA's side. While if whoever at CIA approved Wilson's public political shot did so thinking the wife wasn't such a sensitive operative as to be compromised by publicizing that her husband does CIA work, then that's entirely relevant too. As is, of course, the simple fact that even if Plame is a mere pencil pusher, *somebody* at CIA started all this open combat (escalating it from normal back-channel combat status) by approving Wilson's op-ed shot at the Administration -- who was that and why did he do it?

These questions all *could* be answered quickly simply by sending the FBI directly to ask people who have no legal right not to answer.

But if the powers that be are too quesey to to do that for whatever reason -- public relations, politics, what might be revealed -- then the FBI's going to have to do things indirectly by nibbling around and asking people who do have the right not to answer. Who knows how long that might take or what the results might be?

Cecil Turner

Jim: very well said.

Professor: Card should advise the President to fire George Tenet and cooperate with the Justice inquiry.


If I were Andy Card, my advice would be, get a better story out there, without coordinating it (and this is happening, via Newsweek); and let the process play out.

No new leaks = no new oxygen = flames die out.

And eventually, a serious chat amongst Tenet, Bush, and, I think, some Congressional leaders about what really happened and what damage was done to national security is necessary.

And I lean to public humiliation of the leakers under Congressional bright lights, but we need more facts - I am presuming a criminal conviction will be unobtainable.

If I were Terry McCauliffe, i would keep this in the courts - it lives longer, and at various checkpoints we get great headlines:

(1) DoJ can't find leaker = COVER-UP!

(2) DoJ can't prosecute leaker on technicality = COVER-UP!

Bush, fearing (2), appoints sprecial prosecutor = Embattled White House!

And so on, as we have seen before.

I suspect there is a lack of seriousness on both sides.


I agree completely. The way Bush's critics are talking, it's as if he took some kind of oath to faithfully execute the office of President of the United States.

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