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October 09, 2003


Alex Parker

I may be indefatigable, but I've been going on a blog/work/little sleep binge for almost three days now, and things are starting to blur together...but here's how I see it:

I think Marshall oversells his argument a bit. It may be that this is a plausible line of defense. It doesn't seem likely to me, but it is possible.

You left out one of Marshall's points that I had brought up elsewhere: if Novak thought Plame was a lowly analyst, why did he think she had a hand in his Niger trip? It's an interesting question, but ultimately I find the question of whether or not Novak knew to be largely irrelevant to whether or not the leakers knew.

My theory is that Novak was less a co-conspirator and more of a pawn. I think it is likely that he really did think she was a lowly analyst--that the leakers phrased it that way so there was more of a chance of it getting out there. (Note that the word Time uses in its story is "officer"--how does that rank compared to "analyst" or "operative?")

One thing I don't buy from Novak, however, is the weak CIA request. There's a Novak quote that always gets overlooked, from David Corn's 7/16 piece (http://www.thenation.com/capitalgames/index.mhtml?bid=3&pid=823): "I figured if they gave it to me. They'd give it to others....I'm a reporter. Somebody gives me information and it's accurate. I generally use it."

It seems like he thought others would be getting this information too. (This is also evidence against the Isikoff/Hosenball meme as well--don't know why I didn't bring it up). Reporters, especially gossipy columnists like Novak, are under tremendous pressure to not print yesterday's news---it would probably have taken a very strong request to convince Novak not to use it.

I've also always thought Novak's precisely worded denials were telling. "[The CIA official] never suggested to me that Wilson's wife or anybody else would be endangered." Well...did he say anything about compromised intelligence sources? And what type of "difficulties" was he talking about?

I'm not suggesting that Novak is the villain here, I just think he thought he had a great lead, he (somewhat recklessly) used it, and now he's scrambling desperately to try and rectify the damage done to his sources.


Joshua Marshall, it seems, is one hell of an arm wrestler.

He took Novak at his word and did a Nexis search of when Novak used "operative" and "analyst" with regard to CIA employees.

Looks like Novak understands the difference a lot better than he's now willing to admit.


"Operative" is Marshall's strongest point. Inconclusive, since Novak's sources include CIA contacts, but Novak clearly thinks something went awry, or why waffle now?

And we eagerly await clarification of my point that Novak was free and easy with Newsday, and only changed his story when Justice got involved - how is that consistent with "he knew it was wrong?"

As to his ignoring the CIA, some people seem to think the CIA spokesman has some obligation to tell Novak the truth. Novak was clearly waiting for the magic words, "you will endanger her life or the lives of others". If she was so damn sensitive, and the CIA knew it, I would expect them to manage a little white lie on behalf of national security.

Especially a white lie that, after the fact, may well be true.


I’m now of the mind that Novak either did not completely grasp or could not accurately convey the message that Wilson was selected by the CIA, by someone not at the very top of the organization. Whether his source was attempting to depict the choice of Wilson as the act of a rouge element or the result of simple incompetence isn’t clear either.

I can imagine a conversation like this:

Novak: So who picked a guy like Wilson to go to Niger, someone who didn’t have the administration’s best interests at heart?
Source: The CIA did.
Novak: Why would Tenet do that?
Source: George didn’t even know about it. His wife – Wilson’s wife – suggested that he be sent.
Novak: His wife?
Source: Yeah. Valerie Plame’s her name. She’s works in counter-proliferation, on WMD.
Novak: Sound’s screwy to me.
Source: We’re on the same wavelength.

After his call to the CIA about Plame, Novak probably couldn’t get a job title, but assumed that she had some authority, some responsibility. So he fell back on a word that he usually uses in the phrase “political operative” to denote that someone has some degree of independent movement. That she worked in counter-proliferation offered no clue since analysts, scientists, and engineers work in that functional area. Old timers used to use the word “operator,” but I’m pretty sure that “operative” is used only as an adjective within the Agency. BTW, there are lowly analysts and very senior analysts; the word itself offers no real hint at an individual’s level within the bureaucracy.

Alex Parker

Bruce of Flit makes a point that I had made on my blog--the CIA would have had to confirm Plame's identity if they had any hope of talking him out of it--otherwise, he would have just written it anyways, with a cleared indication as to who his source was.


I have been to that blog, and cannot figure out how to leave comments.

If I could, I would point out that, according to the WaPo, reporters don't play "gotcha" games with the CIA (or military, or cops) on things like this. For example, what is the name off Kobe Bryant's accuser? Major media know, but won't say. Novak could have been stopped by the magic words.

When the CIA spokesman described his chat with Novak in the WaPo, it sounded weak - he did not say to the WaPo, we pounded the table, we implored, we warned of peril to her and country. The phrase used was, roughly, "we thought he understood". C'mon.


Marshall is putting way too much effort into painting Novak a liar, and has in the past. If Novak's explanation is that he threw around the word "operative" all the time (and a Google search at the time showed he did, CIA or not), Marshall's Lexis-Nexis doesn't prove much, unless you already think Novak is a liar beforehand.


First, the world didn't cave in on any of those occasions, did it. Second, Latell is a longtime CIA analyst, first referenced by Bob Woodward in Veil. By the way, Woodward, revealed a good bit of information on CIA assets (if not officers)in the 1970s, including King Hussein and Anwar Sadat (We never have found out who deep throat
is)Third, Novak said 'Bob' not Bob Baer, who
curiosly enough, didn't come out as nobly in
Khadir Hamzi's account of dealings with him.
This revelation, was key, however, in revealing
the Clinton Administration's obsession with
Roger Tamraz (a onetime? Agency asset,) who
was kccking back money to the DNC, and Sen.
Kerry and Kennedy. and the Azeri oil pipeline,
no doubt due in part to Tony Lake's family holdings of Conoco and Amoco stock. Fourth,
the real nature of how Valerie Plame's favorite
administration is seen in how it dealt with long time DO officials like Ward and Brugger in the mid 90s, how Torricelli and Deutsch, forced a hiring freeze on prospective assets, not to mention fired a 1,000 current ones. Finally, if you want to find out who leaked the data, Subpoena Massimo and Dickerson's phone records,not Novak's; and/or find out who had access to the NOC lists. There is that so hard to figure

Posted by narciso at October 10, 2003 07:45 AM
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By the way, this is what a real leak of an intelligence agent looks like:

Courtesy of NameBase:(derived from Agee's CounterSpy, reprinted in Dirty Work 1978
(KGB front project according to Mitrokhin

Richard Skeffington Welch

Greece; 1951-1975 (false as we shall see)
Cyprus;1960-1964,Guatemala,1966-1967, Guyana
1968-1969;(where the East German Mader, first
noticed him, Peru, 1972-73; Agee's alibi is
that they listed him in Peru, as recently as
1975; Curiously he was not in Greece, during
the time of the Junta, which was the supposed
rationale of November 17

Another example;

Cannistraro, Vincent (one of Mrs. Plame's defenders: first listed in E Ray's Dirty
Work 2, on Africa (1978

Somalia; 1971-73, Saudi Arabia, 1975-1978,
Rome, 1975-1980, Nicaragua 1986, Honduras,

Larry Johnson, is only cited in two New York
Times, pre 9/11, one Washington POST, and a
French derivative of NAMEBASE, a now defunct
German publication, GEHEIM, took up the work
of CounterSpy, free from the Intelligence

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