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February 07, 2006

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topsecretk9

they = the witnesses

Bob in Pacifica

Falling, falling, falling, through the air, through the air. Oh, hello, Mr. Rabbit. I just fell down this hole and landed here at JustOneMinute. Everything is reversed from real life!

Anonymous Liberal

To claim that's the only possible inference to be drawn is ... well, let's say wilfully myopic?

JM Hanes, I do believe you are putting words in my mouth. I don't think this is the only possible inference, just the most likely. And since no one else has yet suggested any more plausible explanation, it's the one I happen to believe. I don't think people in the White House necessarily knew Plame was a covert agent (though it wouldn't surprise me if they did). But I think they at least suspect that her affiliation with the CIA was classified. Libby, Cheney and others knew that she worked for the counterproliferation division, and they knew enough about the CIA to know that if she worked in that division, she might well be more than a simple analyst. The way they treated the information suggests that they knew they should not mention her employment publicly. Based on the recently released court papers, I suspect that people like Ari Fleischer provided Fitz with some pretty good testimony on this point.

Sue

Yet Fitz punted...I wonder why?

Jeff

JM Hanes - On your inference, did the two SAOs who talked to Dickerson know or not know that Wilson's wife worked for the CIA and did they or did they not believe that she had sent him or been involved in sending him? If so, why didn't they just come out and identify her and her role to Dickerson? If not, what on earth were they doing in talking about an employee at the CIA who sent Wilson on his trip? In particular, what on earth was the second SAO doing repeating several times that a lowlevel employee of the CIA sent Wilson, and that Dickerson should pursue that angle?

Rick Ballard

"Libby, Cheney and others knew that she worked for the counterproliferation division"

Foundation for that assertion being true? Particularly the "and others"?

Perhaps Tenet did tell Cheney but I haven't seen a claim to that effect.

Gary Maxwell

what on earth was the second SAO doing


Uh how about trying to correct the lies being told and still not divulge information that was classified ( correctly or incorrectly does not matter ) at the time.

Sue

If we have so much evidence that Libby and others outed a covert agent...why no charges?

topsecretk9

Sue, HEH

this is a doozy on the NYT's
article about Dem worry

"Democrats said they had not yet figured out how to counter the White House's long assault on their national security credentials. And they said their opportunities to break through to voters with a coherent message on domestic and foreign policy — should they settle on one — were restricted by the lack of an established, nationally known leader to carry their message this fall."

Also, What? Too many diarists on KOS? With "Funeral-Rally" this is bummer timing.

Gary Maxwell

Togdoggie

Did you add that bolding or did James Taranto hack into the NYT system and point out the irony in the article. As if...

boris

I don't think this is the only possible inference

Just one of 4 or 5 that happen to suit your fancy at the moment to inject some obfuscation into the discussion. When it comes to plausible there is the little matter of POV that tends to influence perception. Yours for instance.

Rick Ballard

I keep wondering what Rove's attorney told Fitz. Could it have been that Tenet had exercised his authority under Executive Order 12065 - "the Director of Central Intelligence may establish special procedures for systematic review and declassification of classified information concerning the identities of clandestine human agents." wrt Plame in the spring/summer of '03?

Or has 12065 been superceded?

clarice

You might be interested to know that in his June 2003 before Epic which preceded his Op Ed, Wilson first referred to himself as a "whistleblower" and set out the scenario.

And here's a little sherbet..Larry Johnson's analysis of the situation and Dunderhead Tatel's observations. http://www.truthout.org/docs_2006/020706A.shtml

Again. The Administration carefully set forth the NIE in terms and with reference to matters which had been agreed to by the intel agencies. They didn't pull the stuff out of the ether.
Why? Because credibility in such matters is a first order thing. It is essential to have the support of the public, the troops and our Allies. And to get and keep that, you must be considered a trustworthy source.
Wilson attacked that thru a series of lies as the invasion began.

In a more sensible era, he'd have been shot.

And Tenet right after him for allowing this and for taking so long to submit his not very clarifying clarification.

topsecretk9

Jesus, talk about twisted...Media Matters has issued a fatwah on Matt Cooper, Duffy and Dickerson and Time Mag for having reported McCellan saying Rove didn't out Plame (of which he didn't)

TAKE ACTION NOW!

Cooper has always been the lefts hero reporter in all of this, so apparently some panties are bunching.

Jeff

In a more sensible era, he'd have been shot.

And Tenet right after him for allowing this and for taking so long to submit his not very clarifying clarification.

Nice, clarice.

clarice

Oh, Boo Hoo, the reality based eating their own..

Jeff

Uh how about trying to correct the lies being told and still not divulge information that was classified ( correctly or incorrectly does not matter ) at the time.

And that information was? Are you saying that SAO 2 believed that Plame sent Wilson? Or that SAO 2 knew about a different lowlevel CIA employee who had sent Wilson?

clarice

Glad you like it, Jeff. I've always considered the first Queen Elizabeth the reuler of rulers..She'd have pouted something like "Oh, would someone rid me of this chancre Wilson and the idiot who mismanaged the CIA..But t'would be wrong to do so."
The next day there'd be a nice double funeral.

pollyusa

Libby, Cheney and others knew that she worked for the counterproliferation division

9. On or about June 12, 2003, LIBBY was advised by the Vice President of the United States that Wilson's wife worked at the Central Intelligence Agency in the Counterproliferation Division. LIBBY understood that the Vice President had learned this information from the CIA. Libby Indictment
13. Shortly after publication of the article in The New Republic, LIBBY spoke by telephone with his then Principal Deputy and discussed the article. That official asked LIBBY whether information about Wilson's trip could be shared with the press to rebut the allegations that the Vice President had sent Wilson. LIBBY responded that there would be complications at the CIA in disclosing that information publicly, and that he could not discuss the matter on a non-secure telephone line. Libby Indictment
pollyusa

Clarice,

I think you mean King Henry II, who asked "Will no one rid me of this meddlesome priest?". His query resulted in the murder of Thomas Becket, Archbishop of Canterbury in 1170.

clarice

Well, "Complications at the CIA" could mean a lot of things..Like an even more entrenched Fifth Column than was already in operation.
Until Fitz claims she was covert and proves it, I'm not willing to make that assumption, especially given the details in Wilson's own book which shows she wasn't.

Lew Clark

If you interpret what he said to his assistant as, "Valerie is classified, can't discuss her". And what he said to Arli Fletcher meant "Valerie is classified, can't talk about her". Then he takes it upon himself to call six or more reporters to talk about what he couldn't talk about to his assistant or Fletcher. Doesn't that support an insanity defense at his trial?

clarice

Polly, I think she did it, too--sparingly, of course, and she wasn't nuts like her father. I recall she wailed and gnashed until she finally had her sister done in--though that bitch deserved it. *wink*

Chants

Dickerson appears to be framing the issue of the Plame leak with three points. One, that the idea that reporters should investigate who sent Wilson to Niger started with the administration. Two, that the administration directed reporters to the CIA for answers. And, three, that the administration knew the answer would be classified.

OK. Let's take for the sake of argument that Dickerson points two and three are true. Administration officials directed reporters to the CIA for answers and they knew the answers would be radioactive. Fine.

Why is Dickerson trying to make the point that asking about who sent Wilson was some new angle? He specifically notes in his article that after talking to administration officials he wrote in his notebook, "look who sent." After all, Wilson himslef made a point of tracing the nascency of his trip to Niger to the VP's office. Who sent Wilson was an issue already put into play by Wilson himself. How was this a new angle?

Well, it wasn't a new angle. What was a new angle was that Wilson did not accurately describe the origins of his trip and the degree to which the Administration knew about his findings. It never occured to Dickerson at the time that Wilson got some details wrong.

He beleived Wilson. He wanted to beleive Wilson. He was not at all prepared to process any information which may contradict his faith in Wilson. So when presented with some perfectly truthful information that Cheney didn't know about the trip or Wilson's so called findings, he saw this as an attack on Wilson. So that's the story he went with, as did his colleague, Matt Cooper.

Now I do have a problem with how the "War on Wilson" theme got started. I also recognize that the story was new. The credibility of Cheney wersus the credibility of Wilson. At the time, it could have gone either way. So Dickerson and Cooper explored one side. Fine, it's newsworthy.

But why continue to carry water for Wilson after the SSCI report? That report demonstrated that Wilson's Niger trip was a "clown show" (TM) resulting in a report from Wilson vulnerable to subjective and unreliable interpretation (CT). It demonstrated that Cheney did not send Wilson and did not knew about his findings. It demonstrated that Wilson had close to nothing to do with the 16 words.

Wasn't it Duncan Black who said that "[i]f a source lies to you, you burn him down. Period." Susan Schmidt remebers. She burned Wilson right after the SSCI report. But she is a lone vioce.

Have reporters like Dickerson realized that the question of "Who sent Wilson" necessarily originated with Wilson, or have they convinced themselves that it started with the Administration? Dickerson says he never saw this Adminsitration go out of its way to attack. It seemed desperate to him.

All Dickerson has really done in my mind is point out that I have never seen reporters seem so desperate to protect a discredited wistleblower.

jerry

A quick comment on Dickerson's article and TM's comments on emptywheel's TheNextHurrah post:

"No one knew she might have been a protected agent—and for whatever reason, the possibility didn't occur to us or anyone else at the time."


But Andrea Mitchell knew on July 8, yes?

Jeff

Chants - Can you say "strawman"? Nothing indicates and nothing hangs on the issue of who first raised the question of who sent Wilson. It's not that it was so new that was obviously striking to Dickerson and that made him task himself with looking into who sent him, it was that it was so emphatic, repeated several times and so focused on an individual (particularly clearly in the case of SAO 2). What was news was that the administration was openly blaming the CIA.

topsecretk9

He believed Wilson. He wanted to believe Wilson. He was not at all prepared to process any information which may contradict his faith in Wilson.

and Cooper too, after Rove told him not to get too far out on Wilson, and that Tenet would be explaining in a few hours why!

and Pincus who sometime early on (July 8) told Wilson, "they're coming after you" --but then his only source came later whom Pincus says did not use Plame, was not planting a story, said "boondoggle" and Pincus didn't believe him...

It's been clearly established that Admin didn't call out to these reporters, but the opposite

and Pincus and Kristof never felt burned by Wilson when he most famously threw then under the train saying they "misquoted and misattributed" him.

They've let this guy use and abuse them still to this day. I now they hate Bush, but come on...how long can you carry the phoney's water?

Specter

I'll beat the horse some more...

It is apparent that Fitz, as do many prosecutors and LEA types, entered the case with a pre-determined notion of what he would find - what he wanted to find. Once the notion of "WH Outing Agent for Retribution" had been ingrained, he only went after "facts" that fit the theory. He didn't need to talk to anyone else, or even get official documents. He had already been told that it was Rove that dun it. As that fell apart, he had to cast about for something else.

MJW

pollyusa quotes from the indictment:

Shortly after publication of the article in The New Republic, LIBBY spoke by telephone with his then Principal Deputy and discussed the article. That official asked LIBBY whether information about Wilson's trip could be shared with the press to rebut the allegations that the Vice President had sent Wilson. LIBBY responded that there would be complications at the CIA in disclosing that information publicly, and that he could not discuss the matter on a non-secure telephone line.
You know what's missing? Any mention of Plame, that's what's missing. So, then, what the heck was this doing in the indictement? Just a little of that Fitzgerald misdirection we've all grown to know and love.

clarice

Joe Wilson June 14,2003 EPIC speech and discussion:
"8:05: In response to the question about risks to whistleblowers, Wilson refers to self as "the retired American ambassador to Africa who has been talking to the New York Times and the Washington Post".

11:08: In response to the question about what whistleblowers need to do to wake the public up, wherein the questioner mentions that, "You know, the documents are out there, thanks to Mr. [Glen] Rangwala and others, it was out there that this was all a lie, even before the war", McGovern replies that of all the administration's "lies", "the forgery of course is the most flagrant", and then Wilson adds, "on the last one [i.e. on the last question about what whistelblowers need to do], the administration was very careful about only talking, on the forgery, only talking at the Presidential level about uranium sales from Africa, until such time as it came out that they were talking about Niger, and then that was subsequently denied by the State Department, it was difficult to sort of make the case, although I think some of the people inside could have probably talked about it a little bit more openly ahead of time. The real problem with this is how this intelligence was used once it got in the hands of the policymakers, and clearly this was emphasized--the rumor part of it, the RUMINT was emphasized, and the debunking of it was just set aside. I think it probably has legs, too, because of the course the press operates on profits, and if they can make a scandal out of this they'll do it, you know, that'll be great. And you already hear people talking about the 'i' word."

http://www.freerepublic.com/focus/f-news/1499704/posts (Transcript of speech and discussion)

joe

Just a little of that Fitzgerald misdirection we've all grown to know and love.

Ah, literary flair.

joe

Just a little of that Fitzgerald misdirection we've all grown to know and love.

Ah, literary flair.

Dave in W-S

I don't see the sinister implications that some find in Dickerson being pointed to the CIA as Wilson's sponsor. Wilson had launched an attack on the President and part of his story was the strong implication, just short of a statement, that his trip had been at the specific direction of Cheney and that his report had been delivered to them. Obviously a political attack had been launched, and it didn't take too much looking to figure out that CIA was behind it. Why not push back by pointing reporters there?

As far as Dickerson's feeling that "...the people pushing me to look into who sent Wilson knew exactly the answer I'd find." Okay. So what? Maybe they did and maybe they didn't. The relevant statement follows: "Yet they were really careful not to let the information slip...", providing positive corroboration that, in this instance at least, Plame's identity was not divulged, whether or not she was covert. That seems to confirm administration denials that they did not divulge her identity.

The next part of Dickerson's statement is more problematic in one respect. "...which suggested that they knew at the time Plame's identity was radioactive." I think that may be a retroactive take on the conversation, wherein Dickerson re-interprets the conversation in view of later story direction. The fact that Dickerson's source(s) did not point him to any particular individual could have just as easily meant (at least from Dickerson's viewpoint) that a specific identity was not known to the source, but that Agency involvement was certain. In any event, it does not matter. The crucial piece of information is that no identity was revealed to Dickerso, by his own statement.

All that was done was to refocus him on the question, "If not the VP, who sent Wilson?" and the obvious corollary, "If someone else sent Wilson, why the attempt to attribute it to the VP?" It seems to me the perfectly logical thing to have done, to counter a CIA created, media driven attack by attempting to turn the media back on the CIA. The effect of a reporter exposing the shady nature of Wilson's involvement would be much greater than any public statement by an administration spokesman.

clarice

Are we saying only Novak asked the logical question of the CIA?

Dave in W-S

Remember the predisposition of many who should be asking those questions to believe that Wilson, et al were on the side of the angels and Bush & Co. were not. How many of them would shrug off the attempt at redirection to the CIA as a shabby trick to discredit a whistleblower hero? Why ask the question when you know the answer?

Dave in W-S

Another possible answer is that other reporters (Miller?) looked at the situation enough to realize that they were likely to be caught in the middle in a war between the CIA and the White House. Those with some familiarity with the CIA (Miller? Woodward?) and thus in a position to ask the question and possibly get answers, may have decided that, on balance, it was not a story they wanted to pursue and elected not to publish or investigate.

clarice

Maybe they're just as misguided at Fitz? Bought the storyline because as Wilson said at the ouset(June 14, 2003), there's money in scandal and the "i" word was already in the air?

The VIPs may be stupid and venal but they know the press corps and its predilictions.

MJW

Reading an earlier, similarly innuendo-rich column by Dickerson makes two things fairly obvious. First, one of the Administation officials he was referring in the the new column is Fleischer:

More astonishingly, we learn from the Fitzgerald indictment that Ari Fleischer knew about Plame and didn't tell anyone at all. He walked reporters, including me, up to the fact, suggesting they look into who sent Wilson, but never used her name or talked about her position.
Second, he has an inordinate fondness for the term "radioactive."

I also notice, for what little it may be worth, that he didn't include the suggestion that he was directed to look for a single person, even though that would have strenghtend his "walked up to the fact" version of events; using the nonspecific "who," as did his "look who sent" note. Cynic that I am, I can't help but wonder if that's a tale that gets better with the retelling.

Extraneus

"...the people pushing me to look into who sent Wilson knew exactly the answer I'd find."

So what did he find? From the SSCI Report:

Some CPD officials could not recall how the office decided to contact the former ambassador, however, interviews and documents provided to the Committee indicate that his wife, a CPD employee, suggested his name for the trip. The CPD reports officer told Committee staff that the former ambassador's wife "offered up his name" and a memorandum to the Deputy Chief of the CPD on February 12, 2002, from the former ambassador's wife says, "my husband has good relations with both the PM [prime minister] and the former Minister of Mines (not to mention lots of French contacts), both of whom could possibly shed light on this sort of activity." This was just one day before CPD sent a cable DELETED requesting concurrence with CPD's idea to send the former ambassador to Niger and requesting any additional information from the foreign government service on their uranium reports. The former ambassador's wife told Committee staff that when CPD decided it would like to send the former ambassador to Niger, she approached her husband on behalf of the CIA and told him "there's this crazy report" on a purported deal for Niger to sell uranium to Iraq.

Ergo, the accusation that Valerie Plame "sent" her swashbuckling husband to Niger is false. Obviously, a manager in the CPD decided to send him, either on his/her own authority or as a result of an approved request. I don't know how things work inside the CIA, but it's a big organization and I don't think it's a huge leap of faith to assume that they have procedures for authorizing overseas missions, and probably particular cautions on how to handle proxy missions by non-employees without security clearances. If so, then the WH would have known that it wasn't his wife who "sent" him, so why would anyone assume that this is the answer to the question they were prodding the press to look into?

I think the real story, which I haven't seen anyone delve deeply into, is that in all likelihood, a team of people in the CIA decided this trip would be a good idea. Considering the purported purpose of the trip, the political proclivities of Wilson and most likely those of his wife, the limited value of the trip, the lack of any effort on the part of the CIA to limit related publicity, and the politically-charged events which resulted from it, the story I'd like to read is how an entire team within the bowels of the CIA was able to plot and carry out such a subversive mission against an administration in wartime.

kim

If Fitz won't get 'em, Goss will. And Joe'll get his: poster boy for a party going down in flames.
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Syl

polly

I was reacting mainly to this statement:

Why would he be telling reporters to look into the CIA's role if he didn't think there was something to find there.

Whether he knew about Wilson's wife or not, there was something to find there--that low level CIA people were responsible for cooking up the trip, not Cheney's office. So it doesn't matter a whit whether he knew about Valery or not.

kim

Even so, Dickerson's article, deliberate and contrived as it is, must give Fitz pause, and new territory to explore. Or if not him, then Libby's defense can work the ground to bear fruit.
=================================================

Jeff

Cynic that I am, I can't help but wonder if that's a tale that gets better with the retelling.

Don't be too hard on yourself. It's wishful thinking, not cynicism.

kim

Naw, it's deliberate, and contrived.

Sure, Jeff, the SCCI is not perfect, but it was not off-base on Joe. The minority report didn't even wax enthusiastic about Joe, settling with just stirring the mud a little.

I agree Rock is gonna sink.

On what basis do you challenge the Butler Report?
====================================

Jeff

extraneus - You know things have taken an interesting turn when folks on your side of the aisle are arguing

the accusation that Valerie Plame "sent" her swashbuckling husband to Niger is false.

It does raise the interesting question of what Dickerson two SAOs were up to when they (or at least for certain SAO 2) pointed at a specific person at the CIA to find who sent Wilson, meaning his wife. Two possibilities, in order of probability (according to me, of course). First, they were mistaken and believed that Wilson's wife had sent him. At least two things came together to convince them of this: the faulty notes included with the INR memo; and confusion -- whether in the CIA itself or in the receipt by the administration of info from CIA -- between Wilson's 2002 trip and his 1999 trip, which Plame really does seem to have played a central role in. The latter point has been reported at least once and I think more. Second, they didn't actually think Wilson's wife sent him, but that she was involved, and once reporters like Dickerson went poking around, they would discover and be struck by the fact that Wilson's wife was CIA and was somehow, anyhow involved in his trip. At that point, at the least, the information disseminated, the administration could in turn use it to say, "See, we told you Wilson was not credible, don't get too far out on Wilson, don't trust his stuff."

noah

And how low can you go...pointing reporters in the right direction? Things we find out "for ourselves" are much more "plausible" and "real", true? Grade school pedagogy for reporters...how diabolical!!

Extraneus

Jeff, I think the latter of your two scenarios is more plausible. I also think it's likely that the administration hoped that some intrepid reporter would dig deep to uncover what they saw as a conspiracy, which turned out to be a naïve underestimation of MSM bias. That Novak became that reporter was unfortunate, since it was easy to turn the story around on him, focus everyone's attention on the spectacular, and conveniently obscure the rest. My personal choice would have been Woodward.

Jeff

I also think it's likely that the administration hoped that some intrepid reporter would dig deep to uncover what they saw as a conspiracy.

Part of the trouble with this idea is that in fact they told friendly reporters -- Novak and Miller -- early on, relatively speaking, precisely the information they wanted other, more intrepid but less friendly reporters to discover on their own. Woodward is an interesting case. He was told earliest of all, as far as we know. We'll have to see what the motivation for that was. I'm inclined to think it was not a leak that was supposed to be effective, since his source should have known that Woodward was working on a long-term project and was unlikely to publish anything in the immediate. But maybe the source just wanted to get information meant to be discrediting to Wilson out there into the Washington press corps and air more generally via the Dean of the sycophantic access press.

Extraneus

I could see the benefit of Woodward's longer-term perspective. Remember, they all know Wilson's an opportunistic liar, the 16 words are actually correct, and it's all just a media firestorm that'll ultimately make the Democrats look like defeatist wussies. Why wouldn't it make sense to help Woodward write later about a cabal within the CIA that sought to sabatoge the adminstration during a just and virtuous war? At any rate, I still don't understand why any of these CPD big-shots isn't now posted in some remote installation such as Antarctica.

Extraneus

Would we know if any of the CPD perps are still around? Considering Val's intriguing retirement, maybe Goss is still addressing it, as kim suggests.

Cecil Turner

It does raise the interesting question of what Dickerson two SAOs were up to when they (or at least for certain SAO 2) pointed at a specific person at the CIA to find who sent Wilson, meaning his wife.

Why not "meaning the chief of CPD"? (Or, just "CPD" . . . Dickerson's emphasis on "individual" is not compelling.) And the idea that this is new is just silly. The Administration, in near perfect unity, was saying "the Vice President didn't send him." And pretty much all of them were touting the upcoming statement from Tenet. For example, in Rove's conversation with Cooper:

"The notes, and my subsequent e-mails, go on to indicate that Rove told me material was going to be declassified in the coming days that would cast doubt on Wilson's mission and his findings."
Later that same day, Tenet tells us CPD sent him, he didn't find much, he never mentioned documents in his report, and the information wasn't passed on to decisionmakers. (Essentially rebutting every one of Wilson's points.) The idea that when officials were putting out an idential message, they must have been talking code for "his wife sent him" makes no sense at all unless you've decided that's the only narrative that matters.

TM

Polly picked on this:

It suggested desperation and unsteadiness in a *national security team* that had often been heralded for its smooth competency.

Condi was at the July 11 press gaggle and blamed Tenet, then suggested reporters go grill the CIA about the Wilson trip. Is there a reason to rule her out as a source for a semi-private chat afterwards?

FWIW - not to try and break Dickerson's spell, but "someone at the CIA sent her" might simply reflect the notion that, in a typical hierarchy, decisions can often be attached to people, rather than, for example, committees.

As to why they were so coy about it, some possibilities seem to be:

(a) they *KNEW* she was covert;

(b) they knew they had heard rumors and innuendo from Libby, the INR memo, or whatever, but weren't sure of her status;

(c) they knew that in Washington, there are lots of couple where both spouses work, that these apparent conflicts come up all the time, and that the whole subject is sensitve and better avoided;

(d) they were pretty confident in the "low level operatives" story the CIA gave Mitchell, and figured that is what others would also get.

As someone noted above - missing from the indictment are key phrases like "Cheney told Libby she had covert status" or "Libby told his underling that the problem with discussing the trip was tied to Ms. Plame's CIA status".

Somewhere Fitzgerald may have evidence that she was covered by the statute, and that the WH knew it, but so far, we are 0 for two.

maryrose

Extraneus:
Once again you have captured a real cogent point in this discussion. Who are the people along with Plame who authorized Wilson's trip and why don't we know their identities and their motivations for deciding on Joe. Why didn't they issue a counter article to Joe's assertations that he was sent by Cheney. Tenet as a democrat may have had his own agenda and as previously stated took an awfully long time admitting fault for the 16 words. Also his slam-dunk remark seems strange now. Bush trusted him, that was a mistake. Reporters had a preconceived notion of the story and like Fitz tried to make their view fit. In Dickerson's case he had to come clean and say -no mention of Plame- that's why hw wasn't called by Fitz. Jeff: We are not arguing we are discussing and in the process I think we are refuting some of your arguments and gettingsome clarity on this situation. The truth will out.

Cecil Turner

Condi was at the July 11 press gaggle and blamed Tenet, then suggested reporters go grill the CIA about the Wilson trip. Is there a reason to rule her out as a source for a semi-private chat afterwards?

Not really, but is the semi-private chat even necessary? One could easily get Dickerson's "desperation and unsteadiness" bit from Condi's public statement. On a related note, Dickerson looks like something of a dunce for this bit:

(We later learned that Dr. Rice had called Tenet that morning to let him know she was going to ruin his day.)
Unless we're positing Tenet declassified the pertinent information and whomped up his press release in the next couple of hours, it seems a touch more likely Tenet told Condi what information she could discuss, and to refer folks to him.

Jim E.

Did the SSCI report mention Carlton Fulford Jr., a four-star Marine general, who was also sent to Niger? Fulford reported--similarly to Wilson--that Niger's uranium was secure.

This raises another obvious question: who is Fulford's wife, and why does she hate America??

boris

So the Dickerson conspiracy goes like this:

The adminstration sent reporters snooping into the CIA connection for Joe's trip

They find out about Valerie

Then they try to confirm by calling Rove and Libby

Rove and Libby say "I heard that too"

Well, who knows, after all Rove is the most devious entity in the universe. Still, using the term "plausible" for this seems like a stretch.

Cecil's scenario suggests something seemingly simpler. The admin pushback had nothing to do with Val. That was an incidental detail beneath their radar, eminently forgettable.

There exists within the known narritive some document support that Wilson's wife was CIA and involved with Joe's selection. There is none for her being covert. (She wasn't, her spy hat was secretly hidden in a locked file)

Rick Ballard

From the Butler Report:

499. We conclude that, on the basis of the intelligence assessments at the time, covering both Niger and the Democratic Republic of Congo, the statements on Iraqi attempts to buy uranium from Africa in the Government’s dossier, and by the Prime Minister in the House of Commons, were well-founded. By extension, we conclude also that the statement in President Bush’s State of the Union Address of 28 January 2003 that:
The British Government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa." was well-founded.

503. From our examination of the intelligence and other material on Iraqi
attempts to buy uranium from Africa, we have concluded that:
a. It is accepted by all parties that Iraqi officials visited Niger in 1999.
b. The British Government had intelligence from several different sources indicating that this visit was for the purpose of acquiring uranium. Since uranium constitutes almost three-quarters of
Niger’s exports, the intelligence was credible.
c. The evidence was not conclusive that Iraq actually purchased, as opposed to having sought, uranium and the British Government did not claim this.
d. The forged documents were not available to the British Government at the time its assessment was made, and so the fact of the forgery does not undermine it.

Flogging a dead meme won't bring it to its feet.

Lyin' Joe needs to hire better help.

Syl

Jeff

Part of the trouble with this idea is that in fact they told friendly reporters -- Novak and Miller -- early on

Why is that a problem if there was no conspiracy? I mean, if everyone got together and figured out how to do this, then everyone's behavior would be in sync. But that doesn't seem to be the case, now does it?

Gary Maxwell

Syl

Stop with the logic, its lost on them.

clarice

If Rice sounded peckish, she had good reason to be--the Administration's credibility was being savaged at a critical time respecting something they knew nothing about and Tenet was doing precious little tardily to undo the sandbagging.(And it may well be Tenet was late in responding because he hadn't a clue about the Mission either and was having a hard time finding out what had happened.)

I read "go ask the CIA" as a polite-ish not me finger pointing back at the Agency for this.

cathyf
It seemed obvious that the people pushing me to look into who sent Wilson knew exactly the answer I'd find. Yet they were really careful not to let the information slip, which suggested that they knew at the time Plame's identity was radioactive.
Or is meant that Joe Wilson's identity ("husband of a CIA WMD person") was radioactive, because it was fatal to Joe Wilson's credibility as a non-partial investigator.

Sheesh, sometimes I wonder if reporters are really that stupid, or they just think that we are.

cathy :-)

topsecretk9

Noah

And how low can you go...pointing reporters in the right direction? Things we find out "for ourselves" are much more "plausible" and "real", true?

Exactly. They should have just resorted to Blumenthal SOP and accused WIlson of being deranged or something. The truth, apparently foreign to reporters, confuses them.

clarice

For a guy who can read so much layered nuance into such an obvious response--we don't know ask the people who sent him--he seems quite thick when it came to following up on the suggestion he was given.

Rick Ballard

A follow up had the possibility of disturbing meme development. He couldn't take the risk.

clarice

Obviously. Better to sit at the bar drinking whiskey without ice (don't want parasites) spinning layers of meaning in the pointed finger, than get up off your ass and call the CIA. Ditto with Cooper--put in your memo that Rove said ask the CIA but for goodness sake don't actually do that.

Lew Clark

Did Valerie Wilson send Joe Wilson to Niger? is a semantics game. I can answer that question both ways. No she did not. Because she did not have the authority to authorize such a trip. Yes she did. Because she convinced the person with the authority to approve the mission that Joe Wilson should go. Absent her employment with the CIA, I don't think anyone is arguing that Joe Wilson would have been selected for the assignment. Absent a wife at the "company", Joe Wilson never shows up on their radar.

As TM pointed out. It is interesting that government officials were always talking about Joe Wilson and his trip to Niger. When/if Mrs. Wilson came up, and often she did not, at least by name, she was a side note. A very small dot in connect the dots.

When reporters wrote about the "issue", it started with "exposure of a covert agent". It certainly seems that a conspiracy to out "super spy" was absent on the government side. But to reporters outing "Jamie Bond" is a lot sexier than "business a usual, some incompetent hack got a job in the government because he had connections. And now he thinks he's somebody and runs the government."

So Ftiz goes: can't prove a crime, can't prove a crime, can't prove a crime. But, all testimony does not seem to be consistent (duh, that's always the case). Well, I'll just "pick one" and shoot for a perjury, obstruction of justice charge, cause, dammit, that's all I got.

Gabriel Sutherland

Jim E.: Two things about Carlton Fulford Jr.

1) Of course it's possible that such intelligence was being compiled without Fulford's knowledge.
Source: TNR: Google Cache Version

2) General Fulford was not aware of Joe Wilson's trip to Niger even though they were both in Niamey at roughly the same time. Second, Fulford would not be aware of other Western intelligence agencies with active operations to support smuggling uranium out of Niger in order to track its travel to uncover key links in the black market nuclear weapons trade, ie the British Intel Op.

Gabriel Sutherland

To add to what Lew Clark said, Fitzgerald also is looking to take advantage of any angle he can use in order to delve deeper into the alleged criminality of the leak. Perjury, obstruction of justice, and lying to federal agents are buttons Fitzgerald can press to try and cop a plea from witnesses in order to better arrive at the alleged criminality of the leak.

clarice

I have an interesting legal question which I posed to Professor Volokh last night. (No answer as yet).

Unlike the perjury counts, the obstruction count Statute has no requirement that the prosecution establish the materiality of the claimed obstructive conduct.
Yet logically, that would seem preposterous here since virtually all the evidence to establish whether the IIPA was violated is uniquely in the hands of Fitz' client , the CIA, and he says he never fully explored that because it was not material to his case. I read that, fairly I think, as a concession that prior to questioning Libby, Fitz knew the Act did not apply. And this seems to me an abuse of the prosecutorial powers.

I found this interesting discussion on the law in the context of a discussion of the Arthur Anderson and Martha Stewart cases. (If you recall, the Anderson case was reversed on appeal though by that time a fine, major accounting firm had been driven out of business). http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=669922

clarice

I think this interesting language in the Anderson opinion is apposite:

"the Government relies heavily on
§1512(e)(1), which states that an official proceeding “need
not be pending or about to be instituted at the time of the
offense.” It is, however, one thing to say that a proceeding
“need not be pending or about to be instituted at the time
of the offense,” and quite another to say a proceeding need
not even be foreseen. A “knowingly . . . corrup[t] per-
saude[r]” cannot be someone who persuades others to
shred documents under a document retention policy when
he does not have in contemplation any particular official
proceeding in which those documents might be material. We faced a similar situation in Aguilar, supra. Respon-dent Aguilar lied to a Federal Bureau of Investigation
agent in the course of an investigation and was convicted
of “ ‘corruptly endeavor[ing] to influence, obstruct, and
impede [a] . . . grand jury investigation’ ” under §1503.
515 U. S., at 599. All the Government had shown was
that Aguilar had uttered false statements to an investigat-
ing agent “who might or might not testify before a grand
jury.” Id., at 600. We held that §1503 required something
more—specifically, a “nexus” between the obstructive act
and the proceeding. Id., at 599–600. “[I]f the defendant
lacks knowledge that his actions are likely to affect the
judicial proceeding,” we explained, “he lacks the requisite
intent to obstruct.” Id., at 599. " www.supremecourtus.gov/opinions/04pdf/04-368.pdf&w=arthur+anderson+conviction+reversed&d=URgCMW1aMORR&icp=1&.intl=us

clarice

Professor Volokh says he doesn't know..Well, I think I'll have to work on the argument then, because I think my point is logical and I think the law should be logical, too.

MaidMarion

So, on Tuesday, July 8, 2003, Andrea Mitchell goes on TV and reveals that a low-level CIA person sent Joe Wilson to Niger. Yet her colleague, Chris Matthews, that very same evening, continues to push on HARDBALL the contents of Andrea's interview with Joe Wilson the previous Sunday on MTP. Matthews continues to stoke the flames ... rather strongly ... that the VP's office, maybe even Libby, was responsible for sending Wilson to Niger.

One might conclude that Andrea and Chris didn't share notes before going on the air July 8, 2003 (which I doubt) nor even after Libby's call to Russert complaining about Matthews's July 8th program. Golly, Russert really does look like an incompetent boss here. Wouldn't you think he'd have picked up on the discrepancy between Andrea and Chris's July 8 reportage?

By the way, we know Russert was not around on July 6, 2003, since Mitchell sub'd for him on MTP. Do we know when he was back in the office? Was it July 7th?

And another observation... I've always been a bit intrigued at how Matthews, with all his wall-to-wall coverage of the "CIA Leak", was not included in that roundtable discussion on that Sunday "The Tim Russert Show" after Fitzgerald handed down his indicment. Speaking of the roundtable, I notice that Russert says he received that call from Libby on/about July 10/11. However, Fineman pipes up and says "Wednesday or Thursday". I was watching the program that night and noticed how johnnyonthespot Howard was to interject this point, as if he needed to correct Russert's remarks for the record. It was as if Fineman was flying cover for Tim. Russert concurred with Fineman's correction. Well then, that means Libby phoned Russert on July 9/10 ... not July 10/11 as he mentioned on the show and which were the dates he testified to. Just thought I'd mention this...

One last question: We know the July 8, 2003 HARDBALL show annoyed Libby. Why wouldn't Libby have called Matthews FIRST to complain to him directly?

Here's a scenario: Let's assume Libby did...and placed that call to Matthews on July 9th. Let's also assume that by this time Chris has already talked to Andrea and has found out the scoop that a low-level CIA operative was responsible for sending Wilson to Niger...and she thinks it was Valerie Plame. So Chris says to Libby, "Hey Scoot...was it Valerie Plame who sent Joe?"

Then Libby calls Russert the NEXT day (July 10) to lodge his complaint about the July 8th HARDBALL show ... perhaps because he was expecting to hear Matthews make a correction on his July 9th show, but didn't get it.

Maybe THAT's why Libby testified that it was Russert who told him Plame's name, when if fact he'd forgotten that he heard it from Matthews the previous day.

Just a scenario. We know Matthews passed to Joe Wilson info from his conversation with Rove (after the Novak article) where in Rove told Matthews that Valerie "was fair game". Matthews was in the middle of the "Niger yellowcake" disinformation campaign from day one and has been the "guide on" for the "CIA Leak" propaganda as well.

clarice

MM, I have to run out, but I think you have put together an interesting timeline.

As to why Libby would call Russert not Matthews, I have one idea--He'd think a call to Matthew's boss would be more effective.

Patrick R. Sullivan

'...it fits with knowledge of her being covert, but it also fits with non-knowledge of her being covert.'

Jeff, you forget to complete your equation with '= 0'.

maryrose

" Cause dammit that's all I got"
Bingo Lew. and I think there was tremendous pressure from dems for him to "get" someone. MSNBC was licking their chops in anticipation that Rove would be indicted. Matthews was holding out hope that it would be Cheney and their disappointment was palpable when Libby was all they got. Remember how long it took for charges to be brought-. I think right up to the last minute they probably knew their case was weak that's why they had to wrap all that classified garbage around it.

Barney Frank

Clarice you're the best. But I think you probably meant peevish or perturbed not peckish up there at 8:01. If she was peckish she should have just gone to the commissary for a burrito.

Terrie

Hey, when you set the hounds on Cliff May and Robert Novak, don't forget Martin Peretz of the New Republic who made the everybody-knew-Plame claim, too.

cathyf
I think the real story, which I haven't seen anyone delve deeply into, is that in all likelihood, a team of people in the CIA decided this trip would be a good idea. Considering the purported purpose of the trip, the political proclivities of Wilson and most likely those of his wife, the limited value of the trip, the lack of any effort on the part of the CIA to limit related publicity, and the politically-charged events which resulted from it, the story I'd like to read is how an entire team within the bowels of the CIA was able to plot and carry out such a subversive mission against an administration in wartime.
I think that is not really consistent with the background data that we have about the last quarter-century or so of ME intel. The running joke has been that the headline on Wilson's op-ed should have been "In Dispute Between White House And CIA, CIA Employee's Spouse Vouches For CIA." In fact the story appears far more complicated and Machaveillian, in a strictly penny-ante bureaucratic power-struggle way. The CIA and State Dept. have a long-standing dispute how dangerous Saddam was to the US. The CIA has been massively embarrassed multiple times over how far advanced Saddam was in WMD programs that the CIA had no clue about. The State Dept. is in the "don't worry be happy" school where no evidence would ever be good enough to convince them. Our gal Val was in an interesting position. She was CIA, secret agent, apparently good, but frustrated because Aldrich Ames and the screwups in the agency have managed to end her secret agent career. She was the liason between the CIA WMD people and the DoS WMD people, and so basically her job was to go to meetings with DoS people where she was the only CIA person in the room. She is married into the State Dept. According to the VF article, she was in the "process" of "transitioning" over to the State Dept.

So in the runup to the reactivation of the war, the WH (with Cheney in operational charge of this aspect it) chose sides in the CIA-DoS dispute. The CIA side. I think the Niger caper was a little skirmish in the long-running CIA-DoS war. The DoS guys managed to convert their CIA liason over to the DoS position, and she got the CIA to send her hubby, a retired DoS official, over to Niger to play the 3-monkeys game. He didn't really find much, because he wasn't really very good at it, and so the CIA ignored him. In other words, the CIA ignored her. Then a year later, when huge stockpiles weren't found in Iraq, troops weren't attacked by chemical or biological weapons, the DoS goes into full "we told you so" victory dance. Which was what Joe Wilson was doing.

And the White House blamed the CIA for Joe. And the CIA blamed Val for Joe. And the CIA burned Val. Then Joe came back around and fired the shots at the White House in order to change the subject. This is the one thing that the CIA and DoS can agree on -- that they want somebody else to take responsibility for the serious damage that they are doing to national security by both their astonishing operational incompetence and their focus on attacking each other to the point of ignoring the nation's enemies.

cathy :-)

MaidMarion

Cathyf,

Too funny, especially the "victory dance"!

But I think you've pegged the CIA/DoS relationship. FWIW, Valerie's good buddy Larry Johnson served as DepDir of DoS Counter-terrorism Dept from 1989-1993. After 1993 he seems to have become a roving "expert" consultant appearing all over TV, and then pops up after the Plame Affair ignites to become Val's chief defender and disinformation director.

And let's not forget Johnson's July 10, 2001 (pre-9/11) NYT article "The Declining Terrorist Threat" in which Johnson wrote:

"Judging from news reports and the portrayal of villains in our popular entertainment, Americans are bedeviled by fantasies about terrorism. They seem to believe that terrorism is the greatest threat to the United States and that it is becoming more widespread and lethal. They are likely to think that the United States is the most popular target of terrorists. And they almost certainly have the impression that extremist Islamic groups cause most terrorism.

None of these beliefs are based in fact. While many crimes are committed against Americans abroad (as at home), politically inspired terrorism, as opposed to more ordinary criminality motivated by simple greed, is not as common as most people may think."

snip

"I am not soft on terrorism; I believe strongly in remaining prepared to confront it. However, when the threat of terrorism is used to justify everything from building a missile defense to violating constitutional rights (as in the case of some Arab-Americans imprisoned without charge), it is time to take a deep breath and reflect on why we are so fearful."

http://afghanlaw.de/The%20Declining%20Terrorist%20Threat.htm

clarice

Very good, Cathy and MM.
Barney you're right about "peckish" *blushing with embarrassment*

clarice

About mm's timeline, would someone refresh my recollection? Is there any indication at all that Matthews was interviewed by Fitz? Or is this one of those cases where a reporter leaking to Libby didn't count in his book?

Syl

Cathy, brill!

Loved every word.

pollyusa

MaidMarion

I think you give Chris Matthews entirely too much credit.

JM Hanes

AnonLib

"JM Hanes, I do believe you are putting words in my mouth. I don't think this is the only possible inference, just the most likely."

Which part of the following didn't you say:

"That can ONLY mean that they knew they were not supposed to mention her."

I've simply pointed out what I continue to regard as one, among several, plausible alternatives.

JM Hanes

Jeff

"If so, why didn't they just come out and identify her and her role to Dickerson? If not, what on earth were they doing in talking about an employee at the CIA who sent Wilson on his trip?"

Because they intended to remain anonymous, unquotable, sources just like everyone else who feeds info to the press in Washington.

Extraneus

Thanks Cathy and MM. You're less suspicious of the CIA group's motives than I am, based on your understanding of the inter-service battles, whereas I'm basing my thinking purely on a low opinion of Joe. I think I'd be able to comprehend your CIA-DoS scenario better if I could grasp how the CIA could send a partisan weasel like Wislon on such a trip without asking for any assurance of confidentiality or a written report. Does that even pass the smell test?

topsecretk9

without asking for any assurance of confidentiality or a written report.

I'm still bent on why they would even have to ask for something that should be mandatory no matter who is asked to make a trip. CIA pays for it (the trip) --the CIA owns it, is how it should be.

maryrose

Extraneus TS
I always find myself agreeing with both of you. You present down to earth
, common sense arguments.

Jeff

Because they intended to remain anonymous, unquotable, sources just like everyone else who feeds info to the press in Washington.

Try again, that's not an answer. They could have remained anonymous and unquotable and still transmitted the information they wanted to.

JM Hanes

Yes, that is an answer. It's just not the answer you were setting up. Would it be fair to say that you believe they were trying to out Plame -- rather than trying to out Wilson?

clarice

After you answer that one ts--tell me how the same people who engaged him didn't recognize him in the Kristof and Pincus pieces and call him in and tell him to stop it. Or why they didn't after his op ed. And if they didn't, how Fitz could assert with a straight face that the agency took all reasonable steps to protect Plame's identity.

Jeff

JM Hanes - Let me try again. They could have remained anonymous and unquotable while saying anything in the world. So the desire to remain anonymous and unquotable can do no explanatory work for you. So try again.

JM Hanes

I note you made no attempt whatsoever to answer my question, before demanding that I "try again."

The idea that "they could have remained anonymous and unquotable while saying anything in the world," seems a little bizarre given the Plamegate context of this whole discussion. It also seems strange that you seem put out by the fact that they might have known Plame's status and not revealed it. What's up with that? Nevertheless, in my inference, it doesn't matter what they did or didn't know, because they were tossing the matter back into the CIA's lap -- where, I might add, it belonged.

Perhaps you'd be kind enough to answer my query now.

kim

It is Dickerson's contorted framing in which you see the evil conspiracy among Bush's crew, Jeff. Rice spoke the truth; why wasn't it followed up? Instead, we see our free and independent press getting themselves into a fit of hilarity watching the 'radioactive' tarbaby getting smacked.

I'm not amused. Particularly not amused by the unserioousness that I detect from the press about a very serious woman.
=============================================

Jeff

Would it be fair to say that you believe they were trying to out Plame -- rather than trying to out Wilson?

If you're asking whether I think Dickerson's two SAOs were trying to get Dickerson to discover that Wilson's wife sent him on the Niger trip, and whether I think this was part of a larger, concerted effort to get reporters to discover that Wilson's wife sent him on the Niger trip, in order to discredit Wilson, the answer is "yes."

Now will you answer my question, instead of dodging it and making things easy on yourself by making it seem like you're not choosing one interpretation of their actions over another when in fact that's exactly what you're doing?

It also seems strange that you seem put out by the fact that they might have known Plame's status and not revealed it. What's up with that?

I have no clue what makes you think I'm "put out" by what I believe to be the fact. I'm trying to understand what was going on, and what I think was going on was that Dickerson's two SAOs wanted him to discover Plame's role in Wilson's trip to discredit Wilson, but they did not want actually to reveal her role and her employment at the CIA because they understood it to be sensitive information. We have evidence that Fleischer was made to understand that latter fact quite clearly by Libby himself. Assuming Bartlett was the other SAO, it's easy to imagine that he learned the hush hush nature of Plame's CIA work either from Fleischer himself or from another source.

What I'm not saying, of course, is that either SAO did anything illegal. It appears that they didn't, as best as I know.

To say they were putting the matter back in the CIA's lap is a deeply misleading and incomplete description of what they were doing. For one thing, they talked a lot about it themselves. They weren't just referring all questions to the CIA. It's also clear, once again, that at least SAO 2 went out of his way to emphasize that Dickerson should go ask the CIA about the employee who sent Wilson. This was a pointer, not just dumping things back in the CIA's lap.

Gary Maxwell

So f ing what? Is there a point buried in this pony output?

windansea

is it Cinco de Fitzo yet??

cathyf
I'm still bent on why they would even have to ask for something that should be mandatory no matter who is asked to make a trip. CIA pays for it (the trip) --the CIA owns it, is how it should be.
Well, there has always been some defensive posturing as to who "paid for" the trip. The CIA seems to have paid for the plane ticket, hotel, meals, but everybody has agreed that they didn't pay Joe for his time. So who was paying for Joe? Well Joe was, at the time, a self-employed consultant, so his company was paying Joe. According to reports, Valerie suggested Joe with the stipulation that he had "business" reasons to go to Niger, and could help out the CIA as a freebie on the side. Joe's "business" seems to have been envisioned as helping the governments of the uranium-rich part of Africa market their yellowcake to the world (a business which is certainly a legitimate one if the customers are legit.) So who did he owe a fiduciary duty to? The CIA? or the African yellowcake producers who were either his clients or the potential clients he was attempting to drum up business with? It looks to me like he owed the fiduciary duty to his clients, and the CIA wasn't his client because they weren't paying him.

This operation would have been like if the CIA got somebody in Niger (who worked for a business or the goverment) to spy on his employer and give the CIA the information. Whenever information comes in from spies in that situation they have to be very aware that the whole setup is that the spy is cheating somebody -- either their own employer or country by spying on them, or the CIA by feeding them false information. It's simply preposterous to think that the CIA should have just swallowed whole without question whatever was handed to them by Joe-Wilson-marketing-agent-for-yellowcake-producers.

It's not just that Joe had contacts in the region. He had business in the region. And that business wasn't marketing chick peas. Even if his clients are completely honest and above-board, if they have to worry about preventing Saddam from buying their product, this is business, and "worry about preventing Saddam from buying their product" is a code phrase for "spending their own money that nobody is going to reimburse them to prevent Saddam from buying their product." The yellowcake producers have a fiduciary responsibility try to convince the world that there is little or no risk of the yellowcake falling into the wrong hands so that they won't be forced to pay out money from their own pockets to mitigate that risk.

cathy :-)

boris

go ask the CIA about the employee who sent Wilson

Which technically speaking was not Val.

JM Hanes

"This was a pointer, not just dumping things back in the CIA's lap."

A distinction without a difference. As Dickerson emphasizes, what struck him as most unusual at the time was that the White House was actually pointing to the C.I.A. explicitly at all. If you were a reporter and an SAO just told you to go ask the C.I.A. about Wilson, wouldn't your logical follow-up be: ask them what?

I am not dodging your question; I'm pointing out that there is more than one possible answer. As our own tête á tête demonstrates, that is not the path of least resistance you assert it to be! You seem to assume that the only sensitive matter here is Plame's C.I.A. status and then extrapolate from that assumption throughout. When Libby tells Fleischer that the matter is hush, hush, you assume the topic in question had to be Plame's status.

In reality, there was hardly any issue in play at the time that wasn't of a highly sensitive nature. For example -- just for starters -- how precisely do you go about establishing that Wilson represented what was essentially a freelancing, slipshod, C.I.A. boondoggle without undercutting your own "slam dunk" DCA and his agency? What's really rather astonishing is how little curiousity the press exhibited about Wilson himself & the circumstances of his mission throughout. They must have seemed positively, perhaps wilfully, thick-headed to the White House at the time.

The continuing lack of attention to the politicized state of the C.I.A. & those within it who choose to exploit the press for purposes we're not privy to, concerns me a great deal. Indeed, Tenet's role in the Plame affair still appears surprisingly opaque, don't you think? We know he signed off on the referral to Justice, although he could easily have assumed it would get about as far as 99.99% of such referrals do. It's also entirely possible he thought that someone else would be facing jail time, not SAOs at the White House. He was facing something of an embarassment of embarassments in his agency himself, and if you look back over his testimony in various Congressional hearings, you'll discover that he offered up a different, often conflicting, threat assessment almost every time he opened his mouth.

If I appear to digress, perhaps it's because I'm interested in a slightly larger picture than you appear to be. In short, however, I believe the Administration had a regular cornucopia of reasons for exercising caution and treating any issue involving the C.I.A. like a pretty hot potato. Plame's technical status might not have been foremost among them at all. I, personally, suspect that it wasn't, and that the accusation that they had deliberately outed a covert agent probably came like a total bolt out of the blue -- especially in light of the veritable ocean of leaks from the C.I.A. itself we've been swimming in from the start. Could I be wrong? Sure. Couldn't you?

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Wilson/Plame