The Plame Affair

The rest of the blogoverse is all over the Valerie Plame case, so I won’t bother laying out the facts for you. Kevin Drum, at Calpundit has it from one side, and Glenn Reynolds, the Instapundit, has it from the other.

In this case, I’m leaning toward Kevin; while the facts aren’t quite clear yet, this is something that an Administration that cared about credibility (and national security) ought to jump to attention to come clean on. The current quote from the NY Times: “The White House said today that it was “ridiculous” for anyone to suggest that President Bush’s top political adviser had leaked secret information in an effort to discredit an outspoken critic of Mr. Bush’s policy on Iraq.

Sorry, that just doesn’t cut it.

In a world where ‘We can fact check your ass‘ is a given, the White House needs to do more than indignantly protest to make it’s point on this. If no one did it, demand to know who Novak claims did it, offer the call logs and kick some partisan ass. If someone did it, apologize and take them to the woodshed if you won’t send them out the door.

Bush’s strongest asset is his reputation for blunt candor. Once that goes…

So: speak up, Mr. President. We’re waiting to hear what you have to say.

JK UPDATE: Mader Blog has some really good links. Hey, isn’t he Canadian?

32 thoughts on “The Plame Affair”

  1. Plume? Plame?

    And yeah, so far all the Administration responses that I’ve seen have been along the lines of ‘The President does not believe this could happen. Therefore it didn’t.’ Not the most convincing explanation…

    Personally I suspect it was not actually malicious, but just the result of someone Not Using Their Brain and realizing that Plame’s job was classified. Although that’s nowhere near a good enough excuse to keep [whoever it was] out of jail for a good long time, I think.

  2. According to Kathryn Lopez at NRO Corner, Novak says it wasn’t anyone at the White House:

    THE WILSON AFFAIR [Kathryn Jean Lopez]
    Bob Novak, on Crossfire a little ago, said that Joe Wilson’s wife is not an operative, but an analyst, suggesting this debate is really over nothing if that is true. (He also says no one from the White House called him.)
    Posted at 05:05 PM

  3. The debate neither ends with Novak nor the analyst status. You have a claim out there from a reputed White House source that she was outed to half a dozen reporters. Is this source lying? Also, her status as analyst/operative is under dispute.

    More to the point: Why the hell, if there’s nothing to this, is the Bush Administration making itself look guilty as hell? Why don’t they just come out and say that (i) they are conducting a full investigation, and either (a) there is nothing to the accusations or (b) those responsible will be held accountable? Instead, they are stonewalling, which leads me to believe:

    (i) they are protecting someone, like Karl Rove, at the highest levels, or perhaps George Bush (presumably after the fact),

    (ii) there were a number of administration officials involved making it a de facto White House policy decision to use the tactic to discredit Wilson,

    (iii) they consider it beneath their dignity to even deign to address idle speculation that any members of their staff would be involved in any dirty tricks, with the added advantage of making us all look like fools once the (presumably) innocent facts come out.

    I hope it’s number (iii). I’m fairly sure the White House already knows the answer.

  4. So far, the issue is mostly hot air and anonymity. Other than Wilson, who is not an objective source, nothing on is record. More hot air and less substance than Tony.

    I have a suspicion that this will resemble the BBC / Gilligan affair.

  5. Well spoken Joe. Plame was a WMD expert, so anyone who talked to her in the last few years, is concerned about somebody. This was a grievous act of treachery, and could have national security implications.

    American’s cannot allow this old story to be swept off the radar AGAIN – and here is yet another in the long and growing list of administration abuses that warrant an investigation, disclosure, scrutiny, and review.

    One of the kings horses, or one of the kings men must fall for this crime.

  6. Can’t take cxredit, Tony… this is Armed Liberal’s gig. If it makes you feel any better, I don’t think it’s possible to sweep this one off the radar at this point. One way or another, there must be resolution.

  7. Mader has some good links.

    If Bush is being silent, I think given his usual tactics that his critics will wind up smeared with mud.

  8. Slime and hide.

    It is a creepy tactic this leadership has perpetuated and perfected with alarming success since… *assuming* the executive.

    Bush defenders can justify tossing these abuses and all the bad news out the window and sliming any questioner as lunatic, communist, effete, anti-American, demoncrat spawn of the devil, Рbut the crime exists, Рand Novak’s slithering syntactic defense does not hold water, because regardless of intent, Рan agency operative was outed and a mission compromised by sources in the administration providing this information to Novak who published the claim.

    The entire episode warrants a criminal investigation and could touch upon clearly stated impeachable offenses, including treason.

  9. Gabriel writes: “Also, her status as analyst/operative is under dispute”

    This is easily explained. She has young children. Being an operative, with foreign travel, would not be very compatible with raising young children (apparently twins).

    So it’s likely that she changed to an analyst role when she decided to start having kids, because that would be more compatible with raising twins.

    (This would be analogous to a woman in business moving from a sales role that required travel to a sales or management role that allowed her to stay at HQ)

    Even so, if that change was in the last 5 years, and if she was a covert operative working in foreign countries within 5 years, she would still be covered by the laws against revealing agent identities.

  10. Has any one looked into Wilson?

    Some suspect he might be in the pay of the Saudis or similar people.

    It is possible that this is really an attack on the Saudis disguised as an attack on Palme.

    Look for lots of reversals on this one.

  11. Lets not get all our panties in a bunch because someone claims that perhaps Plame’s ‘cover’ was blown. Lots of folks who work in the CIA who are NOT covert operatives have ‘cover’. Hell, there are lowly contractors who even have it. So far there has been no indication that this woman was any sort of covert operative.

    If she truly were under cover, then when Novak talked to a CIA spokesman about it, he wouldn’t have asked him not to print her name – he would have refused to talk about it at all. And if she were, Wilson would have kept his mouth shut about it as well, instead of whining to every media outlet that would listen that his wife’s ‘cover’ had been blown… I have to believe that much, because the alternative is to think that Wilson has zero concern for his wife’s safety, so long as he has a chance to score political points.

    What I’m hearing so far is that someone who did not habitually make it known that she worked for the CIA (a smart move for anyone, under cover or not, especially if you’re married to a traveling diplomat) is now known to have worked for the CIA. Big whoop. Happens all the time.

  12. The extraordinary creativity and fantastical imagination employed to justify or excuse Bush activities is truly astounding. The facts are relatively simple, and there is no grand super secret ulta plan targeting someone else, or the Saudi’s, this was no worthy or necessary deed – this was revenge for Mr. Wilson unmasking a Bush deception publically.

    Back this up Robin:

    * Bush shielding Saudi Arabia,
    * the hyped WMD threats,
    * the enormous afterthefact costs and bloodshed in Iraq,
    * stonewalling of, and lack of cooperation with the 9/11 investigations,
    * who framed the energy policy and why are the names cloaked in secrecy,
    * why Halliburton is given a no bid blank check with at least 9 zeros,
    * who will audit New Bridge Strategies,
    * why Ken is Lay living in luxury and not on trial,
    * why have 3 million Americans lost jobs,
    * how can tax cuts overtly favoring the super rich and .5 trillion dollar and growing deficits be seen as fiscally responsible,
    * why are religious zealots and christian fundamentalist being packed into the court system,
    * why were decorated veterans, longtime public servants, and our fellow Americans savagely slimed as anti-American for asking legitimate and pertinent questions,
    * why Bush has engorged the largest government in the history of America,
    * why are herr Ashcroft and herr Ridge redefining the Bill of Rights, and who gave them that right,
    * why was Joe Wilson’s wife outed, and by whom?
    – and many many other terribly important and quite critical questions?

    We want disclosure, investigations, and accountability from your leadership.

  13. Its amusing that you think that a long list of falsehoods is a rebuttal, Tony.

    Much of your list is policy you disagree with, not abuses. Your problem with the simple meaning of words is longstanding. Your attempt to blame the President for a recession that he inherited is typical of your dishonesty.

    Halliburton didn’t get a “blank check” – the contract underwhich it got the assignment to work on Iraq’s oil fields was an existing contract dating back to the Clinton administration. More of your falsehoods.

    The tax cuts were across the board. More of your falsehoods. There are no “religious zealots” being appointed – but your obvious bigotry against the religious is noted.

    Your lies about Ashcroft have oft been debunked. And Wilson’s claims about his wife are coming apart at the seams. Wilson did not uncover any deception – in fact, his report actually described contacts by Iraq with Niger officials.

  14. Saying something is debunked and disagreeing with me on partisan grounds does not give any of your comments validity or veracity Robin.

    I beg you to debunk herr Ashcroft ravaging of the Bill of Rights, and you know as well as I there are many people exceedingly concerned and rejecting the excesses of the USA Patriot Act.

    Nothing I write is false, or unsubtantiated, or particularly uncommon.

    I want investigations into abuses, particularly the administration shielding of Saudi Arabia, and outing an agency operative, – what do you want?

  15. Hey, Tony –

    We get it. I understand that you don’t like Bush; I’m not in love with him myself. But you keep circling around that point like a moth and a bug zapper. And in fact, the fact that all your arguments start with that point – rather than start with mutually accepted facts and work up to that point – weakens them and allows your opponents here to hold you up as an example of irrational Bush-hatred as a substitute for thinking about policy.

    You’ve got s pulpit here, and you can choose to preach to the choir….which isn’t useful and is kind of boring…or to make converts, which I imagine is what you want to do.

    A.L.

  16. Tony remains despicable with comments like this:
    “why are herr Ashcroft and herr Ridge redefining the Bill of Rights, and who gave them that right”

    That’s all you ever have, Tony, cheap slander devoid of substance. There is no basis for the comment, its just another of your repetitive foul mouth. And when you couple that with your comment about “our fellow Americans savagely slimed as anti-American”, we see that Tony represents the both the height of dishonesty and hypocrisy.

    I’m still astonished Joe wasted space on him.

  17. Thanks for the advise A.L. My frustration is born from the fact that none of these issues are ever vetted, and most of them are never investigated, and all the bad news, and there is plenty of it, is simply swept off the radar.

    It is a challenge to temper my indignation, but your point, and Joe’s are well taken.

  18. Tony, these things do get investigated. And pressure builds in multiple ways. Look at Plame, and it’s now a Class 3 storm. It may go either way – I can’t call that, because there’s so much I (and you) do not know. But I do know that it will be addressed.

    Your “slime and hide” post was a strong political opinion, but on topic observations. Debatable, but in bounds. You went off the rails with the “Back this up” response, though. Most of the list is, as Robin points out, just stuff you disagree with rather than abuses. And what that does is weaken your case dramatically rather than strengthen it.

    The moment you did that, Robin won the argument. Why? Because you got distracted from your point. If your point isn’t important enough for you to stick to, why should others care about it?

    Read Owen Harries. Take a deep breath. Then shave with Occam’s Razor.

  19. Touche’ Joe. Your good humor and good will speak well to the excellence of “Blogs” like “Winds of Change” where intelligent discourse, and maybe eventually, hopefully some solutions are afforded oxygen, and light. My indignation and frustration clouds the message at times, so I apologize to all including Robin, and you, and look forward to further discourse and the investigation into the “outing”.

    Riddle me this? The CIA performed an internal investigation that accordingly, and evidently warranted further review. Since the CIA has no policing power, Tenet drafted a letter requesting that the Justice Department tender the matter, at the behest of the CIA. That Ashcroft guy will ultimately make the decision.

    Leading me to believe that:

    1) The CIA has good information pertaining to this case.

    2) There is a very obvious conflict of interest with regard to the Justice Department and the White House who is being accused of high crimes and misdemeanors.

    3) And lastly, and this might be controversial, but the CIA and The White House are on a collision course.

  20. Oddly enough, I don’t think this is going to be such a big deal; maybe because I suspect frenzied lynch mobs.

    If what Novak said is true, it seems more like an inadvertent disclosure of what the source assumed was common knowledge among Beltway insiders like Novak, not a malicious retaliatory disclosure of a “covert operative.”

    I read the David Brooks column this morning and thought about how much I was sick of this independent counsel B.S., first Walsh, then Starr (What a farce that was!! I’m nostalgic.).

    Someday there will be a real scandal, and then where will we be?

  21. There won’t be an “independant counsel” as that statute was allowed to lapse when the Democrats figured out that the law applied to them too.

  22. I agree with Joe that events are pointing towards a Category 3 storm. My sense is that it won’t get beyond that, but I doubt it will weaken much either. Doesn’t look like any impeachable offenses down the road (holding my breath).

    That being said, the White House is clearly in damage control mode and has probably prepared for this, given the lead time. In other words, in the Category 3 storm, they are putting on the pretense that the wind is hardly blowing. (“Oh, you mean that phone call outing that CIA agent married to that slimeball diplomat.”)

    This is probably of a magnitude above, say, TravelGate, but far below anything like Iran-Contra (a truly impeachable offense). But that’s only part of the picture.

    There are two types of political damage that can come out of this. First, there is the level of intrinsic illegality or impropriety. The White House strategy appears to aim to convince the public, ultimately, that the Category 3 was at best a tropical depression. They might succeed.

    Where Bush could get into more trouble is with his political standing, independently of wrongdoing per se. TravelGate, Whitewater and MonicaGate had to do with mostly personal ethical conduct with no real relationship to policy. WilsonGate is directly related to Bush’s policy and political credibility. The public basically trusts Bush on Iraq, certainly on the War on Terror, and security generally. UraniumGate, rightly or wrongly (wrongly in my opinion), has been a particularly vulnerable point, especially coupled with the missing WMD. If it comes out that the White House was playing fast and lose with national security to manage its political standing on issues relating to Bush’s credibility, this could sting bad on all of the foregoing counts.

    PS – BTW Tony, you raise a lot of interesting points. Just got to cut out the middle part. But you’re certainly not the only one politicizing. (Not to egg you on.)

  23. Just because the CIA made the referral doesn’t mean that Plame was really a covert officer under the statute. The CIA may wish to test the bounds of the statute which has some gray areas and hasn’t been clarified.

  24. A further point, now that I’ve read Drudge’s Report on the thing.

    If Valerie Plame actually was undercover, as Larry Johnson claims, he shouldn’t be confirming it. Just because classified information has been leaked to the public, does not make it unclassified, and it’s just as against the rules to confirm that information.

    That, combined with Wilson’s behavior, makes me think that this is far more a case of trying to score political points, than it is any actual sort of scandal.

  25. The damage has been done Celeste. No one can “re-out” an agency operative. She was a WMD expert, so again – project this treachery over a few years, and there will be reaction to and/or from everyone conncected to her work.

  26. The more I consider this story, the more I come to the conclusion that Novak was correct in telling us about Plame. Her status with the CIA is part of the as yet incomplete story about Wilson’s bizarre “investigation” of the allegations of Niger’s yellowcake. Still unanswered is just why Wilson was chosen and what part his wife played in that choice and what that meant for the integrity of the CIA’s search for Iraq’s WMD. What political games are Wilson and his wife involved in?

    Plame is at the core of the questions about the quality of our intel and whether or not there are elements of the CIA politicizing the issue.

    You can’t separate her CIA job from this question and you can’t discuss this without blowing her cover. And if the Wilson’s are playing a political game here, it was their choice to do so that started the events that led to her cover being blown.

    I’m becoming more convinced that the Wilson’s are not the victims in this scandal.

  27. No, you can’t ‘re-out’ an operative, but you still aren’t supposed to be discussing her career, or confirming her status as an operative, even if she had been outed. There are plenty of bits of classified information floating around, but the fact that they’ve been published doesn’t put people with clearances at liberty to discuss it – either to confirm or deny the information. After the publication of Novak’s column, the leak should have been investigated, the concerned parties prosecuted or fired, and the whole thing should never have made it to the major papers unless it turned out a high-level official was being fired – and then the announcement that they were being fired shouldn’t have contained details on exactly what information was leaked. If that’s the way it had gone, Ms. Plame could possibly have retained some use to the CIA, and this wouldn’t have turned into the tempest in a teapot that it has become. Without such public confirmation, Novak’s column could have been treated as paranoid right-wing speculation. Given that Ms. Plame is known to be the wife of diplomat (it states her relationship to him in his official bios), she already would have had cover issues – unless you think foreign intel agents are stupid enough to habitually disclose important information to people known to be connected (even if by marriage) to a competing government.

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