Tuesday, July 05, 2005

The basics on the outing of Valerie Plame

Did the Bush administration manipulate intelligence about Saddam Hussein's weapons programs to justify an invasion of Iraq?
Based on my experience with the adminstration in the months leading up to the war, I have little choice but to conclude that some of the intelligence related to Iraq's nuclear weapons program was twisted to exaggerate the Iraqi threat.

So begins Joseph Wilson's "What I Didn't Find In Africa," his July 6, 2003 New York Times op-ed that started it all.

Eight days later, Robert Novak will publish his column outing Wilson's wife Valerie Plame and sourcing his claim with "two senior administration officals told me." This was the first print announcement. (This was not, however, Novak's first public comment on Plame. On July 8th, two days after Wilson's op-ed in the Times, Novak was naming Plame as CIA and "a weapons of mass destruction specialist" on Pennsylvania Avenue.)

As David Corn has noted:

I became the first journalist to write that these two Bush administration sources might have violated the Intelligence Identities Protection act of 1982, which makes it illegal for a government official (not a reporter) to reveal the identity of an undercover intelligence official.

We noted Corn's comments earlier tonight (in a longer excerpt) because they're important and people seem to miss that. Occassionally Corn (or someone else, but generally it's Corn) will make the point that it wasn't a crime for a reporter. And for a day or two, everyone will grasp that that's following the outing of Valerie Plame. Then within a week, it's back to "Novak broke the law!" Novak did not break the law. People can repeat that endlessly all they want, but he did not break the law.

The Intelligence Identities Protection Act of 1982 comes about for a variety of reason but among those reasons were Philip Agee. The Bully Boy's family has never cared for Philip Agee's actions:

Philip Agee published Inside the Company: CIA Diary in 1975, without agency review. He had been a CIA agent who during the Vietnam War came to view US policy as wrong. His book, a sweeping exposé of agency misconduct, named names of agents. As a result of Agee's book and political activities, the United States pressured five NATO countries to expel him and eventually revoked his passport. The book was translated into nineteen languages. He went on to write a memoir of the experience, On the Run, published in 1987. Today Agee lives in Havana and promotes tourism from the United States at his website www.cubalinda.com.

Here's Agee from a talk that was originally published by Z Magazine:

When I read that, I thought, how interesting one of those rare statements that contain two revelations. Back in the 1970s, when he was director of the CIA, [Poppy] Bush tried to get a criminal indictment against me for revelations I was making about CIA operations and personnel. But he couldn't get it, I discovered later in documents I received under the Freedom of Information Act. The reason was that in the early 1970s the CIA had committed crimes against me while I was in Europe writing my first book. If they indicted and persecuted me, I would learn the details of those crimes, whatever they were: conspiracy to assassination, kidnapping, a drug plant. So they couldn't indict because the CIA under Bush, and before him under William Colby, said the details had to stay secret. So what did Bush do? He prevailed on President Ford to send Henry Kissinger, then Secretary of State, to Britain where I was living, to get them to take action. A few weeks after Kissinger's secret trip a Cambridge policeman arrived at my door with a deportation notice. After living in Britain nearly five years, I had suddenly become a threat to security of the realm. During the next two years I was not only expelled from Britain, but also from France, Holland, West Germany, and Italy all under U.S. pressure. For two years I didn't know where I was living, and my two sons, then teenagers, attended four different schools in four different countries.

[Agee's book should also be seen in the context of the times -- the revelations of Watergate, the Church Committee and the Pike Committee, etc. The two Congressional committes have both vanished from public record for many and idiots like Patti Limerick Nelson are intent on rehabilitating the Watergate criminals for "context." The Nation and The Progressive would be doing a public service if they'd make available some of their real-time stories on the Church and Pike committees. We've noted before that the committees seemed to have vanished from our public knowledge. CounterPunch does cover both -- and Alexander Cockburn recently brought up the Church committee -- use the search engine at CounterPunch if you're interested in finding out more.]

The Bully Boy's family has long been at odds with Agee.

From Democracy Now!'s "Former CIA Agent Phillip Agee On the Wilson Affair, the Iraq Invasion and Why Bush Sr. Calls Him A Traitor:"

Many believe the law was passed in direct response to former CIA agent Philip Agee’s blowing the whistle on CIA dirty tricks in his book Inside the Company: CIA Diary George H.W. Bush, who was vice-president when the law was passed, said some of the criticism of the Agency ruined secret U.S. clandestine operations in foreign countries.

From that report:

PHILLIP AGEE: Well, first you have to realize that this law, the Intelligence Identities Protection Act, under which someone in the White House may be indicted, is his father's law.
This is the -- this is a law sought by George Bush senior, when he was C.I.A. director and later as Vice President, he worked hard to get that law passed.
It is the irony of ironies that the law is violated, I believe for the first time in a serious way, by someone working in the office of his own son. This is simply dirty politics, I believe. The ambassador, that is ambassador Wilson, poked a hole in this whole pack of lies that have been concocted to justify the war; and in retaliation, they try to ruin his wife's career and get even with him, you could say that it's dirty politics as usual. But also one has to wonder what Poppa Bush is thinking about the fact that it's his own son's office that has violated the law that he works so hard to get passed.

[Sidebar: ABC World News Tonight did an interview with Philip Agee, Jake Tapper was the interviewer. Is there a reason it's not available online? "Philip Agee" returns nothing. "Valerie Plame" returns only ten articles -- ending with Jeff Gannon -- and when you click "view more ABC News results" you are told there are no more results to be displayed. Or if you try repeatedly, you can get the next nine -- again ending with Gannon. Tapper's interview does not show up. I'm not familiar with ABC's website. Before Tom Brokaw retired, if I watched the network evening news, I watched Nightly News. Like Rebecca, you couldn't pay me to sit through the show currently as hosted by the disgusting I-Wanted-Nixon-As-My-Pen-Pal Brian Williams. But that's not how NBC's website works. Of course, ABC's scrubbing is nothing new as many know after the Nightline transcript for PNAC disappeared from the website.]

Here's Poppy in 2003:

Remember Philip Agee, who I consider a traitor to our country?

Here's Poppy in 1991 (note, this takes you to the Bush library so consider yourself warned):

I was only out at Langley a short time. And just before I went there -- I want to relate something to you because few moments for me have been more painful than the occasion I had just before I became DCI: To meet with the son of Richard Welch, a CIA station chief murdered by left-wing terrorists after his name and position had been disclosed to the press. What was I to say to this young man? Why has his father died? So that a reckless ideologue could sell more books, Philip Agee's "Counterspy'', having blown Richard Welch's cover? I don't care how long I live, I will never forgive Philip Agee and those like him who wantonly sacrifice the lives of intelligence officers who loyally serve their country.

Here's Poppy in 1999 (heads up, this takes you to the CIA's official site):

Anyway, it was a dangerous time for our country. But it merits noting that it was a particularly difficult time for the men and women who worked for the Agency. We all remember those days. Thanks to among others one Philip Agee, who tried to sue my wife when she wrote something nasty about him in the book, but have at it, Philip, because what I think is, I think he betrayed a solemn trust in helping to expose the identity of our undercover agents and I can't think of anything that in my book is more traitorous or more offensive to the decency that is the American way. To this day I believe he bears a moral responsibility for the lives lost in the wake of those actions. And if I may add, that treachery of Agee’s, like that of Aldrich Ames or - who was it - Howard, is a good reason why we must never let the guard down on our counterintelligence. The Agency's people are its strongest asset, a point every DCI sitting out here understands as well if not better than I do.
[. . .]
As we saw in the Agee and Ames cases, even though there's always a danger that they or one of their comrades could be killed if their cover is blown, our people continue to serve with honor - and thank God for that.

[Sidebar, also of note, for different reasons are the following by Poppy from the same speech:
As for me, the PDB, the Presidential Daily Brief, was the first order of business on my calendar, too. I made it a point from Day One to read the PDB in the presence of a CIA officer and either Brent or his deputy. We tried to protect the distribution of the PDB because we knew very well once it was faxed or put through a Xerox machine, then the people preparing it with their oath to protect sources and methods would be inclined to pull back and not give the President the frankest possible intelligence assessments presenting the best possible intelligence.
So I made it a point there to read it with the CIA officer and usually Brent Scowcroft or sometimes his deputy or sometimes both. This way I could ask the briefers for more information of matters of critical interest, consult with Brent on matters affecting policy. I think it helped those who were working night and day out there in Langley to prepare the PDB to know that at least their product was being looked at by the President himself. I think it helped a little bit in the morale of that section of the CIA that works so hard to put this book together

Not getting that it's personal with Poppy? We could go on and on with his comments re: Agee but we'll wrap up by noting page 560 of Kitty Kelley's The Family (which by the way was not Agee "trying to sue" as Poppy claimed -- Agee did sue and did get a retraction demonstrating once again that reality isn't a strong suit in the Bully Boy family):

In writing her book Barbara Bush: A Memoir, George H.W.'s wife achieved the distinction of becoming the only First Lady ever to be sued for libel. Barbara had written that Philip Agee, a former CIA agent, had identified Richard Welch as an agency operative in "a traitorous tell-all book" that caused Welch, the CIA station chief in Athens, to be assassinated in December 1975. Agee denied her allegation and filed a $4 million libel lawsuit against her and her publisher, Lisa Drew Books of Charles Scribner's Sons. Agee proved that he had not identified Welch in his book Inside the Company: CIA Diary, and he demanded an apology from Mrs. Bush, plus an immediate retraction in the paperback edition of her book. Barbara refused to apologize for her mistake, but she did make the retraction.

[Please note, there is an attempt by some to equate the current trash Hillary book with Kitty Kelley's The Family. I find that line of reasoning to be nonsense and not just because Kelley knows how to wear mascara. Rebecca's written on Kitty Kelley's book and I agree with Rebecca's take. I'll also note that the woman who sued Kelley, mentioned in Rebecca's entry, dropped the lawsuit. As she should have.]

It was personal for Poppy and that's why he pushed for the Intelligence Identities Protection Act of 1982. There's the bad poetry to this father & son pair. Call it The Sun Also Fumbles.
Poppy pushes and backs the law for his own personal reasons (which is why he's possibly not too concerned over the outing of Valerie Plame) and Bully Boy's administration appears to be the first to violate the law.

But Robert Novak didn't violate the law. We'll again note Jeffrey Goldberg's "Real Insiders: A pro-Israel lobby and an F.B.I. sting" (from The New Yorker):

According to an AIPAC source, an eleven-second portion of the telephone conversation between Rosen, Weissman, and the Post’s Glenn Kessler, which the F.B.I. had recorded, was played for Lewin. In that conversation, Rosen is alleged to have told Kessler about Iranian agents in southern Iraq--information that Weissman had received from Franklin. In the part of the conversation that Lewin heard, Rosen jokes about "not getting in trouble" over the information. He also notes, "At least we have no Official Secrets Act"--the British law that makes journalists liable to prosecution if they publish classified material.

This is all very basic but Corn had to note it today (and Keith felt this was the first time but Corn's noted it before).

There may be some desire on the part of some tossing around the term "traitor" and "criminal" to keep the issue of the outing of Valerie Plame alive. That's their opinion and they're welcome to it. But legally, there are no grounds for calling Novak a "criminal." ("Traitor" is a charged term that people use in non-legal sense -- I'm guessing.)

We noted here back in December:

Robert Novak is a strange sort of "journalist." Page A18 of today's New York Times addresses his role in the outing of Valerie Plame in Lorne Manly and Adam Liptak's "At Leak Inquiry's Center, a Circumspect Columnist." [The article can be found at http://www.nytimes.com/2004/12/31/politics/31novak.html?oref=login.]
It's there that he's quoted (answering a question from Brian Lamb on C-Span) saying, "I don't know why they're upset with me. They ought to worry about themselves. I worry about myself."
Like a character in an unfolding play by Moliere -- The School for GOP Hacks? -- Novak was trained by Rowland Evans, Jr. to always do his best to advance the interests of the GOP. Truly, he is the first act Agnes in Moliere's The School for Wives.
Joseph Wilson was bringing uncomfortable attention to the Bully Boy's remarks on yellow cake.The echo chamber went into overdrive to discredit Wilson and Novak was there to deliver the body blow, announce in his July 14,2003 column:
Wilson never worked for the C.I.A., but his wife, Valerie Plame, is an agency operative on weapons of mass destruction. Two senior administration officials told me his wife suggested sending Wilson to Niger.
With those remarks, Novak sought to discredit Wilson. Now maybe Novak wasn't aware of a number of things. Maybe he wasn't aware that he was being used to silence a critic of the Bully Boy's? Maybe he wasn't aware that he was outing Plame? [Correction: Novak was aware. He spoke on the phone with Joe Wilson on July 10th. Page 344 of Wilson's The Politics of Truth details the conversation. Without noting the conversation, or when it occurred, Novak would refer to it himself in a later column as he noted that Wilson refused to talk to him about Plame.] Robert Evans had schooled Novak to be, like Agnes, the adoring idiot.
But where Agnes's intellect slowly develops over the course of the play, Novak's gone down a different path -- schooled to be a non-thinking opinion writer, he's only excelled further at his cause.
Novak has damaged the ability of Plame to do her job. In doing so, he's put her at risk, anyone who was seen with her in her undercover days at risk and, at a time when national security at least gets lip service, she has been taken "out" an asset when one would think the nation needs her more than ever.

Here's Ty and Jim (The Third Estate Sunday Review) on the issue of "traitor:"

Ty: Exactly. Here's today's talking points is what I hear too much when I listen to radio. That's why I listen to Democracy Now! and not a lot else, it provides the connections. Laura Flanders demonstrates the connections. Janeane Garofalo's usually attempting to but she gets cut off too much. And a lot of times I'm bothered by the rhetoric. I think Robert Novak did a hideous thing but when I hear "traitor!" I just recoil because that's a charge that, if convicted, comes with the death penalty which I don't support. And by all accounts Valerie Plame was a nice person and she was outed for political reasons. I find that sad and objectionable. But as an African-American male, I'm not going to start screaming "Traitor!" because someone outed a C.I.A. agent. I don't think you're going to find many African-Americans who are going to weep over the outing. They'll say it's wrong. They'll also say that a lot more outings need to take place with the C.I.A. I'm not going to join in the chorus of "traitor" and have it turned back on me when some new war against African-Americans is exposed and the right wants to call some journalist a traitor. Call him a hack, say he did it for no reason other than politics, talk about his teeth even but I do not think the word "traitor" is appropriate.
Jim: And that's a good point. That will come back to bite the left in the butt. Plame was outed for the wrong reason but I don't subscribe to the belief that it is wrong for a journalist to to out a CIA agent. Now Bully Boy's daddy does subscribe to that belief but I don't. There needs to be more sunshine on the CIA, not less. I think it was misjudgement and wrong of Novak to do it. I think he's a creep and needs to get those teeth fixed. But I'm not going to go "Traitor! Traitor!"
If tomorrow Robert Parry wants to out a CIA agent that's doing damage to the country, the right will scream "Traitor!" and then call the left hypocrites for not joining in.
Dona: Well, I think we need to make a distinction here because there's the left and there's partisans on either side. I think Novak should be forced to address his reasoning for the outing. I don't think there's a justification for it. But he should have to address it. And if he were of the left or even a mainstream journalist, look at Gary Webb, he'd have the right coming down on him and lose his job. But at a time when reporters, some good ones, some bad ones, are under attack, and we discussed this in class last month, for their actual reporting, I don't want to join in on the "traitor" screams. Hack, disgusting and con artist more than describe the way I feel regarding Robert Novak.

This morning we made Scott Shane's "Private Spy and Public Spouse Live at Center of Leak Case" the spotlight story from the New York Times:

There's one area of the article that I'll address this evening but it's the most comprehensive piece the Times has done (the only comprehensive piece).

What was the one issue? The one that was hoped to be addressed. We'll get there in a moment.
But a number of e-mails came in from visitors who wanted to insist that Novak committed a crime. (And I'm way behind in the e-mails as a result of those.) People are entitled to their opinion. But if it's based upon fact, no one backed it up. As the Intelligence Identities Protection Act of 1982 is written I'm not seeing where Novak committed a crime. (Perhaps people are feeling he's undercover CIA? Or possibly that, like Armstrong Williams, he's received some White House payment and therefore is part of the administration? If so, they aren't making those points in their e-mails.) It's fine to feel that he belongs bars if that's your feeling but if there's a legal backing for that feeling, I'm not finding it any law.

Now let's (finally) address the area I saw as problematic in Scott Shane's article. It falls into the area of "balance" that the Times so loves. Shane notes the "Republican critics" who claim that Plame had "orchestrated" Wilson's trip to Niger. Shane then offers that Wilson has outlined his version of it in his book (The Politics of Truth). Shane then notes that:

Mr. Wilson said that though his wife wrote a memorandum describing his expertise at the request of a CIA supervisor, she did not propose him for the Niger trip. He scoffs at the notion that a trip to one of the poorest countries on earth, for which he was paid only his expenses was some kind of prize.

Is that it? Is that what's out there? Wilson and then his critics? This is "balance." It also appears not to tell the full story.

From BuzzFlash, "Joe Wilson Once Again Under Character Assassination Attack by the GOP Junk Yard Dogs: His Response:"

First conclusion: "The plan to send the former ambassador to Niger was suggested by the former ambassador's wife, a CIA employee."
That is not true. The conclusion is apparently based on one anodyne quote from a memo Valerie Plame, my wife sent to her superiors that says "my husband has good relations with 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." There is no suggestion or recommendation in that statement that I be sent on the trip. Indeed it is little more than a recitation of my contacts and bona fides. The conclusion is reinforced by comments in the body of the report that a CPD reports officer stated the "the former ambassador’s wife 'offered up his name'"” (page 39) and a State Department Intelligence and Research officer that the "meeting was 'apparently convened by [the former ambassador's] wife who had the idea to dispatch him to use his contacts to sort out the Iraq-Niger uranium issue."
In fact, Valerie was not in the meeting at which the subject of my trip was raised. Neither was the CPD Reports officer. After having escorted me into the room, she departed the meeting to avoid even the appearance of conflict of interest. It was at that meeting where the question of my traveling to Niger was broached with me for the first time and came only after a thorough discussion of what the participants did and did not know about the subject. My bona fides justifying the invitation to the meeting were the trip I had previously taken to Niger to look at other uranium related questions as well as 20 years living and working in Africa, and personal contacts throughout the Niger government. Neither the CPD reports officer nor the State analyst were in the chain of command to know who, or how, the decision was made. The interpretations attributed to them are not the full story. In fact, it is my understanding that the Reports Officer has a different conclusion about Valerie’s role than the one offered in the "additional comments". I urge the committee to reinterview the officer and publicly publish his statement.
It is unfortunate that the report failed to include the CIA's position on this matter. If the staff had done so it would undoubtedly have been given the same evidence as provided to Newsday reporters Tim Phelps and Knut Royce in July, 2003. They reported on July 22 that:
"A senior intelligence officer confirmed that Plame was a Directorate of Operations undercover officer who worked 'alongside' the operations officers who asked her husband to travel to Niger.
"But he said she did not recommend her husband to undertake the Niger assignment. 'They (the officers who did ask Wilson to check the uranium story) were aware of who she was married to, which is not surprising,’ he said. ‘There are people elsewhere in government who are trying to make her look like she was the one who was cooking this up, for some reason,' he said. 'I can't figure out what it could be.’
"'We paid his (Wilson’s) airfare. But to go to Niger is not exactly a benefit. Most people you’d have to pay big bucks to go there,' the senior intelligence official said. Wilson said. he was reimbursed only for expenses." (Newsday article Columnist blows CIA Agent’s cover, dated July 22, 2003).
In fact, on July 13 of this year, David Ensor, the CNN correspondent, did call the CIA for a statement of its position and reported that a senior CIA official confirmed my account that Valerie did not propose me for the trip:
"'She did not propose me', he [Wilson] said--others at the CIA did so. A senior CIA official said that is his understanding too.'"

Newsday is in the public record. The Times could have noted in. It's a competitor and noting it might violate the "balance" as they perceive it but if there's something that backs up Wilson's account (and Newsday as well as the body of the report appear to do so), the Times would be doing their readers a favor by informing them of that instead of acting as though it's a grey area where Wilson is pitted against "Republican critics" and no one can find their way out of the balance maze. If the paper exists to inform readers, it should have been noted. If (and this is the problem so many members have with "balance" at the Times) the Times is only interested in he said/she said and letting truth sit out the game on the bench (a sport's analogy because the Times understands those best) then there's no problem with failing to include the public record that takes it beyond what Wilson and "Republican critics" say. By not doing so, readers could be left with the impression that it's Wilson against "Republican critics" -- "critics" plural. There is backing for Wilson's version and the Times should have informed their readers of that.

There are basic facts involved. The Times would do well to inform readers of them. (Scott Shane's was the most indepth article the Times has done on the matter -- mentions and allusions don't count -- and he and the paper deserve credit for that but in regard to what's public record re: whether Plame "orchestrated" the trip or not, the paper and Shane failed the readers today.)

The Times notes Wilson's The Politics of Truth. I'll also note David Corn's The Lies of George W. Bush: Mastering the Politics of Deception. (Both books were utilized for this entry.) There are basic facts involved and whether you want to leave that framework or not, you should be aware of them.

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