At the same time in July 2003 that a C.I.A. operative's identity was exposed, two key White House officials who talked to journalists about the officer were also working closely together on a related underlying issue: whether President Bush was correct in suggesting earlier that year that Iraq had been trying to acquire nuclear materials from Africa.
The two issues had become inextricably linked because Joseph C. Wilson IV, the husband of the unmasked C.I.A. officer, had questioned Mr. Bush's assertion, prompting a damage-control effort by the White House that included challenging Mr. Wilson's standing and his credentials. A federal grand jury investigation is under way by a special counsel to determine whether someone illegally leaked the officer's identity and possibly into whether perjury or obstruction of justice occurred during the inquiry.
People who have been briefed on the case said the White House officials, Karl Rove and I. Lewis Libby, were helping prepare what became the administration's primary response to criticism that a flawed phrase about the nuclear materials in Africa had been in Mr. Bush's State of the Union address six months earlier.
They had exchanged e-mail correspondence and drafts of a proposed statement by George J. Tenet, then the director of central intelligence, to explain how the disputed wording had gotten into the address. Mr. Rove, the president's political strategist, and Mr. Libby, the chief of staff for Vice President Dick Cheney, coordinated their efforts with Stephen J. Hadley, then the deputy national security adviser, who was in turn consulting with Mr. Tenet.
At the same time, they were grappling with the fallout from an Op-Ed article on July 6, 2003, in The New York Times by Mr. Wilson, a former diplomat, in which he criticized the way the administration had used intelligence to support the claim in Mr. Bush's speech.
The work done by Mr. Rove and Mr. Libby on the Tenet statement during this intense period has not been previously disclosed.
The above is from David Johnston's "For Two Aides in Leak Case, 2nd Issue Rises" in this morning's New York Times ("This article was reported by David Johnston, Douglas Jehl and Richard W. Stevenson and was written by Mr. Johnston." Wait! We're still not done. There's an additional credit title: "Anne E. Kornblut contributed reporting for this article.")
Rove's back on the front page of the Times. Does anyone reading this wonder how Hadley, Rove, et al had all this time to work on the response to Wilson's op-ed?
If that's confusing, let's go back to Saturday's entry because the question raised is still apt.
But before we do, today we learn that Rove, Hadley and others had time to work with Tenet on the response to Wilson's op-ed. This is in the leadup to Novak's outing. This is when Rove knows what the press knows (though his claim is he wasn't the source, just the confirmation), this is when Rove's story is he e-mailed Hadley after speaking on the phone to Matt Cooper of Time. National security?
Everyone appears to be working on a response to Wilson's op-ed. Who was working on giving the heads up to Valerie Plame and agents who worked with her? Who was attempting to find out who the leaks were? (Yeah, we know who the leaks were.) It goes higher and it goes to people not doing their jobs. It's the point made Saturday and it's only more valid now that we know Rove was in contact with Tenet.
Who was doing their job? Who was protecting CIA agents? Today's report indicates everyone was instead focused on the latest spin to save Bully Boy. Hate to break it to them, but their duty is to the country, not to a person. Their duty was to protect national security and to protect the agents involved. That duty doesn't seem to have been addressed. What it looks like is that time spent on preparing the latest "official" spin took the place of people doing their jobs.
From Saturday's entry ("NYT: Rove's latest talking point implodes but the Times doesn't notice"):
So today's talking points come via a team of reporters in this morning's New York Times. It's entitled "State Dept. Memo Gets Scrutiny in Leak Inquiry on C.I.A. Officer" and it's written by Richard Stevenson. (No "W." in his byline for a change.)
[. . .]
Here's the other big talking point: Rove's "warning" to Matt Cooper, it's okay because he immediately E-MAILED* Stephen J. Hadley (deputy national security advisor at the time). So see, Rove didn't do anything wrong.
Far from clearing Rove, that actually adds to the problems.
Why is that?
Rove e-mails (allegedly) Hadley that he "didn't take the bait" when Cooper asked about whether or not Joseph Wilson was damaging the Bully Boy with his statements.
[. . .]
2) I can't believe they did this. Bully Boy's no brain (neither is Rove) but are people going to pay attention to this defense?
If they are, do they get what the leak is saying?
Rove talked to Cooper before Novak's column was published. Rove told Hadley about the conversation. Let's say Rove just confirmed Plame to Cooper. (That's just as bad and it is identifying, but let's move on to a larger point that I don't think they see in this latest talking point). When Rove sent that e-mail (if he did) to Hadley, we have someone in national security that knows a CIA agent is on the verge of being outed.
I'm sure Condi will offer her "bowels of the agency" or "basement" or whatever looney remark she made re: the sixteen words originally.
It wasn't lower level. Her right-hand man knew. That's the talking point today. Her right- hand man knew that a CIA agent was about to be the topic of the press. What did they do at that moment to find out about leaks? Did they alert the CIA?
Or were they all high fiving and saying "Way to go Karl-ster! You didn't take the bait!"
Let's be really clear, Rove supposedly sent an e-mail to the deputy of national security immediately after getting off the phone with Matt Cooper. Let's go the Times' article:
After his conversation with Mr. Cooper, The Associated Press reported Friday, Mr. Rove sent an e-mail message to Stephen J. Hadley, then the deputy national security adviser, saying he "didn't take the bait" when Mr. Cooper suggested that Mr. Wilson's criticisms had been damaging to the administration.
Mr. Rove told the grand jury in the case that the e-mail message was consistent with his assertion that he had not intended to divulge Ms. Wilson's identity but instead intended to rebut Mr. Wilson's criticisms of the administration's use of intelligence about Iraq, The A.P. reported, citing legal professionals familiar with Mr. Rove's testimony. Dozens of White House and administration officials have testified to the grand jury, and several officials have been called back for further questioning.
If people are paying attention to today's talking point, Rove just ratted somebody out (though he probably doesn't realize it). Did he tell who he got the information from?
But the talking point advises us that the deputy of national security knows the press is talking about Valerie Plame being a CIA agent. Did Hadley follow up?
Don't toss out any nonsense that, "They may not have known she was undercover!" Hadley's job should have required him to find out what Plame's position was. Regardless of what her job was, the CIA should have been advised what was about to break. And Plame should have been warned.
Was the CIA advised? I don't know. But from Joseph Wilson's reactions, Plame sure wasn't warned. From his statements, she didn't get a heads up. Novak's column appears on the 14th of July. Rove talks to Cooper on the 11th of July. In those three days, what did Hadley do? What was the administration doing? (Yeah, I know, probably helping the story along, but that's not in their talking points.)
How did Hadley follow up? Did he report it to his superior? (Condi Rice.) What measures did they take to protect Plame? She wasn't assigned body guards at the time. Wilson's made no reference to her getting a call that said, "Hey Val, just a heads up, the press are talking about you, you're probably going to be the topic of a story and be named. Those friends and neighbors that don't know anything about who you really work for -- you might want to break it to them."
Hadley's job was not to protect Bully Boy from fading poll numbers. His job was national security.
If people are paying attention to today's talking point, one question should be, "What was done when Hadley was informed?" What steps got taken?
Was the CIA informed what was coming down the pike?
Or was everyone who is supposed to be working for the nation suddenly under the impression that their job was serving on the election committee for the Bully Boy?
From today's article in the Times, we know Rove and Hadley were communicating, we know Tenent was in the loop. Who was doing their actual job? The job that's supposed to put national security above spin? The job where you're serving your country and not your Bully Boy?
You know, Nixon had a problem with his underlings thinking that serving him was serving the country. That led to a lot of crime, a lot of law breaking. If the Nixon crew had grasped that their duty was to the country and not to a person, possibly so many of them wouldn't have followed up their tenure at the White House with rap sheets?
People working for the country forgot (or choose to ignore) that they were working for the people, not for Nixon. And when they forgot that, when they put Nixon ahead of the country's interests, they were able to justify (and still do, note Lewis Lapham's essay) their actions --actions that were found to be illegal.
Has Hadley, for instance, crossed the line? I don't know. I do know that someone needs to start asking what was done by the administration when it was obvious that Plame was about to be outed?
The administration appears to have gone into damage control for the Bully Boy. They appear to have neglected their duty with regards to Plame (and anyone she worked undercover with).
That may not be the case. They may have done everything they could. (The public record doesn't reflect that.) But we won't know that until people start asking the hard questions.
This goes above Rove and most of suspected that. (I'd say all of us.) Saturday the Times ran an article that indicates Hadley, at least, knew what was coming. Today's article shows a concentrated effort by various parties to work together on spin. Who was working to ensure that CIA agents serving their country were protected and warned?
That's a question that needs to be addressed.
It's the reason that The Third Estate Sunday Review "Editorial: What did Hadley know and what did he do?" ended with this:
The spin's imploding. This talking point is cratering. Not only does it not clear Rove, it suggest incompetence (at best) on the part of the administration. It's time to know what Hadley did after he received the e-mail from Rove. If he did nothing, he needs to explain why. If he passed it up, we need to hear what those above him did.
It's time for Congressional hearings on this matter. We're no longer dealing with only the outing of a CIA agent. We're now dealing with, by Rove's talking point, the impression that the administration sat by and waited for a CIA agent to be outed. There need to be some answers and there needs to be some accountability.
(Note: I assisted with that editorial.)
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