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July 13, 2005

Comments

von: sometimes, it's hard for us to believe to. And take that as the compliment it's meant to be.

Too. Too. Grr.

The irony is that had Rove been smart, he could have looked into all of the documentation of Wilson's trip and found that he was contridicting himself in the NYT op-ed, and leaked that instead of his sloppy hack story that blew her cover.

Never mind that his wife recommended him- who cares? As far as I can tell, they didn't have anyone else to send nor any idea how to find out about Niger any other way.

the amount of doublethink out there on this (both sides obviously) is amazing.

john cole's trying to start from the bottom up over on balloon-juice; check it out.

Thanks for that, von. We libs appreciate when conservatives can fess up to being a little disturbed by the quality of the people playing for their side.

It's interesting how the WSJ is defending the legality of it. They're clearly trying a "definition of is" Clintonian/Thomistic hairsplitting.

But what about the moral issue? That's what gets me.

Let's assume that Rove did NOT know Plame was covert. Give him the benefit of EVERY doubt.

Even so. If Rove were in an way an honorable man [try not to laugh! Maybe imagine a different person in Rove's circumstances], he would have resigned years ago.

Imagine the old-time, honorable, British civil servant. "I revealed the undercover nature of an undercover operative. I did this not knowingly. But I did it, and the damage to the country can never be un-done. I hereby submit my resignation in shame, and retire from public life."

What ever happened to the notions of honor and disgrace in public service?

Ahh, I'm dreaming.

Thanks, BS 23. At you're suggestion, I've updated accordingly.

von, it'd be really nice for you to recognize that some things are more important than partisanship.

if you can't vote against these idiots in the mid-term election, can't you at least abstain?

you're a smart thoughtful guy. how do you justify being on the same side as people who have abandoned all principle in pursuit of power?

This editorial is the sort of thing that causes me to alternate between rage and despair over the future of the country. Katherine asked in a comment on another thread whether anyone would defend Congress' refusal to investigate the Plame matter. Here's her answer. The WSJ will, and they will defend Rove and Bush to the death.

So of course will a whole host of others. What we have is a very large group of people who are simply blindly loyal to Bush and the Congressional leadership no matter what they do, no matter what laws they break, what lies they tell, what stupidity and dishonesty they demonstrate.

It happened with Abu Ghraib, it's happening with Rove, it happens with all sorts of other issues.

Why? What do they use for brains? Who controls them?

the amount of doublethink out there on this (both sides obviously) is amazing

Cole's comments are full of RNC talking point parrots.

it's truly wonderous to wander over to conservative sites once in a while, just to see what the world looks like on the other side of the looking glass.

Francis; if you can't vote against these idiots in the mid-term election, can't you at least abstain?

I believe that Von voted against these idiots in the 2004 election.

you're a smart thoughtful guy. how do you justify being on the same side as people who have abandoned all principle in pursuit of power?

I have my disagreements with Von, but I would never accuse him of being on the same side as these people.

McQ has a good perspective as it pertains to the law. I've always thought that whoever leaked her name should be prosecuted to the full extent of the law. The ultimate question is whether a crime was committed in the first place, and I suspect we'll find out at some point from Fitzgerald. Reuel Marc Gerecht is a former CIA officer and he ponders the legalities and whether some updating is needed as officer status. What bothers me more than anything is the stupid parsing that's going on, like from Rove's attorney, stating that Rove did not divulge her name. Oy. If there is no indictment, then this whole episode boils down to a small political squabble trying to be made into a big one. If there is an indictment and Rove is found guilty, hang him high.

Mr. Fitzgerald knows the law better than most bloggers, and has access to a lot more facts than any of us. If deciding that there was no violation was as easy as many bloggers seem to think, he could and would have wrapped the thing up long ago.

He certainly had no business forcing Cooper all the way to the Supreme Court if he -- and his boss -- think he didn't do anything wrong. They could and should have fessed up in the fall of 03. They didn't, because they know something we still don't know . . .

The "He" in the second para refers to Rove, not Fitzgerald. Damn this small comment box!

i like Drum's summary:

    When you cut through the crap, this case is simple: a couple of political officials in the Bush White House decided to deliberately and systematically release the name of a covert CIA operative to the press solely in order to score some minor debating points against her husband, a man who had recently embarrassed them in the pages of the New York Times. The rest is just fluff. Either you're outraged by such a casual attitude toward national security or you aren't.

Why does everyone ignore the Espionage Act?

Whoever, lawfully having possession of, access to, control over, or being entrusted with any document, writing, code book, signal book, sketch, photograph, photographic negative, blueprint, plan, map, model, instrument, appliance, or note relating to the national defense, or information relating to the national defense which information the possessor has reason to believe could be used to the injury of the United States or to the advantage of any foreign nation, willfully communicates, delivers, transmits or causes to be communicated, delivered, or transmitted or attempts to communicate, deliver, transmit or cause to be communicated, delivered or transmitted the same to any person not entitled to receive it, or willfully retains the same and fails to deliver it on demand to the officer or employee of the United States entitled to receive it, etc.

Maybe because the first victim of the Espionage Act might be Plame herself?

Slarti,

Maybe because the first victim of the Espionage Act might be Plame herself?

How does this one work, exactly?

Charles,

If there is an indictment and Rove is found guilty, hang him high.

Don't you agree with the line of moral reasoning that leaking Plames status is enough to warrant resignation or firing, irrespective of whether the leak meets the legal standard for prosecution?

Yes, Jonas.

How does this one work, exactly?

Consider the circumstances under which Wilson learned, supposedly, that Plame was a NOC agent. Was Plame authorized to divulge this information?

Charles,

Yes, Jonas.

Just making sure ;-)

Slarti,

Consider the circumstances under which Wilson learned, supposedly, that Plame was a NOC agent. Was Plame authorized to divulge this information?

Pardon my ignorance, but I don't know what the circumstances were. I do know that at the very least, Wilson held some provisional security clearances, whether that means he was allowed to know is beyond me.

Slarti--Maybe because the first victim of the Espionage Act might be Plame herself?

So be it. Just so we get everyone who is willing to sacrifice national security for partisan political gain.

Charles, do you really mean to say that no action is wrong unless it's illegal and you get caught and convicted? I had heard somewhere that conservatives had a somewhat higher moral standard than that, but perhaps that was just a rumor.

Maybe because the first victim of the Espionage Act might be Plame herself?

do i smell fresh tu quoque ?

do i smell fresh tu quoque ?

I think what you're smelling is snark, and...well, I hate to tell you, but it's all over you.

Charles: "The ultimate question is whether a crime was committed in the first place."

I completely disagree. That it the ultimate question for Fitzgerald. The ultimate question(s) for the rest of us are: should one of the President's top advisors have outed a CIA agent to score political points? And what does it say about the President that he doesn't seem to care about this?

To me, this is about national security. It's as far from "a small political squabble" as it could be.

I should also say, having read the appellate decision, written by judges who had seen Fitzgerald's evidence, that they certainly seem to think there's something serious here. Though if I had to speculate, I'd guess it's not the outing CIA agents law.

I laughed out loud when I read the WSJ editorial this morning. Who could possibly take that drivel seriously? The only folks in the nation who should be more embarassed at what they'll do to protect this president than Scott McClellan are the Journal's editorial board.

I think what you're smelling is snark

actually, snark is odorless. but, tu quoque has a very strong scent; though because it resembles that of desperation, it's not always easy to tell which one you're smelling without investigating the source - which i attempted to do.

Well, all righty then. If you tell me what color it is, maybe we can get somewhere.

But...good thing we didn't step in it.

Slarti,

Can you point me to cites discussing the inpropriety of Wilson knowing Plame was a NOC? I'm genuinely curious about it.

IIRC (I can't find my link to that recent story about Mrs. Wilson), it wasn't just that people didn't know she was undercover -- people didn't know she worked for the CIA. Isn't that right? So, from a certain perspective, even mentioning her CIA connection was going to set off alarm bells with overseas people who had dealt with her.

From an ethical standpoint, the WH is already a goner on this one anyway. ScottM either chose to, or was asked to lie at briefings, and all the President had to do was ask Rove "The Question."

If Bush asked him and he said "I didn't talk about her CIA connection," then he lied and the President should fire him.

If Bush asked him and he told the truth, Bush must be held accountable.

And if Bush didn't ask, then his "more than anyone, I want to get to the bottom of this," was a bald-faced lie.

So, some people will say "if they indict him, then I'll be angry," but those folks, it seems to me, are either Bush apologists, or Karl fans who like his brand of politicking. We're never going to agree on that.

If you tell me what color it is, maybe we can get somewhere

that's a tough one. i'll get back to you.

So now Wilson leaked that info to Novak?

The "Plame might be indicted" bit is very hard to follow. I mean, so what if she is? Are we to assume that Fitzgerald wouldn't seek her indictment? Why would we assume that?

Failure to discuss the Espionage Act is almost a hallmark of "no crime committed" talking points.

No, Jonas, this is just one of the many, many things that we don't know about this case: was Joe Wilson, State Department, granted need-to-know for classified information pertaining to a CIA agent?

Slarti: "Consider the circumstances under which Wilson learned, supposedly, that Plame was a NOC agent. Was Plame authorized to divulge this information?"

Wilson had the relevant clearances. I can find the cite for you if you'd like, but I've read this in a bunch of news reports.

Wilson had the relevant clearances.

Wilson was cleared at the relevant level, but access to classified data is controlled also by need-to-know. This is why I didn't mention level of clearance, because it's probably irrelevant here.

Mr. Fitzgerald knows the law better than most bloggers, and has access to a lot more facts than any of us. If deciding that there was no violation was as easy as many bloggers seem to think, he could and would have wrapped the thing up long ago.

He certainly had no business forcing Cooper all the way to the Supreme Court if he -- and his boss -- think he didn't do anything wrong.

Amen. Fitzgerald's actions suggest that he thinks he has a case -- against whom (and for what) remains to be seen.

For those who don't know what the hell I'm talking about, the classified information Wiki can be informative, in a loose sense.

Hmm... here's a cite from Hilzoy's recent Rove post, written by Plame's fellow former undercover agent Larry Johnson:

Valerie Plame was a classmate of mine from the day she started with the CIA. I entered on duty at the CIA in September 1985. All of my classmates were undercover--in other words, we told our family and friends that we were working for other overt U.S. Government agencies.

Score one point for Slarti's thesis!

And von, it's not just in his mind. I just went back and read the Circuit opinions, and Judge Tatel's has several pages of redacted discussion.

About the legal issues, and Fitzgerald's case: here (pdf) is the Court of Appeals decision. As I said earlier, the judges say Fitzgerald's evidence in camera (check out pp. 72-80 of the pdf -- or don't, since they're redacted out.)

In some ways, the last concurrence is the most interesting, since that judge fairly clearly wants to say that there is a (non-absolute) journalist's privilege lurking somewhere in the common law. But because it's non-absolute, and because he thinks that the charges are serious, he sides with Fitzgerald. Excerpts:

"In sum, based on an exhaustive investigation, the special counsel has established the need for Miller’s and Cooper’s testimony. Thus, considering the gravity of the suspected crime and the low value of the leaked information, no privilege bars the subpoenas." (81)

"Were the leak at issue in this case less harmful to national security or more vital to public debate, or had the special counsel failed to demonstrate the grand jury’s need for the reporters’ evidence, I might have supported the motion to quash. Because identifying appellants’ sources instead appears essential to remedying a serious breach of public trust, I join in affirming the district court’s orders compelling their testimony." (p. 83).

I think this is just about the only informed estimate of Fitzgerald's case that's in the public domain.

Cross-post with CharelyCarp ;)

And von, it's not just in his mind. I just went back and read the Circuit opinions, and Judge Tatel's has several pages of redacted discussion.

I'm tempted to respond with Witt. -- "whereof we cannot speak, thereof we must be silent" -- but you and Hilzoy make a good point.

Thus, considering the gravity of the suspected crime and the low value of the leaked information, no privilege bars the subpoenas

"low value" ?

cleek: I think the judge meant: low value to the newsreading public (i.e., it really wasn't relevant at all to questions like, was Wilson telling the truth? was Niger selling yellowcake to Iraq?, etc.)

Responding to Slartibartfast's question of Plame outing herself to Wilson, I've had for the past couple of weeks a rather wild theory that this gives me opportunity to enter into the record. The theory is that Wilson became a CIA NOC - the cover company being Wilson's consulting company. I'll pause for the laughter to subside...

Look, there's a few really odd facts that bring this idea into the realm of feasibility. In 1998 Mr. Wilson had a few major life changes. He resigned from the FSO and began his consulting company. He also purchased a house in Georgetown, allegedly in a VERY nice area. Now the reason all that's interesting is that in 1998 he was only 48 and he had less than 30 years (27 or 28 depending on source) in the service. What this means is that while he was waiting for his consulting company to take off he was ineligible for any retirement benefits. He might have been independently wealthy or have had other resources, because somehow he still qualified for the mortgage. His wife, instead of being in the "public" eye being an ambassador's wife, became yet another spouse of an international businessman. Even better, he could bring her along on various business fetes without significant remark or obligation.

Doesn't make it so, of course, just raises the "hmmm" test.

Now THAT's what I'm talking about, Kirk. If we're going to make things up in absence of evidence, let's pull out all the stops.

Of course, there are those who say NOC only applies to agents in overseas posts, but that could spoil some of the fun.

If we're going to make things up in absence of evidence, let's pull out all the stops.

So, how do we know that Wilson knew what his wife did for a living before Novak blabbed?

I thought that once someone was on Double Secret Probation, the only action would be to join the Parade in an Eat Me float?

Slarti: Of course, there are those who say NOC only applies to agents in overseas posts, but that could spoil some of the fun.

Depends whether you're in this for fun or if you feel that for the Deputy Chief of Staff in the White House to deliberately and systematically release the name of a covert CIA operative to the press solely in order to score some minor debating points against her husband is fundamentally wrong whether or not the Deputy Chief of Staff can be prosecuted under a specific statute.

Oh, Slarti, I can get much wilder than that. If I REALLY want to go out of the park without evidence, I could suggest that Fitzgerald's preparing to indict Plame, Wilson, and several reporters. As it is, I tried to rely on at least a couple of facts that make no sense - that cause Occam's razor to skip a little bit.

While we're speculating, my latest is that Judy Miller got Plame's secret ID from the Office of Special Plans, while she was eagerly taking down their every error.

That would be really cool.

So, how do we know that Wilson knew what his wife did for a living before Novak blabbed?

The Vanity Fair bio. But they could have lied.

Re: the above, I'm still in wild-assed, tongue-in-cheek speculation mode and not seriously advancing that they lied about their courtship.

Wow. Drum has been a one-man crew on this story.

And Kleiman can write a really informative post on the law by linking exclusively to his own blog. Almost makes me feel like I have a life by comparison.

Re: the above, I'm still in wild-assed, tongue-in-cheek speculation mode and not seriously advancing that they lied about their courtship.

So I gathered. From what I see there, yeah, that violates my reading of the espionage act, too.

I doubt that anyone will ever be prosecuted for outing themselves to the person they would later marry, though.

Is it just me, or is the "I had to expose that undercover CIA agent to prevent a reporter from writing a bad story" excuse the lamest damn excuse in the long and storied history of lame excusedom?

It's just me? Nah.

felixrayman - That's one of the reasons why that particular trial balloon is completely insane. In order to buy it, you have to've already slipped off the reins of rational thought.

This has not proved an insurmountable problem for the Right, which decided to go nutter some time ago.

It's almost like a contest the RIght is holding, to see how Tinkerbell they can get before the men in the white coats come after them.

should one of the President's top advisors have outed a CIA agent to score political points?

If she commutes daily to Langley, there's not much in the way of outing to be had, Hil. The issue still remains whether laws were broken.

And what does it say about the President that he doesn't seem to care about this?

He approved the appointment of Fitzgerald and requested full cooperation with the investigation among all staff, yet he "doesn't seem to care"? If he doesn't eventually fire Rove, I will grant you that much.

Charles: He approved the appointment of Fitzgerald and requested full cooperation with the investigation among all staff, yet he "doesn't seem to care"?

Well, Charles, if Bush cared, he could at any point in the last couple of years have called his Deputy Chief of Staff into the Oval Office, and say to him "Karl, Joe Wilson says you're the one who broke his wife's cover as a covert CIA agent. Is that true?"

If Karl Rove said "Yes, it's true", then Bush should have sacked him then and there - if he cared at all.

If Karl Rove said "No, it's not true" then, as we now know, he was lying. If Bush cared at all, he would have sacked Karl Rove when that came out.

As Karl Rove is unsacked, we have to conclude either that Bush didn't care enough to ask Karl the question: or that he didn't care enough to sack Karl when the question was answered truthfully: or, if Karl lied to him, that Bush doesn't care when the Deputy Chief of Staff lies to him and he doesn't care about Karl Rove's attitude to national security.

So, yes, Charles, I'd say that Bush not seeming to care is proven, since Karl Rove hasn't been sacked. Do you have a scenario that explains why Bush does care and yet hasn't sacked Rove?

I'm just trying to figure out how people excusing Rove for outing Plame to the national media are up in arms about Plame telling her husband what she did for a living.

Didn't he have the necessary clearance to know what she did for a living?

Didn't he have the necessary clearance to know what she did for a living?

I believe it's not just a matter of clearance level, it's a matter of need-to-know. Those who actually work with classified material will be more familiar with the details.

But really, it's 100% irrelevant to what Rove did.

Which is, of course, what makes it so perfect for Rove's defenders to use: The more ridiculous the things they can get to stick to the story, the less seriously anybody should take Rove's breach of national security.

CaseyL: Didn't he have the necessary clearance to know what she did for a living?

Given who Joseph Wilson was, he probably had the necessary clearance level, and it seems possible/plausible to me that Plame asked for him to be given the NTK status when she decided to marry him. I can see a lot of difficulties involved with being a covert CIA agent married to someone who doesn't have the security clearance to know their spouse is covert: given that Wilson did have the security clearance, it doesn't seem to me a terribly big deal if he knew about his wife's covert status.

Also, kitten wrestling with ball of wool too big for it...

Jes, that's just cruel. i was really expecting a link to the PoorMan / Norbizness kitten wars.

"So, yes, Charles, I'd say that Bush not seeming to care is proven, since Karl Rove hasn't been sacked. Do you have a scenario that explains why Bush does care and yet hasn't sacked Rove?"

Quite an impressive number of ignorant comments in one post.

Just to play devil's advocate:

What if Bush did call in Rove and Rove told him and Fitzgerald how he got the information in the first place?

And maybe due to Rove's answer Bush is standing by his guy.

You are completely ignoring the fact that Rove signed a waiver years ago allowing any reporter to discuss his comments with Fitzgerald. But, the facts don't seem relevant to the analysis taking place here.

And maybe due to Rove's answer Bush is standing by his guy.

And why would he be doing that? Please elucidate, with supporting evidence.

blogme: What if Bush did call in Rove and Rove told him and Fitzgerald how he got the information in the first place?

What if he did? Blogme, you're forgetting the two main points that are proven facts: Valerie Plame was a covert agent, and Karl Rove was the "senior administration official" who blew her cover.

Now, it's possible that Rove may not have committed a prosecutable offense: that's something the grand jury is presumably establishing.

But, regardless of how Rove obtained the information about Plame's covert CIA status, he ought not to have spilled it to the media. Whether or not Rove can be prosecuted, he can certainly be fired - if, that is, Bush cared at all about the issue.


Jesurgislac: lol about the kittenfight.

I love juxtapositions like: " As we have already discussed, the 16 words were undoubtedly factually true, insofar as they made a claim on British intelligence that the British stand by to this day."
versus: "in going back and looking at the actual transcripts, I realize that's not exactly what he said. However, I leave it to you to determine whether he deliberately created the impression that Cheney sent him on the trip. Being that, a full week after the July 6th editorial, Wolf Blitzer shared in my confusion, I don't feel so bad about it in retrospect."
versus: " Did President Bush promise to fire anyone involved in the leak? (SOLID) No. As we have discussed ad nauseam here, the President said no such thing, but only that anyone who was found to have "violated the law" would be taken care of."

I'll tell you one thing though: though my understanding of English is pretty good on the whole (better than my writing ;-) ), the level of knowledge you need to be able to trust the words of this administration is beyond me. I'll now go practise my literacy with Harry Potter, it might help.

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