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March 16, 2007

Comments

You missed Plame's testimony, so you missed her testifying - under oath - that, yes, she was covert; no, she wasn't the one who sent Joe to niger; and yes, the CIA had tried to keep Novak from revealing her identity.

The whole hearing has been amazing. Like a stark beam of light shining into a roach- and rat-infested sewer.

CaseyL: Wow. What I miss when I'm at the dentist, and then working.

I had meant to add that everyone on the committee, Democrat and Republican alike, seemed to take her covert status as a given, but forgot.

I do enjoy the Bizarro World version.

I do enjoy the Bizarro World version.

Yeah. But what's with the "no.4" appended to every instance of Joseph Wilson's name?

Yeah. But what's with the "no.4" appended to every instance of Joseph Wilson's name?

No idea, perhaps he was the fourth Joseph Wilson listed in "who's who"?

Hey, I'm just followintg the h earing via dKos liveblogging.

Victoria Toensing is up now. She's been one of the the GOP-Bush apologists, claiming over and over that Plame wasn't covert and the IIPA law (which Toensing co-wrote) didn't apply to her.

Her testimony should be interesting. For one thing, I'd like to know where the "Plame wasn't covert!" meme got started. Maybe Toensing knows.

I don't think "Plame wasn't covert!" was a meme, in the sense of something that needed to have a specific beginning point and then get picked up by specific other people in order to get propogated. I think it's a natural belief that folks on the right really, really needed to come to in order to hold their beliefs together in a coherent form. Even if nobody had ever said it before, lots of individual right-wingers [distinguished from conservatives] would have come to it on their own.

Because if she was covert, then that means that Republicans care more about damaging Democrats than they care about our undercover agents and our national security. And that's just impossible to believe.

A similar explanatory "meme" would quickly start up if it came out that, say, the Democrats were intentionally behind ... oh, I don't know ... something that makes no sense. Say Obama became president, and it came out that 2 years into his presidency people working out of his office intentionally destroyed the best hope for educating poor black people in Chicago, just because a couple of Republicans running that program might look good. We would say "What? Huh? That can't be right!" And if someone came up with an even vaguely reasonable alternative explanation, we would jump on it and hold tight.

Obviously the 2nd paragraph of my last comment should read "...top Republicans in the Bush White House cared more about damaging Democrats...." rather than simply "...Republicans care more about damaging Democrats...." Sorry.

IIRC, the "covert" thing got started as soon as people starting quoting the relevant laws, as an agent's status is key to a lot of them. if she wasn't covert at the time, she's just a desk jockey shuffling TPS reports in accounts-receivable or something and law X doesn't apply; and therefore she's fair game for outing and Rove, Cheney and Libby are still saints.

the "covert" thing got started as soon as people starting quoting the relevant laws, as an agent's status is key to a lot of them.

I wonder how Ken White over at tacitus.org or whatever it's called now feels.

the Powerline livebloggers are pretty much convinced that Plame is

(sorry, broken link)

the Powerline livebloggers are pretty much convinced that Plame is lying about everything and will be tried and convicted of perjury because of this.

wow.

People, people, there aren't going to be any exploding heads or right-wing mea culpas. This information that Plame was supposedly covert is still coming from the CIA, which everyone knows is a nest of liberals who've been plotting against Bush and other Republican presidents forever. Why should they suddenly be believed now?

People generally took the position that she wasn't covert because they, personally, had not seen evidence that she went on an overseas mission in the last 5 years, as required by the IIPA. Also, you know, cocktail-party circuit, Joe Wilson in the green room, and all of that.

It's ok to reserve judgment, but it's not really ok to jump to conclusions just because the CIA has not personally shown you the history of Valerie Plame's secret missions.

In any event, I thought the testimony in the Libby trial created a pretty clear impression that no one in the White House knew she was covert or, really, spent 2 seconds wondering whether she might be. Typical is Ari Fleischer, who had cavalierly put the information out there and then, upon reading suggestions in the media that a law might have been broken by the leaker, suddenly went "oh shit!" and called a lawyer.

The malice towards Joe Wilson was misguided but was understandable in a partisan atmosphere. But the fact that no one in the administration seemed to even care about whether Plame was covert is disturbing on many levels.

In any event, I thought the testimony in the Libby trial created a pretty clear impression that no one in the White House knew she was covert or, really, spent 2 seconds wondering whether she might be.

Yeah, that's what I thought, as well.

But the fact that no one in the administration seemed to even care about whether Plame was covert is disturbing on many levels.

And this is the real key. At best, this makes the White House bunch of incompetents. AT BEST. All this shinola about whether Plame was "really" covert totally misses this rather vital point.

I wonder how Ken White over at tacitus.org or whatever it's called now feels.

Phlegmatic, as always. Have the youngsters changed Ken's mind about anything, ever?

Having listened this morning it seems clear that there is a difference of opinion about the requirements of the law. Victoria Toensing still says that Ms Wilson was not covert as defined in the criminal statute because she had not resided abroad within the last five years. Questions from others, as well as the testimony of Ms Wilson where she stated that she had traveled abroad as part of performing her duties during the last five years imply that they think the law requires not residence but performing assignments abroad. Is there an attorney in the house.

I will say that I could never make the grade as a politician. The Chairs closing statement to Ms Toensing called her a liar to her face while barely ruffling a feather. If I tried that I'd have half the opposition calling me out for pistols at dawn.

The relevant language is "has within the last five years served outside the United States". I'd say it'd be a strain to limit that to residing, rather than simply performing assignments, abroad.

FYI spartikus, the successor site to Tacitus is THE FORVM: ( link here : and rest assured: Ken White made the transition quite unchanged....

I agree with LB, unless there is a definition of "served" or "served outside the United States" for purposes of the IIPA (which I don't think there is), limiting it to residing seems a perverse notion (are the soldier in Iraq not "serving" outside the U.S.)?

Besides, residence tends to be more in the eyes of the individual for things like, I think, diversity jurisidiction and the like (and look at the loose definition applied to Dick Cheney when he suddenly "resided" in Wyoming when he was going to be V.P.). I hardly think they were leaving it up to the individual agent.

Heh, suggestion for new Atty General:

He is a Bush-appointee, either an independent or a Republican, but not a partisan or a crony or a hack like so many other current appointees. He has a sterling record of integrity and doggedness. He is obviously his own man and has shown a remarkable tendency during his career as a prosecutor for rankling partisans on both sides of the aisle. He is beholden to no one. His nomination to head the Justice Department by President Bush, and his ratification by the Congress, would send a clear message to the country that our government is willing to turn the page on the sordid recent history of the Office of Attorney General. His name? Patrick J. Fitzgerald.

Count me in.

and if you like lunatic wingnut responses, you can go read Dan Riehl as he grunts out an insane and misogynistic tirade against the Wilsons.

but he's just another ultra-fringe blogger; and we shouldn't pay attention to what he says. even my linking to him is unfair partisan cherry-picking. he's a nobody - it's not like he gets to spew his crap on TV or anything.

anyone notice the similarities between this case and the firing of the US attorneys? plame said that she was working on counterprolif in iraq. no doubt she wasn't giving the administration what it wanted to hear. so the administration decided she wouldn't work anymore.

The thing I never really understood about the whole thing is this: the supposed motive was to discredit Mr. Wilson. Since his report mentions a meeting between high level Iraqi officials which the prime minister interpreted as asking about uranium, why bother trying to discredit Wilson? Just say that he provided evidence, that his conclusions didn't follow from the evidence, and that the administration was choosing to use the evidence he uncovered. At worst, ten seconds of controversy and then game over.

The thing I never really understood...why bother trying to discredit Wilson?

Um, because they new it was a pack of lies and this had the potential to bring down the entire house of cards and - most importantly - because nobody - and we mean NO BODY - f**ks with Cheney. No body.

Since his report mentions a meeting between high level Iraqi officials which the prime minister interpreted as asking about uranium, why bother trying to discredit Wilson? Just say that he provided evidence, that his conclusions didn't follow from the evidence, and that the administration was choosing to use the evidence he uncovered.

Because at that point, in summer 2003, the story was still being used as support for fears that Iraq had actually made some progress toward a nuclear weapon, not that they might have asked some questions about uranium a couple of years ago, or at least for the idea that such fears were reasonable before the war. A public discussion of the fact that the administration had evidence from Niger that Iraq had not actually acquired any uranium therefrom would have been politically damaging.

But not *all that* politically damaging. The stories were already beginning to emerge by then. I remember reading Wilson's Op-Ed "What I Found in Niger" (or whatever it was called) and thinking "oh, yeah, well, obviously." The stupid, crass smear and cover-up were just way out of proportion of what was needed or even possible.

As much as I would like Gonzales to step down, I don't think it's happening. An AG who is beholden to no one is a real risk for this administration--a worse risk than indignant statements from Senators and Congressmen. It's not like the Democrats are actually going to impeach Gonzales.

"I agree with LB, unless there is a definition of "served" or "served outside the United States" for purposes of the IIPA (which I don't think there is), limiting it to residing seems a perverse notion (are the soldier in Iraq not "serving" outside the U.S.)?"

Or more to the point, was Dick Cheney not "serving outside the US" on his recent brief trip to Afghanistan?

"The thing I never really understood about the whole thing is this: the supposed motive was to discredit Mr. Wilson."

Cheney seems to have been pretty obsessive about it, for some reason.

Also, perhaps he couldn't resist the temptation of taking a swipe at the CIA people who might well have been standing in the way of the Project For A New Arab Caliphate?

"In any event, I thought the testimony in the Libby trial created a pretty clear impression that no one in the White House knew she was covert or, really, spent 2 seconds wondering whether she might be."

It seemed pretty clear to me that Cheney knew where she worked, and would know she was probably covert.

It's not like the Democrats are actually going to impeach Gonzales.

Unfortunately, that's probably right. They really ought to, though - for starters. What's impeachment there for, otherwise ('what's the point of having it if we don't use it?')?

The stupid, crass smear and cover-up were just way out of proportion of what was needed or even possible.

If the primary motive was to "debunk" Wilson, yes.

But I think the real purpose was to deter others from stepping forth.

But I think the real purpose was to deter others from stepping forth.

And to send a warning shot across the CIA's bow. From what I've read the whole place was demoralized when she was outed. The Executive Director at the time personally called her and said if there was anything he could do for her he would (I forget which book I read this in).

Just thinking out loud: So why doesn't Fitzgerald pursue IIPA charges?

It's clear from the Libby trial that the root of the leak was Cheney. And Cheney claims that the office of the VP has, like the Presidency, the inherent ability to declassify. So he waved his hand and declassified Valerie Plame and released his flying monkeys to spread her name far and wide. And because the Constitution is murky on the powers of the Vice Presidency, Cheney may be right.

So it's a constitutional question, and no longer in the purview.of the criminal justice system.

So Fitzgerald went as far as he could.

spartikus: Sounds about right to me.

Maybe Cheney knew she was covert. But you have to be able to prove it beyond a reasonable doubt. That might be difficult.

spartikus - you're kidding, right?

In order to violate the IIPA, "Whoever, having or having had authorized access to classified information that identifies a covert agent, intentionally discloses any information identifying such covert agent to any individual not authorized to receive classified information, knowing that the information disclosed so identifies such covert agent and that the United States is taking affirmative measures to conceal such covert agent's intelligence relationship to the United States"

Clearly the flying monkeys were authorized to receive such information, such that Cheney didn't, himself, intentionally disclose such info to people not authorized for it. If the flying monkeys got their own ideas of what they were supposed to do, well, only god knows how many people work for the Veep's office (he won't tell us), presumably somewhere around 110,000, and with so many people to supervise how is he supposed to keep track of what his chief of staff was doing (or even who that person was).

And for people wondering why Armitage wasn't indicted (e.g., the flying monkeys at Bizarro World), see "knowing."

I should note that there are other ways to violate the IIPA, but the same point applies, I think.

And upon re-reading spartikus' comment, I realize he was making a different point than I thought.

My bad, please disregard my 7:15pm.

Seb: as far as why they went after Wilson, I've always been partial to Kevin Drum's theory:

"To figure that out, you have to go back in time to May and June of 2003. Before Wilson wrote his op-ed, he spoke anonymously about his trip to two reporters, Nick Kristof of the New York Times and Walter Pincus of the Washington Post, both of whom wrote about an "envoy" (i.e., Wilson) who had gone to Niger the previous year and, when he returned, told the CIA that the Nigerien documents were phony. Since we know that the smear campaign against Wilson started in June (or earlier), it was those reports that got the White House up in arms, not the July op-ed.

Now, as it happens, Kristof and Pincus were wrong: Wilson had not actually seen the documents at the time he traveled to Niger and he hadn't debunked them. Did he tell Kristof and Pincus that he had? In an email to me last year, he stated flatly that "I never claimed to have seen the documents or to have known anything about signatures or dates." A couple of weeks later, he said that he had spoken to Kristof and "He confirmed that I had made clear to him that I had never seen the documents."

But regardless of where the truth lies, the fact is that Kristof and Pincus wrote what they wrote, and obviously their stories scared the daylights out of the White House. But again, why? After all, even though Wilson hadn't debunked the documents, in March of 2003 the IAEA did. At the time all this was happening, the entire world had known they were fake for months. So why the panic?

Well, there was something the White House knew at that point that the rest of us didn't. They knew that not only were the Nigerien documents fake, but that they had been proven fake the previous year — though not by Wilson or the IAEA. At that time, everybody thought the timeline went like this: (1) Bush gives SOTU address in January 2003, (2) IAEA proves Nigerien documents are phony in March. That's bad, but not catastrophic. However, the real timeline, known to only a few, was this: (1) State Department determines Nigerien docs are phony in October 2002, (2) Bush mentions African uranium anyway in January SOTU address."

Further, there's a sense in which Wilson, while not purporting to have seen the forged documents, did give evidence before the SOTU that they were unreliable. The forgeries reported a completed purchase of uranium IIRC (actually, I'm not 100% sure of that, but I think so), and Wilson came back from Niger saying that he was fairly certain no such purchase could have taken place. So his report should have been enough to raise questions about the documents when it came in. I can see that motivating an effort to discredit him.

Wilson showed that Niger couldn't provide yellowcake to Iraq, and that that fact was easily determined. In my view it was never very interesting whether Iraq was sniffing around Niger, because it would have been a logical bluff. But it was very interesting to learn what Wilson showed - it indicated to me that the admin hadn't cared enough about Iraq's nuclear program to find and absorb the truth.

With all this focus on the IIPA law, I'd like to point out that it's actually only semi-relevant to the underlying important issues.

It's relevant, certainly, in defining who can and can't be prosecuted under it, of course.

But that law isn't how the CIA defines who and who is not "covert."

That's important. The fact is that the IIPA was written by Congressional staffers, not by the CIA (which is as it should be), and it only awkwardly covers some of the people the CIA regards as "covert."

This WaPo story by Richard Leiby and Pincus gets it right (how do I know? decades of close reading about how the CIA works):

[...] The reason: Plame remains gagged by the same secrecy rules that governed her 20 years as a CIA employee working overseas and at Langley in classified positions.

People close to Plame say her primary goal in testifying before the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform is to knock down persistent claims that she did not serve undercover. "She is so tired of hearing that," her mother, Diane Plame, said in an interview earlier this week.

[...]

In the CIA's eyes, the revelation of Plame's name in any context, whether she was stationed here or abroad, gave away a national security secret that could have dangerous repercussions. When Novak's column unmasking her as a CIA operative was published on July 14, 2003, the CIA general counsel's office automatically sent a routine report to the Justice Department that there had been an unauthorized disclosure of classified information.

As part of normal procedures, the agency made a preliminary damage assessment and then sent a required follow-up report to Justice.

[...]

Some news stories created initial confusion over Plame's status by suggesting that disclosure of her name and employment may have violated the Intelligence Identities Protection Act of 1982. That law, passed in response to disclosure of the names of CIA officers serving overseas by former CIA employee Philip Agee, made it a crime to disclose the names of "covert agents," which the act narrowly defined as those serving overseas or who had served as such in the previous five years.

"Covert agent" is not a label actually used within the agency for its employees, according to former senior CIA officials. Plame, who joined the agency right out of Pennsylvania State University, underwent rigorous spycraft training to become an officer in the Directorate of Operations. (The term "agent" in the CIA is only applied to foreign nationals recruited to spy in support of U.S. interests.)

She was covert. She was a NOC (non-official cover) agent.

Whether the IIPA covered her legally is interesting, and relevant if anyone had ever been charged under it, but irrelevant to the actual question as to whether she was actually a CIA officer who was under cover. She was.

In any event, I thought the testimony in the Libby trial created a pretty clear impression that no one in the White House knew she was covert or, really, spent 2 seconds wondering whether she might be. Typical is Ari Fleischer...

I think that many of the leakers were briefed by others in the White House concerning the Wilson/PLame/CIA talking points who were the ones with reason to know her covet status, but did not pass that fact on. That was Fleisher's testimony -- that Libby told him she was CIA but did not indicate that her status was classified.

Which means that Libby's lying about how the information was learned and spread around the White house really did impede learning who both leaked AND knew of her covert status. The most likely culprits are Libby and Cheney -- they were the ones figuring out early that it was Wilson who was behind the early uranium stories (before the 7/6 NY Times op-ed), and also figured out his link to Plame at the CIA.

Sheesh; while I'm trying to be careful about language, I managed to not write "[s]he was a NOC (non-official cover) officer," as I had meant to.

Not sure it’s a slam dunk yet. I yield to someone who has followed this mess a lot more closely than I …

OCSteve, I'm not sure how much more of a slam dunk you can get than the Director of the CIA saying Plame was covert. Maguire, who homes in on every small detail, seems to have overlooked that one.

She was a NOC

Was? I was in a SCIF. Am I in a SCIF now?

I may be naive here but if she wasn't covert- why isn't she still at the CIA? Why was it then that her career was over the minute the story broke? I don't recall any reporting about her being an incompetent agent or poor performance.

I'm really and genuinely curious why some people think the CIA isn't a credible source of information about who its covert agents are.

What'd I miss?

Everything, if history is any guide.

I'm not sure how much more of a slam dunk you can get than the Director of the CIA saying Plame was covert.

As I said I haven’t followed it that closely. Some people have (obsessively). Right and left have their “truths”. I was hoping this would settle the question but I’m not sure it has.

Legally, there seems to still be questions surrounding her overseas service. She flat out claimed she was not involved in the choice to send him – Senator Christopher Bond is tonight saying not so fast…

Hell, I don’t know – just saying I’m not sure it is settled…

Under further questioning, including some by a completely incredulous Henry Waxman

Not all the acting in the world is done in movies.

As to "Why no WH investigation" - uhh, maybe they thought the DoJ was investigating? If the WH security team had gone out and taken everyone's story, would Waxman have (a) applauded, or (b) condemned the obvious attempt to coordinate stories and circumvent the FBI?

On Plame's status and the notion that she confirmed she was covert- I loved this from the AP:

Plame said she wasn't a lawyer and didn't know what her legal status was but said it shouldn't have mattered to the officials who learned her identity.

Or check the transcript.

Folks who need to believe she was covert as defined by the statute will certainly continue to do so. I lack the psychological training to speculate on the origin of this deep-seated desire, although I see other commenters here are qualified to take a stab at it.

Critical thinkers will wonder about this - why didn't Waxman say the magic words - "The CIA Counsel has reviewed her classified file and the relevant statutes and concluded that, in their best judgment, she qualified as covert under the statutes".

Instead, he blew this smoke:

"But General Hayden and the CIA have cleared these following comments for today's hearing.

During her employment at the CIA, Ms. Wilson was under cover.

Her employment status with the CIA was classified information prohibited from disclosure under Executive Order 12958.

At the time of the publication of Robert Novak's column on July 14, 2003, Ms. Wilson's CIA employment status was covert.

This was classified information."

Any guesses? I have no doubt the CIA considered her "covert" for purposes of their internal reporting (i.e., her "employment status"). But the law has its own requirements - why didn't Waxman say whether she met them?

I'm really and genuinely curious why some people think the CIA isn't a credible source of information about who its covert agents are.

I’m really and genuinely curious why some folks on the left now take what the CIA says at face value…

(Half yanking your chain, half serious.)

I’m really and genuinely curious why some folks on the left now take what the CIA says at face value…

I'm really and genuinely curious what the CIA said, actually.

OCSteve, there's a lot of things the CIA has done that make me doubt its word on specific issues. Like, f'r instance, what goes on in those secret prisons that supposedly don't exist.

But when it comes to knowing who their own personnel are, and the status of those personnel - that I figure the CIA is a better source than, oh, say, Victoria Toensing. Or Tom Maguire.

Yo Tom - good to see you here!

Well, if we're counting Ms. Plame as a credible witness as to the facts of her employment:

But I was covert. I did travel overseas on secret missions within the last five years.

If that's not good enough to settle it, why? Doubts as to her credibility, or is it because it's not a legal opinion?

CaseyL: Understood. But you have to look at the irony from my side. The CIA was the boogieman of the left for most of my life. But now their leaks are OK, their word can be trusted on certain things, etc. They are just a good government agency doing their job, maybe a little judicious whistle-blowing on occasion… Really it is a bit of whiplash for me.

The thing I never really understood about the whole thing is this: the supposed motive was to discredit Mr. Wilson. Since his report mentions a meeting between high level Iraqi officials which the prime minister interpreted as asking about uranium, why bother trying to discredit Wilson? Just say that he provided evidence, that his conclusions didn't follow from the evidence, and that the administration was choosing to use the evidence he uncovered. At worst, ten seconds of controversy and then game over.

In addition to what others have said, one thing I can't remember seeing anywhere but seems fairly obvious to me is that, while the Nigerien official thought the Iraqi inquiry had to do with uranium, there is another eminently plausible explanation. Iraq was under sanctions at the time, and could easily have been extending feelers as to whether Niger was willing to play middleman for either exports or imports, allowing products to be registered as something not covered by the sanctions.

The question, then, is whether other countries were receiving Iraqi delegations who were wondering about trade possibilities. I suspect, though, that most countries aren't particularly interested in discussing that particular question.

OCSteve: you think the whiplash is bad for you? Consider the whiplash it gives me to hear that the CIA is just a bunch of liberal wusses.

Doubts as to her credibility, or is it because it's not a legal opinion?

Not a lawyer says: Seems to be a question about residency. A week trip vs. being stationed there for a time.

I agree that we are picking at straws at this point. At least maybe I am.

you think the whiplash is bad for you? Consider the whiplash it gives me to hear that the CIA is just a bunch of liberal wusses.

Hah. I feel your pain. Once BushCo gets rid of this whole silly election thing we’re going to purge those pussies (can’t say faggots anymore I guess).

[ducks, crawls under desk…]

OCSteve writes: "Seems to be a question about residency. A week trip vs. being stationed there for a time."

Well, the law doesn't say anything about residency, or length of deployment.

Nor would that make any sense.

The only place that 'residency' requirements exist are in the mind of a highly partisan person who is essentially making a fraudulent argument from authority, where she is the authority.

ie "I wrote the law, so take my word on it and don't pester me with the text, I'll tell you what it means, which happens to be a meaning which supports my cause but is wholly unsupported by the language."

The question, then, is whether other countries were receiving Iraqi delegations who were wondering about trade possibilities.

Yes, they were. During this period Iraq was engaging in their version of a charm offensive, trying to get countries to break the embargo on travel to Iraq, and also be possible allies if they rotated onto the UN Security Council. That's what was going on with Ibrahim Assane Mayaki, the former Nigerian prime minister who met with Baghdad Bob.

Tom Maguire writes: "Plame said she wasn't a lawyer and didn't know what her legal status was but said it shouldn't have mattered to the officials who learned her identity."

So, basically Tom you think the White House *should* have a directory of CIA staff who can be outed for political purposes? They should operate on a moral gradient rather than acting on principle? That national security is a lower priority than personal vanity?

How about revealing the movements of a military unit with a politically inconvenient commander, in hopes that he'll be killed? Okay too?

The only place that 'residency' requirements exist are in the mind of a highly partisan person who is essentially making a fraudulent argument from authority, where she is the authority.

Personally, I’d like to see it come to court, criminal or civil. This does seem like the crux of it at this point.

What the hell do I know – I’m going back to the St. Pat’s open thread…

OCSteve writes: "As I said I haven’t followed it that closely. Some people have (obsessively)."

Obsessively, self-deludingly, and highly selectively.

Pretty much like any Bush partisan these days who tries to defend Bush against his myriad incompetencies and corrupt acts.

OCSteve writes:"Personally, I’d like to see it come to court, criminal or civil. This does seem like the crux of it at this point."

Perhaps.

Though I think it far more likely that Toensing was relying on a) her own status as the law's author, and b) the likelihood that little definitive information would come out to contradict her, due to it being classified.

Tom Maguire writes: "As to "Why no WH investigation" - uhh, maybe they thought the DoJ was investigating?"

So you think that if there were a spy in the NSC, that person should continue working without interference for at least three or four years, and only be dismissed and stripped of security clearance upon conviction?

Pretty much like any Bush partisan these days who tries to defend Bush against his myriad incompetencies and corrupt acts.

Well, the most obsessive I can think of would be FDL. Go over there and tell them they are Bush defenders :)

I’m not a blind defender Jon, just trying to understand it all.

OCSteve writes: "I’m not a blind defender Jon, just trying to understand it all. "

I was alluding to Maguire, not you...

If that's not good enough to settle it, why? Doubts as to her credibility, or is it because it's not a legal opinion?

The requirement of the law is not as clear as some would like.

The Intelligence Identities Protection Act requires that an agent have classified status and the the agent "is serving outside the United States or has within the last five years served outside the United States".

Wilso-philes insist that traveling abroad satisifies that requirement.

Ms. Toensing asserts that "service abroad" refers to a formal posting abroad.

Favoring the Wilso-philes - common language usage.

Favoring Ms. Toensing - uhh, pretty much everything else.

In terms of legislative history, Congress could not even agree to pass the IIPA in the late 1970's - free speech concerns and a fear that legitmate discussion/criticism of the CIA would be quashed.

Reagan came to power in 1980 along with (IIRC) six new Rep senators, and the bill was passed in 1982. But free speech concerns persisted, so the odds are that a narrow reading makes sense.

And what drove the act? Agee and others were outing CIA officers *posted* abroad - locals could often easily tell which "Foreign Sevice" officers were really CIA just from their daily routine. And local police protection was uncertain, depending on the country.

So based on history and intent, Toensing makes sense. And here is a bit of precedent - hardly dispositive as to the CIA, but it is absolutely dispositive as to whether her proposed interpretation is even in play:

D. Service abroad means service on or after September 6, 1960, by an employee at a post of duty outside the United States and outside the employee's place of residence if that place of residence is a territory or possession of the United States.

Sadly (for our purposes), that applies to geologists. But it is certainly suggestive - one might wonder (and a judge might wonder) whether other agencies have a similar definition.

As to Ms. Plame's covert status - my official editorial position is that we don't know, since it has not been litigated, neither side has submitted briefs, and a judge has not ruled (the only application of this law involved IA folks in Ghana).

However, Waxman was so weak (he really should have had the CIA Counsel submit an opinion) that I feel the wind at my back on this one - the reason we didn't hear from CIA Counsel that she was covert is they wouldn't sign off on it, is my guess.

...why didn't Waxman say whether she met them?

is he legally allowed to ?

Oh, Jon H - save the straw for horses, thanks.

I've seen several references in this thread to casual acceptance or understanding of the "need to discredit" Wilson. I don't get this at all. Prior to this episode, Wilson was known as an experienced foreign service professional who had honorably served this country and several administations. Why the casual acceptance of personal distruction as a legitmate tool for any Adminstration to answer its critics - whatever happened to addressing something *on the merits*??

"Why the casual acceptance of personal distruction as a legitmate tool for any Adminstration to answer its critics - whatever happened to addressing something *on the merits*?"

That was my point. On the merits, on the only thing Wilson could speak to, I think Wilson had the weaker case.

Slarti: "I'm really and genuinely curious what the CIA said, actually."

Quoting Hayden:

[...] CUMMINGS: On Wednesday night, I know that Mr. Waxman, our chair, and Congressman Reyes, the Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, spoke personally with General Hayden, the head of the CIA. And Mr. Waxman told me that Gen. Hayden said clearly and directly, “Ms. Wilson was covert.” There was no doubt about it. By the way, the CIA has authorized us to be able to say that. In addition, I understand that Chairman Waxman sent his opening statement over to the CIA to be cleared and to make sure that it was accurate. In it, he said, “Ms. Wilson was a covert employee of the CIA.” “Ms. Wilson was undercover.” The CIA cleared these statements. I emphasize all of this because I know that there are people who are still trying to suggest that what seems absolutely clear isn’t really true and that you weren’t covert. And I think one of the things we need to do in this hearing is make sure there isn’t any ambiguity on this point. Just three more questions, did you hold this covert status at the time of the leak? Did you — the covert status at the time of the leak?

WILSON: Yes I did, congressman. Yes.

There's a bit more; possibly everyone is lying, of course, including those under oath, such as Ms. Plame.

Tom Maguire: "The requirement of the law is not as clear as some would like."

As I noted above, the law is relevant as regards a prosecution, but focusing on only that which is prosecutable is not at all the only thing of interest. Regardless of whether the law was broken (and since the investigation was obstructed, we'll perhaps never know if it was or was not; if ever, it will be many years), what the Administration did had nothing to do with policy, was purely political, and was not in the interests of the United States of America, rather than those of G. W. Bush and Richard Cheney.

This is a less defensible point than the minutia of the IIPA, or the question of whether the investigation having been proven to have been obstructed (proven beyond a reasonable doubt, as it happened, in the eyes of a non-partisan jury of law), but I rest confident that many will defend it, nonetheless.

OCSteve: "But you have to look at the irony from my side. The CIA was the boogieman of the left for most of my life."

I don't know about the views of "the left"; I know my views. And I've been reading about the CIA, and covert activities, for over 35 years, and my views have been quite consistent: like many things, including the United States itself, the CIA is a mixed bag. It has a long and complicated history, and sometimes it has been tasked to do things that were wrongheaded, and sometimes it has been tasked to do things that are evil, as well as wrongheaded, and sometimes it has been tasked to do things that are reasonable; that's just talking about the Operations side; then we can get into analyzing all its ups and downs as regards the former directorate of Intelligence, and things they've gotten right, and things they've gotten wrong.

In other words, it's necessary to discuss specifics, and then we can talk about how good or bad the relevant CIA action or analysis was, and how much we want to criticize them, praise them, or be neutral, as regards it.

I'm somewhat of "the left," but I'm afraid I keep missing memos; that's my long-held, consistent, view of the CIA. Since you asked. No whiplash should be involved. No boogieman, either.

On the merits, on the only thing Wilson could speak to, I think Wilson had the weaker case.

well, no. If Wilson had the weaker case, on the merits, why wasn't it addressed *on the merits*? I'm not talking about what Wilson could speak to - he spoke. My concern is how the Administration responded and how that response is being uncritically accepted. How does publicly outing and ruining the career of his wife and making a big deal of a false story that she was the one who sent him to Africa constitute addressing the issue and defending the Administation's position *on the merits*?? How is personally trashing someone who honorably served his country rather than sticking to addressing the merits accepted as an acceptable response? Why isn't this considered morally reprehensible?

I'm afraid I think Gary has a good point - what does it matter if V Plame met the vague requirements for IIPA? Isn't the politically motivated outing of what the CIA itself calls an "undercover" and "covert employee" sufficient for the scandal?

More Plame covertity.

The discussion of the IIPA is yet another example of the tendency of Bush defenders to latch onto a detail, whether true or false, and try to make a larger issue be all about that one point. If one memo was forged, then Bush fulfilled his National Guard obligations. If someone added smoke to a photo, or if Jamil Hussein had another name, then things are going great in Iraq. If no one flushed a Koran down the toilet, or if Amnesty International or Dick Durbin used language that some people don't like, then Guantanamo Bay and the rest of the places, known and unknown, where the US is holding prisoner are human rights paradises. If an op-ed piece by a couple of professors is flawed, then there's been no pressure applied to US attorneys to make trouble for Democrats or lay off Republicans. If no one violated the IIPA, then destroying Plame's career, along with any confidence that other CIA employees might have that their covert status will be protected, is just politics as usual. That's Bushist logic as it's operated for years now.

KCinDC preempted a rant from me on exactly the same topic. And probably did it better than I would have tonight.

The full strangeness of it doesn't really emerge until you step back and imagine trying to tell someone in 2000 about all this. In the modern day, any presidential term will sound weird, because the world changes fast, but not all would sound this profoundly strange.

I wonder how Ken White over at tacitus.org or whatever it's called now feels.

Phlegmatic, as always. Have the youngsters changed Ken's mind about anything, ever?

I do try, but it's a struggle. So far Ken's keeping his head down regarding the 'covert' issue, but the Wonder Dog is out and about doing his stuff.

Now, as it happens, Kristof and Pincus were wrong: Wilson had not actually seen the documents at the time he traveled to Niger and he hadn't debunked them.

Actually, I doubt that.

The claim is that the CIA had no access to those documents until later and so couldn't tell that they were forgeries.

What's the likelihood that our spies actually didn't have access to those documents? I'd say, very unlikely. But officially they weren't supposed to have access.

Officially, european spy groups were trading them around as a sort of currency. "I'll show them to *you* since you've done me favors, but you have to promise you won't let anybody else see them. They're mine and it would be wrong for you to sell them instead of me." Sort of intellectual property for spies.

For CIA to announce they had them before being given them, would upset various agreements among the international spy agencies. It would also be bad for their relations with Bush since it's important to claim that they hadn't already discredited it.

Yes, they probably showed the documents to Wilson, and he quite likely showed them the documents were obviously false, and they probably already knew they were false and had told Cheney they were false. And Wilson shouldn't have announced it.

It's silly to think you'd get the simple factual truth out of a career Washington bureaucrat, much less a career Washingto CIA bureaucrat. They don't get those positions by blurting out things that would destroy their careers.

But this whole mess has reassured me about one thing. There were persistent rumors that the CIA killed Kennedy. I didn't believe them but I didn't know what to believe. But I can't imagine that the CIA would kill kennedy and not kill Cheney. So now I'm confident that the CIA did not assassinate JFK.

I don't get this at all. Prior to this episode, Wilson was known as an experienced foreign service professional who had honorably served this country and several administations. Why the casual acceptance of personal distruction as a legitmate tool for any Adminstration to answer its critics - whatever happened to addressing something *on the merits*??

Uhh, this is sort of what happens when one side starts believing its own spin. Libby and Fitzgerald went round and round on this in his grand jury testimony, actually - Libby abjected to the use of "discredit" as a synonym for "rebut", which is really all the Evil Reps were doing.

Now, you may not believe their rebuttal, but the official WH talking points, as presented at trial and dictated by Dick Cheney, were basically, that:

(1) Wilson had not been sent by the Vice President (true, and contra the early Kristof columns):

(2) Wilson's report was not definitive (true, per the SSCI);

(3) Because it was not definitive, Wilson's report was not specifically circulated back to the OVP (true, per the SSCI);

(4) The NIE had other elements in which it was asserted that Niger was "vigorously" trying to procure uranium (true).

And memory fails, but maybe you get the drift.

In my world, "discredit" would be something like, 'ignore Wilson, he has been divorced three times and if I could give you a look at his X-rated personnel file, you would see why'. That did not happen.

As to the shameless outing of his wife - as the trial or today's hearing made clear, the CIA did not alert anyone to her classified status. However, Bob Grenier of the CIA did tell folks she was involved in sending her hubby. That is point 7 of Libby's indictment, BTW, so send your complaints to Fitzgerald.

And, as Libby explained to Fitzgerald in front of the grand jury, the obvious implication (sorry, not at all obvious to the press or Libby's critics) is that Joe Wilson is *not* a dispassionate third party referee in what was a bitter dispute between the CIA and the WH about pre-war intel.

Instead of saying, hey, here is a retired foreign service guy telling us the White House blew it, a better headline would have been 'In Intel Dispute With White House, CIA Spouse Vouches For CIA'. Hold the presses.

That said, the Wilson version of the story (They smeared me! It was all a plot to humiliate me and intimidate others!) puts him in a much better light and probably serves Dems better in terms of votes and donations; it also makes a better book and movie. (The awkward episode where John Kerry dropped him as a consultant in July 2004 after the Senate blew up his story will probably be glossed over.)

And folks who think that "effective" equals "true" need know no more.

If no one violated the IIPA, then destroying Plame's career, along with any confidence that other CIA employees might have that their covert status will be protected, is just politics as usual. That's Bushist logic as it's operated for years now.

I can quit anytime! But there is a reason folks obsess about whether the law was applicable: empowering a Special Counsel, turning the White House upside down and shaking it, and throwing as reporter into jail for 85 days are all Big deals.

If that was happening in the context of a serious probe of a serious law with real national security implication, that is one thing.

If it was done just to nail one (or more) guys on perjury/obstruction charges even though it was clear that no underlying offense was chargeable, maybe that is something else.

There is, for example, a lot of curiousity as to just what Fitzgerald told the Miller judges about his investigation before they held her in contempt - Dow Jones and the AP are still suing to get his affidavit unsealed, but the judges certainly seemed to believe they were opining on a case with real national security implications.

We can only imagine their surprise to have discovered that by the time of the affidavit Fitzgerald had already discovered all the leakers (except Rove to Cooper), that Libby had confessed to leaking to Judy Miller on July 12, but Fitzgerald wanted to see if he also leaked to her on July 8 so he could bust him for perjury.

And I do have vague memories of Dems crowing about Rove being led away in chains, as well as maybe seeing Cheney in chains. So to pretend now that violations of the law were not the real point is a bit of a re-write.

"If it was done just to nail one (or more) guys on perjury/obstruction charges even though it was clear that no underlying offense was chargeable"

That's a pretty serious accusation! If this is so clearly true, shouldn't Fitz be reprimanded by Justice? Can Libby sue Fitz in a civil court?

That's a pretty serious accusation!

The false affidavit to an appeals court is a pretty serious charge, but I think we are talking reprimand or cold looks, not anything illegal. *IF* it pans out - we have not seen the affidavit.

Bringing witnesses in front of a grand jury with the specific goal of obtaining perjury charges also conflicts with DoJ regs.

However, the second is not illegal, and FWIW, Victoria Toensing seemed to be OK with it in Oct 2005.

My objection would be more as a matter of public policy - Fitzgerald ended a liong truce between DoJ and the press and won a series of court rulings weakening the press - a good thing?

In addition, Fitzgerald has assured that no future Administration will ever submit to a Special Counsel. If folks can remember every odd privilege invoked by the Clintonistas, they might agree that Bush was pretty cooperative - well, that won't happen again.

All to obtain a he said/they said perjury conviction when all the leakers were known and there was no underlying crime. Worth it?

Uhh, this is sort of what happens when one side starts believing its own spin. Libby and Fitzgerald went round and round on this in his grand jury testimony, actually - Libby abjected to the use of "discredit" as a synonym for "rebut", which is really all the Evil Reps were doing.

Usually when I want to rebut someone I start talking about his wife.

If that was happening in the context of a serious probe of a serious law with real national security implication, that is one thing.

If it was done just to nail one (or more) guys on perjury/obstruction charges even though it was clear that no underlying offense was chargeable, maybe that is something else.

I've generally stayed out of Plameworld, and will be happy to exit after (if not halfway through!) this comment. You must realize, Mr. Maguire, that these are not the only choices. The question whether there was a national security breach, or conduct deserving of consequence, is simply not resolved, exclusively and conclusively, by reference to the IIPA. There are other sources of law at play.

And even if at the end of the day the government found that it couldn't get a conviction, that doesn't mean that the investigation, when commenced, didn't have a good faith basis.

The lessons about independent counsels had already been learned by political types. What went "wrong" here was that the Administration employed some people (well, at least a person) with integrity in DOJ, and ended up getting the appointment when it became clear that the AG had to stand aside. I've not been a fan of Mr. Ashcroft on the merits, but you have to say that on this and other issues (especially, again, his choice of deputy) the guy acted in an honorable and dignified way. It's just too bad that he stands out so much for this.

The President could have avoided a whole lot of this by asking Armitage to out himself in the fall of 03, asking Libby and Rove to publicly admit their anti-Wilson spin campaign, and other such things. It was as a lesser measure that he ordered people to cooperate, hoping (successfully) to put off whatever it was going to end up being until after the election.

It's kind of tragic when you think of how much of the difficulty the Administration finds itself in arises from its failure to 'restore honor and dignity to the White House.' For example, I think the politics of the Iraq war, domestically and maybe even internationally, would have been quite different had the President stepped up to squelch partisan rhetoric from his side. I think he still would have won the Senate in 2002, would have been reelected with 70% of the vote, and, to the extent that US domestic politics influences events in Iraq, might well be out. We'll never know.

Tom, for one who accused Ugh of throwing straw around, you have doen a lot of it.

Nobody has proven a law wasn't broken, although it is a standard meme on the right that since there were no indictments, obviously the law wasn't broken, which of course is a distraction and, quite honestly, one of the more idiotic statements (which is saying a lot) from the right.

You have practically accused Fitzgerald of running this whole thing with the intent of creating a perjury charge. I would like to see some evidence of that.

You talk about the official WH talking points, and then keep saying they were true. Perhaps in the strictest terms, but itis has already been testified to that Cheney requested the CIA investigate the Niger-Iraq connection. He did not tell them to send Wilson, but that would be an overeach of executive power. You also seem to put a lot of faith in the SICI report, although there have been a lot of serious rebuttals to much of it.

At least you have the honesty to call the outing of Plame shamefu, so I can give you some credit, as many on the right view it fully justified.

Was the press weakened? Please show me how. It seems the press was more weakened by this administration from 9/11 on than anything Fitzgerald did.

We also know that the CIA requested more than once that Novak not publish. Why would they have one so other than to protect the ID of a covert officer?

I realize that everything is political to some extent, but there has not been in my memory more shameless political use of national secutiry issues thandisplaed by this administration.

And any suggestion that Bush and his administration has been cooperative compared to the Clinton administration is, quite honestly, laughable.

to the extent that US domestic politics influences events in Iraq, might well be out
Yow, Charley, that sounds awfully like the "stab in the back" excuse. How exactly did domestic politics keep us from winning in Iraq?

John, the word Tom used was actually "shameless", but from context I think he was being saracastic.

KCinDC - are you marching today? Sadly, I'm at work but might go up on the roof at 12:30 to watch.

How does publicly outing and ruining the career of his wife and making a big deal of a false story that she was the one who sent him to Africa

but it wasn't such a big deal, it was a little whisper of a suggestion that Wilson might not be the kind of person we should pay attention to (cause, ya know, he has to let his insider/connected/anti-Bush-CIA wife get him tea-sippin jobs).

Well, I for one will say that for me, the question whether laws were broken never was the main point, and if anyone wants to prove me wrong, go for it.

Nor do I think that Fitzgerald's failure to get an indictment shows either that laws were not broken, or that there was no good basis for the investigation at the outset. I mean: that's the whole point of an investigation: to find things out.

I can think of several good reasons for not seeking an indictment for violations of the IIPA that would not have been obvious at the outset, as Plame's not being covert within the meaning of the IIPA would have been. One: difficulty in proving that Plame was outed knowingly. Two: if it turned out that either the VP or the President authorized the leak, one would get into serious constitutional questions about whether they had the authority to do so, and implicitly to suspend the IIPA in this instance. As I understand it, the entire classification system is, constitutionally, an exercise of the President's constitutional powers. If so, then, while ianal, I would think that there might be a serious question about whether he, or the VP if this power had been delegated to him, had the authority to set the law aside in this instance.

But, as I said, that has never been the main point for me. The main point is: this administration is so cavalier both about our national security and about its obligations to those who risk their lives for their country that it is prepared to out a covert CIA agent for political purposes, and stupid political purposes at that. (Stupid = discrediting what Wilson said by insinuating that he had been sent on a "junket" by his wife.)

That's just amoral, and the question whether, in addition, it violated a narrowly written law is and always has been a smaller issue to me. And, fwiw, I would bet that that's true for a lot of people on the left, including those who fantasized about Rove in handcuffs. That's just explained by being someone whom Rove was repeatedly smearing as unpatriotic at (it turns out) the very same time that he was at best displaying a reckless disregard for our security.

No, Ugh, no marching for me today. I don't think I know anyone who's going. It seems like a lot of people decided to leave this one to ANSWER, since in January we finally managed to have a good march without them. Plus there's all the fragmentation about how to get out ("idiot liberals" versus pragmatists).

No, Ugh, no marching for me today. I don't think I know anyone who's going. It seems like a lot of people decided to leave this one to ANSWER, since in January we finally managed to have a good march without them.

Probably just as well, given the cold (and the ANSWER protests seem to get a little out of hand at times).

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