Plame War

Who dropped the dime on CIA op Valerie Plame? No one is the claim here, everybody who was anybody already knew she was a Company girl. And if that is a stretch, so I think is the claim advanced by Plame's supporters that the leak was the work of spiteful White House staff. Spite is plentiful in DC, but more so spin.

In the midst of the July pissing match between the WH and CIA over the yellowcake debacle, outing Plame spins thusly for 1600 Penn.: "Look, this was a CIA bungle all the way. We even used a CIA-wired guy for the field work. It's all on them."

On the full-disclosure front, I worked for Bob Novak for five years and the man dearly loves scoops and fratricidal turf battles. No wonder he was all over this two-fer.

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  • Mo||

    [E]verybody who was anybody already knew [Plame] was a Company girl. And if that is a stretch, so I think is the claim advanced by Plame's supporters that the leak was the work of spiteful White House staff.

    Does that include foreign governments? Because now they know too. This is even a worse defense than the classic, "Everyone else does it, too."

  • JJ||

    Jacob Levy responds to NRO:

    http://volokh.com/2003_09_28_volokh_archive.html#106484906765749621

  • ||

    What John Q said.

    Whether or not it was a poorly kept secret does not exonerate the despicable and illegal act of shopping it around.

  • Mo||

    Was it primarily due to the fact that Mr. Wilson's wife worked for the CIA that he received the Niger assignment?

    I'd also like to know why this keeps being brought up by the right as a major issue. It's more annoying than hearing that Bush only got elected because of who is his father.

  • ||

    In the midst of the July pissing match between the WH and CIA over the yellowcake debacle, outing Plame spins thusly for 1600 Penn.: "Look, this was a CIA bungle all the way. We even used a CIA-wired guy for the field work. It's all on them."

    Jeff: Are you asserting that this "spin" is acceptable despite the clear law against revealing CIA sources?

  • ||

    Maybe everybody knew already. The White House is not acting as if this were the case. Both NSA Rice and Press Sec. McClellan are hiding behind the Justice Department for all they are worth. My guess is that the trail here will lead to someone who reports to Rice.

  • mak_nas||

    some members of this administration have demonstrated a somewhat frightening and monarchic contempt for the retrictions of law and constitution before -- just as many members of previous administrations before it. where they have broken the law, let them be prosecuted.

  • ||

    Has anybody reported where she was when her identity was being revealed, whether it's possible she could have been in any danger at that point as a result, or where she is and what she's doing now? I would think those are important questions that should be addressed, but the stories I've read haven't touched on them, as far as I can tell.

  • joe||

    No one has any idea, Curt. That's classified info, if she was a spook. Anyway, the danger I've heard of is that some official/thug is going to suddenly realize that THAT's why his former cook always took his breaks at 2:30, and took a walk with Plame. Said cook can then be picked up, have a little quality time with a car battery, and name everyone else.

  • thoreau||

    On whether it's a big deal to reveal classified data:

    One summer I worked for a guy who had previously been a nuclear weapons scientist. He liked talking about his former line of work, but he had to be careful. There were some things that are widely known but he couldn't admit them, and if I tried to talk about them he'd say (paraphrase) "You and everyone else might know all about that or think you know all about that, but I can't talk about it and that's just the way it is."

    I took this to mean that revealing classified data is a big deal, even if "everybody already knows." And in the post-9/11 era, I'd think that classified information is an even bigger deal.

  • ||

    To clarify, I believe spite or revenge was at most a secondary motive for whomever it was who passed along Plame's game. This WH wanted the CIA to take the fall for yellowcake, and, I think, was not primarily interested in intimidating Mr. Wilson, contrary to Mr. Wilson's claims. So spin does not excuse it, but spin tells us why it happened.

  • joe||

    JAT,

    Could you dumb that down a shade? Why would outing Plame make dumping the yellowcake story on the CIA easier?

  • Novak Speaks||

    'Nobody in the Bush administration called me to leak this. In July I was interviewing a senior administration official on Ambassador Wilson's report when he told me the trip was inspired by his wife, a CIA employee working on weapons of mass destruction. Another senior official told me the same thing. As a professional journalist with 46 years experience in Washington I do not reveal confidential sources. When I called the CIA in July to confirm Mrs. Wilson's involvement in the mission for her husband -- he is a former Clinton administration official -- they asked me not to use her name, but never indicated it would endanger her or anybody else. According to a confidential source at the CIA, Mrs. Wilson was an analyst, not a spy, not a covert operator, and not in charge of undercover operatives'...

  • Stephen Fetchet||

    That'd be Wilson, the guy who writes for The Nation?

  • kent||

    A felony is a felony, guys.

    I'm trying to imagine the guys at 'Reason' (let alone the National Review!!) spinning the story this way if it had happened under Clinton or (heaven forbid) Jimmy Carter.

    Just a question, for those who might know: if it's a felony to reveal this information, then isn't Novak also guilty of a felony?

    In any case, of course there is a long journalistic tradition of refusing to name one's sources. But there is also a long government tradition of throwing people into jail who refuse to reveal their sources in cases that really matter.

    Nah, I don't really want Novak to go to jail. But it would sure be nice to see a *conservative* journalist going to jail for his principles -- just for the novelty value.

  • ||

    A felony is a felony, yes, thanks for the tautology. This incident, however, doesn't seem to reach the level of felony on anybody's part.

    "According to the Intelligence Identities Protection Act of 1982, a federal employee with access to classified information who is convicted of making an unauthorized disclosure about a covert agent faces up to 10 years in prison and as much as $50,000 in fines."

    Note the word covert. This is the important fact. She was not a covert agent. It's kind of like trying to convict some one for possessing stolen property, when the property is not stolen.

  • HH||

    Whether or not she is covert is indeed important... if Novak is telling the truth, there is no scandal here. It's also possible that he and his sources are/were mistaken, which doesn't excuse what they did, but it shows there was no intention to break the law, making some of the theories and claims on the left look silly in retrospect.

  • ||

    The CIA reportedly says she was covert.

    From MSNBC: CIA lawyers followed up the notification this month by answering 11 questions from the Justice Department, affirming that Plame�s identity was classified, that whoever released it was not authorized to do so and that the news media would not have been able to guess her identity without the leak, the senior officials said.

    The CIA response to the questions, which is itself classified, said there were grounds for a criminal investigation, the sources said.

  • ||

    Do you really think the CIA would be calling for a DoJ investigation if they knew that no felony had been committed and that Plame didn't have a cover to be blown?

  • Stating the Obvious||

    Umm, yes, the CIA would. It's called politics and the CIA is ass deep in it just like everyone else at the federal level.

    At worst, they get to embarrass some one who embarrassed them earlier, at best, they get who ever it is fired.

  • ||

    There would be no point in pursuing it (the investigation), if there was nothing there to pursue. The story would have no legs and no political aims would be accomplished.

  • john bragg||

    The law people are posting on the net applies to people with access to classified data. That means, to me, that Novak is in the clear legally.

    From Novak's statement today, he was told that Wilson's wife was CIA "on background", to explain why Wilson was the diplomat tapped. Novak printed the newsworthy information--that Wilson's being chosen was partially the result of his wife's CIA status. It would have taken five minutes to rewrite the piece labeling Palme a "close associate of Wilson's". The CIA folks asked Novak not to use Palme's name, but he went ahead and did it anyway.

  • ||

    The White House and its Justice Department will do everything in their power to spin this as a "no harm, no foul" case.

    She's an analyst, not a covert. Everybody knew. We don't respond to anonymous press reports. Etc Etc Etc.

    But a line was crossed here, and even if they manage to muddy it up enough so that the responsible parties are never identified or punished, the administration will pay a terrible price.

    Dubya mpaigned on a promise to "restore integrity to the White House," and now he's hiding in a corner while Scott McLellan plays the "see no evil" monkey.

    Is she agent? I guess that depends on what the definition of "is" is...

    What a sad and bitter irony...

  • ||

    The White House and its Justice Department will do everything in their power to spin this as a "no harm, no foul" case.

    She's an analyst, not a covert. Everybody knew. We don't respond to anonymous press reports. Etc Etc Etc.

    But a line was crossed here, and even if they manage to muddy it up enough so that the responsible parties are never identified or punished, the administration will pay a terrible price.

    Dubya campaigned on a promise to "restore integrity to the White House," and now he's hiding in a corner while Scott McLellan plays the "see no evil" monkey.

    Is she agent? I guess that depends on what the definition of "is" is...

    What a sad and bitter irony...

  • CTD||

    Stupid question - if the CIA is saying she was covert, then why the hell did they confirm her employment to Robert Novak?

  • Sir Real||

    Another "Money Shot"-

    "It is rare for one Bush administration official to turn on another. Asked about the motive for describing the leaks, the senior official said the leaks were "wrong and a huge miscalculation, because they were irrelevant and did nothing to diminish Wilson's credibility.""

    That's right- this unnamed official turned on his collegues, not for committing treason, but BECASUE THEY WERE INEFFECTIVE.

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/ac2/wp-dyn/A11208-2003Sep27?language=printer

    And now, for more tortured rationalizations from the right...

  • Sir Real||

    CTD-

    You're SO much smarter than the DOJ- have you applied for Attorney General?

  • ||

    Classification is an EXTREMELY sensitive issue, even now. When I left the service, my security clearance was such that I was forbidden to travel to certain countries in order to ensure that there was no possibility of compromise. Admittedly, policy may have changed since the expiration of my ban 10 years ago, but I doubt it.

  • ||

    CTD writes: "Stupid question - if the CIA is saying she was covert, then why the hell did they confirm her employment to Robert Novak?"

    I suspect what happened is that when Plame married Wilson and decided to start a family, she moved from a heavily covert case officer role to an analyst role.

    A case officer is a person who goes out and deals with field agents, maybe with some recruiting work too. If such a person gets outed, their movements can be examined to see who had contact with her. Some of those people will be agents.

    It'd be hard to start a family in that kind of position. The Khyber Pass is no place to be in labor.

    So Novak may have talked to someone at CIA who knew of "Plame the analyst", her current role, but wasn't aware of her prior covert role, or didn't know how long ago she'd stopped.

    If Novak's source said "Plame is not an operative", that'd be correct, because she was an operative before. It all depends on the meaning of 'is'.

    But if Plame was in a covert role in foreign territory within the last 5 years, that makes outing her illegal. I don't think it really matters if she's been a desk-bound analyst for the past 4 years.

    But really, I think Novak is covering his ass now and changing his story.

  • thoreau||

    Jon H-

    Thank you for shedding light on this. I suppose there's no way the CIA will ever give a yes or no on whether she was ever a case officer. That would defeat the purpose.

    Anyway, thank you for giving us factual information that cuts through the pissing contests we wage every day on this forum.

  • John Q.||

    I don't care whether it was spite or spin.

    Senior Administration officials committed a felony and jeopardized national security and jeopardized the lives of overseas contacts.

  • alkali||

    [E]verybody who was anybody already knew [Plame] was a Company girl. And if that is a stretch, so I think is the claim advanced by Plame's supporters that the leak was the work of spiteful White House staff.

    I think it is pretty well settled that the leak was from the administration. Novak's column actually said:

    "�Wilson never worked for the CIA, but his wife, Valerie Plame, is an agency operative on weapons of mass destruction. Two senior administration officials told me his wife suggested sending Wilson to Niger to investigate the Italian report."

    A few have parsed this to mean that the "two senior administration officials" were not the source for the first of the these two sentences, but I tend to doubt that reading: if that were the case I would think Novak would have cleared that up by now.

  • Stickler||

    "But if Plame was in a covert role in foreign territory within the last 5 years, that makes outing her illegal. I don't think it really matters if she's been a desk-bound analyst for the past 4 years."

    I thought it was 7 years. Anyway, how long ago did she settle down?

  • Douglas Fletcher||

    Sometimes it seems like everyone in Washington is either sniffing glue or at least breathing out of the same big plastic bag.

    Way too many brain cells being destroyed over a lot of disingenuous horseshit.

  • ||

    Stickler writes: "I thought it was 7 years. Anyway, how long ago did she settle down?"

    I posted a long analysis of this in this comments thread at CalPundit. It's near the very end.

    According to his bio, Wilson ended assignments overseas and settled down in the US in 1997/1998 or so. I think it most likely that they married around then, maybe 1999.

    It just makes sense to me that they'd both shift to career positions with less chaos, rather than trying to make a marriage work with one member as a travelling diplomat and the other as a covert case officer spending time in foreign countries.

    1998 is the earliest Plame could have stopped doing covert overseas work and still qualify under the CIA agent leak law.

  • RiShawn Biddle||

    From where I sit, a lot of people are making hay out of the fact that "senior administration officials"--Washingtonese for "people who know very, very little to begin with" and "go-to sources for lazy reporters"--told Robert Novak that a CIA analyst (whatever that is) was also the wife of a diplomat who disagreed with Bush administration policy. The argument about her being a "classified" staffer seems meaningless since the CIA could actually confirm it--versus the usual "no comment."

    So what is the fuss about?

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