Plame Blame

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Robert Novak's latest column makes Richard Armitage look even worse than he did when he belatedly acknowledged that he was the source for the 2003 Novak column identifying Valerie Plame/Wilson as a CIA employee (and it really says something if, in a spat with Robert Novak, you end up looking like a bigger dick). Novak contradicts Armitage's claim that the identification of Plame was inadvertent:

First, he identified to me the CIA division where Mrs. Wilson worked, and said flatly that she recommended the mission to Niger by her husband, former Amb. Joseph Wilson. Second, Armitage did not slip me this information as idle chitchat, as he now suggests. He made clear he considered it especially suited for my column….[He] told me unequivocally that Mrs. Wilson worked in the CIA's Counter-Proliferation Division and that she had suggested her husband's mission.

Novak rightly faults Armitage for remaining silent about the interview for two and a half years, which he says "caused intense pain for his colleagues in government and enabled partisan Democrats in Congress to falsely accuse [Karl] Rove of being my primary source." (Novak notes that both he and Armitage were Iraq war skeptics, which hardly fits the theory that the "leak" was part of an orchestrated effort by all the president's hawks to punish and/or discredit Wilson after he dared to cast doubt on the war's justification.) Even if you accept Armitage's excuse that special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald asked him to keep his mouth shut, Novak writes, how can he explain "his silent three months between his claimed first realization that he was the source and Fitzgerald's appointment"?

But if Armitage was wrong for keeping quiet, what about Novak? He says the ground rules for his interview with Armitage were never even stated explicitly, which suggests he reasonably could have considered the conversation on the record. Even if Novak treats "deep background" as the default, he could have asked Armitage to release him from any implied promise of anonymity, thereby avoiding all the "intense pain" caused by Fitzgerald's investigation.

Or maybe not. Fitzgerald knew from the beginning that Armitage was the leaker, and he decided not to charge him. In other words, he knew at the outset of his investigation that no crime had been committed. Yet he proceeded anyway with subpoenas, threats of jail for contempt, the actual jailing of one reporter, and criminal charges against a Bush administration official for obstructing his investigation into nothing. Even by the standards of special prosecutors, who don't like to close up shop without charging someone because they feel a need to justify the effort and expense of their investigations, Fitzgerald has achieved a new low, since he could have stopped before he got started, when there was little effort and expense to justify. Which makes him an even bigger dick that Richard Armitage.

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  1. Novak’s original column says he had two sources. I like this language, “…falsely accuse Rove of being my primary source.” Cute, huh? I’ll also note that Matt Cooper of Time Magazine has idenfitied Rove as his primary source.

    Also, knowing that Armitage didn’t commit a crime != knowing no crime had been committed. You have no idea what facts and theories Fitzgerald has in his files, and neither do I.

  2. Which of these conservative, Republican bastards am I supposed to hate? It’s very easy to focus my hate when they point the finger at the god-hater, librul, cut’n’run, NY Times, elitest, hate-the-troops, pansy-fairy tax-raisers. When the awesome Republicans start pointing the finger at each other, and start lying to investigators and start breaking laws openly, I gets me confused as a stuck razorback.

  3. Well, joe, riddle me this:

    If it wasn’t a crime for government employee Armitage to make the leak, why would it be a crime for any other government employee to do the exact same thing?

    If Fitz thought he had enough on someone else to string this out for years, where is the indictment of the second leaker?

    Sing along with joe, everyone!

    I’m dreaming of a white Fitzmas . . .

    Give it up, joe. Jacob has it just about nailed in his last paragraph.

  4. when faced with obvious differing accounts by Armitage and Novak, Fitzpatrick should have used that proven eenie meanie miney moe method of determineing who was telling the truth.

  5. Joe,
    I don’t see what the problem is either. Everyone involved in this sordid tale is a Republican. As in many criminal investigations, there was nobody to charge with a crime. Sure, there appear to be other sources who may have committed a crime, but this is basically a political story. In the end, Bush’s Deputy Secretary of State leaked the name of a CIA operative for whatever reason. Like all things in this Bush Administration, the one million dollar question is, “Evil, or just incompetent and stupid?”

  6. RC,

    Fitzmas happened months ago. The Vice President’s Chief of Staff/Senior Councillor to the President was indicted in federal court. Didn’t you see that story?

    I don’t know what Fitzgerald’s reasoning was. Conspiracy is one possibility. Or, Novak could by lying, and Armitage could have lacked the requisite intent to justify an indictment, for example, if he didn’t know Plame was undercover or actually did let it slip out. The statute in question is full of qualifiers, such that the same act might or might not be actionable based on the circumstances and knowledge of the cover-blower. Nailing these questions down, especially when the actors are so uncooperative, is liable to be a lengthy, difficult business.

  7. “Sing along with joe, everyone!

    I’m dreaming of a white Fitzmas…”

    Whoo-hoo! Only ONE of the members of the President’s inner circle got indicted in the investigation into who leaked the identity of a covert CIA employee working on the Iranian nuclear program!

    You hear that?!? Not two. ONE!

    In your face, Democrats!

  8. RC Cola sez =

    Well, joe, riddle me this:

    If it wasn’t a crime for government employee Armitage to make the leak, why would it be a crime for any other government employee to do the exact same thing?

    …And following that line of thinking, why would anyone have lied to federal investigators about doing so, if it wasnt a crime? 🙂

    I think Jacob’s got this one wrong – just because Armitage dropped this ‘unwittingly’ and was covered doesnt mean a coordinated campaign to leak the info by libby, rove, et al, wasnt criminal. Leap of logic there that doesnt hold.

    Fitz isnt partisan, and seems to have done a good job keeping his mouth shut.

    JG

  9. What ever happen to a prosecutor must investigate all leads regardless of where they go? Dispite the fact that Armitage told Novak, other administration officials spoke to reporters. Is it wrong for Fitzgerald to check those out? And if a law is broken in that process, he does have not only the right, but the responsibility to prosecute.

    The fact is this investigation would have went away, but Scooter lied.

    Clinton was impeached for lying about something that was irrelevent to the Whitewater investigation. I didn’t see anyone from the right complaining then.

    It really shows that Republican’s support the rule of law, execpt with the rule of law knocks on their door.

    Scooter Libby has stated he was busy defending Bush’s stance on Iraq and he “forgot”.
    How was he defending Bush’s stance? By trying to discredit those who dissented. The Whitehouse felt they had to shut Wilson up. Not by exposing Plame as thought, but assassination by cable TV pundits.

    Not that I’m a fan of prosecuters, but if we allow them X behavior, they should apply that equally. What Fitzgerald has done was fair game when Clinton was in the hot seat.

  10. when Bush took office he ushered in an “Age of Accountability”……….or maybe not

  11. joe, don’t even pretend to be satisfied that Fitzmas consisted of the indictment of Scooter Libby for perjury, rather than the frogmarching of Karl Rove for violations of national security.

    just because Armitage dropped this ‘unwittingly’ and was covered doesnt mean a coordinated campaign to leak the info by libby, rove, et al, wasnt criminal.

    But of course, there is exactly no evidence of such a campaign.

    Even if there was, the legal violation at issue is the leaking of the information, not how organized it was or what the motives were. The intelligence identities act makes no mention of the latter. So whether the leak was made by Armitage all on his own (and if you believe it was inadvertant you are naive enough to be a federal prosecutor), or by the dynamic duo Scooter and Karl as part of a political hit, makes no difference to whether a crime was committed.

    Clinton was impeached for lying about something that was irrelevent to the Whitewater investigation.

    Except that his perjury wasn’t committed in connection with Whitewater – it was committed in a deposition in the Paula Jones sexual harassment case. A defendant’s sexual activities in the workplace are relevant to such a case, so his perjury was relevant to the case in which it was committed.

  12. joe, don’t even pretend to be satisfied that Fitzmas consisted of the indictment of Scooter Libby for perjury, rather than the frogmarching of Karl Rove for violations of national security.

    following that line of thinking, why would anyone have lied to federal investigators about doing so, if it wasnt a crime?

    Who says anyone lied? Oh, the prosecutor. Well, that should be good enough for anyone. I hope to God I don’t get a jury of GILMOREs if I’m ever on trial.

    just because Armitage dropped this ‘unwittingly’ and was covered doesnt mean a coordinated campaign to leak the info by libby, rove, et al, wasnt criminal.

    But of course, there is exactly no evidence of such a campaign.

    Even if there was, the legal violation at issue is the leaking of the information, not how organized it was or what the motives were. The intelligence identities act makes no mention of the latter. So whether the leak was made by Armitage all on his own (and if you believe it was inadvertant you are naive enough to be a federal prosecutor), or by the dynamic duo Scooter and Karl as part of a political hit, makes no difference to whether a crime was committed.

    Clinton was impeached for lying about something that was irrelevent to the Whitewater investigation.

    Except that his perjury wasn’t committed in connection with Whitewater – it was committed in a deposition in the Paula Jones sexual harassment case. A defendant’s sexual activities in the workplace are relevant to such a case, so his perjury was relevant to the case in which it was committed.

  13. So we all agree that Clinton’s lying had nothing to do with Whitewater and Libby’s lying was directly related to the Plame investigation. RC Dean, obviously, would like to imply some importance to the fact that Clinton lied in an unrelated and largely irrelevant case. Fair enough. Joe, obviously, would like to imply that Scooter Libby lied in the Plame case. Fair enough. Move on.

  14. The spin on there is right up there with the “yeah the memos were faked but they were true” spin. Do you people honestly believe that Rove and company had this evil plan to punish Joe Wilson by outing his soccer mom wife and just got lucky by Armitage doing the same thing right before they could? That is insane.

    The facts are pretty obvious. Wilson was nobody ex-ambassador with a connected wife who was a bureaucrat at CIA. His wife managed to get him a government boondoggle to go to Niger. He went there, did next nothing, took everyone’s word for there being no yellowcake uranium deal and went home. Once the war started, he saw his way to get his name in the limelight and wrote an op ed in the NYT. When it inevitably came to light that he was a lying hack who got the gig through his wife’s connections, he immediately claimed his wife had been outed to punish him, which of course was believed by everyone in America suffering from Bush derangement syndrome. Why they didn’t just have the CIA fire his wife if they really wanted to punish him was never quite explained. Thus the Democrats fell in love with a long forgotten and never used law about outing CIA operatives. The fact that in this case the operative was soccer mom, bureaucrat in northern Virginia who hadn’t been undercover in years and was, considering that she was the mother of young children, extremely unlikely to ever go undercover again didn’t seem to matter. But Nation Security had been compromised.

    So of course we have to have an independent counsel who had to have known about two days after taking office that there wasn’t a crime there. But since no counsel can close shop without indicting someone something, anything, Fitzgerald grilled people, threw a reporter in jail and grilled more people until he was finally able to catch one poor schmuck in a lie. After this “outrage to national security” we get one lousy and very tenuous perjury indictment of someone only peripherally related to the point of the investigation.

    This is a classic example of a prosecutor run amok in an attempt to justify his own existence. Anyone committed to fairness and due process ought to be appalled. I commend Reason for calling the whole thing what it is; an embarrassment and an outrage.

  15. The spin on there is right up there with the “yeah the memos were faked but they were true” spin. Do you people honestly believe that Rove and company had this evil plan to punish Joe Wilson by outing his soccer mom wife and just got lucky by Armitage doing the same thing right before they could? That is insane.

    The facts are pretty obvious. Wilson was nobody ex-ambassador with a connected wife who was a bureaucrat at CIA. His wife managed to get him a government boondoggle to go to Niger. He went there, did next nothing, took everyone’s word for there being no yellowcake uranium deal and went home. Once the war started, he saw his way to get his name in the limelight and wrote an op ed in the NYT. When it inevitably came to light that he was a lying hack who got the gig through his wife’s connections, he immediately claimed his wife had been outed to punish him, which of course was believed by everyone in America suffering from Bush derangement syndrome. Why they didn’t just have the CIA fire his wife if they really wanted to punish him was never quite explained. Thus the Democrats fell in love with a long forgotten and never used law about outing CIA operatives. The fact that in this case the operative was soccer mom, bureaucrat in northern Virginia who hadn’t been undercover in years and was, considering that she was the mother of young children, extremely unlikely to ever go undercover again didn’t seem to matter. But Nation Security had been compromised.

    So of course we have to have an independent counsel who had to have known about two days after taking office that there wasn’t a crime there. But since no counsel can close shop without indicting someone something, anything, Fitzgerald grilled people, threw a reporter in jail and grilled more people until he was finally able to catch one poor schmuck in a lie. After this “outrage to national security” we get one lousy and very tenuous perjury indictment of someone only peripherally related to the point of the investigation.

    This is a classic example of a prosecutor run amok in an attempt to justify his own existence. Anyone committed to fairness and due process ought to be appalled. I commend Reason for calling the whole thing what it is; an embarrassment and an outrage.

  16. Most federal laws are unconstitutional, unnecessary, and silly, and punish activity that can not be considered a “crime” in any ethical sense. It is no wonder, then, that federal prosecutors lose their capacity for restraint and common sense. Prosecuting individuals for “crimes” that never took place is not unusual; just ask Jamal Lewis or Martha Stewart. Fitzgerald’s behavior is par for the course.

  17. Man, after reading this thread, one realizes that no matter how much things change, the more they stay the same. Haven’t we been through this with one other special prosecutor? A situation where one side of the political isle claimed no actual crime had been committed, but the other side of the isle asking why there was a need to lie about it? Followed by a slow turning of the conversation from charges for the specific and original offense to charges of purjury and investigations of leaks about the investigation?

  18. Thanks for the yarn, John.

  19. “joe, don’t even pretend to be satisfied that Fitzmas consisted of the indictment of Scooter Libby for perjury, rather than the frogmarching of Karl Rove for violations of national security.”

    Er, sorry to disappoint you, RC. I trust that Fitzgerald did his job fairly and competently, from the legal standpoinrt. Don’t get me wrong, I won’t be entirely satisfied until their all marched out en masse. But seeing Scooter Libby bagged, and the whole mess come out, was a great deal of fun. And it’s not like that particular investigation was the only game in town. You see that Congressman Nye (R-Who Cares?) plead guilty today?

    John, “Do you people honestly believe that Rove and company had this evil plan to punish Joe Wilson by outing his soccer mom wife and just got lucky by Armitage doing the same thing right before they could?”

    No, Armitage was pretty obviously in on it.

    Oh, and someday, I hope to go on a boondoggle to Niger. Ah, the soothing murmer of sandstorms and dysentary…

    Thanks for laying the out motive, btw. And demonstrating how passionate some can feel about that motive.

  20. The fact that in this case the operative was soccer mom, bureaucrat in northern Virginia who hadn’t been undercover in years and was, considering that she was the mother of young children, extremely unlikely to ever go undercover again didn’t seem to matter.

    I’m no expert, but why would that matter? If an agent is outed, all of his/her career contacts, fronts, cover stories etc. are blown as well. Which compromises people and operations that still need to stay a secret.

    John seems to think that when an agent retires or is transferred, the world stops turning, everyone forgets, and all of that agent’s work is immediately transferred into a dusty file cabinet at Langley.

  21. TO THE BLAZING INSIGHTS OF JOHN
    The facts are pretty obvious

    Ah?… it really has nothing to do with the fact that intelligence was intentionally being misused to create unfounded WMD fears to force congress to authorize invasion of Iraq?… currently priced at $300BN and climing?

    …and the fact that one particular piece of intelligence being used by the Admin in the ‘nuclear’ case had been proven a forgery multiple times (by state, CIA, brits) *before* this particular Ambassador jerk went to Africa, yet was still cited by the Admin as being solid evidence of Saddams near-to-complete nuclear ambitions?

    You’re probably right. We really dont want “a smoking gun to be a mushroom cloud”. Even if there’s no gun. Or even like, anything

    It’s just about whackjob anti-bush types, feeding on this one guy’s ego. Thats why he’d end his political career, put his wife’s life at risk. For the “limelight”. And God knows how much *I’d* love to take an all-expenses paid trip to NIGER! Sure, 4/5ths is desert; it’s the poorest country on earth….but that last 1/5 is just a great place to relax…when it’s not 200 degrees and you’re surrounded by like, those starving kids and tstse flies and stuff.

    He went there, did next nothing, took everyone’s word for there being no yellowcake uranium deal and went home. Once the war started, he saw his way to get his name in the limelight and wrote an op ed in the NYT

    Jeez. That makes perfect sense. I dont know why i’ve bothered reading about this thing at all. You’re right. It’s an embarrassment and an outrage. And seriously, why can’t people just accept that ‘mistakes were made’? OK, the tubes werent for centrifuges… the yellowcake thing was known to be bogus at first glance….those biological trailers were just…well, trailers…. But you know = Wars Happen guys. Get over it. People who make big deals about it are really just self-promoters. Get a life already! Senator Roberts made quite clear in his Phase II report = “We didnt look into whether there was maniplation of intelligence, so we can officially say that there wasnt.” Nothing could be clearer.

    The fact that in this case the operative was soccer mom, bureaucrat in northern Virginia who hadn’t been undercover in years and was, considering that she was the mother of young children, extremely unlikely to ever go undercover again…

    Darn tootin man! Who the hell do they think they’re kidding? and like, all those contacts she developed surreptitiously who fed us information on Irans nuclear programs over the years?… well, if they wind up dead on a cold cellar floor, not our problem man! They should have known! She’s a soccer mom, guys! Out of the game. And who needs them. It’s not like Iran matters.

    And any currently undercover ops – why should they worry? It’s not like if they ever phase out, try and start a family life they should worry about being exposed then… I mean, cause once you’re *not active*, who cares about whether they’ve got any secrets? Thats so pre 9/11 mindstate. Just because no one KNEW at the time she worked for the CIA doesnt mean it’s like some big @(#$ scary secret. And if the deciders want to share secrets with the press… hey, thats their perogative. Cause, you know it was an important issue! The country needed to hear that criticism of their WMD intelligence was really not cool, particularly when they’re so darn hard to find!

    Thus the Democrats fell in love with a long forgotten and never used law about outing CIA operatives…

    Totally. Well, I mean…. after the CIA requested the investigation, I guess. http://www.govexec.com/dailyfed/0903/092903gsn1.htm …And the CIA is like, ..so partisan…. Why the hell would they care if, you know, when a politician needs to make a point, they can use the CIA as a punching bag? Just do your job guys! Get them the facts they want!

    I just think it’s a shame that people’s reputations have been damaged over the whole thing. just outrageous. I mean, scooter may have to go into lobbying or something!

    JG

  22. “””The facts are pretty obvious. Wilson was nobody ex-ambassador with a connected wife who was a bureaucrat at CIA. His wife managed to get him a government boondoggle to go to Niger.”””

    I guess the facts aren’t as obvious as you think John. That nobody ex-diplomat has experience and connections in Niger and Iraq, as well as France who has a consortium in charge of uranium mining in Niger.

    Who better to send that someone with diplomatic experience in both regions with connections to the CIA?

    Besides, I didn’t know Plame was such a high level CIA person that she could make the decision on who to send. She couldn’t and didn’t.

    To claim Wilson was not qualified means your not paying attention to the facts. I can’t say he was the most qualified, but qualified he was.

    Also Wilson did the work pro-bono.

    No one in the Bush administration supports the uranium claim that Wilson was sent to check out. We come to find out that the document that kicked off the affair was forged.

    Wilson was right, there was nothing to support the (forged) intelligence, and for that I’m suppose to think badly of him?

  23. TickyVic, you’re just not looking at the question with the appropriate amount of neandethal sexism. Here, let me help:

    “…his soccer mom wife…a connected wife who was a bureaucrat…His wife managed to get him a government boondoggle…got the gig through his wife’s connections…soccer mom, bureaucrat…mother of young children…”

    She was a chick, Vic, and she’s messing around with Man Stuff! Shoot, working in a high-level position in the same field as her husband – that’s pretty fishy. I ask you, what kind of a man has a wife like that?

  24. “I trust that Fitzgerald did his job fairly and competently, from the legal standpoinrt.” – joe

    Do you feel the same way about Ken Starr?

    “Don’t get me wrong, I won’t be entirely satisfied until their all marched out en masse.” – joe

    You sound just like the Clinton-haters of the 90s.

  25. Don’t get me wrong, I won’t be entirely satisfied until their all marched out en masse.

    Only two more years, joe. You can be sure that no matter who wins the next election, it won’t be W.

    You read it here first, folks – joe is officially indifferent to who wins the next Presidential election; his sole criteria for being “entirely satisfied” is that W is moving out.

  26. rob,

    “Do you feel the same way about Ken Starr?” Mr. He Touched Her Naked Breasts With His Mouth And Hands, as I like to call him, was an outspoken Republican activist for his entire adult life. Barney Frank had him pegged correctly, criticizing his selection the day it was announced.

    No, I don’t feel the same way about an openly-partisan political figures with close ties to conservative political groups, as I feel about a serious career prosecutor without any significant political profile. Especially one as uniformly praised on both sides of the aisle as Patrick Fitzgerald. You might have noticed that complete absence of Democratic criticism of him for not indicting more people; this is because he’s widely respected as a straight shooter, a square guy.

    “You read it here first, folks – joe is officially indifferent to who wins the next Presidential election; his sole criteria for being “entirely satisfied” is that W is moving out.” Whoa, ho, ho! You got me good there, RC! (eye roll)

  27. “Do you feel the same way about Ken Starr?”

    Nope. Fitz’s investigation has been a model of moderation and efficiency by comparison.

  28. let me get this straight……..Novak disputes what Armitage told him and “Scoots” Libby turns out to be a serial liar…….how about one of you “buckpassers” explain to me why we should be blaming Fitzpatrick for their failings

  29. Jacob sez…..” Fitzgerald has achieved a new low, since he could have stopped before he got started,”

    that is about as ignorant as saying Bush could have stopped it…….oh wait, not only could Bush have stopped it he promised the American people he would

  30. RC Dean

    Joe said “all marched out”, not just the simian-man at the top of the pyramid.

  31. I thought these guys complaining about this investigation wanted more of these leak investigation.

    Just curious, who here though it was stupid for Bush to confirm two classified programs?

    I may be critical of some of it but I think the President should keep his mouth shut. What happened to plausible deinal?

  32. “Hit and Run” or “Pass the Buck”?

  33. joe, your complete inability to recognize the same partisan insanity you take others to task over is one of the things that most undermines your credibility. It DOES enable you to keep flinging partisan poo with amazingly smug certainty that you are better than the people you whine about, tho.

  34. so rob, how could joe have phrased it so he didn’t sound partisan?

  35. If I wanted to sound less partisan, I could stop mentioning facts that make Republicans look bad.

    But then, I don’t really care about the state of my credibility with the likes of rob. I’m confident that my arguments will be convincing to fair-minded people, and equally confident that they will be immediately dismissed by biased people.

    C’est la vie. Er, um, “Freedom Happens.”

  36. walter66 – He could stop making ad hominem attacks against other people who post here, for starters. He could follow that up by trying not to be rabidly close-minded on the issues being discussed and completely unwilling to admit that when the shoe is on the other foot he thinks it’s totally unfair.

    “I’m confident that my arguments will be convincing to fair-minded people, and equally confident that they will be immediately dismissed by biased people.” – joe

    Then you’re totally missing your target audience, joe. The only people your arguments are convincing are goofy left-wingers who mindlessly hate Bush the way goofy right-wingers hated Clinton. In other words, you’re only preaching to your own little choir.

  37. so rob, instead of attacking joes argument you attack joe……usally that shows you got nuthin’

  38. walter66 – What universe do you live in? I point out that he’s making ad hom attacks and you mistake that for an ad hom attack? That’s like getting endless entertainment by placing two mirrors facing each other.

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