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Plame II: Electric Boogaloo
The old threads are getting...old.
Indictments probably this week coming, or certainly the week after. And it seems a pretty safe guess that there will be indictments. Hell, what at one point seemed too good to be true--indictments against Libby and Rove--now also seems to be a pretty safe guess.
However, we won't know anything for sure, of course, until the grand jury returns something before it expires at the end of this month.
In the meantime, Frank Rich (behind the blasted NYT paywall--fuck you liberal establishment!) provides some much needed scope to the parlor game.
Are you really so sure about indictments of Rove and Libby? The law appears to have been written to make it hard to indict and convict anyone for breaking it.
I think that the Dems have allowed Bush to redefine the issue as whether a law was provably broken, instead of keeping on the 'it was a scummy thing to do' line. I read a Bush 2000 speech where he said that his administration wouldn't be about what lawyers let him do, but about what was right; he's come a long way down since then, and the Dems should make it clear. At least then, people who still support Bush couldn't fail to know, deep down, that they'd been sold a lemon.
EDIT: Added 'fail to'. Oops.
From the Editor and Publisher on Judy Miller?
Fire that little messiah complex ho. She won a pulitzer for that shit?
After 'NY Times' Probe: Keller Must Fire Miller, and Apologize to Readers
As the devastating Times article, and her own first-person account, make clear, Miller should be promptly dismissed for crimes against journalism -- and her own paper. And her editor, who has not taken responsibility, should apologize to both readers and "armchair critics."
By Greg Mitchell
(October 15, 2005) -- It’s not enough that Judith Miller, we learned Saturday, is taking some time off and “hopes” to return to the New York Times newsroom. As the newspaper’s devastating account of her Plame games -- and her own first-person sidebar -- make clear, she should be promptly dismissed for crimes against journalism, and her own newspaper. And Bill Keller, executive editor, who let her get away with it, owes readers, at the minimum, an apology instead of merely hailing his paper’s long-delayed analysis and saying that readers can make of it what they will.
He should also apologize to all the “armchair critics” and “vultures” he denounced this week for spreading unfounded stories and “myths” about what Miller and the newspaper had been up to. If anything, this sad and outrageous story is worse than most expected.
Let’s put aside for the moment Miller exhibiting the same selective memory favored by her former friends and sources in the White House, in claiming that for the life of her she cannot recall how the name of “Valerie Flame” got into the reporter’s notebook she took to her interview with Libby; how she learned about the CIA operative from other sources (whom she can’t name or even recall when it happened).
Bad enough, but let’s stick to the journalism issues. Saturday's Times article, without calling for Miller’s dismissal, or Keller’s apology, made the case for both actions in this pithy, frank, and brutal assessment: "The Times incurred millions of dollars in legal fees in Ms. Miller's case. It limited its own ability to cover aspects of one of the biggest scandals of the day. Even as the paper asked for the public's support, it was unable to answer its questions."
It followed that paragraph with Keller's view: "It's too early to judge."
Like Keller says, make of it what you will. My view: Miller did far more damage to her newspaper than did Jayson Blair, and that’s not even counting her WMD reporting, which hurt and embarrassed the paper in others ways.
The Times should let Miller, like Blair, go off to write a book, with no return ticket. We all know how well that worked out for Blair.
Miller should be fired if for nothing more than this: After her paper promised a full accounting, and her full cooperation, in its probe, it reported Saturday, “Miller generally would not discuss her interactions with editors, elaborate on the written account of her grand jury testimony or allow reporters to review her notes.”
As for Keller’s apology (or more), consider just one of a dozen humbling sentences from the Times story: “Interviews show that the paper’s leadership, in taking what they considered to be a principled stand, ultimately left the major decisions in the case up to Ms. Miller, an intrepid reporter whom editors found hard to control.”
Longtime Times reporter Todd Purdum testifies that many on the staff were "troubled and puzzled by Judy's seeming ability to operate outside of conventional reportorial channels and managerial controls."
At another point, Keller reveals that he ordered Miller off WMD coverage after he became editor (surely, a no-brainer), but he admits “she kept kind of drifting on her own back into the national security realm.” Does he anywhere take responsibility for this, or anything else? Not that I can see.
But back to Judy, who tells us that she wishes she (and not Robert Novak) had the honor of outing Valerie Plame. Okay, to each her own, but what about lying to her own editors?
--In the fall of 2003, after The Washington Post reported that "two top White House officials disclosed Plame's identity to at least six Washington journalists," Philip Taubman, Washington bureau chief, asked Miller whether she was among the six. Miller, of course, denied it.
--Miller claims that, contrary to any available evidence, she really did want to write an article about Wilson, but was told “no” by an editor, whom she would not identify -- perhaps she did not get a personal waiver. Jill Abramson, then her chief editor, says Miller never made any such request.
But equally damning, from her own first-person account: Revealing her working methods, perhaps too clearly, Miller writes that at her second meeting with Libby on this matter, on July 8, 2003, he asked her to modify their prior understanding that she would attribute information from him to an unnamed "senior administration official." Now, in talking about Joseph Wilson (and his wife), he requested that he be identified only as a "former Hill staffer." This was obviously to deflect attention from the Cheney office's effort to hurt Wilson.
Surely Judy wouldn’t go along with this? Alas, Miller admits, "I agreed to the new ground rules because I knew that Mr. Libby had once worked on Capitol Hill."
There’s more, much more, including this gem: She calls Scooter Libby, who helped take the country to war based on false evidence -- with a big assist from Judy Miller and her paper -- “a good-faith source who was usually straight with me.”
This is the woman Bill Keller and Arthur Sulzberger decided to make a First Amendment martyr, tainting their newspaper’s reputation like never before. As their paper’s article reveals, neither asked Miller detailed questions about her conversations with Libby or examined her notes. Keller "declined to tell his own reporters" that Libby was Miller's source, Saturday's article dryly complains. The report also makes clear that he ordered ideas for articles related to the case killed. Most humiliating, the Times had a story about Miller's release from jail ready at 2 p.m. that day -- and it wasn't published until the end of the day, allowing other newspapers (even tiny E&P) to get the scoop.
Asked by Times reporters what she regretted about the paper’s handling of the entire Miller matter, Jill Abramson, now the managing editor, replied: “The entire thing.” Who is responsible? And how will they make amends?
Now Miller "can't remember". How convenient! I bet she regains her memory when her book comes out - months after the leak investigations have shut down.
Originally posted by Smug Git
Are you really so sure about indictments of Rove and Libby? The law appears to have been written to make it hard to indict and convict anyone for breaking it.
Every time I hear the prosecutor's name I think of the punchline to a joke I can't remember. Patrick Fitzgerald and Gerald Fitzpatrick.
I'll add evidence to both these statements:
Originally posted by Paint CHiPs
I think so, yes, though as you say it doesn't matter so much really.
And there are a couple of laws that Fitzgerald could use, not just the oft-quoted one.
President George W. Bush's top political adviser, Karl Rove, and Cheney's chief of staff, Lewis Libby, were among the possible targets of the probe. Legal sources said special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald was likely to decide this week whether or not to bring indictments.
While Fitzgerald could try to charge administration officials with knowingly revealing the identity of CIA operative Valerie Plame, several lawyers in the case said he was more likely to seek charges for conspiracy and easier-to-prove crimes such as disclosing classified information, making false statements, obstruction and perjury.
Fitzgerald could also decide that no crime was committed.
Originally posted by Paint CHiPs
My own guess is also bolstered by the administration, which I think is also getting to be pretty sure about indictments, or certainly credibly afraid.
Karl Rove has a plan, as always. Even before testifying last week for the fourth time before a grand jury probing the leak of CIA operative Valerie Plame's identity, Bush senior adviser Rove and others at the White House had concluded that if indicted he would immediately resign or possibly go on unpaid leave, several legal and Administration sources familiar with the thinking told TIME.
Resignation is the much more likely scenario, they say. The same would apply to I. Lewis (Scooter) Libby, the Vice President's chief of staff, who also faces a possible indictment. A former White House official says Rove's break with Bush would have to be clean—no "giving advice from the sidelines"—for the sake of the Administration.
Severing his ties would allow Rove—who as deputy chief of staff runs a vast swath of the West Wing—to fight aggressively "any bull___ charges," says a source close to Rove, like allegations that he was part of a broad conspiracy to discredit Plame's husband Joseph Wilson. Rove's defense: whatever he did fell far short of that.
If Rove does go, I think the damage to the Bush administration will mostly be symbolic. I don't hold to the "Karl Rove as Darth Sidius" school of thought, wherein Rove is some kind of genius. I think he's just been willing to go lower than most, is very good at negative campaigning (and has constructed a very good Noise Machine to that end), but he's had just as many miserable failures as successes, and his track record with anything that isn't a smear campaign has been limited at best (Social Security reform?). Sullivan's got a good article up at the Times UK right now about that, and about how Rove already has been fading in the administration.
I do buy Time's assessment there, that indictments will lead to resignations by Libby and Rove. At this point the president hardly has any other options.
Originally posted by DevilMoon
Every time I hear the prosecutor's name I think of the punchline to a joke I can't remember. Patrick Fitzgerald and Gerald Fitzpatrick.
Karl Rove's Garage Proves to Be Typical
Oct 17 2:24 PM US/Eastern
By DARLENE SUPERVILLE
Associated Press Writer
He is "the architect" who steered George W. Bush to victory four times, twice as Texas governor and twice as president.
But can Karl Rove organize his own garage? Can the master of Bush's political planning figure out where to put the ladders, paint cans and cardboard boxes?
Rove's wife, Darby, raised the white garage door one morning last week to show journalists outside the million-dollar brick home that the deputy chief of staff, assistant to the president and senior adviser wasn't home. All the interest came on the eve of his testimony Friday before a grand jury investigating who in the White House might have revealed the identity of a CIA operative.
There was no car in the garage. And the stuff left behind turned out not to be much different from what gathers dust inside most American garages.
The inventory, seen from outside:
_Some cardboard file boxes stacked one on top of the other, labeled "Box 6," "Box 4" and what appears to be "Box 7." No sign of boxes 1, 2, 3 and 5.
_What appear to be paint cans stacked alongside a folded, folding chair.
_A rather large wood crate marked "FRAGILE" and painted with arrows indicating which way is up. On top of the crate, two coolers.
_A tall aluminum ladder.
_A snow shovel leaned in front of another cardboard box.
_Wicker baskets inside of wicker baskets on top of a shelf running the length of the rear wall. Transparent plastic storage bins crammed with indiscernible stuff. Another cardboard box.
_In one corner, the rear wheel of a bicycle sticks out, along with what appears to be a helmet.
_Another ladder, this one green, leaning sideways.
A special counsel is focusing on whether Vice President Dick Cheney played a role in leaking a covert CIA agent's name, according to people familiar with the probe that already threatens top White House aides Karl Rove and Lewis Libby.
The special counsel, Patrick Fitzgerald, has questioned current and former officials of President George W. Bush's administration about whether Cheney was involved in an effort to discredit the agent's husband, Iraq war critic and former U.S. diplomat Joseph Wilson, according to the people.
Fitzgerald has questioned Cheney's communications adviser Catherine Martin and former spokeswoman Jennifer Millerwise and ex-White House aide Jim Wilkinson about the vice president's knowledge of the anti-Wilson campaign and his dealings on it with Libby, his chief of staff, the people said. The information came from multiple sources, who requested anonymity because of the secrecy and political sensitivity of the investigation.
Been a lot of good deconstructing of Miller's stuff. Though a sidebar, her role in all of this has been pretty questionable. I haven't posted much of it because it IS a sidebar (though very apropos in terms of the propoganda buildup to the war, the protection of journalists, etc), but www.talkingpoints.memo has been doing a lot of digging into her "secret security clearance" that's worth reading. Far from being a journalist being planted in the war, she may as well have been on the Pentagon payroll. She's a schill, a ringer, a plant for the administration.
Anyway, one of many choice bits from Josh Marshall (this is actually from Frank Foer's piece):
According to Pomeroy, as well as an editor at the Times, Miller had helped negotiate her own embedding agreement with the Pentagon—an agreement so sensitive that, according to one Times editor, Rumsfeld himself signed off on it. Although she never fully acknowledged the specific terms of that arrangement in her articles, they were as stringent as any conditions imposed on any reporter in Iraq. “Any articles going out had to be, well, censored,” Pomeroy told me. “The mission contained some highly classified elements and people, what we dubbed the ‘Secret Squirrels,’ and their ‘sources and methods’ had to be protected and a war was about to start.” Before she filed her copy, it would be censored by a colonel who often read the article in his sleeping bag, clutching a small flashlight between his teeth. (When reporters attended tactical meetings with battlefield commanders, they faced similar restrictions.)
As Miller covered MET Alpha, it became increasingly clear that she had ceased to respect the boundaries between being an observer and a participant. And as an embedded reporter she went even further, several sources say. While traveling with MET Alpha, according to Pomeroy and one other witness, she wore a military uniform.
When Colonel Richard McPhee ordered MET Alpha to pull back from a search mission and regroup in the town of Talil, Miller disagreed vehemently with the decision—and let her opinions be loudly known. The Washington Post’s Howard Kurtz reprinted a note in which she told public-affairs officers that she would write negatively about his decision if McPhee didn’t back down. What’s more, Kurtz reported that Miller complained to her friend Major General David Petraeus. Even though McPhee’s unit fell outside the general’s line of command, Petraeus’s rank gave his recommendation serious heft. According to Kurtz, in an account that was later denied, “McPhee rescinded his withdrawal order after Petraeus advised him to do so.”
Miller guarded her exclusive access with ferocity. When the Washington Post’s Barton Gellman overlapped in the unit for a day, Miller instructed its members that they couldn’t talk with him. According to Pomeroy, “She told people that she had clearance to be there and Bart didn’t.” (One other witness confirms this account.)
The next 48 hours, or from here until Fitzgerald returns something, is going to be pretty rampant with wild speculation. Two things of note that came out today:
1. It's long been speculated that a number of high level (but not high high level) administration staffers flipped and turned on the White House, or rather, didn't want to take a bullet for them. Raw Story and the New York Daily News are reporting that the big one was John Hannah, senior aide to Cheney and, incidentally, John Bolton.
2. US News and World Report is reporting on rumors that Cheney may be indicted and, if so, may resign, and that in his stead Bush would nominate Rice to replace him. Obviously that's pretty wild speculation, but it does seem possible that Cheney might get indicted (there are a lot of signs that he's the primary target anyway), and if he did, I don't think it would be totally out of left field for him to resign. By most accounts, like Rove, he's already pretty much taken a step away from the business of governance (though who knows how he operates), and is already pretty much in hiding. It wouldn't surprise me if he WANTED to resign anyway, for health reasons and because there's little left for him to do. It would be a snazzy way to elevate Rice if the Bush White House wanted to create a dynasty and run somebody from their team in 2008, which also doesn't seem out of character for them, and if so, it would obviously be Rice.
Note: Don't take any of those two rumors all that seriously, but I thought they were worth relating, just because everybody else is, and that's how media works.
No, if he indicts, nothing else will matter to the GOP smear team than sullying the reputation of the special counsel. Hopefully, he has no unpaid parking tickets, has never jaywalked or removed a label from a mattress. If he has committed these misdeeds, we will see them advertised as a screaming headline on Drudge. They will do a "South Carolina" number on Fitzgerald.
Fitzgerald will become the anti-Ken Starr to the right. He will be characterized as a zealous out of control prosecutor. The ACLU will be enlisted by the Norquist crowd to defend their brave persecuted leader, Mr. Rove. The right will wail that they are the victims of modern Palmer Raids with innocent leaders such as DeLay and Rove being swept out of power by a Vast Left Wing Conspiracy. Wasn't Fitzgerald seen at Blockbuster furtively renting a Michael Moore video and surfing Moveon.org?
All of the pack that relentlessly pursued Clinton will kvetch about the "criminalization of politics." They will see no irony or hypocrisy in their complaint because this is a fight about preserving power not maintaining consistency. The conservative standard is clear - when a Democratic President is the target it is about the "rule of law" and when the "victim" is a Republican it is about the "criminalization of politics."
I think that there are too many eggs in this one basket. If no one important gets indicted, then the fact that what happened was still shitty, irresponsible and cowardly goes by the wayside. Bush should have been nailed to the wall on his shifting statements, his weasel words, but the Dems let him redefine the situation as one of criminality only.
GEOPOLITICAL INTELLIGENCE REPORT10.17.2005
The Importance of the Plame Affair
By George Friedman
There are three rules concerning political scandal in the United States. First, every administration has scandals. Second, the party in opposition will always claim that there has never been an administration as corrupt as the one currently occupying the White House. Three, two is almost never true. It is going to be tough for any government to live up to the Grant or Harding administrations for financial corruption, or the Nixon and Lincoln administrations for political corruption -- for instance, was Lincoln's secretary of war really preparing a coup d'etat before the president's assassination? And sex scandals -- Clinton is not the gold standard. Harding was having sex with his mistress in the Oval Office -- and no discussion was possible over whether it was actually sex. Andrew Jackson's wife was unfairly accused of being a prostitute. Grover Cleveland had an illegitimate child. Let's not start on John F. Kennedy.
Political scandal is the national sport -- the only unchanging spectator activity where a fine time is had by all, save the turkey who got caught this time. That is the fourth rule: Americans love a good scandal, and politicians usually manage to give them one. Thus, the Tom DeLay story is the epitome of national delight. Whether DeLay broke the law or the Texas prosecutor who claims he did is a Democratic hack out to make a name for himself matters little. A good time will be had by all, and in a few years no one will remember it. Does anyone remember Bert Lance or Richard Secord?
As we discussed in previous weeks, scandals become geopolitically significant when they affect the ability of the president to conduct foreign policy. That has not yet happened to George W. Bush, but it might happen. There is, however, one maturing scandal that interests us in its own right: the Valerie Plame affair, in which Karl Rove, the most important adviser to the president, and I. Lewis Libby, the chief of staff to the vice president, apparently identified Plame as a CIA agent -- or at least did not vigorously deny that she was one when they were contacted by reporters. Given that this happened during a time of war, in which U.S. intelligence services are at the center of the war -- and are not as effective as the United States might wish -- the Plame affair needs to be examined and understood in its own right. Moreover, as an intelligence company, we have a particular interest in how intelligence matters are handled.
The CIA is divided between the Directorate of Intelligence, which houses the analysts, and the Directorate of Operations, which houses the spies and the paramilitary forces. The spies are, in general, divided into two groups. There are those with official cover and those with non-official cover. Official cover means that the agent is working at the U.S. embassy in some country, acting as a cultural, agricultural or some other type of attaché, and is protected by diplomatic immunity. They carry out a variety of espionage functions, limited by the fact that most foreign intelligence services know who the CIA agents at the embassy are and, frankly, assume that everyone at the embassy is an agent. They are therefore followed, their home phones are tapped, and their maids deliver scraps of paper to the host government. This obviously limits the utility of these agents. Being seen with one of them automatically blows the cover of any potential recruits.
Then there are those with non-official cover, the NOCs. These agents are the backbone of the American espionage system. A NOC does not have diplomatic cover. If captured, he has no protection. Indeed, as the saying goes, if something goes wrong, the CIA will deny it has ever heard of him. A NOC is under constant pressure when he is needed by the government and is on his own when things go wrong. That is understood going in by all NOCs.
NOCs come into the program in different ways. Typically, they are recruited at an early age and shaped for the role they are going to play. Some may be tracked to follow China, and trained to be bankers based in Hong Kong. Others might work for an American engineering firm doing work in the Andes. Sometimes companies work with the CIA, knowingly permitting an agent to become an employee. In other circumstances, agents apply for and get jobs in foreign companies and work their way up the ladder, switching jobs as they go, moving closer and closer to a position of knowing the people who know what there is to know. Sometimes they receive financing to open a business in some foreign country, where over the course of their lives, they come to know and be trusted by more and more people. Ideally, the connection of these people to the U.S. intelligence apparatus is invisible. Or, if they can't be invisible due to something in their past and they still have to be used as NOCs, they develop an explanation for what they are doing that is so plausible that the idea that they are working for the CIA is dismissed or regarded as completely unlikely because it is so obvious. The complexity of the game is endless.
These are the true covert operatives of the intelligence world. Embassy personnel might recruit a foreign agent through bribes or blackmail. But at some point, they must sit across from the recruit and show their cards: "I'm from the CIA and...." At that point, they are in the hands of the recruit. A NOC may never once need to do this. He may take decades building up trusting relationships with intelligence sources in which the source never once suspects that he is speaking to the CIA, and the NOC never once gives a hint as to who he actually is.
It is an extraordinary life. On the one hand, NOCs may live well. The Number Two at a Latin American bank cannot be effective living on a U.S. government salary. NOCs get to live the role and frequently, as they climb higher in the target society, they live the good life. On the other hand, their real lives are a mystery to everyone. Frequently, their parents don't know what they really do, nor do their own children -- for their safety and the safety of the mission. The NOC may marry someone who cannot know who they really are. Sometimes they themselves forget who they are: It is an occupational disease and a form of madness. Being the best friend of a man whom you despise, and doing it for 20 years, is not easy. Some NOCs are recruited in mid-life and in mid-career. They spend less time in the madness, but they are less prepared for it as well. NOCs enter and leave the program in different ways -- sometimes under their real names, sometimes under completely fabricated ones. They share one thing: They live a lie on behalf of their country.
The NOCs are the backbone of American intelligence and the ones who operate the best sources -- sources who don't know they are sources. When the CIA says that it needs five to 10 years to rebuild its network, what it is really saying is that it needs five to 10 years to recruit, deploy and begin to exploit its NOCs. The problem is not recruiting them -- the life sounds cool for many recent college graduates. The crisis of the NOC occurs when he approaches the most valuable years of service, in his late 30s or so. What sounded neat at 22 rapidly becomes a mind-shattering nightmare when their two lives collide at 40.
There is an explicit and implicit contract between the United States and its NOCs. It has many parts, but there is one fundamental part: A NOC will never reveal that he is or was a NOC without special permission. When he does reveal it, he never gives specifics. The government also makes a guarantee -- it will never reveal the identity of a NOC under any circumstances and, in fact, will do everything to protect it. If you have lied to your closest friends for 30 years about who you are and why you talk to them, no government bureaucrat has the right to reveal your identity for you. Imagine if you had never told your children -- and never planned to tell your children -- that you worked for the CIA, and they suddenly read in the New York Times that you were someone other than they thought you were.
There is more to this. When it is revealed that you were a NOC, foreign intelligence services begin combing back over your life, examining every relationship you had. Anyone you came into contact with becomes suspect. Sometimes, in some countries, becoming suspect can cost you your life. Revealing the identity of a NOC can be a matter of life and death -- frequently, of people no one has ever heard of or will ever hear of again.
In short, a NOC owes things to his country, and his country owes things to the NOC. We have no idea what Valerie Plame told her family or friends about her work. It may be that she herself broke the rules, revealing that she once worked as a NOC. We can't know that, because we don't know whether she received authorization from the CIA to say things after her own identity was blown by others. She might have been irresponsible, or she might have engaged in damage control. We just don't know.
What we do know is this. In the course of events, reporters contacted two senior officials in the White House -- Rove and Libby. Under the least-damaging scenario we have heard, the reporters already knew that Plame had worked as a NOC. Rove and Libby, at this point, were obligated to say, at the very least, that they could neither confirm nor deny the report. In fact, their duty would have been quite a bit more: Their job was to lie like crazy to mislead the reporters. Rove and Libby had top security clearances and were senior White House officials. It was their sworn duty, undertaken when they accepted their security clearance, to build a "bodyguard of lies" -- in Churchill's phrase -- around the truth concerning U.S. intelligence capabilities.
Some would argue that if the reporters already knew her identity, the cat was out of the bag and Rove and Libby did nothing wrong. Others would argue that if Plame or her husband had publicly stated that she was a NOC, Rove and Libby were freed from their obligation. But the fact is that legally and ethically, nothing relieves them of the obligation to say nothing and attempt to deflect the inquiry. This is not about Valerie Plame, her husband or Time Magazine. The obligation exists for the uncounted number of NOCs still out in the field.
Americans stay safe because of NOCs. They are the first line of defense. If the system works, they will be friends with Saudi citizens who are financing al Qaeda. The NOC system was said to have been badly handled under the Clinton administration -- this is the lack of humint that has been discussed since the 9-11 attacks. The United States paid for that. And that is what makes the Rove-Libby leak so stunning. The obligation they had was not only to Plame, but to every other NOC leading a double life who is in potentially grave danger.
Imagine, if you will, working in Damascus as a NOC and reading that the president's chief adviser had confirmed the identity of a NOC. As you push into middle age, wondering what happened to your life, the sudden realization that your own government threatens your safety might convince you to resign and go home. That would cost the United States an agent it had spent decades developing. You don't just pop a new agent in his place. That NOC's resignation could leave the United States blind at a critical moment in a key place. Should it turn out that Rove and Libby not only failed to protect Plame's identity but deliberately leaked it, it would be a blow to the heart of U.S. intelligence. If just one critical NOC pulled out and the United States went blind in one location, the damage could be substantial. At the very least, it is a risk the United States should not have to incur.
The New York Times and Time Magazine have defended not only the decision to publish Plame's name, but also have defended hiding the identity of those who told them her name. Their justification is the First Amendment. We will grant that they had the right to publish statements concerning Plame's role in U.S. intelligence; we cannot grant that they had an obligation to publish it. There is a huge gap between the right to publish and a requirement to publish. The concept of the public's right to know is a shield that can be used by the press to hide irresponsibility. An article on the NOC program conceivably might have been in the public interest, but it is hard to imagine how identifying a particular person as part of that program can be deemed as essential to an informed public.
But even if we regard the press as unethical by our standards, their actions were not illegal. On the other hand, if Rove and Libby even mentioned the name of Valerie Plame in the context of being a CIA employee -- NOC or not -- on an unsecured line to a person without a security clearance or need to know, while the nation was waging war, that is the end of the story. It really doesn't matter why or whether there was a plan or anything. The minimal story -- that they talked about Plame with a reporter -- is the end of the matter.
We can think of only one possible justification for this action: That it was done on the order of the president. The president has the authority to suspend or change security regulations if required by the national interest. The Plame affair would be cleared up if it turns out Rove and Libby were ordered to act as they did by the president. Perhaps the president is prevented by circumstances from coming forward and lifting the burden from Rove and Libby. If that is the case, it could cost him his right-hand man. But absent that explanation, it is difficult to justify the actions that were taken.
Ultimately, the Plame affair points to a fundamental problem in intelligence. As those who have been in the field have told us, the biggest fear is that someone back in the home office will bring the operation down. Sometimes it will be a matter of state: sacrificing a knight for advantage on the chessboard. Sometimes it is a parochial political battle back home. Sometimes it is carelessness, stupidity or cruelty. This is when people die and lives are destroyed. But the real damage, if it happens often enough or no one seems to care, will be to the intelligence system. If the agent determines that his well-being is not a centerpiece of government policy, he won't remain an agent long.
On a personal note, let me say this: one of the criticisms conservatives have of liberals is that they do not understand that we live in a dangerous world and, therefore, that they underestimate the effort needed to ensure national security. Liberals have questioned the utility and morality of espionage. Conservatives have been champions of national security and of the United States' overt and covert capabilities. Conservatives have condemned the atrophy of American intelligence capabilities. Whether the special prosecutor indicts or exonerates Rove and Libby legally doesn't matter. Valerie Plame was a soldier in service to the United States, unprotected by uniform or diplomatic immunity. I have no idea whether she served well or poorly, or violated regulations later. But she did serve. And thus, she and all the other NOCs were owed far more -- especially by a conservative administration -- than they got.
Even if that debt wasn't owed to Plame, it remains in place for all the other spooks standing guard in dangerous places.
"This report may be distributed or republished with attribution to Strategic Forecasting, Inc. at www.stratfor.com."
The special counsel in the C.I.A. leak case has told associates he has no plans to issue a final report about the results of the investigation, heightening the expectation that he intends to bring indictments, lawyers in the case and law enforcement officials said yesterday.
The prosecutor, Patrick J. Fitzgerald, is not expected to take any action in the case this week, government officials said. A spokesman for Mr. Fitzgerald, Randall Samborn, declined to comment.
Or he might just make no indictments and issue no report at all. Which wouldn't just be an unsatisfactory situation for the Democrats, but anyone who doesn't want CIA agents' identities leaked by politicians or their appointees. It doesn't seem impossible, though (he may not even have the power to issue a report, anyhow; if it required dispensation from the Whitehouse, I can't see it happening).
He's got pretty much independent authority at this point, after he made his case to federal judges, and the US Attorney General recused himself (thus placing the entire investigation in his hands, where it stays--it would have otherwise been up to Ashcroft now Gonzales to investigate). He would have to get replaced as U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois for anybody to be able to affect the results at this point. He can issue reports, indict, subpoena, do anything he wants to whether the White House likes it or not.
The only scenario I had been holding to to check myself with is he might not have indicted anybody (or only small fish) and instead release a huge report ala Tabuga or Warren in which he roasts the shit out of everybody but admits he doesn't have the evidence to indict them. That he very confidentally released this information ("reports will not be the result here") tells you pretty much everything you need to know regarding the possibility of indictments. It's pretty much inconcievable to anybody who has followed this closely that he wouldn't do one or the other. It's POSSIBLE, but not a very reasonable guess, to say he'd just not do anything, let the grand jury expire, and go on his merry way.
What's more, that he won't issue a report also probably tells you that the targets of indictments will be AT LEAST at the level of Libby and Rove. If he had just nabbed some small fish, he would have still been very likely to release a report (there's a phrase that's not coming to me, when a prosecutor will release a report identifying targetted but non-indictable people who were involved in something, as a way of legally saying "we can't get these people for the crime, but we're pretty certain they had something to do with it"; I think Nixon fell into this category for Watergate, originally--anybody know it?) laying out what he thought happened, even if he couldn't indict on all of it. The lack of a report indicates the, instead of a report, he'll be making his knowledge known through criminal means.
Anyway, I agree with you incidentally about the eggs in one basket thing. This is surely larger than any criminal offense. But as a fan of the great parlor game of politics, it's impossible for me to not follow and comment on the possible criminal proceedings against the administration deputies.
"Unindicted co-conspirator" was the phrase I was looking for.
I believe that we already know that AN indictment will happen. The tea leaves, such as there are, aren't very unclear there. The "we don't even know that a crime was committed!" camp are at best fooling themselves and at worst fooling their readers. We can be nearly certain that Plame was indeed covert (otherwise it seems very unlikely the CIA would have made a criminal referral and a grand jury would have taken a few years on the matter, if looking at her file would clear up that no crime has been committed)(and you'd be amazed how many conservative commentators are still pushing this line), and that her outing was indeed clearly illegal. Nor do I think that, at this stage, Fitzgerald is still fishing for evidence in that general sense, unable to prove anything and just hoping something comes out. Because A. it seems unlikely that we would have reached this point if that were true, and B. If we had, it seems very likely a report would be issued explaining why the grand jury has gone on for two years without being able to prove anything. I think that the fact that Fitzgerald has no intent of filing a report is very strong evidence that he has something.
I furthermore think that the lack of report indicates he has some indictments coming down on some pretty big players. If he was just able to nab an aide for the leak, say, but has spent this long probing all the higher ups, it would seem likely to me that even in the event of low-level indictments (some random aide, say) a report would also be issued that would indicate as unindicted co-conspirators those higher ups. The only other reasonable scenario in which he might still indict a low-level aide but not file a report would be if he really believed that it was just some random aide operating independently and the guys above him had no real involvement but, let's face it, nobody believes that (not even the conservative supporters).
So, to me, the lack of a report signifies indictments to those higher ups directly, with an ongoing criminal investigation to follow (another grand jury on Cheney, say, or trying to use the criminal leverage to squeeze more out of the targets).
The only other real alternative is if Fitzgerald has just this whole time been engaged in desepration and trying to exact some kind of public relations toll on the administration, and he's really had nothing this whole time, but that doesn't strike me as a very reasonable conclusion. Fitzgerald is not Ronnie Earle. He's a loyal Republican (here's some insight into how backstabbing Washington insiders can be--there's already rumors of Fitzgerald, if he really nails the balls to the wall, running for Senate in Illinois as a Republican in 2008, 10, or 12, in much the vein of a Spitzer) and I don't think, coming into this with any particular axe to grind (I do believe that of Earle, incidentally, but not in an unfair or partisan sense, more in the sense of how a District Attorney might have it in for a known and powerful gangster constantly skirting the law in his district). I think he's DEVELOPED an axe to grind over the course of the investigation once he went to Washington and everybody started lying to him and treating him with the same sort of evasion and back-dealing that they do the Washington press corps--Rove and Libby constantly use those tactics to great effect with the press (which is what they are trained to do), but those same tactics wind people up in jail when used against an independent criminal prosecutor who hates being lied to).
Incidentally, I also predict that the Democrats pick up at least 2 Senate seats in 2006 (maybe more), that chamber switches to Democratic control by 2012, and that our next president is Republican, our next vice president female or black.
Goddamn I kick ass.
Thanks for reminding me. I should start making a wish list. Do they have a Michael Moore DVD collection yet? I need to start handing them out to children.
Note, I would also place about even odds, within my scenario, on Rove in fact being indicted for the leak itself. In which case, say hello to pound me in the ass prison.
Mine's already made out, I like to think ahead. By the way, if you win, do you want your complete Ann Coulter collection in paperback or hardcover?
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