Thursday, July 07, 2005

Plame retaliation

There is a good article by Peter Bergen on fruitcake Laurie Mylroie, the half of the Gruesome Twosome who is not currently in jail (Judy now has a use for her toothbrush shiv). One paragraph caught my eye:

"Mylroie has also recently taken on the role of defender of Ahmed Chalabi, the head of the Iraqi National Congress, who is accused of providing fraudulent information about Iraq's WMD programme and passing intelligence to Iran. In May, in the conservative newspaper the New York Sun, Mylroie described Chalabi as the victim of a 'longstanding grudge' by the CIA."

The fact that they are fighting the CIA has been a long-standing theme of the neocons. The battle between the Bush Administration and the CIA reached its peak when the CIA was officially excluded from National Security Council meetings, a mighty strange decision when you think about it.

Which leads me to three questions about the Plame Game:

  • Why did Judith Miller discuss the matter with someone in the White House, and then not write about it?

  • How does Novak continue to slide through this mess without facing any legal problems?

  • Why would the White House attempt to get revenge on Wilson by the rather clumsy, and potentially dangerous, dirty trick of outing Plame?

Possible answers:

  1. From an article in the Washington Post:

    "Sources close to the investigation say there is evidence in some instances that some reporters may have told government officials - not the other way around - that Wilson was married to Plame, a CIA employee."


    "It is a felony to knowingly identify a covert CIA operative. But lawyers for some media say they believe Fitzgerald has no evidence that a government official committed that crime."

    The theory would be that somebody in the White House was complaining to Miller about the fact that Wilson had embarrassed the White House by raising the Niger matter after the attack on Iraq, and by chance, due to her knowledge of the proliferation beat, Miller then disclosed to this White House official that Wilson was married to an undercover CIA proliferation expert named Plame. The crime in question can only apply to someone "having or having had authorized access to classified information that identifies a covert agent", so Miller's gossip, not being 'authorized access', would not be enough to fit under the statute. It is a nice question whether you can fall back under the statute if you use the gossip to then seek out the kind of 'authorized access' referred to in the statute, but Fitzgerald probably doesn't want to press the point. If Fitzgerald lacks the basis for a prosecution under the statute, he'd have to be going after somebody for perjury (or even treason), and the vehemence with which he is attacking Miller suggests that he really needs Miller's evidence to back up Cooper's evidence in making a perjury charge. Cooper's source gave Cooper a specific waiver to keep Cooper out of jail, something the source could afford to do as long as Miller keeps quiet.

  2. The Novak question is answered if Novak is a CIA asset.

  3. Which leads to the final question. What if the White house was furious with the CIA for setting them up on the Niger matter? After all, it was the CIA which picked Wilson for the job. It was the CIA which complained about Bush's October 2002 speech and had reference to the Iraq-Niger connection removed, and it was the CIA which complained about the 2003 State of the Union speech when the Niger claim mysteriously reappeared. However, the CIA had seen a draft of the State of the Union speech and had said nothing about it. Then, at a time to cause maximum political embarrassment, after the attack on Iraq, Wilson raised the matter again. Is it little wonder that the paranoids in the White House saw this series of events as a CIA dirty trick? That explains the fact that the initial spin was that Plame herself had suggested Wilson. That is probably not true, but it is quite possible that Rove and the others believed it to be true, as part of a CIA plan to undermine the neocon case for an attack on Iraq. When that plan failed, the next step was to use Wilson to embarrass the White House as part of the ongoing war between the CIA and the neocons. Once the White House made its big mistake in going after the CIA through outing Plame, Novak's column, which covers all the elements of the criminal offence, represents the final stage of the CIA attack. By going after Plame, the White House wasn't just attacking Wilson, but making it clear to the CIA that it would not hesitate to attack CIA undercover operations as part of the battle between the neocons and the White House. Looked at this way, what the White House did was much closer to treason - intentional undermining of the 'war on terror' (which must fit into the Patriot Act somewhere) - than mere perjury.

Novak's column led to the discussion of whether a crime had been committed, and ultimately to Fitzgerald's investigation and the Grand Jury. It appears probable that somebody lied in testifying in order to cover up for the outing of Plame, which is funny if you consider that the outing of Plame may not have been a crime (it's always the cover-up that gets them!). The lesson in all this is that you don't ever want to get into a dirty tricks food fight with the CIA, or you might end up covered in pie.