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saturday, july 16, 2005

Frank Rich
Seasoned audiences of presidential scandal know that there's only one certainty ahead: the timing of a Karl Rove resignation. As always in this genre, the knight takes the fall at exactly that moment when it's essential to protect the king.
Frank is more optimistic than I am. But he's a smart guy; maybe there's cause for hope.
You'll like this part, too:

... That the investigation has dragged on so long anyway is another indication of the expanded reach of the prosecutorial web.

Apparently this is finally beginning to dawn on Mr. Bush's fiercest defenders and on Mr. Bush himself. Hence, last week's erection of the stonewall manned by the almost poignantly clownish Mr. McClellan, who abruptly rendered inoperative his previous statements that any suspicions about Mr. Rove are "totally ridiculous." The morning after Mr. McClellan went mano a mano with his tormentors in the White House press room - "We've secretly replaced the White House press corps with actual reporters," observed Jon Stewart - the ardently pro-Bush New York Post ran only five paragraphs of a wire-service story on Page 12. That conspicuous burial of what was front-page news beyond Murdochland speaks loudly about the rising anxiety on the right. Since then, White House surrogates have been desperately babbling talking points attacking Joseph Wilson as a partisan and a liar.

Of course, all the Bushies have to do is whisper to National Review and the Wall Street Journal that Joe Wilson is Saddam Hussein's love child and a double secret agent for North Korea, and before long all those reasonable people on the Right Blogosphere will be repeating this as gospel and wondering why us whackjob lefties can't understand simple facts.    

This case is not about Joseph Wilson. He is, in Alfred Hitchcock's parlance, a MacGuffin, which, to quote the Oxford English Dictionary, is "a particular event, object, factor, etc., initially presented as being of great significance to the story, but often having little actual importance for the plot as it develops." Mr. Wilson, his mission to Niger to check out Saddam's supposed attempts to secure uranium that might be used in nuclear weapons and even his wife's outing have as much to do with the real story here as Janet Leigh's theft of office cash has to do with the mayhem that ensues at the Bates Motel in "Psycho."

This case is about Iraq, not Niger. The real victims are the American people, not the Wilsons. The real culprit - the big enchilada, to borrow a 1973 John Ehrlichman phrase from the Nixon tapes - is not Mr. Rove but the gang that sent American sons and daughters to war on trumped-up grounds and in so doing diverted finite resources, human and otherwise, from fighting the terrorists who attacked us on 9/11. That's why the stakes are so high: this scandal is about the unmasking of an ill-conceived war, not the unmasking of a C.I.A. operative who posed for Vanity Fair.

Never forget.

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11:02 pm | link

Why Terrorism?
In today's Washington Post, Colbert King writes about the motivations of terrorists.
I want to know what motivated his followers in Virginia and the four dead bombers in England. Notwithstanding their access to higher living standards and modern education, the British bombers and some of Timimi's followers found violent jihad an attraction. Some of the men who attended a Sept. 16, 2001, meeting in Fairfax -- at which Timimi was reported to have told that "the time had come for them to go abroad and join the mujaheddin engaged in violent jihad in Afghanistan" -- actually left the United States for terrorist training camps. Ponder that.
Immediately after 9/11 there were a few who speculated the root cause of Middle Eastern discontent was poverty. But others pointed out that Osama bin Laden and the 9/11 perpetrators were not poor, and terrorism seems a rather ineffective way to assuage poverty.  
Another common argument is that terrorists are reacting to western policies in the Middle East. This argument makes a bit more sense, considering that in the past century or so both Europe and America have enacted a lot of damnfool policies in the Middle East. But I don't think this alone accounts for the intensity of the rage of jihadists, especially before the Iraq War. And it doesn't explain terrorism as a tactic, because I don't see it accomplishing anything.  
And if the London bombers, who had lived all or most of their lives in middle-class British suburbs, were primarily motivated by disagreement with policies, I don't think mass murder would have been the first action they chose to take. Picketing, maybe. Handing out pamphlets. Blogging. No, mass murder is an expression of something beside disagreement.   
In the July 9 Times of London, Roger Scruton made two apparently contradictory claims about the motives of terrorists. First, Scruton wrote, throughout history, terrorists rarely emerge from the downtrodden classes. Rather, they are people who were either "privileged members of the rising elite" and "no worse off from the point of view of material and social privileges than you or me." But then he says, that the rage of this rising elite inevitably is turned on people who are more elite than they are:
It seems to me that we will be nearer to understanding terrorism if, instead of looking at what terrorists have in common, we look at what is common to their victims. The targets of terrorism are groups, nations or races. And they are distinguished by their worldly success — either material or social. The original Terror was directed against the French aristocracy — soon supplemented by all kinds of real and imaginary groups supposed to be aiding them. The Russian anarchists targeted people with wealth, office or power. The Great Terror of Stalin, initiated by Lenin, was directed against groups alleged to be profiting from the system that impoverished the rest. The Nazi terror picked on the Jews, because of their undoubted material success, and the ease with which they could be assembled as a group. Even the nationalist terrorists of the IRA and Eta variety are targeting nations thought to enjoy wealth, power and privilege, at the expense of others equally entitled. Islamic terrorists bomb the cities of Europe and America because those cities are a symbol of the material and political success of the Western nations, and a rebuke to the political chaos and deep-rooted corruption of the Muslim world.   
In other words, we're looking at a variation of "they hate us for our freedom." In this case, "they hate us because we're successful." It's all about envy, Scruton says.
I can think of exceptions to Scruton's "privileged members of the rising elite" versus privileged members of the established elite model. One of the most long-established terrorist groups in the U.S., the Ku Klux Klan, targeted people who were deprived and powerless, for example.
Scruton continued,

Success breeds resentment, and resentment breeds hate. This simple observation was made into the root of his political psychology by Nietzsche, who identified ressentiment, as he called it, as the distinguishing social emotion of modern societies: an emotion once ordered and managed by Christianity, now let loose across the world. I don’t say that Nietzsche’s analysis is correct. But surely he was right to identify this peculiar motive in human beings, right to emphasise its overwhelming importance, and right to point out that it lies deeper than the springs of rational discussion.

In dealing with terrorism you are confronting a resentment that is not concerned to improve the lot of anyone, but only to destroy the thing it hates.

Is Scruton saying that one's own success causes one to resent others? Why would that be true? Or is he saying that one person's success causes resentment in others? The latter does not cover Scruton's "rising elite" model. Certainly resentment leads to hate, but I think we need to be a little clearer about where the resentment comes from. I don't think Scruton is helping us much.
The "they hate us because of our freedom/success/good looks" argument is compelling because it absolves us of all responsibility. We don't have to bother ourselves with looking at our own faults, or considering whether our actions or policies might be contributing to the resentment. This argument assures us that we are innocent victims of someone else's mindless, animalistic rage. And this belief in turn gives us permission to take any aggressive action we want to take against those who might be our enemies. 
From this perspective, we may not for a second even consider that our own policies or actions may be a factor, even a small factor. If we cede even a patch of the absolute moral high ground it weakens the perception that we have a right to do whatever we want to them. This is, I think, why righties fly into a snit over any suggestion that American policies might be even partly at fault for anti-Americanism. (As Michelle Malkin likes to scream, "Blame America first!")
Granted, there are some on the extreme Left who go too far in blaming America for all that's gone wrong in the world. But this is a small minority of the leftie fringe. Most of us don't want to blame America for anything. We just think a mature and rational people should be able to acknowledge and learn from mistakes.
However, as I've said, I don't think American policies, mistaken or otherwise, are at the root of rage against us. Nor is poverty, or even Islam. These may all be contributing factors, but they are not the basis of the compulsion to commit acts of terrorism.  
I've been re-reading Eric Hoffer's The True Believer (copyright 1951). Hoffer's analysis of fanaticism in the mid-20th century gets closer to the reality of the jihadists than Roger Scruton did last week. I wish I could post the whole book; on every page I see passages that relate to what we're going through today, and not just with terrorists.  
The True Believer, Hoffer wrote, is a person who feels incomplete and insecure. "His only source of strength is in not being himself but part of something mighty, glorious and indestructible," Hoffer writes. 
To ripen a person for self-sacrifice he must be stripped of his individual identity and distinctness. He must cease to be George, Hans, Ivan, or Tadao--a human atom with an existence bounded by birth and death. The most dramatic way to achieve this end is by the complete assimilation of the individual into a collective body. The fully assimilated individual does not see himself and others as human beings. When asked who he is, his automatic response is that he is a German, a Russian a Japanese, a Christian, a Moslem, a member of a certain tribe or family. He has no purpose, worth and destiny apart from his collective body; and as long as that body lives he cannot really die.
There are myriad factors, internal and external, personal and social, that predispose people to fanaticism. These factors are not unique to Muslims. They aren't unique to the Right or the Left. And I'm not sure if there's anything the non-fanatic can do about the fanaticism of others. The hard-core fanatic will perceive reason and kindness as deceit and oppression.
However, IMO this doesn't absolve us of all responsibility. Critical analysis of past and present actions and policies, and willingness to acknowledge and correct mistakes, is not "blaming America." Nor is trying to understand the pain and passions that inspire terrorism in any way "making excuses" for it. 
And I think anyone who believes he occupies an absolute moral high ground is well on the way to becoming a fanatic himself.
Colbert King continues, 

This takes me back to a 2003 column in which I interviewed Jessica Stern, then a lecturer at Harvard's Kennedy School of Government and author of "Terror in the Name of God: Why Religious Militants Kill."

Stern didn't think the Bush administration had a clear understanding of the religious extremists we are facing. Poverty in and of itself doesn't cause terrorism, she pointed out. To be sure, terrorist leaders recruit among the disenfranchised and target orphanages -- such as those in Pakistan -- as feeder schools for jihadist organizations.

The ranks of terrorist groups, however, also include young men and women from the middle class. The feelings they seem to share across the board, she said, had to do with humiliation, a desire for a clear identity, and a belief that they can control more through their deaths than through their lives. They have come to see murder-suicide and martyrdom as just rewards for avenging the harm done to their religion and to Muslims in other countries.

A misuse of Islam by terrorist leaders, to be sure. Murderers in the name of an extremist ideology? Yes. But -- and here's the lesson London learned that America cannot ignore -- alienation, blind hatred and fanaticism are not foreign imports. They can be homegrown. And just like firecrackers, they can explode.

And, as I said, these factors are not unique to Muslims.

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12:27 pm | link

Public Notice
To anyone wandering in from the Washington Post article: Be advised I do not have time to answer your emails or comments challenging my opinions.
The Maha motto: I am not your monkey.
Further, comments left on this page that I judge to be flame bait will be deleted. This is a long-standing policy here.
If you want to understand my opinions, feel free to wander about this blog, read the archives, go through the old feature articles, google for specific keywords. Whatever floats your boat. If you don't do this and just want to argue, I assume you're not interested in what I think, anyway. So, scram. 
11:05 am | link

Rove Watch Watch
Naturally, the Right Blogosphere has determined that Karl Rove is an innocent victim, and the Left remains certain he is the spawn of the Devil. This will remain so no matter what Patrick Fitzgerald does. IMO the only development that will matter is whether Fitzgerald does or does not obtain indictments.
That being said, it's reported that Matt Cooper will talk about his Grand Jury testimony on "Reliable Sources" this Sunday, and we may get some more clues then. My only prediction is that everything Cooper says on Sunday will be parsed and overanalyzed to death. The entire political Blogosphere rushes at every new crumb of information like sharks in a feeding frenzy.
Today's crumb is a story from the New York Times about the State Department memo Colin Powell took to Africa on July 7, 2003. This one's been rattling around the Blogosphere for a while, but it's nice to see the establishment newsies catching up.  See Armando and Jeralyn for analysis.

As with yesterday's leaks, there's not really an awful lot here. In fact, the most interesting part of this isn't the content of the leak so much as its very existence. We now appear to be caught in a cycle of competing leaks from the various sides in the Plame case, with this anti-White House tidbit seemingly being leaked in response to yesterday's pro-White House leak.

So suddenly Plamegate -- which no one at the White House will talk about on the record, because it might get them indicted . . . I mean, because it might compromise Patrick Fitzgerald's investigation -- has sprung a whole shitload of leaks.

And whaddya know! They've all appeared on the same day (document dump Friday, no less), they all help shore up Karl Rove's alibi, and they all seem to have come from either Justice Department officials who've been "briefed" on case, or from attorneys who are very familiar with Karl Rove's defense.

Funny how that works.

Do not lose sight of the fact that every little crumb has been dropped by someone with a vested interest in the outcome. Crumbs dropped yesterday were probably intended to lead us away from a possible Matt Cooper / Time magazine exposé.
Other than Billmon's (see also "Mr. Hadley Gets a Candygram") the best commentary I've seen this morning is by Murray Waas at TAP. Money quote:
... what has propelled the investigation -- and led to the extraordinary jailing of the Times’ Judith Miller -- has been the strong belief by federal investigators that Rove, Novak, and others may have misled them and the public, and that one or more of the participants may have devised a cover story with others to avoid public or legal culpability.
Atrios links to this Editor and Publisher article about Judy Miller's role, and adds,
I wonder what it would take (if true) for Keller and the gang to come to the conclusion that Miller is a player and not simply a reporter. Her behavior in Iraq should've been enough.
I guess we'll find out eventually. Maybe.
Ohmygosh! I read in the NY Times that Severus Snape is the new defense against the dark arts teacher in volume 6! Does this mean something terrible happens to him at the end? Don't tell me; I don't have a copy yet.
8:26 am | link

Somebody Else Read This
We didn't really wear boxing gloves. No matter. I really don't want to read this. David von Drehle is a gentleman, but I have little hope this has turned out well. Somebody else read it and let me know if I said anything really embarassing and must go into seclusion.
Update: Well, I finally read most of it. It's not too bad. The one detail I'd like to correct is that, on 9/11, I didn't come out of a subway to see the towers ablaze. I came out of the subway and walked about a dozen blocks and then took an elevator to an upper floor in a high-rise, and from there I saw the towers ablaze. Other than that it seems accurate.
Also, I'd like to request that no one dump a lot of attitude on Betsy's page. Be nice. 
7:28 am | link

friday, july 15, 2005

Rove Watch
The newest "dog ate my homework" story from the White House is that Karl Rove learned about Valerie Plame from Bob Novak in July 2003. Another variation of this tale says that Bob Novak called Karl Rove with the Plame story, and Rove said "I heard that, too." Where had he heard it? From another reporter, about a week earlier.
As Steve Soto says,
And if this is starting to sound like an intentionally designed game of telephone triangle between someone at State, on to Miller, on to Novak, and then on to Rove, who then told Russert and others that Plame was “fair game”, then you are right.
However, yesterday we learned that the exact same info Novak allegedly gave to Karl was in a classified State Department document from 2002. And it appears Colin Powell had this document before July 7, meaning before The Reptile wrote his July 14 column and before Karl says they spoke. 
The usual Kool-Aiders are ready to pin the blame on reporters and exonerate Rove. And, of course, Novak and Miller are GOP stooges from way back, so it's possible there's something to this. But Digby remembers that Novak claimed the story was given to him--"I didn't dig it out, it was given to me. They thought it was significant, they gave me the name and I used it."

I don't envy Patrick Fitzgerald.

Some of our best columnists weigh in on Traitorgate today. Paul Krugman writes,

What Mr. Rove understood, long before the rest of us, is that we're not living in the America of the past, where even partisans sometimes changed their views when faced with the facts. Instead, we're living in a country in which there is no longer such a thing as nonpolitical truth. In particular, there are now few, if any, limits to what conservative politicians can get away with: the faithful will follow the twists and turns of the party line with a loyalty that would have pleased the Comintern.  

And once these GOP operatives ripped the guts out of political discourse, they lament the "breakdown" in civility when we try to take our nation back from over the brink.

The issue now is whether the Karl Rove leak affair marks a tipping point in the way President Bush's administration is viewed by the public, treated by the press and regarded by Republicans in Congress.

The furious counterattacks on Rove's behalf over the past few days suggest that Bush's supporters are worried that unless this wound is cleansed quickly, the president could confront an increasingly skeptical electorate and emboldened media. Both could take a toll on the president's support within his own party.

And Dan Froomkin wrote yesterday that the White House is genuinely worried, perhaps more so than at any other time in Bush's presidency.
Essentially, these distinguished gentlemen say, the Bush White House is up against something they can't control or spin away--a possible indictment.  Karl Rove is brilliant at creating beautiful fantasy castles for the faithful to live in so they don't have to confront painful truths about the Bush Regime. And Bush's popularity after the 9/11 attacks, followed by control of Congress, protected Bush from too much scrutiny, such as public hearings.
I've been saying nearly since 9/11 that if Bush had to answer to public hearings, he'd be bounced out of office in nanoseconds. I know... dream on.
But Patrick Fitzgerald's investigation is a bigger cow pie than the Blossom has ever stepped in before. And Bush may have been able to control the Texas judiciary when he was governor, but the federal courts are a tougher nut to crack. Even for Bush.
10:58 am | link

Bush Betrays Brits
The story thus far: Last night I posted that there is a connection between the recent London terrorist bombings and an undercover sting operation the Bushies botched last year. More details and commentary, courtesy of hard-working leftie bloggers:

Juan Cole:

John Aravosis at AmericaBlog brings up the awful possibility, based on an ABC report, that the Public Relations-hungry Bush administration may have interfered with a British and Pakistani investigation of an al-Qaeda plot to bomb London that ties into July 7.

Be sure to read the rest of Professor Cole's post. It's the best summary of this atrocity I've seen yet.
Based on an ABC News report tonight, there is evidence that the Bush Administration's political use of the Terror Threat Advisory System, may have resulted in preventing British authorities from identifying and rounding up many of the individuals responsible for last week's bombings in London.
THE DEADLY MIX OF POLITICS AND NATIONAL SECURITY MAY EXPLODE IN THE GEORGE BUSH’S FACE  If you thought your stomach was sick over Valerie Plame and Karl Rove, your heart will be twisted with the tale coming out about Naeem Noor Khan.  You will remember his name as the explosion over the beginning of the Democratic National Convention last year.  You may remember the heightened security. Now the latest news. Khan is connected to the bombings in London last year. The announcement of his arrest stunned the intelligence here and across the Atlantic. It may have had deadly results in London last week.
Bush’s re-election campaign is apparently the reason the cell had to be rolled up before the Birts were entirely ready: ...  The Bush Administration leaked information about an ongoing investigation, blew the cover of a double-agent, and caused the British to have to attempt to destroy the cell before they where prepared. As a result, some in the cell got away, and it appears that some of the London bombers where either connected to the original cell or members of that cell. ...  The Bush people apparently wanted to take the spot light away from the Democratic Convention, and so they announced information that they should have announced. And that may very well have lead directly to the bombers in London getting out of a British snare.
We'll never know if the 7/7 bombings might have been avoided had the Bushies not botched the sting operation. And we'll never know if 9/11 might have been prevented had the Bushies not had their heads shoved up their butts in the summer of 2001. But we do know that the Bushies are putting politics above national security. That much is plain.
More links:
There are a lot of twists and turns in the story, but it does appear that excessive eagerness to catch the headlines around the time of the Democratic Convention may have inadvertently set off a chain reaction that finally exploded itself in London last Thursday. The suggestion is that when Noor Khan’s name broke in the press, the British police were forced to acted in haste, and that Muhammad Sadique Khan, one of the July 7 bombers, was apparently connected - by a telephone link - to one of the people under surveillance.

The London bombers, per ABC News, are connected to an Al Qaeda plot planned two years ago in Lahore, Pakistan. Pakistani authorities recovered the laptop of a captured Al Qaeda leader, Mohammed Naeem Noor Khan, on July 13, 2004. On that laptop, they found plans for a coordinated series of attacks on the London subway. According to an expert interviewed by ABC, “there is absolutely no doubt that Khan was part of a worldwide Al Qaeda operation, not just in the United States but also in Great Britain and throughout the west.”

The names in the computer matched a suspected cell of Pakistani Britons, many of whom lived near the town of Luton, England. According to ABC, authorities thought they had stopped the subway plot with the arrest of more than a dozen people last year. Obviously, they did not.

Because BushCo let the cat out of the bag, the media got a hold of Khan’s name, his Al Qaeda contacts found out he was co-opted, and they fled. The Brits had to have a high speed chase to catch some of them as they fled, and, according to press reports, the Brits and Pakistanis both feared that some slipped away.

Those who escaped may have been some of the guys involved with the plot to blow up the London subway last week. Some may have escaped because of Bush administration negligence in keeping such operations highly secret.

Establishment media haven't made this connection yet. Rightie bloggers haven't made this connection yet, either, with the exception of John Cole, who acknowledges it doesn't look good for the Bush Administration. The rest of the Right Blogosphere is dutifully reporting straight news off the wires about those awful British bombers.
On the other hand, a dim little light may have dawned in Captain Ed's head:
 The Khan capture didn't just involve plans for an attack on British transportation systems. Khan also had detailed information on American financial institutions, which led to a security alert at the time in Washington DC and New York. AQ waited until the heat died down from Khan's arrest and then executed the British attack anyway. What would keep them from trying the same strategy here in the US?
Thank you, genius, for finally acknowledging what we lefties have been saying for a couple of years--the "flypaper" theory is bunk.
If you run into news stories or blog posts with more relevant details, please feel free to add them to the comments. I'll be updating this post throughout the day as new comments come up.
7:09 am | link

thursday, july 14, 2005

Loose Lips Kill Brits
John at AMERICAblog reports that the Bush Administration may be responsible for botching an intelligence operation connected to the London bombings.
ABC News says, 

Officials tell ABC News the London bombers have been connected to an al Qaeda plot planned two years ago in the Pakistani city of Lahore.

The laptop computer of Naeem Noor Khan, a captured al Qaeda leader, contained plans for a coordinated series of attacks on the London subway system, as well as on financial buildings in both New York and Washington.

"There's absolutely no doubt he was part of an al Qaeda operation aimed at not only the United States but Great Britain," explained Alexis Debat, a former official in the French Defense Ministry who is now a senior terrorism consultant for ABC News.

Does the name Naeem Noor Khan sound familiar? From the Maha archives, August 9, 2004:

Christian Science Monitor:
Pakistan, Britain are furious that US officials confirmed name to newspaper.

Reuters reported on Saturday that Pakistani intelligence officers said US officials blew the cover on an Al Qaeda mole last week, when the mole's identity was confirmed to The New York Times. The Times originally identified the source of their information as "senior American officials." The mole, computer expert Mohammad Naeem Noor Khan, was arrested secretly in mid-July in Pakistan. He had agreed to help authorities track down Al Qaeda militants in Britain and the United States.

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan (CNN) -- The effort by U.S. officials to justify raising the terror alert level last week may have shut down an important source of information that has already led to a series of al Qaeda arrests, Pakistani intelligence sources have said.

Until U.S. officials leaked the arrest of Muhammad Naeem Noor Khan to reporters, Pakistan had been using him in a sting operation to track down al Qaeda operatives around the world, the sources said.

Here's another one, from the New Zealand Herald, August 9, 2004:

Outing of spy stuns security experts

By PETER GRAFFLONDON - The revelation that a mole within al Qaeda was exposed after Washington launched its "orange alert" this month has shocked security experts, who say the outing of the source may have set back the war on terror.

Reuters learned from Pakistani intelligence sources at the weekend that computer expert Mohammad Naeem Noor Khan, arrested secretly last month, was working under cover to help the authorities track down al Qaeda militants in Britain and the United States when his name appeared in newspapers around the world.

And why was the Security Alert raised to orange? To draw attention away from the nomination of John Kerry, that's why.

The Bushies blew what had been a promising promising sting in order to justify raising the terror alert on August 1, 2004. Kerry had accepted the nomination on July 29.

You'll remember this terror alert, too. Tom Ridge announced we had "unusually specific" threats against the New York Stock Exchange and Citigroup in Manhattan, Prudential's headquarters in Newark and the headquarters buildings of the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank in Washington. This information had been obtained from Mr. Khan's computer.

A couple of days later, the Bush Administration admitted that the information predated 9/11; it was collected in 2000 and 2001.

Joe Conason wrote last August,

On Aug. 1, as every alert citizen knows, Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge held an unusual Sunday press conference to announce that the Bush administration had raised its color-coded threat level from yellow to orange in certain selected places - in New York and New Jersey's financial centers and the World Bank headquarters in Washington, D.C. In his opening remarks, Mr. Ridge told America that the decision was provoked by "new and unusually specific information."

The stolid bureaucrat went on with boilerplate rhetoric about the administration's brilliant performance in securing the homeland. Somewhat gratuitously, he urged us all to"understand that the kind of information available to us today is the result of the President's leadership in the war against terror."

Mr. Ridge did not, however, explain what he meant in describing this scary information as "new." His response to
reporters who asked for more specifics was opaque and nearly incoherent. Within 48 hours, we learned why he wouldn't give a straight answer.

...Two days after the Ridge press conference, the truth about the "new" threat leaked out. On the front pages of The New York Times and The Washington Post, various unnamed officials revealed that the data cited by Mr. Ridge was actually "three or four years old." According to the newspapers, there is no fresh evidence of a planned assault by Al Qaeda on East Coast financial institutions. 

You will not be surprised to learn that the first Dem to express doubts about the scam was Howard Dean. For this, he was crucified by the "msm," disowned by John Kerry, and Joe Lieberman questioned if Dean was in his right mind. Sigh.

This is why we love you, Howard.

John at AMERICAblog has a lot more detail.

9:18 pm | link

Bigger Than Karl Rove
Billmon suggests we spend less time defending Joe and Valerie and more time on the bigger issue--the disinformation campaign that stampeded America into war.  
By defending the Wilsons, Left Blogostan simply helps Right Blogostan keep the focus on them, instead of Rove and his White House dirty tricks operation. It boggles the mind that more than a year after Fitzpatrick subpoened the records of the "White House Iraq Group," and nearly a week after the Newsweek story highlighted the obvious connection between Plame's outing and the administration's WMD disinformation campaign, virtually nothing about this shadowy committee has appeared in the mainstream press. If Left Blogostan can do anything useful here, it will be to urge (we're not strong enough to intimidate) the corporate media to keep the focus on Rove, and to point the direction we think they should be going to develop the larger story.
He has a point. By now the facts about Joe Wilson's trip to Niger have been well and faithfully presented by myriad leftie bloggers. What's being done to Joe and Valerie Wilson is a terrible injustice, and it's natural to want to defend them. But if we get too caught up in the details of the Ballad of Joe and Valerie we'll be playing into the Right's hands. 
First, at this point, Rove's fate is entirely up to Patrick Fitzgerald. If Rove is indicted, I believe he'll be tossed overboard pretty damn fast. But if he isn't, he'll remain exactly where he is, and the GOP will continue to protect him. Bush isn't going to fire Rove if Fitzgerald doesn't indict him, no matter what facts come out in public. There's nothing any of us can do to change that.
But second, and more importantly--you know the Right is brilliant at raising a big stink over factual minutiae to distract the public from real issues. For example, as I've written elsewhere this week, many on the Right insist that Iraq did too try to buy uranium from Niger. As proof they point to some British intelligence about Iraqi officials visiting Niger in 1999 for unknown reasons. Why else would those officials have been in Niger, except to buy uranium? And if you try to argue with the righties, pretty soon you're caught up in a little tangle of pointless speculation about something that may or may not have happened six years ago and which wouldn't matter even if it did happen.
The bigger issue is that, as we now know, and as the International Atomic Energy Agency knew before the Iraq invasion, and even before the 2003 State of the Union address--Iraq had squat for a nuclear program. Iraq posed no nuclear threat. They had some yellowcake uranium stored in barrels near Tuwaitha, but nothing was being done to process that uranium for use in weapons. And this was known when Bush delivered his 2003 SOTU address.
By the time Bush delivered his 2003 State of the Union Address, with the famous Sixteen Words, the IAEA had inspected all of Saddam's old nuclear sites and had reported they had found no weapons-grade uranium or nuclear weapons of any sort, and that Iraq was nowhere close to developing nuclear weapons of any sort. So, even if those Iraqi officials had purchased yellowcake uranium from Niger in 1999, in 2003 Iraq lacked the capability to process that uranium. And the IAEA was saying this in public before Bush delivered the 2003 SOTU address. Yet Bush said in that speech,
The International Atomic Energy Agency confirmed in the 1990s that Saddam Hussein had an advanced nuclear weapons development program, had a design for a nuclear weapon and was working on five different methods of enriching uranium for a bomb. 
But that wasn't a lie, the righties will say, because in the early 1990s the IAEA did confirm what Bush said. The fact that in 2003 it was well known this statement was no longer true is, as Condi might say, not interesting to us. And, of course, Bush also said,
The British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa.
The Right will argue to the death that this statement was not a lie. The story came from the British government, not us. We didn't know the Brits were looking at forged documents. And in 1999, also according to the British government, Iraqi officials visited Niger, and they may have tried to buy uranium. Who's to say they didn't?
But how lame is it that? If Bush had said, "We have reason to believe some Iraqi officials visited Niger in 1999, possibly to buy uranium, although there is no evidence Iraq acquired uranium from Niger," this would have been a less than compelling reason to go to war in 2003, would it not?  
If I asked you how our friend Mary was doing, and you said you'd seen her yesterday and she seemed just fine, I would assume that Mary was just fine. If you didn't bother to mention that while you were watching Mary she was struck and flattened by a falling piano, then you would have given me false information, even if the words you spoke were, literally, true. 
Bush's words in the 2003 SOTU may have been true, but they were not honest. If he had said--
The International Atomic Energy Agency confirmed in the 1990s eleven or so years ago that Saddam Hussein had an advanced nuclear weapons development program, had a design for a nuclear weapon and was working on five different methods of enriching uranium for a bomb. However, in 1998 the IAEA reported that Saddam's nuclear program wasn't going anywhere, and this month IAEA inspectors in Iraq reported that they weren't finding any evidence of an ongoing nuclear program.
--that would have been honest, as well as true. But that's not what he said.
And Bush's misstatement cannot be attributed to "faulty intelligence," because what the IAEA did or didn't know, and its reports on Iraq going back several years, had all been made public. You can find it all on the IAEA web site, for pity's sake. Check out their In Focus section for links to IAEA reports on Iraq and lots of other places. Go here for links to the old pre-Bush II reports from the 1990s. Enjoy.
Bottom line, Bush presented a false picture of the threat posed by Saddam Hussein, and he did this deliberately, with the intention of deceiving the public into supporting his glorious little war. This is the plain, unadulterated, unassailable truth. We don't have to wait for Patrick Fitzgerald to know it's the truth.
Don't Forget the Downing Street Memos. The Downing Street Memos helped bring the deceptions back to public attention. And, indeed, the DSMs and the 2003 SOTU speech are parts of the same scandal, not separate issues. Keep visiting the Big Brass Alliance web site for the latest DSM news. And don't forget Downing Street Day, July 23.
That being said, Sidney Blumenthal has an excellent piece in Salon called "Rove's War" that clearly explains the whole Plame saga. He provides some details on how Joe Wilson received the assignment for the Niger trip I don't believe I've seen elsewhere. And no, his wife didn't hand out the assignment.
See also this "Rove Slime Machine Watch" at TPM Cafe. Josh Marshall and others anticipate that Patrick Fitzgerald will get the Rove Slime Treatment if Rove is indicted. No doubt the Slime Machine is wound up and ready to spew as soon as Karl gives the go ahead.
Updates: For a pure example of the righties' pathological tendency to get caught up in meaningless minutae and fail to see the plain truth, read this guy. He's still hung up on "but it was the British who said it" excuse. This boy not only can't see the forest for the trees; he can't see the trees for the leaves.
Think Progress posts a guide to "How to Talk to a Conservative About Karl Rove (If You Must)," but frankly, it's futile. You could hand them a note from God asserting that Karl did indeed compromise national security for a personal vendetta, and Bush did lie in the 2003 SOTU, and they'll sputter, "... but...but...but...Bush was just repeating information from a British report!" Hopeless.  
The rightie linked above was reacting to this Bloomberg article, "Wilson's Iraq Assertions Hold Up Under Fire from Rove Backers," of which Digby says, "Bookmark this." See also this commentary by Daniel Schorr in The Christian Science Monitor--"Rove leak is just part of a larger scandal." Conclusion:
The role of Rove and associates added up to a small incident in a very large scandal - the effort to delude America into thinking it faced a threat dire enough to justify a war.
That's the core issue. Karl is just a little part of it.
Also via Digby, Polly USA explains where the Bushies learned about Valerie Plame--a classified CIA document.    
2:38 pm | link

Naughty Bits II
Obscured by the smoke and fire of Traitorgate is one little white flag of surrender:
House leaders said yesterday that they can't take up a Social Security bill before this fall, dealing a serious blow to any hope that Congress might enact an overhaul of the nation's retirement system this year.

The Senate is no closer to action than the House of Representatives.

That means the legislation, if it's ever taken up, is likely to be pushed into 2006, where election-year politics could make it virtually impossible to tackle the type of controversial changes that President Bush envisions.



10:00 am | link

Naughty Bits
Josh White writes in today's Washington Post that Abu Ghraib tactics were first used at Guantanamo: 

Interrogators at the U.S. detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, forced a stubborn detainee to wear women's underwear on his head, confronted him with snarling military working dogs and attached a leash to his chains, according to a newly released military investigation that shows the tactics were employed there months before military police used them on detainees at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq.

The techniques, approved by Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld for use in interrogating Mohamed Qahtani -- the alleged "20th hijacker" in the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks -- were used at Guantanamo Bay in late 2002 as part of a special interrogation plan aimed at breaking down the silent detainee.

A month ago, White and Jim VandenHei reported that the Defense Department said it had obtained valuable information from Qahtani about Osama bin Laden, al Qaeda, and the 9/11 attacks. Setting aside whether forcing someone to wear underpants on his head is torture, one could argue that if information obtained by unsavory methods helps prevent terrorist attacks, what's the deal? And that's a compelling argument. I'm sure many rightie bloggers today will make that argument.
I would say there's a clear distinction between forcing Mohamed Qahtani to wear underwear on his head and torturing innocent men to death. One act may lead to the other, but one act does not justify the other. At the very least, something seems to have gotten out of hand, some floodgate of sadism opened. And the question is, how was it opened?  Josh White continues,

The report's findings are the strongest indication yet that the abusive practices seen in photographs at Abu Ghraib were not the invention of a small group of thrill-seeking military police officers. The report shows that they were used on Qahtani several months before the United States invaded Iraq.

The investigation also supports the idea that soldiers believed that placing hoods on detainees, forcing them to appear nude in front of women and sexually humiliating them were approved interrogation techniques for use on detainees.

A central figure in the investigation, Maj. Gen. Geoffrey Miller, who commanded the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay and later helped set up U.S. operations at Abu Ghraib, was accused of failing to properly supervise Qahtani's interrogation plan and was recommended for reprimand by investigators. Miller would have been the highest-ranking officer to face discipline for detainee abuses so far, but Gen. Bantz Craddock, head of the U.S. Southern Command, declined to follow the recommendation.

Miller traveled to Iraq in September 2003 to assist in Abu Ghraib's startup, and he later sent in "Tiger Teams" of Guantanamo Bay interrogators and analysts as advisers and trainers. Within weeks of his departure from Abu Ghraib, military working dogs were being used in interrogations, and naked detainees were humiliated and abused by military police soldiers working the night shift. ...

... "Reasonable people always suspected these techniques weren't invented in the backwoods of West Virginia," said Tom Malinowski, the Washington director of Human Rights Watch. "It's never been more clear than in this investigation.

I wouldn't be so quick to write off what might go on in the backwoods of West Virginia, but let's continue ...

First, the widespread and indiscriminate torture practices used at Abu Ghraib and elsewhere are not just morally reprehensible; they are stupid and counterproductive. These practices are hurting our efforts against terrorism. And they can't be doing much to further whatever this week's rationale is for being in Iraq.

Second, responsibility for torture at Abu Ghraib rests in the Bush Administration. It's likely a wall of plausible deniability has been built around Bush himself, but it seems Rummy is not so well protected. Rummy may not have been cheering while innocent detainees were chained to ceilings and beaten to death. But he was the one who signed the torture permission slip. And he is the one who enabled cruelty and murder in our name 

8:32 am | link

wednesday, july 13, 2005

The Sentence, Plus and Minus
While we wait for the next revelation, I want to go back to one ancient artifact of the Traitorgate Saga--the Sixteen Words. You'll remember the Sixteen Words from Bush's 2003 State of the Union speech, which were:
The British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa. [2003 State of the Union Address]
These words were dropped into the speech to show the urgent need to go to war with Iraq. We've learned since that the evidence was forged and the National Security Office had been told by the CIA that the claim was unsupported.
Righties still point to a British report that says some Iraqi officials visited Niger in 1999, but the Brits can only speculate what the purpose of this visit was. Rather a flimsy casus belli, especially four years later.  
But the Sixteen Words were not the only howler in that speech. Take, for example, the sentence before The Sentence.
The International Atomic Energy Agency confirmed in the 1990s that Saddam Hussein had an advanced nuclear weapons development program, had a design for a nuclear weapon and was working on five different methods of enriching uranium for a bomb.  [2003 State of the Union Address]
This IAEA fact sheet on Iraq's nuclear weapons program shows that Iraq was working hard to enrich uranium to make a bomb -- in the early 1990s. More than a decade earlier. But if you scroll down, you'll see that by 1998 Iraq's nuclear weapons program was pretty much at a standstill, according to the IAEA: "There were no indications that there remains in Iraq any physical capability for the production of amounts of weapons-usable nuclear material of any practical significance." And that's where the IAEA stood with Iraq until weapons inspectors were readmitted at the end of 2002.
And on the very day Bush delivered the 2003 State of the Union address, IAEA Director-General Mohamed ElBaradei told CNN:

I'm talking about the nuclear file, and as I mentioned, in the area of nuclear I think we're making progress. On the assumption that Iraq will continue to provide us evidence, we should be able to come to a conclusion that Iraq has no nuclear weapon, which is progress.

So, the statement about what the IAEA "confirmed" was as big a falsehood as the uranium purchase story, but Bush has gotten a pass on that one.
Now, what about the sentence after The Sentence? Oh, my--it's the aluminum tubes.
Our intelligence sources tell us that he has attempted to purchase high-strength aluminum tubes suitable for nuclear weapons production.
In fact, in 2002 there had been "a fairly open disagreement in the U.S. intelligence community on whether the tubes were for centrifuges or for artillery rockets in Iraq's military program," Walter Pincus wrote in the Washington Post two years ago. While Our Gal Judy Miller was writing up White House talking points on the aluminum tubes for the New York Times
"intelligence sources" were arguing that the tubes actually were not suitable for use in centrifuges without considerable alteration. Walter Pincus wrote in 2003,

Analysts from the State and Energy departments said the tubes were too long and too thick for centrifuges; CIA and Pentagon analysts said they could be cut down and reamed out. Their debate was continuing as the agencies were putting together the still-classified national intelligence estimate on Hussein's weapons program.

In July, the United States had intercepted one shipment and obtained a tube; it was coated with a protective chemical that would have had to be removed if it were to be put to a nuclear purpose.

In this story from May 2005, Pincus describes how the White House simply ignored analysis that contradicted the nuclear use story. And two analysts whose work supported the nuclear use story, later disproved, received job performance awards.
This may be old information for many of you, but I think it's worth bringing it up to be sure we don't forget.
9:05 pm | link

Middle Ground?
I have to give credit to Stephen Green of Vodka Pundit, a long-time Bush supporter. Mr. Green at least recognizes that Karl Rove did something ethically questionable, if not illegal, regarding the outing of Valerie Plame. Eventually, Patrick Fitzgerald may decide the same thing, and Stephen Green may turn out to be correct. In any event, Mr. Green appears to be keeping an open mind.
But I can't say the same thing for some of the commenters. A number of them have convinced themselves that Valerie Plame hadn't been undercover for years. "I haven't seen any evidence anywhere that she was ever a covert operative," says one, telling me he hasn't looked real hard. A couple of them brought up Sanfy Berger. But this was my favorite:
Plame is a Demo political operative employed by the CIA analogous to the current scandal in Canada. I can't believe she could find her ass with either hand as a spy or a WMD expert. She isn't acting like she is in danger. If she really was a good spook she should know. President Bush threatened her job by invading Iraq and confronting North Korea and Iran.
She has kids to put through college and an old man for a husband.  
I know this is illiberal, but so help me, when I read smears like that I really wish smearers could be deported. Or sterilized. Maybe both.
On to this afternoon's Traitorgate links:
Eric Alterman writes that the lies coming from the Right are becoming more and more desperate.
They are now even spreading rumors, believe it or not, that Wilson was the source who blew his wife’s cover, if you can believe that.  Also, the Rove camp's claim that Matt Cooper "burned" his source is nonsensical.  Boy are these guys grasping at straws.
They are grasping at straws, but at the moment that's enough. Most of the righties seem to be buying it, Stephen Green excepted, and if the Right can keep enough disinformation in circulation, those citizens paying little close attention (which is most of 'em) will absorb the meme that Rove really didn't do anything wrong, and those bad lefties are just picking on him.  
Via Dan Froomkin, more GOP strategy: 

Jim VandeHei writes in The Washington Post: "The emerging GOP strategy -- devised by Mehlman and other Rove loyalists outside of the White House -- is to try to undermine th[e] Democrats calling for Rove's ouster, play down Rove's role and wait for President Bush's forthcoming Supreme Court selection to drown out the controversy, according to several high-level Republicans. . .

In other words, you can kiss off any dim hope (as if) that Bush would nominate a moderate to fill O'Connor's seat. He's going to find the stinkiest piece of meat he can find in order to lure us lefties away from Karl. Be prepared.

Froomkin also writes,

... not everyone in the Republican Party is playing along. An awful lot of senior members of Bush's party are sitting this one out for now.

That's what happens when associations become liabilities. If enough senior members of the GOP decide that Bush is a liability to their political future, Bush may find the Oval Office isn't such a safe haven after all. 
Via Steve Soto, we learn that 
There may be some White House officials who, as the AP’s Tom Raum size=2reported just a while ago, may be “privately expressing doubts about whether Rove can survive”, but this is irrelevant. Tossing Rove overboard would mean nothing, since he would keep working for Bush, and it isn’t going to happen anyway unless Bush knows Rove is toxic for him. And given how close these two are politically, the only way that happens is if Bush himself is implicated.
However (BIG however), 

No matter what Rove did here, it isn't really the story that Bush is worried about. What the White House is worried about is whether the Rove screw-up acts as the gateway into what the White House has been doing since early 2002 as part of a disinformation and intimidation campaign against all of its critics, most notably through the White House Office of Global Communications set up by Karen Hughes at the time of Wilson's Niger trip in early 2002 that she and Dan Bartlett worked on with Jim Wilkinson among others, which operated to sell the war and deal with opponents. Since the Vice President was involved in this effort, you can be sure that Bolton was involved as a backstop against Powell and Armitage. The real question here is how far did these folks go in dealing with opponents and misusing the national security apparatus for political purposes.

Yes, that's right. I mentioned Karen Hughes and Dan Bartlett, who had much contact with the media. As did the forgotten man, Ari Fleischer, whose previous testimony according to Bloomberg just now is also being looked at closely by special counsel Fitzgerald.

You remember Ari, right?

We've been waiting for five years for the tipping point that would show the public who Bush really is. Are we close? Or are we kidding ourselves?
Digby just posted a handy-dandy synopsis of the whole Plame saga. Clip & save.
Billmon writes that the bushies are following standard procedure--slime and defend. And they're using essentially the same slime they used two years ago, when Wilson's New York Times article was published. And here's an intriguiging bit--
Rove is facing an opponent who has some effective weapons of his own, including, apparently, the uncremated remains of Bob Novak. One sign of just how scared the Rovians are of Fitzgerald is the fact that they haven't pointed any of their slime guns in his direction, at least not yet.
The real reason the Reptile has managed to skate through this mess unblemished--so far--is that the Right is leavng him alone. The operatives on cable news and talk radio aren't sliming him 24/7 as they are Plame and Wilson. And for the most part, the Left, although suspicious, is waiting to see what comes to fruition from Fitzgerald's investigations regarding Ol' Bob.
4:32 pm | link

Rightie Required Reading
If righties could read, I'd ask them to read this.
The lies by people like Victoria Toensing, Representative Peter King, and P. J. O'Rourke insist that Valerie was nothing, just a desk jockey.  Yet, until Robert Novak betrayed her she was still undercover and the company that was her front was still a secret to the world.  When Novak outed Valerie he also compromised her company and every individual overseas who had been in contact with that company and with her.
This is by Larry Johnson, a former CIA colleague of Valerie Plame's. The wingnuts insist Plame had already been "outed" because her name and her marriage to Joe Wilson were public knowledge. However, her role with the CIA was not public knowledge until The Reptile published it. If righties could read perhaps they could get this straight.
Regarding the now-known-to-be-false story that Plame gave Joe Wilson the Niger assignment, Johnson says,
She did not.  She was not a division director, instead she was the equivalent of an Army major.  Yes it is true she recommended her husband to do the job that needed to be done but the decision to send Joe Wilson on this mission was made by her bosses.
That seems fairly clear, doesn't it?
Another common rightie excuse is that "Joe Wilson lied." Johnson says,
Although Joe did not lie let's follow that reasoning to the logical conclusion.  Let's use the same standard for the Bush Administration.  Here are the facts.  Bush's lies have resulted in the deaths of almost 1800 American soldiers and the mutilation of 12,000.  Joe Wilson has not killed anyone.  He tried to prevent the needless death of Americans and the loss of American prestige in the world.

But don't take my word for it, read the biased Senate intelligence committee report.  Even though it was slanted to try to portray Joe in the worst possible light this fact emerges on page 52 of the report:  According to the US Ambassador to Niger (who was commenting on Joe's visit in February 2002), "Ambassador Wilson reached the same conclusion that the Embassy has reached that it was highly unlikely that anything between Iraq and Niger was going on."  Joe's findings were consistent with those of the Deputy Commander of the European Command, Major General Fulford.
The more deranged among the righties still insist that Saddam Hussein did try to buy yellowcake uranium from Niger, even though 1.8 tonnes (1 tonne = 1.1023 U.S. tons) of low enriched uranium and 500 tonnes of natural uranium were stored, unused, a few miles south of Baghdad, in the old Osirac nuclear facility near Tuwaitha. And even though the fragmented remains of Iraq's uranium processing centrifuges were buried in a rose garden. And even though, eventually, even the Washington Times acknowledged the Niger story was based on forged documents.
As Billmon says, "It looks like the wing nuts are emptying the kitchen cabinets, the closets and the attic looking for silly arguments tnat can be used on Karl Rove's behalf."
But righties must accept every single lie, however many times they've been debunked. They must protect the entire fabric of misdirection and falsehoods woven by the VRWC. They may not admit that even one thread is wrong, because then the whole fantasy that is the Bush Administration will unravel, and the ugly truth will be exposed naked and unprotected to the light of day.
And then, heads will explode.
So, I do not expect the hard-core Right to capitulate. If Bush goes down, the extreme Right will go with him.
Update: eRiposte has a point-by-point rebuttal of rightie talking points at The Left Coaster. And see also "Novak Co-operated With Prosecutors" at Whatever Already. 
Update update: Josh Marshall catches a fib. 
10:40 am | link

On the Other Hand ...
Last week, Robert Kuttner wondered why Bob Novak wasn't facing jail, and whether prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald was conducting an honest investigation.
This week, Kuttner has second thoughts.   

Here's what we've learned:

First, Fitzgerald is playing it straight. Novak has apparently testified -- otherwise he'd be in jail with Miller. Fitzgerald has extensively investigated Bush officials. Karl Rove has likely testified, too.

I reasoned that Fitzgerald needn't subpoena other reporters because Novak could tell all. But after doing more reporting, I've learned that the reality is far more complicated.

Under the CIA nondisclosure law, an illegal disclosure has to be deliberate and knowing, and the CIA agent clandestine. Other published reports suggest that Fitzgerald is pursuing a possible case against Rove and other suspected leakers for perjury or obstruction of justice, which are easier to prove, especially if Rove was not entirely truthful in his testimony.

Fitzgerald would need others to corroborate the leaks Rove was peddling. Hence the effort to compel Miller and Matt Cooper of Time Magazine to testify.

We really have learned quite a bit in the past week, haven't we? Of course, most of what we've learned just confirms speculation that's been kicking around the Left Blogosphere for a couple of years.

Kuttner continues:

The response of Rove's lawyer, Robert Luskin, to recent reports in Newsweek, which somehow got hold of reporter Cooper's subpoenaed memos fingering Rove, is highly instructive. Rove had previously insisted that he had never disclosed Valerie Plame's ''name." Now his lawyer admits that Rove, in trying to discredit former ambassador Joseph Wilson, told Cooper that Wilson's ''wife" was a CIA agent but didn't mention her by name.

So Rove is playing word games. What he said was literally true -- but a lie, since a reporter given this tip could easily identify Wilson's wife. Whether or not he used her name, Rove was deliberately outing Plame. If he played the same word games before the grand jury, he's in trouble.


Pay close attention to this part: 

The White House spinners also contend that Plame was not really a clandestine and protected CIA agent because she worked at CIA headquarters. This is also nonsense. Plame, a specialist on weapons of mass destruction, was under cover when she undertook sensitive missions. She was not identified as CIA. Blowing her cover harmed her career and put her at risk.

The "she wasn't really undercover" is a major rightie talking point. As Kuttner explains, this is utterly bogus. But the Right Blogosphere is more concerned about covering Bush Administration ass than it is about national security.

Why do righties hate America?

Finally, Kuttner says,

After a week's reporting and reflection, I also suggest a different view of press privilege and the public interest. In the Alice in Wonderland world of the Plame-Rove story, Judith Miller, who worked hand in glove with the Bush administration to publish bogus stories about Saddam Hussein's alleged nuclear program, is a hero -- for going to jail to protect, once again, her friends in the administration. And Time-Warner, which turned over Matt Cooper's notes (for the wrong reasons -- Time-Warner's corporate interests -- but that's another story) is the villain. Yet it may be Cooper's testimony that finally sinks Rove. So who's the hero and what's the public interest?

As Michael Kinsley has observed, not all leaks are created morally equal. It's one thing for reporters to protect a brave whistle-blower who has taken personal risks to serve the public interest. It is another thing for reporters to collude with the powerful to punish the whistle-blower, in this case Joseph Wilson, and his wife, an innocent bystander.

Pretty good summation.

In the Rightie Alternate Universe (RUA RAU), it was Wilson and Plame who burned Karl Rove.  The RAU is in perpetual spin cycle, of course, but they're workin' overtime today. Billmon, Steve Soto and Digby take the rightie talking points apart. 

Jim VandenHei of the Washington Post reports that the GOP is going on the offensive to defend Karl Rove. But Tim Russert said "One Republican said to me last night, if this was a Democratic White House, we'd have Congressional hearings in a second." Yes, even an empty suit like Russert stumbles on a fact now and then.

While you're at Crooks and Liars, btw--the Daily Show does Karl Rove.  

See also "Classic Rove" by Harold Meyerson in today's Washington Post.

7:26 am | link

tuesday, july 12, 2005

Righties Are Soft on Terrorism
At Bloggerman, Keith Olbermann gets to the heart of the Karl Krisis.
Karl Rove is a liability in the war on terror....

To paraphrase Mr. Rove, liberals saw the savagery of the 9/11 attacks and wanted to prepare indictments and offer therapy and understanding for our attackers; conservatives saw the savagery of 9/11 and the attacks and prepared to ruin the career of one of the country’s spies tracking terrorist efforts to gain weapons of mass destruction -- for political gain.

Politics first, counter-terrorism second -- it’s as simple as that.

In his ‘story guidance’ to Matthew Cooper of Time, Rove did more damage to your safety than the most thumb-sucking liberal or guard at Abu Ghraib. He destroyed an intelligence asset like Valerie Plame merely to deflect criticism of a politician. We have all the damned politicians, of every stripe, that we need. The best of them isn’t worth half a Valerie Plame. And if the particular politician for whom Rove was deflecting, President Bush, is more than just all hat and no cattle on terrorism, he needs to banish Rove -- and loudly. ...

I damn well don’t want political morons in positions where they can deliberately screw up counter-terrorism measures. I know we already have to live with the idea that they’ll do it accidentally.

As David Corn wrote yesterday,

Either Rove knew that he was revealing an undercover officer to a reporter or he was identifying a CIA officer without bothering to check on her status and without considering the consequences of outing her. Take your pick: in both scenarios Rove is acting in a reckless and cavalier fashion, ignoring the national security interests of the nation to score a political point against a policy foe.

It's more and more clear that "fighting terrorism" means something very different to righties than it does to me (and most liberals, I suspect). I think the ultimate goal of U.S. anti-terrorism policy should be to secure the safety of American citizens from terrorist attacks as much as possible. Further, I think all policies of the "war on terror" should be put to a cost/benefit test to be sure the policy truly serves that ultimate goal and is not, in fact, undermining that goal.  

But to the Right, the "war on terror" represents both an inexhaustible political resource and a permission slip to be as xenophobic as they wannabe. Whether American citizens are more or less safe from terrorism as a result of U.S. policy is a secondary matter. Plus, as James Wolcott expressed so snarkily yesterday, the courage and sacrifices of our soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan are giving the armchair commandos one hell of a testosterone-by-proxy rush.

Keith Olbermann continues,

Any time I’ve criticized the current administration here or on the air, I’ve gotten the same idiotic emails from the same idiotic people who’ve never been touched by terrorism. They brand me a liberal who doesn’t understand that terrorists want the next unattended bag to be filled with WMD. Their position is incredible on its face; in the light of the confirmation of the Karl Rove revelation it would assume the quality of farce, were it not so deadly serious.

One reason the "war on terror" means different things to different people is that Americans are not equally sharing the risks of terrorism. From an editorial in today's Los Angeles Times:

The bombings in London drive home the point: It isn't charming villages in Britain's Lake District that are at risk, nor the ranch towns of the U.S. Plains states. Terrorists are surely aware that they could only make Americans furious, not afraid, by blowing up a chunk of South Dakota's Mt. Rushmore.

Terrorists strike where they can do the most damage and kill the most people. Terrorists strike cities. We've seen what a terrorist attack in New York City can do. A terrorist attack in the middle of Kansas would kill three cows and a coyote. American citizens who live and work in cities need government at all levels to do secure cities from terrorism as much as possible. People who live in the middle of Kansas don't need this. Yet our government treats security as just one more pork barrel, and priorities are determined by politics instead of by risk.

E.J. Dionne writes in today's Washington Post:

"We're fighting the enemy in Iraq and Afghanistan and across the world so we do not have to face them here at home."

That's what President Bush said in his speech yesterday at the FBI Academy in Quantico. After the attacks on Britain, our closest ally in the war on terrorism, it is an astonishing thing to say. "It's a very insensitive statement with regard to the British," said Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.). "Tony Blair must absolutely have blanched when he heard that."

What does Bush's statement mean? Appearing on "Fox News Sunday," Fran Townsend, the president's homeland security adviser, said that the war in Iraq attracts terrorists "where we have a fighting military and a coalition that can take them on and not have the sort of civilian casualties that you saw in London."

Huh? If British troops fighting in Iraq did not stop the terrorists from striking London, then what is the logic for believing that American troops fighting in Iraq will stop terrorists from striking our country again? Intelligence reports -- and Townsend's own words -- suggest that Iraq has become a terrorist breeding ground since the American invasion. How, exactly, has that made us safer?

I am not so naive to think, as this London Times article suggests, that "if we don't provoke them, maybe they will leave us alone." The conscious and subconscious motivations of terrorists are complex, and many (most, IMO) of those motivations are unrelated to anything we've done. Past American policy in the Middle East is just one factor among many. As I've written before, under some circumstances military action abroad might be a necessary part of fighting terrorism. Further, I believe those circumstances prevailed in Afghanistan immediately after 9/11. But they did not prevail in Iraq. And the Bush Administration's narrow focus on Iraq is putting America at greater and greater risk. 

Dionne writes that Republican Senator Susan Collins "is pushing for new formulas to direct more federal money to the places most at risk."

Wow, what a concept!

Collins also says we have "overinvested" in airline security at the expense of mass transit and ports. "We always look backward, rather than anticipate the next threat." That's the Bushie approach to terrorism in a nutshell. Before 9/11, the Bush State Department downplayed the threat from Osama bin Laden in spite of urgent warnings from the outgoing Clinton Administration and a memo entitled "Bin Laden Determined to Attack Inside the United States." The terrorist attacks of 9/11 got their attention regarding airline security, but they continued to look backward at the decade-old Saddam Hussein issue instead of the risks that existed in 2001 and after. Finally, some members of Congress are challenging Bush Administration priorities, but what took them so long?

As we wait for the next episode of the Karl Rove Show, Marshall Whittmann writes that, short of indictments, Karl's job is secure. And it's secure because Bush needs Rove's political skill to salvage his sorry-ass second term. If Rove's shenanigans put America at greater risk, that's a secondary matter.

8:30 am | link

monday, july 11, 2005

Closer and Closer
Did you know that Karl Rove was fired from Bush Sr.'s 1992 presidential campaign because of a leak to Bob "The Reptile" Novak? I didn't until I read about it at MyDD. Blogs rule.
More Plamegate:

Fitzgerald has asserted in his court filings that testimony from Cooper and now-jailed New York Times reporter Judith Miller is all he needs to wrap up his investigation into whether a crime was committed. So what Rove said about Plame would therefore appear to be either one of two things -- or the only thing -- that Fitzgerald is still trying to nail down.

· Rove and his lawyer's denials that he was involved in telling reporters about Plame now appear to be at best based on Clintonian hairsplitting about whether he literally used her name and identified her as covert or he simply described her as the CIA-employed wife of Ambassador Joseph C. Wilson IV, the administration critic that White House was eager to discredit at the time.

· President Bush and press secretary Scott McClellan's denials that Rove was involved in the Plame matter now appear to be at best based on the position that their responses to broad questions about Rove and Plame were met with narrowly constructed responses specifically about whether Rove leaked "classified information." Or is it possible Rove lied to them?

We're all speculating that Fitzgerald is trying to make a criminal case against Rove, but of course we may all be mistaken. We won't know until there are indictments. 
Crime or no crime, David Corn writes, Rove should be fired.  
In a July 11, 2003 email that Time magazine reporter Matt Cooper sent to his bureau chief, Cooper noted he had spoken to Rove on "double super secret background" and that Rove had told him that Wilson's "wife...apparently works at the agency on wmd issues." "Agency" means CIA. This is not good news for Rove and the White House. ...
...  This email demonstrates that Rove committed a firing offense. He leaked national security information as part of a fierce campaign to undermine Wilson, who had criticized the White House on the war on Iraq. Rove's overworked attorney, Robert Luskin, defends his client by arguing that Rove never revealed the name of Valerie Plame/Wilson to Cooper and that he only referred to her as Wilson's wife. This is not much of a defense. If Cooper or any other journalist had written that "Wilson's wife works for the CIA" -- without mentioning her name -- such a disclosure could have been expected to have the same effect as if her name had been used: Valerie Wilson would have been compromised, her anti-WMD work placed at risk, and national security potentially harmed. Either Rove knew that he was revealing an undercover officer to a reporter or he was identifying a CIA officer without bothering to check on her status and without considering the consequences of outing her. Take your pick: in both scenarios Rove is acting in a reckless and cavalier fashion, ignoring the national security interests of the nation to score a political point against a policy foe.
But then David Corn asks, "Can George W. Bush countenance such conduct within the White House?" Sure he can. If Rove is not indicted, I will be very surprised if he resigns or is pink slipped. Because that would be an admission that Rove did something wrong, and the Right has made up its collective hive mind that Rove is innocent.  
Dan Froomkin reports on Faux Nooz coverage:
On Fox News's Fox and Friends this morning, Kelly Wright reported: "Amid the difficult task of choosing a candidate for the Supreme Court and waging the war on terror, the White House is also dealing with a report about top White House adviser Karl Rove."

But, he concluded: "Bottom line here, guys, when you read between the lines, Karl Rove never mentioned anyone's name."

Steve Doocy had a follow-up question: "Kelly, did I hear you right? Matthew Cooper wrote that the information that he had received was on double supersecret background ?

Wright: "That's right. According to this report that we're getting. . . .

Doocy: "Well, it must not be too double supersecret because we know about it now!"

Ba-bump BUMP.
On the other hand ... Think Progress has a transcript of today's press briefing, some juicy bits boldfaced. As Mark Kleiman said, it was a near riot. "Today's press briefing may be the day that the White House Press Corps found their spines," writes Joe at AMERICAblog. Video at Crooks and Liars. Josh Marshall posts highlights. Billmon provides some context.
More good commentary: Steve Soto, Digby, Fafnir.
5:16 pm | link

Doink Doink!
Last week, several news stories about Matt Cooper's decision to testify gave the strong impression that Karl Rove had that very day explicitly given Matt Cooper the go-ahead to testify. However, this story by Adam Liptak in the NY Times says otherwise.
Cooper went to court last week prepared to go to jail. However ...
Around 7:30 on Wednesday morning, Mr. Cooper had said goodbye to his son, resigned to his fate. His lawyer, Mr. Sauber, called to alert him to a statement from Mr. Luskin in The Wall Street Journal.

"If Matt Cooper is going to jail to protect a source," Mr. Luskin told The Journal, "it's not Karl he's protecting."

That provided an opening, Mr. Cooper said. "I was not looking for a waiver," he said, "but on Wednesday morning my lawyer called and said, 'Look at The Wall Street Journal. I think we should take a shot.' And I said, 'Yes, it's an invitation.' "

Faithful viewer of Law & Order reruns that I am, I had visions of  Irish-American District Attorney Jack McCoy leaping into action with a surgical-strike legalism that would confound the defense attorney's strategy and reveal the guiltiness of the accused for all to see. Right now I don't know what the legalism is, exactly, but I'm sure it will be made clear after the commercial break. 

I like this part:    

In court shortly after 2, he told Judge Thomas F. Hogan of the Federal District Court in Washington that he had received "an express personal release from my source."

That statement surprised Mr. Luskin, Mr. Rove's lawyer. Mr. Luskin said he had only reaffirmed the blanket waiver, in response to a request from Mr. Fitzgerald.

Karl Rove isn't the source you expected Matt Cooper to protect, Mr. Luskin?

The New York Times story also suggests that Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald, who bears little resemblance to Sam Waterson, was somehow involved in a "frenzied series of phone calls" that resulted in Matt Cooper's determination that he had, in effect, an "express personal release" from the source.

Stay tuned.

Update: Rightie bloggers need to catch up. They're still going by the "his wife set it up" story, which we now know was a lie planted by the White House. 

Howler of the Week--Well, it's only Monday, but I doubt this'll be topped--by the time I'd read to the middle of the post, to the part about  "it's important for conservatives to act like Democrats did during the Clinton years and mindlessly defend everything the administration does no matter how sleazy it is," (perhaps the "not" was left out accidentally) and "we Republicans have a tendency to be overly critical of our own in cases like this,"  I realized I'd tapped into a Mother Lode of pure wingnuttery. Enjoy. 

FFFFF Big update:  You gotta read what Josh Marshall says about Robert D. Luskin, Rove's lawyer. Just a taste: 

Eventually the Feds got the idea that the money Saccoccia had paid Luskin and his other attorneys for their services was itself part of the $137 million in drug money they were ordered to forfeit. Now, on the face of it this seems a bit unfair since under our system everyone is entitled to good representation and how was Luskin to know it was tainted money.

Well, the prosecutors thought he should have gotten some inkling when Saccoccia started paying Luskin's attorney's fees in gold bars.

Go to TPM for the whole story. Too much.

8:32 am | link

sunday, july 10, 2005

The Latest

White House Deputy Chief of Staff Karl Rove spoke with at least one reporter about Valerie Plame's role at the CIA before she was identified as a covert agent in a newspaper column two years ago, but Rove's lawyer said yesterday that his client did not identify her by name.

He didn't use her name. He called her "Joe Wilson's wife." Yeah, that's entirely different.

... To be considered a violation of the law, a disclosure by a government official must have been deliberate, the person doing it must have known that the CIA officer was a covert agent, and he or she must have known that the government was actively concealing the covert agent's identity.

Cooper, according to an internal Time e-mail obtained by Newsweek magazine, spoke with Rove before Novak's column was published. In the conversation, Rove gave Cooper a "big warning" that Wilson's claims might not be entirely accurate and that it wasn't the director of the CIA or the vice president who sent Wilson on his trip. Rove apparently told Cooper that it was "Wilson's wife, who apparently works at the agency on wmd [weapons of mass destruction] issues who authorized the trip," according to a story in Newsweek's July 18 issue.

That's the defense?

10:21 pm | link

Brains on Ice 7:23 pm | link

Stung by a Sting
Although most of us have been following the Cooper revelations with regard to Karl Rove, Walter Pincus of the Washington Post has also spilled some beans.   And the beans he spilled strongly suggest that the effort to discredit Wilson via his wife was not the result of Wilson's disclosing his trip in a NY Times column, but was being done in 2002 in order to discredit his reporting, and "fix the facts and intelligence" around the policy.  
Oh, my!
Here is the key quote from the Pincus piece in Niemanwatch...
 On July 12, 2003, an administration official, who was talking to me confidentially about a matter involving alleged Iraqi nuclear activities, veered off the precise matter we were discussing and told me that the White House had not paid attention to former Ambassador Joseph Wilson’s CIA-sponsored February 2002 trip to Niger because it was set up as a boondoggle by his wife, an analyst with the agency working on weapons of mass destruction. [Be sure to read the rest of the Pincus article to get the whole story--maha.]

In other words, the White House was not merely aware of Wilson's trip and its findings, someone had gone to the trouble to find out how the trip had originated, and then lied about Plame' s involvement in order to discredit his findings.    (Plame did not "set up" the trip, as Pincus was told, nor did she "authorize" it, as Rove told Cooper. )
The usual knee jerkers on the Right Blogosphere continue to spread the story that Valerie Plame set up the fact finding mission to discredit Bush. Turns out that story was a lie planted by Rove et al. to discredit Wilson.
As per our standard procedure, we will not be holding our breath waiting for the righties to issue corrections.
It's becoming clearer and clearer that Plamegate is just part of the larger pattern of deceptions used to sell the Iraq War.
Note: Those facing Hurricane Dennis today probably aren't online, but if you are--stay safe!
6:11 pm | link

The Secret's in the Source
Michael Isikoff writes in Newsweek that Karl Rove was Matt Cooper's secret source.
For two years, a federal prosecutor, Patrick Fitzgerald, has been investigating the leak of Plame's identity as an undercover CIA agent. The leak was first reported by columnist Robert Novak on July 14, 2003. Novak apparently made some arrangement with the prosecutor, but Fitzgerald continued to press other reporters for their sources, possibly to show a pattern (to prove intent) or to make a perjury case. (It is illegal to knowingly identify an undercover CIA officer.) Rove's words on the Plame case have always been carefully chosen. "I didn't know her name. I didn't leak her name," Rove told CNN last year when asked if he had anything to do with the Plame leak. Rove has never publicly acknowledged talking to any reporter about former ambassador Joseph Wilson and his wife. But last week, his lawyer, Robert Luskin, confirmed to NEWSWEEK that Rove did—and that Rove was the secret source who, at the request of both Cooper's lawyer and the prosecutor, gave Cooper permission to testify. ...
...  Nothing in the Cooper e-mail suggests that Rove used Plame's name or knew she was a covert operative. Nonetheless, it is significant that Rove was speaking to Cooper before Novak's column appeared; in other words, before Plame's identity had been published. Fitzgerald has been looking for evidence that Rove spoke to other reporters as well. "Karl Rove has shared with Fitzgerald all the information he has about any potentially relevant contacts he has had with any reporters, including Matt Cooper," Luskin told NEWSWEEK.
Cooper wrote his memo on July 11. Novak published his "outie" column on July 14. Via Hunter, last year Karl told the FBI that he had only circulated information about Plame after reading it in Rove's column. Is Karl nailed? Maybe not. Hunter also points out that Novak's syndicate distributed the story on July 11.
BTW, we still don't know who leaked to Novak, who says he got his information from "two senior administration officials."
David Corn wrote yesterday (permalink not working; see post for July 9),
To be clear, this new evidence does not necessarily mean slammer-time for Rove. Under the relevant law, it's only a crime for a government official to identify a covert intelligence official if the government official knows the intelligence officer is under cover, and this documentary evidence, I'm told, does not address this particular point.
Yet Karl's position is perilous:
But this new evidence does show that Rove--despite his lawyers claim that Rove "did not tell any reporter that Valerie Plame worked for the CIA"--did reveal to Cooper in a deep-background conversation that Wilson's wife was in the CIA. No wonder special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald pursued Cooper so fiercely. And Fitzgerald must have been delighted when Time magazine--over Cooper's objection--surrendered Cooper's emails and notes, which, according to a previous Newsweek posting by Michael Isikoff, named Rove as Cooper's source. In court on Wednesday, Fitzgerald said that following his receipt of Cooper's emails and notes "it is clear to us we need [Cooper's] testimony perhaps more so than in the past." This was a clue that Fitzgerald had scored big when he obtained the Cooper material.
In sum,
This new evidence could place Rove in serious political, if not legal, jeopardy (or, at least it should). If what I am told is true, this is proof that the Bush White House was using any information it could gather on Joseph Wilson--even classified information related to national security--to pursue a vendetta against Wilson, a White House critic. Even if it turns out Rove did not break the law regarding the naming of intelligence officials, this new disclosure could prove Rove guilty of leaking a national security secret to a reporter for political ends. What would George W. Bush do about that?
Bush won't do anything about that, of course, unless it occurs to him that Rove is a bigger political liability than he is an asset. Bush doesn't care about national security or the law or anything other than himself. As long as Bush wants to keep Rove around, the Right will form a solid wall of denial, built mostly on narrowly constructed legalisms (e.g., Rove didn't know she was an operative, so he didn't commit a crime, so he didn't do anything wrong, and liberals stink) and misdirection (shifting the story from White House lies about uranium to who authorized Joe Wilson's trip to Niger). Captain Ed is doing his bit already.
However, Digby thinks Bush may not be able to pull this off:
I think we may be getting close to a time where Karl Rove is going to decide to spend more time with his family. Bush is too politically weak to finesse this and the story comes awfully close to the Iraq lies to try to brazen it out.
Reminder: Joe Wilson made his fact-finding trip to Niger in February 2002, just a couple of months before the first of the Downing Street Memos was written (see timeline). This fact actually bolsters the righties' contention that Wilson was not authorized by anyone in the Bush administration to make the trip, especially if at least some people in the White House knew the Niger uranium claim was based on forged documents. Frankly, I think the question of who authorized Wilson's trip is a lot less interesting than this indisputable fact: The White House was wrong and Wilson was right about the uranium.
Related links:
Update: Another theory of the alleged crime from Stirling Newberry.
6:33 am | link

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The War Prayer

I come from the Throne -- bearing a message from Almighty God!... He has heard the prayer of His servant, your shepherd, & will grant it if such shall be your desire after I His messenger shall have explained to you its import -- that is to say its full import. For it is like unto many of the prayers of men in that it asks for more than he who utters it is aware of -- except he pause & think.

"God's servant & yours has prayed his prayer. Has he paused & taken thought? Is it one prayer? No, it is two -- one uttered, the other not. Both have reached the ear of Him who heareth all supplications, the spoken & the unspoken....

"You have heard your servant's prayer -- the uttered part of it. I am commissioned of God to put into words the other part of it -- that part which the pastor -- and also you in your hearts -- fervently prayed, silently. And ignorantly & unthinkingly? God grant that it was so! You heard these words: 'Grant us the victory, O Lord our God!' That is sufficient. The whole of the uttered prayer is completed into those pregnant words.

"Upon the listening spirit of God the Father fell also the unspoken part of the prayer. He commandeth me to put it into words. Listen!

"O Lord our Father, our young patriots, idols of our hearts, go forth to battle -- be Thou near them! With them -- in spirit -- we also go forth from the sweet peace of our beloved firesides to smite the foe.

"O Lord our God, help us to tear their soldiers to bloody shreds with our shells; help us to cover their smiling fields with the pale forms of their patriot dead; help us to drown the thunder of the guns with the wounded, writhing in pain; help us to lay waste their humble homes with a hurricane of fire; help us to wring the hearts of their unoffending widows with unavailing grief; help us to turn them out roofless with their little children to wander unfriended through wastes of their desolated land in rags & hunger & thirst, sport of the sun-flames of summer & the icy winds of winter, broken in spirit, worn with travail, imploring Thee for the refuge of the grave & denied it -- for our sakes, who adore Thee, Lord, blast their hopes, blight their lives, protract their bitter pilgrimage, make heavy their steps, water their way with their tears, stain the white snow with the blood of their wounded feet! We ask of one who is the Spirit of love & who is the ever-faithful refuge & friend of all that are sore beset, & seek His aid with humble & contrite hearts. Grant our prayer, O Lord & Thine shall be the praise & honor & glory now & ever, Amen."

(After a pause.) "Ye have prayed it; if ye still desire it, speak! -- the messenger of the Most High waits."

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