I was thinking about that in New York City today. There are millions of people who
use the subway system every day who qualify as "Middle Eastern-looking." They might be Middle Eastern, or Latino,
or from India, or biracial, or European with a good tan. And when I say millions, I do mean millions. Every day.
In New York City, if you are afraid of Middle Eastern-looking men in the subways
or buses, the only alternative beside walking is to catch a ride from a friendly Pakistani cab driver. (Trying to
get around in Manhattan in your own car is way impractical; I don't recommend it.)
I took a Metro North train to Grand Central today and didn't see
any backpacks searched, although I saw signs at one train stop saying that backpacks might be searched. I understand
they're doing random searches in the subways now, which can't be much more than a token gesture.
My only point is that there aren't any easy solutions. But anyone who thinks
it would be just so simple to single out the "Middle Eastern-looking" mass transit riders and search them should hang out
in a Manhattan subway station for a while and notice how many riders qualify.
Update, Oh Shit Department: Scotland blames Wales ... not
really, but here's an item from The Scotsman saying some of the suspects in this week's London bombings were seen in north Wales with some perps of the July 7 bombings.
Great; I'll be in north Wales in mid-August (the Ancestral Homeland Tour; details
TK). Better and better.
Patriotic citizens outside the NBC studio at Rockefeller Plaza today,
calling attention to the Downing Street Memos:
Billionaires for Bush!
Above: Nice young man who tried to give me a brochure.
Below: Zooming in.
Across the street, tourists were lined up to get their pictures taken
with the friendly and heavily armed NYPD.
I don't last long in the heat these days, so I only went there briefly to take pictures.
I thank my fellow patriots who stood around in the nearly 90 degree heat to wave signs and hand out brochures.
However, I do want to nag about one thing. For a while I watched from a distance.
There was one fellow waving a handmade sign and angrily yelling at the passing tourists about Bushie corruption. Now, what
the guy said was true, but it was plain to me that his efforts were not helping the cause. He was just making passers-by uncomfortable.
People hurried past with their heads down.
And the woman who was screaming at the tourists (and me) for taking photos of the
cops with machine guns was definitely not helping the cause. Displays of intolerance and hostility toward the
people you want to persuade is, um, stupid. Really, really stupid.
But as I hope you can see from the photos, the overall vibe was one of cheerful earnestness.
The London attacks served to underscore the reality that we face an enemy
determined to destroy our way of life and substitute for it a fanatical vision of dictatorial and theocratic rule. At its
root, the struggle is an ideological contest, a war of ideas that engages all of us, public servant and private citizen, regardless
We have waged such wars before, and we know how to win them.
We have? We do? Pray tell, when in the past were the first-world
democracies wholesale targets of stateless and global terrorist organizations whose weapon of choice is suicide
bombs striking civilian targets?
... our efforts since the attacks of 9/11 have been guided by three
important lessons learned when free peoples twice defeated totalitarianism in the last century.
I'm assuming they're talking about World War II and the Cold War.
But isn't responding to terrorism with pre-9/11 policy supposed to be bad?
First and most important, we must have a clear understanding of the ideology
espoused by the enemy.
The terrorists we face today aim to remake the Middle East in their own grim
image - one that, as President Bush has said, "hates freedom, rejects tolerance and despises all dissent."
Sounds like Rush Limbaugh.
This vision is eerily reminiscent of earlier totalitarian systems, where a
radical few subjugated the helpless many. Then as now, terror is the principal tool of the totalitarian.
It's a tool, and
as a rule once a totalitarian regime is firmly entrenched it can become a principal tool. But the Big Cheese dictators
of the 20th century--Stalin, Hitler, Mao, Mussolini, Castro, etc.--didn't come into power by telling the people "make
us dictator or we'll shoot your dog." In some cases (e.g. Mao, Castro) they had a large base of popular support in their respective
countries before they gained control. They gained this support in large part by packaging themselves as saviors
of the people; the antidote to the corrupt, incompetent, and oppressive regimes they eventually replaced.
Today's terrorists seek through barbaric violence to topple governments, export
terrorism and force free nations to stand down. The terrorists believe democracies are weak, and that those who champion freedom
will retreat in the face of relentless attacks - that people, in Osama bin Laden's words, "will like the strong horse."
There's no question that today's terrorists are a nasty piece of
work and represent a terrible danger. The question is, what is the best response? What can we do to minimize the terrorist
threat and slow the spread of jihadi fanaticism? Judging by the results, Bush Administration policies have been exactly wrong.
History has taught us that the best antidote to totalitarianism is
forceful resolve coupled with actions that advance human freedom.
The antidote to the Third Reich was armed
invasion. In a large sense, I suppose one could argue that the D-Day assault was an act of forceful resolve that advanced
human freedom. The end of the Cold War came about in an entirely different way, and there remains enormous partisan disagreement
over how much influence American policy actually played in the collapse of the Soviet empire. But as Russia is edging back
toward dictatorship, I wonder if we didn't all celebrate the victory a tad too soon.
In any event, it's fine to make speeches about how freedom is better than totalitarianism
and about how much "resolve" we all have. But that doesn't answer the basic question--what is the best policy? What concrete
steps should we be taking to put an end to today's threat? What, exactly, should we do? The policies
of democratic nations to oppose the Axis in World War II, and the policies of democratic nations during the Cold War, were
very different policies. Yes, the policies may have shared basic philosophical goals (e.g., totalitarianism is bad), but
that's about it.
Our logic is straightforward. Terrorists exploit conditions of despair
and feelings of resentment where freedom is denied. When we support the vision and reality of a freer and hopeful future,
we undercut the ideological underpinning for the terrorists and embolden those opposed to their grim vision.
That's grand, but the fact remains that Bush Administration policies
are not working. The Bushies ought to be asking themselves why. Clearly, a whole lotta people are not realizing
the glorious vision of a freer and hopeful future (clunky phrase, that).
I don't see anyone opposed to freedom and hope. I do see people arguing that
Bush policies are not bringing freedom and hope to the Middle East, just increasing instability and violence. Not
to mention corruption.
Another howler: "...we must overcome America's mixed record on supporting freedom
in the Middle East. For too long we accepted a false bargain that promised stability if we looked the other way when democracy
Can we say Azerbaijan? Egypt? Pakistan?
Hadley and Townsend continue to evoke freedom and hope and freedom
and vision and freedom to the end of the article. I'm not sure what they are trying to accomplish here. I actually agree
with much of what they say. The problem is, Bush Administration polcies work in opposition to most of what
they say. And instead of re-examining policies that are obviously failing, they do nothing but churn out more horseshit
about what great visions they have. Not to mention how much resolve.
The problem is that neither Hadley nor Townsend, nor anyone else in the Bush
administration, seem to have a clue.
In this morning's hearing, at one point Larry Johnson said it is normal procedure,
after an agent is exposed, for the CIA to write up a damage assessment. This assessment would have been filed with the House
Intelligence Committee. I wonder if anyone has seen this? I suppose it's classified, although if it minimized the damage the
Bushies would have leaked it anyway.
Tomorrow is Downing Street Memo day. I plan to wander into Manhattan tomorrow to take pictures of the silent vigil outside of NBC studios, beginning at 10 am.
There's to be another event with speakers (e.g., Randi Rhodes) at 2 pm at the Ethical Culture Society, 2 W. 64th St. at Central Park West, and I might attend if I feel up to it.
Momentous things are happening, so what are the righties worked up about today? Judging
by memeorandum, they're pissed that Robin Givhan
of WaPosnarked about John Roberts's family -- "His wife and children stood before the cameras, groomed and glossy in pastel hues -- like
a trio of Easter eggs, a handful of Jelly Bellies, three little Necco wafers."
I clearly remember that, during Bill Clinton's first term in particular, Hillary's
every public appearance was greated by a chorus of derision about her clothes and hair. I'm sure the same people
quivering with indignation about Givhan's article were just as indignant about worse treatment of the First Lady.
However, and as much as I believe in principle that criticizing a lady's wardrome
is mean, I had a hard time with the strawberry pink suit. I keep thinking of Morticia Addams in the second Addams Family movie--"But
Debbie ... pastels?"
This is, at least potentially a very big deal -- for
reasons which I've been talking about, offandon, almost since I first opened Whiskey Bar. While the financial market reaction
to yesterday's move was, all things considered, relatively mild, there's no guarantee that will remain true going forward.
It's possible, in fact, that we have just passed a major milestone in economic
history -- and in the much briefer history of America's reign as the world's only superpower. But this may not be recognized
for many years to come. ...
The factors that have allowed the United States to run enormous, sustained current acount deficits -- deflation, globalization,
the Asian savings glut -- may persist for some time. But sooner or later, the sheer size of America's external liabilities
is going to force foreign creditors to limit their exposure to our reckless financial behavior. Solvency, not relative rates
of return, will be the issue on their minds then.
BW II only postpones the day; it can't prevent it. By allowing America to go steadily deeper into debt, it also makes the
day's arrival more certain and more dangerous. And by modifying the dollar peg -- even if only slightly -- China has set the
clock in motion.
There's a lot more detail in the elipses. That was just the teaser.
... it could be the start of a process that will turn the world economy upside
down - or, more accurately, right side up. That is, the free ride China has been giving America, in which the world's richest
economy has been getting cheap loans from a country that is dynamic but still quite poor, may be coming to an end.
It's all about which way the capital is flowing. ...
...Right now America is a superpower living on credit - something I don't think has
happened since Philip II ruled Spain. What will happen to our stature if and when China takes away our credit card?
This story is still in its early days. On the first day of the new policy, the yuan
rose only 2 percent, not enough to make any noticeable difference. But one of these days Chinese dollar purchases will trail
off, and we'll find ourselves living in interesting times.
12:24 The hearing has concluded. What follows are my live-blogged notes
(more recent stuff at the top reordered chronologically) that I hope are useful. I will go through them and
write something more coherent this afternoon.
Impressions: One essential point the witnesses all made, over and over,
is that the damage to intelligence has been compounded by White House stonewalling. For two years the White House has
been sending the message that protecting intelligence operatives and assets is a low priority, and this in turn is doing
incalculable damage to our intelligence gathering operations.
President Bush had a responsibility, they said, to act immediately,
when the Novak column was published, to find out what happened and discipline the leaker. Instead, he's blown it off and deflected
The witnesses are outraged that Bush has done nothing. His hiding behind
a criminal investigation -- he'll take action if it turns out somebody is guilty -- is a shocking violation of his oath to
protect and defend the Constitution.
Most of the witnesses said that this kind of behavior from the White
House is unprecedented, although one, MacMichael, said it reminded him of what was done with Howard Hunt during the Watergate
episode. I admit I don't remember the details of the Howard Hunt adventure clearly.
Louise Slaughter used the "T" word-- At the
worst, treason was committed by high-ranking White House officials.
Lots of juicy quotes -- Jim Marcinkowski spoke
of the political operatives trashing Wilson and Plame as "prime time patriots" and "partisan ninnies" (I think he said ninnies).
Every time you polish your American flag pin, he says, you should reflect on what your words and actions are doing to the
Larry Johnson said, You have the assumption that people in the white
house are adults and not a bunch of petulant children. But this bunch, he says, acts like children fighting over baseball
mitts. Did I mention he's really disgusted?
OK, as I said, I need a break, and then I'll write some more.
[UPDATE: You can watch the hearings on the web by going to the CSPAN home page and clicking on the link under "Recent Programs," "Hearing on Security Implications
of Revealing Covert Agent's Identity"]
10:07 The hearing is just getting started. It's on CSPAN 3. Here's a
press release explaining the purpose of the hearing.
10:08 Senator Schumer is speaking. He says that the day after Novak's
column he talked to George Tenet on the phone. Tenet and others were furious that Plame's name was leaked. Schumer and Tenet
decided that the only way this matter would ever be investigated would be if the CIA made a strong request for an investigation.
When we launched this investigation, Schumer said, we had no idea where
it would lead. We only knew a dastardly crime had been committed.
The White House tried to deny it. They denied the involvement of Rove,
Libby. But now they're trying to trivialize it. And they're putting out false information.
Fitzgerald, a prosecutor's prosecutor, will get to the bototm of this.
We have to protect the national security of our country.
Then Schumer discusses New York Times article I discussed in previous
Schumer believes three things should be done:
One, Schumer believes the security clearances of Rove and Libby should
Second, the President should fire anyone who leaked information, whether
convicted or not.
Third, Andy Card needs to launch an internal investigation.
10:15 Rep. Henry Waxman is speaking. Right now he is providing background
on the Plame-Rove incident.
10:18 It appears, Waxman said, that Rove and others launched a smear
campaign against Joe Wilson, and his wife was collateral damage.
Today's New York Times fills in another part of the puzzle. Tenet went
through Stephen Hadley to not use the Niger-uranium story, which the administration did anyway. Then Tenet took responsibility
for the story. Now we know why, says Waxman.
The White House was eager to claim Rove had no part of the leak. Now
they've gone silent. They have not investigated the leak. There is an executive order that requires the White House to conduct
an investigation. The President is required to discipline those responsible. But the President has ignored these obligations.
There is a special standard for Karl Rove.
Plus, Congress is refusing to do its job. The Republican Congress could
hold a hearing next week. For the sake of our armed services, they should do this. We can't subpoena Libby and Rove, says
Waxman. They wouldn't come anyway.
10:28 John Conyers is up next.
The only thing I would add, he says, is that 91 members of Congress joined
with me on my letter to the President of July 14 to urge the President to require that Karl Rove either come forward to explain
his role, or to resign.
Louise Slaughter: Bush campaigned on restoring dignity to the White
House. But this administration has been defined by its striking relativism. We can count any number of incidents in which
this White House failed to take responsibility.
Time and time again, this administration has been let off the hook by
their friends in Congress.
At the worst, treason was committed by high-ranking White House officials.
10: 30 Louise Slaughter asks if Bush or Cheney themselves were involved.
Gross abuse of power at the highest levels. I believe the implications of this matter are worse than Watergate, and should
get the same level of scrutiny. Sing out Louise!
10:33 Slaughter: America demands more than "no comment."
10:35 Rep. Jay Inslee, D-Washington: Nobody died for Watergate. Yet more
than 1700 of our sons and daughters have died in the sands of Iraq. I am hear to pay respect to those soldiers, to the intelligence
officers who serve their country. Wilson received a commendation from Bush I for risking his life, last embassy official out
of Baghdad. Bush II not so honorable.
What should Bush have done?
No excuses. All we get from the White House are excuses. Didn't use her
name? That dog does not hunt.
Second, how about some candor? Just tell us the truth, Mr. President.
Third, any America president owes our ingtelligence service officers
to get to the bottom of this. This president has done NOTHING. He sat on his hands and let law enforcement do the job.
If there are no indictments, we need to change the Intelligence law.
10:41 Larry Johnson, former CIA Analyst: The people represented in this
group are Republicans, Democrats, Independents. Issue crosses party lines. No basis of partisan politics. Intelligence officers
Colonel Patrick Lang is here. Made his bones in Vietnam; rose to the
top ranks of running all DOD human intelligence service. Knows intelligence inside and out.
Patrick Lang speaks: I feel strongly about this case, not so much on
a personal level. This is a structural assault on the ability of the united states to have effective intelligence services.
We're in a war that will go on for a long time. That kind of war involves
people who go into subway systems with explosives. To fight these people, you need human beings who can find out what these
people are going to do next. We're not doing this very well.
Why aren't we doing better? You need human beings to get other human
beings to trust you. It's all about trust. To get information. The moment some person decides to trust you enough, to believe
you will protect him, is a magic moment. Almost sacramental. Imposes on the base officers in the states obligations to protect
the person in the field is absolute. Not only for morality but for practicality. If a unit believe their superiors will not
protect identities, a circle of doubt begins to spread. Intelligence service gets a reputation of not protectings its people
and assets, you won't get anything.
In a strange kind of way, the intelligence community is a community of
the well informed. They know if the clandestine services of another country will protect them. The Soviets used to be good
at this; the KGB never gave up an agent. That's because if they didn't, their sources would dry up.
To disclose the identity of a covert officer for political reasons--this
goes around the world. No one will trust you. No possibility of penetrating jihadi groups. Trust gone forever.
10:52 Larry Johnson: I wouldn't be here today if President had upheld
his oath to protect and defend the Constitution. If he had put word out to stop the political attacks. But we've seen the
most malicious smear campaign against Wilson and Valerie Plame. When I see a group of mostly men ganging up on one woman,
that to me is a group of bullies.
Political operative went after intelligence operative for political reasons,
did terrific damage to the United States.
It's this lie I want to put to bed that Plame was not undercover--it
is inappropriate for Senators and others to go on television and say this incident is insignificant, and mislead American
people. People who have said Plame was not really undercover were not in a position to know. Desk jockey? That expression
by people on intelligence committees to display such gross ignorance--do they not understand how the system works?
The Senate ingelligence committee fed this flame. I want to speak
to the lie that Plame sent Wilson on the trip to Niger. Laughable. Valerie not a manager. When Cheney asked the CIA to
look into the Iraq-Niger connection, the briefer goes to office directors, then they talk to divisions. Office deputy sent
an email to Plame asking if her husband was available. She said yes. THAT email, responding to the question, is what
has been used to claim that Plame sent her husband.
11:00 Larry Johnson: In 2000 I voted for President Bush because I thought
he would bring higher ethical standards. But what did he do? Instead of the President being first and foremost concerned with
protecting this country, we have a president who is content to sit by and savage the reputations of people like Plame and
Wilson. It would stop in a heartbeat if Bush would stop it.
11:01 Jim Marcinkowski: You're looking at a loss of trust. Can you ever
recover? I'm talking about around the world. Coverage of this story --great detail is hard to follow. But some facts are undisputed.
We have irreparable damaged our ability to collect intelligence and protect
America. The U.S. govt exposed the identity of a clandestine officer of the CIA. We have continued on the course of self-inflicted
wounds, parlor games, at the expense of the safety of the American people.
No country, no hostile group, likes to be infiltrated or spied upon.
That's what the CIA does. To operate undercover, you use a ruse. The degree of cover needed varies. When the FBI attempts
to infiltrate an organized crime or drug ring, heavier cover. No matter what the degree of cover, it provides safety.
Also protect collection methodologies, also other people in contact with officer.
A case officer has to maintain his cover, because if it's not maintained
he's going to expose the people he is working for.
11:09 Jim Marcinkowski: What has suffered irreversible damage is
the effectiveness of officers in the field now. How can intelligence operatives by effective if their own government won't
While deference to legal niceties might satisfy some people, overseas
it doesn't work. You can't explain "criminal intent" and "ignorance" to foreign nationals. The only thing that matters is,
can you protect me if I do this for you. Legal niceties don't count.
U.S. exposed an operative. Damage continues every single day for two
years. Failure to accept responsbility for this damages our intelligence operations every single day.
Each time the leader of a political party opens his mouth to deflect
responsibility, the message is clear: Politics trumps national security. Every time time is wasted debating minutae, the damage
is done. Prime-time patriots, partisan ninnies, display ignorance calling Plame a paper pusher. Playing partisan politics
with "degree" of covert. You can fool the American public with distracting minutae, but you're not fooling people overseas.
Nonresponsibility means, we don't care. Loss of trust, loss of security,
loss of agents. Simple message: before you shine up your American flag pin, think about what you are doing to the American
people. A true patriot would simply shut up.
Those who take pride in their political ability ought to take responsibility
for the continuing damage to our national security.
The message should be that we take safety of intelligence offices seriously.
Instead, for two years we've sent a message of partisan bickering.
11:18 David MacMichael, former CIA case officer: My colleagues
have emphasized trust and truth as essential. I've been best known as a critic of many aspects of covert operations.
Plausible deniability. There is a built in bias here. I want to emphasize
the importance of protecting the individiuals who work in the system. The responsibility of the Congress here is to work to
present the truth, and not to allow this system to be used not merely to smear an individual to conceal the truth from the
American people. At bottom, what we are dealing with today, in the whole building to the current war, there has been shall
we say, less than complete regard for the truth.
11:22 Sen. Byron Dorgan: People risk their lives, give their lives, for
America. Mr. Johnson, you've mentioned "black passport," kind of get out of jail free card, provides protection of Geneva
Convention. Plame became nonofficial officer, no diplomatic passport. Meant if traveling overseas could be executed or imprisoned.
She was someone who had risk in her job. Could you describe, because others have tried to minimalize Plame.
Johnson: She was traveling overseas to meet with individuals. She was working
in the area of chemical, biological, nuclear weapons.
Dorgan: Disclosing her allowed other countries to trackback and disclose
other operations. Impact substantially beyond what we're discussing.
Johnson: This case, what we're discussing, after every incident like this
there is a damage accessment done. That would have been filed with House Intelligence Committee. This was not about outing
Valerie Plame. This will have damaged intelligence operations. That goes to heart of some of the threats we face today.
Dorgan: Somewhere there is a damage accessment report? You are saying that
would have been made.
11:32 Senator Waxman discusses White House history of prevarication on
Iraq WMD and intelligence.
Marcinkowski: This hiding behind a criminal investigation doesn't make
sense. We have at-will employees. You pick up the phone and you say goodbye.
The fact that nothing's been done. You can be anything short of a criminal.
A CIA officer overseas is confronted with this: They aren't doing anything. Sit down with an asset and explain to them why
people who breeched security are not in jail, but reporters are.
Waxman: The message is that the White House doesn't care about safety
of intelligence operatives; their political lives are what they care about.
Johnson: Sends the wrong message.
11: 35 Lang: I don't think people understand the process. What does the
USA mean to people being recruited to provide information. It means something that assets will be protected. When you make
that bond, that's what makes good operations. All really good assets were made on the basis of trust. A human phenomenon of
deep relationships and trust. Anything you do to make asset believe his fate will hang on the basis of law, that asset will
When you're collecting in wartime for actionable intelligence, for actions
by enemies of the U.S. If you're messing around with the relationships it is a serious matter.
MacMichael: One of the things we have to look at in the congtext of the
lead up to the Iraq War -- Ahmed Chalabi. That trust was abused by people with personal and political agenda. Lang is right
that this trust relationship is important. Do not forget people have agendas of their own.
11: 45 Marcinkowski: When you talk to someone with information, the issue
is security. It's not only security of individuals in that room, but families, children.
Slaughter: I recognize the damage done was profound. I would like to
ask in all your years of experience have you ever had anything like this.
Johnson: This is unprecedented. Stone dropper in the water.
Slaughter: Maybe we can infer from that persons who work in the WH are
notified as to what they can and cannot say.
Johnson: They are told that. You have the assumption that people in the
white house are adults and not a bunch of petulant children. This bunch... fighting over baseball mitts. If they are given
access to classified information, there are agreements they must sign.
Slaughter: I don't see any way out from this. ... After Paul O'Neill
went on 60 Minutes, some documents were shown, White House screamed "classified!" Cheney demanded investigation.
I think our work is cut out for us. We have to demand that Congress do
its job. I have a lot of faith in this prosecutor, but if it comes down to perjury, I don't think that's enough.
11:47 Russ Hold: How unusual is this? How is this different? Would a
disclosure like this have been dealt with differently in the past? How might other countries have dealt with this? Congress
does have an oversight role.
Johnson: This is unprecedented. The message is, we're going to do nothing. I
say this as a registered Republican. I wish Howard Baker was back in the Senate. I wish someone in the Senate would stand
up. But last night I saw John McCain making excuses. Where are men of integrity? I expect better behavior out of Republicans.
Lang: In the past, a junior officer disclosing information would be punished.
When you get to this level, things stop being unauthorized disclosures. They become press releases. There has to be a way
to discipline people.
Waxman: Compounding this problem is not just that there was a disclosure.
Agreement that Mr. Rove signed, there should be consequences. He should be fired. He should be kept from classified information.
Instead, Republican put out talking points. They defend Rove, denigrate Plame. Let me go through some of these talking points.
First, that Plame wasn't really covert. Desk job. What is your reaction.
Johnson: It would be one thing if this were junior senator, but we're
talking about Republican leadership. This is frightening.
Waxman: Can someone be a covert agent at a desk in Langely Virginia?
Do you know for a fact?
Johnson: I was, until the day I walked out.
Marcinkowski: When you look at people in the CIA, you can be covert and
still be in the CIA headquarters. There is no harm to that person's cover. It doesn't matter.
What's the matter with laws? I don't know if criminal laws are going
to work. The fact that they're putting this out as talking points is just incredible. The fact that the Republican Party is
involved should raise concerns. This is hurting us.
Waxman: They say Joe Wilson lied about Cheney sending him to Niger. Wilson
didn't say that, but let's say this is right. Will that justify outing of agent.
Lang: No sir. It's a very common thing to operate in a working name outside,
the fact that they're living at home, normal neighborhood, has nothing to do with functional cover.
Other point, I don't think it has any relevance whatsoever. I don't see
why it makes any difference. He went to Africa. Iraq and Niger, at one time Iraq trade delegation went to Niger, asked about
uranium, Niger said no. That's the end of it.
Johnson: The sloppiness of the RNC; they didn't even take time to read
Marcinkowski: Terms--what is the standard of the media of a confidential
source? Source that confirms information is more important than source who provides information.
Waxman: This is just a political spat. No. Goes to the heart of going
to war in Iraq. Saddam Hussein had nuclear capability because he was getting uranium from Niger -- Rice, don't let a smoking
gun be a nuclear cloud -- they manipulated evidence that turned out to be not evidence at all, but a hoax. That's what Wilson
revealed. They are willing to jeopardize our national security to get back at Wilson. An opportunity for them to blur any
responsibiity or accountability.
How many more lives do you throw away if we're there for some ill-conceived
Partisan politics should stop. After 9/11, Democrats and Republicans
united behind the President. We all understood going to war in Afghanistan. Seems to me the basic tenet of patriotism is not
to mouth the words, we support our troops, but to be there for all the people on the line for our country.
Marcinkowski: I can't debate a senior official in the White HOuse. Once
it gets to that level of government, there's nothing you can do about that. When you look at where it came from, that's what's
Holt: It's different in the effect down the line:
MacMichael: During Watergate, when the WH made the error in order to
employ Howard Hunt, assigned him to a cover company, Mullin & Co. The only consequence was, OK, covers blown, forget your
Lang: I've seen things before, usually by someone immature, misspeaking
at a cocktail party. This is different. People in the White House, then hide behind legalisms. Deliberate disclosure at center
of government, I never heard of this before.
12:14 Lang: There is a general rule, as you say, a compromise of classified
info would be dealt with as you say, officer appointed, investigation, huge investigation if significant disclosure. After,
correct the problem, discipline of officer, maybe criminal referral. Other kinds of information people get access to that
leads to, go directly to jail.
Inslee: Significance--if leak comes out of White House--more serious?
Lang: Much more serious. This is a system failure. Cracks the level of
confidence in the system.
Inslee: I'm told, I don't want to get too far down in the weeds, I'm
told the State Department had doubts about the documents, Wilson gave credence to doubts. Eventually Rice had Tenet confirm
that it was a mistake to put it in SOTU address. This was a fowlup. Different views?
Does the fact that the WH essentially blown the cover of an agent's husband,
does this damper ability of agents to make these calls.
Johnson: It hurts ability of agents to buck the system; intimidation.
This intimidation is out there, and it has had a chilling effect.
12:16 Lang: You're talking about the analysis process. Article "Drinking
the Kool Aid," hard to escape people understood that there would be penalties if people didn't understand things they way
they were expected.
Waxler concludes by quoting Bush I, says it's a shame junior doesn't
People who have been briefed on the case said the White House officials, Karl
Rove and I. Lewis Libby, were helping prepare what became the administration's primary response to criticism that a flawed
phrase about the nuclear materials in Africa had been in Mr. Bush's State of the Union address six months earlier.
They had exchanged e-mail correspondence and drafts of a proposed statement
by George J. Tenet, then the director of central intelligence, to explain how the disputed wording had gotten into the address.
Mr. Rove, the president's political strategist, and Mr. Libby, the chief of staff for Vice President Dick Cheney, coordinated
their efforts with Stephen J. Hadley, then the deputy national security adviser, who was in turn consulting with Mr. Tenet.
Josh Marshall observes, "Ever wonder why George Tenet's July 11, 2003 mea culpa about the Niger uranium snafu seemed so protective of the White House? Maybe that was because it was written by Karl
Rove and Scooter Libby."
Here's the most significant part of the story, IMO:
People who have been briefed on the case said the White House officials, Karl
Rove and I. Lewis Libby, were helping prepare what became the administration's primary response to criticism that a flawed
phrase about the nuclear materials in Africa had been in Mr. Bush's State of the Union address six months earlier.
They had exchanged e-mail correspondence and drafts of a proposed statement
by George J. Tenet, then the director of central intelligence, to explain how the disputed wording had gotten into the address.
Mr. Rove, the president's political strategist, and Mr. Libby, the chief of staff for Vice President Dick Cheney, coordinated
their efforts with Stephen J. Hadley, then the deputy national security adviser, who was in turn consulting with Mr. Tenet....
... The effort was striking because to an unusual degree, the circle of officials
involved included those from the White House's political and national security operations, which are often separately run.
Both arms were drawn into the effort to defend the administration during the period.
"There is no precedent in any modern White House for what is going
on in this one: a complete lack of a policy apparatus," says DiIulio. "What you've got is everything -- and I mean everything
-- being run by the political arm. It's the reign of the Mayberry Machiavellis."...
Seems to me that Traitorgate is not about a lapse in handling security
information. Instead, it reveals "Bush Administration" is nothing but a facade. It's all artifice and posturing
and play-pretend, designed to give the impression that the Bush White House is a presidential administration, when
in fact it's nothing but a political machine; Tammany Hall gone national.
It may not have occurred to any of them not to use classified information
for political purposes. And policy? Policy is for wonks, and Democrats. The Bushies don't do policy, just politics.
Back to the Johnston article. I liked this part:
The work done by Mr. Rove and Mr. Libby on the
Tenet statement during this intense period has not been previously disclosed. People who have been briefed on the case discussed
this critical time period and the events surrounding it to demonstrate that Mr. Rove and Mr. Libby were not involved
in an orchestrated scheme to discredit Mr. Wilson or disclose the undercover status of his wife, Valerie Wilson, but were
intent on clarifying the use of intelligence in the president's address. Those people
who have been briefed requested anonymity because prosecutors have asked them not to discuss matters under investigation.
Of this, Susie Madrak asks, "Once again, I have a problem with this. How did this
advance the story? Why does someone offering a P.R. version of events merit the protection of confidentiality?"
Excellent points. But I'm amused anyone would think that to say Rove
and Libby "were intent on clarifying the use of intelligence in the president's address" would cause the press to put their
notepads away and go home. I hope someday to find out who these anonymous sources were so that I might laugh at them.
Lots of stuff to talk about today, including news that London policy
shot a suspected suicide bomber. But I want to attempt to live blog the Democratic joint hearing I mentioned in the last post,
so I have to wind this post up and prepare.
John Harwood of the Wall Street Journal just reported on Countdown
that the famous INS memo was marked "top secret," not just "secret." Plus, the paragraph that mentioned Valerie Plame (by her married name, Wilson)
had an additional secrecy designation. No links yet, but I'm sure there will be many links tomorrow.
I've been away from news sources for most of the morning and am just
catching up with today's bombing incidents in London. I understand these were minor explosions and no one was injured. Let
us all be grateful for that.
I don't even pretend to understand all the ramifications of this news. As of this posting some of my favorite economic experts--e.g., Stirling Newberry, Brad
deLong and Billmon--have not weighed in. I'm keenly interested in what they have to say and will update this post when they
do. In the meantime, you can read what Hale Stewart--no slouch, either--has to say here.
The big, must-be-linked story today focuses on the INS memo that is,
apparently, central to whatever case Patrick Fitzgerald is building. And it contains several juicy nuggets of information
to chew on.
[The memo] contained information about CIA officer
Valerie Plame in a paragraph marked "(S)" for secret, a clear indication that any Bush administration official who read it
should have been aware the information was classified, according to current and former government officials. ...
... The paragraph identifying her as the wife of former
ambassador Joseph C. Wilson IV was clearly marked to show that it contained classified material at the "secret" level, two
sources said. The CIA classifies as "secret" the names of officers whose identities are covert, according to former senior
The main point of the memo wasn't Plame, but the phony Niger-uranium story:
Almost all of the memo is devoted to describing why
State Department intelligence experts did not believe claims that Saddam Hussein had in the recent past sought to purchase
uranium from Niger. Only two sentences in the seven-sentence paragraph mention Wilson's wife.
I like this part:
The memo was drafted June 10, 2003, for Undersecretary
of State Marc Grossman, who asked to be brought up to date on INR's opposition to the White House view that Hussein was trying
to buy uranium in Africa.
The description of Wilson's wife and her role in the Feb.
19, 2002, meeting at the CIA was considered "a footnote" in a background paragraph in the memo, according to an official who
was aware of the process.
It records that the INR analyst at the meeting opposed
Wilson's trip to Niger because the State Department, through other inquiries, already
had disproved the allegation that Iraq was seeking uranium from Niger. Attached to the INR memo were the notes taken
by the senior INR analyst who attended the 2002 meeting at the CIA.
So let's get this straight--by the time of the February 2002 meeting, the State Department
had already disproved the Niger-uranium story. Yet this same story popped up in a State of the Union address given eleven
The memo was delivered to Secretary of State Colin
L. Powell on July 7, 2003, as he headed to Africa for a trip with President Bush aboard Air Force One. Plame was unmasked
in a syndicated column by Robert D. Novak seven days later.
... Several other administration officials were on the trip to Africa,
including senior adviser Dan Bartlett, then-White House spokesman Ari Fleischer and others.
Bartlett's attorney has refused to discuss the case, citing requests by the special counsel. Fleischer could not be reach
for comment yesterday.
Rove remained behind
Karl Rove, President Bush's deputy chief of staff,
has testified that he learned Plame's name from Novak a few days before telling another reporter she worked at the CIA and
played a role in her husband's mission, according to a lawyer familiar with Rove's account. Rove has also testified that the
first time he saw the State Department memo was when "people in the special prosecutor's office" showed it to him, said Robert
Luskin, his attorney.
It may very well be the case that he never saw the memo, but
it's hard to believe Bartlett or Fleischer didn't tell him about it. Or maybe it was Bartlett or Fleischer who told Novak.
Or maybe they're all lying about everything.
Look at the polls and you can see that the administration
is losing public confidence. An ABC News poll released Monday showed that just 25 percent of the public believes the White
House is cooperating fully with Fitzgerald's probe, compared with 47 percent when the investigation began in September 2003.
Most striking in the ABC poll was the unanimity of opinion across party lines. Asked if Karl Rove should be fired if he leaked
classified information, 71 percent of Republicans said yes. That was just a few points lower than the 75 percent average for
Bush could stop much of this hemorrhage by announcing that Karl
Rove would be on leave from his duties pending the outcome of the investigation. This wouldn't actually stop Rove from playing
a role in the Bush Administration, although he'd have to do it from somewhere beside the White House. And it would give Bush
some innoculation in case Rove is indicted. It would present an impession that Bush is not trying to protect a wrongdoer.
But that's not what the Bush White House is doing.
In place of accountability, the Bush White House has embraced
the three-pronged strategy of attack, attack, attack. If anyone had forgotten how these trash-the-enemy rules operate, Republican
National Committee Chairman Ken Mehlman gave an astonishing demonstration on Sunday's talk shows. Mehlman had a tough case
to argue, given uncontroverted evidence that (a) Rove had been a confirming source for columnist Robert D. Novak's initial
story that the man who was making trouble for the White House on its arguments regarding weapons of mass destruction, Joseph
Wilson, was married to a CIA employee and (b) Rove was the initial source for Time's Matthew Cooper on information that Wilson's
wife worked at the CIA on WMD issues.
I got a kick out of this paragraph:
Mehlman didn't bother to defend the indefensible. He attacked.
"Democrat partisans on the Hill have engaged in a smear campaign where they have attacked Karl Rove on the basis of information
which actually vindicates and exonerates him, not implicates him." Now, I'm sorry, but that's about as close to the Big Lie
as we get in American politics. It's like claiming that the blue sky overhead is actually some other color -- and then challenging
the dissenter to prove it's blue. Mehlman's comments have the effect of undermining the shared ground on which government
The timing "certainly illustrates that one of the great
powers of the presidency is the power to change the subject," Court TV News anchor Fred Graham said. "Bush was back on his
heels over Karl Rove, and this announcement wipes Rove off the front pages, for a time."
Probably not for long. A Pew Research study Tuesday showed
that half of Americans are paying attention to news reports that Rove may have leaked classified information about a CIA operative.
And 58% of those following the reports closely say Rove should resign.
"This is not going to go away," said Harvard media analyst
Alex Jones, partially because "the media are too personally involved" now that New York Times reporter Judith Miller
has been jailed for refusing to testify in the case.
And the Patrick Fitzgerald investigation continues.
Yesterday I linked to a Murray Waas article in TAP saying that Karl Rove could face obstruction of justice charges even if he is not indicted for leaking classified information about Valerie Plame. Waas writes:
White House deputy chief of
staff Karl Rove did not disclose that he had ever discussed CIA officer Valerie Plame with Time magazine reporter Matthew
Cooper during Rove’s first interview with the FBI, according to legal sources with firsthand knowledge of the matter.
omission by Rove created doubt for federal investigators, almost from the inception of their criminal probe into who leaked
Plame's name to columnist Robert Novak, as to whether Rove was withholding crucial information from them, and perhaps even
misleading or lying to them, the sources said.
Also leading to the early skepticism of Rove's accounts was the claim
that although he first heard that Plame worked for the CIA from a journalist, he said could not recall the name of the journalist.
Later, the sources said, Rove wavered even further, saying he was not sure at all where he first heard the information.
Today, Joe at AMERICAblog says, "The FBI doesn't appreciate those word games. In fact, lying to them is a crime. They take
that very, very seriously."
If this revelation is in fact correct, Rove could be indicted under 18 U.S.C.
1001 for obstruction of justice -- or what us laypeople have aptly coined the "Martha Stewart Crime." Indeed, if Waas's sources
are accurate, the Bush administration could be in a world of hurt -- for Rove wouldn't even have to be the actual leaker to
be indicted. Fact is, he wouldn't have to have done anything more than what he is already claiming he did.
You may not remember that Karl Rove's industrious predecessor, Martha Stewart,
was sent to a quaint little women's prison out in West Virginia for lying to federal agents during their investigation of
her alleged insider dabbling. Yep, that's right. Most folks think Stewart was found guilty of some type of trading fraud or
securities violation. She wasn't. Stewart simply gave false information to the investigators. And that is exactly what Murray
Waas has claimed Rove did at the onset of the fed's criminal probe.
Keep the faith.
Update: Via Josh Marshall--yesterday "11 former intelligence officers delivered a letter to the Republican and Democratic
leadership in the House and the Senate on the Plame case. See it here." Here's just a taste:
We, the undersigned former U.S. intelligence officers
are concerned with the tone and substance of the public debate over the ongoing Department of Justice investigation into who
leaked the name of Valerie Plame, wife of former U.S. Ambassador Joseph Wilson IV, to syndicated columnist Robert Novak and
other members of the media, which exposed her status as an undercover CIA officer. The disclosure of Ms. Plame’s name was
a shameful event in American history and, in our professional judgment, may have damaged U.S. national security and poses
a threat to the ability of U.S. intelligence gathering using human sources. Any breach of the code of confidentiality and
cover weakens the overall fabric of intelligence, and, directly or indirectly, jeopardizes the work and safety of intelligence
workers and their sources.
The Republican National Committee has circulated
talking points to supporters to use as part of a coordinated strategy to discredit Ambassador Joseph Wilson and his wife.
As part of this campaign a common theme is the idea that Ambassador Wilson’s wife, Valerie Plame was not undercover and deserved
no protection. The following are four recent examples of this “talking point”:
Michael Medved stated on Larry King Live on July 12, 2005,
“And let's be honest about this. Mrs. Plame, Mrs. Wilson, had a desk job at Langley. She went back and forth every single
Victoria Toensing stated on a Fox News program with John
Gibson on July 12, 2005 that, “Well, they weren't taking affirmative measures to protect that identity. They gave her a desk
job in Langley. You don't really have somebody deep undercover going back and forth to Langley, where people can see them.”
Ed Rodgers, Washington Lobbyist and former Republican
official, said on July 13, 2005 on the Newshour with Jim Lehrer, “And also I think it is now a matter of established fact
that Mrs. Plame was not a protected covert agent, and I don't think there's any meaningful investigation about that.”
House majority whip Roy Blunt (R, Mo), on Face the Nation,
July 17, 2005, “It certainly wouldn't be the first time that the CIA might have been overzealous in sort of maintaining the
kind of topsecret definition on things longer than they needed to. You know, this was a job that the ambassador's wife had
that she went to every day. It was a desk job. I think many people in Washington understood that her employment was at the
CIA, and she went to that office every day.”
These comments reveal an astonishing ignorance of
the intelligence community and the role of cover. The fact is that there are thousands of U.S. intelligence officers who “work
at a desk” in the Washington, D.C. area every day who are undercover. Some have official cover, and some have non-official
cover. Both classes of cover must and should be protected.
Last night, President Bush said he expects a "dignified
confirmation process that is conducted with fairness and civility."
Considering the announcement of the nomination was moved up to distract us from Karl
Rove ... I doubt that. Bush (or, more likely Rove, who must've had a hand in choosing Roberts) wants a nasty, headline-grabbing
fight. The messier, the better. As Chris Bowers says, the White House is using
one partisan hack to deflect attention from another.
A leadership aide said Senate Democrats were divided
over whether to go on the attack immediately or take a wait-and-see approach. In their initial reactions, most chose the latter.
generally have a policy of reserving judgment on a particular nominee prior to the Judiciary Committee conducting its review,"
said Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.). "I will keep my powder dry until the due diligence is completed."
Further, I don't
think Roberts is interesting enough to push Rove out of the headlines for more than a day or two until
the hearings begin. And I understand there won't be hearings until late August, at the earliest.
Let me say plainly that this blogger is not going to drop the Rove-Plame
story. I believe I speak for many on that score. And does anyone else have a problem with a White House under criminal
investigation nominating a Supreme Court justice who might someday be called upon to hear a case regarding convictions
of officials in that same White House? But I suppose I'm getting ahead of myself.
Fom scanning news
stories this morning, I get the impression that Democrats will not rubber stamp the appointment. Senator
Chuck Schumer in particular seems to expect that questions directed at Roberts about his opinons, personal and legal, must
be answered; see video at Crooks and Liars. But IMO it's way too soon to predict exercise of the "nuclear option," one way or another.
The righties will claim that Roberts's personal views don't matter, because
he will base his judgments on the Constitution, as if personal views never color interpretation. And as if a
whole lotta righties didn't wipe their butts with the Constitution during the recent Terri Schiavo wars. I'll have more to
say about that in future posts.
IN NOMINATING Judge John G. Roberts Jr. to the Supreme Court,
President Bush picked a man of substance and seriousness. Judge Roberts has served only briefly on the U.S. Court of Appeals
for the D.C. Circuit, but he was previously among the country's best-regarded appellate lawyers, both in private practice
and as deputy solicitor general during the administration of George H.W. Bush. Judge Roberts is a conservative, but he has
never been an ideological crusader; he has admirers among liberals. If confirmed as the successor to Justice Sandra Day O'Connor,
it is likely that he will shift the Supreme Court toward the right. But his nomination is not a provocation to Democrats --
as some other possible nominees would have been. Mr. Bush deserves credit for selecting someone with the potential to attract
And at John Roberts's birth, lo; MOSES himself (or was it Justice Roger Taney?) appeared, wearing sparkly gold raiment, and he sayeth unto the startled delivery room staff, "This
man will I choose to lead my people toward the promised land of strict construction and constitutional originalism, or whatever
they're calling bonehead right-wing opinions these days." Whereupon MOSES (or
Roger) disappeared in a clap of thunder, and verily the attending nurse ran shrieking down the hall and the obstetrician then
and there swore off amphetamines.
Or something like that.
The truth appears to be a lot more mundane, at least on the surface. Roberts
is a pleasant-looking white guy who wears suits well. Smoke does not billow out of his ears, nor does he have horns and a
forked tail. Some leftie bloggers are saying the nomination could have been worse. Yeah, like ebola is worse than
John G. Roberts, 50, now serves as a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for
the District of Columbia Circuit, where he's been since 2003. It took him three nominations and more than a decade to get
there. He was originally nominated for the court in 1992 by the first President Bush, and again by George W. Bush in 2001;
both nominations died in the Senate. Roberts was renominated in January 2003 by President Bush and joined the court in May
of that year.
His two-year stint on the D.C. court offers a short record of decisions to
scrutinize. But in his career as a litigator, Roberts argued 39 cases before the Supreme Court, both as a lawyer in private
practice and as one working for the government under Republican administrations. He won 25 of them.
Here, I think, is the most interesting part:
Roberts was a member of "Lawyers for Bush-Cheney" and contributed $1,000 to the first Bush-Cheney election campaign in 2000. His professional
ties to the Bush family go back a generation; he served under Kenneth Starr as the principal deputy solicitor general in the
first Bush administration. He also campaigned for that administration's election, as a member of the executive committee
of the DC Lawyers for Bush-Quayle '88. Before that, he was the deputy White House counsel for four years in the Reagan administration.
When not serving in Republican administrations -- or contributing
money to them -- he's been in practice as a corporate lawyer at Hogan & Hartson, the largest law firm based in D.C., where he was paid more than $1 million in
2003, the last year he worked there. His clients ranged from the states of Hawaii and Alaska to the National Collegiate Athletic
Association and the Pulte Corp. He successfully represented Toyota Motor Manufacturing in a case before the Supreme Court,
where he argued that a worker with carpal tunnel syndrome was not protected under the Americans With Disabilities
Act, even though she was fired for an injury acquired on the job. He also served as a lobbyist on behalf of the Western
Peanut Growers Association and the Panhandle Peanut Growers Association. A partner at Hogan & Hartson for 10 years, his
net worth is more than $3.7 million, according to financial disclosure statements.
Like I said last night, he's a loyal water-carrier for the GOP. I don't doubt
that he's a smart guy and knows law, but I doubt those attributes are what got him the nomination.
This may have put him at the head of Bush's list --
Last Friday, the court on which Roberts now serves decided a case that supports
the Bush administration's plans to use secretive military tribunals in the war on terror, which have provoked an international
outcry from civil libertarians and human rights advocates. The three-judge panel, including Roberts, ruled unanimously
that tribunals set up to try terrorism suspects for war crimes, in the case of Hamdan v. Rumsfeld, were authorized under federal
law. And it found that any rights accorded by the Geneva Convention to prisoners of war did not apply
to suspected al-Qaida members or so-called enemy combatants. The two lawyers representing Hamdan in the case called the decision
"contrary to 200 years of constitutional law." It was the first major opinion in which Roberts concurred -- and, ironically,
could be tested in the Supreme Court during its next term.
And the White House said, how might I reward thee? Let me
count the ways ...
A number of Roberts's other decision in the areas of civil liberties
and environmental law are downright frightening, but we have plenty of time to talk about those little bombs before the hearings.
I'm sure I'll have more to say tomorrow, but what concerns
me (and John Aravosis as well; see "John Roberts: Partisan Hack" at AMERICAblog) is that the nomination of John Roberts is all about politics
and not at all about finding the right person to shoulder the responsibility of a lifetime appointment to
the United States Supreme Court.
First, it's obvious the nomination was moved up to pull attention away
from Karl Rove. But the picture of John Roberts that's emerging is of a loyal water-carrier for the GOP rather than a brilliant
jurist. I understand (and I'll be checking on this tomorrow; it's a bit late to launch a research project) that corporate
lawyer Roberts was involved in the 2000 Florida recount, for example.
Roberts donated to Bush's election, and
Bush seems to be treating the Supreme Court like it's France - a plum assignment for your buddy who helped you out in the
last campaign. The Supreme Court isn't France, and being a Supreme Court justice is a bit more important than being an ambassador.
I'm just not sure Bush gets the difference.
I'm sure more details will float to the surface by tomorrow.
The SCOTUS nominee, John Roberts, sounds like a nasty piece of work.
The challenge for us is to continue to keep Rove-Plame and Downing Street issues out in the daylight while we
pursue whatever course we decide to pursue regarding Roberts.
The GOP and its hack reporter friends have attempted to
obscure this reality by citing the report undertaken by Lord Butler at Tony Blair's request, which found that British assertions
of Iraqi efforts to acquire Nigerian uranium were well-founded. This theory ignores several inconvenient facts. First and
foremost, it's now clear that whatever Iraq may or may not have tried to do in 1999, it didn't actually get anywhere near
building a nuclear bomb. Second, given the actual state of Iraq's nuclear program at the time, there's no reason to think
uranium yellowcake would have been useful for doing anything, as Iraq had no capacity to transform it into a usable weapon.
Third, the Iraq Survey Group, appointed by the president to review Iraq's weapons-of-mass-destruction programs stated last year that it had "not found evidence to show that Iraq sought uranium from
abroad after 1991 or renewed indigenous production of such material." Fourth, the International Atomic Energy Agency responded
to the Butler report by asking the British government to provide it with the non-forgery-based evidence for
the story, which the Brits have failed to do. Indeed, it seems that the only British sources were the forgery, and reports from other intelligence
services that were, in turn, based on the same forgery.
All that aside, no officials anywhere, including the authors
of the Butler report, deny the basic point that the Niger uranium memo was forged. What's more, the forgery was not especially
hard to detect because there was not one forgery but two, the second of which was especially crude.
Clip & save & shove in the face of the next rightie who cites
the Butler Report.
Update: Some on the Right are already sounding off
against Clement. She's too moderate for them. Yeah, I know, Attilla the Hun would be too moderate for them. But according
to this guy, Clement has said in the past that she would not vote to overturn Roe v. Wade. This is not to say that we won't
find something else about Clement that's objectionable, but maybe it could be worse.
Jones, on the other hand, is sometimes referred to as the "Female Scalia." Doesn't
I bet you didn't even know that today was Blogosphere Day, huh? Well, I forgot, too. But Bob Brigham didn't forget. And Bob says we should celebrate by deploying (I love that word; it's so...military) our forces in
support of Paul Hackett, a good guy running in a special election for Ohio's second congressional seat.
Every now and then, after I've badmouthed the Iraq War as a means for
fighting terrorism, some rightie will drop by and challenge me to come up with an alternative to fighting the Iraq war.
Considering that a number of indicators suggest the Iraq war is inspiring more terrorism, I'd say one good alternative is not fighting the Iraq War. But, of course, that just takes us back to where we
were on September 10, 2001.
"Let’s place the Wilson/Plame/Rove/Bush affair
within the context of the threat this country faces from Islamists. Compare it to the meaning of the London bombings.
Compare it to Zarqawi’s ratcheting-up of the Iraq suicide bomb campaign. When compared to the War on Islamist Terror,
the Plame mess is laughably inconsequential except to the floundering Left, which sees it as an opportunity to "get"
Rove and possibly Bush. This nasty bit of nonsense is, to the Left, far more important than killing as many jihadists
as possible before they kill us."
As Armondo wrote recently, "the strategy of taking out state sponsors of terrorism and the so-called 'flypaper'
strategy are really just 'feel good' vengeance strategies." And ineffectual feel good vengeance strategies, at that;
worldwide terrorism is rising, and rising fast.
(According to some possibly accurate sources I found
by googling, there are 1.3 billion Muslims in the world today. Do we want to antagonize all of them? I think
The problem with the Fighting Keyboardist take on terrorism in the wake of
the Iraq War is that the steadfast belief about the phenomenon, in order to maintain any sort of logical coherency in their
position, is that terrorism is simply a strange brand of unmotivated evil. It's a version of the zombie tale - strange brown
men come into contact with radicalized ideologies that exist neither as good or evil, but instead as some sort of transient
pathogen, and with enough exposure, find the evil that lurks within the hearts of all men triggered, and themselves turned
into the grisly, gruesome beast known as...TERRORIST.
This mindset relies on the perversion of moral standards to enforce them,
not surprising for a movement that's also sharing ideological mindspace with the Christian Right. In order to hold these murderers
to a dehumanized standard of depravity, conscious choice and logic are stripped from them. It helps in the "gotta kill 'em
all" sense, because honestly, who doesn't want to blow the head off the monster at the end of the movie and save all the big-breasted
co-eds? (Al-Qaeda's coming for you, Sigma Theta Delta!)
The futility of this mindset comes in the question of how to stop
or stymie terrorism. If terrorism ceases being the means to and end, and becomes the end itself (zombies, after all,
don't eat people in order to find the perfect recipe for sauteed spleen, or to conquer the world; they eat because they're
mindless ravenous drones), then the only way to reduce the amount of terrorism in the world is to kill terrorists. This leaves
us with a threat that consistently discusses the world in geopolitical, cultural and moral tones, and a response that pretends
it's all moaning gibberish because we just want it to be gone.
As I wrote a few days ago, righties fly
into a rage if you suggest past U.S. policies might be even partly at fault for the rise of Islamic terrorism. 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
The Right believes its lumbering, dinosaur
policies for fighting terrorism are the only legitimate policies. The weird notion that terrorism
can somehow be contained in a fixed geographic location by means of military action (the "flypaper theory"; the "central
front") or that taking out "state sponsors" will cause terrorists to give up and go home reveals a mindset stuck in John Wayne
It should be obvious that fighting terrorism should mean, well, fighting
terrorism. And to do that, we must understand what terrorism actually is, and what fuels it, and how
it operates. Righties seem almost willfully determined to not understand terrorism. They disparage any attempt to understand terrorism and terrorists (in order to, perhaps, kill it at the roots)
as sending terrorists to get therapy. They thump their chests and claim liberals just don't get it. And all the while
they remain in control of terrorism policies, terrorism spreads and danger grows.
However, even though I think the Bush approach is stupid and counterproductive,
at least I know what it is. From the Dems (and Republican moderates) we've gotten various proposals to do a better job guarding
ports and commuter trains. Now, I approve such measures, but we need a little more.
I hope General Wesley Clark adds some more detail to his recent USA Today op ed on antiterrorism strategy, because I think he's right. "Relentless pressure by the CIA, Special Forces and many other national intelligence and police efforts has made the old,
centralized structure of al-Qaeda unworkable," says the General. "And we need to keep up the pressure. ... [but] To win this war, we must defeat the ideology of terrorism, depriving angry young people of their ability to justify their
hateful actions in the name of Allah."
That's not going to be easy, and it won't happen over night. Iraq is making
that task harder, not easier. Threats to "bomb Mecca" probably don't help, either.
However, I think the basics of a sensible policy are there, and all
it needs is for the Dems to get together and figure out how to package and market it to the American people. I hate it
that packaging and marketing is necessary, but I'm 'fraid it is. But I think the American people are about ready to be
shown an alternative to Bush's War.
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.
The Left Blogosphere has been pushing the Rove-Plame story for close to a couple
of years. But as sweet as a Rove perp walk would be, I believe I speak for most when I say this effort is not about either
Rove or Plame. Rove-Plame is just one thread in the fabric of deceit that sold the Iraq War to the American
people. But maybe, just maybe, if we keep pulling on that thread, the whole cloth will unravel.
THE NEWS that Vice President Dick Cheney’s chief of staff was the second possible
source in the leaking of the identity of a CIA agent to Time magazine elevates the scandal to a whole new level. It is bad
enough for Karl Rove to be accused of being a leaker, since he is President Bush’s chief political strategist.
But if Time’s story holds, I. Lewis Libby’s involvement represents an even
more insidious abuse of power. ...
Jackson goes on to describe how PNAC Gang--Cheney, Libby, Donald Rumsfeld,
Paul Wolfowitz, Richard Armitage, Richard Perle, Douglas Feith, etc.--came out of the Bush I Administration longing for a
"preemptive" war against possible threats.
And, IMO, they remained pathologically fixated on Saddam Hussein as the chief threat,
to the exclusion of all others.
Jackson describes how the Bush White House prepared to market the invasion of Iraq:
Libby was in the thick of whipping up fear over the thinnest of evidence.
The level to which Libby and Cheney stooped to get their war was highlighted by the momentous presentation of Saddam’s ‘‘threat’’
before the United Nations Security Council by then Secretary of State Colin Powell. ...
... It was Cheney’s staff who wrote the first draft of Powell’s UN speech. It was Libby who
suggested, in strategy meetings at the White House, playing up every possible, conceivable threat of Saddam — with the emphasis
on the word ‘‘conceive.’’
A US News and World Report story in the summer of 2003 quoted a senior administration
official as saying Libby’s presentation ‘‘was over the top and ran the gamut from Al Qaeda to human rights to weapons of mass
destruction. They were unsubstantiated assertions, in my view.’’
Powell, according to both US News and Vanity Fair, was so irritated by Libby’s
hodgepodge of unsubstantiated facts that he threw documents into the air and said, ‘‘I’m not reading this. This is bull ...’’
Libby, whose nickname is Scooter, was particularly unhappy that Powell had
thrown out sections of the presentation that would have attempted to link Al Qaeda to Saddam, including a discredited report
that top 9/11 Al Qaeda airline hijacker Mohamed Atta had a meeting with an Iraqi intelligence official in Prague. According
to Vanity Fair, ‘‘Cheney’s office made one last ditch effort to persuade Powell to link Saddam and Al Qaeda and to slip the
Prague story back into the speech. Only moments before Powell began speaking, Scooter Libby tried unsuccessfully to reach
[Larry] Wilkerson by phone. Powell’s staff chief, by then inside the Security Council chamber, declined to take the call.
‘Scooter,’ said one State Department aide, ‘wasn’t happy.’’’
According to Vanity Fair, Cheney himself urged Powell to go ahead and stake
his national popularity on the nonexistent evidence by saying to Powell, ‘‘Your poll numbers are in the 70s. You can afford
to lose a few points.’’
I assume Scooter and the Dickster believed their glorious little
war would be so, well, glorious, and popular, that they'd never be called upon to substantiate their claims. Once the glory kicked
in, no one would ask questions.
And, had they not turned the postwar planning over to Mrs. Jones's third
grade class at Garfield Elementary, they probably would've been right. But after more than two years of escalating violence
and one screwup after another, some people are having second thoughts.
Americans are willing to spare no expense to ensure their safety.
Thus the bill for the war in Iraq, which is soaring well into the $200 billions, would not be an issue at all if most people
felt the essential policy -- making America safer -- was being met.
But apparently, fewer and fewer Americans believe this is the
case. And this is becoming an even greater problem for President Bush, whose reputation has taken a hit. In the latest Gallup
poll, taken shortly after terrorists struck London this month, the number of people who say the war in Iraq was not worth
it climbed to 53 percent (compared to 44 percent who believe it was). Perhaps more significantly, only 40 percent of Americans
think the war has made the United States safer from terrorism, compared to 52 percent who believe it has made America less
The Bush Regime has done its best to shield us from ugly realities--e.g., hiding
coffins from photographers, sneaking the wounded into stateside hospitals at night. Because the violence is so extreme, journalists covering
the war lack the ability to move around the country that they had in Vietnam. And the hard core Right continues to believe
that wonderful things are happening in Iraq, and if we're not hearing about them it's because journalists are in cahoots
with Noam Chomsky to destroy America.
Still, I think the ugliness and waste and futility of Iraq may be growing in
the public mind. The righties continue to spew disinformation at a furious pace, claiming that Joe Wilson lied and
that Saddam Hussein did too try to buy yellowcake uranium from Niger. I don't believe these claims are
true. But, as I explained last week (here and here), by the time of the 2003 State of the Union speech and the mid-March invasion, the IAEA inspectors were reasonably confident
Saddam was no nuclear threat to anyone. And, of course, since 2002 the CIA had
been warning the White House that evidence for the Niger story was flimsy.
Yet the Bushies continued to repeat the Niger story. That's because the story's entire
value was as a marketing tool. It never really mattered to the Bushies whether it was true or not.
The righties' continued attempts to defend the White House with minutae about British
reports and the supposed activities of Iraqi officials in the late 1990s is looking, increasingly, ridiculous. As I've said
before, they not only can't see the forest for the trees; they can't see the trees for the leaves.
But I think we leftie bloggers should keep in mind that Rove-Plame might backfire
on us. We've got a lot riding on the hope that Patrick Fitzgerald will obtain indictments that will lead to a nice, messy
trial. If there are no indictments, the wall of protection around the White House will be undented and our credibility
on future issues will be questioned. And, as I understand it, in order to obtain indictments Fitzgerald will have to establish
evidence that Rove and/or Libby had learned from a classified source that Plame was a covert agent when they talked
to reporters about her. My understanding is that if they didn't know she was covert, or if they got the information about
her status from a non-classified source (e.g., Judy Miller), then they would not be in violation of the Intelligence Identities Protection Act. (However, there are other laws beside the IIP that might be in play here, as Mark Kleiman explains.)
If there are no indictments, our flapping around and saying but it
was wrong anyway will be ineffectual. No matter how solid our case, the rightie noise machine will drown us out.
For this reason, I believe it's important not to get so caught up in the little details
and leakettes that we forget the larger context of the Rove-Plame scandal. That context will still be vital even if the Fitzgerald
investigation comes to naught.
The question that keeps coming to my mind
is this: Is it possible that the Rove administration really doesn't consider Bush indispensable?
I ask because a number
of the recent leaks cast the administration in a bad light. This is one example -- it suggests that the president's press
secretary could have had something to do with revealing Plame's identity. But virtually all the recent leaks are good
for Rove: They sow confusion about his role and would be extremely helpful if he were brought to trial.
Good point. What's it telling
us? That Bush is just Rove's hand puppet? That protecting Bush is less important than protecting someone else (hint: rhymes
Whether Karl Rove or Scooter Libby violated a law is a matter for courts
to decide. No matter how obsessively we bloggers glean news stories for scraps of information, we don't know what we don't
know, and we don't know if all the scraps are accurate, either. We don't have indictments yet, for pete's sake,
so talk of conviction or exoneration is a tad premature. I assume that anyone who claims to know how it's going to
fall is talking out of his posterior.
On the other hand, responding to the obvious disinformation is getting overwhelming.
Just take a peak at Media Matters for examples. Some false reports are the result of sloppy news reporting, I suspect, but I doubt they all are.
And, the hard core Right will believe whatever it wants to believe, no
matter how flimsy the evidence. A bit of misinformation left in Mahablog comments recently apparently originated in a Power Line comment that misquoted Andrea Mitchell; see Cy Guy's
This illustrates exactly the point I was trying to make in the last post. I write
a lengthy post with copious links to several sources documenting that Valerie Plame was still covert when Bob Novak wrote
about her. And the Kool-Aider with nothing but an unsourced rumor in his head comes along and tells me I'm misinformed.
Yet hope remains; Garance Franke-Rute reports at TAPPED that the public is skeptical; only a quarter of persons polled recently by ABC News believe the White House is cooperating
fully with the investigation. It's that ol' stonewalling thing once again.
A source directly familiar with information provided
to prosecutors said Rove's interest was so strong that it prompted questions in the White House. When asked at one point why
he was pursuing the diplomat so aggressively, Rove responded: "He's a Democrat." Rove then cited Wilson's campaign donations,
which leaned toward Democrats, the person familiar with the case said.
A follow up to this post on the top secret memo that was spotted on Air Force One in July 2003:
Activities aboard Air Force One are also of interest
to prosecutors -- including the possible distribution of a State Department memo that mentioned Wilson's wife. Prosecutors
are seeking to find out whether anyone who saw the memo learned Plame's identity and passed the information to journalists.
Telephone logs from the presidential aircraft have been subpoenaed; among those aboard was former White House press secretary
Ari Fleischer, who has testified before the grand jury.
A Bloomberg story suggests it was Ari Fleischer, not Colin Powell, trotting around the plane in view of reporters with the top secret memo in his hands. Hmmm.
Just posted at TAP: Joe Conason, "Rove on the Ropes." I haven't read it yet, but Joe C. usually does
a good job.
Stirling Newberry analyzes party messages and talking points in "All the Cross-Roves" at BOP News.
Does this mean that, if certain persons are indicted, they'll continue to do their
jobs and keep their security clearances until found guilty in court? This question is being discussed at TPM Cafe. See also Billmon ("But who's going to answer the phones?"
"I'm beyond disgusted," a CIA official said last week. I am especially
angry about the b_______ explanations that she is not a covert agent. That is an official status, and there are lots of people
in this building who are on that status. It's not up to the Republican Party to determine when that status will end for an
... In the wake of the disclosure, foreign intelligence services
were known to have retraced her steps and contacts to discover more about how the CIA operates in their countries.
The fact is that the cavalier outing of Valerie Plame as a CIA operative has done
incalculable damage to this nation's intelligence efforts. And the fact that the Right brushes off Plame's outing as a minor consideration exemplifies why it's the Right, not the Left, that has lost its patriotism. On the Right, love of country has been replaced
by blind partisan loyalty and a cult of personality surrounding George W. Bush.
In fact, I think it can be argued that the right-wing extremism is a bigger
danger to the future of our nation than Islamic extremism. Terrorists can kill citizens and destroy buildings and infrastructure,
but extremists on the Right are well positioned--through deceit and abuse of power--to destroy the heritage
of republican government that has sustained this nation for nearly 230 years.
Clearly, the Right places its own power above the security of America. Consider:
But even if Rove skates past any legal trouble, that still leaves the question
of means and ends. Although Democrats deplored what they viewed as an Administration attempt to silence its critics,
to the intelligence community what mattered was that in the course of political warfare, a spy had been sacrificed. Plame
was one of the rare operatives to become an NOC, that is, a CIA employee who operates under nonofficial cover. Such officers,
who may pose as businesspeople or students, have no diplomatic immunity and so are much more vulnerable if caught spying.
They often work abroad for U.S. companies that have secret agreements with the CIA to take them in as employees or for front
companies the agency sets up. A former CIA station chief tells TIME that it can cost the agency anywhere from $500,000 to
$1 million to establish an NOC overseas, depending on how deep and extensive the cover must be.
CIA sources say Plame held highly sensitive jobs during the past two decades.
In the late 1990s she was serving as an NOC, working as an analyst with Brewster-Jennings & Associates, a CIA
front company that has been shut down. ... But in 1997 she moved back to Washington. The New York Times has reported
that the CIA feared that her cover had been blown to the Russians by double agent Aldrich Ames. Her marriage to a high-profile
former diplomat further limited her ability to fly under the radar. She began working at CIA headquarters in Langley, assigned
to the directorate of operations, the CIA'S clandestine branch that manages its human spying overseas and is one of the agency's
most secretive directorates. ...
... But while she may no longer have been a clandestine operative, she was still under
protected status. A U.S. official told TIME that Plame was indeed considered covert for the purposes of the
Intelligence Identities Protection law. And even if the leak was not illegal, intelligence officials argue, it is
not defensible. "I'm beyond disgusted," a CIA official said last week.
I am especially angry about the b_______ explanations that she is not a covert agent. That is an official status, and there
are lots of people in this building who are on that status. It's not up to the Republican Party to determine when that status
will end for an agent."
... In the wake of the disclosure, foreign intelligence services were known
to have retraced her steps and contacts to discover more about how the CIA operates in their countries.
Outside of a James Bond movie, spies rarely steal secrets themselves;
they recruit foreigners to do it for them. That often means bribing a government official to break his country's laws and
pass state secrets to the CIA. "It becomes extremely hard if you're working overseas and recruiting [foreign] agents knowing
that some sloth up in the Executive Branch for political reasons can reveal your identity," says Jim Marcinkowski, who served
four years in the agency and is now the deputy city attorney for Royal Oak, Mich. "Certainly this kind of information travels
around the world very quickly. And it raises the level of fear of coming in contact with the United States for any reason."
[David Bjerklie, Nancy Gibbs, "The Rove Problem," Time, July 17, 2005 (July
To get an idea of how destructive, I talked to Melissa Mahle, a former CIA
covert operative turned author whose career parallels Plame's. She explained what happens when someone's cover is blown. It
isn't pretty, especially when, like Plame, you have been under "nonofficial cover" (working for a phony front company or nonprofit),
which is more sensitive than "official cover" (pretending to work for another government agency). The GOP's spinners are making
it seem that because Plame had a desk job in Langley at the time she was outed, she wasn't truly undercover. As Mahle says,
that reflects a total ignorance about the way the CIA works. Being outed doesn't just waste millions of taxpayer dollars;
it compromises hundreds of other people in the field you may have worked with in the past. [Jonathan Alter, "Why the Leak Probe Matters," Newsweek, July 25, 2005]
Valerie Plame was a classmate of mine from the day
she started with the CIA. I entered on duty at the CIA in September 1985. All of my classmates were undercover--in
other words, we told our family and friends that we were working for other overt U.S. Government agencies. We had official
cover. That means we had a black passport--i.e., a diplomatic passport. If we were caught overseas engaged in
espionage activity the black passport was a get out of jail free card.
A few of my classmates, and Valerie was one of
these, became a non-official cover officer. That meant she agreed to operate overseas without the protection of a diplomatic
passport. If caught in that status she would have been executed.
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. [Larry Johnson, "The Big Lie About Valerie Plame," TPM Cafe, July 13, 2005]
I want to repeat something Larry Johnson wrote: Valerie Plame "agreed
to operate overseas without the protection of a diplomatic passport. If caught in that status she would have been executed."
For years, she risked her life for her country. I just want to be sure
you noticed that.
In fact, the only lying sonafabitch turned
out to be Yellowcake Joe. Just about everybody on the face of the earth except Wilson, the White House press corps and the
moveon.org crowd accepts that Saddam was indeed trying to acquire uranium from Africa. Don't take my word for it; it's the
conclusion of the Senate intelligence report, Lord Butler's report in the United Kingdom, MI6, French intelligence, other
European services -- and, come to that, the original CIA report based on Joe Wilson's own briefing to them. Why Yellowcake
Joe then wrote an article for the New York Times misrepresenting what he'd been told by senior figures from Major Wanke's
regime in Niger is known only to him.
It doesn't matter how many times you demolish rightie "facts";
if they are determined to believe something they will believe it, and reality be damned. (See also the GOP disinformation machine at work.) Many leftie bloggers have addressed the claims in the paragraph above, but Steve Soto Eriposte
at The Left Coaster may be most thorough; see, for example, this, and for more detail, this. I recently wrote a bit about the "yellowcake" issue more generally, here.
As Mark Kleiman observed, "The CIA committed the unforgivable sin of not supplying adequate quantities of false information
about what proved to be Iraq's nonexistent WMD program." Also, be sure to read Mark's explanation of the Nondisclosure Agreement (SF 312) that Rove and others in the Bush Administration must have signed and clearly have violated. This is a facet of Traitorgate that
the establishment press has covered very little, but it could be significant.
What frustrates me most is the way the Right attributes the Left's concerns--and,
yes, anger--about the Bush Aministration to simple partisanship or personal character flaws. You can lay out a detailed and
documented case for why the Bush Administration's policies are wrong, and righties brush this off with "you're just a Bush
hater" or "you wouldn't object if Bush were a Democrat." This weekend I've been called "vituperative," "bitter," and a few
worse things to explain away my opposition to the Bush Administration; it's just in my nature to be cranky. That's the
only reason I don't like Bush.
But the mild and reasonable Right, at the very least, has its priorities skewed. In Rightieworld, compromising our global undercover intelligence operations
ain't no big thing, but don't you dare question President Bush, even when he's made an obvious, um, mistake.
That's why righties frighten me. And that's why I say they are a bigger danger
to America than terrorists.
It has come to my attention that I'm being robustly vilified on some
parts of the Right Blogosphere today because of the Washington Post Sunday Magazine article.
I fully expected this and had told myself I would ignore it, which I mostly have.
I know where some of it is and am not going there. But as a few people with active imaginations have managed to extract a number of falsehoods out of a mostly factual article, I feel compelled to set one thing straight.
I am not wealthy. I have an extremely non-extravagant lifestyle, live in a modest
apartment, and drive an 8-year-old car. Last year I decided to drop out of the workforce for a time, which
I was able to do because of a modest inheritance I received after my mother died in November 2003. I'd been working full
time for years without being able to take a proper vacation (unlike schoolteachers, I never got the summer off, and for years
I had to use up my few little vacation days on child-related emergencies), I was exhausted and burned out, and I had
to quit for a while. I wrote a little book (see right-hand column) and am finishing up another one, but eventually I'm
going to have to drop back into the work force.
(If anybody reading this needs to hire a writer, let me know.)
I have not seen any personal attacks on Mrs. Newmark coming out of the Left Blogosphere,
which is a good thing, but also not surprising. I've believed for years that the Right is far nastier and more vicious than
the Left, and today I believe my point is proved.
So let me repeat my request that everyone treat Mrs. Newmark respectfully, and also
remind readers that any personal smears, ad hominem, or flame bait left in the comments of this blog will
I'm not sure what to make of an article by Howard Fineman at Newsweek,
"Rove at War." First, I spotted a couple of errors; Fineman repeats the false claim that Joe Wilson said Dick Cheney had sent him to Africa,
and he has the famous Novak/Rove phone call taking place on July 9 rather than July 8. Also, the writing is a tad, um,
Still, there is this interesting section:
It's unlikely that any White House officials considered that they were doing
anything illegal in going after Joe Wilson. Indeed, the line between national security and politics had long since been all
but erased by the Bush administration. In the months after 9/11, the Republican National Committee, a part of Rove's empire,
had sent out a fund-raising letter that showed the president aboard Air Force One in the hours after the attack. Democrats
howled, but that was the Bush Rove was selling in the re-election campaign: commander in chief. Now Wilson was getting in
the way of that glorious story, essentially accusing the administration of having blundered or lied the country into war.
How do you publicly counter a guy like that? As "senior adviser," Rove would
be involved in finding out. Technically, Rove was in charge of politics, not "communications." But, as he saw it, the two
were one and the same—and he used his heavyweight status to push the message machine run by his Texas protegé and
friend, Dan Bartlett. Press Secretary Ari Fleischer was sent out to trash the Wilson op-ed. "Zero, nada, nothing new
here," he said. Then, on a long Bush trip to Africa, Fleischer and Bartlett prompted clusters of reporters to look into the
bureaucratic origins of the Wilson trip. How did the spin doctors know to cast that lure? One possible explanation: some aides
may have read the State Department intel memo, which Powell had brought with him aboard Air Force One.
See this for more about the significance of the memo.
Meanwhile, in transatlantic secure phone calls, the message machinery
focused on a crucial topic: who should carry the freight on the following Sunday's talk shows? The message: protect Cheney
by explaining that he had had nothing to do with sending Wilson to Niger, and dismiss the yellowcake issue. Powell was ruled
out. He wasn't a team player, as he had proved by his dismissive comments about the "sixteen words." Donald Rumsfeld was pressed
into duty, as was Condi Rice, the ultimate good soldier. She was on the Africa trip with the president, though, and wouldn't
be getting back until Saturday night. To allow her to prepare on the long flight home to D.C., White House officials assembled
a briefing book, which they faxed to the Bush entourage in Africa. The book was primarily prepared by her National Security
Council staff. It contained classified information—perhaps including all or part of
the memo from State. The entire binder was labeled TOP SECRET. ...
... no one in the administration seems to
have noticed the irony—or the legal danger—in assembling a TOP SECRET briefing book as guidance for the Sunday talk shows.
Exactly what papers with what classifications were floating around on Air Force One? Who, if anyone, was dipping into them
for info about the Wilson trip?
I think it's possible Fineman is right that Rove and others in the Bush White House
didn't think twice about exploiting and exposing top secret national security information for political purposes. I've believed
all along that BushCo has no sense of honor or decency. They most certainly do not take their responsibilities to the United
States and its citizens seriously. All that's important to them is power and cronyism.
I didn't watch any of the Sunday political programs, but I take it from Al Rogers at Kos that nothin' new was revealed. At least the story is getting covered.
A real leader wouldn't hide behind Clintonian legalisms like "I don't want
to prejudge." Even if the disclosure was unintentional and no law was broken, Rove's confirmed conduct—talking casually to
two reporters without security clearances about a CIA operative—was dangerous and wrong.... The frantic efforts of the GOP
attack machine to change the subject to Wilson shows how scared Republicans are that the master of their universe will be
held accountable for Rove's destructive carelessness.
To get an idea of how destructive, I talked to Melissa
Mahle, a former CIA covert operative turned author whose career parallels Plame's. She explained what happens when someone's
cover is blown. It isn't pretty, especially when, like Plame, you have been under "nonofficial cover" (working for a phony
front company or nonprofit), which is more sensitive than "official cover" (pretending to work for another government agency).
The GOP's spinners are making it seem that because Plame had a desk job in Langley at the time she was outed, she wasn't truly
undercover. As Mahle says, that reflects a total ignorance about the way the CIA works. Being outed doesn't just waste millions
of taxpayer dollars; it compromises hundreds of other people in the field you may have worked with in the past.
If Bush isn't a hypocrite on national security, he needs,
at a minimum, to yank Rove's security clearance. "Whether you do it [discuss the identity of CIA operatives] intentionally
or unintentionally, you have not met the requirements of that security clearance," Mahle told me.
The bigger question is what this scandal does to the CIA's
ability to develop essential "humint" (human intelligence). Here's where the Iraq war comes in again. The sooner we beef up
our intelligence, the sooner we crack the insurgency and get to bring our troops home. What does it say to the people doing
the painstaking work of building those spy networks when the identity of one of their own becomes just another weapon in the
partisan wars of Washington? For a smart guy, Karl Rove was awfully stupid.
Rove strikes me
as a kind of idiot savant. He's brilliant at one thing--brutally dirty politics. Otherwise, he may not know
chickens from spinach. He never finished a college degree, which doesn't mean he isn't bright, but what the hell makes him
qualified to be chief of staff in charge of policy?
Rove possibly didn't appreciate the damage that outing Plame
would do. But even if he did, would he have cared? I doubt it.
In the months before the Iraqi elections
in January, President Bush approved a plan to provide covert support to certain Iraqi candidates and political parties, but
rescinded the proposal because of Congressional opposition, current and former government officials said Saturday.
Hey, if it's good enough for Ohio ... and don't miss "Battlefields" by Richard Clarke.
Thanks to a suggestion from frequent Mahablog commenter Anonymous,
I was able to access "What I Told the Grand Jury" by Matt Cooper in the new (July 25) issue of Time. No big revelations, but here are the passages
that most interested me:
...Virtually all the questions centered on the
week of July 6, 2003....
...The grand jurors wanted to know what was on my mind, and I told them.
The White House had done something it hardly ever does: it admitted a mistake. Shortly after Wilson's piece appeared, the
White House said that the African uranium claim, while probably still true, should not have been in the President's State
of the Union address because it hadn't been proved well enough. That was big news as the media flocked to find out who had
vetted the President's speech. But at the same time, I was interested in an ancillary question about why government officials,
publicly and privately, seemed to be disparaging Wilson. It struck me, as I told the grand jury, as odd and unnecessary, especially
after their saying the President's address should not have included the 16-word claim about Saddam and African uranium....
... As I told the grand jury--and we went over
this in microscopic, excruciating detail, which may someday prove relevant--I recall calling Rove from my office at TIME magazine
through the White House switchboard and being transferred to his office. I believe a woman answered the phone and said words
to the effect that Rove wasn't there or was busy before going on vacation. But then, I recall, she said something like, "Hang
on," and I was transferred to him. I recall saying something like, "I'm writing about Wilson," before he interjected. "Don't
get too far out on Wilson," he told me. I started taking notes on my computer, and while an e-mail I sent moments after the
call has been leaked, my notes have not been....
...The notes, and my subsequent e-mails, go on to indicate
that Rove told me material was going to be declassified in the coming days that would cast doubt on Wilson's mission and his
... Did Fitzgerald's questions give me a sense of where
the investigation is heading? Perhaps. He asked me several different ways if Rove indicated how he had heard that Plame worked
at the CIA. (He did not, I told the grand jury.) Maybe Fitzgerald is interested in whether Rove knew her CIA ties through
a person or through a document....
... surprising line of questioning had to do with,
of all things, welfare reform. The prosecutor asked if I had ever called Mr. Rove about the topic of welfare reform. Just
the day before my grand jury testimony Rove's lawyer, Robert Luskin, had told journalists that when I telephoned Rove that
July, it was about welfare reform and that I suddenly switched topics to the Wilson matter. After my grand jury appearance,
I did go back and review my e-mails from that week, and it seems as if I was, at the beginning of the week, hoping to publish
an article in TIME on lessons of the 1996 welfare-reform law, but the article got put aside, as often happens when news overtakes
story plans. My welfare-reform story ran as a short item two months later, and I was asked about it extensively. To me this
suggested that Rove may have testified that we had talked about welfare reform, and indeed earlier in the week, I may have
left a message with his office asking if I could talk to him about welfare reform. But I can't find any record of talking
about it with him on July 11, and I don't recall doing so. ...
Other items of interest:
The words "double super secret background" were
Cooper's, not Rove's. As most of us suspected, he was playing with a line from "Animal House."
Cooper is certain Rove didn't use Plame's name or say that she was covert.
Rove and Libby both stressed to Cooper that Dick Cheney had no connection to Wilson's
trip. Also, Rove and Libby both backed the story that Wilson had been sent to Niger by Plame.
(I keep keyboarding "Liddy" intead of "Libby." This must signify something.)
Update: Forgot this bit:
Although it's not reflected in my notes or subsequent
e-mails, I have a distinct memory of Rove ending the call by saying, "I've already said too much." This could have meant he
was worried about being indiscreet, or it could have meant he was late for a meeting or something else. I don't know, but
that sign-off has been in my memory for two years.
There may be more Traitorgate developments today, given that Joe
Wilson and Matt Cooper are scheduled to appear on some of the Sunday squawk shows. And will Cooper's anticipated Time magazine article on his testimony be posted today? Could be.
(Hey, Cooper's article was just posted on the Time web site as I was about to upload this post. Woo-hoo! But as a non-subscriber I'm locked out. I canceled my subscription when Time
ran that idiotic Ann Coulter cover story awhile back. I'll hunt around and see if anyone else has info on it, and get back
to you later. If anyone with a Time subscription can access the article, please post juicy bits to the comments.)
Beside Frank Rich's must-read column (see previous post), the other Rove-related
article worth checking out is this telling of The Story Thus Far by Jim VandeHei and Mike Allen in the Washington Post. (I suggest reading the WaPo article in conjunction
with Steve Soto's fill-in-the-gaps post. )
VandeHei and Allen write,
... Bush, Vice President Cheney and other officials decided to make the yellowcake
charges a central piece of the administration's evidence in arguing Hussein had designs on a dangerous program of weapons
of mass destruction, including nuclear bombs. On the march to war, Bush officials rebuffed concerns from some at the CIA and
included in his January 2003 State of the Union the now-famous 16 words: "The British government has learned that Saddam Hussein
recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa." Wilson was floored, then furious.
Wilson set out to discredit the charge, working largely through back channels
at first to debunk it. He called friends inside the government and the media, and told the New York Times's Nicholas D. Kristof
of his findings in Niger. Kristof aired them publicly for the first time in his May 6, 2003, column but did not name Wilson.
This caught the attention of officials inside Cheney's office, as well as others involved in war planning, according
to people who had talked with them.
This is a couple of months before the "outing"
The White House, hailing the lightning-quick toppling of Hussein, suddenly
found itself on the defensive at home over its WMD claims. It was not just Wilson, but Democrats, reporters and a few former
officials who were publicly wondering if Bush had led the nation to war based on flimsy, if not outright false, intelligence.
Administration officials set out to rebuff their critics, Wilson in
particular. By the time The Washington Post published Wilson's allegation questioning the intelligence (but not citing
his name) on the front page on June, 12, 2003 -- one month before the Plame affair was public -- Wilson was on the
administration's radar screen.
The more Wilson pushed, the more the White House was determined to push back
against a man they regarded as an irresponsible provocateur.
"Irresponsible provocateur"--that's rich. Irresponsible provocation is
the Bush White House's stock-in-trade.
Prosecutors in the C.I.A. leak case have shown intense interest
in a 2003 State Department memorandum that explained how a former diplomat came to be dispatched on an intelligence-gathering
mission and the role of his wife, a C.I.A. officer, in the trip, people who have been officially briefed on the case said.
... The memorandum was dated June 10, 2003,
nearly four weeks before Mr. Wilson wrote an Op-Ed article for The New York Times in which he recounted his mission
and accused the administration of twisting intelligence to exaggerate the threat from Iraq. The memorandum was written for
Marc Grossman, then the under secretary of state for political affairs, and it referred explicitly to Valerie Wilson as Mr.
Wilson's wife, according to a government official who reread the document on Friday.
When Mr. Wilson's Op-Ed article appeared on July 6, 2003, a Sunday, Richard
L. Armitage, then deputy secretary of state, called Carl W. Ford Jr., the assistant secretary for intelligence and research,
at home, a former State Department official said. Mr. Armitage asked Mr. Ford to send a copy of the memorandum to Mr. Powell,
who was preparing to leave for Africa with Mr. Bush, the former official said. Mr. Ford sent it to the White House for transmission
to Mr. Powell.
It's also worth noting this sequence:
July 6, 2003: Wilson's New York Times op-ed is published.
July 7, 2003: VandeHei and Allen write,
The next day, July 7, Bush took off for a trip to Africa. Secretary of State
Colin L. Powell, who was on the trip, carried with him a memo containing information about Plame, as well as other intelligence
on the yellowcake claim. It is on this trip that, prosecutors believe, some White House aides might have learned about Plame.
Richard Stevenson wrote that "Mr. Powell was seen walking around Air Force One during the trip with the memorandum
in hand," which suggests to me the memo hadn't been given eyes-only status.
July 8, 2003: In a famous phone call,
Rove and Novak exchange information on Plame and Wilson. Currently, Novak and Rove are claiming that it was Novak who told
Rove about Plame, but that wasn't Novak's original story.
As gleaned from various news stories (for example, the Richard Stevenson
story linked above), the information in the June 10 memo exactly matches the information Rove and Novak apparently
"exchanged" over the phone on July 8. This includes identifying Valerie Plame as Joe Wilson's wife instead of by name, and
the story that this wife dispatched her husband to Niger, which is not the way anyone else in the CIA remembers
The story continues, with VandeHei and Allen:
In Washington, Rove and others were discrediting Wilson's story even as then-CIA
director George J. Tenet said that the yellowcake allegation should never have been included in Bush's speech. "This did not
rise to the level of certainty which should be required for presidential speeches, and CIA should have ensured that it was
removed," Tenet said in a July 11 statement.
In a conversation that same day, Rove told Time magazine's Matthew Cooper
that Wilson's wife was in the CIA and authorized the mission to Niger; but he did not use her name. Afterwards, Rove e-mailed
then-deputy national security adviser Stephen J. Hadley to tell him he had waved Cooper off Wilson's claim.
A day later, Cheney's top aide, I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, told Cooper he had
heard the same thing about Plame, and a senior administration official flagged the role of Wilson's wife, almost in passing,
to The Washington Post's Walter Pincus.
On July 14, Novak's column ran, naming Plame for the first time and saying
two senior administration officials had provided him the information. The White House anti-Wilson campaign continued, but
legally it did not matter, because once Plame's name was in the public domain, Rove and others were free to gossip about her.
Rove told MSNBC's Chris Matthews that Plame was fair game, even as White House
spokesman Scott McClellan was denying any White House role in the leak. "I'm telling you flatly that that is not the way this
White House operates," the spokesman told reporters July 22. McClellan was usually careful to stress involvement in any illegal
leak, though his public statements clearly left an impression of a White House aloof to the affair.
CIA officials believed that the revealing of Plame's identity was a potential
crime and contacted the Justice Department to investigate. CIA officials maintain that Plame never ordered up the trip.
Circumstantial, but a whole s---load of circumstantial, huh?
"To announce that there must be no criticism of the
president, or that we are to stand by the president, right or wrong, is not only unpatriotic and servile, but is
morally treasonable to the American public." --Theodore Roosevelt, 1918
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."
· · · · · ·
It was believed, afterward, that the man was a lunatic,
because there was no sense in what he said.