Thursday, October 27, 2005


Our stalwart colleague J. Schwarz at A Tiny Revolution, on a tip from our equally stalwart colleague S. Tweety at The Poor Man, eavesdropped on an exceptionally poignant conversation at NRO's so-square-it's-got-five-corners The Corner, which is, as far as we can tell, a sort of Penthouse Forum for semi-literate Young Republican wankers who bust a premature nut at the first mention of the late President Reagan:

SOMEONE HELP ME OUT [Jonah Goldberg]: Byron, Andy, someone: Is it possible that Wilson will be indicted too, or is that pure pie-in-the-sky talk? Because that would sure help a lot of bitter pills go down . . . .

DANG [Jonah Goldberg]: Stephen Spruiell adds:
Hi Jonah, Sorry. I had that wishful thinking too. But the Senate Select Intelligence Committee report reveals that: "DO officials told Committee staff that they promised the former ambassador that they would keep his relationship with CIA confidential, but did not ask the former ambassador to do the same and did not ask him to sign a confidentiality or non-disclosure agreement" (p. 41). So Wilson was never obligated to keep his trip a secret, although if leaking his wife's name is a crime he should be indicted for ensuring it would happen when he wrote his op-ed. Oh, and if lying to reporters was a crime he'd be sharing a cell with Bubba already.
Since the above exchange Mr. Goldberg's colleagues have turned their attentions to weightier matters, such as erstwhile Supreme Court nominee Harriet Miers's unseemly deployment of a quotation from Barbra Steisand, while Mr. Goldberg himself, in his quest for solace, has moved on to the contemplation of real-life X-Ray Spex (see photo, right) -- and let us all hope that technology might one day allow him to see what his natural suavity, so far, has not.

However, other right-wing commentators appear to share Mr. Goldberg's whimsically forlorn hope that the secret purpose and ultimate result of Patrick Fitzgerald's investigation might be the exposure of a sinister cabal, led by Messrs. Tenet and Wilson, to undermine the other sinister cabal led by Messrs. Cheney, Rove, and Libby. Zemblan patriot J.D. recently paid a visit to the website of Accuracy in Media, the late Reed Irvine's ironically-named disinformation outfit, where editor Cliff Kincaid is doing his damnedest to keep the dream alive:

The media version of the CIA leak case is that the White House illegally revealed a CIA employee's identity because her husband, Joseph Wilson, was an administration critic. But former prosecutor Joseph E. diGenova says the real story is that the CIA "launched a covert operation" against the President when it sent Wilson on the mission to Africa to investigate the Iraq-uranium link. DiGenova, a former Independent Counsel who prosecuted several high-profile cases and has extensive experience on Capitol Hill, including as counsel to several Senate committees, is optimistic that Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald will figure it all out.

DiGenova tells this columnist, "It seems to me somewhat strange, in terms of CIA tradecraft, that if you were really attempting to protect the identity of a covert officer, why would you send her husband overseas on a mission, without a confidentiality agreement, and then allow him when he came back to the United States to write an op-ed piece in the New York Times about it."

That mission, he explained, leads naturally to the questions: Who is this guy? And how did he get this assignment? "That's not the way you protect the identity of a covert officer," he said. "If it is, then [CIA director] Porter Goss is doing the right thing in cleaning house" at the agency.

If the CIA is the real villain in the case, then almost everything we have been told about the scandal by the media is wrong. What's more, it means that the CIA, perhaps the most powerful intelligence agency in the U.S. Government, was deliberately trying to undermine the Bush Administration's Iraq War policy. The liberals who are anxious for indictments of Bush Administration officials in this case should start paying attention to this aspect of the scandal. They may be opposed to the Iraq War, but since when is the CIA allowed to run covert operations against an elected president of the U.S.? . . . .

One of those apparently threatened with indictment, as Times reporter Judith Miller's account of her grand jury testimony revealed, is an agency critic named Lewis Libby, chief of staff to Vice President Dick Cheney. Miller said that Libby was frustrated and angry about "selective leaking" by the CIA and other agencies to "distance themselves from what he recalled as their unequivocal prewar intelligence assessments." Miller said Libby believed the "selective leaks" from the CIA were an attempt to "shift blame to the White House" and were part of a "perverted war" over the war in Iraq.

Wilson was clearly part of that war. He came back from Niger in Africa and wrote the New York Times column insisting there was no Iraqi deal to purchase uranium for a nuclear weapons program. In fact, however, Wlson had misrepresented his own findings, and the Senate Intelligence Committee found there was additional evidence of Iraqi attempts to buy uranium.
Uh huh. Two reports commissioned independently of Wilson's came to the exact same conclusion, and the "additional evidence" mentioned in Sen. Roberts's whitewash has of course never surfaced -- for reasons that should become painfully clear if you read about the latest round of revelations from the Italian newspaper La Repubblica (also here), which has published a series of investigative reports on the Niger yellowcake forgeries.

In a subsequent article on Judith Miller's role in the scandal, Kincaid's logic gets even kinkier:
As I have noted previously, Herbert Romerstein, a former professional staff member of the House Intelligence Committee, says that Plame's involvement in sending her husband on the CIA mission to Africa meant that when Wilson went public about it, foreign intelligence services would investigate all of his family members for possible CIA connections. Those intelligence services would not simply assume that he went on the mission because he was a former diplomat. They would investigate his wife. And that would inevitably lead to unraveling the facts about Valerie Wilson, or Valerie Plame, and her involvement with the CIA. Romerstein says that Plame's role in arranging the mission for her husband is solid proof that she was not concerned about having her "cover" blown because she was not truly under cover.

By any account, she was hardly a James Bond-type. Plame's "cover," a company called "Brewster-Jennings & Associates," was so flimsy that she used it as her affiliation when she made a 1999 contribution to Al Gore for president. She identified herself as "Valerie Wilson" in this case. The same Federal Election Commission records showing her contribution to Gore also reveal a $372 contribution to America Coming Together, when the group was organizing to defeat Bush.
The willful stupidity of this passage is staggering. Wilson was an obvious, and obviously qualified, choice for a fact-finding expedition -- an Africa expert; a former ambassador to Gabon and Sao Tome and Principe, with experience in Niger; the last diplomat to meet face-to-face with Saddam Hussein; a notorious hardass. In other words, he was a known quantity. Why would foreign intelligence services "investigate all of his family members for possible CIA connections" when he went to Niger as a representative of the CIA? He wasn't undercover. The people he talked to knew who he was, and what his mission was. Yet we are now asked to assume that when they saw his byline in the New York Times months after the fact, they smacked themselves on the forehead and said "Holy cow! That guy from the CIA might have had CIA connections!"

Ergo, if Valerie Plame did send her husband off to Niger -- which she didn't, because she lacked the authority to do so -- she should have anticipated that his findings, whatever they were, would be rejected by the warhacks and stovepipers in the Office of Special Plans, thereby generating a scandal which would lead Wilson to go public, thereby guaranteeing that foreign intelligence services would penetrate her cover. (Has anyone told Mr. Goss how remarkably easy it is for foreign spooks to identify an American NOC? If not, why not?)

And if you doubt how little Ms. Plame/Flame/Wilson valued her supposed undercover status, note that when she gave money to a Democrat she listed her employer as "Brewster-Jennings & Associates," the nonexistent front company for which she supposedly worked. A real undercover operative would have listed her employer as "CIA."

Look: we are perfectly willing to believe that the Niger forgeries were part of a CIA plan to bamboozle and/or discredit the Cheneyites in the OSP (as even Seymour Hersh has suggested); the OSP, after all, had been given the task of justifying the invasion of Iraq by generating lousy intelligence that wouldn't pass CIA muster. (We don't quite understand why Michael Ledeen, Steven Hadley, et al would be neck-deep in an effort to discredit the Cheneyites, but we're willing to stipulate for the sake of argument that they were.) Our question is a simple one:

If the Cheney/Rove/Libby cabal was trying to generate a phony rationale for going to war with Iraq, and the Tenet/Wilson cabal was trying to shoot it down, which cabal should we have been rooting for?

SIDEBAR: And while we are on the subject of young Master Goldberg, our esteemed colleague The Green Knight has examined the doughy one's most recent literary egestum and concluded that sometimes, yes, it is possible to judge a book by its cover.

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