Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Responding to "Novak Outs McClellan" comment

Readers Note: For background to this post you should be familiar with Novak Outs McClellan and The AP plays the "Plame game", both posted yesterday.

An Anon commented on the Novak Outs McClellan thread - - -

FITZGERALD: Valerie Wilson was a CIA officer. In July 2003, the fact that Valerie Wilson was a CIA officer was classified. Not only was it classified, but it was not widely known outside the intelligence community.

Valerie Wilson's friends, neighbors, college classmates had no idea she had another life.

FITZGERALD: The fact that she was a CIA officer was not well- known, for her protection or for the benefit of all us. It's important that a CIA officer's identity be protected, that it be protected not just for the officer, but for the nation's security.

Valerie Wilson's cover was blown in July 2003. The first sign of that cover being blown was when Mr. Novak published a column on July 14th, 2003

My response:

Fitzgerald said a lot that hasn’t stood up.

Also, he didn’t tell the public at the start of the "investigation" in which he was charged to find “the Plame leaker:”

Guess what folks? I already know the leaker is Richard Armitage. He not only leaked to Novak, but two weeks before that he leaked to Bob Woodward. It’s been great conducting this investigation. Now I’m going back home to Illinois.”

Tom Maguire at Just One Minute has done tremendous work following “the Plame outing,” including Fitzgerald’s “investigation.”

The following is part of his Mar. 16, 2007 post Plame On!

Let's get into the Plame hearing conducted by Rep. Waxman today.

Matt Apuzzo of the AP deserves the props we gave him - this story seems to hit the key controversies and presents both sides. Here we go: . . .

(2) Was Ms. Plame covert?

From Matt Apuzzo:

Plame also repeatedly described herself as a covert operative, a term that has multiple meanings. Plame said she worked undercover and traveled abroad on secret missions for the CIA.

But the word "covert" also has a legal definition requiring recent foreign service and active efforts to keep someone's identity secret. Critics of Fitzgerald's investigation said Plame did not meet that definition for several reasons and said that's why nobody was charged with the leak. =

Also, none of the witnesses who testified at Libby's trial said it was clear that Plame's job was classified. However, Fitzgerald said flatly at the courthouse after the verdict that Plame's job was classified.


Plame said she wasn't a lawyer and didn't know what her legal status was but said it shouldn't have mattered to the officials who learned her identity.

"They all knew that I worked with the CIA," Plame said. "They might not have known what my status was but that alone - the fact that I worked for the CIA - should have put up a red flag."

She didn't know her legal status? She's so covert that not even she knows if she is legally covert! And we are more than three years into this. Oh, my - well, I don't know her status either. Maybe they call her the wind. (But they call the wind Mariah...)

The WaPo was OK on this issue this morning as well:

In the CIA's eyes, the revelation of Plame's name in any context, whether she was stationed here or abroad, gave away a national security secret that could have dangerous repercussions. When Novak's column unmasking her as a CIA operative was published on July 14, 2003, the CIA general counsel's office automatically sent a routine report to the Justice Department that there had been an unauthorized disclosure of classified information.

As part of normal procedures, the agency made a preliminary damage assessment and then sent a required follow-up report to Justice. Then-Attorney General John Ashcroft decided to open a criminal investigation but three months later recused himself because the probe led into the White House. Patrick J. Fitgerald, the U.S. attorney for northern Illinois, became special counsel and began to investigate "the alleged unauthorized disclosure of a CIA employee's identity."

In February 2004, after reviewing what the FBI had, Fitzgerald widened his investigation to include "any federal criminal laws related to the underlying alleged unauthorized disclosure," plus any efforts to obstruct the probe.

* * *

Some news stories created initial confusion over Plame's status by suggesting that disclosure of her name and employment may have violated the Intelligence Identities Protection Act of 1982. That law, passed in response to disclosure of the names of CIA officers serving overseas by former CIA employee Philip Agee, made it a crime to disclose the names of "covert agents," which the act narrowly defined as those serving overseas or who had served as such in the previous five years.

"Covert agent" is not a label actually used within the agency for its employees, according to former senior CIA officials. Plame, who joined the agency right out of Pennsylvania State University, underwent rigorous spycraft training to become an officer in the Directorate of Operations. (The term "agent" in the CIA is only applied to foreign nationals recruited to spy in support of U.S. interests.)

It is funny watching CREW try to lower the bar:

Plame's testimony today "will be very forceful and clear, and there won't be any question what classified means," said Anne Weismann, chief counsel for Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington...
No, there probably won't be any questions about "classified", since the key question is whether she was "covert" under the statute. (emphasis added)

Maguire's entire post is here.

Folks, “the Plame affair” has many unanswered questions, including why the Bush administration didn’t respond more effectively to what we now know was a bogus claim of “outing a covert operative.” I’ll say more about that question this weekend.

What we do know for certain is that Karl Rove and Scooter Libby didn’t “out” her; Richard Armitage did. And that was my main point yesterday and that was why Novak refuted McClennan's smears of Rove and Libby.

Question: Does anyone know why, when the story broke, Armitage didn’t step forward in public and say something like:

“ A lot of false charges are being directed at the White House, especially about Vice President Cheney, his staff and Karl Rove. And while I don’t like those people and oppose a lot of what they’re doing as does my boss Colin Powell, I’ve got to be honest and tell you I leaked Valerie Plame’s name to Bob Woodward weeks before Novak published his story. And by the way, I was also the leaker for Novak’s story. Now I’ll take questions?”


Anonymous said...

John: That would have taken a level of personal courage that Armitage does not possess.

Anonymous said...

John -

In my book, Fitzgerald is no better than Nifong. Fitzgerald knew full well before he started the investigation that Armitage was the one who "outed" Valerie Plame (and I use the term, "outed," loosely because from what I've ready there was nothing to out). Fitzgerald basically hounded the White House for at least a year. He sent two reporters to jail, and he had Scooter Libby convicted of perjury. All the time he knew it was Armitage. That is no different than the lacrosse hoax, except people went to jail and a conviction was made. (If Ashcroft had had any moxie he would have ended the investigation before it began; and if Armitage were not a coward, he would have come forward and admit to what he did; and if the President had any gumption he would have fired Ashcroft and Fitzgerald on learning the facts.)

I think, and I have thought since the beginning, that Fitzgerald should be disbarred for what he did. Being a prosecutor does not give one the right to be a persecutor. Ultimately, the Fitzgeralds and Nifongs of the world will make it difficult for future investigators to gather evidence. Why should anyone cooperate when that cooperation can turn into an indictment?

Finally, with regard to Wilson and Plame, I believe that they conspired to have Wilson go to Niger to embarrass the President. Wilson was totally unqualified to be an investigator, and by his own admission, when he got to Niger he sat around sipping green tea. Then he reports back that he did not find any Iraqi agents purchasing yellow-cake. Well of course, if all your doing is sitting around drinking tea, how are you going to know who's doing what? Both Plame and Wilson should be investigated for conspiracy, and if they are not out of government jobs, they should be.

Jack in Silver Spring