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Monday, July 18, 2005

Tangled Up In Yellowcake

Responding to my quip about Rove not being in town to "warn off" 60 Minutes from its embarassing TANG story, Lukery of Wotisitgood4 reminds me in the comments that the TANG story actually knocked off another big story that 60 Minutes had been working on for months: The Niger forgery story.

If you'll recall, after Rathergate 60 Minutes decided to withhold the story entirely. I have been unable to ascertain if it was ever shown, but I know I didn't see it.

Salon magazine saw a tape of the show and reported this:

The importance that CBS placed on the report was evident by its unusual length: It was slated to run a full half hour, double the usual 15 minutes of a single segment. Although months of reporting went into the production, CBS abruptly decided that it would be "inappropriate to air the report so close to the presidential election," in the words of a statement that network spokeswoman Kelli Edwards gave the New York Times.

The real reason, of course, was that because of CBS's sloppy reporting on the Bush National Guard story, the network's news executives believed they could no longer report credibly on the heart of the Iraq nuclear issue, involving another set of completely forged documents: those purporting to show that Iraq had purchased yellowcake uranium from the African country Niger.

Salon was given the videotape by CBS News on the condition that we report on it only shortly before it was to air. But after the network effectively spiked its own story (which was reported by Newsweek online and by the New York Times), we sent an e-mail late last week to CBS stating that we believed that the embargo no longer applied. We received no reply and therefore feel free to report.


Whatever the case, the CBS producers apparently decided to concentrate on what could be nailed down: the Bush administration had, either intentionally or with breathtaking credulity, relied on patently false intelligence to make the case for invading Iraq.

"Two years ago, Americans heard some frightening words from President Bush and his closest advisors," Bradley said in his introduction of the now-shelved report. "Saddam Hussein, they said, could soon have a nuclear bomb. Of course, we now know that wasn't true." Not only did Saddam not have a nuclear program, Bradley said, but "he hadn't for more than 10 years. How could the Bush administration be so wrong about something so important?"


In his closing, Bradley explains how fiercely the White House fought his report. Administration officials and Republicans in Congress turned down "60 Minutes'" requests for interview. So did former Rep. Porter Goss, the Florida Republican whom Bush has appointed as the new director of the CIA.

"60 Minutes" defied the White House to produce this report. But it could not survive the network's cowardice -- cowardice born of self-inflicted wounds.

What a shame. The TANG story really was old news and the only people who still cared about Vietnam were hardline republicans who were always going to vote for Bush. This story was about a real scandal.

It is interesting, though, that the White House fought this story tooth and nail but didn't say a word when 60 Minutes ran the story about the Killian documents past them. You can understand why these people believe so fervently in God. 60 Minutes killed the serious story about forgeries that would have fed right into the Democrats' story line about Iraq so that they could show a senational story about Bush that was based on forgeries. God was definitely rooting for the Republicans that day.

I wonder if 60 Minutes is recovered enough from their trauma to think about finally running (or rerunning) this story. Or do they still think it's inappropriate?

Case Closed

We can all close shop on Rovegate. The freepers have it all figured out:

Joe Wilson already admitted she was not under cover and:

Plame was not a covert agent. She had not been covert for nine years as she was outed by Aldrich Ames prior to 1994 and then again by the Cubans. She was assigned a desk job as an analyst at that time for her own safety.

The identity of CIA officer Valerie Plame was compromised twice before her name appeared in a news column that triggered a federal illegal-disclosure investigation, U.S. officials say.

Mrs. Plame's identity as an undercover CIA officer was first disclosed to Russia in the mid-1990s by a Moscow spy, said officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity. In a second compromise, officials said a more recent inadvertent disclosure resulted in references to Mrs. Plame in confidential documents sent by the CIA to the U.S. Interests Section of the Swiss Embassy in Havana.

The documents were supposed to be sealed from the Cuban government, but intelligence officials said the Cubans read the classified material and learned the secrets contained in them, the officials said.

Washington Times

She would have had to have been covert in the last five years for Rove to have broken the law, per former Assistant Deputy Attorney General Victoria Toensing, who helped draft the 1982 law in question.

For Plame's outing to have been illegal, the one-time deputy AG explained, "her status as undercover must be classified." Also, Plame "must have been assigned to duty outside the United States currently or in the past five years."

Case closed.

So, there you go. The bizarro world version of the Plame case brought to you by the Washington Times and Newsmax.

Oh, and there's one more interesting little bit of speculation that I think we all need to think about. (These freepers are sharp.)

And we're to believe that Judith Miller went to jail to protect Karl Rove?

Really. I am so very interested to know what the Prosecutor knows about Judy Miller that we don't. Is this going to end up with The Plame-Wilsons in jail?

I've read that elsewhere. There really is a theme on the right that Fitzgerald is actually going to indict Joseph Wilson and his wife. This is understandable. In their experience federal prosecutors are all Republican hacks who work hand in glove with Drudge and Lucianne Goldberg. In their view the rule of law says that only Democrats are criminal. (And note the derisive "Plame-Wilson." Does Karl know his people or does Karl know his people?)

And then you have to really love this one:

and I'm sure he'll go right ahead and shut the whole thing down.

And end his lucrative gig?

Fitzgerald's in it for the money.

Remember, this is the base that Karl and Junior have so carefully cultivated and are valued over any other constituency in the country. Doesn't it make the hair on the back of your neck stand up?
Question On Judy

I'm just curious about something and maybe my readers can help me out. In yesterday's NY Times article it says:

Asked whether New York Times reporter Judith Miller might have provided information about Plame to government sources, George Freeman, an assistant general counsel of The New York Times Company told Liptak: "Judy learned about Valerie Plame from a confidential source or sources whose identity she continues to protect to this day. If the suggestion is that she is covering up for her source or some fictitious source, that is preposterous.

Has Miller ever said before that the source she's protecting told her about Valerie Plame? She didn't write a story, she hasn't turned over her notes and she hasn't talked about who or what the prosecutor wants to question her about, to my knowledge.

Certainly, it seems clear that someone else must have told Fitzgerald that Miller was a party to the information, but until now I didn't know she had admitted it or that she had so explicitly said that she was protecting someone who told her about Plame. Am I wrong?

Performance Blog

If you are in New York in August, plan to check out the "Year Of Living Rudely" starring everybody's favorite dirty talker (and my personal inspiration) The Rude Pundit. Guaranteed to blow your mind. Or blow something. Bring cigarettes and bottled water.

Mr Helpful

It occurs to me as I read the pithy Charles Pierce piece I've been yearning for, that it's quite wonderful that Karl Rove makes it a practice to warn reporters off of stories he thinks will embarrass them. I guess he must have been out of town the day CBS submitted its National Guard story to the white house for comment.


Sunday, July 17, 2005

Rove Food

New detail about what Fitzgerald knows from the LA Times:

Prosecutors investigating whether White House officials illegally leaked the identity of Wilson's wife, a CIA officer who had worked undercover, have been told that Bush's top political strategist, Karl Rove, and I. Lewis Libby, chief of staff for Vice President Dick Cheney, were especially intent on undercutting Wilson's credibility, according to a person familiar with the inquiry.

While lower-level White House staff members typically handle most contacts with the media, Rove and Libby began personally communicating with reporters about Wilson, prosecutors were told.

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.


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.

The source familiar with the investigation said Saturday that prosecutors had obtained a White House call sheet showing that Novak left a message for Fleischer on the afternoon of July 7, 2003, the day after Wilson's op-ed article appeared and the day that Fleischer left with the president for Africa. Fleischer declined to comment for this article, but has flatly denied that he was the source of the leak.

Wilson said in an interview Saturday that he had known that Novak was interested in him a week or so before the column appeared. He said that a friend who saw Novak on the street reported that Novak told him, "Wilson is an (expletive) and his wife works for the CIA."


There have been other indications of a concerted White House action against the former envoy. Washington Post reporter Walter Pincus has said that two days before Novak's column, he was told by an "administration official" that the White House was not putting much stock in the Wilson trip to Africa because it was "set up as a boondoggle by his wife, an analyst with the agency working on weapons of mass destruction," according to an account of the conversation Pincus wrote for the Summer 2005 issue of Nieman Reports, published by the Nieman Foundation for Journalism at Harvard University.

Let's suppose you are a straight shooting prosecutor or a grand juror. And let's suppose an extremely powerful and arrogant asshole testifies that he thinks it's perfectly ok to "discredit" his political opponents with derogatory information about them. Let's assume that a whole bunch of people from the White House testify that this arrogant asshole was obsessed with smearing a critic "because he was a Democrat."

Do you think he'd get the benefit of the doubt asbout whether he actually smeared this critic from either the straight shooting prosecutor or the grand juror?

I don't either. If they can nail him they're going to. He's a pig.
Closing Ranks

Bob Novak, who is now Karl Rove's howling bitch until the day his rotting cadaver finally admits it's dead, says that Ed Gillespie (whom he pointedly calls a protege of Karl Rove) may be the new chief of staff. It appears they are easing Andy Card out.

He has been disloyal in the past:

I made these inquiries in part because last spring, when I spoke to White House chief of staff Andrew Card, he sounded an alarm about the unfettered rise of Rove in the wake of senior adviser Karen Hughes’s resignation: "I’ll need designees, people trusted by the president that I can elevate for various needs to balance against Karl. . . . They are going to have to really step up, but it won’t be easy. Karl is a formidable adversary.

One wonders if Karl may think he's been disloyal more recently. After all, as Weldon Berger has been reminding us, there is still the question of who leaked to the Washington Post that the Plame leak was done "purely and simply for revenge." I always speculated it was Andy, who's not part of the Texas mafia.

In any case, it looks like the hankie twisting, pearl clutching Ed "political hate speech" Gillespie is being brought on to shore up Karl and "send a message." That's what they do. It's only a matter of time before we see Ben Ginsberg on the scene.

When they call in James "divaaaaaahn" Baker, we'll know the jig is up.

Is It Safe?

Via Crooks and Liars, I see that Bob Schieffer takes the president to task for not just hauling in his top aides two years ago and telling them he wanted to know who talked to the press. This is a good question and one which I think the press should be asking every day. But then, Bush has always been a little cagey on this, hasn't he? Why you'd almost think he already knew all about it.

And then there's David Broder who seems to have popped half a viagra this morning and actually condemns the White House for it's ruthless behavior AND takes the press corpse top task for its wimpiness. Father Tim came close to giving Ken Mehman an Al Goring this morning.

The DC establishment has opened one droopy eye and they see that the Republicans might actually be vulnerable. So they pulled their guts from the storage box under the bed and tried them on for size. I wonder if they still fit after all this time?

Another Unhappy Ambassador

I sure hope this guy's wife didn't have any pecadilloes in college or anything because they are going to be after him, for sure.

Memo Minutia

Warning: Extreme parsing of arcane Rovegate evidence follows. Read at the risk of being put to sleep immediately.

Michael at Reading A1 suggests that I've misinterpreted the Fred Barnes piece I wrote about yesterday and that Cheney may have seen an earlier memo from an American diplomat rather than the now infamous June 10, 2003 classified memo that everybody's talking about. He may very well be right. I even questioned whether there even were any earlier memos.

Well, there were, and a whole bunch of them. (See the SSCI Report on Pre-War Intelligence, here.) And there was an American diplomat who debriefed Wilson whose report Cheney very likely saw if he requested information about Wilson's trip --- Barbara Owens-Kirkpatrick, the Ambassador of Niger. It's entirely believable that if the VP wanted to see a report on someone they'd send him the report of an Ambassador. He may have even picked up the phone and called her. In any case, it's certainly true that Cheney could have seen earlier memos and probably did. (We don't know when he saw those memos, but they do exist.) My speculation was probably off base.

Michael sets forth a theory about Cheney's revenge that I find quite persuasive. Along with him and Josh Marshall I would not be in the least bit surprised that this whole thing stemmed from the turf wars that characterized the run up to the invasion. I'm sure they are still fighting them. Negroponte may have to find some of his old friends in the Honduran Army to quell them.

Yesterday, like me, Marshall asked who wrote the June memo and why:

Who requested that the memo be written? Who actually wrote it? Why does it contain the inaccuracies the CIA claims it does? Who were the administration officials who continued to circulate the classified document to conservative news outlets even after Plame's identity was initially revealed? And how did it get into the hands of Jeff Gannon?

I think I have discovered some answers:

The answer to the first question is that we don't know who requested the memo.

The answer to the second question appears to be an INR analyst who is quoted heavily in the SSCI report and seems to be the only real source for the fact that Plame somehow finagled to get Wilson the trip.

In answer to the third, there is a big question as to whether anybody in the administration continued to circulate the memo to conservative news outlets (although they were certainly discussing it with mainstream news outlets.) Rather it appears that the CIA got the impression Jeff Gannon of Talon News had seen the memo (and rightly so, he acted as if he did) when he had in fact seen this article from October of 2003 in the WSJ (sorry can't find working link) which said:

An internal government memo addresses some of the mysteries at the center of the White House leak investigation and could help investigators in the search for who disclosed the identity of a Central Intelligence Agency operative, according to two people familiar with the memo.

The memo, prepared by U.S. intelligence personnel, details a meeting in early 2002 where CIA officer Valerie Plame and other intelligence officials gathered to brainstorm about how to verify reports that Iraq had sought uranium yellowcake from Niger.

Ms. Plame, a member of the agency's clandestine service working on Iraqi weapons issues, suggested at the meeting that her husband, Africa expert and former U.S. diplomat Joseph Wilson, could be sent to Niger to investigate the reports, according to current and former government officials familiar with the meeting at the CIA's Virginia headquarters. Soon after, midlevel CIA officials decided to send him, say intelligence officials.

Classified memos, like the one describing Ms. Plame's role, have limited circulation and investigators are likely to question all those known to have received it. Intelligence officials haven't denied Ms. Plame was involved in the decision to send Mr. Wilson, but they have said she was not "responsible" for the decision.

Gannon played games for quite a while pretending he was protecting sources and the like but finally he admitted that he was actually referring to the WSJ story. (The CIA was misled by Jeff Gannon into thinking that this classified memo was making the rounds of conservative male prostitutes. You can understand why they were upset. Might as well plaster it all over the Web. In living color.)

They were also likely upset that this memo was being discussed (and in such detail) because it was still classified. (I'll leave it up to the lawyers to figure out whether releasing new details of a classified document that has been preivously leaked contitutes a crime.)

In the end, it appears to me that there is only one primary source of the "Wilson's wife sent him" story and it is a single INR (state department intelligence) analyst. I suspect he is the one who wrote the 2003 memo. The SSCI Report entry on this specific subject begins:

CPD officials could not recall how the office decided to contact the former ambassador, however, interviews and documents provided to the Committee indicate that his wife, a CPD employee, suggested his name for the trip. The CPD reports officer told Committee staff that the former ambassador’s wife “offered up his name” and a memorandum to the Deputy Chief of the CPD on February 12,2002, from the former ambassador’s wife says, “my husband has good relations with both the PM [prime minister] and the former Minister of Mines (not to mention lots of French contacts), both of whom could possibly shed light on this sort of activitv.” This was just one day before CPD sent a cable-requesting concurrence with CPD’s idea to send the former ambassador to Niger and requesting any additional information from the foreign government service on their uranium reports. The former ambassador’s wife told Committee staff that when CPD decided it would like to send the former ambassador to Niger, she approached her husband on behalf of the CIA and told him “there’s this crazy report” on a purported deal for Niger to sell uranium to Iraq.

(This allegedly unbiased SSCI report is big on the scare quotes when describing the Wilsons's testimony.It tries to make a not very subtle case that she was trying to slant the evidence to favor Saddam even before the trip. It's this biased language to which the Democrats on the panel rightly objected in their dissent.)

The Plame memo in question here has been explained as one written about Wilson's qualifications, but not one that suggested he go. The interviews mentioned indicate only two people, the person who said "she offered up his name" and the INR analyst who said the first meeting with Wilson was "apparently convened by [the former ambassador’s] wife who had the idea to dispatch [him.]" There appears to be no other corroboration although the meeting was full of people. The only other documentation the SSCI report provides is the INR analyst's notes:

On February 19,2002, CPD hosted a meeting with the former ambassador, intelligence analysts from both the CIA and INR, and several individuals DO and CPD divisions. The purpose of the meeting was to discuss the merits of the former ambassador traveling to Niger. An INR analyst’s notes indicate that the meeting was “apparently convened by [the former ambassador’s] wife who had the idea to dispatch [him] to use his contacts to sort out the Iraq-Niger uranium issue.” The former ambassador’s wife told Committee staff that she only attended the meeting to introduce her husband and left after about three minutes.

The CIA has disputed in press reports that this analyst could have been at the meeting in which sending Wilson was broached. And that meeting must have been before the one the analyst refers to, since Wilson attended the one he's discussing. I don't know if the analyst had attended any earlier meetings in which Wilson was discussed for the mission, but the report doesn't mention it if he did. I think the press has been confused about this or deliberately misled.

What appears to have happened is that there was an earlier meeting in which it was decided (we don't know how) that Wilson should be sent. Plame introduced her husband at a later meeting with a bunch of people from throughout the intelligence community and then left. The analyst's impression was that she arranged the meeting and he put that in his notes. The rest is history.

Here's the bottom line as I see it. It's still quite possible that Cheney saw Wilson's report. According to the SSCI report, the CIA issued one and sent it up the line specifically because they knew that Cheney had asked about the Niger question. They did not make a special delivery to his office, so there is no way to prove one way or the other if Cheney ever saw it short of subpoenaeing the VP's records --- which I'm sure have long since been "misplaced." There were other reports issued as well, including the one written by this INR analyst called Niger: Sale of Uranium To Iraq Is Unlikely.

On the other hand, it's entirely possible that Cheney didn't see any reports. It's clear that people were trying to give him information he wanted to see. Wilson's report backed up Owen-Kirkpatrick and others who said Iraq was very unlikely to have been trying to buy yellowcake from Niger. Therefore, since it wasn't dispositive in their view on that fact, they may not have wanted to draw Cheney's ire by bringing it up.

One thing that's intriguing, however, is that the CIA told Cheney's briefer on March 5th that a source was coming back from Niger that day who could shed further light on the subject. That source was Joe Wilson. Either the briefer never gave Cheney that heads up or Cheney never followed up with it. Then again, maybe he did.

Whatever the case, Cheney says that he didn't know anything about it until he started to read the anonymous quotes in the newspapers from "a former ambassador" at which point he got a debriefing from an American diplomat. At this same time a memo was requested by somebody about the provenance of Wilson's trip (Wilson was saying it was to answer questions raised by Cheney.) It appears to me that at this point the INR analyst wrote up his notes about his involvement in the trip and those notes became the June 10th memo. And the White House seized on the fact that he said Wilson's wife was involved.

I suspect that's as far as they got. With the modern Republicans, all you have to do is mention that there might be some dirt on somebody's wife and they are all over it like slavering wolves. This would be exactly the kind of smear they'd jump on. This, then, would be their counterattack.

If that's so, the question then becomes, did they ever follow up with anyone to find out Plame's status with the CIA? Did anyone ever even contemplate that she might be in a delicate position there? Did they ever ask anyone at CIA if it was true that she had "arranged" the trip? And then of course there are the pivotal questions of who saw this memo and when --- and who leaked it to whom and when.

That's my theory of how the June 2003 memo came to be. And I'm pretty convinced that it's the real source of this whole thing. Judy Miller may complicate this, but I suspect that if she's a source, she's a cut-out for Libby (to whom we know she spoke during this period) not an original source herself. However, since I know fuck-all about what she knows, I can't really speculate.

Given what we know today from news reports and the SSCI report, this single INR analyst's notes, which people have conflated with a meeting he may never even have attended, seems like the simplest most believable source of this mess.

Update: Clarification on the Plame memo in which she discusses her husbands qualifications. TIME magazine says today:

Or, more personally, was Rove suggesting that Wilson was chosen not for his expertise but because his wife was trying to help him stay in the game? Certainly Rove distorted her role when he claimed she had authorized the trip. "She was not in a position to send Joe Wilson anywhere except to bed without his supper," says Larry Johnson, a Plame classmate at the CIA who later worked on Central American issues for the agency and then moved to the State Department as a counterterrorism officer. According to a declassified July 7, 2004, report from the Senate Intelligence Committee, it was Plame's boss, the deputy chief of the CIA's counterproliferation division, who authorized the trip. He did so after Plame "offered up" her husband's name for the Niger mission, according to the report. In a Feb. 12, 2002, memo to her boss, Plame wrote that "my husband has good relations with both the PM [Prime Minister] and the former Minister of Mines (not to mention lots of French contacts), both of whom could possibly shed light on this sort of activity."

It's highly unlikely that her boss was involved in the classified state department memo that made the rounds because well ... he actually knew she was clandestine.
If he was consulted by the White House on this matter, and told them (as I assume he would) that she was undercover, then they are criminal scumbags for outing her. If they didn't bother to consult they are stupid scumbags for outing her. Either way, they're scumbags.

The Dog Ate My Classified Memo

So it's finally been revealed that Libby and Rove were Cooper's sources. What a coincidence. And both of them "heard" about Wilson's wife sending him on the mission from a reporter. Man oh man, what are the odds? It's even more shocking that the two most powerful political operatives in the White House were so out of the loop because we now know that on the trip to Africa on AF One, for reasons unknown, Rove subordinates Dan Bartlett and Ari Fleischer "prompted clusters of reporters" to look into how Wilson got his job while classified memos on the subject were being faxed back and forth to Condi to prepare her to go on television. Colin Powell was reported to be waving another secret classified memo around the cabin, a memo prepared more than a month earlier, that contained the information that Wilson's wife sent him on the trip.

And yet we are supposed to believe that Karl and Scooter never saw or heard about any of this classified information, but rather heard about it from a reporter. And I'm assuming that Bartlett and Fleischer are supposed to have heard all about this from reporters too, or maybe second hand from Rove or Libby. None of these people in the white house political and press operation who were aware of Wilson's wife's alleged involvement had ever seen the classified document that was all over the place. They just heard the "gossip" and had nothing to do with planting it.

(I had not heard this business about Fleischer and Bartlett throwing out hints to the press corps on the Africa trip. Certainly, the press corps knew it, but I guess they were protecting their super-double deep backround confidential communal gaggles with the White House Press Office by not telling anyone.)

And if we are to believe they all got this information from reporters who told Libby and Rove (who because there exists no political assassin shield law are forced to say they don't recall who they were) we must also then believe that throughout all of these very innocent exchanges of water cooler gossip among the press corps and the White House, neither Rove nor Libby nor anyone else thought to check with the CIA about Plame's actual job in WMD and whether it was appropriate that her job become public. Even Novak now denies that he thought of it and only used the word "operative" by accident. Nobody anywhere had a second thought that there might be a reason not to publicize the identity of someone who works in weapons of mass destruction at the CIA. This is what we are supposed to believe.

It seems more likely to me now that Fitzgerald is building an obstruction and conspiracy case. Unless he's stupid, which no one has ever said he is, he cannot believe these laughable excuses. If he has evidence that ties Novak into it after he shot his mouth off then that's a real cover-up.

And, yes,to answer those readers who think that it's a big waste of time to be talking about Rove in this detail, I think we all know the real story here is that "Karl Rove and others in the White House outed an undercover CIA operative to cover-up their lies about Iraq." I've been saying that for some time. John Podesta said so this morning. Frank Rich wrote it yesterday. Even Monsignor Russert seemed to be seeing the bigger picture when he brought Woodward and Bernstein on to talk about how the Watergate burglary was part of a bigger story of White House corruption. (Woodward is spinning pretty badly, but then what would you expect? He wrote the allegedly definitive story of "Bush at War" and didn't really get the story did he?)

But there is value in parsing the Rove stories in meticulous detail (besides being fun.) It feeds the scandal beast and if you don't feed that beast it dies. So, I'm going to keep writing about both aspects of this story --- the big picture and the detail about Rove --- because that's how you sustain a scandal. See, I learned this at the feet of the Mighty Wurlitzer. You just keep pounding in whatever way you can --- relentless, focused and loud.

And I truly believe that Rove and his antics in this case are symbolic of the whole corrupt political machine that he has built --- and the outing of a CIA agent is symbolic of the reckless desire to invade Iraq and roll over anyone who stood in their way. I think people are starting to get this in their gut.


Saturday, July 16, 2005

War Of The Chickenhawks

Apparently the wingnut braintrust thinks that H.G. Wells is a Hollywood scriptwriter living in Laurel Canyon with a gold retriever and BMW Z8. Jesus, it's almost enough to make me cry.

Amanda links to Fred at Slacktivist as they both try to come to grips with some of the stupidest people on this planet --- the 101st keyboarders --- who seem to think that Spielberg wrote "War of the Worlds" and Michael Moore invented anti-colonialism.

These critics believe that WOTW is an anti-American screed. But they are very confused. Here's why:

To anyone with a brain, the story is anti-colonial so if it can be interpreted as representing events of today, it represents the war in Iraq. The US would be the aliens, right?

The alien invaders arrive. We cannot understand them. Our best technology cannot harm them. They are inscrutable and unstoppable. There is nothing we can do.

Big tough America. Hooyah!

But the keyboarders are complaining about the behavior of the humans:

Right-wing critics of the film complain that Spielberg's hero, played by Tom Cruise, spends most of the movie running away and hiding. But that's the point -- there's nothing else he can do.

But, see, if this is an allegory about Iraq (presciently written a hundred years before it happened) then the humans represent the Iraqis. Which means that if they think the humans are behaving in a cowardly fashion, the Fighting Hellmice must admire the real life Iraqi insurgents who are ferociously fighting back the alien invaders --- the US. The Iraqi "terrorists" are behaving precisely in the manner the Cheeto Brigade insists brave people should behave.

In other words, these chickenhawks are terrorists sympathizers.

However, I don't think the fighting keyboarders understand that the movie is anti-colonial. I think they think it's about 9/11 and the martians are supposed to be al Qaeda. They think it shows America as being weak and afraid because Tom Cruise tries to get away from the aliens.

I actually agree with them, although not in quite the same way, I'm afraid. Before I ever knew that Spielberg was re-making WOTW, I saw the crazed reaction of the right wing as being comparable to the hysteria we would see if Martians had landed rather than the intelligent, critical response we would expect a superpower to show in the face of a bunch of Islamic fundamentalist losers. Rightwing behavior from the beginning has been one of extreme overreaction --- the "existential threat" the "our oceans no longer protect us," the whole litany of fear inducing lies about Iraq are all manifestations of severe panic. Look at the difference between the way everyone else in the world behaved in the face of terrorist attacks and look at us. It's embarrassing.

I think you can see the movie both as a criticism of the invasion of Iraq and as a criticism of the inchoate frenzy that overtook the right wing after 9/11. Their hysterical reaction betrayed what they would do if a real existential threat emerged --- they'd lose their heads.

Who Read The Memo?

Reader Suzanne D sent me this tantalizing little tid-bit this morning. Last night I wondered who received this 2003 classified State Department Memo and it seems that Fred Barnes answered that question, at least in one respect, back in July of 2003:

Nonetheless, it was reported in the media and repeated by politicians that Cheney had asked the CIA to send someone to Niger to look into the matter. This is untrue. What did happen is that CIA officials, without the knowledge of Cheney or Tenet, dispatched a former ambassador, Joseph Wilson, to investigate. Columnist Robert Novak has reported that Wilson's wife, a CIA employee, recommended him for the job. Wilson traveled to Niger, interviewed current and former officials, and decided that no deal for uranium had been made with Iraq.

When Wilson returned, he gave an oral report to the CIA. But he didn't meet with Cheney or send him a written report on his trip. Cheney didn't learn of Wilson's trip until he read in the New York Times in May 2003 that an ex-ambassador had been sent. Cheney later received a document from an American diplomat who had debriefed Wilson. It was marked with a warning that the information might be unreliable. Leaders in Niger were not likely to admit to an American envoy that they'd violated United Nations sanctions by selling uranium to Saddam, it suggested.

If this document from an "American diplomat" who had debriefed Wilson is the same classified state department document from June of 2003 we are now talking about, Vice President Dick Cheney was one person who was aware that it was being alleged that "Wilson's wife" had sent him on the trip. Perhaps he didn't receive it until after Wilson's op-ed, but it seems unlikely since that wasn't published until two months after Cheney became aware of Wilson's charges. Is it reasonable to believe that he would have waitied that long to inquire about someone who was saying the intelligence was fixed in Iraq? I seriously doubt it.

If that's the case, then the idea that Libby and Rove didn't see it is preposterous.

I think that the oddest thing about this memo is that it was written in June of 2003. Surely, there were earlier real-time documents that reflect Wilson's debriefing upon his return? Why did they need to create this new memo at all? If Cheney really was unaware of Wilson's trip (and he may very well have been) why didn't they just send over the original debriefing instead of writing a new one?

And here's another piece of information in that article that I hadn't heard before:

Finally, last week, the truth started to emerge. At his press conference with President Bush, Prime Minister Blair said, "In case people should think that the whole idea of a link between Iraq and Niger was some invention, in the 1980s we know for sure that Iraq purchased round about 270 tons of uranium from Niger." The White House, for its part, had had enough and started what it's calling a "counteroffensive."

The first step was to declassify and release the portion of the NIE entitled "Iraq's Continuing Programs for Weapons of Mass Destruction." Iraq, the intelligence document says, has been "vigorously trying to procure uranium ore" in Somalia and Congo as well as Niger. And there's more to come in the campaign for Bush's recovery. Congressional Republicans are joining the fight. The White House has brought back Mary Matalin, the Republican operative and ex-Cheney aide, to manage the media campaign. Maybe it will work. But the truth is, it shouldn't have been necessary at all.

The media campaign she was managing was the media campaign that also happened to smear Wilson. This was the period in which Karl Rove admits to pushing the story all over town --- reportedly claiming it is perfectly legitimate to ferociously discredit (smear) your political critics and use the entire Republican Noise Machine to do it. It appears that Mary Matalin was right in the middle of that.

We haven't seen much of her lately, have we?


Friday, July 15, 2005

Canteloupe Eyes, Judy In Disguise

So, Judy actually met with an unnamed government official on July 8th, the same day Rove spoke with Novak? I don't know what it means, but it sure sounds interesting. Rove to Miller to Novak to Rove? He's known for using cut-outs.

But this, I think, is even more interesting:

In court papers filed earlier this month urging that Ms. Miller be jailed, Mr. Fitzgerald said that "the source in this case has waived confidentiality in writing."

George Freeman, an assistant general counsel of The New York Times Company, said Ms. Miller would not say who that source was. "She has never received," Mr. Freeman said, "what she considers an unambiguous, unequivocal and uncoerced waiver from anyone with whom she may have spoken."

Mr. Freeman declined to say what efforts, if any, Ms. Miller and her lawyers have made to obtain a satisfactory waiver.

Presumably, like Cooper's, Miller's lawyers don't feel it's a good idea to be contacting her source, if they even know who it is.

This statement from Miller's attorney strikes me as an explicit call for her source to give her an "unambiguous, unequivocal and uncoerced waiver." Maybe Judy isn't enjoying herself as much in jail as she thought she would.

So who's going to ask Karl and Scooter to give Judy this unambiguous, unequivocal and uncoerced waiver? Surely they will be happy to do it, right? Neither of them have anything to hide.

In fact, every person who previously signed a waiver in the matter should be asked to sign this explicit one, even if they never talked to her, in order to give the guilty party some cover so that Judy can testify and the public won't automatically know who she's been protecting. That seems fair, doesn't it?

Maybe Michael Isikoff could suggest this next time he's on TV. It might focus his mind on who's really responsible for Miller being in jail.

Oh and this business about the classified state department memo being the source is quite interesting. I wrote about this earlier in the week but there is a significant detail that's been changed since the early reports about it. It was evidently written in June of 2003, just a month before Wilson's op-ed --- probably at the behest of someone who was reading Nicolas Kristoff's columns about a trip to Africa by an unnamed ex-ambassador. (The story says it was written for Marc Grossman, under secretary of state for political affairs, but that may only mean he was the bureaucrat charged with getting a report.) All the original stories had it dated in 2002, which made me assume that it was the original state department report about Wilson's trip, written in real time. It wasn't. It was written a year and a half later based on the memory of a staffer who said he had been present at the meeting, a fact which the CIA disputed.

This memo being written just a month before the op-ed changes the equation. Who wrote it and who requested it? And did anyone in the White House see it before Wilson's op-ed was published? If so, who?

Update: Maybe this is why Miller's lawyers are starting to "ask" that her source give her a special waiver:

Lawyers in the CIA leaks investigation are concerned that special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald may seek criminal contempt charges against New York Times reporter Judith Miller, a rare move that could significantly lengthen her time in jail.


While media coverage in recent days has focused on conversations that White House senior adviser Karl Rove had with reporters, two sources say Miller spoke with Vice President Dick Cheney's chief of staff, I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, during the key period in July 2003 that is the focus of Fitzgerald's investigation.

The two sources -- one who is familiar with Libby's version of events, and the other with Miller's -- said the previously undisclosed conversation occurred a few days before Plame's name appeared in Robert Novak's syndicated column on July 14, 2003. Miller and Libby discussed former Ambassador Joseph Wilson, Plame's husband, who had recently alleged that the Bush administration had twisted intelligence in the run-up to the Iraq war, according to the source familiar with Libby's version.

But, according to the source, the subject of Wilson's wife did not come up.


Unless something really exciting happens, I'm done for the day. But here's something to look forward to: Matt Cooper is writing an article about his Grand Jury appearance that probably has the White House boyz 'n grlz wetting their pants. I would guess it will come out on Sunday, maybe tomorrow in anticipation of the gasbags.

They are going to try to "Rather" him if says anything damaging. Rove's lawyer already laid the groundwork:

"By any definition, he burned Karl Rove," Luskin said of Cooper."

I still think that was probably not the smartest thing they ever did, but they probably thought they could intimidate Matt Cooper. And maybe they did. We'll see.

Swopa has some interesting thoughts on what Cooper might say and how it might affect the case. And if you haven't read Murray Waas' account of how this mysterious "lawyer who has been briefed on the case" came to talk with the NY Times and Washington Post, do so. It's fascinating.


Attaturk has a special gift for Karl. Check it out.

Joe And Dick On The Same Page

September, 2003


DICK CHENEY, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I had heard a report that the Iraqis had been trying to acquire uranium in Africa, Niger in particular.

I get a daily brief on my own each day before I meet with the president to go through the intel. And I ask lots of question. One of the questions I asked at that particular time about this, I said, "What do we know about this?" They take the question. He came back within a day or two and said, "This is all we know. There's a lot we don't know," end of statement. And Joe Wilson -- I don't know who sent Joe Wilson. He never submitted a report that I ever saw when he came back.

Here's what Wilson said in the op-ed on July 6th, that Ken Mehlman and half the Washington Press Corps is characterizing as "Cheney sent me to Africa:"

In February 2002, I was informed by officials at the Central Intelligence Agency that Vice President Dick Cheney's office had questions about a particular intelligence report. While I never saw the report, I was told that it referred to a memorandum of agreement that documented the sale of uranium yellowcake -- a form of lightly processed ore -- by Niger to Iraq in the late 1990's. The agency officials asked if I would travel to Niger to check out the story so they could provide a response to the vice president's office.

When Karl Rove was talking to Bob Novak on July 8th about Valerie Plame this is what Wilson had actually said. If Karl was "knocking down" a story it was one that he was making up in his head because Cheney himself backed up Wilson's story long after the brouhaha had hit the fan. Nothing in Cheney's statement contradicts what Wilson said, even about the disposition of the report:

I later shared my conclusions with the State Department African Affairs Bureau. There was nothing secret or earth-shattering in my report, just as there was nothing secret about my trip.

Though I did not file a written report, there should be at least four documents in United States government archives confirming my mission. The documents should include the ambassador's report of my debriefing in Niamey, a separate report written by the embassy staff, a C.I.A. report summing up my trip, and a specific answer from the agency to the office of the vice president (this may have been delivered orally). While I have not seen any of these reports, I have spent enough time in government to know that this is standard operating procedure.

All Karl and his hit squad had to do to "knock down" Wilson was say, "Cheney had some questions back in 2002, but he never saw any report on Wilson's trip and was unaware that the CIA had dispatched him. And frankly, after looking into the matter and seeing his report for the first time we can see why it wouldn't have been forwarded to the White House. Ambassador Wilsons himself says that there was nothing earth shattering in it. In retrospect he was on the right track but nobody knew that at the time. Fog of war and all that..."

But no. They couldn't try to be reasonable and put the thing into perspective. They had to immediately smear Wilson with this business about his wife. And a smear it was --- it was the main thrust of Rove's "evidence" in his discussion with Cooper and he admits that he at least confirmed this information to Novak. That's the mark of Rove.

I don't think it's quite fair to condemn the whole program because of a single slip up...

Goddamn, no matter what else happens, if this sadist goes down, I'll be happy. General Geoffrey D. Miller aka General Geoff D. Ripper truly is one of the most malevolent pieces of garbage in the US Army and he really should be court martialed. Today it's been revealed the Ripper was actually meeting, apparently in secret, with Wolfowitz and Cambone and lied to congress about it. I am not surprised.

An Army general who has been criticized for his role in the treatment of prisoners at the Guantanamo Bay detention center and Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq has contradicted his sworn congressional testimony about contacts with senior Pentagon officials.

Gen. Geoffrey Miller told the Senate Armed Services Committee in May 2004 that he had only filed a report on a recent visit to Abu Ghraib, and did not talk to Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld or his top aides about the fact-finding trip.

But in a recorded statement to attorneys three months later, Miller said he gave two of Rumsfeld's most senior aides - then-Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz and Undersecretary for Intelligence Steve Cambone - a briefing on his visit and his subsequent recommendations.

"Following our return in the fall, I gave an outbrief to both Dr. Wolfowitz and Secretary Cambone," Miller said in the Aug. 21, 2004, statement to lawyers for guards accused of prisoner abuse, a transcript of which was obtained by the Chicago Tribune.

"I went over the report that we had developed and gave them a briefing on the intelligence activities, recommendations, and some recommendations on detention operations," Miller added.

Specific interrogation techniques, he said, were not discussed.

Miller's statement about the meeting, if true, suggests that officials at the very top of the Pentagon may have been more involved in monitoring activities at the prison than previously disclosed. Abu Ghraib was later at the center of a scandal surrounding prisoner abuse, which has led to punishments for soldiers.

Here's the thing. After artillery officer Miller showed such pluck and spunk down at Gitmo with his novel interrogation techniques, they sent him to Iraq to see what he could do. See, the Iraqis weren't behaving like the grateful liberated people they were expected to be. He made an evaluation and then sent his "best guys" from Gitmo to Abu Ghraib to implement his techniques. We have recently had it confirmed that many of the techniques authorized by Miller at Gitmo were of the same ilk as those captured in the pictures at Abu Ghraib.

And in a bizarro world decision worthy of Wil E Coyote, after the scandal broke they sent Miller in to "straighten things out."

All of this has been known for some time. I wrote back on May 29th, 2004:

It wasn't a bunch of bad apples. It was at the explicit instruction of General Geoffrey D Ripper, who sent in his best leg breakers to teach 'em how to get the job done.

And then, as reports of the abuse and torture at Abu Ghraib were coming to light the Bush administration decided that the best way to deal with the problem was to put in charge the same guy who had recommended and implemented the abuse and torture in the first place.

How long will it take for somebody to ask, considering his history at the prison, why in the world General Ripper was brought in after the scandal broke? I'm just asking. He is, after all, an obviously sadistic freak who is one of the causes of the greatest foreign policy PR disaster in American history.

That not hyperbole. Abu Ghraib did us greivous harm around the world and probably helped al Qaeda more than any single act we've done. And General Geoff D Ripper was the go-to guy.

It looks now as if he was doing all this with the express knowledge and permission of Rumsfeld's top brass and presumably Rumsfeld himself. (Remember Rumsfeld weighed in on "interrogation" techniques in some detail --- "why shouldn't they have to stand for longer than four hours, I do!") This is not surprising either.

These guys picked a sadistic amateur to run both Gitmo and Abu Ghraib because his predecessors were insufficiently willing to "take the gloves off." This is in keeping with their over-arching theory about how to fight the War on Terror. It's worked out awfully well.

Today, we know that Bush administration loose lips are sinking ships all over the place, and their zeal to fear monger at home combined with their desire to treat the wogs with maximum ferocity has resulted in the US actively encouraging terrorism. It's a fucking miracle we've escaped another hit, and it's no thanks to anything these clowns have done.

Update: Lest anyone get the idea that I do not condemn the torture at Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib on a moral basis because I did not explicitly say so in this piece, please feel free to check these posts in which I discuss torture in great detail in moral,ethical,practical and strategic terms. I regret not mentioning in this particular post that I think torture is immoral. Consider that oversight corrected.


...Mr. Rove and other administration officials had a legitimate interest in rebutting Mr. Wilson's inflated claims -- including the notion that he had been dispatched to Niger at Mr. Cheney's behest. It's in that context, judging from Mr. Cooper's e-mail, that Mr. Rove appears to have brought up Ms. Plame's role. Whether Mr. Rove or others behaved in a way that amounted to criminal, malicious or even merely sleazy behavior will turn on what they knew about Ms. Plame's employment. Were they aware she was a covert agent? Did they recklessly fail to consider that before revealing her involvement? How they learned about Ms. Plame also will matter: Did the information come from government sources or outside parties?

None of that matters. Her cover was blown and Rove participated in it. I don't care if he thought he was saving the world from an invasion from aliens, his act, not his motive should be the primary concern of a white house that is in the middle of what they tell us every day is a global war on terror. He could have had the best reasons in the world, but he either fucked up or he committed a crime, neither of which should be tolerated at his level. We know right now, at this minute, that at a minimum he fucked up.

Do you think that in the private sector if a person in Rove's position of trust and power had "accidentally" told the press about a secret patent or a new formula that he'd be allowed to keep his job? Would he be trusted going forward with information about patents and secret formulas? Why is this so hard to understand? What Rove did may or may not have been a criminal offense. But it definitely was a firing offense.

And what's this bullshit about "Mr. Rove appears to have brought up Ms. Plame's role." "Appears" nothing. He clearly did bring up Ms Plame's role, and for reasons that are very hard to make sense out of. And just today, the WaPo itself reports that Rove admits that he confirmed that fact to Bob Novak. There's no appearance about it. Rove admits it.

Update: MediaMatters has a thorough debuning of all these RNC spin points masquerading as an editorial here.
Spikey's Threat

I woke up this morning thinking about Michael Isikoff, which isn't my favorite thing to think about first thing in the morning. Last night he told Jon Stewart that Pat Fitzgerald had better have something really, really strong to justify this investigation taking the turns its taken. It had better be about something really important --- it had better be about national security. He was quite fierce about it.

I didn't hear the rest because I threw the remote at the TV and it mercifully turned off.

The idea that Michael Isikoff, of all people, is laying down the gauntlet --- warning Fitzgerald that if he's thinking of prosecuting someone for perjury, say, or obstuction of justice, he will lead the chorus denouncing him as an overzealous prosecutor --- is stunning. I don't know what is in the Chardonnay in DC but it's causing a lot of people to have severe problems remembering things --- and seeing themselves in the mirror.

Michael Isikoff was practically Ken Starr's right hand man in the media. He performed at only a slightly less partisan level than Drudge or Steno Sue Schmidt. He admits in his book that he became convinced that the president treated women badly and therefore needed to be exposed. He didn't seem to think that throwing a duly elected president from office for lying about a private matter was overzealous in the least. He was on that bandwagon from the very beginning and one of the guys who drove it.

Michael Isikoff did not go on television and say that the punishment didn't fit the crime or that Starr should have had something really, really important to justify his 70 million dollar investigation. Indeed, he did exactly the opposite.

Isikoff has done good work on this story. He continues to do good work. But apparently he doesn't see outing CIA agents as serious as presidential fellatio. I suspect that holds true for the entire press corpse. They haven't really had the fire in the belly for this one, have they?

Isikoff was a fine help to the Bush administration last night and I hope it makes up for that unfortunate Koran in the toilet business. He set the frame for indictments to be seen as unreasonable if don't show national security was compromised. If Fitzgerald indicts members of the administration for lying or covering their tracks, it will not be taken well by the king of the kewl kidz. I have no doubt that the lemmings of the independent press corpse will fall into line as well, in the unfortunate event that Karl Rove is indicted for perjury or obstruction. After all it's not as if he's anything like that mean bitch Martha Stewart or that cruel lothario Bill Clinton. Those people really deserved it.


I realize that Isikoff was talking about the heinous, heinous crime of sending poor Judy Miller to jail. But I don't really think that should be the standard by which a prosecutor should decide that only proveable crimes of national security should be investigated.

The point here is that this case is intrinsically about the press. Fitzgerald wasn't conducting a fishing expedition to find out what Judy and Matt might know about a potential crime --- he wanted them to testify because they may have been an element of the crime itself. This is a very important distinction.

It's nice that Mikey and others are such zealous defenders of the freedom of the press. But freedom of the press is a right. Serving our democracy by giving the public the information it needs to govern itself is their responsibility. It is very hard to see how Judy's martyrdom can be seen as a pure unalloyed matter of principle when(as Stewart pointed out) the press' privilege seems to have been used pretty exclusively these last few years to protect their access to powerful government officials who want to use them to spread official lies.

I compare the coverage and attitude of the press covering this investigation to the shrill and breathless reporting of the Clinton years because it's instructive. Never once did Isikoff express reservations about the non-stop partisan character assasination, the invasion of privacy, the perjury trap or the clear overstepping by the prosecutor as he "investigated" whether Bill Clinton lied about sex in a case that had already been dismissed --- all of which were betrayals of principle just as important as the reporter's privilege in my mind. But because this case involves a member of the press caught in a prosecutors net, suddenly he isn't so sanguine about charging people with the crimes of lying or covering-up. That's just not a good enough reason to put one of them on the hot seat. He and all of his brethren salivated at the idea that our democracy would be weakened by the partisan removal of a duly elected president, but let Judy go to jail and the hinges are coming off the nation.

I am reserving judgment on Judy's status in the investigation because I have no facts one way or the other. I suspect it is more complicated than just protecting Karl Rove or someone else, but I don't really know. I do know that she is the type of person who relishes drama, so I have a feeling that this little sojourn in lock-up isn't exactly traumatizing for her. She's already compared herself to soldiers in Iraq (where she wore a military uniform for god's sake!) I'm figuring she'll soon be saying she's like MLK in the Birmingham jail. I think ole Judy can handle doing the time. In fact I think she relishes it.

Mickey and his friends can stop worrying about that part of the case and worry about why this government has lied to the nation repeatedly and blown over 200 billion dollars on an illegal and unnecessary war when terrorists are blowing shit up all over the world. Judy is more than happy to do her time for the principle of the reporter's privilege.


Thursday, July 14, 2005

Short Term Memory Loss

The NY Times is reporting than an anonymous Rove defender who has been briefed on the case (by Rove?) says that Novak was the one who told Karl Plame's name and informed him of "the circumstances" in which her husband traveled to Africa --- at which point we are supposed to believe Karl suddenly remembered that he'd heard some of this from other journalists and confirmed the story to Novak by saying either "I heard that too" or "oh, you know about it."

I can certainly understand why Fitzgerald might have been suspicious of this tale --- especially when he read that Novak's first comment on the matter was:

"I didn't dig it out, it was given to me. They thought it was significant, they gave me the name and I used it."

According to this article "they" refers to an unknown source and ... Karl Rove.

Rove Reportedly Held Phone Talk on C.I.A. Officer

Karl Rove, the White House senior adviser, spoke with the columnist Robert D. Novak as he was preparing an article in July 2003 that identified a C.I.A. officer who was undercover, someone who has been officially briefed on the matter said.

Mr. Rove has told investigators that he learned from the columnist the name of the C.I.A. officer, who was referred to by her maiden name, Valerie Plame, and the circumstances in which her husband, former Ambassador Joseph C. Wilson IV, traveled to Africa to investigate possible uranium sales to Iraq, the person said.

After hearing Mr. Novak's account, the person who has been briefed on the matter said, Mr. Rove told the columnist: 'I heard that, too.'

The previously undisclosed telephone conversation, which took place on July 8, 2003, was initiated by Mr. Novak, the person who has been briefed on the matter said.

Six days later, Mr. Novak's syndicated column reported that two senior administration officials had told him that Mr. Wilson's 'wife had suggested sending him' to Africa. That column was the first instance in which Ms. Wilson was publicly identified as a C.I.A. operative.

It's late and I'm tired so I'm not going to look it up, but didn't I also hear a bunch of people saying over the last few days that Rove didn't know Plame's name when he spoke with Cooper? This conversation took place three days earlier. Not that it matters because he "identified" her as Wilson's wife, but it's interesting anyway.

Update: from the WaPo:

The lawyer, who has knowledge of the conversations between Rove and prosecutors, said President Bush's deputy chief of staff has told investigators that he first learned about the operative from a journalist and that he later learned her name from Novak.

Rove has said he does not recall who the journalist was who first told him that Wilson's wife worked for the CIA, or when the conversation occurred, the lawyer said.

Get To Work, Kewl Kidz

Dan Froomkin nicely linked to my post from yesterday asking why Rove hadn't saved the country some time and money and made sure that Cooper knew he didn't have to keep his confidence. He says:

But here's what that makes me think: if reporters want to help get New York Times reporter Judith Miller out of jail, let's contact every conceivable person who might have been her source, and ask them (or their lawyers): if for some reason Judy Miller were in jail thinking that she's protecting you, would that be a mistake? Would you tell that to her lawyer?

Let's start with Rove, Cheney Chief of Staff I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, deputy national security adviser Elliot Abrams, Cheney national security adviser John Hannah, counselor Dan Bartlett, press secretary Scott McClellan, former press secretary Ari Fleischer -- and every other person's name who has ever even remotely been attached to this story in the past.

What have we got to lose? Is anyone with me, or shall I get going myself.

I think that's a terrific idea. Certainly you'd think Judy's pals in the press corps would want to do her this service. Help her out kidz.

Let's Talk About Sex

I'm getting dizzy with the hypocrisy:

Think Progress has this:

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) had these kind words to share last night on Hannity & Colmes:

If you can prove a case against Karl Rove, let the legal system do it, otherwise just shut up, because you’re ruining a guy’s reputation before anything has happened.

Let the legal system work, eh?

... I would like to speak a few minutes to what I believe is the unshakable, undeniable truth. And much of it is about sex.


The most chilling thing was, for a period of time, the president was setting stories in motion that were lies. Those stories found themselves in the press to attack a young lady who could potentially be a witness against him.

To me, that is very much like Watergate. That shows character inconsistent with being president, and every member of Congress should look at that episode and decide, is this truly about sex? Is Bill Clinton doing the right thing by continuing to make us have to pursue this, have to prove to a legal certainty he lied? The president's fate is in his own hands. Mr. President, you have one more chance. Don't bite your lip; reconcile yourself with the law.

It's just a good thing Rovegate isn't about the vitally important issue of consensual sex between two adults because Goober and his Mayberry Machiavelli crew would be forced to talk about it in numbing detail for months on end before the facts are in.

Luckily, instead of it being a case about a woman blowing the president, this is only about the white house blowing a CIA agent's cover for political purposes in a time of war. We really should have more respect for the reputation of the person who the facts clearly show right now to be either an ignoramus or a thug. How rude.

Update: From Evan in the comments:

Bumper sticker par excellence


I'm getting one.

Rebel With A Cause

Via Atrios:

Ken Mehlman: A leak is when you ask a reporter to write a story. He was discouraging a reporter from writing a false story.

So why did Bob Novak write the same story, virtually verbatim, that Rove told Cooper? Was he rebelling against the Republican establishment? Refusing to be cowed by political operatives? Unable to take a hint? What?


Newshounds reports on Ann Coulter's soon to be legendary performance on Hannity and Colmes last night:

Alan Colmes started off the interview by asking an excellent question:

"If Karl Rove wasn't revealing something secret, why did he have to speak on double super secret background?"

For a moment, it looked like Coulter might have been genuinely reluctant to talk to a liberal (as the title of her last book claims she is) but I think it was more likely that she had a moment of panic at not having a good answer. After a pause, she began to speak slowly, as if she were trying to think of the right words as she went along.

Because you don't generally read in the press - you know - I think it was all - you didn't see Karl Rove, I think, being quoted on a lot of these things - but I think the point was, um, Clown Wilson was going around implying that he had been sent by the CIA and reported to Dick Cheney's office... I mean, it's amazing if you go back and read these articles now, he uses these - you know - sort of Clintonian legally accurate phrases...

She must not have had her coffee. She's usually a little bit swifter than this.

And "Clown" Wilson? Man, these guys are rattled.

Still Wrong, Always Wrong

Kevin Drum's got some interesting stuff up today. He is one of the blogosphere's resident experts on the Plame story --- he was the go-to guy when it broke and he seems to to remember a lot of details I've forgotton (or never knew.)

He reminds us today (via Mickey Kaus) of this Howard Fineman analysis from 2003 in which Fineman speculates that the leak was really an attempt to smear Wilson and his wife as being part of a "pro-Saddam" CIA cabal. Here's the relevant excerpt:

I am told by what I regard as a very reliable source inside the White House that aides there did, in fact, try to peddle the identity of Joe Wilson’s wife to several reporters. But the motive wasn’t revenge or intimidation so much as a desire to explain why, in their view, Wilson wasn’t a neutral investigator, but, a member of the CIA’s leave-Saddam-in-place team.

I think this may very well have played into at least some of the participants' thinking at the time although since they've never made this explicit in the smear, I think it may have been meant more for beltway kids and the wingnut choir than for broad public consumption. This is inside baseball stuff.

The big players in this turf war are the neocons and Dick Cheney, who is only sort of an honorary neocon. He and Rummy are more simple craven power mongers. (He doesn't give a shit about democracy which the neocons sorta, kinda do, even though they think we should create it by force, which is incoherent.) Anyway, it's imnportant to remember that within this administration are a whole bunch of people who think that the CIA is made up of a bunch of hippies who don't understand How The World Works.

What's interesting about them is that they have always been wrong about everything. If there was no other reason not to back the war in Iraq, it was that it was being pushed by people who have either hugely overestimated every single threat this country has faced for the last 30 years or gotten the nature of the threat completely upside down.

Lawrence Korb wrote a piece about this subject in August of 2004, called "Time To Bench Team B":

The reports of the 9/11 Commission and the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence miss the real problem facing the intelligence community. The real problem is not organization or culture, but the Team B concept which began in 1976, and the real villains are those hardliners who refuse to accept the unbiased and balanced judgments of intelligence professionals about the threats facing the country.


To be sure, the intelligence community has made misjudgments. That is to be expected. But given the fact that the intelligence community has been second-guessed and publicly embarrassed when it tried to present unbiased objective assessments of threats from the Soviets, China, and rogue nations, it is not surprising that it caved in on whether Iraq had weapons of mass destruction. While there was no formal Team B pressure, the hardliners were now back in power.

And from the Soviet threat to China to rogue states to Iraq, the neocons and hardliners were wrong each and every time. And they weren't just wrong on some details, they massively, abundently wrong about everything. Korb discusses one particular fact in his piece that I think illuminates their rather insane view about terrorism:

In 1981, after the publication of Clare Sterling's book, "The Terror Network," which argued that global terrorists were actually pawns of the Soviets, leading hard-liners asked the CIA to look into the relationship between Soviets and terrorist organizations. The agency concluded that although there was evidence that the Soviets had assisted groups such as the Palestine Liberation Organization with weapons and training, there was no evidence that the Soviets encouraged or approved these groups' terrorist acts. However, hard-liners like Secretary of State Alexander Haig, CIA Chief William Casey and Policy Planning Director Wolfowitz rejected the draft as a naive, exculpatory brief and had the draft retooled to assert that the Soviets were heavily involved in supporting "revolutionary violence worldwide."

Since they never adjust to changing circumstances or admit any new evidence that doesn't fit their preconcieved notions, this was still the framework they were working from when bin Laden came on the scene. It's why the neocon nutcase Laurie Mylroie was able to convince people in the highest reaches of the Republican intelligensia that Saddam had something to do with bin Laden, even though there was never a scintilla of evidence to back it up. They simply could not,and cannot to this day, come to grips with the fact that their view of how terrorism works --- through "rogue states" and totalitarian sponsorship --- is simply wrong.

When Clare Sterling's book came out CIA director William Casey was said to have told his people, "read Claire Sterling's book and forget this mush. I paid $13.95 for this and it told me more than you bastards who I pay $50,000 a year." Wolfowitz and Feith are said to have told their staff in the Pentagon to read Laurie Mylroie's book about Saddam and al Qaeda. Richard Clarke, in "Against All Enemies" quotes Wolfowitz as saying: "You give Bin Laden too much credit. He could not do all these things like the 1993 attack on New York, not without a state sponsor. Just because FBI and CIA have failed to find the linkages does not mean they don't exist."

This, then, is simply how they think. It's as Rob Cordry says, "the facts are biased." (That's the state of mind that led neocon Judith Miller to make her bizarre incomprehensible comment "I was proved fucking right!") They truly believe that even though they have been completely wrong about everything for the past thirty years that it just can't be so.

And no matter what, in their minds the the CIA is always trying to screw them.

So the political environment in which Valeria Plame was outed was virtually hallucinogenic. There may have really been some part of certain members of the Bush administration's dysfunctional lizard brains that really thought in July of 2003 that the CIA had been trying to set them up and used Joe Wilson to do it.

But it's not July of 2003 now, is it? It's two years later and we know for a fact that the analysts, including Wilson, who said the Niger deal was bullshit were right and we know that the analysts who doubted the evidence about Saddam's WMD were right too.

Not that this will stop the Team B neocons from insisting that "they were proved fucking right." They really are delusional and they always have been.

Karl Rove, however, is a lot of things, but delusional isn't one of them. He just put out the hit on Plame and Wilson to shut down the questions Wilson was raising. He was taking care of business. But others in the administration may have made a good case, at least in their own beautiful minds, that they were the victims. God knows these people love to be victims.

I don't know if you saw Wilson on the Today show, but I thought he acquitted himself very well --- mainly because he kept on the topic of the larger Iraq lies. I really think this is a key to making people understand this story.

There is a confluence of events right now with the bad news on the ground in Iraq, the Downing Street memos, the London bombings and Rovegate flaring up that are beginning to filter into the body politic. A new conventional wisdom is being written. I think that people are putting these things together which is why you are seeing the preciputous dip in the president's approval ratings. It's not that people know, or even want to know, the details. Only junkies like me (and you) get this into it. But the ground has shifted and people are understanding that something went terribly wrong.

The president's right hand man exposing a covert CIA agent for political puposes perfectly symbolizes the entire fetid mess.

Update: Looks like Rush got the memo. According to Bradblog:

Rush's final words at the end of the show (referring to the Press Conference scheduled by Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY) to happen shortly): "Chuck Shumer is Joe Wilson's 'handler' in this agency plot to bring down the President."

Are the dittoheads buying this?

No Longer A Beer Buddy

Finally, it's not just honesty where Bush is taking a hit. Only 50 percent of those polled gave him high ratings for being easygoing and likeable, down from 57 in January; 43 percent gave him high ratings for being smart, down from 50; 40 percent gave him high ratings for being compassionate enough to understand average people, down from 47; and only 29 percent gave him high ratings for being willing to work with people whose viewpoints are different from his own, down from 33.

I'm not the greatest judge in the world because I've always thought he was a dominating, unlikeable, dumb, arrogant intolerant asshole. A bunch oif people thought he'd be fun to hang around with, though, and it's a big reason why he got re-elected. Without his personal popularity, what has he really got?

The good news is that this should finally kill off the "enormously popular" president meme that refused to die. I'm sure Andrea Mitchell and Tim Russert are in mourning today.

Bookmark This

From Bloomberg:

Wilson's Iraq Assertions Hold Up Under Fire From Rove Backers

The Source

It's nice to be able to fit another piece into the Rovegate puzzle. This Kos diary by PollyUSA is an excellent rundown of the original source of the Plame information --- a classified state department document from 2002 that was then circulated all over Washington after Novak's column ran. Clearly, most people following the case closely already know this because it's all in the public record. I hadn't connected the dots even though I've written about this document in a couple of different contexts.

In a nutshell:

There is a leaked classified state department document from 2002 in play in this case. It is widely considered to be the likely source of the information that Plame worked for the CIA.

It says that Valerie Plame recommended her husband for the job.

It was leaked to a bunch of news organizations during 2003 and is a piece of evidence in the Senate commission report.

This is the same document that was on the Africa trip with Colin Powell and the president.

The CIA has publicly disputed the accuracy of the memo, saying that the author of the memo could not have been at the meeting and therefore didn't know what he was talking about.

PollyUSA rounded up a number of newpaper articles that discussed this document but here are just a couple of them:

WSJ October 17, 2003:
An internal government memo addresses some of the mysteries at the center of the White House leak investigation and could help investigators in the search for who disclosed the identity of a Central Intelligence Agency operative, according to two people familiar with the memo.

The memo, prepared by U.S. intelligence personnel, details a meeting in early 2002 where CIA officer Valerie Plame and other intelligence officials gathered to brainstorm about how to verify reports that Iraq had sought uranium yellowcake from Niger.

WaPo December 26th 2003:

Sources said the CIA is angry about the circulation of a still-classified document to conservative news outlets suggesting Plame had a role in arranging her husband's trip to Africa for the CIA. The document, written by a State Department official who works for its Bureau of Intelligence and Research (INR), describes a meeting at the CIA where the Niger trip by Wilson was discussed, said a senior administration official who has seen it.

It is a crime to leak classified information, so this may well be an element of Fitzgerald's case. In an interesting sidenote, it was this document that JD Guckert referenced when he interviewed Wilson and it got him a visit from the FBI. (After preening about confidential sources for a while, Guckert eventually said that he'd read about the document in the Wall Street Journal.)His story confirms that the FBI was following up on this document and that means it probably was still classified when Guckert wrote about it in October 2003, however.

I have a couple of thoughts about this.

In order to stay out of legal and political trouble, members of Bush administration simply have to claim that they didn't know Valerie Plame was undercover. So, if this classified report is the source of the leak and it only says "Wilson's wife suggested he go on the mission" with no mention of her status, then it appears that not one person who saw that document --- whether it was Colin Powell on Air Force One or whether it was Cheney and Libby with the entire Iraq Group holding their hand towels in the mens room ----- not one bothered to raise a flag about this CIA "employee's" status before Rove et al blabbed the story all over town. If they are innocent of purposefully outing a CIA Agent this is what we must believe.

I don't have a top security clearance and I don't work in Washington and I am as far out of the war planning for this country as you can get. Yet I know that I would have wondered whether it might be a matter of national security to tell the press that someone was a CIA employee. Anybody who watches "Alias" would know that for gawd's sake. We are supposed to believe that top presidential advisors took the information from one state department document and ran with it without ever checking the details.

Could be. Nobody ever thought the president would personally authorize the break in of the Democratic National Committee, but he did.

Second, the CIA has disputed the characterization of Plame's role in getting her husband the assignment. I don't know or care whether she did or not --- it's a red herring. But nonetheless, it's worth pointing out that is has been challenged by the CIA from the beginning. From Newsday July 22, 2003:

A senior intelligence official confirmed that Plame was a Directorate of Operations undercover officer who worked "alongside" the operations officers who asked her husband to travel to Niger.

But he said she did not recommend her husband to undertake the Niger assignment. "They [the officers who did ask Wilson to check the uranium story] were aware of who she was married to, which is not surprising," he said. "There are people elsewhere in government who are trying to make her look like she was the one who was cooking this up, for some reason," he said. "I can't figure out what it could be."

I think we've figured it out.

But what's interesting about that is that this classified document that people consider the source of the leak was written in 2002. I'm assuming it was part of a report on what Wilson's findings, although I have no proof of that. And I don't know who wrote this memo (although it's certain that some members of the press do, since they've seen it) but he or she has been described as an analyst at the INR --- the state dept intelligence division. I have to wonder what was the purpose of putting in this little tid-bit about Plame in the first place?

It would be nice to know who wrote it if only to prove or disprove the speculation that Bolton's cabal was involved. If he was, then this is a whole new ballgame. I would be very tempted to think that Bolton had spiked Wilson's report from the get. On the other hand, Bolton and his minions apparently have not been called to the Grand Jury so perhaps that's unlikely. If I had to guess, I'd say this tid-bit about Wilson's wife was a throw away line that caught Rove and Libby's attention as a possible way to feminize Wilson.

I'm speculating that when they got wind that Wilson was going to spill the beans they looked for dirt.(Wilson says he was told that when the yellowcake story was falling apart in March the VP's office ordered a "work-up" on him.)This classified state department document contained the information that Wilson's wife got him the job. The character assassins decided that this was their weapon --- Wilson's CIA employee wife got him the job for either nepotistic, partisan or treasonous reasons. Maybe something else. (Maybe all three if you ask John Gibson.) And the optics of it were that Wilson was an effeminate loser whose wife had to find work for him ("little wifey got it for him.") It sure sounds like a Rove special.

And at the end of the day, the simple truth remains: they either knew she was undercover and outed her with malice aforethought or they were so stupid and sloppy that they never bothered to find out what her status was. Which explains why they are so intent upon making people believe that Plame wasn't undercover. It's their only decent defense.

I'm also reminded today of Murray Waas' account of Roves testimony to the FBI:

But Rove also adamantly insisted to the FBI that he was not the administration official who leaked the information that Plame was a covert CIA operative to conservative columnist Robert Novak last July. Rather, Rove insisted, he had only circulated information about Plame after it had appeared in Novak's column. He also told the FBI, the same sources said, that circulating the information was a legitimate means to counter what he claimed was politically motivated criticism of the Bush administration by Plame's husband, former Ambassador Joseph Wilson.

Rove and other White House officials described to the FBI what sources characterized as an aggressive campaign to discredit Wilson through the leaking and disseminating of derogatory information regarding him and his wife to the press, utilizing proxies such as conservative interest groups and the Republican National Committee to achieve those ends, and distributing talking points to allies of the administration on Capitol Hill and elsewhere. Rove is said to have named at least six other administration officials who were involved in the effort to discredit Wilson.

Everytime I read that I'm amazed. If that is true it is a truly damning confession of character assassination by the man who is the president's most trusted advisor. Regardless of any actual crime being committed, I think that if the American people knew this a large majority would demand that Rove be dismissed. He basically admits that smearing opponents is something he does with the help of the entire Republican infrastructure. We know this stuff exists in politics, some on both sides. But to insist it's "legitimate" and admit freely that you do it is something else.

But I mention it here because that passage contains something that may or may not be legally problematic for Rove. It depends upon his precise words, which we don't have:

Rove insisted, he had only circulated information about Plame after it had appeared in Novak's column.

I suppose it depends on what the definition of "circulate" is, if he even used that word at all. But, generally speaking, if he insisted that he hadn't been talking about Plame before Novak's column, he lied to the FBI. We know he spoke with Cooper.

And then there's the classified document being passed around to every wingnut in town.

Rove is in an unpleasant box. He's claimed that his aggressive smear campaign to to leak and disseminate derogatory information about Bush's critics through partisan channels was completely legitimate --- but that he didn't know that Plame was undercover or that this document was classified. I hope for his sake that's not actually his defense. I've long said he's no genius, but nobody will believe he's that stupid. I doubt Patrick Fitzgerald is that stupid either.

Hat tip to Grand Moff Texan in the comments.