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Hullabaloo


Friday, March 16, 2007

 
Red Flags

by digby


In the Plame hearings this morning Chris Van Hollen asked Victoria Toensing the question I have been waiting for somebody to ask these hypocritical Scooter Girls for a long time:



Van Hollen: Do you think White House officials have any obigation at all --- put aside the techinical legal obligation --- as stewards of our national security --- when they find out that someone works for the Central Intelligence Agency, do you think they have any obligation to the citizens of this country to find out before telling the press about it, whether that disclosure would compromise sensitive information? As citizens ofthis country, wouldn't you want that to be the standard?

Toensing: I think the press secretary should always tell what's accurate so...

Van Hollen: I'm sorry?

Toensing: A press secretary should always tell what's accurate, I have no problem with that.

Van Hollen: But before somebody goes around saying this person's works for the CIA, in a kind of cavalier manner, and an obviously intentional manner, to try and spread this information, you said, don't you think they have an obligation to the citizens of this country to make some determination ---this was, we're talking about the Iraq war, the decision to go to war, whether or not Saddam was trying to get nuclear weapons material.

Before they disclose the identity of somebody who works in the nucelar non-proliferation area of the CIA, don't you think they have some obligation to demonstrate the good judgment to find out if that would disclose sensitive information?

Toensing: Uhm..well..could be, but I don't particularly think that, uh, a red flag would go off because those of us who work in government all the time know people who work at the CIA...


I hope every covert or classified employee of the CIA takes notice. The Republicans don't feel there's any need for red flags to naturally go up even in the highest reaches of the White House when it's proposed that somebody leak the name of a CIA employee who works on WMD. After all, people in government are apparently babbling to anyone who'll listen about this stuff all the time. Good to know. I'd watch my back.

And I hope Americans will remember this when they hear the inevitable GOP caterwauling and rending of garments about leaking of classified information and national security the next time somebody leaks to the newspapers. People in government talk about people in the CIA (and I presume all other government departments) all the time so no red flags go up when they are talking to reporters about potentially sensitive information. Why should it? It didn't even occur to the White House to double check to make sure that they weren't giving away classified info when they used CIA agents as weapons against their political enemies.

This is the principle thing I think was lost in all this. Let's suppose that everything the Scooter girls have been saying is true and that nobody was trying to out a CIA operative and that she wasn't legally covert and that it was just politics as usual. Even if all that were true, which it isn't, they would still be culpable for having the exceedingly poor judgement to casually bandy about the name of a CIA employee without checking to see what she might be working on and whether it was a good idea to publicize her name.

There is simply no excuse for outing this CIA agent, whether it was legal or not. This was the Bush Administration, the people who are allegedly fanatical about national security and who are so secretive that we can't even know who works for the Vice President's office. Yet, they apparently just cavalierly dropped this woman's name to several reporters and Victoria Toensing wants us to believe that this is perfectly reasonable. I realize she's playing with a bad hand, but this little performance was a stretch even for her. (You could practically see the gears of her brain seizing up while she played for time with that non-sequiter about the press secretary.)

This hearing was designed to show that the White House leaked classified information and nobody paid a price for doing that despite the fact that many others in government have paid significantly. It's impossible to defend what they did, even if it was just an honest oversight. This is the White House and the CIA and weapons of mass destruction we are talking about. But as we've learned these past six years, there really is no limit to how much the Bush administration can screw things up and there is no limit to the dishonesty and hypocrisy of Republicans in defending it.

Toensing's testimony was extremely difficult to listen to. She is an arrogant gorgon and lies as easily as she breathes. Waxman even said at the end that he knows her testimony was inaccurate and that he was going to leave the record open to correct all of her misstatements.

I love you Henry.


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