October 18, 2005

Plame Refresher

Good comment chatter on a Plamegate posting.

Anybody wanting a refresher course on the facts behind this contretemps (well, it might be a imbroglio, but certainly not a kerfuffle) could do no better than Stephen Hayes's' cover story in the October 24th Weekly Standard, The White House, the CIA, and the Wilsons

It's a long walk through the timetable, the players, and includes the greatest hits. Wilson's description of his take-no-prisoners fact-finding is a personal favorite of mine:

I spent the next eight days drinking sweet mint tea and meeting with dozens of people: current government officials, former government officials, people associated with the country's uranium business. It did not take long to conclude that it was highly doubtful that any such transaction had ever taken place.

Wilson was sent by his wife's division which was predilected to disprove these claims. So, a quick junket and a couple of meetings suffice. "Are you guys doing illegal business with a rogue state? No. Okay, pass the sugar..."

Wilson's mendacity is detailed as well. His OpEd story doesn't match his earlier interviews, but "oh, well."

Hayes also compares the MSM narrative (Brave whistleblower, petulant security-threatening character attacks) to the actual story:

ON JULY 22, 2005, the New York Times published a lengthy, front-page article detailing the work of two senior Bush administration officials, Karl Rove and Scooter Libby, on the Niger-uranium story. A seemingly exhaustive timeline ran alongside the piece. In 19 bullet points, the Times provided its readers in considerable detail with what it regarded as the highlights of the story. The timeline traces events from the initial request for more information on the alleged Iraqi inquiries in Africa to Joseph Wilson's trip to Niger; from the now-famous "16 words" in President Bush's 2003 State of the Union to the details of White House telephone logs; from Bush administration claims that Karl Rove was not involved in the leak to the naming of special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald, and on from there to the dates that White House officials testified before the grand jury.

As I say, seemingly exhaustive. But there is one curious omission: July 7, 2004. On that date, the bipartisan Senate Select Intelligence Committee released a 511-page report on the intelligence that served as the foundation for the Bush administration's case for war in Iraq. The Senate report includes a 48-page section on Wilson that demonstrates, in painstaking detail, that virtually everything Joseph Wilson said publicly about his trip, from its origins to his conclusions, was false.

This is not a minor detail. The Senate report, which served as the source for much of the chronology in this article, is the definitive study of the events leading up to the compromising of Valerie Plame. The committee staff, both Democrats and Republicans, read all of the intelligence. They saw all of the documents. They interviewed all of the characters. And every member of the committee from both parties signed the report.

It is certainly the case that the media narrative is much more sensational than the Senate report. A story about malfeasance is perhaps more interesting than a story about incompetence. A story about deliberate White House deception is perhaps more interesting than a story about bureaucratic miscommunication. A story about retaliation is perhaps more interesting than a story about clarification.

But sometimes the boring stories have an additional virtue. They're true.

UPDATE: Also worth a read is Jacob Weisberg's Slate piece

Hold the schadenfreude, blue-staters. Rooting for Rove's indictment in this case isn't just unseemly, it's unthinking and ultimately self-destructive. Anyone who cares about civil liberties, freedom of information, or even just fair play should have been skeptical about Fitzgerald's investigation from the start. Claiming a few conservative scalps might be satisfying, but they'll come at a cost to principles liberals hold dear: the press's right to find out, the government's ability to disclose, and the public's right to know.

At the heart of this misbegotten investigation is a flawed piece of legislation called the Intelligence Identities Protection Act. As Jack Shafer has written, this 1982 law is almost impossible to break because it requires that a government official unmask covert agents knowingly and with the intent of causing harm. The law was written narrowly to avoid infringing free speech or becoming an equivalent of Britain's Official Secrets Act. Under the First Amendment, we have a right to debate what is done in our name, even by secret agents. It may be impossible to criminalize malicious disclosure without hampering essential public debate.

Politics Posted by John Kranz at October 18, 2005 5:22 PM

Yep, lots to disagree about. It all depends on your viewpoint I am afraid. You see factual evidence in the administration version, if perhaps some minor miscommunication. Of the detractors you see predilection and partisan hacks. I see predilection on the Bush administration side in spades from Chalabi to "Curveball". Partisan hacks abound in the Defense Department. Intel was culled and scripted to support the conclusion that had already been made. The "CEO" president who supposedly surrounded himself with the best and the brightest to hash out solutions to the country's problems ended up with an amazing solidarity of thought. This administration has perfected the talking point system with officials trotted out to read scripts. All events are sifted to promote a single message and doubt, questioning, and differing opinions are excluded. The official message is true, all others are tainted with partisanship and ulterior motives. As the pigs said, some are more equal than others.

Posted by: Silence Dogood at October 18, 2005 6:23 PM

No. It is not a simple difference of opinion.

I do not claim the administration's case to be accurate, I claim that the Senate Select Intelligence Committee's report, signed by Democrat and Republican Senators, is more credible than Joseph Wilson IV's OpEd, which didn't match his interview, which doesn't match his book.

If Mr. Fitzgerald prosecutes Libby or Rove for identifying Plame or somehow contravening national security, then you'll be proven right and I'll apologize. If it's a Martha Stewart "lying about a non-crime, I'll have to ask why he couldn't find anything in two years.

Maybe I shouldn't call Joe Wilson a hack but I can't help myself. He exhibits most of the features listed in the partisan hack guidebook. And as YOU called ME a partisan hypocrite in your first comment, I'm not feeling gracious enough for a retraction...

Posted by: jk at October 18, 2005 6:59 PM

Peek at the UPDATE: link if you get a chance, Silence. A liberal says "Hold the schadenfreude..."

And. Who is "Curveball?"

Posted by: jk at October 18, 2005 7:08 PM

I agree with the Slate article you reference in your update JK. I don't think and didn't say that Plame's name was outed to punish Wilson, just that it came out as part of the smear campaign against him, much of the questioning about how he personally was selected were innuendos against his wife, her contacts, and the CIA in general. In fact the article also states:

That blame game was morphing into a larger public dispute about the administration's claims that Saddam had weapons of mass destruction. Bush officials were in the middle of an argument in which they were largely wrong, and which they lost, but in which they thought they were right and were trying to win.

This to me is the rub, when it becomes more important to be right than to have the truth. In the high stakes that international politics and military intervention exist in we need to have the truth, not someone's version of it crammed down our throats so they don't have to admit that they were wrong.

Where I differ fromt the Slate article is that I don't know that the law in question is so flawed, it bears a very strong resemblance to the definition of perjury actually. It is there more to prosecute the Aldrich Ames types than the Karl Rove's. I am rooting against Rove purely as a partisan hack, let me admit that right now. It is not without glee that I watch you and especially johngalt rail against the possible perjury charge in a very nice juxtaposition of the Clinton case. Johngalt downloaded the entire Starr report the day it was available if I remember correctly. The glee of those times by the conservatives is now very different with the shoe on the other foot and I am just enjoying the show.

Curveball was the name of the Iraqi defector who fed so much bogus information through Chalabi's INC to receptive ears in the Defense Department. I believe the CIA gave him his code name due to their skepticism of his information which turned out to be almost completely false.

I only called you a partisan hypocrite to needle you a little after your lead in. We all are partisan hypocrites a little bit, in politics it is the nature of the beast.

Posted by: Silence Dogood at October 19, 2005 1:50 PM

Wow, good memory Silence. I had forgotten all about the Starr report. Yes, I did download it in its entireity. As I recall, I was a bit concerned that it would not remain available for long, or at least long enough for me to read it. I intended to read or at least skim the whole thing. Yeah, right. Never did.

But why was I so interested in impeaching the lying rat bastard Clinton then and now, conversely, "nearly disinterested" in Plamegate? Because underneath the obvious partisan motives in both cases I was fully convinced that, among other things, Clinton did in fact rape Juanita Brodderick. The closest that crime came to being punished was the Paula Jones, Kathleen Willey, Ken Starr saga you raised in juxtaposition to Plamegate. Did George Bush snort coke? Maybe, but who cares? Does he now? Extraordinarily unlikely. Did Clinton continue to abuse his personal power to assault women with impunity in the White House? That gun is STILL smoking.

But the lasting result of the Starr report was not the impeachment of the left's golden boy. It was the damage done to the "self-esteem" of the left. In addition to the damage done to many of their "progressive" policies over the last 6 years of Clinton's presidency, they had nearly been "Nixoned" to boot, and they weren't about to let it slide. To "Move On" as they say. They wanted revenge. They've been pounding this president since before his first Innaugural. They think they've got him now.

"He's dead meat. First Rove, then Libby, Cheney and finally the chimp himself! YAAAAAAAaaaaaagh" (c) Howard Dean

I understand the glee on CNN's talking heads shows is brazenly unabashed. Very well, have your fun. In your alternate MSM-enabled universe, the President of the United States and his entire administration is all of the despicable things the kool-aid drinkers say he is. But back here on planet Earth even ham sandwiches have not been indicted yet, much less tried and convicted. Until then I'll consider it all the result of frantic, desperate, opportunistic partisan muckraking and remain, nearly disinterested.

Posted by: johngalt at October 19, 2005 3:21 PM

Yeah, I got the spirit of the "partisan hypocrite" jibe. And I do wear the "partisan hack" badge with honor somedays, but it doesn't go with these shoes.

Comparisons to Starr are legitimate; I've been soul searching lately on that topic. As a quick reminder, I have publicly apologized for the amplitude and tenor of my Clinton-hatred. Like JohnGalt, I think there is much he is guilty of but it was counterproductive of me to be so angry.

I'll go back to my claim that if he is indicted for serious, security threatening crimes I will consider Fitzgerald's inquiry serious.

Posted by: jk at October 19, 2005 7:05 PM | What do you think? [6]