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World In Conflict
Stripping Plame of cover

Novak's article that blew Plame's cover

David Corn's article that identified the crime

Washington Post takes the story public (and claims six other reporters are involved)

White House press secretary Scott McClellan tries to lob the grenade back at the press (via Josh Marshall's Talking Points Memo)

Wilson confirms he was contacted by four reporters from three TV networks 

More Short Articles

Passionate anti-Semitism

Ricin in the mail

Poodle leaves sinking ship

Army criticises Terror War strategy

Iraq's WMD:  Case Closed

Asymetric War in Iraq

Information Operations

Bad news for Bush

Stripping Plame of cover

Terrorists and Terrorism Experts

Polycentric Iraqi Nationalism

Bush flight suit mystery

Thinking about the Iraqi resistance

Public Baffled by Terror Alerts

Normal Failures

Bush in Free Fall

INC and Blowback

Google finds Weapons of Mass Destruction

More Polls

The Timothy McVeigh Finishing School

Reinforcing an opinion

Legitimacy

Borderlands

Orwellian Centenary

Cognitive Dissonance

Heaven and other things

Polls, Polls, Polls

Where are they now: Eugene Hasenfus

More Mass Delusions

WMD Trailers NOT

NRA rules in Iraq:  Gun confiscation flops

About that Anthrax...

Another Fine Mess

Chaos in Iraq

October 2, 2003

Warbaby says:

The FBI is going to have a hard time not solving a case where there are eight material witnesses.  But I think they'll manage to blow it anyway.  Why ruin a perfect streak?

As the firestorm over the latest Bush administration scandal expands, the usual problem of controversy generating more heat and smoke than casting light is (sigh) surfacing again.

As the moving finger of television-driven media writes, the story of how former Ambassador Wilson was politically slimed is getting dumbed down in a variety of ways.  Maybe it's time for everybody to take a deep breath and examine the basic facts.

Valerie Plame was working under unofficial cover.  The charge being investigated by the FBI is not "leaking," it's violating the law that protects the identity of undercover CIA personnel. 

There's a sloppiness in the press that is being continually exploited by the Bush administration to muddle or downplay the seriousness of the underlying systematic problem with fabricating a bogus causus beli.  Witness the briefly successful attempt to convert systematic tampering with intelligence into something trivial like "sixteen words." 

The problem wasn't the president's fraudulent statement in the State of the Union address about Iraq obtaining uranium from Niger.  The problem is that everything brought forward as a justification for launching a war of aggression has been false.  That's a problem that won't go away.

The key events are worth condensing into a brief 12-step chronology:

  1. Joseph Wilson writes an op-ed in the New York Times laying out the facts behind his investigation of the ability of Niger to sell uranium to Iraq.  Conclusion:  it couldn't happen without lots of evidence being generated.
  2. A couple of weeks later, Robert Novak writes a column that discloses Wilson's wife, Valerie Plame, works for the CIA.
  3. The next day, Newsday publishes a follow-up story by Knut Royce and Timothy Phelps confirming Ms. Plame's cover is well and truly blown.
  4. David Corn at The Nation writes a story identifying Novak's disclosure as a violation of the Agent Identity Act (a very different law than the one covering leaks.)
  5. At about the same time, the CIA refers the matter to Attorney General Ashcroft's Department of Justice for investigation of violation of the Agent Identity Act.  Based on what we know now, it looks like the DOJ stonewalls the investigation for two months.
  6. In late September, the Washington Post gets the story handed to it on a silver platter after MSNBC resurfaces the smothered investigation.  In this story, the Post's (sigh) unidentified source mentions that the two White House officials disclosed Plames's role as an undercover agent not just to Novak but also to six other reporters (two of whom were at Newsday.)  Keep your eye on this angle because it's important.  We'll be returning to it shortly.
  7. The blogosphere (God bless them each and every one) jumps all over the story and scoops the corporate press which is (sigh) as usual sitting around waiting for their handouts.
  8. AG Ashcroft finally pulls his finger out and -- after two months of stalling -- actually has to start an investigation into the intentional destruction of Plame's cover.  The FBI's announcement that they will begin the investigation at the CIA adds a delightful element of comedy to the affair.
  9. At this point, the dutiful scribes of the corporate media suddenly discover a Major Scandal and are off in full cry.  White House Press Flack-in-Chief Scott McClellan starts needling the press with sly comments that anyone (meaning members of that herd of rabid sheep known as the White House Press Corps) with information bearing on the investigation should come forward.
  10. After the obligatory 12-hour head start (a tradition that dates back to Ed Meese's bungling of the Iran/Contra scandal), the White House alerts its minions of the need to preserve evidence and just by the way -- names Novak and the two Newsday reporters as being key links in the chain of evidence.
  11. Three days after the Post has splattered the story all over everybody's starched white shirt fronts, the hue and cry has risen to the point of calls for an independent investigation.  The firestorm commences, with the usual fawning suspects eagerly gobbling up red herrings and continuing to slime Joe Wilson.
  12. In the course of this happy nonsense, the New York Times mentions in passing that Wilson discloses he was contacted by four television reporters from three networks seeking confirmation of the same information peddled to Novak.  For those of you who have been doing the arithmetic, this rounds out the number so astutely given to the Post.

Two observations should suffice to wrap up this rancid mess:

  • How did the Washington Post's source know that seven reporters had been fed this line?  Simple.  There is no mystery here.  And the cat is entirely out of the bag in some quarters.  Note that espiocrat Tenent is prominently featured in the lead of the story.  As the boys at Langley like to say, "The FBI tries to catch bank robbers.  We rob banks."
  • From the moment Novak aided the commission of a federal felony, there were no less than eight material witnesses who know the identity of guilty parties:  Novak, the Newsday reporters, the four television reporters (that's seven.)  Of course, Joseph Wilson knows who those television reporters are.  The Washington Post's mystery source makes eight.  But I'm willing to bet he's got a "get out of jail free" card.

There is no federal shield law protecting the reporters.  They can be questioned.  They can refuse to talk.  But there's nothing stopping the FBI from interviewing them -- other than the FBI's well-established inability to solve any serious national security crime involving political elites.

So grab some popcorn and watch the feds blow this one.  They're going to do some very fancy footwork and come up empty. 

Ah, for the good old days when they could just grab people, handcuff them to a hot radiator and get out the rubber hoses...  But that was back in the bad old days when the law in its majesty equally forbid the rich and poor alike from sleeping in ditches or under bridges.  Those days are over.

Oh, yes.  My money is on Scooter in the dead pool.  Dunno about #2.