Mark A. R. Kleiman
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Tuesday, June 22, 2004
 
Distribution notesdistribution notes.doc

Saturday, June 05, 2004
 
REMEMBERING AMALEK

Last week's New Yorker has a chilling portrait by Jeffrey Goldberg of the Israeli settlers in the West Bank and Gaza. They seem only somewhat less bloodthirsty and racist than the terrorists of the current intifada.

Some of them have photographs in their homes of Baruch Goldstein, who slaughtered 29 Arabs as they prayed at the Tomb of the Patriarchs in 1994. And some of them agree with Goldstein that the Arabs of the West Bank are covered by the Biblical injunction to war against Amalek.

As it happens, the UCLA faculty Torah study group, which has been slogging its way through Devarim (Deuteronomy) at the rate of a few verses a week for something like ten years, just got finished dealing with that commandment (Deut. 25:17-19). While the Torah has many puzzling passages, surely none is more puzzling:

Remember what Amalek did unto thee by the way as ye came forth out of Egypt; how he met thee by the way, and smote the hindmost of thee, all that were enfeebled in thy rear, when thou wast faint and weary; and he feared not God.

Therefore it shall be, when HaShem thy God hath given thee rest from all thine enemies round about, in the land which HaShem thy God giveth thee for an inheritance to possess it, that thou shalt blot out the remembrance of Amalek from under heaven; thou shalt not forget.


This ties together some of the earliest material in the Torah with the very latest of the Ketubim:

"Remember" refers back to Shemot (Exodus), Chapter 17:

Then came Amalek, and fought with Israel in Rephidim.

And Moses said unto Joshua: 'Choose us out men, and go out, fight with Amalek; tomorrow I will stand on the top of the hill with the rod of God in my hand.'

So Joshua did as Moses had said to him, and fought with Amalek; and Moses, Aaron, and Hur went up to the top of the hill.

And it came to pass, when Moses held up his hand, that Israel prevailed; and when he let down his hand, Amalek prevailed.

But Moses' hands were heavy; and they took a stone, and put it
under him, and he sat thereon; and Aaron and Hur stayed up his hands, the one on the one side, and the other on the other side; and his hands were steady until the going down of the sun.

And Joshua discomfited Amalek and his people with the edge of the sword.

And HaShem said unto Moses: 'Write this for a memorial in the book, and rehearse it in the ears of Joshua: for I will utterly blot out the remembrance of Amalek from under heaven.'

And Moses built an altar, and called the name of it Adonai-nissi.
And he said: 'The hand upon the throne of HaShem: HaShem will have war with Amalek from generation to generation.'



Part of that war is recounted in Chapter 15 of the first Book of Samuel:

And Samuel said unto Saul: 'The HaShem sent me to anoint thee to be king over His people, over Israel; now therefore hearken thou unto the voice of the words of HaShem.

Thus saith HaShem of hosts: I remember that which Amalek did to Israel, how he set himself against him in the way, when he came up out of Egypt.

Now go and smite Amalek, and utterly destroy all that they have, and spare them not; but slay both man and woman, infant and suckling, ox and sheep, camel and ass.'

And Saul summoned the people, and numbered them in Telaim, two hundred thousand footmen, and ten thousand men of Judah.
And Saul came to the city of Amalek, and lay in wait in the valley.
And Saul said unto the Kenites: 'Go, depart, get you down from among the Amalekites, lest I destroy you with them; for ye showed kindness to all the children of Israel, when they came up out of Egypt.' So the Kenites departed from among the Amalekites.

And Saul smote the Amalekites, from Havilah as thou goest to Shur, that is in front of Egypt.

And he took Agag the king of the Amalekites alive, and utterly destroyed all the people with the edge of the sword.

But Saul and the people spared Agag, and the best of the sheep, and of the oxen, even the young of the second birth, and the lambs, and all that was good, and would not utterly destroy them; but every thing that was of no account and feeble, that they destroyed utterly.

Then came the word of HaShem unto Samuel, saying:

'It repenteth Me that I have set up Saul to be king; for he is turned
back from following Me, and hath not performed My commandments.' And it grieved Samuel; and he cried unto HaShem all night.

[snip]

Then said Samuel: 'Bring ye hither to me Agag the king of the Amalekites.' And Agag came unto him in chains. And Agag said: 'Surely the bitterness of death is at hand.'

And Samuel said: As thy sword hath made women childless, so shall thy mother be childless among women. And Samuel hewed Agag in pieces before HaShem in Gilgal.


In the Book of Esther, Haman, the wicked grand vizier who plots to exterminate the Jews, is referred to as an Agagite; whether that means that he is literally a descendant of Agag, or merely that he is Agag-like, isn't clear. (Goldstein committed his mass murder on the day of Purim.)

Back, then, to the commandment in Deuteronomy. It seems as inexplicable as a Zen koan: “Do not forget to blot out the memory of Amalek.” How could that commandment possibly be kept? It’s like an order to sit still for five minutes and not think of an elephant. As long as we carry on the fight against Amalek, so long do we prolong the remembrance of Amalek.

Moreover, the elaborate account of Amalekite guilt offered in Deuteronomy fits rather poorly with the first account of that campaign in Exodus. There, the emphasis is on the power given to the Israelites by the raising of Moses’ arms, and the support given him by Aaron and Hur when his physical strength gives out. The notion that the Amalekites attacked dishonorably is not so much as hinted at, which seems strange if their behavior was so horrible as to bring on them a war without end. And yet the text makes clear the divine intention to eliminate the Amalekites, and the commandment to Israel to war against them “from generation to generation” (i.e., forever).

At Purim, we enact blotting out the name of Haman, "the Agagite": the descendant, literally or figurateively, of Amalek. When the name is spoken, the congregation makes so much noise that it cannot be heard. In some traditions, the name “Haman” is written with chalk on the soles of the shoes, and when the name is pronounced everyone stamps his feet.

But of course all of that shouting and stamping calls attention to Haman and preserves his name, rather than effacing it. Surely there are many Jews who couldn’t tell you quite who Melchizedek was or what Josiah did, but to whom Haman is a familiar name. Whether individually or communally, wiping out the memory of something is not an activity that can continue with any hope of success; not if the we are “not to forget.”

Perhaps “remembrance” (zacher) should be understood not as “memory,” but as “monument.” Then the commandment would be to extirpate the race of Amalek and eliminate any buildings or artwork or texts they might leave behind. (That’s as opposed, for example, to Hitler’s plan to wipe out the Jews but leave the Prague Ghetto as a museum of the life of the no-longer-extant people.) That seems consistent with the commandment Saul is so terribly punished for not observing.

In this sense, though the war against Amalek has reached a successful conclusion; there is no Amalekite population anywhere, no Amalekite literature, no Amalekite flag or seat at the United Nations, not even any Amalekite ruins.

But, that accomplished, what is it that we are to continue not to forget? The Rabbis largely agree that the duty to struggle against Amalek is a duty in every generation (though there is an opinion that this is one of the impossible mitzvot, designed to be studied rather than practiced).

One straightforward account is that, as the Haggadah says, “in every generation” there are those who attack Jews the way the Amalekites are said in Devarim to have attacked the Israelites, and that the war against Amalek is a war against Jew-haters of whatever ethnicity. Call that the Baruch Goldstein interpretation.

An alternative interpretation is that the fight against Amalek is never-ending because we, as individuals and as a community, have Amalek – the impulse to do violence, and in particular to do violence against the helpless – within us. And the struggle against that inner Amalekite will never reach a conclusion.

But whether the war against Amalek is taken in its nationalist or its liberal sense, it requires remembrance. If we are not to forget, then we leave a zacher, if only in our minds.



Tuesday, October 07, 2003
 
PROVING SOMETHING ELSE

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There's an old piece of advice given to lawyers and other debaters, not less practically acute than it is morally shabby: "If you can't prove what you want to prove, prove something else and pretend it's the same. "

The diehard few who are trying to confuse the public about whether Valerie Plame was a covert intelligence officer, and whether publishing that fact was therefore unpatriotic (certainly) and criminal (probably) seem to have that advice down pat.

She was covert [*], and there's no way to prove that she wasn't. But it's easy to show that her name, and the name of her cover employer, weren't secret. So the slime-and-defend brigade keeps insisting on those facts, which no one ever doubted, as if that proved something.

Just to repeat the obvious:

What was secret about Valerie Plame and her putative employer was that she was a CIA officer and her putative employer was a CIA front. There was nothing indiscreet or insecure about her husband listing his wife's name in his biography, or about Valerie Plame listing her employer's name on her campaign contribution forms. The security violation, and the crime, was connecting either of those names with the CIA.

Another trap laid by the slime-and-defenders, one into which I admit to having fallen, is assuming that "Valerie Plame" was Ms. Wilson's "workname," or that, if it was, it was her only workname. We know that she was "Valerie Wilson" socially and "Valerie Plame" for some professional purposes. But that doesn't mean she wasn't "Julia Jane Pforzenheimer" at other times and places. Still, whoever knows that "Valerie Plame" names a CIA officer and that "Brewster-Jennings" names a CIA front knows a lot more than it is healthy for this country for anyone outside the Company ever to have known.

Is that clear, Mr. Limbaugh? Or would you like it explained again, in shorter words?


 
A GORDIAN SOLUTION TO FINDING THE UNMASKERS OF VALERIE PLAME

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Amid all the discussion of whether investigators should try to squeeze the names of the officials who outed Valerie Plame out of the reporters whom the officials told, no one has mentioned a much simpler step the President could take -- could, for that matter, have taken any time since July 14 -- to "get to the bottom of this," as he reportedly would like to do.

Reader Michael Ham offers the suggestion, elegant in its simplicity:

The President should require every official in his administration at Executive Level II or higher (that's cabinet secretaries and their immediate deputies, plus others of equivalent rank) to submit, within 48 hours, either a sworn statement that he or she had no discussion mentioning Joseph Wilson's wife with any reporter in the period before July 14, 2003 (the date of the first Novak column) and has no knowledge of anyone who did have such discussions, or a sworn statement listing any such discussions as that person did have or any knowledge that person has regarding such discussions by other persons.

The President has, of course, no power to compel compliance with that order. He does, however, since all of the officials involved except the Director of the FBI and the Director of Central Intelligence serve at his pleasure, have the power to dismiss anyone who refuses to submit such a statement, or who submits a statement claiming the privilege against self-incrimination.

It would take intrepidity amounting to temerity for anyone to falsely certify innocence under oath, given the high probability that the truth will come out. There might be legal defenses for the original act, but not for a false statement.

The President's power to follow Mr. Ham's advice is clear. And it would clearly help "get to the bottom of this."

So why not, Mr. President?


 
THAT'S GOVERNOR SCHWARZENGROPER, MISTER!

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The polls don't close for another nineth minutes and the count will take hours, but I see no reason to disblieve either Drudge or the exit polls he reports: the recall will pass comfortably and Schwarenegger will crush Bustamante.

There's lots of blame to go around: Schwarzenegger for running such an intellectually dishonest campaign, the press for not calling him on it, the California Broadcaster's Association for setting up the one debate format he could survive, the press again for being so slow and lax in unearthing the skeletons in his closet, the bloggers and talk-radio hosts who falsely portrayed Bustamente as some sort of ethnic separatist, Susan Estrich for deciding that the weekend before the election was a good time to give aid and comfort to the enemy, the "family values" Republicans for cynically embracing the permissiveness they pretend to hate as long as it involves a Democrat, Cruz Bustamante for taking Richie Ross's horrible campaign advice and Ross for offering it, Gray Davis for refusing to endorse Bustamante in Round II and thus making a truly united front for the Democrats impossible, &c;, &c;, &c.;

But the people I'm maddest at right now are the national and state Democratic leaders, including Bill Clinton and Dianne Feinstein, who decided that the voters of California would not be allowed a decent alternative to their current coin-operated governor. The calculation couldn't have been more cynical: "Californians hate Davis, but if we confront them only with choices that are even worse they will, once again, grit their teeth and vote for him again."

Well, it didn't deserve to work, and it didn't work. The Darrell Issa/Wilson/Quackenbush/ developer/Rove/Schwarzenegger coup didn't deserve to work either, and the people of California don't deserve being stuck with him, but there's some satisfaction, however grim, in not having allowed ourselves to be rolled once again.

In a state with 35 million inhabitants, half of them Democrats, it should have been possible to come up with at least one candidate for governor who didn't make you want to vomit. The party sachems who couldn't, or wouldn't, get that person on the ballot had a pouding coming to them, and today they got it.

And for God's sake let's not hear any nonsense about another recall drive. Even if the signatures could be gathered, the voters would laugh at it, and at the people who have spent the last six months arguing that recalls are undemocratic but now decide that only recalls against Democrats are undemocratic. Let Schwarzenegger deal with the budget mess, and concentrate on having a decent candidate -- not, for example, Bustamante or Lockyer -- to run against him in 2006.

And to those of you who spent today pounding the pavement and running the phone banks in what was almost certainly a doomed cause: Stand tall. A year from now, many of the people who voted today are going to wish they'd listened to you.


Monday, October 06, 2003
 
PLAMESVILLE DIARY: Cover-up!

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... now up on Open Source Politics.

 
ELECTION DAY VOLUNTEERS NEEDED

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If you're in the LA area, opposed to the Schwarzengroper, and have some time to spare tomorrow, there's need for Get Out the Vote workers.

For door-to-door campaigning:

No on Recall
San Fernando Office
16000 Ventura Blvd., #405
Encino,CA
Carolyn Smith, (818) 995-3367

For phone banking:

California Democratic Party
888 Figueroa St., #400
Los Angeles, CA
(213) 239-8730 phone

Things are looking grim, but not hopeless: Davis claims to have polls showing the recall a toss-up, and Schwazenegger's people scoff but won't say what their numbers are. Anyway, the effort has to be made.



 
GAME OVER:
BUSH ADMITS PLAME REVELATION WAS A CRIME


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For those of you who have enjoyed the argument about whether revealing Valerie Plame's identity was a crime, I have bad news. The argument is over.

It was a crime. At least, it was if you believe the President of the United States. Here's the beginning of a story from Tuesday's New York Times.

Bush Toughens His Support of Investigation Into Leak
By ELISABETH BUMILLER

Published: October 7, 2003


WASHINGTON, Oct. 6 — President Bush said on Monday that the unauthorized disclosure of an undercover C.I.A. officer's identity was a "very serious matter" and "a criminal action" as the White House announced that at least 500 of its 2,000 employees had responded to a Justice Department demand for documents as part of an investigation into the source of the leak.

The announcement — and Mr. Bush's adamant words — reflected a tougher public approach by the White House to the leak, which has been attributed to senior administration officials. Democrats have criticized the administration for not treating the disclosure of the classified information more forcefully.


Here's a bit of speculation: Bush's comment, which makes his supporters who have been insisting otherwise look like a bunch of monkeys, was well designed to monopolize the next news cycle, thus keeping the more substantive story that White House Counsel was going to paw over the documents before giving them to DoJ [*] off the front pages. So far, it's working.




 
BETRAYED!
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So far, I have had occasion only once in the Valerie Plame inquiry to say something in praise of the White House. The White House Does the Right Thing, October 3. You can imagine, then, how annoyed I am to find out that the so-and-sos have double-crossed me: the decent thing I thought they were doing was in fact an unspeakably sleazy trick that makes sense only as part of a cover-up.

All those documents concerning the Wilson trip and conversations about it that White House staff has been ordered to come up with by tomorrow at 5 p.m. will not be going to the Justice Department. No, they're going to White House Counsel -- that is, to the lawyers for the President, who must be considered a likely suspect, at least as a co-conspirator or accessory.

Every staffer who turns something over knows that it will be made available to the President, who will be under no legal obligation not to share it with, let's say, Karl Rove. (A lawyer has no obligation, and in general no right, to keep information from his client, unless it has been sealed by a court, and a client has no obligation to keep confidential anything he learns from his lawyer.)

So the Bush team plans to give itself two weeks to plan its cover-up, having as a starting basis a full set of the relevant documents, so that they can make sure that any lies they tell can't be easily disproven. Note the headline: "Decision...riles Democrats," as if no one but a Democrat could object to giving the criminals the first look at all the evidence.

Note that I am not accusing Alberto Gonzales of any unethical conduct here. If his client, the President, indicates that he would like to minimize the damage this affair does to his administration, and if he and Mr. Gonzales judge that having White House Counsel vet all the documents is the best way to accomplish that goal, then Mr. Gonzales is carrying out his duty to his client by doing so. Unless and until he has proof, rather than mere suspicion, that his client is currently engaged in criminal activity (such as obstruction of justice) or intends to engage in such activity in the future, his duty of "zealous representation" is paramount.

But Mr. Gonzales, and the President, are not the only players in this game. Is the Justice Department going to hold still for this? Is the Senate?

And how about you, dear reader? Are you going to hold still for it? Have you written to your senators yet? And, while you're at it, how about writing a check to the Wesley Clark campaign, or to the campaign of whichever Democrat you prefer?

Bush aides will review leak notes
White House's decision to give first look to its lawyers riles Democrats


10:12 PM CDT on Monday, October 6, 2003

By DAVID JACKSON / The Dallas Morning News

WASHINGTON White House lawyers will review phone logs and other records supplied by presidential aides before turning the documents over to the Justice Department officials conducting the investigation into who leaked a CIA undercover operative's identity, officials said Monday.

The disclosure inspired new Democratic calls for an independent inquiry.

"To allow the White House counsel to review records before the prosecutors would see them is just about unheard of in the way cases are always prosecuted," said Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., speaking on NBC's Today show. "And the possibility of mischief, or worse than mischief, is very, very large."

Administration officials said the White House counsel's office may need up to two weeks to organize documents that some 2,000 employees are required to submit by 5 p.m. Tuesday.

The documents must also be reviewed for national security or executive privilege concerns and to ensure the filings are responsive to Justice Department requests for information, White House aides said. The department is investigating whether Bush administration officials exposed a CIA operative's identity to reporters and a columnist, Robert Novak.

Bush: 'Criminal action'

President Bush underscored his concern about the leak Monday, telling reporters: "We're talking about a criminal action."

The president said information would be submitted to the Justice Department "on a timely basis," calling the investigation "a very serious matter, and our administration takes it seriously."

"I'd like to know who leaked," Mr. Bush added. "And if anybody has got any information, inside our government or outside our government, who leaked, they ought to take it to the Justice Department so we can find out the leaker."

White House officials are required to turn in any documents they may have related to the principals in the matter, including former Ambassador Joseph Wilson, his wife, Valerie Plame, and any reporters who were contacted about the couple.

White House spokeswoman Ashley Snee said she could not put a timeline on when the documents might be turned over to the Justice Department but said the review would be expeditious.

It's going to be done with the intent of getting to the bottom of this," Ms. Snee said. "This is almost 2,000 people."

Mr. Schumer and other Democrats have called for an outside special counsel, questioning whether Attorney General John Ashcroft can fairly investigate his patrons at the White House.

Mr. Bush defended his Justice Department, saying, "These are ... professional prosecutors who are leading this investigation."

Mark Rozell, a Catholic University politics professor who specializes in executive privilege, said it was reasonable for White House lawyers to take time to review the materials before sharing them with investigators. The length, he said, is up to the White House and its opponents.

"There can be an argument over whether two weeks is the appropriate amount of time," he said.




 
"WHO WAS THE SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL"
WHO NAMED THE "TWO TOP WHITE HOUSE OFFICIALS"
WHO REVEALED VALERIE PLAME'S IDENTITY?


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Digby has the weirdest speculation yet, and some very good supporting evidence. I mostly don't buy it, but it's a truly delicious thought.



 
LATEST PLAMESVILLE DIARY IS UP...

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...at Open Source Politics, which has just jumped to #18 in the Blogging Ecosystem rankings, an unprecedented leap for a publication just a month old.


 
WHAT THE CIA SPOKESMAN SHOULD HAVE SAID TO NOVAK

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There's been lots of discussion what the CIA spokesman told, or didn't tell, Robert Novak before his first column ran. It's has been suggested that, by confirming her relationship with the agency to Novak and to Time, the CIA somehow acknowledged that her role wasn't really very secret. It's even been suggested that, since the spokesman asked Novak not to print her connection with the Agency but didn't make it (by his account) very emphatic, the government wasn't taking the "active measures" to keep identity secret required to trigger the criminal penalties of the IIPA.

Bruce R. of Flit has what seems to me the best analysis of this published so far [*]. I was slow in finding it, but here it is:

Say you're PR. A journalist calls you and asks you to confirm or deny someone works for your organization that you don't want the world to know about. You have, basically, three choices.

1. "No she doesn't." Upshot: journalist runs story saying he said-they said: "My sources tell me the Ambassador's wife works for the agency, but, the agency denies it."

2. "We can neither confirm nor deny." Upshot: journalist runs story saying you had nothing to say. "My sources say bla bla, the agency had no comment."

3. "Yes she works for us, please don't use her name." This is, in fact, what the CIA said, and that Novak ignored. The hope is that you can turn off that part of the story entirely, with an appeal to the journalist's conscience or patriotism. This works surprisingly often.

You can't logically say, "whether she works for us or not, please don't use her name." No journalist could ever leave it at that. If you want to put stipulations on the use of her name, you need to acknowledge you have some relationship with the person in doing so. Nor, unless you fully trust the journalist, can you dare go into more specifics. "Yes, she's worked for us as a covert analyst for over 20 years, she worked on this file and that file, please don't use her name, because the risk is you'll compromise this and that."

If the journalist isn't willing to stop at "please don't use her name" in and of itself, then they can't be trusted to keep anything else you tell them secret either. Novak is a case in point: he was asked to keep secret and he blabbed anyway. If the PR officer involved had said anything else that was classified info, it's reasonable to assume now that Novak could well have put that in his article, too.

Short of telling Novak's sources that they'd be liable for prosecution if he went with the article (which would have been a good approach in retrospect) CIA PR went by-the-book on "how to try to squelch a story" on this one. They are in no way responsible for the leak in question.


Now, I'm not certain that Bruce R. is entirely correct. In hindsight, I think the Agency wishes that the spokesman had said something like: "The relationship between Joseph Wilson's wife and the Agency is such that it absolutely, positively must never be mentioned or hinted at, orally or in print. Please tell your source to shut his flapping yap. National security and people's lives are at stake. Sorry, I can't say anything more. But please don't screw us on this one."

But the fact that I can, in the calm of my study, imagine something stronger to say than apparently was actually said doesn't mean that the CIA was somehow complicit in letting Plame's identity get out.


Sunday, October 05, 2003
 
MAYBE I WAS WRONG ...

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... to think that the Schwarzengroper was too far ahead for the sexual-battery stuff to hurt him much.

The California recall race is tightening, though just how tight it's getting is a matter of dispute. [*] The combination of the complaints from gropees (which I think is solid) and the Nazi stuff (which I think is thin, and less relevant than the Waldheim issue which somehow disappeared after Slate's good account) is hurting Ahhnold in Round II, and weakening support for recalling Davis (Round I).

It still seems likely that when the smoke is cleared he's going to be the Governator. He's caught some breaks: the papers are referring to his misconduct as sexual, when it's actually assaultive. No one that I've seen has called him on the fact that he had his campaign spokesman deny the charges which he now acknowledges were at least partly true; he seems to be getting credit for "forthrightness" because he followed that lie with at least a part of the truth relatively quickly. Nor has anyone picked up on Mickey Kaus's point, which Susan Faludi echoes [*], that he's much more a bully than a womanizer, getting his jollies by humiliating people -- men as well as women -- who aren't in a position to hit back. In addition, no one has linked the accusation that he expressed admiration for Hitler in 1975 to the much solider fact that he supported a known Nazi war criminal for President of Austria a decade later.

On the other hand, the charges keep piling up, and supporters are starting to back away: he lost one group of newspaper endorsements, and Mitt Romney suddenly decided not to come campaign for him.

So anyone who expresses a firm opinion right now about how the votes are going to stack up is talking through his hat; we know precisely nothing about turnout in a recall, and how it will be influenced by the latest developments. Schwarzenegger's lead, and the lead for the recall, is among people who say they haven't voted before but plan to this time. Who knows what they're actually going to do? And who knows how many Democrats, disgusted with Davis, have been telling pollsters all along that they were "definitely" voting for the recall but won't be able to bring themselves to do the foul deed when they confront that punchcard? [*]

And we (or at least I) still don't know whether the LA Times has another nastygram for A.S. tomorrow morning. No, if I still had an active account with the Iowa Electronic Markets, I'd take a small flyer on "Davis In" at effective odds of 5 to 1.

That doesn't mean I'm sure that it will be close: for all I know, things could break the other way, and the "Yes" vote could go to 60% and the Arnold vote to 50%.

What it does mean is that people like me, who might have cast a protest vote or just stayed home, are now going to go out and vote "No" and Bustamante. And even those who still prefer Bustamante to the other two alternatives will probably grit their teeth and vote "No" just for insurance.


 
PRE-CAMBRIAN FOSSILS
AND UNIVERSITY MANAGEMENT


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J. William Schopf, a paleobiologist of great distinction, gave a gripping talk at this Friday's Marschak Colloquium on the discovery of the pre-Cambrian fossil record. [*]. The story, as he told it, seemed to fit nicely with the work that Susanne Lohmann, has been doing on the problem of university management, and in particular the challenge created by the existence of separate disciplines covering related matters from different perspectives. [*]

Here's Schopf's story:

Half a century ago, almost a hundred years after the publication of On the Origin of Species, the earliest fossils dated no further back than 550 million years, with already highly-evolved organisms such as trilobites. As Darwin himself noted, this was a serious objection to the whole idea of evolution.

Since then, the fossil record has been pushed back to about 3.6 billion years, or about 90% of the way to the current estimate of the date when life originated on this planet. Some of that work -- the part to which Schopf himself has contributed most heavily -- has involved the use of a technique called Raman scattering to perform spectroscopic analysis of biological material in a petrified state, thus allowing paleobiologists to photograph the microfossils of soft-bodied organisms, including single-celled organisms. That part seems to have proceded about as quickly as the development of laser technology allowed.

But the other part of the story is a more complicated one. The discovery that stromatoliths -- literally, "covered," or "layered," rocks -- were in fact fossilized remains of colonies of cyanobacteria (called blue-green algae when I was taking high school biology). That discovery, unlike the other, could have been made at any time after Darwin wrote.

Geologists knew stromatoliths and had named them. Some biologists who studied the algae in highly saline tidal pools knew of places where there were layered rock formations with a top layer of cyanobacteria, with an appearance very similar to that of the geologists' stromatoliths. [*] (According to Schopf, they exist today only in such places because, as soon as snail-like creatures evolved, they started eating the living cyanobacteria from the tops of growing stromatoliths, thus wiping them out except in places so salty that the snails can't live there.)

The problem was that people studied rocks in geology departments, fossils in departments of paleontology, and colonies of cyanobacteria in biology or oceanography departments. It was only by accident, when a geologist visited a saline tidal pool in Australia and thought the dome-like formations looked familiar, that someone put together the marine biology with the geology to give the paleontologists a birthday present.

So there's the puzzle for the university manager: the disciplinary structure that makes progress possible can also hold it back. Of course Lohmann, as a political scientist, might easily not know that Shopf had provided her with a perfect illustration of her point, though both are at UCLA.




 
QUESTION REPORTERS AND DEMOCRATIC CANDIDATES
SHOULD BE ASKING OF THE PRESIDENT


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Will you promise -- now -- that no official of your administration accused or convicted in connection with the revelation of the identity of an undercover CIA officer or the attempt to cover it up will receive a pardon?



 
WHAT DID THEY KNOW, AND WHEN DID THEY KNOW IT?

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Daniel Drezner and Brad DeLong have had an exchange about Brad's assertion that the Bush White House, whatever the culpability of the individuals in it, collectively knew in July that someone had illegally revealed the identity of a covert intelligence officer and that there was evidence that "someone" was high up in the administration, and did nothing to try to identify and punish whoever that was until the Justice Department inquiry forced the matter onto the front page.

I have the greatest respect for Dan, both for the quality of his writings generally and for the intellectual honesty with which he has been confronting this affair, involving as it does potentially serious charges of misconduct against an administration with whose policy goals he, unlike Brad or me, is in substantial sympathy. But in this case it seems to me that Brad is clearly right.

There are two reasons to believe that. First, it wouldn't have been nearly as invisible to them as it was to the public; things were happening, in the media, on Capitol Hill, and in the White House press office, that could not have gone unnoticed. Second if the White House had been innocent in the affair, and all the attacks therefore false, the false attacks would have given them a great opportunity for counterattacks on targets they care about: Wilson, Krugman, Dean, Schumer, and Hillary. That would have created an incentive for people inside the White House to ferret out the truth.

Here's the timeline:

The Novak story and the Time story came out the same week. Both were obvious results of White House plants: the Time story said as much. The WaPo's "senior Administration official" says six other reporters were called by "two top White House officials" before the Novak thing appeared. So whoever planted it would be looking for reaction.

[Footnote: After ABC's The Note and other folks noticed a slight verbal variation between Mike Allen's first and subsequent accounts, he has repeated his original formulation word for word [*]. So Allen is sticking with his account of what his source told him, and I see no reason to doubt him.]

Even without that, since both stories specifically mentioned the White House, they would have shown up in the daily clips. Not everyone reads the whole clip file every day, but someone reads all of it and lots of people read a little of it. What's in the clips is "common knowledge." Novak isn't a major journalist in my eyes, but he's a player in Republican circles. Time is Time. So those stories didn't go unread or un-discussed.

As to the Nation, I bet it's not widely read in the White House. But it, too, would have made the clips, and it involves a charge about a very serious crime. Moreover, since it's clear that they were on a tear about Wilson, someone in the WH "strategery" group was doing a daily Lexis/Nexis search for Wilson's name, which would have turned up the Corn piece. If Wilson, whom they were attacking, had made a reckless charge to Corn about exposing his wife's identity when her identity was in fact no secret, that would have been another vulnerability for Wilson, and worth pursuing.

Then Howard Dean demanded an answer. If Dean was right, they had trouble. If Dean was wrong, they could clobber him with it. Either way, the oppo research guys at the RNC and inside the White House had to be aware of it, and inquire about it. If it turned out she was a file clerk or a press officer, they could make Dean look like a complete monkey. They wouldn't have to do it in their own name: just sic the Washington Times on it, or Novak himself. Of course, they might want to wait until Dean had the nomination before going with it -- no point weakening your weakest opponent -- but they'd want to check the story out right away to see how much ammunition Dean had just handed them.

Then Krugman had a column, making very harsh charges. No one can pretend that Krugman hasn't managed to get under the skin of the Bush Administration. Krugman's column, and Luskin's attack on Krugman for it at NRO, would have been noticed: assuming, that is, that Luskin's attack wasn't itself the product of a White House plant.

On July 22 Newsday had a story, sourced to "intelligence officials," that Plame was undercover. That was enough to force even Luskin into a graceless and half-hearted retraction. (Ten weeks later, the defenders of the White House were still insisting that we didn't know whether Plame's status was secret or not.) Assume you're inside the White House, and innocent. Wouldn't you have someone call the CIA and ask why they're throwing spitballs at the White House?

The same day, a reporter asked a question of Scott McClellan at the daily briefing, which he dodged by saying it was impossible to track down anonymous-source stories. (A proposition true in general and obviously false in this case, given the very limited number of "senior Administration officials" in a position to have known the central facts.) The question to McClellan wasn't a surprise to him; Newsday reports having called Claire Buchan before its story ran and being bucked over to the NSC staff, which didn't respond. That question was repeated a few days later, and he dodged again. (An alert commentator of Dan Drezner's points out that McClellan's first answer starts "I'm glad you asked that": i.e., it was indeed a question he was prepped for.)

How likely is it that McClellan never checked around to see if anyone had trouble on this and to get guidance about what he could and couldn't say? His readiness with an answer the first time, and its identity with his answer the second time, suggests that he had briefed himself on the issue beforehand, as he naturally would have when Buchan told him about the Newsday inquiry. Is it really conceivable that by then someone at the top hadn't become aware of the matter? How many times a week does someone credibly accuse two senior administration officials, in print, of committing aggravated felonies?

The Newsday story was followed by demands for investigation from various Senators, including Chuck Schumer and Hillary Clinton, demands which both whoever was following the newspapers, and the White House Congressional Affairs office, must have been aware of. (A Republican congressman told The Hill that no law had been broken; hadn't he checked with someone first?)

If the charges were bogus, Schumer in particular was a sitting duck. And if they were bogus -- if, in particular, Plame wasn't covert -- there was no problem about discussing them in public. So if you're Rove or Card and you see this, and you weren't in fact involved and are confident none of your colleagues was, or that they were but it was OK because she was overt, the first thing you do is call someone in Condi's shop and ask them to check with the CIA about whether Plame was undercover or not. If not, you go to town: again, through intermediaries.

What that means is that any of Rove's people, or Card's, wouldn't have been afraid to bring the boss bad news: potentially, it was absolutely terrific news, unless they already knew she was covert. And there would have been no way to figure out whether your enmies had just dealt you a winning hand without turning up the ugly truth: that Plame was about as undercover as anyone can be, and that your guys had put the word out. (Whether the two top officials who made the initial phone calls, or whoever encouraged them to do so, knew when they made the calls that her identity was a secret is a different question, one likely to be considered by a twelve-person focus group.)

Moreover, we now know that the CIA made an informal referral to DoJ almost immediately after the Novak column appeared. How likely is it that no one at the CIA or DoJ ever mentioned this to anyone at the White House? Surely anything from either of those sources would have gotten someone's undivided attention.

(Dan points to a New York Times story in which Tenet doesn't mention the Plame affair to Bush at a meeting last week. First, that story clearly comes from Andy Card, so it reflects WH spin. Second, that Tenet didn't mention it to the President face-to-face now doesn't mean that no one on his staff gave anyone in the White House a polite heads-up eleven weeks ago. Bringing it up now would be rather insulting; not giving a heads-up back then would have been a hostile act. I would say that the lack of hostility between Bush and Tenet, if that is the case, is more supportive of the idea that the CIA did warn the White House than of the idea that it didn't.)

Moreover, the latest story from Newsweek has a source close to Karl Rove (or maybe it's Rove himself on background) denying that he'd told Chris Matthews in the days immediately after the Novak column that "Joe Wilson's wife is fair game," but confirming that he Rove told Matthews that "it was reasonable to discuss who sent Wilson to Niger."

[Note to reporters and other investigators: If you want to make someone confirm a guess, accuse him of having done something awful -- worse than your guess -- in a question that assumes as its basis the charge you're looking to confirm, and hope that he will give you his confession to the lesser charge as part of his exculpation on the greater one. I bet that's how Novak mousetrapped some poor CIA spokesgeek into confirming Plame's employment: He probably asked, "Is it true that Joseph Wilson's wife picked him for the assignment?" and the victim said, "No, she just recruited him after he'd already been picked." Presto! He has the confirmation he wanted. The gull never knows he's given anything away because Novak's question assumed that Plame worked for the Agency. Avoiding that sort of trap is much harder than it looks. Ask anyone who has used it, or had it used on him. I've been on both sides of this myself, and I can tell you the questioner has all the advantages.]

So Rove certainly knew about the story back then, unless you want to think that Isikoff -- last seen chasing a semen-stained dress -- has now joined in a conspiracy to manufacture a conversation that never happened.

It remains possible that Bush himself didn't know about the problem. His habit of being briefed orally on the news rather than reading it for himself leaves him open to a dangerous degree of insulation from the real world. [*] But if he was kept in the dark, it could only be because everyone around him knew that the story was nothing but bad news for the administration, which would have been true only if everyone around him knew that Valerie Plame's identity was, in fact, a closely-guarded secret.

What all that means, to me, is that the White House, though not necessarily the President personally, showed guilty knowledge of this affair nearly from its inception. So far, they've done fairly well at spreading the perception that, as soon as they learned about the problem, they acted to "get to the bottom of it." That has worked because the laxity of the mass media didn't bring this to the public's attention until eleven weeks after it started, and of course the media have little incentive now to remind us that the White House was keeping silent at the same time they were.

This is not Watergate, with the media generically pursuing and the White House defending. Reputationally, they're in this together. If the story can be made to seem as if it started at the end of September, the media and the President can both look good. But if the public recognizes that it started in mid-July, and the media and the White House both worked hard to keep it from coming to light until the bureaucrats forced it onto the front pages, they both look bad.

As, I am convinced, they deserve to.


Update Dan updates. He and I are largely in agreement. That's a relief. There are some people I respect enough so that when I strongly disagree with them I have the sense that I haven't full grasped the issue, and he's one of them.




 
WHY IS GLENN REYNOLDS GIVING ADVICE ABOUT A COVER-UP?

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Glenn Reynolds has a post [*] that reveals more about his motives than perhaps he intended.

He recommends subpoenaing reporters as part of the Plame leak investigation in order to (1) deflect criticism from the White House; (2) make it hard for the media to criticize Bush; and (3) discourage future leaks of classified information.

Note that this assumes that the choice about whether to supoena reporters, and about how to conduct the investigation generally, rests with the White House. Perhaps it does, but it's not supposed to. The claim that it does, or at least that the White House is in a position to exert undue influence, is exactly the basis for the demand that a special counsel be appointed.

Note further that it assumes that the goal of the White House is to prevent media coverage of the scandal. That's true, but its truth implies that the White House believes that having the public understand what actually happened in this case will be bad for Mr. Bush's re-election prospects. That, too, is true, and the White House is right to think so.

But, all that being true, why is Glenn on their side in all this?

Glenn suggests that the White House turn the tables on the media, making their concerns look like "special pleading, which it is": "If you leak this you're a traitor, but if we publish it, we're being great Americans," won't wash.

Two things to note about this. First, on the evidence, six out of seven media outlets offered the Plame tidbit turned it down. Only Robert Novak, a right-wing commentator, picked it up. So the "media," on average, were much more respectful of the needs of national security in this case than was the White House. Second, the law, signed by President Reagan, specifically covers the conduct of officials and specifically excludes the conduct of those to whom they make illegal revelations. Doesn't the distinction between criminal behavior and lawful behavior mean anything to Professor Reynolds of the University of Tennessee Law School?

As to discouraging leaks, I can see why that's a good thing from the White House perspective, but not why it's a good thing from a national perspective. Not all leaks of classified information are bad, and a libertarian like Glenn, always prepared to believe the worst about "government," ought to be especially worried about giving political officials even more power to decide what the public may and may not know.

This story is not about "leaks" generically. That's merely the White House spin on it. [*] This story is about a specific crime: revealing the identity of a covert intelligence officer. Unlike leaks of policy-relevant facts, revealing the identities of intelligence officers almost never serves any valid public need to know, and even when it does the damage inflicted, on the individual named and on the national security, is simply too great to tolerate.

But here's the most troublesome question, to those of us who have differed with Glenn in the past but thought he was basically a patriot and a lover of liberty, and that we were therefore basically on the same side:

Now that we know that a serious crime was committed by people high up in the White House -- a crime damaging to the national security, engaged in as a shoddy act of vicarious revenge on the wife of someone who had displeased them -- why, in that situation, is Glenn giving advice to the Bush team on how to cover it up?

Look: It's never easy to deal with a fact that a politician whose general policy views you support, and whom you admire personally, has done, or has allowed the people close to him to do, something horrible. (Anyone who ever wore, as I once did, a saxophone lapel pin will remember.) But the contrast between Glenn's reaction to this and Dan Drezner's or Tom Maguire's is pretty stark.

Drezner and Maguire would prefer to believe that the facts don't implicate the President, even if by now it's clear they implicate people close to him, and they argue for interpretations of the facts favorable, rather than unfavorable, to that belief. Good. That helps keep the rest of us honest. But that's very different from wanting (and even helping), whoever did or ordered or abetted this foul deed or its coverup, to get away with it.

Update Glenn complains [*], without linking, that it is "bizarre" to say that his post constitututed advice to the White House about how to run a cover-up. (He attributes that thought to "a reader.") Read for yourself (the piece is linked at the top of this post) and judge for yourself.


 
QUICKSILVER

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I've finally started it, and it's just as great as I'd expected. Greater. A major document.

It turns out to tie into Cryptonomicon, as the first part of a three-volume prequel. The theme of the whole seems to be secret messages. Now we find that encryption and decryption, the apparent theme of Cryptonomicon turns out to be a metaphor the for the problem of interpreting the secret message contained in natural phenomena: a problem which the alchemists tried to solve in one way until the natural philosophers discovered a (partially) successful decoding algorithm.

But that of course suggests that the message in Stephenson's own text is also at least partly hidden. Post-modern cyberpunk. Whodathunkit?

The good news is that it's readable in bite-sized chunks. The bad news is that the project is likely to last most of a lifetime, considering that this is the first of three volumes, to which must be added both Cryptonomicon and Braudel's Civilzation and Capitalism. (The last time I took a crack at the Braudel, I bogged down about 100 pages into the 2000 or so of the three volumes, but with Stephenson's text as an incentive and guide, I'll take another crack at it.)

Well, since Stephenson tends to be deliberate in composition (it's been four years since Cryptonomicon) with any luck by the time Volume II of the Baroque Cycle is out I will have done my homework.

Update Apparently the delay was because he was writing the entire cycle -- 3000 printed pages or whatever it's going to come to -- in longhand to avoid finding out in Volume 3 that he needed to change a plot detail in Volume !. The next two rounds are due out at six-month intervals from this one.

Uhhhh....Professor Stephenson? I'm gonna need an extension.


In the meantime, there's a crib sheet available here, organized by the author himself but with an open invitation for anyone to contribute. I don't know how they're going to handle the filtering problem.


Saturday, October 04, 2003
 
IF AN HONEST POLITICIAN IS ONE WHO STAYS BOUGHT...

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... it turns out that Ahmad Chalabi isn't. Even his sponsors at the Pentagon weren't happy to discover that all his prewar "intelligence" was merely blowing smoke, and he suddenly likes the French ideas of early elections to install an Iraqi government, which he thinks he will be able to run; [*] that, of course, doesn't fit Team Bush's plans for a long, leisurely occupation that will make the U.S. the undisputed boss of the Middle East (and allow the President's cronies to get rich peddling influence).

Apparently Condi had to take little Ahmad aside adn tell him, "Mustn't, mustn't! Mommy spank." [*]

Remember when the neocons were telling us that people who disbelieved Chalabi and thought he was a slippery little crook were disloyal to the President, if not to the country?


 
OH, YEAH ....

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...the stuff about how Iraqi oil was going to pay for the occupation? That was b.s., too, and the Pentagon's own report said so. [*] Some people find the Bush Administration hard to understand, but a simple interpretive rule helps: If their lips are moving, they're lying. If their lips aren't moving, somebody else is lying for them.


 
EUROPEAN CITIES WITHOUT U.S. NAMESAKES

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Well, that was quick.

The largest European city without a U.S. namesake seems to be Istanbul, population 9 million and change. (There's not even a Constantinople, though there are a couple of Constantines.)

The largest European capital without a U.S. namesake is Bucharest, population about 2 million, assuming that Kief, North Dakota covers Kiev (or Kyyev, as it's now apparently spelled).

The most famous European city without a U.S. namesake is Pisa, especially if we assume that the many "Frankforts" stand in for Frankfurt.

A reader supplies a complete list:

Capitals:

Andorra la Vella, Bratislava, Bucharest, Chisinau, Helsinki, Ljubljana, Luxembourg, Minsk, Nicosia, Podgorica, Reykjavik, Sarajevo, Skopje, Tallinn, Tirana, Vaduz, Valletta, Vilnius, and Zagreb

Other cities: Arhus, Graz, Tampere, Mannheim, Duesseldorf, Espoo, Dortmund, Wuppertal, Duisburg, Bielefeld, Leipzig, Linz, Gothenborg, Bochum, Nantes, Bologna, Kirklees, Bilba, Rennes, Wolverhampton, Basel.

I note with regret that there's also no Konigsberg (famous for Kant and the Seven Bridges) in the U.S.

I note with even greater regret that there's no longer a Konigsberg in Europe, either.

My original post failed to ask contestants to indicate whether they wanted to be identified. I've taken the safer course, but if you want to claim the honor you deserve, please let me know.

Thanks to all.



 
FUNNY, HE DOESN'T LOOK JEWISH

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My friend Gary Emmett reminds me, in connection with the Valerie Plame affair, that one of the observances of the Days of Awe -- the time between Rosh HaShanah, which was last weekend, and Yom Kippur, which starts at sundown tomorrow -- is kaporot [*], which echoes the much older ceremony of driving the scapegoat out into the wilderness. [*].

Now imagine with me, if you will, George Bush whirling Scooter Libby three times around his head, saying, "This is my substitute, this is my exchange, this is my atonement. This turkey will enter prison, and I will enter upon a successful re-election campaign."


 
FOLLOW, FOLLOW, FOLLOW, FOLLOW...

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Allen Brill at The Right Christians points out [*] that the complaints from the White House about the burdensome nature of the requirement that all documents relating to contacts with Joseph Wilson be released fit rather poorly with earlier assertions that his mission was so low-level and insignificant that no one in the White House was aware of his report when it came time to insert the notorious "16 words" into the State of the Union message. Looks as if &c; was right: the Plame Affair is going to put us back on the Yellowcake Road.

 
IF IQ MEASURES ONLY PERFORMANCE ON IQ TESTS,
THEN HOW DO YOU KNOW YOUR DEATH-ROW CLIENT IS RETARDED?


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I just stumbled over an old Kevin Drum item about the devastating effects of lead exposure on IQ. It makes an important substantive point about social policy, but I was particularly struck by the beautiful opening phrase:

Any of you who think that IQ is merely the reification of culturally approved behavioral norms will probably want to read no further,

Right. Isn't it amazing how a measurement tool well known to readers of Stephen Jay Gould as a scientific hoax with racist antecedents suddenly becomes valid when it measures the effects of an environmental problem or shows that some murderer is really too dumb to be held responsible?

Nothing justifies support for the current version of the Republican party, but when I listen to some of what passes for left-of-center political discourse I can certainly understand the temptation.


 
CONCERNING MORAL CLARITY AND MORAL EQUIVALENCE

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The Los Angeles Times printed an op-ed from the despicable Philip Agee yesterday [*], in which he explained why it was good to reveal the identities of CIA agents when he was doing it, because he was doing it for a good reason, but bad to reveal the identities of CIA agents when the Bush Administration did it, because the Bush Administration did it in support of a "neo-imperialist" agenda.

Riiiiiiiiiiight.

But don't worry, moral clarity abounds at both extremes. The Wall Street Journal thinks that it was bad when Agee and other "hard-left types" revealed the identities of our secret intelligence-gatherers, but that when the Bush Administration does the same thing it advances the public's "right to know."

As long as that's clear.

P.s. The Times is catching flack for giving Agee space, but I think his piece effectively criticizes itself.




 
MR. AGEE, MEET MR. NOVAK

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Just in case any foreign counterintelligence services hadn't yet connected Valerie Plame with the CIA front company she worked for, thus "burning" any other officers, agents, or assets using the same cover or associated with those using the same cover, Robert Novak decided to broadcast it to the world. [*]

There seems to be no limit to the damage Novak is preparted to do to our intelligence-gathering capabilities in the service of his jihad against Joseph Wilson. Someone should warn him that a journalist who reveals a covert agent's name as part of a "pattern" of behavior is criminally liable under the Intelligence Identities Protection Act. And every newspaper and other media outlet that carries Novak should now drop him forthwith, unless it wants to continue to be a part of his disloyal -- no weaker word will do -- activities.

Since Novak has acted throughout this affair as an agent of the White House, it is a natural inference that his latest act of criminal mischief was undertaken with White House approval. If that inference is not correct, perhaps the White House would like to say so, and denounce Novak for putting lives, and national security, at risk.

Update Of course, as Tom Maguire points out, it's possible that some foreign counterintelligence services had already done the same search Novak did. But "possible" isn't the same as "certain," and "some" isn't the same as "all."

Do Tom, and Glenn Reynolds, who links to him approvingly, really think that the Sudanese secret police force is made up of John le Carre "Cambridge Circus" types, with expert knowledge of how to search FEC files? Novak's revelation could only do harm to the country, and he made it anyway. Why?

Remember, this isn't just political fun and games. There are actual human beings who face death or worse if the KGB equivalent wherever they live figure out that they've been feeding information about WMD aquisition to the Americans. And the more Novak and friends do to put their lives at risk, the harder it will be for the United States to get the intelligence it needs to protect itself.

Note also that having "Valerie Wilson" make a contribution and list her cover employer as her employer was not a breach of security until Robert Novak made it one retroactively by publishing the name "Valerie Plame," the name "Joseph Wilson," and the term "CIA" in the same column.

Tom has done skilful, diligent, and intellectually honest work in covering this story, almost from its inception, from a basically pro-Bush standpoint; in this case, I think he has let his preferences cloud his normally very acute judgment.

Second update Tom replies, noting that Josh Marshall (who, obviously, can't be accused of seeing what he wants to see) agrees with him. He also points out that Novak, having been attacked, was merely defending himself. I can't see it.

I repeat: What Novak did might have caused additional harm to the national security, and could not have done good. Note that, having defended himself before by saying that the CIA had asked him not to mention Plame's name but not actually begged him, this time he doesn't even pretend to have checked first on whether naming the front company publicly would do even more damage. What Novak did was unpatriotic, and patriots should be scrambling to get away from him. Lie down with dogs, get up with fleas.

But if your view is that journalists ought to be above patriotism, note that Novak didn't even do his journalist's job correctly: he claimed that "there is no such firm," while the Washington Post seems to have had no problem finding it listed in Dun & Bradstreet. How many self-serving "mistakes" does this guy get to make?

Novak is not only disloyal, which ought to make patriotic Americans despise him, he's either a liar or a bad reporter, which ought to make journalists despise him.

And I'm looking forward to the reaction from the Bush White House, which used to be against revealing national security information until its friends started doing it.


Friday, October 03, 2003
 
MISPRISION AND CONSPIRACY
UNDER THE INTELLIGENCE IDENTITIES PROTECTION ACT:
THE WHITE HOUSE IS VULNERABLE, BUT THE REPORTERS AREN'T


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After I suggested that people in the White House other than the ones who actually called reporters and revealed that Valerie Plame works for the CIA might be vulnerable to charges of conspiracy or misprision, a reader asked whether the same might apply to the reporters who were offered the story and declined it. They, too, knew of a crime (assuming they knew of Plame's covert status).

It turns out that the Intelligence Identities Protection Act is carefully drafted to include the other folks in the government (at least any of them with security clearances, which includes everyone at the top) but to exclude anyone non-governmental, including reporters.

Here's the relevant passage (50 U.S.C. 422):

(b) Conspiracy, misprision of felony, aiding and abetting, etc.

(1) Subject to paragraph (2), no person other than a person committing an offense under section 421 of this title shall be subject to prosecution under such section by virtue of section 2 or 4 of title 18 or shall be subject to prosecution for conspiracy to commit an offense under such section.

(2) Paragraph (1) shall not apply

(A) in the case of a person who acted in the course of a pattern of activities intended to identify and expose covert agents and with reason to believe that such activities would impair or impede the foreign intelligence activities of the United States, or

(B) in the case of a person who has authorized access to classified information.


That means that if the President "knows" Rove is innocent because he knows that someone else is guilty, and if he hasn't reported that knowledge to the Justice Department, Bush himself could be vulnerable. It also means that Rove could be criminally liable even if he never personally revealed any classified information to a reporter. (His biographer [*] doubts that anything this size cold have happened "without Karl checking the yes box.") But the reporters are clearly out from under.


 
A VOLOKH-STYLE QUIZ

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There's a Moscow in Idaho, a Berlin in Maryland, a Rome in New York, and an Athens in Ohio. What is the largest European city, or the European city most important on some other dimension you can specify, that does NOT have a namesake city or town in the U.S.?

Warning: I don't know the answer. Email nominees, and I'll update periodically so that new entrants know the competiton they have to beat.''

Results here



 
PARDON ME?

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Glenn Reynolds feels vindicated. Arthur Silber at The Light of Reason wonders why. [*]

 
THE CALPUNDIT PULLS IT TOGETHER

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Kevin Drum has a single post [*] bringing together all the evidence that Valerie Plame was in fact working under deep cover in an operational capacity for the CIA. Anyone who still expresses doubt about that fact, or has expressed doubts in the past and doesn't now take it back, should be presumed a scoundrel or a fool.

Kevin also points [*] to what may be the most outrageous editorial ever published in the Wall Street Journal, which is saying a lot. The Journal's editors apparently believe that because Joseph Wilson opposed Bush Administration policy, his wife deserved to have her career wrecked and the people she recruited as "assets" put in mortal danger.

I keep hearing about how we should keep all this within the limits of civil discourse. Ten dollars to anyone who can come up with something to say about the morals of whoever wrote that editorial that is both civil and adequate to the offense that person committed.


 
THE WHITE HOUSE DOES THE RIGHT THING

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This AP story [*] is enormously encouraging. The entire White House staff has been given until close of business Tuesday to come forward either with a any documents they have relating to the Plame affair or a signed statement that they have no such documents.

It would have been even better if the requirement had gone to a statement about whether each staff member had any knowledge of the matter other than from the mass media, but this is pretty good.

Even better, the staff has been told that the White House Counsel's office is not available to them for legal advice. That's an unfair burden on employees who are innocent but who have information, since if they want legal advice they will now have to pay out of pocket. But it means that White House Counsel cannot be used to coordinate a cover-up by insisting that its staff attorneys be present at interviews.

Alberto Gonzales, at least, is acting as if the White House would like to see the investigation bear fruit. Good for him. Either he has decided, or been told by the President, that the interests of his client require that the the White House act, and be seen as acting, in a way that helps identify the guilty parties, or he has decided that his professional integrity (and career interests) require him to act properly whatever his client thinks or wants.

If I were one of the people who burned Valerie Plame, I'd be feeling very, very sick just about now.

Update Better and better! CNN reports [*] that FBI interviews with senior White House officials will start soon, and will be conducted under oath. I assume that excludes the President, but even that might be wrong. Of course, a real criminal investigation would want to get the top guy on record right away.

Second update This shouldn't, of course, lead us to forget what I had in fact momentarily forgotten: the grossly improper request by the White House, granted with equal impropriety by someone in the Justice Department, for a twenty-four-hour delay between Justice's notification to the White House of a criminal investigation and the formal warning from White House Counsel to the White House staff not to destroy any records. [*] The press and the Congress should be insistent in demanding an identification of who made the request, who granted it, and what justification was offered.


 
PORTER GOSS CHANNELS THE RED QUEEN

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As much as it wants to prevent the appointment of a truly independent speical counsel, the White House needs to prevent real public hearings into the matter even more. So far, the committee chairs in the House and Senate seem to agree. [*]

The two Republican chairmen of the House and Senate Intelligence Committees said their panels were not pursuing the matter. Senator Pat Roberts of Kansas and Representative Porter J. Goss of Florida said that in their own view, based on limited knowledge, the disclosure was inadvertent. But both men said that if it turned out it was calculated they would treat it very seriously.

"I would say there is much larger dose of partisan politics going on right now than there is worry about national security," said Mr. Goss, a former C.I.A. agent. "But I would never take lightly a serious allegation backed up by evidence."

He added, referring to the independent counsel Kenneth W. Starr's inquiry into former President Clinton, "If somebody sends me a blue dress and some DNA, I will have an investigation."


Three comments on this:

1. Is my memory playing tricks on me, or were things done in the other order when Clinton was President and the Republicans were chasing him?

(Back then, of course, John Ashcroft was sure that the Justice Department couldn't properly investigate the White House, and that only a special counsel could do the job right. [[*])

2. In the face of Mike Allen's stories, and without having done any investigation, what basis do Goss and Roberts have for thinking that the leak was inadvertent? Is it anything like President Bush's basis for "knowing" that Karl Rove is innocent? And why aren't these guys applying their magical powers of gnosis to finding Osama bin Laden?

3. But you have to love Goss's creative adaptation of the Red Queen's verdict-first rules of procedure. In her scheme, remember, the evidence came last, after the trial. In Goss's the evidence -- not just a strong basis for suspicion, but proof strong enough for a jury -- needs to come before any investigation, rather than being the product of investigation. Well, I suppose it's a point of view.



 
PLAMESVILLE DIARY: ORENTHAL JAMES BUSH

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Today's Valerie Plame summary, now up at Open Source Politics.

Thursday, October 02, 2003
 
THE END OF ROBERT NOVAK?

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Now that Valerie Plame's highly covert role is confirmed six ways from Sunday, we've learned something very important: either Robert Novak was lying over the past week when he kept saying he'd been told she was an "analyst" and that her identity "wasn't much of a secret," [*] or he was being lied to. In either case, it's time to stop listening to him. Moreover, since it's obvious that he and the White House have been playing on the same team, one has to wonder why his friends at 1600 Pa. didn't wave him (and their other friends at NRO), off the track of this obvious red herring.

Surely Plame's actual status was known to the top people in the White House within days, if not hours, of the appearance of the Novak column, and the David Corn piece about it, in July. And yet they continued to let their friends spin that as an open question. Did the White House, perhaps, prefer to have people, including its own supporters, confused?

And will the journalists other than Novak, including bloggers, who have been pushing the Administration line over the past week now express resentment at having been so used and deceived? If not, some people more censorious than I might draw unfavorable inferences about their actual intentions.

There's been lots of phoomphering about journalistic ethics in the past week, most of it assuming that a reporter's promise to a source not to divulge the source's identity holds even if it turns out that the source was using the reporter to tell lies, anonymously, to the public. That's one way to read the rules, though not the only way.

But there's no doubt about the ethics of what Novak has been doing: he did a hit-piece on an Administration enemy in the face the fact, known to him, that in doing so he was revealing confidential information about a CIA officer's identity (even if you believe him that his CIA sources only discouraged him a little bit, he makes it clear that he knew that he was printing official secrets) and then he has deceived his readers in order to protect the wrongdoers.

Here's my proposal, then: the papers that carry his column, starting with the Washington Post, should stop carrying it, and should say so, and say why. Either they're happy to have their papers used to compound felonious acts of political revenge that also damage the national security, or they're not. Why should the media continue to be the only unaccountable players in the political game?

Even if you think that Novak made an honest mistake, it was a horrible mistake, and he's followed it up by acting dishonestly. Time for him to go.


 


ANOTHER REASON TO VOTE AGAINST THE SCHWARZENGROPER

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He's lending money to his own campaign. [*] Not only is this an apparent violation of a voter-passed state law, it creates an extremely precarious ethical situation once he's governor. At that point, contributions to his campaign that allow it to repay the loan are in effect going directly into the Governor's pocket. There's surely a difference between a payment that goes directly into an official's pocket and an outright bribe, but you'd probably need a degree in theology to define what it is. Davis has been infamous as the coin-operated governor, but at least the coins weren't swelling his own bank account.

Of course, Schwarzenegger is too rich to care; but that makes his apparent violation of the law even more intolerable. He's given evidence throughout his career that he thinks rules are for little people, not for the ubermenschen.

I'd love to hear from legal experts on why the judge gave A.S. a pass (by deferring a hearing until after the election) and cracked down on Bustamante on a different campaign finance issue. Were the two cases easily distinguishable legally?

One thing I'm sure of: when Schwarzenegger's campaign flack cited the judge's decision as evidence the loans were legal, he was fibbing. There are lots of things that are illegal that a judge won't block by issuing a Temporary Restraining Order; that's an extraordinary step. It's pretty clear from the story that the loans violate a bright-line rule, and will eventually, after Schwarzenegger is safely in office, be found to have been illegal.

And of course the reporter didn't bother to call a lawyer to nail that lie down.



 
CONFIRMATION FROM VINCENT CANNISTRARO

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More confirmation and detail about Plame's role: Vincent Cannistraro, who used to run counter-terrorism at the CIA, and who at least as recently as February was backing the Administration on the WMD issue [*], says in Thursday's Daily News that she was an operational spook:

Plame "ran intelligence operations overseas," said Vincent Cannistraro, former CIA counterterrorism operations chief.

Her specialty in the agency's nonproliferation center was biological, chemical and nuclear weapons and "recruiting agents, sending them to areas where they could access information about proliferation matters, weapons of mass destruction," Cannistraro said.


[snip]

Cannistraro called Plame's outing a "dirty trick."

"Her assets may be at risk," he said. "I think that's what justified the probe."


[*]

Note: "Asset" is spook-talk for a foreign national supplying information to our side.

I see that James Taranto of the Wall Street Journal on-line page is reduced to hoping that whoever exposed Plame, and thus threatened the lives of her assets and compromised our ability to learn about the acquisition of weapons of mass destruction by potential adversaries, will be able to escape ten-year prison terms under the Intelligence Identities Protection Act because Plame hasn't served abroad recently enough to be covered by the statute. (He doesn't note that other laws might have been broken, including the Espionage Act.)

Legally, Taranto might be right. But when did it become the official Republican position that it would be nice if "those who betray the trust by exposing the name of our sources," the people the first President Bush calls "the most insidious of traitors" [*] were able to beat the rap on a technicality?

Or to put it more bluntly: Why is the Wall Street Journal rooting for the bad guys? Are they proud to be the mouthpiece for a criminal conspiracy?


Note to the slime-and-defend brigade: Time to bring out whatever you've got on Cannistraro.

Update UPI picks up the Cannistraro story, and the Washington Times runs it, without mentioning that Cannistraro makes a liar out of Novak, whose veracity the Times has been vouching for editorially, or that his account makes it clear that revealing her name was a very serious crime.

 
GWB and OJ

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A few days ago, someone, somewhere in Blogistan, noted that George W. Bush's stated desire to "get to the bottom" of the exposure of a covert CIA officer by people in his immediate official family had a lot in common with O.J. Simpson's stated desire to find the man who murdered his wife.

Alas, I can't remember who it was, and Googling hasn't turned up the item. Can anyone provide the source? (I could just steal it, of course, but I've already used up my plagiarism budget for the week on this item.)

Update: Mystery solved, by a reader. I couldn't remember where in Blogistan I had found it, because I hadn't found it in Blogistan at all, but amid the corpses of murdered trees. My mind was playing tricks on me: obviously, I wanted to be agreeing with Jeanne d'Arc or Teresa Nielsen Hayden rather than with Maureen Dowd. (Who wouldn't?) I guess we'll just have to give Dowd a Blind Chipmunk Award on this one.

Second update:

Blind Chipmunk Award: Given to someone who never, ever does anything right on the occasion of having done something right. "Even a blind chimpmunk stumbles on an acorn every once in a while."



 
NON-OFFICIAL COVER

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Douglas Jehl and David Stout have a story in Thursday's New York Times that nails down the question of Valerie Plame Wilson's role, and nails it down hard:

Valerie Plame was among the small subset of Central Intelligence Agency officers who could not disguise their profession by telling friends that they worked for the United States government.

That cover story, standard for American operatives who pretend to be diplomats or other federal employees, was not an option for Ms. Plame, people who knew her said on Wednesday. As a covert operative who specialized in nonconventional weapons and sometimes worked abroad, she passed herself off as a private energy expert, what the agency calls nonofficial cover.


"Non-official cover" is the deepest kind of clandestine role. [See Slate's Explainer for a good exposition.]

So her role wasn't an "open secret," or a sort-of secret, or a nudge-and-wink secret. It was a secret secret, until someone in the Bush White House decided to punish her husband by wrecking her career.

That means, for example, that the "someone who had formerly worked in the government" who told Clifford May "in an offhand manner" that Joseph Wilson's wife worked for the CIA, "leading [May] to infer it was something that insiders were well aware of," [*] was (1) deceiving May (who seems, in all conscience, to have been quite willing to be deceived); (2) breaching an important security taboo; and (3) committing an aggravated felony.

I'm looking forward both to May's retraction and to his appearance before a grand jury.

In fact, I'm looking forward to a lot of retractions from the people who have been pushing the "We still don't know if her role was secret" line. Skepticism is healthy. But the word skepsis properly means "inquiry," not "refusal to believe." A real skeptic, having inquired and found evidence, is prepared to make up his mind.

Those who have said in the past that there might be no scandal here because there might have been no breach of secrecy now owe it to the rest of us to admit that their question has been answered, or to explain why they think it hasn't. To leave their readers in doubt, when no legitimate doubt remains, would amount to deception.

Note that the Times confirms exactly what David Corn reported, back in July.
I don't know when they give the Pulitzers, but if I were Corn I'd make sure I had my tux pressed and no conflicting plans for that evening.

Update More from Newsday: Vincent Cannistraro, who used to run counterterrorism operations at the CIA, confirms that Plame was recruiting and running agents overseas, and that those agents have been put at risk by the disclosure of her identity. [*]



 
WHAT A COINCIDENCE!

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One of the Saudi paymasters for Wahhabbist missionary work in the U.S. just happened to sleep in the same hotel as three of the 9-11 hijackers the night before the attack. When the FBI tried to interview him, he faked a seizure to get out of it. An FBI agent's recommendation that he not be allowed to leave the country was mysteriously not acted on, and he flew back to Saudi Arabia September 19. Five months later the Saudi government put him in charge of the Grand Mosque and the Prophet's Mosque, which means he helps run the kingdom's charities. [*] Strange world, isn't it?




 
I WONDER WHAT CHUCK HAGEL KNOWS

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The Scooter Libby candidacy for the fall-guy role seems to be getting stronger:

As the White House hunkered down, it got the first taste of criticism from within Bush's own party. Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-Neb.) said that Bush "needs to get this behind him" by taking a more active role. "He has that main responsibility to see this through and see it through quickly, and that would include, if I was president, sitting down with my vice president and asking what he knows about it," the outspoken Hagel said last night on CNBC's "Capital Report." [*]



 
JOSH MARSHALL INTERVIEWS WESLEY CLARK

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Not bad at all, for a rookie. Marshall throws a high, hard one right off, and Clark hits it right back through the box, in a way that ought to put the "not really a Democrat" issue to rest:

TPM: Well let's start with--there's obviously a tradition in the officer corps of generals -- all officers -- having an apolitical stance when they're in the service. But people who vote in primary elections are very political people. Obviously you were in the Army for 34 years and you said that you were non-partisan during that time and then you came out and started thinking about your views and so forth. I think, again, for people who vote in primaries, that's a little hard to understand: You know, how can you be a man in your fifties and have put aside politics in that way? So how do you explain that? Again, for people who have really lived politics for most of their life and think about it a lot.

CLARK: I think it's a wonderful thing that people have dedicated their lives to politics because without that we wouldn't have a democracy. In our country, political parties perform an essential function. But for people in the military it's very hard to participate in party politics because you're always on the move and you don't have the time, the energy, the opportunities -- deployments and night maneuvers and so forth would screw up anybody. Sometimes some of the wives have been involved. But generally the men couldn't be. And there's also the Hatch Act, which says that you can't participate in uniform. So you can give money to a party or to a candidate, if you want, as an officer, but you can't do anything that indicates an official endorsement by people in uniform for someone in a political race.

It's a good thing. Because we don't want our military involved in partisan politics. Our military should be loyal to the commander-in-chief no matter who he is, no matter what party. Their job is to raise the professional military issues, and the big policy decisions ultimately have to be made by the people's elected representatives or their appointed representatives. That's civilian control of the military. It's the essence of democracy.

The old military tradition was that people in the armed forces didn't vote at all. Guys like George C. Marshall, they made a passion of not voting. The reason is, they said, "It's really up to the people, the electorate, to choose the president. I'll work for whoever, I don't want to get involved in trying to pick sides. Whoever the president is, I support him."

In the 1950s it became acceptable and expected -- well I shouldn't say expected because no one ever knew -- but acceptable to vote. And there were efforts made to make sure that soldiers got to vote through absentee ballots. We know after Florida that a lot of these ballots probably were never counted. There's no telling whether they were ever counted, and in most races they probably weren't. For me, I had served under a Republican president as a White House fellow. I was in the Office of Management and Budget--

TPM: This was President Ford?

CLARK: Ford. And I knew Dick Cheney and Rumsfeld -- I didn't know them personally or well; I was 30 years old and they were very important people. I was just a sort of special assistant to the director of OMB. But I knew him, and Paul O'Neill and other people, and respected them. Then I worked around with the Clinton administration when I was the J5 on the Joint Staff. I knew people there, high level officials, and respected them. And when I got out, I went into business and obviously I voted.

I voted for Al Gore in the election of 2000. I had voted for Bill Clinton previously. For me, the issue was: make sure before you pick a party -- you don't have to pick a party in Arkansas to vote, you just vote, and I voted in the Democratic primary, but that didn't mean becoming a member of the Democratic party. Before you pick a party, make sure you know why you're picking a party. Make sure you understand what the partisan political process is in America. What does it commit you to? What does it mean? How does it affect the rest of your life? What is it all about? And so I thought I'd take a look at both parties.

I was fortunate. I was well-enough known that both parties invited me to consider them. The Republican party invited me to participate in a fundraiser and run for Congress. The Democratic party invited me to be their nominee for governor of the state of Arkansas. I was tremendously honored by that. And it was clear as I looked at the parties, looked at the culture, watched the dialogue, it wasn't just that I had voted for Al Gore, I really believed in what the Democratic party stood for. And so when it came time to choose a political party, I chose the Democratic party.


Most of the discussion is about policy rather than politics. Clark strikes a very hawkish note on Islamic terrorism, and does it convincingly, at least to my ear. Substantively, I think he's right, and I also think that the issue is a perfect platform for a run against Bush:

TPM: I noticed that Doug Feith, who's obviously the Undersecretary of Defense for Policy, had a statement a while back saying that the connection between terrorist organizations and state sponsors was, I think he said, the principal strategic thought behind the administration's policy.

CLARK: It's the principal strategic mistake behind the administration's policy. If you look at all the states that were named as the principal adversaries, they're on the periphery of international terrorism today. Syria -- OK, supporting Hezbollah and Hamas -- yeah, they're terrorist organizations. They're focused on Israel. They're getting support from Iran. It's wrong. Shouldn't be there. But they're there. What about Saudi Arabia? There's a source of the funding, the source of the ideology, the source of the recruits. What about Pakistan? With thousands of madrassas churning out ideologically-driven foot soldiers for the war on terror. Neither of those are at the front of the military operations.

TPM: Well, those are our allies, our supposed--

CLARK: Mentioning those two countries upsets the kind of nineteenth century geostrategy and the idea--this administration is not only playing that game, but they're more or less settling scores against the Soviet surrogates in the Cold War in the Middle East.

TPM: That being Syria, Lebanon

CLARK: The proxy states, Syria, Lebanon, whatever. These states are not -- they need to transform. But, why is it impossible to take an authoritarian regime in the Middle East and see it gradually transform into something democratic, as opposed to going in, knocking it off, ending up with hundreds of billions of dollars of expenses. And killing people. And in the meantime, leaving this real source of the problems -- the states that were our putative allies during the Cold War -- leaving them there. Egypt. Saudi Arabia. Pakistan.


Full text here. Worth reading the whole thing.

Update Josh follows up [*] with an account of the Sime Machine in action: you don't just disagree with the person you're trying to get, you try to make him look like a nut. Josh shows how the passage for which Clark is being attacked by Kristol and his ilk actually shows a sophistication about the Washington policy process which would be a huge asset for a President who might otherwise have to learn the hard way.


 
PLAMESVILLE DIARY: "Slime and Defend"

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Up now at Open Source Politics: today's summary post on the Valerie Plame affair.


 
"SLIME AND DEFEND"

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Thursday's New York Times has another good story on the political maneuvering around the Valerie Plame scandal, though still next to nothing on the substance.

The Bush administration pursued a two-track political strategy on Wednesday to minimize the damage from the criminal investigation into the disclosure of a C.I.A. officer's identity.

The White House encouraged Republicans to portray the former diplomat at the center of the case, Joseph C. Wilson IV, as a partisan Democrat with an agenda and the Democratic Party as scandalmongering. At the same time, the administration and the Republican leadership on Capitol Hill worked to ensure that no Republicans in Congress break ranks and call for an independent inquiry outside the direct control of the Justice Department.

"It's slime and defend," said one Republican aide on Capitol Hill, describing the White House's effort to raise questions about Mr. Wilson's motivations and its simultaneous effort to shore up support in the Republican ranks.

"So far so good," the aide said. "There's nervousness on the part of the party leadership, but no defections in the sense of calling for an independent counsel."


[Emphasis added.]

"Slime and defend." Have you ever heard such a perfect description of the Spin Machine in action?

It's got a certain ring to it. I hope the Republicans will grow tired of having "slime and defend" repeated back to them over the next year or so.

I promise to do my part.


 
THE PLAME SCANDAL INTERSECTS THE YELLOWCAKE ROAD

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TNR online's &c; has what seems like important news that no one else, as far as I can tell, has picked up. (Thanks to an alert reader for the tip):

Whoever in the White House leaked Valerie Plame's name probably broke out into a cold sweat when Counsel Alberto Gonzalez's second memo on compliance with the Justice Department investigation crossed their desks yesterday. The blowback from the potentially felonious leak just got exponentially more destructive for President Bush.

Let us explain. Here are the two key paragraphs from the memo:

[F]or the time period February 1, 2002 to the present, all documents, including without limitation all electronic records, telephone records of any kind (including but not limited to any records that memorialize telephone calls having been made), correspondence, computer records, storage devices, notes, memoranda, and diary and calendar entries, that relate in any way to:

1. Former U.S. Ambassador Joseph C. Wilson, his trip to Niger in February 2002, and/or his wife's purported relationship with the Central Intelligence Agency...

Now, alert readers will remember that Robert Novak published Plame's name in his column of July 2003. The White House counsel is telling the staff to save records about Joseph Wilson (Plame's husband, whom the leak was designed to discredit) dating back to February 2002. That is when the CIA sends Wilson to Niger, and he in turn reports back to the CIA that intelligence reports indicating an attempted uranium purchase from Iraq were highly dubious. And, you'll further recall, that very discredited accusation made it into the president's State of the Union address. When news of Wilson's trip hit the front pages in July, the White House vociferously denied that anyone working there knew at the time about Wilson's trip. As Ari Fleischer said on July 9, "It's known now what was not known by the White House prior to the speech." The CIA responded by saying it communicated its doubts precisely to the Oval Office--which stands to reason, since it was a question from Vice President Dick Cheney about the uranium sale that prompted Wilson's Niger excursion in the first place.

Now this White House we-had-no-idea line may be about to fall apart. The Justice Department will be collecting all records of White House knowledge of Wilson and his trip starting in February 2002--a year before the State of the Union. (Presumably the counsel's office wouldn't list this very early date unless instructed by Justice.) Documents elucidating whatever the White House knew about the unreliability of the uranium claim are about to leave the West Wing. So now the issue returns to the very questions that prompted the White House smear on Wilson (and his wife) in the first place: When did the White House know about the shakiness of the claim that Iraq was seeking Nigerien uranium? Just as importantly, who knew it?

It's obviously unclear whether any of these West Wing e-mails, telephone conversations, notes, memos, etc., dealing with Wilson's Niger trip will be made public at the investigation's close. But reporters should be pressing DoJ to learn as much about them as possible. In the meantime, we suppose we'll have to rely on, well, leaks.


The loss of those two Senate seats is looking more disastrous with every passing day. Can you imagine the hearings that might be coming out of this if there were someone to hold them? On the other hand, holding all the Senate Republicans firm behind the White House may not be that easy. Thursday's NY Times lists four the White House is nervous about: McCain, Lugar, Hagel, and Warner. Snow, Collins, Chafee, and Specter also might bear watching. That gives the Democrats hope.



 
GLENN REYNOLDS ON JOHN LOTT

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Having been critical of Glenn Reynolds recently, I note with pleasure that he's taking a fairly hard line on John Lott, calling for what is clearly called for: a serious investigation by someone -- better, a panel -- competent to investigate.

The American Enterprise Institute could, and should, convene such a panel, since they've been lending credibility to Lott by keeping him on staff.

It seems to me that the pro-gun side has been too slow in detaching itself from Lott, but a sensible consensus seems now to be forming.




 
HOW IT WORKS, PART II

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Robin Scarborough of the Washington Times writes a fairly competent hit-piece directed at Joseph Wilson. Theme: he's a loony leftist, a showboat, and a Democratic partisan. It leaves out little details such as Wilson's $1000 contribution to the Bush 2000 campaign, but for a Washington Times story it's only moderately nasty and slanted.

The headline, on the other hand, reads: "Wilson, wife have tight ties to Democrats." Not a syllable in the story itself supports any inference whatever about Valerie Plame Wilson's political leanings. The headline-writer (not the author) simply made it up.

Then the Drudge Report links it, and reverses the order: "Exposed spy, husband have tight ties to Democrats..." Thanks the glory of Google, it will now be forever on the public record that Valerie Plame Wilson is a partisan Democrat, and we can expect Bush's defenders to work that detail into their stories from now on. (She deliberately arranged for her own exposure in order to try to discredit Karl Rove.)

Only the minority of Drudge's readers who bother to follow his links, and only the minority of that mionority who actually read and ponder the full text of the Scarborough story, will ever know that the most salient fact in the Drudge link is entirely imaginary.




Wednesday, October 01, 2003
 
THE PAIN PILLS CLAIM ANOTHER VICTIM

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Anything that brings Rush Limbaugh down a peg is presumably good for humankind, but anyone not as depraved as he is ought to feel mostly sympathy for him right now. [*]

I can, and do, hope this discredits him with his audience, but being a drug addict (unlike, for example, being a serial groper [see below]) doesn't make him in any way a bad person, and though it does make him a lawbreaker there's no evidence that he committed any crime other than drug possession. You can't even accuse him of hypocrisy, as he hasn't been a big proponent of the drug war.

The gloating, sneering tone of the Daily News article sets my teeth on edge. Yes, Limbaugh is a "moralizing motormouth," but what happened to not kicking a man when he's down? No one, not even Limbaugh, deserves to go through the living hell that is opiate addiction.

I'll think less of my allies on the left side of the aisle if they make another Bill Bennett party out of this. Bennett deserved the heat he took. Limbaugh deserves competent drug treatment and a decent amount of tact from his enemies, and support from his friends, while he sorts himself out.

Update John Hawkins at Right Wing News follows up. [See his updates.] The claim about hearing loss as a consequence of hydrocodone (Vicodin) abuse is news to me; perhaps a little bit of good will come out of Limbaugh's misfortune if the story about him helps spread the word. The abuse of prescription narcotics is the fastest-growing category of drug abuse, a pattern established before Oxycontin appeared on the market.

Second update Atrios provides a clip in which Limbaugh makes fun of the "disease" theory of addiction, which, I agree, makes his actual behavior a legitimate subject of comment. And I think it's fair to ask supporters of harsh punishments for drug users in general whether that ought to apply in Limbaugh's case, and, if not, why not.

I don't, however, agree with Atrios's commenters that Limbaugh's having a horrible disease is something to rejoice over or poke fun at. Isn't there supposed to be a difference between us and the Limbaughs of the world? And isn't part of that difference supposed to be about ordinary decency?

Third update Newsday quotes Limbaugh as dumping on Jerry Garcia just after his death, and reports a 1995 Limbaugh show where he calls for sending drug users -- not just dealers, but users -- "up the river."

So I have to take back the statement that he wasn't a hypocrite; he was. (Or perhaps the comments came before he developed his own habit; still, if he had had a change of heart about drug users, he should have said so.) Anyone who wants to say that he ought to suffer now the penalties he called for others to suffer then at least has a debating point.

None of this what I take to be the basic point: that when anyone, even a political enemy, suffers a horrible misfortune, even one largely of his own making, it's not nice, not polite, and not smart to treat it as a matter for open rejoicing.




 
MICKEY KAUS WAS RIGHT...

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The LA Times was saving up a devastating story about Schwarzenegger's career as a serial groper. Six women over twenty years, all found by the Times as opposed to coming forward or being put forward by rival campaigns, two willing to be quoted by name, the other four confirmed by interviews with friends who recall contemporaneous conversations in which the victims complained.

No mention of his sexual dalliance with a minor, which was, apparently, entirely consensual. I've always thought that was his major vulnerabilty.

This stuff, as disgusting and even criminal as it is (any unwanted touching constitutes battery, which is a misdemeanor, and at least one of the acts reported seems to fit the definition of "sexual battery" under California law, which can be prosecuted as a felony) doesn't directly speak to how Schwarzenegger would conduct official business.

As a result, I'd have to say it's only somewhat relevant to a voter's decision: that is, it certainly counts as a reason to find someone else to vote for if possible, but it doesn't mean you might not wind up voting for the creep if the other choices are clearly worse. (Anyone who doesn't regret voting for Clinton would have to say as much; there's no doubt that he had as President, and for all I know still has, grabby hands.)

The Schwarzenegger campaign offered a pro forma denial and said Schwarzenegger would not make any comment. My guess, for what it's worth, is that the voters have already mostly factored this stuff in to their thinking. The "family values" crowd will simply decide not to believe it. (If McClintock decided to make a big fuss about it, things might be different, but he probably won't.) In the end, I bet the story will do no more than shave a couple of points off Schwarzenegger's victory margin. But my guesses about this election haven't been worth much so far, so we can always hope I'm wrong again.

Update

Schwarzenegger, having denied everything through a spokesman last night, now 'fesses up, sortakinda. [*] He was just being playful, but he's really sorry if anyone took it the wrong way.

Kaus offers an important comment, one I haven't seen elsewhere: this isn't (just) about sex, it's about someone who likes to humiliate people it's in his power to humiliate with impunity: in other words, a bully. Bullying is probably a greater character flaw in a potential governor than grabby-handedness, and thus more relevant to voters' choices. Still, I won't pretend that someone who prefers conservative to liberal policies for California would be committing a moral outrage in voting for Schwarzenegger, knowing what we now know.

On the other hand, Schwarzenegger's "apology" actually compounds his offense, as I see it.

I know that the people of California can see through this trash politics.
Let me tell you something, let me tell you something. A lot of those that you see in the stories is not true ...


"Trash politics" suggests that this was a plot by his opponents, which is, if the reporters are to believed about how the story was reported, not true. And the vague denial about "a lot of those that you see in the stories" in effect accuses his victims of lying. That's a pretty strange way to start an apology, don't you think?

His statement is one of the great public relations moves, in the tradition of Janet Reno "taking full responsibility" for Waco and not resigning. Amazing how reliably reporters fall for this stuff, isn't it?


 
LOOKING-GLASS WARS

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Brad DeLong links to a long, troubling essay by Billmon expading on the theme that the Plame affair represents an all-out assault on the White House by the CIA. I don't find it fully convincing, because I would have expected the CIA to have been able to penetrate the media wall of silence that kept this issue cloaked for eleven weeks, much to the advantage of Team Bush. For example, if you were the current DCI and wanted to wage war on 1600 PA., woudn't you call, say, Stansfield Turner and suggest that he go public with a blast of outrage based on the original David Corn story? That would have forced the affair into the newspapers, and given the Bush crew a much harder damage-control problem.

So it seems more plausible to me that Tenet was reacting to outrage being felt at the career level within his agency than that he was (is) attempting a palace coup against Karl Rove.

What's scary to me is that it isn't quite inconceivable that this administration might have scared the intelligence community to the point where the folks there would be willing to try to do to Bush what British intelligence apparently did to Harold Wilson. (Update Major Barbara at OSP has a convincing meditiation on the wounds inflicted on George Tenet.] I keep thinking of Richard Neustadt's comment about Nixon at the height of his power: "He has no sense of limits."



 

OF COVER, MAIDEN NAMES, AND CHANGING THE SUBJECT

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Slate's Explainer explains the different levels of CIA cover. Apparently Plame had the deepest, "non-official" cover.

That's consistent with the comments by her training classmate, Larry Johnson, on PBS last night -- comments that don't seem to be getting much mass-media play. Some Bush defenders are leaping all over Johnson's apparent slip of saying "for three decades" when he should have said "across three decades." I'm told, by someone in a position to know, that the Slime Machine is now being pointed in Johnson's direction.

Robert Novak, still spinning madly, tries the old "the name Valerie Plame was public so her identity as a CIA officer wasn't really a secret" trick (explained here yesterday) and gets Glenn Reynolds to link to it in the context of wondering whether there's "an attempt to make this seem like a bigger deal than it is." [To sum up yesterday's post: The name "Valerie Plame" wasn't secret; the secret was the association of that name with the CIA.]

The Washington Times [!], in an editorial, calls for the President to be active and not passive in figuring out who in his official family did the deed. The Times is behind the times in continuing to express doubt that Plame's status was covert, but seems confident (more confident than I would be) that Novak was telling the truth in July when he named "two senior Administration officials" as his sources. But on the action point, the editorialist has it exactly right:

The president has days, not weeks or months, to snap into action. He does not need a Justice Department investigation at this point. Yesterday, his spokesman reiterated that there's no need for an internal investigation, while the president said, "I want to know the truth. If anybody's got information inside or outside our administration, it would be helpful if they came forward." The president expressed the right sentiment, but it is too passive a stance. He has all the authority he needs to question his staff, seize phone logs, e-mails and vacation schedules. He must do all in his power, immediately, to identify and fire the malefactors — whomsoever they may be. There is a need for an internal investigation — now.

It is a natural instinct of any White House to hunker down when political opponents are making accusations of wrongdoing. This page supported the president in 2000 and anticipates doing so again in 2004. But this is beyond politics. It is a simple matter of right or wrong. And it is precisely at such moments that the moral and ethical measure of a statesmen is taken.

The president should personally make it known to the public that it is his highest priority to get to the bottom of the matter. There may be traitors in his midst — even if the actors may not have appreciated the nature of their conduct. At some point, presumably, the Justice Department will be needed for prosecution. But the president should be first on the job to cleanse his own house.


Update Brad DeLong points out that this is far too generous; the time for the President to have acted was eleven weeks ago, not now.

The direction of the White House spin is now clear: refocus attention from this specific act -- the release of truly operational national-security information for no purpose but the infliction of damage on the wife of a political opponent -- to the much more diffuse and morally cloudy world of "leaking." "There are too many leaks of classified information in Washington," huffed the President yesterday, in what may well be a successful attempt to change the subject.

Leaks of classified information to the news media are not, in general, bad. Most classified information that would interest reporters is classified to protect officials from criticism rather than to protect the national security. [Trust me; I've been there.]

When Bush says there are too many leaks, he means that too many reporters have access to evidence that makes him look bad. That is not, I submit, a problem that the nation needs to worry about. It would be horribly ironic if the result of this particular White House dirty trick were to tighten the administration's grip over what the citizens are, and are not, allowed to know.

No, this isn't about leaking. It's about exposing the name of an intelligence officer. That's a specific crime, covered by a specific statute. Let's not let Bush and his minions change the subject.


[Update and footnote: Hmph. These last paragraphs track pretty closely the Josh Marshall made two days ago. That raises, in the minds of the sort of people who still doubt that the Plame affair is a major scandal, an obvious speculation: that Josh has constructed a time machine and is now copying stuff I haven't written yet.

A more mundane interpretation would be that I had copied from Josh. That's entirely possible: i.e., it's entirely possible that I had read his piece, been convinced by it, and the thought came to my sleep-deprived brain as if internally generated. But now that I read it, I don't remember having it. In any case, I actually caught (or re-caught) the idea from a conversation with Matt Yglesias, who might have come up with it on his own, or might have been infected with Josh's meme, with which I have now in turn infected you. Ain't blogging grand?


 
HOW TO BE AN ENEMY OF THE COURT

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Eugene Volokh has some practical tips.

 

A BAD DAY AT 1600

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A new summary Valerie Plame post is up at Open Source Politics .

I sometimes wish the Bush Administration would stop self-destructing for day or two, just so I can get some sleep.



 
RETRACTION: The Pension Fund Wasn't Just Sitting There

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I seem to have traduced Jeb Bush on the Edison Schools buyout. Retraction here. Apologies all around.

Tuesday, September 30, 2003
 
THEY STILL THINK THEY CAN GET AWAY WITH IT

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I hope this passage reflects over-optimism:

Republican officials said they were confident that the firestorm would blow over relatively quickly.

"The general view inside the White House among senior staff is that this is going to create a few rocky political days, that it's mainly the Democrats pushing it and that if all the Republicans stay on board, the story goes away," a Republican worker with close ties to the White House said.


That's a big "if." Keeping all the Republicans on board may not be so easy. But that depends on public reaction.

The big advantage for Bush is that the inexcusable media silence during the long cover-up period means that most voters are hearing about the story first in terms of Bush's co-operation. And of course any explanation about how long the stone wall had stayed in place would make the reporters look bad, as well as the White House. In reputational terms, they're all in this together.

Time for letters to your Senators.



 
JUST ASKING

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If the Justice Department decided to start a full criminal invesigation of the Plame affair on Friday, as John Ashcroft told the New York Times, then why did it take until Tuesday to get a letter with specific demands to the White House? [*] Why wasn't that letter ready at the same time as the formal notification, which went out Monday evening?

Note also that the investigation is going to be handled by the inspections division, which reports directly to Mueller, rather than the Washington Field Office. Anything that brings the action closer to the political appointees should be considerered bad news until proven benign.



 

MORE KURTZ

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Howard Kurtz finally asks a reasonable question:

One lingering question: Where was the press in the weeks after the July 14 Novak column? Other than a few news stories and outraged columns by David Corn and Paul Krugman, the media were napping on this story until the CIA kicked it over to Justice.

But here's the obvious follow-up: Where was media critic Howard Kurtz when the press was napping? I'm not the only blogger who tried to get him interested in the story and didn't even get a response.


 
ANALYST, MY AUNT FANNY!

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PBS Newshour found a CIA veteran named Larry Johnson who trained with Valerie Plame and who says "she has been undercover for three decades." [Update With the Washington Post reporting her age as 40, that must surely have been a slip for "over three decades": i.e., the 80s, the 90s, and the current decade.]

I hope that means we've heard the last of Novak's spin on the topic. And I hope that all the people who have been inventing fanciful theories and reasons for doubt, or arguing that more evidence was needed before coming to a conclusion, will now confront the facts as they are: that two top officials of the Bush White House revealed to at least seven reporters the name of a covert CIA officer, apparently as an act of revenge on her husband.

Johnson, who says he was a Bush contributor, adds "I tell you, it sickens me as a Republican to see this." Transcript here.

This sort of reaction is why I've thought from the beginning that this scandal could do more damage to Bush politically than anything else I've heard of. People who naturally like Bush will naturally hate what was done here.

Update One of Kevin Drum's commenters posts this lovely tidbit from Hardball (unlinked, and I can't find it on line):

CHRIS MATTHEWS: Don't you think it's more serious than Watergate, when you think about it?

RNC CHAIRMAN ED GILLESPIE: I think if the allegation is true, to reveal the identity of an undercover CIA operative -- it's abhorrent, and it should be a crime, and it is a crime.

CHRIS MATTHEWS: It'd be worse than Watergate, wouldn't it?

GILLESPIE: It's -- Yeah, I suppose in terms of the real world implications of it. It's not just politics.


Second update Now John LeBoutillier is off the reservation. On NewsMax, no less.

Who in this disciplined, top-down, well oiled White House would read Wilson's op-ed and slam his fist down on the desk and proclaim, "That bastard is going to pay! What do we have on him? Let's get it out there!" ... Whoever authorized the Plame leak could possibly go to jail for this willful act of lawbreaking. And those who actually called the six reporters could also go to jail - unless they cop a plea and rat out others. ... Preliminary reports are that there is a great dissension inside the White House staff over this leak. Many are described as 'disgusted' at the outing of Ms. Plame. ... There is still the question of whether or not the Ashcroft Justice Department will honestly investigate the Bush White House.... if the Clinton White House had sold out an active-duty CIA agent as 'payback' for some whistle-blowing article, we would be outraged. This crime is no less serious because it was done in a Republican White House.

I know I didn't write that stuff for the Boot. Must have been Atrios.


 
MAGGIE ON IRAQ

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I wonder what all the right-bloggers who voted Margaret Thatcher in a tie with Albert Einstein as the third-greatest figure of the 20th Century [*] think of this?

I, on the other hand, am happy to keep my record of never having agreed with the lady on anything intact.





 
"MARRIED TO THE FORMER VALERIE PLAME"

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Of all the silly excuses for not taking the Plame scandal seriously, the prize for the silliest goes (against some mighty stiff competition) to the idea [*] that because some cocktail-party chatterer in Washington claims to have known for years that Joseph Wilson's wife Valerie worked at Langley, no harm was done by publishing a connection between the name "Valerie Plame" and the initials "CIA," first Robert Novak's column then in Time magazine.

The orchestral version of this silly symphony adds what is supposed to be the crushing detail: Wilson's on-line bio mentions that "he is married to the former Valerie Plame." [*] (Donald Luskin likes this one, too. ) In a slightly different version, Wilson's acceptance of the mission to Niger was enough all by itself to "burn" his wife's cover, so whatever damage was done was really his fault. [*]

Now I don't have any information whatever about any of this except what's been in print or on the Web. But the whole thing seems a lot less confusing to me than it does to people who perhaps would prefer staying confused to facing up to the villainy done by people close to the President they admire and support.

Why might Valerie Plame Wilson have worked abroad undercover under her true name, rather than a workname? Perhaps because her cover (reportedly as an energy consultant) was bolstered by facts (such as advanced degrees or work experience) that were true about Valerie Plame and couldn't easily be transferred to another identity. (That doesn't imply that she never used a different workname, only that sometimes she was "Valerie Plame" in the field.)

[It's not unusual for CIA folks to have overt and covert names, both used professionally: I remember my intense puzzlement during my days at the Justice Department when someone I knew as a Langley analyst working on drug-related money-laundering let me read one of his work products (published in a limited, numbered edition of 40 copies) and the name on the title page wasn't the name I knew him by. I assumed that his boss had stolen credit for his work, and found it hard to understand why he wasn't peeved. Then he smiled a little bit, and I caught on.]

So: Now energy consultant Valerie Plame marries Ambassador Joseph Wilson. That probably rates an entry on the New York Times social page. It certainly rates a line in his Who's Who entry and his c.v., and it would be very odd indeed -- undesirably attention-catching -- to exclude the bride's maiden name from the newspaper announcement, the Who's Who, or the bio. "Mr. Wilson is married to a woman named Valerie, whose maiden name is available only on a need-to-know basis." And of course the people who knew Valerie Plame before her marriage had to know that she was now Ms. Wilson, and would be very puzzled to see a reference to Amb. Wilson's marriage to "the former Valerie Chojnowski." There simply wouldn't have been any alternative to the truth.

(It appears that she has taken her husband's name, professionally as well as socially, for domestic consumption; from the fact that the leaked story metioned "Valerie Plame," we can guess that she still uses that as a workname, which doesn't say anything about whether she still travels for the firm.)

That an energy consultant is married to a diplomat doesn't, in general, imply that she is actually a spy. So her marrying Wilson, and having "Valerie Plame" appear in Wilson's bio, wouldn't excite any particular interest about Valerie Plame's true role in places where such interest would be unhealthy for her and her assets. Any attempt at concealment, by contrast, would have stuck out like a sore thumb. Master Kung said, "Nothing is more evident than that which is hidden."

And neither would there be anything to excite suspicion in the fact that the diplomat, a former charge d'affaires in Baghdad, ambassador to a French West African country, and Assistant NSC Director for Africa, was sent on an overt information-gathering mission involving dealings between Iraq and a country in French West Africa. He was a natural for the job. So the claim that Wilson's mission blew Plame's cover is pure gibberish.

Now if you assume, as the people who organized this sliming raid wanted you -- and still want you -- to assume, that someone with Wilson's resume was obviously unqualified for the mission, then a very alert foreign counterintelligence service might say, "Hmmm...who does this nobody know at the CIA that he gets chosen for a mission so clearly above his pay grade?" But there is absolutely no basis for that assumption other than the wish of Bush's defenders to discredit what Wilson found, or rather did not find, in Niger.

So, as of the day before the Novak story broke, there was nada, zippo, zilch on the publicly available record linking Valerie Plame Wilson, wife of the retired ambassador, or Valerie Plame, energy consultant, to the CIA. And that's what the CIA reported to Justice: absent the leak, the media could not have guessed her identify. Which is why this story just moved to the front page.

Once her name was mentioned as the name of a CIA official, though, it would immediately occur to the counterintelligence bureaus of countries where Plame had traveled that any of their nationals with information about WMD acquisition who had spent time talking to "energy consultant" Valerie Plame, or to anyone working for the same "energy consulting firm," ought to be brought in and asked some questions, perhaps with a little physical encouragement to be responsive if such encouragement proved necessary.

The significance of using the name "Valerie Plame" in the leak wasn't that it did extra damage; the damage was done simply by identifying Joseph Wilson's wife as a CIA employee. The significance of using "Valerie Plame" is that it would have been used by only two sorts of people: her old friends and acquaintances from before her marriage, and people who had heard of her in the context of the covert side of her work. (Again, I'm accepting here the report that she didn't use the name "Plame" in her ordinary office work at Langley.)

That makes it less likely that the leak was a semi-innocent one, and more likely that whoever revealed it to the press, and especially whoever revealed it to the person who revealed it to the press, knew full well that it wasn't supposed to get out.

I'm sorry to have wasted your time (and mine) on a matter you probably regarded from the beginning as transparently obvious. But the Spin Machine is good at setting these cockamamie theories up, and then bragging that no one has been able to knock them down.


Update: Atrios has more, with links.

 
WAS IT ROVE AFTER ALL?

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Oh, my!

Julian Borger of the Guardian reports:
Several of the journalists are saying privately, "Yes, it was Karl Rove whom I talked to."

I was willing to bet against this yesterday, because I couldn't see McClellan digging the White House in behind Rove unless he was at least technically in the clear. Now I'll take either end of the wager. I don't know how credible Borger is; the Guardian is certainly anti-Bush. But if he's making it up, all of his colleagues will know he's making it up. And what happens if Borger is dragged in front of a grand jury?

Thanks to Atrios for the pointer.

Update And now that Rove is definitely back in the mix, ponder with me if you will the problem this makes for John Ashcroft, who used Rove's services as a campaign consultant over a fifteen-year period,l and whose selection as Attorney General resulted in part from Rove's assurances to Bush that he was "solid." (ABC's The Note notes this Time Magazine story, and Kriselda Jarnsaxa of Different Strings noticed it for me.

I'm no expert on the legal ethics rules surrounding recusal, but if Ashcroft doesn't take himself out of the loop somehow he's never going to hear the end of it.

Andrew Sullivan is now officially off the reservation. Sullivan is not my favorite right-wing blogger, but his position is an interesting straw in the wind.

Much more important, Eugene Volokh, who likes nothing better than mixing it up with Bush's critics when he thinks he can catch them criticizing inaccurately or unfairly (he's been conducting a gentle war with Slate's Bushisms for months now) has decided to lay off this one, admitting that he'd rather write about things were it's the other team committing the fouls. [*] If Eugene had found the evidence here unconvincing, my respect for him would have slowed me down considerably.

Now that ignoring this isn't really an option, I think we're going to find that Bush has very, very few defenders of any respectability.


 
GEORGE W. BUSH'S SHAWSHANK REDEMPTION

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After eleven weeks of stonewalling, the White House announces that the President "wants to get to the bottom of this." (Read: "Wants desperately to get out from under this.") A few hours later, we learn why: Earlier in the day, the Justice Department had formally told the White House that it was opening a criminal investigation, though it appears that the questioning will start at the CIA as opposed to the more aggressive stance of getting every one of the possible leakers on the record up front about all media contacts during July.

The story from AP, as printed in the NY Times:

The Justice Department launched a full-blown criminal investigation into who leaked the name of a CIA officer, and President Bush directed his White House staff on Tuesday to cooperate fully.

The White House staff was notified of the investigation by e-mail after the Justice Department decided late Monday to move from a preliminary investigation into a full probe. It is rare that the department decides to conduct a full investigation of the alleged leak of classified information.

[snip]

The department notified the counsel's office about 8:30 p.m. Monday that it was launching an investigation but said the White House could wait until the next morning to notify staff and direct them to preserve relevant material, McClellan said.


(Nothing like tipping off the suspects well in advance. Wouldn't be sporting to surprise them, you know.)

Most of the rightbloggers are in full, frantic denial. Glenn Reynolds thinks that hiring someone politically unreliable for a secret mission is a more serious problem than deliberately outing an operational covert officer:

Forget Valerie Plame, the big scandal is why anyone in the Bush Administration would ever have tasked a guy with Wilson's views with an important mission. (Glenn also seems to think that Wilson was "hired" for something, and might thus fall under the nepotism laws, when it's undisputed fact that he went on the mission gratis, unless you count an expenses-paid trip to glorious Niamey, capital of exciting Niger, as some sort of benefit.)

Others on the right (the Poorman has a summary) are still inventing all sorts of alternative universes in which Valerie Plame wasn't an operational covert officer. In primary reality, however, she was. CNN has it, confirming the WaPo and MSNBC:

CIA sources told CNN National Security Correspondent David Ensor that Plame is a CIA operative ... [snip]...Ensor reported that sources at the CIA said Plame is an employee of the operations side of the agency. "This is a person who did run agents," Ensor said. "This is a person who was out there in the world collecting information."

[snip]

"This is a serious leak," former CIA Director James Woolsey said. "You can endanger intelligence and people's lives by revealing the identities of CIA case officers, so it's a serious matter."


Woolsey, though he worked for Clinton, is now (or has been until now) an extremely strong Bush supporter and advocate of "World War IV."

The AP has memo from the White House Counsel informing the staff of the impending investigation:

We were informed last evening by the Department of Justice that it has opened an investigation into possible unauthorized disclosures concerning the identity of an undercover CIA employee (emphasis added)

Daniel Drezner, who is still properly urging caution in assigning criminal culpability to individuals, sums it up:

Let me repeat -- this is a serious allegation, and I want to see the President address it directly and publicly. [But we don't really know if Plame was an operative, and we don't really know whether Bush administration officials leaked the story in the way that the Post alleges.--ed.] Oh yes we do. Kevin Drum provides a solid rundown of the evidence.

(That editorial note is Drezner's, not mine.)

Tom Spencer unerringly spots the "nut graf" in Kevin Drum's post:

The bottom line remains pretty much the same: A couple of top Bush administration officials blabbed about a clandestine CIA operative to the press in order to try to discredit her husband, and now they're covering it up. Either you think that's OK or you don't. I don't.

The latest ploy from the people who don't want to see Bush taken down over this is the plea for civility. Here's Roger Simon

The viciousness of the Clinton years, the unremitting scandals of Whitewater, the impeachment, blown out of all proportion to reality by Clinton’s enemies, may have been mere foreplay compared to what we are about to go through in the Plame/Wilson Affair.
David Brooks doesn't mention Plame, no doubt had it in mind, in authoring this warning.

In fact, most people in the last two administrations were well-intentioned patriots doing the best they could. The core threat to democracy is not in the White House, it's the haters themselves.

Well, civility is always a value, though it does seem just a little strange to write as if all of the incivility is coming from the Bush-bashers as opposed to the Bushites. (Has anyone in the Administration said anything bad about Ann Coulter's Treason? If so, I must have missed it.) But it's hard to politely accuse people of serious crimes, and serious crimes are sometimes committed, even in the White House. Logically, one cannot derive from the premise "Clinton's enemies accused him and his aides of many crimes they didn't commit" the conclusion "Bush and his aides are innocent of any crime of which they are accused."

If in fact two top White House officials deliberately outed a covert CIA officer in an act of political revenge on her husband, and if in fact the President was happy to let them get away with it until the heat got to be too much for him to take, then at least some of "the core threat to democracy" does come from the White House.

I'm happy to debate that proposition, civilly, with anyone who wants to take the other side, but unless and until someone shows me it's wrong, I'm not willing to stop saying it.


 
VOTING AGAINST THE RECALL

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It now seems virtually certain that Arnold Schwarzenegger is going to finish first in Round II of the recall. That means that anyone who doesn't want to see the state in the grip of the Wilson and Quackenbush crews had better hold his nose and vote "No." It will take another noseclip to vote for Bustamante in Round II, but I will do it anyway unless I decide that things are really hopeless and cast a protest vote. Schwarzenegger's campaign has been as skilfully cynical as the Bush 2000 affair, and the press has pushed him on stuff that no one cares about and given him a pass on the stuff that really could have hurt him. Bustamante didn't deserve the sliming he took over a group he belonged to as a college student, but he has managed to look both sleazy and incompetent.

There's more to say, especially about the Democratic mistakes that got us here, but just thinking about it makes me want to cry.

Update Charlie Cook's column today suggests things may not be as hopeless as I'd thought:

While the Gallup Poll is normally reliable, strategists in both parties
are scoffing at a Gallup Poll in California that showed the 'yes'
position on the recall of Gov. Gray Davis registering a whopping 63
percent. Private polling by both Democratic and Republican pollsters
shows something quite different. In those polls, 'yes' runs between 51
percent and 53 percent and, on the replacement ballot question,
Republican actor Arnold Schwarzenegger is usually ahead of Democratic
Lt. Gov. Cruz Bustamante by three to four points. The Gallup Poll, taken
for CNN and USA Today, gave Schwarzenegger 40 percent of the vote among
likely voters, while Bustamante had 25 percent. In short, the 'yes' side
and Schwarzenegger have the edge, but not nearly by the margins that
Gallup reports in its survey of 787 registered voters last Thursday
through Saturday.


A big piece of the problem here: No one has a good turnout model for an election such as this one.

Second update

A reader is puzzled by the "Round 2" reference. That's become the conventional way of referring to the part of the ballot where we vote on who is to replace Davis, if the recall itself (Round 1) passes. "Round 2" is a straight plurality contest, with no runoff. So the likely result is that more people will vote to keep Davis than vote to elect Schwarzenegger, but Schwarzenegger becomes governor.

A conservative Republican friend writes that, as a partisan Democrat, I should be delighted that a Republican will have to take the heat for making the painful decisions. Yes, but I actually have to live here, and Schwarzenegger is committed to making things much more painful than they need to be.


 
MORE FROM MIKE ALLEN AND FRIENDS...

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No major news, [*], but increasing levels of surrealism, with jouralists interviewing journalists who agree to talk only on background.

.... AND SOME EXTRA-SHARP ANALYSIS FROM BRAD DeLONG...

....who thinks the CIA wouldn't have started a war it didn't expect to win. [*] (Well worth reading, even though I'm late linking to it.)



 
THE NEW VALERIE PLAME SUMMARY...

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...covering yesterday's craziness, is up at Open Source Politics. Like its predecessors of yesterday and a month ago, it skips the inter-blog skirmishing and tries instead to tell a coherent story.

If you're just coming in to the Valerie Plame affair, I suggest starting there rather than here.


Monday, September 29, 2003
 
VALERIE PLAME, VIEWED IN RIGHT PROFILE

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As predicted, the virtual wall of silence in Right Blogistan about the Plame affair has cracked. Jacob Levy, a Volokh Conspirator, is just about as dismayed as Daniel Drezner was:

Indeed, no one seems to be engaged in any denial or defense here other than saying "We don't know and we don't want to know so we're not going to try to find out so that we can continue to say with a straight face that we don't know." This is ugly [snip] ... this is really, really not good

Glenn Reynolds, on the other hand, links to Pejman Yousefzadeh, who seems completely clueless and desperate.

Update Reynolds points out that the link mentioned above was not his first reference to the story. He had what turned into a very long post the previous day. In the previous ten weeks since the story first broke, he had two extremely brief and non-commital references, this one with a link to Tom Maguire, this one to this space. In other words, up until the story broke in the mass media, one could have been a very faithful reader of Instapundit and never have guessed that anything of much significance was going on. And that made Reynolds, after the estimable Tom Maguire and the execrable NRO, the third most active right-blog site on this issue. I repeat: a wall of silence, from a group of bloggers who purport to be defenders of national security and scourges of media misconduct.

On the issue of whether Plame's role was really covert, for example, Yousefzadeh takes Robert Novak's obviously self-serving account as gospel, ignoring Mike Allen's very specific reporting in today's Post ( She is a case officer in the CIA's clandestine service and works as an analyst on weapons of mass destruction. Novak published her maiden name, Plame, which she had used overseas and has not been using publicly. Intelligence sources said top officials at the agency were very concerned about the disclosure because it could allow foreign intelligence services to track down some of her former contacts and lead to the exposure of agents. It also ignores as Novak's printed description of Plame as an "operative."

Yousefzadeh quotes the relevant statute (as if it hadn't been thorougly parsed six weeks ago) and adds, "All of this covers the disclosure of the identity of a covert agent. If Novak is right in saying that 'Mrs. Wilson was an analyst, not a spy, not a covert operator, and not in charge of undercover operatives, then the law was not broken."

Right. But then what did the CIA just ask the Justice Department to investigate? Today's MSNBC story, reported independently of the Post's, has additional facts:

CIA lawyers sent the Justice Department an informal notice of the alleged leak in July, two senior officials told NBC News on Monday. Although that letter, which was not signed by CIA Director George Tenet, was not a formal request for an investigation, the Justice Department could have opened one at that point, lawyers said. It remained unclear whether it did so. CIA lawyers followed up the notification this month by answering 11 questions from the Justice Department, affirming that the woman’s identity was classified, that whoever released it was not authorized to do so and that the news media would not have been able to guess her identity without the leak, the senior officials said. The CIA response to the questions, which is itself classified, said there were grounds for a criminal investigation, the sources said.

Yousefzadeh also leaps from the fact that one correspondent for CBS wasn't aware of any of his colleages' having been called to the conclusion that no network reporter was called, and then to the further conclusion that there couldn't have been a concerted effort to damage Plame that didn't involve calling a network. Again, that igores Mike Allen's Monday story:

Wilson said in a telephone interview that four reporters from three television networks called him in July and told him that White House officials had contacted them to encourage stories that would include his wife's identity.

As noted below, I'm taking anything Wilson says with large amounts of salt from here on out, but I see no particular reason to doubt this. (Note: If true, this means that the FBI won't have any problem finding at least four of the relevant reporters.)

But Yousefzadeh also ignores the MSNBC story, to which Andrea Mitchell is listed as a contributor, which reports that Mitchell was called by White House officials peddling the story, though not until after the Novak column had run.

Clifford May at NRO simply tries to change the subject, questioning why Wilson was sent on the mission in the first place, and adding that some ex-government official had told him about Plame's identity before he read about it Novak's column, as if that had anything to do with the criminality of making her identity part of the public record. Again, the CIA conclusion reported by MSNBC seems to dispose of the question May tries to raise.

Daniel Drezner, having spoken out in the strongest terms over the weekend, is much more guarded today; he takes May's question seriously (and doesn't compare it with the Mike Allen story, though he does cite the MSNBC account) He also follows Josh Marshall in putting more emphasis than I would on change in phrasing from Allen's Sunday story, which mentioned "two top White House officials," to Monday's story, mentioning "two White House officials." (Note that the source, a "senior Administration official," has also been demoted to "an Administration official." I suspect that either Allen or his editor simply decided to dispense with some adjectives.)

If Allen is backing off about the rank of the people involved, that would indeed cast the whole story in a completely different light. But, for that very reason, I can't see how Allen can back off simply by repeating the assertion and leaving out the word "top." If "top" is wrong, it calls for a full correction and retraction. Absent that, I'm assuming the change was merely a verbal one without substantive significance.

All in all, then, I think Drezner was right earlier [*] in saying that this is almost certainly a major scandal and that commentators on the right will ill serve themselves by denying that fact. He's also right in saying that it's too early to conclude that Karl Rove has committed a crime, though I would say "no evidence" is too sweeping a statement. (Once we know that someone in the Bush White House carried out a vindictive political move involving a leak to Robert Novak, it's only reasonable to suspect the chief political operative, who was fired from the 1992 Bush campaign for leaking a story to Robert Novak.)

Be that as it may, it's not too early to say with confidence that serious crimes against the national security were committed by at least two people (and, I'm still convinced, "top" people) at the White House, and that the President of the United States and his top aides, aware of that, decided that finding out who those criminals were was none of their affair.

Really, that's plenty bad enough. (Josh Marshall is eloquent on the subject.) And it's time, I would say, for the doyens of warblogging, Eugene Volokh and Glenn Reynolds, to get off the fence and say so.



 
AND WHO WILL CRITICIZE THOSE SELFSAME CRITICS?

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Howard Kurtz has a bizarre column in Monday's Post which he considers the journalistic ethics of reporting Plame's name, but not the journalistic ethics of sitting on the story about the felonious behavior of top officials for two months until the lid was blown off by an official referral for criminal investigation. He notes as fact that the story "barely caused a ripple," but offers neither a criticism nor a defense of the papers that ignored it (and ignores Newsday and the St. Petersburg Times, which didn't). And he has not a word to say about the position in which the six reporters who were offered the leak but didn't go with it, and their editors, and the outlets they work, for, now find themselves: reporting on a story of which they are part, and about which they know the central fact.

Kurtz seems curiously hopeful that the villains will never be unmasked, or that, if unmasked, they won't actually go to prison:

If recent history is any guide, federal investigators are unlikely to discover who the leakers are. In 1999, a federal appeals court ruled that independent counsel Kenneth W. Starr and his staff did not have to face contempt proceedings for allegedly leaking damaging information about President Bill Clinton because no grand jury secrets were disclosed. The next year, a former Starr spokesman, Charles G. Bakaly III, was acquitted of making false statements about his role in providing information to the New York Times.

In 1992, Senate investigators said they could not determine who leaked confidential information to National Public Radio and Newsday about Anita Hill's sexual harassment allegations against Clarence Thomas during his Supreme Court confirmation. In 1989, then-Attorney General Richard Thornburgh launched an unsuccessful $224,000 investigation of a leak to CBS of an inquiry into then-Rep. William H. Gray III (D-Pa.).


Kurtz also edits the "two top White House officials" identified as the leakers by his colleague Mike Allen to "two top government officials."

Is Kurtz on Bush's payroll? And doesn't the Post do any fact-checking, even against its own stories? If Allen's Sunday story was wrong on that essential detail, it calls for a direct retraction and correction. If it was right, then Kurtz is just confusing his readers.



 
WILSON BACKS OFF ON ROVE

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Joseph Wilson, speaking on NPR, has backed way back from his earlier statement virtually accusing Karl Rove of having been the source of the Valerie Plame leak. Wilson admits to "an excess of exuberance," which is certainly one way to describe accusing someone in a public forum of an aggravated felony without having any actual evidence.

Wilson continues to insist, plausibly, that Rove must have condoned the activity afterwards even if he didn't order it or execute it himself. But this certainly makes Tom Maguire's hesitancy about taking Wilson at his word look justified.

Fortunately, at this point nothing in this story depends on crediting Wilson's accuracy. He was a useful, and perhaps essential, catalyst in starting the investigation, but it now has a life of its own.



 
GORRILLAS ON THE MTA

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A reader reports spotting an AP story about a gorilla who escaped from a Boston zoo and was spotted two hours later sitting on the bench at a bus stop. He offers three interpretations:

1. Public transportation is getting worse and worse. Two hours and no bus.
2. The gorilla's escape plan was thwarted by not having exact change.
3. He missed the bus because he was mugged.


Update: Oooops!

A reader closer to the site of the escape reports what neither my source nor I knew: the gorilla attacked two people, a teenager and a two-year-old. Not, he points out, a joking matter. Sorry.


 
PLAME ROUND-UP ON OPEN SOURCE POLITICS

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... up now. It tries to make sense of the long media silence.

 
MORE PLAME: THE WHITE HOUSE STONEWALLS

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Mike Allen has another big story in Monday's Post, jam-packed with bad news for anyone hoping that Bush would come out of this wearing at least a decent fig leaf. (Tom Maguire, for example, or Josh Chafetz)

First, Allen has confirmed Plame's job description, and it's about as bad as it could be for whoever leaked her name:

She is a case officer in the CIA's clandestine service and works as an analyst on weapons of mass destruction. Novak published her maiden name, Plame, which she had used overseas and has not been using publicly. Intelligence sources said top officials at the agency were very concerned about the disclosure because it could allow foreign intelligence services to track down some of her former contacts and lead to the exposure of agents.

Worse, the White House apparently has decided to continue to stonewall rather than coming clean:

White House officials said they would turn over phone logs if the Justice Department asked them to. But the aides said Bush has no plans to ask his staff members whether they played a role in revealing the name of an undercover officer who is married to former ambassador Joseph C. Wilson IV, one of the most visible critics of Bush's handling of intelligence about Iraq.

[snip]

White House press secretary Scott McClellan said the Justice Department has requested no information so far. "Of course, we would always cooperate with the Department of Justice in a matter like this," he said.

Asked about the possibility of an internal White House investigation, McClellan said, "I'm not aware of any information that has come to our attention beyond the anonymous media sources to suggest there's anything to White House involvement."


Right. The White House is maintaining the position that the question of whether top people there committed an aggravated felony concerning national security is nothing anyone in the White House needs to worry about.

Bush isn't even going to ask the people who work most closely with him whether they outed a covert CIA officer. Astonishingly, this is being reported by CNN as the White House denying the allegations. Refusing to look isn't really denial, except in the clinical sense. (Note also how the "two senior administration officials" in the body of the story shrink to "a government official" in the lead.)

At least Team Bush is consistent. From the very beginning, the White House hasn't even tried to make it look as if anyone there cared about an activity the elder Bush, in another context, likened to treason.

The longer this goes on, the harder it will be for Bush personally to avoid responsibility. (It may be too late already.) What conceivable excuse can he offer for not being curious enough to ask the people who work directly for him whether or not they did it? He may not have known about the leak in advance, but his inaction is surely condoning it now. Tom Spencer is right: Is there anyone other than Rove for whom the Bush team would absorb this kind of heat?

The question is no longer whether Ashcroft is going to start a formal investigation by the DoJ, but whether he can hold off demands for the appointment of a special counsel. Trial next summer, anyone?

Update I had missed this until an alert OSP reader brought it to my attention: according to AP, the White House has issued a real denial, specifically covering Karl Rove:


Wilson has publicly blamed Karl Rove, Bush's top political adviser, for the leak, although Wilson did say Monday he did not know whether Rove personally was the source of Novak's information, only that he thought Rove had "condoned it."

"He wasn't involved," White House press secretary Scott McClellan said of Rove. "The president knows he wasn't involved. ... It's simply not true."


The AP reporter doesn't seem to have asked the obvious follow-up: how does the President know? Whom did he ask? Has someone reviewed the phone logs? I hope that other reporters, senators, and Presidential candidates will be asking those questions, loudly and insistently.

Still this shifts the balance of probabilities in my mind, at least as to Rove's having made the phone calls himself. Even though Bush maintains deniability by using a spokesman, rather than fully committing himself by making a statement personally, and even though he can always say later that Rove had decieved him, this gets him much more deeply committed to Rove's innocence than he ought to want be unless he's pretty sure. Of course, he couldn't really know that it wasn't Rove unless he knew who it actually was.

That's always a possibility, of course. But then why is he keeping those people on his staff?

Second update Dan Drezner is not a happy camper. He deserves a lot of credit for being willing to call a foul on his own team. Other right-bloggers, please copy.

Drezner links to Pejman Yousefzadeh's defense of Bush's refusal to investigate: "The culpable do not break down and confess their sins merely as the result of close questioning. And the Administration likely knows this, which is why they aren't going to waste time calling in the many aides who work at the White House in order to find out who has been leaking the story."

That's plausible as a general proposition, but false in this case. (See Dwight Meredith's analysis bringing down the list of suspects to eight, of whom we're looking for two.) Anyway, if they wanted to know, they wouldn't bother asking; they'd just review the phone logs, as they did in one of their recent lame attempts to discredit Wesley Clark.

Josh Marshall has a long quote from today's press briefing. The transcript isn't up yet, but here's a link to the video file. It seems I was wrong: some reporters did ask the natural follow-ups, though without getting any answers:

McCLELLAN: He wasn't involved. The President knows he wasn't involved.

QUESTION: How does he know that?

QUESTION: How does he know that?

McCLELLAN: The President knows.

QUESTION: What, is he clairvoyant? How does he know?



There's another eerie passage:

QUESTION: -- why doesn't he use everything in his power to smoke them out?

McCLELLAN: The Department of Justice is looking into this. I've made it very clear the President believes the leaking of classified information of this nature is a very serious matter, and it should be pursued to the fullest.

QUESTION: By them. And he has no -- his hands are tied? He can't simply ask his staff --

McCLELLAN: Well, do you have any information to bring to our attention, Paula? Do you have any information to bring to our attention? If you have any information, that should be reported to the Department of Justice, and they need to pursue this to the fullest.


Sounds to me as if McClellan is reminding some of the people in the room that they know who made the phone calls, because they received them.



 
FLYPAPER, ANYONE?

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Phil Carter doesn't think much of the "flypaper" strategy. [*] Of course, it never was a strategy; just a post hoc rationalization to make a bad result look good.

Sunday, September 28, 2003
 
WHO BURNED VALERIE PLAME?
Dwight Meredith Thinks He Can Guess


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Dwight Meredith, alas, is no longer writing P.L.A. But he hasn't stopped writing, or thinking hard. The following is quoted with his permission from an email. As usual, it's acute.


Here's Dwight:

Who burned Valerie Plame? Novak sourced the information to "senior administration officials." The Post quotes a senior administration official as saying that two "top White House officials" spoke to six journalists and provided the information that Plame was a CIA operative.

Can we narrow the list of possible suspects?

The number of people who are 1) at the White House (as opposed to the CIA or some other agency) and who qualify as both "top" and "senior" and who have security clearance needed to know the identity of covert CIA operatives is quite small. [*]

Tapped tells us that "senior administration official" means:

"The vice-president, the cabinet secretaries, those with cabinet-rank, the chief of staff, maybe the deputy chief of staff, and a couple of other really senior advisors."

The cabinet officials and all people working at the various agencies can be eliminated as the Post source makes clear that the leakers worked at the White House.

Who at the White House is both "senior" and "top"? If we assume that "top" eliminates all "deputies" and people who are assistants to people other than the President, then the list can be further narrowed.

A list of White House personnel is here.

The folks on the list that I think could qualify as both “senior” and “top” are the following:

George W. Bush -- President
Dick Cheney – Vice President
Karl Rove -- Senior Advisor to the President
Condi Rice -- Assistant to the President for National Security
Andy Card – White House Chief of Staff
Ari Fleischer -- Press Secretary
John Walters -- Drug Czar
Josh Bolten – Director of OMB
Michael Gerson – Assistant to the President for Speech Writing and Policy Advisor
Albert Gonzales – White House Counsel
Dan Bartlett – Assistant to the President for Communications
Greg Mankiw -- CEA
Stephen Friedman -- Director NEC
John Gordon -- Assistant to the President and Homeland Security Advisor
Scooter Libby – Vice President’s Chief of Staff and Assistant to the President

Ari Fleischer is on the list as press secretary even though he has now departed the White House. The Novak column at Town Hall is dated July 14, 2003. In a strange coincidence, July 14 was also Fleischer's last day at the White House. If the Press Secretary was involved, it was Ari.

Let's see if the list can be further narrowed.

The Post source implies that President Bush did not know so he comes off the list. Walters, Bolten, Mankiw, and Friedman probably do not have the security clearances needed to know the identity of covert CIA operatives so they get eliminated from the list.

I can not believe that the White House Counsel would be stupid enough to commit six felonies, so eliminate Gonzales.

I also can not see the leak coming from the Speech Writing office (maybe I am naive). It is not at all clear to me that Gerson would have security clearance needed to know the identity of covert CIA operatives. Let's eliminate Gerson.

That leaves eight candidates:

1) Dick Cheney – Vice President
2) Karl Rove -- Senior Advisor to the President
3) Condi Rice -- Assistant to the President for National Security
4) Andy Card – White House Chief of Staff
5) Ari Fleisher -- Press Secretary
6) Dan Bartlett – Assistant to the President for Communications
7) John Gordon -- Assistant to the President and Homeland Security Advisor
8) Scooter Libby – Vice President’s Chief of Staff

I am not sure I would consider Libby and/or Gordon to be "top" and "senior" but maybe they are.

If any of the first 5 (Cheney, Rove, Rice, Card or Fleischer) is involved, it is a major scandal.

If random chance determined which two of the eight were involved (and it clearly does not) , there would be over an 89% chance that it would include at least one of the Big 5.

The identity of the six journalists may soon be known. We know from the efforts to smear Wes Clark that phone records are kept at least for incoming calls to the White House. It does not seem hard to match those calls up with the small circle of suspects. Agatha Christie would reject the mystery as too easy.


So there we have it. I'm hoping Dwight will keep his emails coming. If so, you'll know.

Update: Tom Spencer adds what seems to me a strong argument: the White House is paying a predictably heavy political price for protecting whoever did the dirty deed. Rove is probably the most worth protecting, from Bush's viewpoint. That makes the identification of Rove as one of the culprits more plausible.


 
JOE BIDEN GETS ONE RIGHT

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He's going to make the Republicans in the Senate vote against paying for the reconstruction of Iraq by deferring some of the tax cut to (not "the rich" but) people whose incomes are over $360,000 per year. [*]


 
ORWELL RIDES AGAIN

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Patrick Nielsen Hayden has a nominee for the most mixed (up) metaphor of the young season. [*] This one is going to be hard to top.


Saturday, September 27, 2003
 
CRONY CAPITALISM IN ACTION **** RETRACTED ****

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Josh Marshall reports a truly surreal story [*]: Jeb Bush just had the Florida public employees pension fund buy all the stock in the Edison Project, Chris Whittle's disastrous foray into privatized education. [St. Petersburg Times story here.] In the immortal words of Doonesbury's Uncle Duke, "But the pension fund was just sitting there!"

Can some lawyer among my readers tell me whether the fund's beneficiaries have standing to sue?

Update A reader notes that the investment company is formally independent of the pension plan, of which it is the sole client, and that the pension plan manager and the governor both deny that they had any role in deciding about the Edison investment. You can believe those denials, if you like. That means assuming that it just happened that a company with strong right-wing political ties and a mission strongly approved of by the right wing, including the Governor of Florida and his brother, got bailed out by a pension fund of which the governor is one of three trustees, just by coincidence.

Second update and retraction The reader points out that the investment advisor has been working for Florida since the Chiles Administration. Given that fact, and absent any direct evidence of hanky-panky, I have to conclude that I here committed a truly remarkable feat: I accused Jeb Bush of a malfeasance of which he was not demonstrably guilty. My apologies to him, and to you, and my (grudging) thanks to the reader who kept pounding on me until I could see my error.


 
VALERIE PLAME: HOUSTON, WE HAVE CONFIRMATION

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The Washington Post doesn't do things by halves. Having studiously ignored the Valerie Plame affair [*] for two months, it now comes in with both feet -- a twenty-five-paragraph Page 1 story. [*].

It also comes in with a major newsbeat: a "senior Administration official" who confirms that two "top White House officials" called at least six journalists to tell them the name of an undercover CIA officer, and that they did so "purely and simply for revenge" on her husband, Ambassador Joseph Wilson, for his role in revealing the Yellowcake Road fiasco.

I suppose this could be worse for the Administration, but it's hard to see how.

First, there seems to be no doubt that the leak occurred, that some of Bush's top people were responsible, and that Plame was undercover. That means that at least two people close to the President are facing potential ten-year prison sentences.

Second, the source for this story (a "senior Administration official" but not a "top White House official," which probably means either from the CIA or from the Justice Department, more likely the former) refused to identify the two leakers "for the record," which clearly implies that he did identify them off the record. Since the story mentions Joseph Wilson's use of Karl Rove's name, it would be natural for the reporter to have hinted that Rove was not in fact one of the guilty parties, had that been the case. But there is no such hint. Of all the people in the White House, Rove is probably the one Bush can least afford to lose, and the one who gives Bush the least deniability.

Third, the source is clearly prominent enough that any FBI investigation would have to include him. Having told the truth to a reporter, he's not going to lie to the FBI, which itself would be a crime. That means that the leakers are likely to find themselves, in fairly short order, confronting first the FBI and then a grand jury. (Any thought Ashcroft might have had of stifling this just vanished.)

Fourth, the leakers peddled the story to six other journalists, none of whom took the bait, and any of whom might confirm the identity of the leakers.

Tom Maguire suggested earlier today [*] that the White House simply appoint a fall guy to admit an "innocent mistake" and exit. That isn't going to do the job now. Not only do they need at least two fall guys; the White House has been on notice about this for two months now, and taken no action to investigate it. If the President was never told about the problem, he's even more cocooned than I thought. If he was told, and failed to ask direct questions of the small number of people who might have been responsible, then he has to share the culpability.

When this story first broke, I mostly didn't believe it [*], because outing a covert CIA officer would have been such an intolerable violation of everything this Administration claims to stand for: not just "honor and integrity," which were obviously mere prolefeed, but putting the national security first and keeping secrets secret.

When the country finds out about this, Bush is going to take a big hit. A year ago, he was a hero, and this might have bounced off. Not now.

If I were Wesley Clark, and eager to relieve any doubts about my partisan loyalties among Democrats, I'd regard this as a golden moment.

[Oooops! Clark has let Howard Dean, who jumped on this story back in July, beat him to the punch. [*] Dean points out that he'd called for resignations months ago, and adds: "No one has been held accountable for this serious action, or for the other instances in which senior officials in this Administration have misled the public and the world about their justifications for war with Iraq. Instead, we see a continuing pattern of deceptive statements. I urge accountability now."] [This AP story in Monday's New York Times has a snippet from Clark:
Retired Gen. Wesley Clark, a candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination, said a Justice Department probe would be inadequate. "This is too much for (Attorney General) John Ashcroft,'' he said. "It strikes right at the heart of our ability to gather intelligence.'']


Update: Kevin Drum, who had the story first among bloggers (David Corn at The Nation did the original reporting), concurs. [*] He's a tad less rabidly anti-Bush than I am, so I find that reassuring.

Second update (of many to come, no doubt): CBS had the story, rather timidly reported. [*] But it's a lot better than nothing. Atrios had the link.

Atrios comments: "Pass the effing popcorn." I agree: this is going to be worth watching. Atrios also makes a highly useful suggestion, which I admit I'd never thought of: MSNBC has a reader rating system for its stories. So if you go here, scroll to the bottom, and click "7," you can in effect vote to keep them working on this. When you do, you will find that the story has almost 5000 votes, with an average rating of 6.1, putting it second only to a story about how to steal on E-bay but ahead of the woman being spared from stoning in Nigeria.

Third update, Sunday p.m. Body and Soul has a good wrap-up. Some regional papers are reprinting the WaPo story. The New York Times still has nothing in print, but comes in, late and lame, on line. Correction It is in print, below the fold on p. 21, under the jump of the story about coffins for obese people.

The Associated Press finally carries a story [*], featuring Condi Rice's soothing spin. I predict that Rice will come to regret her repeated descriptions of this incident as "routine." [Here, from today's Fox News Sunday, about halfway down.] Yes, this is now a matter for criminal investigation. But how does that relieve the White House of its responsibilities to find the two senior people there who did the dastardly deed and fire them?

The original leak could have been pinned on whoever did it, leaving Bush guilty of nothing worse than bad judgment in the choice of subordinates and failing to maintain a moral atmosphere where such skulduggerly would be unthinkable. (Remember "restoring honor and integrity to the White House"?) But the failure to follow up over more than two months makes everyone from Bush down complicit. (Josh Marshall makes this point.)

And Atrios credits Dwight Meredith for pointing out that knowing and not acting could constitute make people who were not themselves the leakers guilty of misprision of a felony. (For those of you too young to remember Watergate, that's prounounced "mis-PRIZH-un.")

Here's the Rice transcript (emphasis added):

HUME: Former Ambassador Joseph Wilson, who was asked to inquire in Africa about what Saddam Hussein might have been doing there in terms of acquiring nuclear materials, ended up with his wife's name in the paper as a CIA person. There are now suggestions that the name and her identity and her CIA work had been revealed by the White House. What do you know about that?

RICE: I know nothing of any such White House effort to reveal any of this, and it certainly would not be the way that the president would expect his White House to operate.

My understanding is that, in matters like this, as a matter of routine, a question like this is referred to the Justice Department for appropriate action, and that's what's going to be done.

SNOW: Well, when the story came out — his wife's name is in the paper — was it known in the White House that she was a CIA employee?

RICE: I'm not going to go into this, Tony, because the problem here is this has been referred to the Justice Department. I think that's the appropriate place...

SNOW: Well, but it is revealing, or it's important to figure out what the White House reaction was at the time. For years and years and years, for instance, the administrations chased Phillip Agee all around the globe because he had revealed the name of a CIA officer. This is a grave offense, if you have CIA officers.

Was there, at least within the White House, a gasp when somebody said, "Uh oh"? And if so, did the White House take any action, back then in June, when the story appeared?

RICE: Well, it was well known that the president of the United States does not expect the White House to get involved in such things. We will see...

HUME: You mean the revelation of names?

RICE: Anything of this kind. But let's just see what the Justice Department does. It's with the appropriate channels now, and we'll see what the Justice Department — how the Justice Department disposes of it.

SNOW: But there was nobody at the White House at the time who was saying, "Oh, we've got a problem here"?

RICE: Tony, I don't remember any such conversation. But I will say this: The Justice Department gets these things as a matter of routine. They will determine the facts. They will determine what happened, they will determine if anything happened. And they'll take appropriate action.



Fourth update

I've been waiting for someone in the right blogosphere other than Tom Maguire to start paying attention to this. Well, it's been worth the wait. Daniel Drezner is apoplectic:

What could cause me to switch parties

What was done here was thuggish, malevolent, illegal, and immoral. Whoever pedaled this story to Novak and others, in outing Plame, violated the law and put the lives of Plame's overseas contacts at risk. Compared to this, all of Clinton's peccadilloes look like an mildly diverting scene from an Oscar Wilde production. If Rove or other high-ranking White House officials did what's alleged, then they've earned the wrath of God. Or, since God is probably busy, the media firestorm that will undoubtedly erupt.

Let me make this as plain as possible -- I was an unpaid advisor for the Bush-Cheney 2000 campaign, and I know and respect some high-ranking people in the administration. And none of that changes the following: if George W. Bush knew about or condoned this kind of White House activity, I wouldn't just vote against him in 2004 -- I'd want to see him impeached. Straight away.


Tacitus, one of the more judicious right-bloggers, concurs.
Meanwhile, Glenn Reynolds and Roger Simon continue to find this just too complicated to understand. It is, if you start with the hypothesis that Bush and the people around him are incapable of stupidly thuggish behavior. Otherwise, it's really rather simple.

One of the reasons Bush is a much more powerful and effective President than Clinton is that people know that crossing Bush means finding your horse's head in your bed. Rove is the designated hitter. If in this instance he got carried away, why should we be so surprised? And Drezner makes another point worth pondering: Now that we know what the Bushites are capable of even on "piddling stuff," all those crazy conspiracy theories seem less far-fetched. Kevin Drum agrees.

Fifth update, Sunday evening Mike Allen in Monday's Post has more, and it's astonishing: the White House is maintaining the position that the question of whether top people there committed an aggravated felony concerning national security is nothing the White House needs to worry about:

White House officials said they would turn over phone logs if the Justice Department asked them to. But the aides said Bush has no plans to ask his staff members whether they played a role in revealing the name of an undercover officer who is married to former ambassador Joseph C. Wilson IV, one of the most visible critics of Bush's handling of intelligence about Iraq.

[snip]

White House press secretary Scott McClellan said the Justice Department has requested no information so far. "Of course, we would always cooperate with the Department of Justice in a matter like this," he said.

Asked about the possibility of an internal White House investigation, McClellan said, "I'm not aware of any information that has come to our attention beyond the anonymous media sources to suggest there's anything to White House involvement."


You read that right: Bush isn't even going to ask the people who work most closely with him whether they outed a covert CIA officer. Astonishingly, this is being reported as the White House denying the allegations. It's not denying; it's stonewalling.

From the very beginning, the White House hasn't even tried to make it look as if anyone there cared about an activity the senior Bush, in another context, likened to treason.

The longer this goes on, the harder it will be for Bush personally to deny responsibility. (It may be too late already.) Tom Spencer is right: Is there anyone other than Rove for whom the Bush team would absorb this kind of heat?

The Post has more detail on Plame's official role, confirming everything David Corn had asserted and Joseph Wilson had hinted at:

She is a case officer in the CIA's clandestine service and works as an analyst on weapons of mass destruction. Novak published her maiden name, Plame, which she had used overseas and has not been using publicly. Intelligence sources said top officials at the agency were very concerned about the disclosure because it could allow foreign intelligence services to track down some of her former contacts and lead to the exposure of agents.

Which suggests a question: Did the long delay between the Novak story and the formal referral to DoJ reflect a decision by the CIA to do as much damage control as possible before the story hit every front page in the world?

The Post story also mentions calls for a special counsel to investigate. It's going to be very, very hard for Ashcroft to say "no" to that one, I think.


 
SPINSANITY TAKES ON THE SPIN MACHINE

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There's nothing more boring than the game of pin-the-lie-on-the-liar, but Spinsanity does a good job on a couple of stray slanders against Wesley Clark. Don't understimate the importance of this stuff: if the public can be convinced that Clark is somehow untrustworthy, that will put a big hole in his ability to make the "character" issue against Bush.

Remember the punchline of Lyndon Johnson's story: you don't have to prove your opponent has sex with pigs, you just have to make him deny it. It worked against Al Gore.

So far, it doesn't seem to be working against Clark, at least among Democrats; Clark's favorable/unfavorable among Democrats and Democratic-leaning voters stands at 49/11 in the latest Newsweek poll. [*] But the Bush forces and their media allies are clearly more scared of Clark than of any other candidate, so expect the slanders to keep coming.


 
BUFFER ZONES

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Eugene Volokh [*] analyzes the analogy between buffer zones around abortion providers and buffer zones around Presidential speeches and finds them, as the lawyers say, "on all fours." Sounds right to me, and the analogy, if applied, would either loosen the rules the Secret Service has been applying to anti-Bush demonstrators or tighten the restrictions on the right-to-lifers.

Two differences difference Eugene doesn't mention: (1) Anti-abortion demonstrators frequently act in ways that deliberately intimidate and harass staff and clients, to the point where some facilities recruit teams of volunteers to protect women from being jostled, screamed at and having bloody fetuses waved in their faces. (2) The long history of property destruction and personal violence amed at the clinics and their employees turns every demonstration into a potential threat. Neither of those holds for Presidential speeches.

Still, Eugene's parity proposal seems fair enough to me. Better than what we have now, anyway.




 
WHO'S GETTING RICH OFF IRAQ?

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Iraq may be costing you and me a bundle, but for the President's buddies it's a bonanza: they're setting up companies to peddle access. Josh Marshall has the details about Haley Barbour here, about Joe Albaugh here, and about Doug Feith's law partner and Ahmed Chalabi's nephew (honestly, could I make this up?) here.

Good to know that some things never go out of style. War profiteering, for example.

Did you notice [*] that the first OPEC meeting with a representative of the Iraqi provisional government present voted to cut production and thus raise oil prices? If they can ever get any oil flowing, that will increase the amount of the loot. The billions that price increase will cost American consumers won't be factored into the cost of the war, of course.

Query: Was this a diplomatic defeat for the US -- which would raise questions about the claims that as the conquerors of Iraq we will be listened to more closely in the Middle East -- or did the White House privately give this move the thumbs-up? At a more basic level: Was this a surprise, or did the U.S. Government at least know about it in advance?

Update E-vote reposts an old AP story. [*]Turns out Mr. Bush as a candidate thought that the President ought to say something, or even do something, when OPEC raises the price of oil. Of course that was then. This is now.

Second update The Boston Globe confirms that the Iraqi delegate to OPEC voted to cut production quotas.


Friday, September 26, 2003
 
BREAKTHROUGH ON VALERIE PLAME:
THE CIA GOES NUCLEAR


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And now, the moment all you Valerie Plame fans have been waiting for: the CIA has made a formal referral to the Justice Department. [*]

Summary of the affair here.

Thread starts here.


All of the previous speculation, in this space and others, about whether Ms. Plame was or was not covert is now obsolete: she must have been, or there would be no offense for the Justice Department to investigate. And thus all the chatter about Joseph Wilson's character and motives is also irrelevant.

(Which doesn't make this interview between Wilson and Josh Marshall any less interesting. I look forward to the day when journalists routinely publish transcripts of their interviews.)

The eerie wall of silence from the right side of the blogosphere is starting to crack: Drudge, of all sites, is leading with this story. (I'm now willing to bet that the equally eerie silence from the major dailies will also end.) Update Time has it, and reports that DoJ has started a preliminary inquiry.

And I think we can count on Howard Dean, who has already broached the issue, and Wesley Clark and Bob Graham to keep this issue boiling.

Some of Atrios's commentators [*] make cynical remarks about the "Ashcroft Justice Department." It's not that simple.

Formally, as Josh Marshall notes [*], Ashcroft has to make a decision whether to refer the matter to the FBI for investigation. But if he tries to refuse, he will face a firestorm, internally as well as externally. Six months or a year ago, with Bush riding high, Ashcroft might have been able to get away with it. But not now.

[Update As Tom Maguire points out [*], David Corn of The Nation, who broke the story in the first place, predicted a month ago [*] that George Tenet, the Director of Central Intelligence, would kill the investigation out of loyalty to Bush. That he didn't could be the result of (1) personal outrage at what was done, (2) institutional loyalty to a wronged subordinate and to the need to keep covert things covert; (3) fear of what his career employees would think, say, and do if he tried to bury the matter; (4) self-interest in his reputation as a straight shooter; or (5) a simple desire to do his job according to the law. Of those, all but #2 will operate, to a greater or lesser extent, on Ashcroft. It's important to remember that not everyone who works for the Bush Administration is a melodrama villain, curling his moustaches as he snickers over the evil he is about to do. Most of these folks think of themselves, and want others to think of them, as patriots and decent human beings, and what seems to have been done to Valerie Plame is an affront both to decency and to patriotism.]

Once Ashcroft asks for an investigation, it gets carried out by career people in the FBI, people with reputations to protect. Someone will ask Rove the straight-up question whether he ever talked to Novak or anyone else about Plame, and whether he knows of anyone else having done so. When Rove answers those questions, he will know that lying to the Bureau is itself a federal crime. He will also know that the press shield laws may not apply in this case, and that reporters who refused the bait may not feel as bound to protect their sources as Novak does.

Wilson's stated ambition to "see Karl Rove frog-marched out of the White House in handcuffs" no longer seems out of reach.


CIA seeks probe of White House
Agency asks Justice to investigate leak of employee’s identity


EXCLUSIVE
MSNBC AND NBC NEWS

WASHINGTON, Sept. 26 — The CIA has asked the Justice Department to investigate allegations that the White House broke federal laws by revealing the identity of one of its undercover employees in retaliation against the woman’s husband, a former ambassador who publicly criticized President Bush’s since-discredited claim that Iraq had sought weapons-grade uranium from Africa, NBC News has learned.

THE FORMER ENVOY, Joseph Wilson, who was acting ambassador to Iraq before the first Gulf War, was dispatched to Niger in 2002 to investigate a British intelligence report that Iraq sought to buy uranium there. Although Wilson discredited the report, Bush cited it in his State of the Union address in January among the evidence he said justified military action in Iraq.

The administration has since had to repudiate the claim. CIA Director George Tenet said the 16-word sentence should not have been included in Bush’s Jan. 28 speech and publicly accepted responsibility for allowing it to remain in the president’s text.

Wilson published an article in July alleging, however, that the White House recklessly made the charge knowing it was false.

“We spend billions of dollars on intelligence,” Wilson wrote. “But we end up putting something in the State of the Union address, something we got from another intelligence agency, something we cannot independently verify, in an area of Africa where the British have no on-the-ground presence.”

WHITE HOUSE DENIALS

The next week, columnist Robert Novak published an article in which he revealed that Wilson’s wife, Valerie Plame, was a covert CIA operative specializing in weapons of mass destruction. “Two senior administration officials told me Wilson’s wife suggested sending him to Niger to investigate,” Novak wrote.

The White House has denied being Novak’s source, whom he has refused to identify. But Wilson has said other reporters have told him White House officials leaked Plame’s identity.

NBC News’ Andrea Mitchell reported Friday night that the CIA has asked the Justice Department to investigate whether White House officials blew Plame’s cover in retaliation against Wilson. Revealing the identities of covert officials is a violation of two laws, the National Agents’ Identity Act and the Unauthorized Release of Classified Information Act.

ATTEMPTS TO REMOVE CLAIM

When the Niger claim first arose, in February 2002, the CIA sent Wilson to
Africa to investigate. He reported finding no credible evidence that Iraq was seeking uranium from Niger.

The CIA’s doubts about the uranium claim were reported through routine intelligence traffic throughout the government, U.S. intelligence officials said. Those doubts were also reported to the British.

The Niger report included a notation that it was unconfirmed when it was published in the October 2002 National Intelligence Estimate, the classified summary of intelligence on Iraq’s weapons programs.

The CIA had the Niger claim removed from at least two speeches before they were given: Bush’s October address on the Iraqi threat, and a speech by U.N. Ambassador John Negroponte.

As the State of the Union address was being written, CIA officials protested over how the alleged uranium connection was being portrayed, so the administration changed it to attribute it to the British, who had made the assertion in a Sept. 24 dossier.

By MSNBC.com’s Alex Johnson with NBC’s Andrea Mitchell.


 
GEORGE W. BUSH ILLUSTRATES A THESIS OF KARL DEUTSCH

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Eugene Volokh [*] can't see anything wrong with a President who regards his staff as a more "objective" source of information than the mass media. Can you say "cocooning"? I was sure you could.

It's not that I have any brief for the mass media: I shot my television set in 1976 and have probably averaged an hour a month of watching since. Since I started blogging, I'm even reading less of the daily newspapers, trusting my blogroll to alert me to anything important I might otherwise miss. But I read blogs, and newspapers, with different viewpoints: different from one another, and, more importantly, different from mine.

Relying on your own staff (or, as Machiavelli calls them, "flatterers") as your exclusive source of information is virtually guaranteed to make sure you never see trouble until it hits you behind the ear with a sock full of wet sand. Now I don't mind if Bush gets so whacked; might knock some sense into him. But to have the guy who's supposed to be running the country insulate himself from anything his staff decides he'd rather not know scares me silly.

As Karl Deutsch says in The Nerves of Government: (I'm paraphrasing from memory here: Learning means adapting your opinions to the world, while power is the capacity to adapt the world to your opinions. Therefore, power is the ability not to have to learn anything.

No wonder Bush is so in love with power; it protects his ignorance. He probably still believes that things are going well in Afghanistan and Iraq.


 
DRUDGE ON CLARK ON BUSH

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A non-Democratic friend told me to day that he expected the Drudge videotape of Wesley Clark saying nice things about Bush and his crew at a Lincoln Day dinner two years and change ago would hurt him among what he called "red-meat Democrats." Well, I like mine pretty rare, but it doesn't bother me at all.

If I were Clark, I'd say, "Right. And I'm not the only one Bush has sorely disappointed. As the song says, 'Wish I didn't know now what I didn't know then.' "

With swing voters in a general election, it can't hurt him at all. They like non-partisanship, remember?

Update Politus has more. It turns out that Clark addressed a similar Democratic gathering a week after his Lincoln Day dinner speech. I guess a victorious four-star general who is also a local boy must count as some sort of celebrity in Arkansas.




 
THE FRENCH HEAT WAVE AND THE EUROCRATS

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Paul Johnson, who shares the impairments in both logic and good taste so common among extreme Francophobes, seems to think (1) that heat waves have something to do with utopianism and dirigisme and (2) that crowing over dead bodies is a respectable activity. [*] Glenn Reynolds links, approvingly.

Here's Johnson, showing his uncanny ability to see through unremarkable surface facts to the evil cheese-eating that lurks beneath:

One thing history teaches, over and over again, is that there are no shortcuts. Human societies advance the hard way; there is no alternative. Communism promised Utopia on Earth. After three-quarters of a century of unparalleled sufferings, the Soviet Union collapsed in privation and misery, leaving massive Russia with an economy no bigger than tiny Holland's. We are now watching the spectacle of another experiment in hedonism, the European Union, as it learns the grim facts of life.

The EU is built on a fantasy--that men and women can do less and less work, have longer and longer holidays and retire at an earlier age, while having their income, in real terms, and their standard of living increase. And this miracle is to be brought about by the enlightened bureaucratic regulation of every aspect of life.


[snip]

France received a shock this summer, when more than 10,000 of its elderly citizens died in distress during a heat wave--some while supposedly under medical care in hospitals. Thanks to the 35-hour workweek and the long August holiday, these institutions were short-staffed. The families of those who died were on holiday, too. [*]

How's that again? This summer, Europe was hit by an unprecedented heat wave. Temperatures in Paris got to 104. (Aren't you glad global warming is purely mythical? Think how hot it would have been had global warming been real.) Since air conditioning has not historically been necessary in Paris, very few homes, and not all public places, have it. As a result, many people died. To simple-minded people like me, that seems regrettable but thoroughly unsurprising.

Johnson's spin on all this suggests either that his thought is more subtle than mine or that he has become detached from reality. On my planet, Frenchpeople were taking August off before anyone ever heard of the EU. And the idea that we can work fewer hours and enjoy higher material standards of living is a "fantasy" only in Johnson's Puritanical fantasy life: in the real world, it's called "economic progress" and has been going on since approximately the seventeenth century.

As to the EU, do Johnson, Reynolds, and the rest of what calls itself the "Anglosphere" have some sort of nostalgia for the days when the French and the Germans slaughtered each other about twice a century, with the English helping slaughter whichever side seemed stronger at the moment? That's a quick summary of European history from the time of Frederick the Great until the time of Jean Monnet.

As a result of the EU, any country in the European region that aspires to prosperity must keep its military paws off its neighbors, and must also aspire to republican government, the rule of law, and respect for human rights.

Really and truly, there are worse things than niggling regulations imposed by Eurocrats. The Battle of the Somme, for example. Or Auschwitz.







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