Mark A. R. Kleiman
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Tuesday, October 07, 2003

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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?


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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?


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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

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... now up on Open Source Politics.


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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
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.


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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

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.

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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.


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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.


See This Post On New Blog Open Source Politics, which has just jumped to #18 in the Blogging Ecosystem rankings, an unprecedented leap for a publication just a month old.


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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

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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.


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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.


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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?


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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.


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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.


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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

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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.


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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:


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.


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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."


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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.


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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.


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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.


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.


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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

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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.


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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


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


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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.


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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.


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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.


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

Thursday, October 02, 2003

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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.



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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.


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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.


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."


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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. [*]


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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?


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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." [*]


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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.


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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.


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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.


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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.


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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

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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.


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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.


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?


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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."



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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?


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Eugene Volokh has some practical tips.



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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.

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