Thursday, July 21, 2005



Given my rule of avoiding topics that are already receiving almost universal coverage, I really hadn't expected to be writing about the Valerie Plame Affair. But the fast-moving breakout of information over the past week requires some sort of compilation, so here are some highlights and links.

First, Greg Mitchell of Editor & Publisher announced that Monday, July 15, was the day that we could cease to speak of the "Valerie Plame Affair" and instead use its proper name—Plamegate. Basing his observation on reports in the NY Times and Washington Post, Mitchell wrote that "we are suddenly into 'what-did-the-president-know-and-when-did-he-know-it' territory," which, let me hasten to add, is not the same as "out-of-the-woods" territory. But Mitchell is so optimistic that he even dares to ask that famous Watergate question: "Is there a cancer on the presidency?" And in case the President's associates turn out to be "cancerous," there's the remaining question: "What did Bush know and when did he know it?"

Mitchell has also composed a list of questions for press, prosecutors and those of us in the peanut gallery who just enjoy a good show—

Did Rove fill him [Bush] in on his conversations with Novak and Cooper (and possibly others) a long time back? If he did and the president did nothing, should that be taken as a sign of approval, and what would that mean? If Rove didn't tell him, and this is all news to Bush, does that deserve a prompt dismissal? Or is it possible the entire smear-Wilson campaign originated in the Oval House, or the veep's chambers?

Will Alberto Gonzales get embroiled in this even before he makes it to the Supreme Court? Is former spokesman/chief spinner Ari Fleischer endangered? Will Rove still have his job when the Washington Nationals play in the World Series this autumn?

Who is the source for all the press revelations today? Likely not a new "Deep Throat." The New York Times opened by calling him someone who had been briefed on all of this, the AP raised that to someone in the "legal profession," while the Washington Post went all the way and called him a "lawyer." Speculation focuses on Rove's attorney, who if this is true, probably thinks most of this helps his client's cause. But then, such things took dramatic turns back in the Watergate days when documentary evidence, in the form of tapes, documents and testimony came out.

And as a sidelight: If Rove is telling the truth, and he heard about Plame first from another journalist before talking to Novak, who was that reporter? Rove apparently claimed amnesia on that matter before the grand jury. I can think of one or two prominent candidates, and probably you can too.

Then there's this amusing (if plausible) comment by Congressional Quarterly's Craig Crawford today: "So, now we have leakers leaking the leak investigation. Fitzgerald might have to put the whole press corps in jail before it's over with...."

In a follow-up today, Mitchell notes that the White House effort to get Karl Rove out of the public eye by naming its Supreme Court nominee earlier than planned has failed miserably—The Washington Post today featured Walter Pincus and Jim Vanderhei in a Page-1 story "Plame's Identity Marked As Secret." The Post headline, of course, refers to the 3-page document of June 10, 2003, which clearly establishes that anyone reading the memo knew that information about Valerie Plame was "secret."

Pincus and Vanderhei write,

The memo may be important to answering three central questions in the Plame case: Who in the Bush administration knew about Plame's CIA role? Did they know the agency was trying to protect her identity? And, who leaked it to the media?

The memo was delivered to Secretary of State Colin L. Powell on July 7, 2003, as he headed to Africa for a trip with President Bush aboard Air Force One. Plame was unmasked in a syndicated column by Robert D. Novak seven days later.

Equally damning of the administration (and of Colin Powell in particular) as to having knowingly lied to the Congress and the U.N. is this—

It [the memo] records that the INR [State Department's Bureau of Intelligence and Research] analyst at the meeting opposed Wilson's trip to Niger because the State Department, through other inquiries, already had disproved the allegation that Iraq was seeking uranium from Niger. Attached to the INR memo were the notes taken by the senior INR analyst who attended the 2002 meeting at the CIA.

On July 6, 2003, shortly after Wilson went public on NBC's "Meet the Press" and in The Post and the New York Times discussing his trip to Niger, the INR director at the time, Carl W. Ford Jr., was asked to explain Wilson's statements for Powell, according to sources familiar with the events. He went back and reprinted the June 10 memo but changed the addressee from Grossman to Powell.

Where may this tale be leading?

(Via What Really Happened) On Tuesday Bernard Weiner of the Crisis Papers launched his review of Plamegate not from the State Department memo but from the secret information presented to the judges overseeing the Judith Miller–Matthew Cooper contempt hearings. Weiner writes,

One of the ruling judges on the case of the two reporters who refused to divulge their Plame-outing source was about to go easy on them when he read Fitzgerald's new information -- eight pages of which were redacted from the public -- and said that the national-security seriousness of what he read changed his mind. The court then ordered Time's Matthew Cooper and the New York Times' Judith Miller to testify or else; Cooper finally did, and Miller is in jail for contempt of court.

We don't know what is in those eight blacked-out pages.... But apparently they provide the locus around which Fitzgerald is building a case that could result in perjury indictments, at the least, for a number of Administration officials and perhaps journalists as well.

(Another judge said that the prosecutor's classified filing -- those missing eight pages -- "decides the case." In other words, to quote Lawrence O'Donnell: "All the judges who have seen the prosecutors secret evidence firmly believe he is pursuing a very serious crime, and they have done everything they can to help him get an indictment.")

Further, depending on what Bush and Cheney knew and when they knew it -- and what they did or covered-up in the possible light of such knowledge -- there may be plenty of ammunition for likely impeachment hearings. (Note: Bush hired a private attorney last summer for this CIA-leak case. )

Here's where Weiner thinks the case is leading—

... from what Fitzgerald has suggested, he and the grand jury long ago determined who the leakers were. That's not what is at issue now. The investigation is all tied in with the national-security matters talked about on those blacked-out eight pages.

And, a reasonable guess is that those pages deal in some fashion with the actions -- legal or illegal, overt or covert, actual or covered-up -- of the members of an inner council of Administration heavies called the White House Iraq Group [WHIG].

The WHIG consisted of

As Weiner puts it,

WHIG included the key decision makers (Rove, Rice, Card, Cheney-via Libby), and the key propaganda specialists (Hughes, Matalin, et al.).

Weiner concludes with a warning that I made recently in a different context—WOUNDED, CORNERED ANIMALS ARE DANGEROUS—

If and when the above scenarios start to unfold, it's not outside the realm of possibility that Rove would get desperate enough to try to question the motives and character of the Special Counsel himself, as BuzzFlash puts it, "to try to sink the investigation through an ad hominem attack. This is Rove's pathological gutter tactic. He doesn't know how NOT to use it when backed into a corner." Or Rove/Bush conceivably could do a Nixon and order Attorney General Alberto Gonzales to fire Fitzgerald.

Anything is possible as the Bush Administration paints itself further into the scandal corner, and, desperate to avoid criminal proceedings and/or impeachment, lashes out at its perceived enemies.

Weiner's article contains much more than I have summarized and bears a full reading. Please check it out.

And civil lawsuits too?

Lawyer Andrew Sebok has begun a two-part series exploring the question "Could Valerie Plame Sue Karl Rove?" Sebok notes that—

One of the greatest features of the American civil justice system--especially its tort law--is that it gives average citizens the power to force anyone, even Presidents, to answer them in court.1 Could Valerie Plame, the CIA agent whose identity was leaked to the press, take matters into her own hands and use the civil justice system to get Karl Rove - who may, it seems, have been the leaker -- to answer her in court?

If Weiner is correct in his speculation that Special Prosecutor Fitzgerald's investigations are leading him to the WHIG, Sebok may need to expand his series to consider possible targets for civil suits other than just Rove.

Related posts
Mud-wrestling: Dyncorp vs. Aegis (Updated) (7/22/04)
White House planning a pardon-fest (3/19/2005)
In their last throes (updated) (6/11/05)


1I touched upon this in "Dyncorp vs. Aegis"—

In America the secrets of government and business have three main routes of egress.

The third route ... is the most important. It is the only route in which the participants are actually constrained to reveal the truth. And the lovely part of it is that it is woven into the very fabric of capitalism. It is more reliable than whistleblowing because it does not depend upon individual courage. And it is more constant than official ineptitude because it depends upon greed. I am referring, of course, to the lawsuit.

The lawsuit is an instrument of the ruling classes, and because it’s their system, they want it to work. They rely on it because otherwise they might have to start killing each other, in which case they would not be able to enjoy the “fruits of their labor.” They would become essentially indistinguishable from the groups we refer to as “organized crime.” Of course, even in the best of society you have your occasional bad apple, but with regard to the courts, most of them “go along to get along.”


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