Plamegate Rundown: WSJ's "Kerfuffle", Novak Keeps Backpedalling

Opinion Journal (rr)

The political goals must be paramount here because the substance of the story is so flimsy. The law against revealing the names of covert CIA agents was passed in 1982 as a reaction against leaks by Philip Agee and other hard-left types whose goal was to undermine CIA operations around the world. This case is all about a policy dispute over Iraq. The first "outing" here was the one Mr. Wilson did to himself by writing an op-ed in July for the New York Times.

An avowed opponent of war with Iraq, Mr. Wilson was somehow hired as a consultant by the CIA to investigate a claim made by British intelligence about yellowcake uranium sought in Niger by Iraqi agents. Though we assume he signed the routine CIA confidentiality agreement, Mr. Wilson blew his own cover to denounce the war and attack the Bush Administration for lying. Never mind that the British still stand by their intelligence, and that the CIA's own October 2002 National Intelligence Estimate on Iraq, since partly declassified, lent some credence to the evidence.

This is the context in which Mr. Novak was told that Mr. Wilson had been hired at the recommendation of his wife, a CIA employee. This is hardly blowing a state secret but is something the public had a right to know. When an intelligence operative essentially claims that a U.S. President sent American soldiers off to die for a lie, certainly that operative's own motives and history ought to be on the table. In any event, Mrs. Wilson was not an agent in the field but is ensconced at Langley headquarters. It remains far from clear that any law was violated.
How many facts are distorted in these three paragraphs? Let's find out:
  • Wilson outed himself first: it wasn't a felony to do so, and exposing his wife was.
  • This is hardly blowing a state secret: Well, that's what it was exactly.
  • ...Mrs. Wilson was not an agent in the field but is ensconced at Langley headquarters: This proves that her identity as a CIA agent wasn't classified?
  • It remains far from clear that any law was violated: Her classified identity was given to a reporter, which is a FELONY. The law has clearly been violated - her identity was classified and is now blown.
We'll keep saying it until you get it: Someone in the Bush administration burned this classified asset in America's war on terror. The WSJ calls this felony act a kerfuffle, a mini-tempest, flimsy, a scandal-ette, a minor and well-known story, a scandal game, and a pseudo-story. Most telling is this sentence: The real intelligence scandal is how an open opponent of the U.S. war on terror such as Mr. Wilson was allowed to become one of that policy's investigators. Let's forget for a moment that handing vetting procedures to a responsible opponent of your policy used to be considered objectivity. This is the very justification given by Novak's first SAO for blowing Wilson's wife's cover:
Wilson said in an Sept. 29 interview that a reporter had told him that the leaker said, "The real issue is Wilson and his wife."

Washington Post
Conservative pundits are trying to reinforce the "official spin" now that the deed has recieved full exposure. "They had it coming," says those who try to provide cover for these felons, "and there's more where that came from, too." This intellectual thuggery is beneath contempt.

Novak continues his attempts to throttle down the scandal he unleashed. He overstates Clifford May's claims of being told about Mrs. Wilson - while Clifford reports that he inferred her CIA identity was common knowledge, while Novak says he said baldly that it was. Novak still ignores that the revelation of his CIA status was a felony. It doesn't matter who called who - the important thing is the transmission of a particular piece of information. It doesn't matter that Novak feels it wasn't a planned leak - when six other journalist are getting calls from two top White House officials, there was a planned leak happening that Novak wandered into. It doesn't matter that "Valerie Plame" was a name already out there in the public domain - the felony consists of connecting "undercover CIA agent" to that name.

It also doesn't make Novak look too good to realize that he knew he could be causing difficulties for the Wilsons in the future, but ran with her name anyway.