End of the Wilson-Plame Scandal?
After initial outrage when the story broke,
If, indeed, any Administration official leaked the name of an undercover CIA agent, risking not only her life but that of her sources, they should be imprisoned. If it can be demonstrated that President Bush knew of this, it would of course be an impeachable offense for which he should be removed from office. But let’s wait and see.
I quit writing about the Novak-Wilson-Plame matter once it became clear–months ago–that there was much less to it than first met the eye. The recent report from the Senate Intelligence Committee, hyped as demonstrating that the CIA got much wrong in the lead-up to Iraq, seems to have taken the rest of the air out of the balloon. Several bloggers did a good job on this story over the weekend and yesterday.
Hindrocket explains why Wilson is a liar.
One of the most stunning revelations contained in the Senate Intelligence Committee report on the CIA is that virtually everything Joseph Wilson has said about his trip to Niger, and the report that Iraq tried to buy uranium from Niger, is a lie.
First, contrary to what Wilson has said publicly, his wife, CIA employee Valerie Plame, did recommend him for the Niger investigation: [WaPo excerpt]. Further, the Senate report indicates that Plame and Wilson, from the beginning, had an absurdly biased view of the subject Wilson was supposed to be investigating: “The report said Plame told committee staffers that she relayed the CIA’s request to her husband, saying, ‘there’s this crazy report’ about a purported deal for Niger to sell uranium to Iraq.”
As has been widely reported, Wilson conducted a half-baked investigation into the uanium report. But here is the most astonishing fact uncovered by the Senate Intelligence Committee: in his book and in countless interviews and op-ed pieces over the past year, Wilson has been lying about the contents of his own report to the CIA!: [WaPo excerpt].
The essence of the entire scandal has been the contention that the White House deliberately endangered a CIA agent’s life in order to punish Wilson. Must we recount all of the paranoid pieties about how “this White House will stop at nothing to silence its enemies”? Now Marshall’s new talking point is a legalism. Well, excuse me: If in fact the White House inadvertantly revealed Plame’s identity in order to explain why a dishonest hack like Wilson was being sent to Africa (i.e. “His wife pulled some strings”) and not so as to endanger a whistle-blower’s life that sounds like more than a matter of “some political traction.” That sounds like the whole enchilada, scandal-wise.
Pejman Yousefzadeh notes that this doesn’t necessarily end the legal debate:
My reading of 50 U.S.C. sec. 421 suggests that even if Administration officials identified and leaked Plame’s name as a way of responding to queries about how Wilson–who admits that he did little in Niger except “drinking sweet mint tea and meeting with dozens of people”–a crime may still have been committed (but see this [Juan Non-Volokh] post, suggesting an alternative possibility).
Ogged has some mixed views about the legal issues as well. Both seem to agree, though, that the nature of the scandal is decidedly less, well, scandalous, given the new revelations.
Dan Drezner explains why:
The apparent disconnect between what Wilson said in his report versus what he said in June 2003 — combined with Plame’s role in hiring Wilson in the first place, contrary to previous reports — make it appear that both of them were lying in order to try to embarrass the administration. This does not excuse whoever leaked Plame’s identity to Novak. It does, however, provide an more understandable motivation than simple intimidation.
Indeed. It seems perfectly reasonable that one would want to undermine Wilson’s credibility when Wilson is on the attack against one’s own integrity. The intial buzz was that someone–someone yet to be identified, all these months later, incidentally–outted his undercover agent wife in order to get back at him for exposing their lies. As it turns out, the wife wasn’t really undercover, Wilson lied about the nature of his appointment, and the thing he supposedly revealed turns out to be a lie as well.