Plame Sheds Little Light in Leak Case
Valerie Plame Wilson testified before Congress today, claiming that she was a covert operative at the time Richard Armitage leaked information to Robert Novak and that the content of that leak–that she had been behind sending her husband, Joe Wilson, to Niger, was false.
Her opening statement is transcribed here.
AP’s Matt Apuzzo, who has been reporting the ins-and-outs of this case for quite some time, sees little new.
Plame, the operative at the center of the leak scandal that resulted in last week’s criminal conviction of a former top White House official, created more of a stir by her presence on Capitol Hill than by her testimony. She revealed little new information about the case, which sparked a federal investigation and brought perjury and obstruction of justice convictions of Vice President Dick Cheney’s former top aide, I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby. No one has been charged with leaking her identity.
Still, Plame’s appearance before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee was a moment of political theater that dramatized Democrats’ drive to use their control of Congress to expose what they see as White House efforts to intimidate dissenters.
“My name and identity were carelessly and recklessly abused by senior officials in the White House and State Department,” Plame testified in her first public comments about the case. “I could no longer perform the work for which I had been highly trained.”
Plame repeatedly described herself as a covert operative, a term that has multiple meanings. Plame said she worked undercover and traveled abroad on secret missions for the CIA. But the word “covert” also has a legal definition requiring recent foreign service by the person and active efforts to keep his or her identity secret. Critics of special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald’s investigation said Plame did not meet that definition for several reasons and that was why nobody was charged with the leak.
Plame said she did not select her husband for a CIA fact-finding trip to Niger. Wilson later wrote in a newspaper column that his trip debunked the administration’s prewar intelligence that Iraq was seeking to buy uranium from Africa. “I did not recommend him. I did not suggest him. There was no nepotism involved. I did not have the authority,” she said.
That conflicts with senior officials at the CIA and State Department, who testified during Libby’s trial and told Congress that Plame recommended Wilson for the trip.
Columnist Novak has said that former Deputy State Department Secretary Richard Armitage first revealed Plame’s job to him and Bush’s political adviser, Karl Rove, and CIA spokesman Bill Harlow confirmed it.
Wilson has written a book, and Plame is working on one, “Fair Game.” Plame’s book is subject to a mandatory review by the CIA. On Thursday, Simon & Schuster spokesman Adam Rothberg would say only that the book was “in progress” and that publication was expected soon.
I don’t blame Plame for being outraged that her career was jeopardized by her identity as a CIA officer being revealed in the press. She told the committee, “I could no longer perform the work for which I had been highly trained. I could no longer travel overseas or do the work . . . which I loved. It was done.” [ellipses in original] If true, it’s truly a shame.
On the other hand, numerous people, including CIA official Bob Grenier, testified at the Libby trial that Plame suggested her husband for the Niger trip. Either they–and all the CIA paperwork behind the trip–are wrong, she’s lying, or she’s playing a Clintonian wordsmithing game in saying she “did not have the authority.”
Frankly, I think the same is true of her claims as to her status. The fact that Harlow confirmed her status to Novak without flinching makes it pretty clear he didn’t think she was a covert agent. And he told the VP’s press secretary about Plame’s connection in the assignment of Wilson without so much as a “Hey, don’t spread this around” warning. That’s simply not how CIA people treat information that’s remotely sensitive. Oh, and there’s this:
Plame said she wasn’t a lawyer and didn’t know her legal status, but said it shouldn’t have mattered to the officials who learned her identity.
As Tom Maguire snarks, “She’s so covert that not even she knows if she is covert!”
Goodness, it’s been four years now. You can get a night school law degree in that much time. Or spend five minutes talking to one of the CIA’s lawyers. Or, hell, perhaps a double naught spy would just know that they’re covert agents. And, if they weren’t smart enough for any of that, you’d think they’d at least be smart enough not to testify to Congress about their covert-osity.
And this is a bit melodramatic–if not disingenuous:
The harm that is done when a CIA cover is blown is grave but I can’t provide details beyond that in this public hearing.
But the concept is obvious. Not only have breaches of national security endangered CIA officers, it has jeopardized and even destroyed entire networks of foreign agents who, in turn, risk their own lives and those of their families to provide the United States with needed intelligence.
Lives are literally at stake. Every single one of my former CIA colleagues, from my fellow covert officers to analysts to technical operations officers to even the secretaries, understand the vulnerabilities of our officers and recognize that the travesty of what happened to me could happen to them.
We in the CIA always know that we might be exposed and threatened by foreign enemies.
Regardless of whether her status was “covert” in any meaningful sense of the word–and, as I have argued, it makes no sense that it could have been given how her own agency handled the matter–she was not an undercover field agent but rather a supervisor at headquarters. Her life was not in danger by this revelation. Again, the CIA press spokesman took Bob Novak’s call and confirmed that she worked there. Does anyone think he would have done that had her life been in danger? Or that former Infantry officer Bob Novak would have printed it in his column had he thought there any chance that harm would come to one of his country’s intelligence officers?
A far more likely explanation for this over-the-top testimony, it seems to me, is that Plame is angry at the Bush administration for — even if unintentionally — turning her life topsy turvy, making her into a major public figure, and saying mean and nasty (if arguably true) things about her husband. She’s perfectly willing to use whatever platform she can to get her licks in. And, as it happens, she and her husband have a book to peddle.
Good lord. There’s just nothing Bush’s gang will do that you won’t excuse, is there?
The fact that the CIA referred the case to the DOJ for prosecution, and the DOJ thought it worth prosecuting, is all I (and anybody remotely non-hack) need to know.
Wow. Again, I stand in stunned awe of y’all on this issue.
I quite agree. It seems clear to me that since the CIA referred the matter to the DOJ that Plame cannot be lying about anything.
And if James is a hack…what does that make somebody like Duncan “Atrios” Black? A lying sack? Just curious.
Zing! Great comeback, Steve.
Steve, how on earth is Jame’s hack status linked to Black’s? I mean, really. It’s like you’re saying “Yea, well your momma wears army boots!”.
I see James as being pretty even-handed. His posts are reasonable, he looks at the evidence, and he doesn’t have a catagory “Wanker of the Day” or whatever it is. Atrios/Black on the other hand strikes me as being rabidly partisan almost to the point of losing the ability to reason on occasion. Thus, calling James a hack strikes me as just being dumb.
Or in other words, calling somebody like Malkin a hack seems about right. Some of the stories she’s covered (Dubai, immigration, etc.) has been weak at best and outright hackery on others. But James? You can’t be serious.
Steve, I’m not about to call James a hack, but I do consider him to be in the “ignorance is a condition, stupidity is a strategy” camp. While you are quite correct that he doesn’t have a wanker of the day category, it’s also quite clear that comparing people across the isle is pretty silly. James’ shtick is “nothing to see, move along” and “I can’t for the life of me see what the issue is”. Intentional or not, the blind eye he turns (and advertises) serves precisely the same effect as Duncan’s wanker of the day – i.e. it’s there to lead thought and push strategy.
And I’m still wondering why even bringing Duncan up is even considered a defense – or an argument for that matter. Again, you can argue about James being a hack on the merits, but pointing to someone else and saying “what does that make them?” is basically argumentation at the level of a third grade playground. Whatever a lying sack Duncan may or may not be, it’s immaterial to whether James is a hack or not.
From what I’ve read today, she addressed this at the hearing – it was suggested by someone else that she send her husband and she was asked to write it up.
And while I can’t remember the book (maybe Hubris with Isikoff as the author) I read it in, after her outing the whole of Langley was demoralized and the Executive Director personally called here and told her if there was anything she wanted him to do, he would do it. Seems they thought it was fairly serious.
Perhaps he didn’t think the party of national security needed a reminder?
Was she under oath when she “testified”?
If so, we may get another perjury trial. Because either she is lying now or someone lied during the senate investigation and during the Libby trial. If she wasn’t under oath, then we have the unsworn testimony against the sworn testimony. That won’t stop the left from believing her and of course the press won’t bother mentioning the discrepancies.
Isn’t being turned into a major public figure the only reason she has a book to peddle?
From the opening committee statement (pdf). Pay particular attention to the first sentence.:
The CIA referral was not a referral under the terms of the Intelligence Identities Protection Act. Armitage committed no crime when he outed Plame to Novak. Victoria Toensing made this clear in her testimony today.
Here’s some of what she said:
“No White House can prudently safeguard classified or otherwise non-disclosable intelligence information (such as covert status) unless its own intelligence agency follows the proper procedures to inform it and its Executive branch clients of that classification or status. If Plame was really covert in July 2003 (or within five years of covert), the CIA was required under the statue to take “affirmative measuresâ€ to conceal her relationship to the United States, particularly because the criminal law comes into play. If Plame was really covered by the Act in July 2003, why did:
• The CIA briefer who said he discussed the fact of Wilson’s wife working at the CIA with Libby and the Vice-president, not tell them Plame’s identity was covert or classified;
• Richard Armitage, (who, having seen Plame’s name in a State Department memo from which he gave the gossip to Robert Novak and later asserted, “I had never seen a covered agent’s name in any memo…in 28 years of governmentâ€) not know Plame’s identity was not to be revealed;
• State Department Undersecretary, Marc Grossman, not know Plame’s identity was not to be revealed;
• CIA spokesman Bill Harlow tell Vice-president staffer, Cathie Martin, that Wilson’s wife worked at the Agency but not warn her Plame’s identity was not to be revealed;
• CIA spokesman Bill Harlow (who, according to Wilson’s autobiography, had been “alertedâ€ by Plame about Novak’s sniffing around, p. 346 [App. B, p3] ) confirm for Novak that Plame worked at the CIA;
• The CIA not send its top personnel, like the Director, to Novak and ask the identity of Plame not be published just as the government does any time it really, really, really does not want something public, e.g. in December 2005 when the New York Times was about to publish the top secret NSA surveillance program;
• The CIA not ask Joe Wilson to sign a confidentiality agreement about his mission to Niger (a document all the rest of us have to sign when performing any task with the CIA) and then permit him to write an OpEd in the NYT about the trip, an act certain to bring press attention, when his Who’s Who biography includes his wife’s name;
• The CIA allow Plame to attend in May 2003 a Democratic breakfast meeting where Wilson was talking to New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristoff about his trip to Niger;
• The CIA allow Plame to contribute $1000 to Al Gore’s campaign and list her CIA cover business, Brewster-Jennings & Associates, as her employer;
• The CIA give Plame a job at its headquarters in Langley when it is mandated by statute “to conceal [a] covert agent’s intelligence relationship to the United Statesâ€;
• The CIA send to the Justice Department a boilerplate 11 questions criminal referral for a classified information violation when its lawyers had to know that merely being classified did not fulfill the required elements for exposing a “covert agentâ€?
Such questions reveal slip-shod tradecraft, casting doubt on whether Plame’s identity was even classified, much less covert.
In fact, in a curious twist, while the CIA was turning a blind eye to Wilson writing about his mission to Niger (Did he go through the pre-publication review process like the rest of us have to do?), it was sending to the Vice-president’s office documents about that same trip and these documents were marked classified. So the very subject Wilson could opine about in the New York Times was off-bounds for the Vice-president to discuss unless the person had a clearance.”
Wow, so we’ve got a Michael Hayden-Victoria Toensing smackdown. One of them has to be wrong and, maybe, lying. Wonder who that would be . . .
My bet’s on Hayden. He hasn’t lied; he’s merely obfuscated. He cites Executive Order 12958 as controlling, but that EO protects classified information. The EO was issued by the Bush White House to modify earlier EOs governing the same subject matter.
It’s not the actual law that protects identities, the Intelligence Protection Act of 1982.
It’s not perjury, it’s misdirection.
Once you get past all this “inside baseball”, about the only solid conclusion is that the CIA is a sodden mess of incompetent, clueless bureaucratic brain-deads – with a political agenda.
Their track record over the past 20 years is continuing evidence of their waste of billions of dollars propping up their welfare-state of coffee breaks and foreign high-living.
Torch ’em all.
My guess those statements “approved” by Hayden are true in the same way that Waxman’s opening assertion that “one of the nation’s most carefully guarded secrets – the identity of covert CIA agent Valerie Plame Wilson” is true.
Or, to quote Bill Clinton, it depends on what the meaning of “is” is.
There’s no question that she was a covert operative doing dangerous work earlier in her career. As a consequence of being burned by Aldrich Ames, though, she had been moved back to headquarters years earlier.
And she’d been stuck at the GS-14 level–a big deal nationally but just a mid-level manager in DC–for quite some time if she’d reached Step 8. There are GS-15s in their early 30s running around DC.
No big deal that a CIA agent was outed.
And what a cute little smear, implying that she’s not very good, stuck at a “low” pay grade.
The bottom line is that any normal employee of the government would be fired for discussing CIA operatives with the press (or anyone without the proper clearance, for that matter), whether or not such a disclosure was against the law.
Karl Rove still has a top security clearance. Armitage has a top job. What a party of responsibility!
The right wing has spent years defending and minimizing the disclosure of secret information. Although now you’re reduced to arguing that the head of the CIA is making overly pedantic statements about her covert status. He must be suffering from BDS! It’s unpossible that she was actually covert!
After all is said and done…….she is a Fox.
The bottom line is that any normal employee of the government would be fired for discussing CIA operatives with the press (or anyone without the proper clearance, for that matter), whether or not such a disclosure was against the law.
No, they wouldn’t. Not if they got their information through open sources. Again, the CIA’s spokesman readily confirmed her status to Novak on open telephone wires.
No big deal that a CIA agent was outed.
She wasn’t, at the time of the outing, an “agent” in the normal meaning of that word. She was a headquarters case manager.
head of the CIA is making overly pedantic statements about her covert status.
Nope. I’m saying that Waxman is a liar. He didn’t present a statement from Hayden but rather a list of “true” things out of context in order to paint a false picture.
If Plame woke up one night, and really wanted to accost the person most directly responsible, all she would have had to do would be to roll over and wake him up.
Yes, they would. Because it is still not permissible to discuss confidential and secret matters even if they have been released to the public by others. Until the information is formally declassified, the only appropriate response is “no comment.” Seeking out reporters to spread the story is the furthest thing from ethical and responsible behavior with respect to national security matters.
If the CIA spokesman did confirm her status, they should be fired too.
Oh, so it’s fine to release information about former agents? Or agents working at HQ?
In one sense, I do appreciate how the right-o-sphere has positioned themselves as defending a partisan campaign to release national security secrets. Quite a winning position going into the ’08 elections.
James, if Hayden cleared a misleading statement for release – the unavoidable conclusion of your “Waxman is a liar” theory – then, uh, what the hell is up with Hayden?
Let’s keep in mind that, while you keep harping on the relative lack of danger to Plame herself, the issue of damage is far larger, as Plame herself has pointed out. There’s everyone she contacted during the course of her work. There’s Brewster-Jennings’ usefulness as a front company. That scratches the surface.
You guys, by which I mean Republicans top to bottom – the bottom being the bizarre misogynist rant by Dan Riehl yesterday – keep harping on the crime question and the narrow, legal construction of “covert,” betraying blithe indifference to the larger policy question: Plame was not on the public record as a CIA employee at the time the White House burned her. Washington is full of people who ARE on the public record as CIA employees. These people are REQUIRED to say they work for CIA, so they don’t mess things up for the people who are required to say that they DON’T. Plame was not, at the time of her burning, this former class of CIA employee – the openly employed by the agency kind.
It’s entirely possible that, had her career continued on a normal trajectory, she or Joe Wilson would have found themselves living – and working – abroad again. And there’s no reason to believe that she wasn’t still taking trips abroad.
Being assigned to CIA HQ does not in itself mean one is overt. If it did, every CIA employee would be overt because almost everyone from NCS rotates through Langley at some point.
“Her employmrent status with the CIA was classified information prohibited from disclosure
under Executive Order 12958.”
“At the time of the publication of Robert Novak’s column on July 14,2003, Ms. Wilson’s
CIA employment status was covert.”
James, are either of these statements from Waxman’s testimony lies?
How are they “out of context”?
If these are truthful, what other parts of Waxman’s testimony are lies?
To add to Jim’s previous comment, Plame was a NOC, her association with the CIA was classified. In the IC, people under cover are said to be in “Protect status” anytime their names are mentioned so as a reminder to all that their affiliation with the agency (or another agency) is classified. Plame was one of these “Protect” employees. Disclosure of “Protect” employee affiliation with the IC is tantamount to illegal disclosure of classified information. What the people excusing this do not like to mention is the the expense and time the CIA went into establishing Brewster-Jennings as a front company has completely been compromised. Plame was not an agent. The IC term for her is a “case officer” whose job is to recruit “sources.” Her outing puts in danger any foreigner who provided intelligence to the CIA. No doubt many foreign counterintelligence organizations have scrubbed their files of anyone that has ever been in contact with Plame over the years, probably a few have been put in danger. This will put a chill into any potential foreign sources in the future who contemplates working for the CIA. Is this okay in your book?
LOL, I stopped by this site (after a long absense) for a little entertainment and I got it in the first line:
“Valerie Plame Wilson testified before Congress today, claiming that she was a covert operative at the time Richard Armitage leaked information to Robert Novak and that the content of that leak—that she had been behind sending her husband, Joe Wilson, to Niger, was false.”
Yeah, not like somebody who worked for the actual CIA would know … especially not when so many old-time OTB posts “proved” otherwise.
You seem to skirt and invert that with your latter paragraph:
“Goodness, it’s been four years now. You can get a night school law degree in that much time. Or spend five minutes talking to one of the CIA’s lawyers. Or, hell, perhaps a double naught spy would just know that they’re covert agents. And, if they weren’t smart enough for any of that, you’d think they’d at least be smart enough not to testify to Congress about their covert-osity.”
Right, maybe they would know in the CIA sense, without knowing the legal sense.
Thanks for the comedy, especially as you continue:
“Regardless of whether her status was “covertâ€ in any meaningful sense of the word …”
God, the function of a rational mind is to acquire and integrate new knowledge, and it is fundimentally irrational to use the mental machinery (over the course of years!) to rationalize away that knowledge.
..to add to my post, any other CIA employees that might have used Brewster-Jennings as a cover have also been blown by this development. I don’t know how many covers that could be, but my bet is that it’s more than a couple. So Plame probably isn’t the only one whose clandestine career has ended as a result. Maybe somebody should ask CIA that question.
The FBI has agents but at the CIA agent has a very narrow and specific meaning. To the CIA an agent is a foreign national knowingly providing information to the US intelligence community. Moreover, within the CIA this difference is taken seriously and the inhouse culture is strong that CIA employees are not agents.
So when I read a comment by someone like Pat above who stats out by calling Plame an agent I immediately know she(he) does not have any idea of what she(he) is talking about.
I will take your arguments that Plame was not covert when you tell me why the CIA legal officers that started this entire investigation and the DoJ
lawyers who pursued it did not know what they were doing.
Very few CIA officers have commercial cover. Most cover is with some other US government organization. Commercial cover like Plame had is reserved for only a very few very special cases.
Langley headquarters is full of people with cover who in the normal course of their career rotate between assignments abroad and at headquarters.
It comes down to the points that you keep raising as evidence that Plame was not covert are simply either incorrect or are essentially irrelevant..
It wasn’t a defense Hal, but a question you keep dodging. James is clearly not in the same catagory as Black, so if James is chosing to remain stupid and ignorant what does that make Black? In my view, to remain intellectually honest you must rate Black very, very low–i.e. something like deliberately dishonest or soemthing along those lines.
Personally I think you and others on the Left are just a bit to credulous when it comes to the utterances of Plame and Wilson. What does that make you? Somebody who isn’t willing to engage in critical thinking and use anything that further’s your agenda?
After all Hal, you just don’t seem willing to even consider this possibility that James’ has raised:
Seriously, I have seen things like where Congress tries to browbeat the BLS into making decisions about the bias in the CPI, when it is quite clear it is the Congresses job to do that. Why? To have cover in case the elderly in their district complain. “Why it wasn’t me! It was those evil damn bureaucrats over at BLS.” Now if Congressmen are willing to do that over something as boring and practically off the radar for most people, you don’t think inter-agency rivalries might be playing out with Plame, at least to some degree?
I’m not asking you to believe this possibility, but merely acknowledge it as a possibility. I fully admit that another possibility is that the Bush Admin. wanted to shut Wilson up and used his wife to try and do it. I don’t think there is much evidence supporting this accusation (i.e., referral to the DoJ is not evidence) just as a police investigation into something you might or might not have done is not evidence against you (think of this last part this way: it is like saying, “Well the police are investigating Hal, so clearly he must have done something…ergo he is a criminal.”)
I seem to recall reading that if the person discusses/releases the name not knowing they are covert then the law doesn’t apply. Hence if Armitage learned of it via a non-classified document, didn’t learn that Plame/Wilson was a covert agent, then told Novak, then, my understanding, is that there was no violation of the law.
Lest the point be lost, let’s acknowledge that if such a law applies to Richard Armitage, it also applies to Scooter Libby.
This is clearly correct.
The key difference is between law and policy.
If a typical government worker releases confidential or secret information, then they are almost certainly in violation of policy regarding release such material. They are subject to suspension or revocation of security clearance, and possible loss of employment.
They may, or may not, be in violation of US law, particularly the very narrow identities protection act.
I don’t know what Armitage was thinking. He should certainly have better sense than to casually discuss the identity of CIA employees. The folks in the Vice President’s office certainly intended to use her status as a CIA officer to discredit her husband. Again, a typical government employee would not get the benefit of the doubt when they destroy a CIA cover operation and put agents and officers at risk.
Typical political double standard.
For all of the yelling about Sandy Berger, I would be quite happy if he were cell mates with Karl Rove for the remainder of their lives.
Well gee, I suppose that passes as “Democrat fairness” … equal up, regardless of what crimes were or were not committed.
Criminality on the part of Sandy Berger has been proven.
Not so, with Mr. Rove.
So what is it, other than your desire for a political reprisal, that drives you to such “equality”?
In reading the transcripts of their little show business stunt that Henry Waxman put on, yesterday, one is left with the impression that they working definition of “covert” is so secretive, that even the “covert” operative doesn’t know if they’re covert or not. Mr. Waxman meanwhile, seems interested in redefining other words, such as “leak”… so I suppose this seems par for the course.
It’s amazing how folks like Bithead are desperate to trust those in power who have repeatedly lied to the public and led America down a dangerous path. Love of power and secrecy in government is the new conservative mantra.
Of course Rove hasn’t been charged. He controls those who would possibly be investigating him. It just came out that the Whitehouse security office did not conduct an investigation of the Plame leaks. Finally, with an opposition party in Congress, there may actually be an investigation.
Like I said, keep it up! Keep arguing that it was okay to reveal CIA secrets. Everyday, you alienate more and more of the America.
Happily suffering Rove Derangement Syndrome with 70% of America,
You guys keep SAYING that, but offering no proof.