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Atmospheric Venting

Murray Waas is reporting that Vice President Cheney authorized the leaking of portions of the classified report concerning Wilson’s Niger trip as part of the campaign to discredit the former ambassador. While neither Wilson nor his wife are mentioned in the document in question, it does raise some significant questions about the Bush administrations attitude towards national security, and our state secrets.

My fundamental interests in life center around information. As a writer of both fiction and non-fiction, and a student of information and linguistic sciences, I've come to be quite aware of the impact of new facts on one's understanding of the world. What I've learned, though, is nothing new. There was a famous poster about it some time ago: loose lips sink ships.

Information always has its implications. Facts don't exist in a vacuum. Take an agent's identity. Even if they are safe at home, there are perhaps hundreds of others, both innocent and not, whose lives and freedom are endangered by revelations of their identity. Valerie Wilson had sources. Now some of the governments she spied on can follow her footsteps and investigate those she dealt with, some of whom were likely her agents.

The average American doesn't understand the distinction between sources and operatives. They ran Valerie NOC because OC (official cover) involves a connection to an embassy which generally sends up red flags about a person. The idea with employing an Non-Official Cover operative would be that people associated with them would be less intensely watched, which would gain us greater access.

There might have been a reason, one could argue, why the Central Intelligence Agency found the mental fortitude necessary to resist that strong impulse to run to the top of the building in Langley and string up a banner saying "Valerie Wilson is a CIA operative!"

All joking aside, the CIA kept things under wrap for a good reason. Plame's identity was not necessarily the only leak that could pose a danger, though. There's a reason why there's a process for declassifying information, not just snap decisions all the time.

A piece of information might be useful for the purpose of anticipating an attack, for example, but revealing that information itself could be problematic if the information is restricted to certain specific people. Announcing such a secret could alert our enemies to the presence of a spy, leading to death, interrogation, or if they're feeling really froggy, a decision to turn the source into a font of misinformation.

This was information that the Bush Administration was handing out left and right, for educational purposes.

There's an interesting paragraph somewhere in the article that I think sums up one of the potential issues of the haphazard attitude towards secrecy:

Regarding the release of Plame's name and CIA employment, a senior administration official said that even if Cheney did not directly authorize Libby to leak the information to the press, the vice president might have set a climate in which his aides viewed it as routine to release classified information whenever it served their purposes.

The Bush Administration has to be one of the least disciplined governments I have ever seen, except in terms of message control. It's walked into one predictable disaster after another. It almost goes without saying that one should be careful with classified information, but with this and many other such leaks of this kind made, we have to ask whether this administration has forgotten this rather simple truth in the midst of its good intentions and self-righteousness. Worse yet, we're only learning about this now, instead of hearing them admit it months before this time. Why is that important? It comes down to whether they knew they had crossed a line.

This administration, at some point realized that it had committed one of the cardinal sins of intelligence gathering, and that any hint of this getting out would gut the chances of a president who was running on his record of making America more secure. Of course, if these things are true, if they were this lax and cavalier on such important matters, then maybe they deserved to see something happen to their reelection chances. After all, the point of having to stand for reelection is to review your conduct to see if you're worthy of a new term.

This is no dead horse here. This is our standards of who we put in the leadership of our country.

Posted by Stephen Daugherty at April 14, 2006 9:19 PM
Comment #140770

Well said Stephen.
For once, beyond the Nixonian “If the president does it, it’s legal” nonsense, I’m uncertain how the freepers here will defend their Lords Dick and Bush.

Posted by: Dave at April 14, 2006 10:31 PM
Comment #140779

I never understood how exposing a CIA agent, even if it was Wilson’s wife, could discredit Wilson’s claim that the Africa/Iraq/yellow cake connection lacking credibility.

The only thing I can figure is that if someone, Wilson’s wife or one of her informants for instance, met with a sudden supicious accident it might give Wilson a reason to keep his opinions to hinself.

Posted by: Arm Hayseed at April 14, 2006 11:04 PM
Comment #140780

Nice post. Anything I might add would probably be superfluous.

Posted by: wanna_be_jack at April 14, 2006 11:07 PM
Comment #140781

Arm Hayseed:

I never understood how exposing a CIA agent, even if it was Wilson’s wife, could discredit Wilson’s claim that the Africa/Iraq/yellow cake connection lacking credibility.

I’ve never heard anyone infer or imply such a thing until you did just now. I’ve always heard that the suspicion was that she was outed in retaliation for Wilson contradicting Bush/Cheney’s claims based on forged evidence. See, Wilson heard that they were going to tell everyone that they had this proof that Iraq was trying to acquire yellowcake in Niger. Wilson told his contacts that they shouldn’t say that because it wasn’t true. They went ahead and did it. Then Wilson wrote an article in the NY Times that said it’s not true, and here’s what is true that I found out when I went to Niger on a factfinding mission for the CIA. It was shortly after this that Plame was outed.

Posted by: wanna_be_jack at April 14, 2006 11:15 PM
Comment #140784

Arm Hayseed-
The claim on the right was that this was a politically motivated move on this couple’s part, that they were out to get the president on this issue. A number of folks on the Red Column have treated this outing as the Wilson’s just deserts. Trouble is, even if the punishment was justified, which it is isn’t, the punishment has spread way beyond her, potentially to the very kind of assets it would be in our interest to cultivate and protect.

Politics can sometimes be seen to be like a game. Unfortunately, some people take that similarity, and play it like its the reality of politics. In fact, its just one attitude one can run things with. My point here, of course, would be that the best attitude is one that respects the realities of the field in question.

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at April 14, 2006 11:30 PM
Comment #140803

You are extrapolating again and getting things mixed up. The Plame case is a different matter. Let me once again quote the WP:

“After more than 2 1/2 years of investigation, Mr. Fitzgerald has reported no evidence to support Mr. Wilson’s charge. In last week’s court filings, he stated that Mr. Bush did not authorize the leak of Ms. Plame’s identity
Mr. Libby’s motive in allegedly disclosing her name to reporters, Mr. Fitzgerald said, was to disprove yet another false assertion, that Mr. Wilson had been dispatched to Niger by Mr. Cheney. In fact Mr. Wilson was recommended for the trip by his wife.”

So we agree that outing Plame was bad. Whether or not it was a crime, who did it first or if it was damaging to our security is open to some debate, given her particular status, BUT that is not the point. As Fitzgerald said, Bush did not authorize it.

Generally revealing such secrets is a bad thing. If people break the law, they should be punished. But that is getting ahead of yourselves. Oh yeah - Merry Fitzmas again.

Don’t get them mixed up.

Posted by: Jack at April 15, 2006 12:44 AM
Comment #140804

“potentially to the very kind of assets it would be in our interest to cultivate and protect.”


I’d like to ammend that to say, “potentially to the very kind of assets it would be in our interest to cultivate and protect TO GUIDE US AND PROTECT US IN DEALING WITH THE CURRENT IRANIAN NUCLEAR CRISIS.”

IMO this is the most blatant disregard for national security shown by any administration in my adult lifetime. Given Bush’s own words since this came to light he is IMO guilty of treason. Not nearly guilty of, no ifs, ands, or buts. Our own president is guilty of treason and no one is doing jack shit about it!


Posted by: KansasDem at April 15, 2006 12:46 AM
Comment #140809


It’s all tied together. It’s rather like saying, “I didn’t tie my shoes until after I pulled my pants up”. Suggesting that the “Plame affair” is not part of an act of treason is either ridiculous or ignorant.

Seriously think about it! “I had to get the truth out there so I released this info”! Well, duh, it was at best partly true. Facts keep proving it was totally untrue. Bush lied! Bush committed treason!

Bush needs to be impeached and then held accountable for his misdeeds!


Posted by: KansasDem at April 15, 2006 12:58 AM
Comment #140810

You can extrapolate all you want. I read the article Stephen referenced. Lots of inuendo, not much fact and nothing really new.

Fitzgerald investigated for 2 1/2 years and found what he found.

It is interesting when Dems call for investigations and when the investigation does not show what they want, they just keep up their myths.

When Clinton was President I didn’t believe he and Hilary killed Vince Foster. Lots of people did and they though it was clear. Fortunately, we still require proof. I told people then what I am telling you now. YOur string of conditional probabilities yields a near zero result.

Posted by: Jack at April 15, 2006 1:22 AM
Comment #140811

Please, please,
Would someone explain the connection of what Wilson said about the Uranium had to do with the outing of Wilson’s wife, Plame. I had a stroke in late 2003, and much of my short term memory is gone.
I don’t understand the connection.

I obviously missed something, because I honestly thought there was only one leak, and that came from Scooter’ Libby, who now says Cheney implied that he should find a reporter and leak it. I thought that was about Plame.

So I am totally confused.

Would someone PLEASE outline the the events in a sensible order, so I can understand what all the discussion has been about?

Posted by: Linda H. at April 15, 2006 1:37 AM
Comment #140814

Linda H.

This is probably as good a time line as you’ll find:

I personally think they play down a lot of facts in this account. My simple opinion is that Joe Wilson was asked by the CIA to look into claims that Iraq had tried to obtain “yellow-cake” uranium from Niger. When Joe Wilson returned a report the administration didn’t like they “outed” Joe Wilson’s wife (Valerie Plame) who was a CIA agent so Joe would shut up. It was and always has been referred to as “dirty pool”. In this case I believe it’s called treasonous dirty pool.


Posted by: KansasDem at April 15, 2006 1:52 AM
Comment #140826
Please, please, Would someone explain the connection of what Wilson said about the Uranium had to do with the outing of Wilson’s wife, Plame.

Certainly - here you go:

1.) [Prologue] Joseph Wilson served in the State Department under George Herbert Walker Bush in the country of Iraq. He was later the U.S. ambassador to Gabon, which is quite close to and shares a common language with Niger. Whilst there, he made many contacts within the Nigerian government. Which is why:

2.) [Still Prologue] Wilsons wife, Valerie, was an agent at the CIA: she had held different positions in the agency over the years, from non-classified analytical work to undercover operational work. At the time of the big dustup, she was a Control Operator - “Control” - over a group of agents in foreign countries - “Assets” = “Agents” and “Cutouts” - tasked with aquiring intelligence on terrorist organisations seeking Weapons Of Mass Destruction. For this task, her status was Under Cover: Top Secret. None of her neighbours and few of her close relatives knew she even worked for the CIA.

3.) When questions arose over a spurious document (the signature at the bottom belonged to a Nigerian official who had been Dead some years before the date on the document…) seeming to indicate an effort by Iraq to purchase “yellow cake” Uranium from Niger, Wilson was suggested by supervisors at the CIA, who then broached the idea to Valerie Wilson as a likely individual to corroborate or disprove the information.

4.) Wilson was dispatched to Niger, where he determined, through his contacts, that the document and the information contained within it was spurious. He returned to the United States, and gave his report to the appropriate officials.

5.) When the results of his report were not used, and instead he kept seeing the Bush Administration citing the phony document as an excuse to justify the invasion of Iraq, Wilson grew angry and wrote his famous op-ed piece “What I Didn’t Find In Africa

for the New York Times.

6.) Angry at Wilson’s refusal to “play along,” the Bush Administration decided to both intimidate him and his wife, and dissuade other potential whilstleblowers from following his example. They did so by shopping around his wife’s identity as an officer at the CIA. Conservative columnist Bob Novak was all to happy to oblige.

7.) The result of this Political Payback was that Valerie Wilson’s entire worlwide operation (looking for terrorists trying to aquire weapons of mass-destruction, remember) was forced to close up. The cover organisation “Brewster Jennings And Associates,” was junked. Hundreds of agents and cutouts (persons who, while not formally Agents, volunteer to provide information or services to the CIA either for recompense, the promise of American Citizenship, or their own moral beliefs) in foreign countries became Targets: many had to flee; some were exiled; some were imprisoned; and some are now feared to have been assassinated by either their own governments or terrorist organisations they had infiltrated.

Essentially, it’s the same thing the Nixon White House did to Daniel Ellsberg (breaking into his psychiatrist’s office to Out his personal Medical Files) and others, with the Enemies List and the IRS abuses and so forth. In other words: Standard Conservative Operating Procedure.

Posted by: Betty Burke at April 15, 2006 5:57 AM
Comment #140833

I think I made it explicitly clear that this does not directly implicate Bush in the Wilson Leak. It does, however, speak to a certain attitude towards classified information.

I mean, can you tell me why protecting the Vice President’s reputation, and making rhetorical points against his critics and the critics of the war justifies the leak of classified information? From my perspective, and that of most Americans, no such leak is justified. Declassify that information or keep your damn mouth shut. You say, though, that as long as its legal, Bush and his administration should be able to leak. I’m arguing that such a self-serving attitude towards our nation’s secrets could have been the reason that an agent’s identity was blown to the world. Bush has gotten wrapped up in his causes, in his games of political survival, and he’s lost perspective on both the consequences and the morality of his actions. He set the tone for the people under him, and their actions are his responsibility. The buck stops with him.

But you folks keep on passing it for him, even cheering him on when he does things like this. It’s all about boldness and taking it to those liberals, isn’t it? Well like I said, sometimes people confuse politics being like a game with it’s actually being one, and unfortunately the GOP and this president have taken an anything goes approach to winning.

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at April 15, 2006 7:23 AM
Comment #140848

Thanks to both KansasDem and Betty.
So I wasn’t as off target as I felt.

Plame basically lost her cover out of revenge. Whether through Cheney or Bush,someone in the Bush Administration put Libby up as a scape goat. He was just doing what his superiors asked hin to do. right?

Very simplified.

Posted by: Linda H. at April 15, 2006 11:43 AM
Comment #140871

As long as Republicans control the House, nothing will come of the Plame case except the political embarrassment that has already occurred. Americans aren’t buying the slicing of the meaning of words and legal dodging being handed out by Republicans. If that leads to the Democrats taking the House Leadership back, then they will have the power of subpoena. It ain’t the crime, it’s the cover up that’ll do them in. Then there will be legal teeth in this case and others. I applaud the Republicans for consistency. Keep repeating, “The President is not a crook.” and you may unseat him.

Posted by: gergle at April 15, 2006 2:43 PM
Comment #140891
Whether through Cheney or Bush,someone in the Bush Administration put Libby up as a scape goat. He was just doing what his superiors asked hin to do. right?

Nixon employed a scumbag named Liddy to do his dirty work.

Cheney employed a scumbag named Libby to do his dirty work.

Except that, unlike Iron-Will Gordy G., “Scooter” is not going to bend over and pick up the soap…

They threw him over the side of the Lifeboat, and he is now clamoring at the gunwales, trying to get back in, and doing a damn good job (so far) of rocking the boat, endangering its stability!

Go, “Scooter,” go! :oD

Posted by: Betty Burke at April 15, 2006 4:08 PM
Comment #140892

BTW, “I was just Following Orders!” didn’t cut it at Nuremberg, and it shouldn’t cut it here…

Posted by: Betty Burke at April 15, 2006 4:11 PM
Comment #140909

What about following orders, but being forced to going public with critism of the current adminstration? This is something career military officials know more than anyone - something they have done for 30+ years each.

But the moment they go public, they are attacked for being “bad for the troops.” Same as the people who went public on the lack of proper armour… same as the people who went public with Abu Gharib images… It’s the HAWKS vs the CHICKENHAWKS.

And we get the obvious reaction from Bush - “You (person in trouble) are doing one heck of a job!”

This is the second time Rumsfield has been asked to step done, by people with the knowledge to know what’s needed… and again, they are ignored in favor of “staying the course.”

As someone said this weeked: “You can’t fix stupid.”

Posted by: tony at April 15, 2006 5:36 PM
Comment #140910

… that should’ve read “step down”…

Posted by: tony at April 15, 2006 5:37 PM
Comment #141101

Only thing Bushies care about is looting America’s assets. A lot of money goes missing when you have a Bush in the White House.

Posted by: Peter at April 16, 2006 8:54 PM
Comment #141335

Kind of reminds me of the Rodney King beating trial, when we kept being assured that the officers’ behavior was legal, it sure seems like the social subtext with many of us went something like… “But we don’t want that to be legal.” That some legal justification for Bush’s crimes can be formulated should not impress; that’s just the nature of our convoluted legal system. Given the precedent set under Clinton regarding suing a sitting president, have the Wilsons filed suit?

Posted by: Jim C. at April 17, 2006 10:17 PM
Comment #141352

yea and your boy rodney king was gulity as shit thats why he is in trouble with the law once again. Thats the problem with you liberlas always playing the race card to get ahead. And to inform you people that conservatives are getting tired of the race game. Its old and about ready to be banned. Race card want win you any votes. Maybe win your people some unlawful untruthfull money playing your race game but not votes.

Posted by: TheConservative at April 18, 2006 12:16 AM
Comment #141475

Dummies what is it about declassified information dont you understand?Let me break it down for you.Example when its declassified its not classified any more.

Posted by: saying at April 18, 2006 2:55 PM
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