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Friday, July 14, 2006

Novak, Plame, DiGaudio, and the Lies that Won't Die

I am not an expert on the "Plame-Gate" mess. I mean, I hardly write about it at all, and when I do, it tends be lame comparisons to TV shows.

I am, however, an expert on beating back the lies and distortions of Wisconsin bloggers, since, you know, someone has to do it.

When Bob Novak published his column this week, he finally spilled some of the beans about what he--conspicuously silent for years--has been up to in the much-scrutinzed case surrounding the outing of CIA agent Valerie (Plame) Wilson, whom Novak named in another column way back in July of 2003. The Nov-ster was the first to print her name and note that she was a CIA analyst, a revelation--combined with his later naming of the front company she supposedly worked for--that jeopardized work on Mid-East weapons of mass destruction.

The new column provides some new information--the name of two of three of his government sources--but most of the info is stuff that even casual observers of the Plame Game have probably already heard. For example, there's the fact that he claims to have learned Plame's name from Who's Who in America. Fine; I'm willing to believe that his unnamed Bush Adminisration source told him that Ambassador Joe Wilson's wife worked for the CIA--the same CIA that sent Wilson to Niger where he learned that Administration claims of Iraq trying to buy yellowcake uraium were false, and that the infamous "16 words" in Bush's 2003 State of the Union were misleading at best. At which point, Novak flipped open his copy of Who's Who in America to the Wilson section and saw this (.pdf), which does in fact list Wilson's wife by her maiden name, Plame.

The problem is not, of course, that Novak put Plame's name in his column, nor even that he identified her as Wilson's wife. None of those things were secret. The problem is that her status as a covert operative for the CIA was a secret, and the revelation of her name--as well as Novak's subsequent naming of the front company she worked for--blew the cover of one US operation to stop the proliferation of WMD in the Middle East. (In the post below, I opted for a bad example of the Bush Administration interrupting one of its own investigations for partisan political purposes in the AQ Khan case; I could have used this one.)

Whether or not you buy the Who's Who story, one thing is clear: The book does not say Plame was a CIA operative, no matter what FOX News commentators might say.

And, of course, the Right Cheddarsphere is not far behind. From Peter DiGaudio, Wednesday:
Chicago Sun-Times columnist Robert Novak admits he learned that Plame, husband of noted Bush basher and Democratic operative Joe Wilson, was an analyst for the CIA from Wilson’s entry in Who’s Who in America.

That’s right. Who’s Who in America, not some nefarious plot by Dick Cheney and Karl Rove to “out” a covert agent in retaliation for Wilson’s activities. [. . .] In short, much ado about nothing.
Did you catch that? In complete contravention of what Novak actually said--as well as in complete contravention of the facts of the case--Peter dismisses the whole Plame affair as "much ado about nothing" based on the untrue assertion that Who's Who had outed Plame, not Novak. That's right; despite the fact that Plame was unquestionably covert, and that her neighbors didn't even know she worked at the CIA, Peter (and, apparently,a FOX News commentator) believes that she and Joe Wilson were so stupid as to have noted it in Who's Who.

I think this is all part of the undying lie that outing a CIA agent, as Novak did at the behest of his administration sources, is no big deal (much ado about nothing, so to speak). How anyone can believe this, I don't know. All the attempts, even in plain contradiction of the facts, to try to say that she wasn't undercover or at least not deeply, or that Aldrich Ames gave her name to the Russians, or whatever, is to try to make the investigation into how the outing happened seem illegitimate.

Remember that the one idicted person from the investigation so far was not, in fact, indicted for the outing, but for the cover-up; lying to the FBI and prosecutors is a crime no matter what you may be talking to them about. Even if no one is ever indicted for blowing the cover of a CIA agent to the press--and saying that she is "fair game," according to Chris Matthews--there is still something wrong (and suspicious) about an administration-organized cover-up. There's also something creepy about an operation hatched by the vice president (see his hand-written notes here) to get one guy just because that guy speaks out against the adminsitration. That sort of thing shouldn't be happening in this country, whether you think Wilson was right or not in what he said.

One thing I do know, though: Peter DiGaudio is most certainly not right in what he wrote. But, as he said in response to my comments telling him that, it will be a cold day in hell before he admits it.

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