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Pay no attention to the people behind the curtain

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

McIlheran Watch: We can power Al Gore's house with that spin (Libby trial)

by folkbum
UPDATED below

Unless you've been in a salt mine all day, you've probably heard that Scooter Libby got convicted for lying to investigators and the grand jury in the investigation into the leak of CIA agent Valerie Plame Wilson's name to the press, possibly as retaliation for her husband Joe Wilson's truth-telling about the way intelligence got fudged in the run-up to the Iraq war.

Let me repeat that: Scooter Libby got convicted for lying to investigators and the grand jury.

Unless you live in Patrick McIlheran's fantasy world, that is. He blogged today, "Libby guilty. Of something or other."
Lewis I. "Scooter" Libby may spend one to three years in the sneezer for ... for... for whatever he's guilty of.

Even the jury wasn't apparently sure, and they did the convicting.

Formally, it was that Libby, a top aide to Vice President Cheney, lied to the FBI when it was trying to find out who "revealed" the "secret" identity of CIA operative Valerie Plame.
Media Matters anticipated this kind of spin, and you can read their pre-emptive strike for some specifics about how what McIlheran is shrugging off as "something or other" is actually a relatively big deal.

But McIlheran here is spinning so hard he lets fly with an outright falsehood--something he usually manages to avoid, relying instead on innuendo. [See important UPDATE below] But today he writes:
Plame's "cover" was long before blown: Her identity as a CIA employee--presumably, this was the secret that Libby or Karl Rove or someone else let out of the bag--was mentioned in her own husband's Who's Who entry. Read more on it here.
I've included McIlheran's links in case you don't believe me. But this is, in fact, a blatant lie. You can look at Who's Who entry for yourself, where, yes, it does give Plame's name. But, significantly, not her occupation. When you read the links, you find Bob Novak's admission that he "learned Valerie Plame's name from Joe Wilson's entry in 'Who's Who in America.' " Her name, not her occupation.

Further, Patrick Fitzgerald made it clear that Plame was covert in filings that Libby didn't contest. In addition, the CIA has since revealed that she was working for a front company (Brewster Jennings, which Novak also named), doing work on WMD, particularly Iran's nukes. The revelation of Plame's name tanked all of that, and Libby's lying during the investigation made it more difficult for Fitzgerald to ferret out the truth.

(I dealt with this exact same lie last summer when a certain blogger I won't link to anymore--at least not since he called me a Nazi--spread the same lie.)

UPDATE, Wednesday morning: McIlheran has removed the offending paragraph I quote above from his blog post, and replaced it with this:
Libby isn't the guy who gave away Plame's identity to the press. Her identity as a CIA employee--presumably, this was the secret that Libby or Karl Rove or someone else let out of the bag--was mentioned by another administration official that we now know was Richard Armitage, a State Department guy who was generally skeptical about the war. Her name Novak got from her own husband's Who's Who entry. Read more on it here.
I've again included all of McIlheran's links. He maintains the original paragraph was "an error," though I would be more likely to believe that it was really a mistake if the same falsehood hadn't been making the conservative rounds--and getting throroughly debunked--a year ago.

Even with that paragraph changed, there remains quite a lot of spin and falsehood, including the statement that Scotter Libby and Karl Rove didn't give Plame's name to any reporters: Armitage told Novak, sure, but it is well documented that Libby told Judy Miller and Rove told Matt Cooper. His implication that Libby and Rove didn't do any leaking is still untrue (perhaps "an error"?).

And he maintains that Plame wasn't covert. But this is belied, again, by a number of facts, including the fact that CIA director George Tenet referred the case to the Justice Department in the first place: If the CIA didn't feel that its operations had been damaged by the leak, why would it have asked for an investigation?

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