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Pay no attention to the people behind the curtain

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

McIlheran Watch: I think I'm owed an apology

by folkbum (UPDATED below)

I'd like to see Patrick McIlheran spin his way out of this:
An unclassified summary of outed CIA officer Valerie Plame's employment history at the spy agency, disclosed for the first time today in a court filing by Special Counsel Patrick Fitzgerald, indicates that Plame was "covert" when her name became public in July 2003. [. . .]

The unclassified summary of Plame's employment with the CIA at the time that syndicated columnist Robert Novak published her name on July 14, 2003 says, "Ms. Wilson was a covert CIA employee for who the CIA was taking affirmative measures to conceal her intelligence relationship to the United States."

Plame worked as an operations officer in the Directorate of Operations and was assigned to the Counterproliferation Division (CPD) in January 2002 at CIA headquarters in Langley, Virginia.

The employment history indicates that while she was assigned to CPD, Plame, "engaged in temporary duty travel overseas on official business." The report says, "she traveled at least seven times to more than ten times." When overseas Plame traveled undercover, "sometimes in true name and sometimes in alias -- but always using cover -- whether official or non-official (NOC) -- with no ostensible relationship to the CIA."
McIlheran's not the only one, of course, who sputtered and blustered for the last three years that Valerie Plame was not covert, and, therefore, Scotter Libby was railroaded. But his bluster was plenty loud, and loaded with falsehoods (and how!).

He seemed bothered that I insisted on accuracy. But I do, and when last we left the matter, he not only seemed convinced that Scooter Libby did nothing wrong (though Libby admitted to giving Plame's name to reporters), but that Plame wasn't really all that covert. Let's see if he corrects the record.

UPDATE: I should add this:
Special counsel Patrick J. Fitzgerald has made it clearer than ever that he was hot on the trail of a coordinated campaign to out CIA agent Valerie Plame until that line of investigation was cut off by the repeated lies from Vice President Cheney's former chief of staff, I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby. [. . .]

Despite all the public interest in the case, Fitzgerald has repeatedly asserted that grand-jury secrecy rules prohibit him from being more forthcoming about either the course of his investigation or any findings beyond those he disclosed to make the case against Libby. But when his motives have been attacked during court proceedings, Fitzgerald has occasionally shown flashes of anger -- and has hinted that he and his investigative team suspected more malfeasance at higher levels of government than they were able to prove beyond a reasonable doubt.

In Friday's eminently readable court filing, Fitzgerald quotes the Libby defense calling his prosecution "unwarranted, unjust, and motivated by politics." In responding to that charge, the special counsel evidently felt obliged to put Libby's crime in context. And that context is Dick Cheney.

Libby's lies, Fitzgerald wrote, "made impossible an accurate evaluation of the role that Mr. Libby and those with whom he worked played in the disclosure of information regarding Ms. Wilson's CIA employment and about the motivations for their actions." [. . .]

Not clear on the concept yet? Fitzgerald adds: "To accept the argument that Mr. Libby's prosecution is the inappropriate product of an investigation that should have been closed at an early stage, one must accept the proposition that the investigation should have been closed after at least three high-ranking government officials were identified as having disclosed to reporters classified information about covert agent Valerie Wilson, where the account of one of them was directly contradicted by other witnesses, where there was reason to believe that some of the relevant activity may have been coordinated, and where there was an indication from Mr. Libby himself that his disclosures to the press may have been personally sanctioned by the Vice President."
McIlheran and his ilk have been insisting for three years that the Libby case, the whole investigation into who leaked a CIA agent's name to the press and why, has been pointless. But here it is clear both that the investigation was necessary and that Libby's obstruction made it more difficult (as obstruction often does) for FItzgerald to get to the bottom of what happened. To suggest now that he was a scapegoat, or that he should be pardoned, is ridiculous.

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