What if Karl Rove isn't guilty of knowingly leaking Valerie Plame's name as a covert CIA agent involved in nuclear proliferation issues? What if Rove's lawyer, Robert Luskin, is
correct when he says that he's been assured by prosecutors that his client is
not a target of the ongoing investigation into Plame-gate? I'm going to swim against the tide, here, and against the expectations of my readers, by suggesting that this investigation isn't about Rove – and, furthermore, that Rove is a victim, in an important sense, someone who was used and abused by the real culprits. And who are these mysterious culprits? We'll get
to that in a moment, but first some background…
One thing that has always struck me as odd about this whole affair – and I
wasn't the only one – is a seemingly minor detail: why did Novak's
original column, which started all this brouhaha, identify Valerie Plame by her maiden name? After all, most married women – even in this era of Women's Liberation – defer to the tradition of taking their husband's name, but I have to admit that, even after wondering about it for a brief moment, I shrugged and moved on. As it turns out, however, this is an important detail, because now we have Rove's lawyer saying that he at no time gave out Valerie
Plame's name: but if Rove identified her as Joe Wilson's wife, what the heck is the difference?
The difference is that, as Valerie Plame, Mrs. Wilson was affiliated with a CIA front company,
Brewster-Jennings & Associates, engaged in tracking and stopping the proliferation of nuclear weapons. As soon as her name was made public, the implications for U.S. national security amounted to a grave breach – far more of a crime than merely violating the
Intelligence Identities Protection Act, which has only had a
single prosecution since its passage in 1982. As the Washington Post reported when the Plame scandal broke:
"A former diplomat who spoke on condition of anonymity said
yesterday that every foreign intelligence service would run Plame's
name through its databases within hours of its publication to
determine if she had visited their country and to reconstruct her
activities. 'That's why the agency is so sensitive about just
publishing her name,' the former diplomat said."
The publication of her maiden name not only endangered Valerie
Wilson, but also blew the cover of a CIA front and imperiled anyone
she might have come in contact with during her stint overseas. This
isn't just a matter of of violating a statute that, at most, entails
a 10-year jail sentence and a fine – this is a question of possible
What also seems fairly clear is that Karl Rove would not have had
direct knowledge of Plame-Wilson's covert activities on behalf of
the CIA, and that only a very few people high up in the national
security bureaucracy had the clearance to get access to her name. So
who was it? If Rove leaked to Novak, and
half a dozen Washington reporters, then who leaked to the leakers?
This isn't about Rove.
It's about a cabal of war hawks inside the administration who passed on this
information to others without telling them about Plame-Wilson's deep
cover status, perhaps suggesting that she was just an analyst
working at a desk rather than a covert operative involved in a
vitally important overseas operation, the knowledge of which was
highly compartmentalized and only dispensed on a need-to-know basis.
When Rove and his shills blabbed to reporters and anyone who would
listen, they didn't realize that they were aiding and abetting an
elaborate ploy to stick it to the CIA.
Seen against the backdrop of the fierce intra-bureaucratic war that broke out in the
administration in the run-up to the Iraq war – with the CIA and the mainline intelligence and diplomatic communities pitted against civilian neoconservatives in the upper echelons of the Pentagon and the Office of the Vice President – the outing of Plame and her colleagues amounts to an act of espionage committed out of a desire to exact revenge. The leakers meant to retaliate not just against Joe Wilson, through his wife, but against the "old guard" that was resisting the campaign to lie us into war. When the CIA wouldn't go along with the neocon program and "spice up" their analyses with Ahmed Chalabi's tall tales and the outright forgery of the Niger uranium documents, the War Party struck back at them with the sort of viciousness for which the
neocons are rightly renowned.
The neocons had a fix on their target; now the question was how to get someone else to pull the trigger. The leakers, in order to protect themselves, "laundered" the leak through journalists (Judith Miller, one of their favorite conduits) and Bush operatives – Rove. In his book,
The Politics of Truth, Joe Wilson says as much:
"Apparently, according to two journalist sources of mine, when
Rove learned that he might have violated the law, he turned on
Cheney and Libby and made it clear that he held them responsible for
the problem they had created for the administration. The protracted
silence on this topic from the White House masks considerable
tension between the Office of the President and the Office of the
"The rumors swirling around Rove, Libby, and Abrams were so
pervasive in Washington that the White House press secretary, Scott
McClellan, was obliged to address them in an October 2003 briefing,
saying of Rove: 'The president knows he wasn't involved. … It's
simply not true.' McClellan refused to be drawn into a similar
direct denial of Libby's or Abrams's possible involvement, however."
Suddenly, the complacent – and often complicit – American media seems to be waking up.
Reporters are now publicly pillorying White House spokesman Scott McClellan:
"QUESTION: You're in a bad spot here, Scott…
"(LAUGHTER) "… because after the investigation began – after the criminal
investigation was under way – you said, October 10th, 2003, 'I spoke
with those individuals, Rove, Abrams and Libby. As I pointed out,
those individuals assured me they were not involved in this,' from
that podium. That's after the criminal investigation began. Now that
Rove has essentially been caught red-handed peddling this
information, all of a sudden you have respect for the sanctity of
the criminal investigation.
"MCCLELLAN: No, that's not a correct characterization. And I
think you are well aware of that."
Reporters who heard McClellan's assurances back in October 2003
weren't being deceived so much as lulled to sleep, and that really
didn't take much of an effort on the part of the administration, now
did it? They were basically asleep anyway, and weren't really
listening to what was being said. Some people were paying attention,
however, and taking notes,
Joshua Marshall for one:
"So, when McClellan was asked to be more clear, he opted for a
meaninglessly vague statement and then fell back on the 'leaking of
classified information' dodge. Can we all take note of this now?
That denial wasn't what it seemed to be. In fact, I doubt it was a
real denial at all.
"There's more there. Why not find it?"
Patrick J. "Bulldog" Fitzgerald is now in the process of finding it – and Rove is not his
real quarry, although he and some others in the White House could wind up as collateral damage. By all indications, Bulldog's real target points more in the direction of the Office of the Vice President. Ambassador Wilson knows who his enemies are, and he
pointed to them in his book and in an interview with Joe Conason in Salon:
"Gleaned from all those crosscurrents of information, the most
plausible scenario, and the one that I've heard most frequently from
different sources, has been that there was a meeting in the middle
of March 2003, chaired by either [Cheney's chief of staff] Scooter
Libby or the vice president – but more frequently I've heard chaired
by Scooter – at which a decision was made to get a 'work-up' on me.
That meant getting as much information about me as they could: about
my past, about my life, about my family. This, in and of itself, is
abominable. Then that information was passed at the appropriate time
to the White House Communications Office, and at some point a
decision was made to go ahead and start to smear me, after my
opinion piece appeared in the New York Times."
"Salon: You mention two other names: John
Hannah, who works in the Office of the Vice President, and David
Wurmser, who is a special assistant to John Bolton, the
undersecretary of state for arms control and national security. Last
Wednesday, their names both appeared on a chart that accompanied an
article in the New York Times about the Pentagon's Office of
Special Plans and the war cabal within the Bush administration. Did
these people run an intelligence operation against you?"
"Wilson: I don't know if it's the same unit, but
it's very clear, from what I've heard, that the meeting in March
2003 led to an intelligence operation against my family and me.
That's what a work-up is – to try to find everything you can about
an American citizen."
After the War Party met in solemn conclave, and the command went
out from Cheney: "Bring me the head of Joe Wilson!", there was only
one logical place for Cheney's minions to go. Who in the
administration would've had access to the specific information
regarding Plame-Wilson's role in a deep-cover CIA operation
involving nuclear proliferation? Why, the man who was the State
Department deputy secretary in charge of "weapons of mass
destruction" – the somewhat irritable if not downright reckless John Bolton,
would-be ambassador to the UN, who played a central role in promulgating the Niger Uranium Myth. Conveniently, two of Bolton's assistants, David Wurmser and John
Hannah, also worked in Cheney's office. A story by UPI's Richard Sale, published last year, points at Cheney's office and specifically at Hannah as having played a key role in all this:
"Federal law-enforcement officials said that they have
developed hard evidence of possible criminal misconduct by two
employees of Vice President Dick Cheney's office related to the
unlawful exposure of a CIA officer's identity last year. The
investigation, which is continuing, could lead to indictments, a
Justice Department official said.
"According to these sources, John Hannah and Cheney's chief of
staff, Lewis 'Scooter' Libby, were the two Cheney employees. 'We
believe that Hannah was the major player in this,' one federal
law-enforcement officer said. … The strategy of the FBI is to make
clear to Hannah 'that he faces a real possibility of doing jail
time' as a way to pressure him to name superiors, one federal
law-enforcement official said."
Hannah is Cheney's Middle East policy point-man, and before that
was director of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy (WINEP). Middle East
expert Juan Cole shines his reportorial flashlight on what's under that particular rock:
"Libby and Hannah form part of a 13-man vice presidential
advisory team, sort of a veep NSC [National Security Council], which
helps underpin Cheney's dominance in the US foreign policy area.
Hannah is a neoconservative and old cold warrior who is really more
of a Soviet expert than a Middle East expert. But in the 90s he for
a while headed up the Washington Institute for Near East Policy (WINEP),
a think tank that represents the interests of the American Israel
Political Action Committee (AIPAC). Hannah is said to have been
behind Cheney's and consequently Bush's support for refusing to deal
with Yasser Arafat. But he was also deeply involved in getting up
the Iraq war.…"
The AIPAC connection should raise a red flag: AIPAC is already at the center of a case involving espionage conducted by Israel against the United States, with Pentagon analyst Larry Franklin indicted [.pdf] for passing classified information on to longtime AIPAC leader
Steve Rosen and his aide Keith Weissman, with an Israeli embassy official, chief
political officer Naor Gilon, directly involved. In both cases, which involve the
unlawful dissemination of sensitive U.S. secrets, the defense is
claiming that "everyone does it" and that the classified information
they're accused of leaking – or, in AIPAC's case, directly handing
over to the Israeli government – is supposedly "common knowledge."
Treason is nothing to these people, because their real allegiance is not to the U.S., but to their own cause, which is perpetual war. Libby and Hannah were the enforcers who made sure
that the lies put out by this administration to bamboozle us into war with Iraq were strictly adhered to within the government. Libby was a frequent visitor over at CIA headquarters, along with his boss, and, as Juan Cole writes:
"[H]annah had fingers in all three rotten pies from which the
worst intel came – Sharon's office in Israel, the Pentagon Office of
Special Plans (for which Hannah served as a liaison to Cheney), and
fraudster Ahmed Chalabi's Iraqi National Congress. Hannah had
probably been the one who fed Cheney the Niger uranium story,
triggering a Cheney request to the CIA to verify it and thence Joe
Wilson's trip to Niamey in spring of 2002, where he found the story
to be an absurd falsehood on the face of it."
In short, Hannah was at the center of that vortex of deception that swept us into a disastrous war. When Ambassador Wilson came out with his famous debunking of the infamous
"16 words," Hannah was well positioned to go after the heretic.
If we look at the passing of this leak as we would a ball game, as "super
smart commenter Sara" pointed out on Digby's blog, the probable trajectory of the ball as it makes its way to the goal goes something like this: "Bolton to Wurmser and Hannah, to
Cheney (and/or Libby) to Rove." In this case, however, unlike soccer or basketball, possession of the ball is not an asset: according to the rules of this game, the last man holding it loses.
I do not believe for a moment that this lengthy and increasingly
controversial investigation is centered around alleged violations of
a rarely invoked statute, incurring a penalty that hardly seems
proportionate to the energy expended to get a conviction. It is
extremely hard to prove that someone has violated the Intelligence
Identities Protection Act; there are all sorts of conditions and
sub-clauses that provide a legal escape route for anyone so charged: that can't be what all this
If, however, Fitzgerald can prove there was a conspiracy inside
the government to collect and selectively reveal classified
information in order to crush political opponents, and shape U.S.
policy, then the charges could be much more serious. By all
accounts, the Plame investigation is said to be widening, and I
would venture to say that by this time it is wide enough to include
charges of espionage. The mere existence of a highly placed cabal
that was engaged in collecting and utilizing highly sensitive
information – a kind of intelligence bank that existed outside of
normal governmental channels – would be of great interest to the
FBI's counterintelligence unit, and word is out that they've been
plenty busy lately. Who made withdrawals from this Intelligence
Bank, and did any of these account holders include foreign governments – such as
Iran, which received an intelligence treasure trove fromneocon poster boy Ahmed Chalabi, and Israel, which is already under suspicion because of the Franklin affair, and has
close links to several of the suspects in the Plame-gate investigation?
And then there is the question of the Niger uranium forgeries themselves: who forged the documents that fooled a president? Wilson's exposure of the Niger uranium ploy
angered whoever introduced those documents into the U.S.
intelligence stream – it was Hannah and Libby, by all accounts, who
fought to keep these allegations in the president's speech, in spite of
opposition from the CIA and the State Department. The same crowd
that pushed this phony intelligence must have known something about
the murky origins of what turned out to be a crude forgery.
Forging "evidence" that helped get us into a war – what are the penalties for that?
The fast developing scandal seemingly centered around Rove and a
few journalists has only begun to unfold. By the time it is over,
we'll have the War Party – or, at the very least, a few high profile
representatives – in the dock, and then the fun will really begin.
So forget "Rove-gate" and get ready for "Cheney-gate." I'll gladly
forgo the pleasure of seeing the president's chief political advisor
frog-marched out of the White House for the prospect of seeing our
vice president, along with his top staffers, led out of the Eisenhower Executive Office Building in handcuffs.
ALSO SEE "THE WEB OF LIES RUNS DEEP"
Before the war, many experienced voices told Bush that the war on terrorism had to go through Jerusalem — that finding a just and honorable solution to the Palestinian question would do wonders for our international reputation. By throwing the prestige of the American presidency into such an effort, Bush could have demonstrated to the Arab world that we were genuine in our desires for justice.
THIS COULD HAVE BEEN ACCOMPLISHED FOR A FRACTION OF THE COST OF THE IRAQ WAR AND WITH NO LOSS OF AMERICAN OR IRAQI LIVES.
But Bush invaded Iraq instead! We now know that the "American Likud" in the Pentagon manipulated and overstated the intelligence that took us to war, while ignoring the intelligence that didn't support their preconceived plans. We now are bogged down in an endless bloody occupation of a fractured foreign country on the verge of civil war.
IT'S TIME FOR THE AMERICAN PEOPLE TO CLEARLY SEE WHO PROMOTED THE IRAQ WAR, AND WHY. AND IT'S TIME FOR US AMERICAN CITIZENS TO SEE WHO INFLUENCES THE DECISIONS THAT PRESIDENT BUSH MAKES.
From this site: http://www.goalsforamericans.org/commentary/?id=304