Monday, August 01, 2005

I'm back

I arrived back in the UK this morning and am trying to get back into the swing of things. I was most sorry to hear that I missed the Scott Burgess/Guardian brouhaha while I was gone, but it seems to have culminated in the resignation of The Guardian’s executive editor for news, Albert Scardino. Chalk another one up for the blog world.

Anyway, before I move forward on to new things, I need to look back, to an article written by Paul Harris in The Guardian/Observer just after my departure from the UK two weeks ago. It was, ostensibly, yet another look at the Valerie Plame controversy in which Karl Rove has found himself embroiled. I say ostensibly because, while Harris has certainly told the story that the Dems would like to be told, he has hardly given an accurate portrayal of the situation, filling his article with distortions, misinformation, and outright falsehoods.

After providing a slipshod treatment to the background to Joe Wilson’s NYT article and how the Plame/CIA connection became public through a Bob Novak column, Harris writes:
Novak's column, citing two administration sources, said Wilson's wife, Valerie Plame, worked at the CIA. Such a leak could have had two aims. First, it would punish the Wilsons by blowing her cover and thus jeopardising her career. Second, it would warn others doing CIA work not to speak out publicly against the White House.
Here Harris deceives his readers by presenting these two aims as the only two possibilities, while ignoring the possibility (indeed, the most probable possibility) that the leak was aimed at countering the falsehoods in Wilson’s original article, specifically his claim to have been acting at the behest of VP Cheney. In fact, Novak himself has said that his contact with the White House that resulted in him finding out about Plame was prompted by his desire to find out why in the world the White House would send a Clinton administration diplomat on an intelligence gathering mission. In other words the Plame revelation came not from a desire to “punish” the Wilson’s or send a “warning” to the CIA, but instead was aimed at setting the record straight that Wilson was not sent by the White House, but rather was sent by his wife.

Harris then goes on to say:

But [the leak] was also illegal.
No, no, no. What is it with the inability of the British press to get this point correct? As I have pointed out in the past, it is not at all clear that the leak was illegal, and it appears increasingly likely that it wasn’t. Even Harris’ fellow Guardian writer Julian Borger acknowledged way back on June 28 that:
Reports from the investigation have suggested that it has decided that the leak of Ms Plame's identity did not represent a violation of the intelligence identities protection act, and is concentrating instead on the possibility of perjury charges.
Perhaps Harris should spend some time reading his own employer’s newspapers rather than DNC press releases.

More Harris:

Not only was her career ended, but national security had been harmed.
How exactly national security has been harmed by Plame’s outing remains unstated, probably because Harris is simply repeating a DNC talking point rather than reporting known facts. But the claim that Plame’s career was ended by the "revelation" of her employer (a fact apparently already widely known) appears to be simply false. According to USA Today, Wilson has acknowledged that "my wife was not a clandestine officer the day that Bob Novak blew her identity." If that is true, she was already working for the CIA in a capacity other than as a covert agent, and Harris provides no reason to think that her outing would prevent her from continuing in that capacity.

Harris goes on to point out that Karl Rove has become a focal point because, it turns out, he acted as a second source to Novak’s original article, apparently confirming to Novak that his information about Plame’s involvement in sending Wilson to Africa was correct. But then Harris makes an extremely odd point, saying that “Rove's only way out is a legal one.” This seems a rather redundant point to make, given that the “only way out” of any legal trouble is necessarily a legal way out. And Harris has been crystal clear, to the point of falsely asserting the definitive existence of a crime, that the trouble for the source of the Plame leak is a legal one.

Anyway, Harris concludes:
If the legal case against Rove has holes in it, the political case is more damning. For the first time in years the Democrats can exploit a scandal that is easy to understand.
Easy to understand? Let’s see. Harris asserts unequivocally that the leak was a crime, when in fact it is not at all clear that such is the case. Harris asserts that the leak was aimed at “punishing” Wilson and sending a “warning” to other CIA critics, but he seems ignorant of the fact that the leak actually came as the unavoidable consequence of correcting a false claim made by Wilson. One can’t help but wonder, if the scandal is so easy to understand, why Harris himself is so confused.

2 Comments:

Anonymous Mark said...

It's looking increasingly like this whole blow-up over Rove "outing" Plame is the result of yellow journalism (ie. literally making up the story) on the part of some media outlets, here in the U.S. They have nothing to go on except insinuation. They assume he had something to do with it because he was in a position of power. There's no "there" there, yet they insist there is.

I found this article on Accuracy in Media: http://www.aim.org/media_monitor/3878_0_2_0_C/

Quoting from the article:

[Bruce] Sanford [one of the authors of the Intelligence Identities Protection Act] went on to say that "It is worth remembering that when Robert Novak, the columnist, disclosed her identity in his column, he had called the CIA to tell them he was going to do that, and they didn't stop him. They did not do what the CIA normally does in that situation if they want to protect or continue to protect somebody's identity...They didn't call his syndicate. They didn't scream at him, say you're going to endanger her life or [en]danger her career, that sort of thing. They just sort of shrugged and said, 'Well, I guess she won't be getting any more overseas assignments.' I don't think that's the kind of affirmative measures that the agency needs to be taking in order to invoke the statute."

On July 16, however, the New York Times reported that the case involved "blowing her cover as a covert operative." The Times won't let the facts get in the way of a good story. Its agenda is the same as CBS-get Bush through Rove.

9:19 AM  
Anonymous Mark said...

A good follow-up article at AIM:
http://www.aim.org/media_monitor/3879_0_2_0_C/

Goes more in-depth on what really happened, and analyzes possible motivations of Wilson and Plame.

9:28 AM  

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