Saturday, October 29, 2005

Plame recap

So the Plame investigation has come to somewhat of a conclusion with the indictment of Scooter Libby on charges of perjury and obstruction of justice. Given the length and convoluted nature of the whole investigation, it is probably worth remembering how this whole thing started.

A fairly detailed account of it can be found here, but in brief, a former diplomat, Joe Wilson, was sent by the CIA in February 2002 to Niger to investigate claims about Saddam attempting to purchase uranium there. In the summer of 2003, after the liberation of Iraq, Wilson penned an article in The New York Times criticizing Bush for using the uranium purchase allegation in the run-up to the war, an allegation which Wilson claimed, based on his trip, to know was false. Robert Novak then wrote an article in which he revealed, based on sources in the White House, that Wilson’s trip to Niger came at the behest of his own wife, Valerie Plame, who worked at the CIA. This column produced an uproar, since Plame had at one time (if not still currently) been a covert agent, the deliberate outing of which can be a federal offense. An independent investigator was appointed to investigate 1) who in the White House leaked the information that Plame worked for the CIA; and 2) whether or not a crime had been committed when Plame was outed.

Today, the independent prosecutor produced the results of his grand jury investigation into the matter. And what have we learned? First, given that Fitzgerald has failed to produce any indictments on the actual outing of Plame, it appears that the supposed crime which instigated the whole episode did not, in fact, occur. Second, we still have no idea who in the White House leaked the name of Plame to Novak, who, despite being the author of the article which outed Plame, appears only once in the entire 22-page indictment of Libby. And that single reference to Novak seems to suggest that Libby, the only person who is now under indictment, did not even speak to Novak.

So what has this nearly 2 year investigation into a crime that apparently never occurred produced that we would not have had the investigation never occurred? An indictment of a person for allegedly lying about what he said to, and what was said to him by, reporters who never wrote anything publicly about Valerie Plame at all. In other words, what was uncovered was not a crime against Plame, the CIA, or the nation’s security, which prompted the investigation in the first place, but instead a crime against the investigation itself, a crime that would not have occurred (if indeed it did occur) had the investigation into a non-crime never been instigated.

If – if - Libby lied to the grand jury, then he deserves the indictment. But given the results, I’d say that this investigation wasn’t exactly a fruitful one.


Blogger Jim B said...

Did CIA Request a Bogus Investigation?

Evidence is emerging in portions of articles written by fact gathering journalists that there is a strong possibility the CIA started the Valerie Plame outing investigation to embarrass and perhaps even compromise the present administration. The article written by Robert Novak was cited by the CIA as outing Valerie even though her husband, Joe Wilson had already compromised her cover as shown by the Seattle Times, October 29,2005 article written by Washington Post reporter Richard Leiby as follows:

Seattle Times, October 29,2005

Plame entered the CIA nearly 20 years ago as a case officer. She spent several years in intensive training at home and abroad, and traveled widely, often presenting herself as a consultant.
Her official employer, listed in public records, was a Boston firm, now known to have been fictitious, named Brewster Jennings & Associates. During her years undercover, she studied at the College of Europe in Bruges, Belgium.
When she met her future husband, Joseph Wilson, an ambassador, at an embassy party, she introduced herself as an "energy analyst." It was a story she would tell friends and neighbors for years.

All that changed after Wilson publicly revealed in The Washington Post and The New York Times on July 6, 2003, that he had officially investigated, and discounted, claims by President Bush that Iraq was trying to buy a key ingredient for nuclear weapons from Niger.
"The fact is, once your husband writes an op-ed piece and goes political, you have no immunity, and that's the way Washington works," said Robert Baer, who served in the CIA's clandestine service.

Intelligence officials said they never would reveal the true extent of her contacts to protect the agency and its work.

"You'll never get a straight answer about how valuable she was or how valuable her sources were," said one intelligence official who would speak only anonymously.

Washington Post reporter Richard Leiby

Many in administrative positions in the CIA are angry at the administration for being shown to be the source of bad information used by the administration to make decisions that took us to war with Iraq and also having been shown inept at gathering intelligence prior to 9/11 that might have prevented 9/11. (Although the restrictions put on the CIA and FBI by Congress are at the heart of the inability of both institutions to function.)

This agency anger may well be at the heart of the CIA’s request for the investigation. The reason an anonymous intelligence official said, "You'll never get a straight answer about how valuable she was or how valuable her sources were," is because if the CIA admitted Joe Wilson had previously compromised his wife’s cover there would be no reason for the investigation.

Bringing about perjury charges against a selfless man like Scooter Libby over inconsistencies in memory of several people is a criminal act in itself if the investigation was started, as it appears to have been, as a vindictive act.


5:34 PM  

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