News and events revolving around the ousting of CIA agent Valerie Plame.

Thursday, July 21, 2005

Rove violation only one flame in conflagration

Posted: July 21, 2005
by: Editors Report / Indian Country Today

If Deep Throat had ultimate justice (and perhaps some retribution) in mind when he led the trail of Watergate to Nixon, the intent of Karl Rove, the alleged Shallow Lips of Plamegate, lacks any such lofty value. Plamegate refers to the growing scandal of a White House office likely betraying an undercover CIA agent in order to get at a ''political enemy.''

The intent for Rove was to destroy the credibility of the agent's husband, a career diplomat who correctly questioned a significant intelligence claim - Saddam's alleged purchase of uranium from Niger - used to justify the hyped-up war against Iraq. The senior U.S. diplomat was Joseph Wilson, who had been assigned by the U.S. government to get the facts and whose measured assessment contradicted the rush to judgment of a Bush government already committed to a war of invasion and occupation. His wife's name, Valerie Plame, was first revealed by acerbic pundit Robert Novak.

The nimble Rove, who has launched and sidestepped many a dirty deed in his 20-plus years of building the difficult credibility of his career candidate, George W. Bush, seems a cornered man this time. Rubbish, once delicious, now gathers around him as he is ''outed'' daily in the national news for his role in the campaign to discredit Wilson.

It all stinks, but the worst of all is that it fits the overwhelming pattern of the aggressive political culture of the ultra-conservative movement. Most tellingly, it exposes the extent of willingness to suppress objective intelligence while building a case for a war plan already in motion. The public revelation of Plame's name (who was a loyal servant of the country before Rove focused on her) is one of the worst political dirty tricks in decades. Plamegate is about political retribution at its worst and it deserves to be fully prosecuted as an example to the country that this type of political behavior is not tolerable.

The Plamegate scandal now becomes an urgent political discussion. The case features a main player in Rove, who most clearly exemplifies how far the White House circle has been willing to go to suppress not only opponents but also the actual intelligence as it formulated sensitive foreign policy. Rove is the political ''Rasputin'' of Bush's inner circle - ''the architect,'' Bush has nicknamed him. For others, Rove is ''Bush's Brain,'' as a book and documentary by that name argued. More exactly, Rove is the jugular man of the G.W.B. juggernaut. He goes for the kill every time, at least in the political arena. He plays rough and doesn't hesitate to besmirch his opponents by creating media negativity with planted suggestions and lies. He is masterful and brilliant, with a keen sense of timing and a ruthless propensity to willingly muck up the nature of open discourse.

The apparently preferred methodology of putting ideology and political motive ahead of objective intelligence assessment is increasingly suspect to an American public growing weary of losing young lives and future economic well-being to a war decided upon so arbitrarily.

Significant numbers of learned people - largely ignored by the mainstream media - made it clear before it was launched that making war on Iraq ran against the current of common sense facts on the ground. Major players - including Bush the elder and his then-general, Colin Powell - had known better in 1991 than to occupy Iraq with American armed forces. Adeptly, and with statesmanlike acumen, they understood that Iraq's ethnic composition and history would prove a most dangerous and self-defeating deployment of American forces (not to mention the potential horrific toll and loss of life inflicted upon the Iraqi people once their society was fractured).

Ignoring the advice of the elder generation of Republican leadership, the administration moved directly to make war. Charged with messianic planning by his top ''thinkers,'' the makers of the war policy were adamant about brushing aside any contradicting intelligence. Thus, President Bush was convinced American ''power and will'' would be sufficient to permanently formalize and democratize the monumental sandstorms of violence and tentacled political quicksands of the controverted region.

On the political rumble level, Rove moved to destroy anyone with information contradicting the prescribed route to war on Iraq. The wanton miscalculation, at a time when strategic depth could have reaped huge rewards for a more inclusive U.S. foreign policy, has been very costly, both in lives and in treasure.

The Iraq quagmire is increasingly revealed as the result of decisions based on ideological directive rather than the pragmatic assessment of likelihood of success or failure. Tunnel vision is the hallmark of the ideologue.

Which points to the deepest consequence of the Rove debacle, featuring as it does a prime example of the harsh, valueless approach now common to political strategy and practice. One or another of the radical fringes of U.S. politics was bound to break through and invade the core institutions of the country. The right beat the left in that battle, and its true-believer minions have infected the core of American political institutions. Rove is a general to those happy-go-lucky political troops, but the real troops are in Iraq, dying.

Only now, boots deep in mud and gore, is the American public waking up to the long-term, seemingly never-ending, war policy it voted in and apparently signed up for. The Rove spy-outing affair, Plamegate, is only one symptom eliciting attention. Curing the disease will prove substantially more difficult.

Ex-officers: CIA leak may have harmed U.S.

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Eleven former intelligence officers say the leak of CIA officer Valerie Plame's identity may have damaged national security and the government's ability to gather intelligence.

The former officers made their views known in a three-page statement to congressional leaders.

They said the Republican National Committee has circulated suggestions for officials to deal with the Plame case by focusing on the idea that Plame was not working undercover and legally merited no protection.

Thousands of U.S. intelligence officers work at desks in the Washington area every day whose identities are shielded, as Plame's was when her identity was leaked by Bush administration officials, the 11 former officers said.

The former officers' statement comes amid revelations that top presidential aide Karl Rove was involved in leaking Plame's identity to columnist Robert Novak and Time magazine reporter Matthew Cooper.

Vice President Dick Cheney's chief of staff, Lewis Libby, also was a source for Cooper on the Plame story.

The Plame leaks followed public criticism of President Bush's White House by Plame's husband, Joseph Wilson.

Wilson, a former ambassador and career diplomat, suggested administration officials had manipulated intelligence to justify going to war in Iraq.

A criminal investigation into the leaks is under way.

"Intelligence officers should not be used as political footballs," the 11 said. "In the case of Valerie Plame, she still works for the CIA and is not in a position to publicly defend her reputation and honor."

Copyright 2005 The Associated Press

Plame's Identity Marked As Secret

Memo Central to Probe Of Leak Was Written By State Dept. Analyst

By Walter Pincus and Jim VandeHei
Washington Post Staff Writers
Thursday, July 21, 2005; A01

A classified State Department memorandum central to a federal leak investigation contained information about CIA officer Valerie Plame in a paragraph marked "(S)" for secret, a clear indication that any Bush administration official who read it should have been aware the information was classified, according to current and former government officials.

Plame -- who is referred to by her married name, Valerie Wilson, in the memo -- is mentioned in the second paragraph of the three-page document, which was written on June 10, 2003, by an analyst in the State Department's Bureau of Intelligence and Research (INR), according to a source who described the memo to The Washington Post.

The paragraph identifying her as the wife of former ambassador Joseph C. Wilson IV was clearly marked to show that it contained classified material at the "secret" level, two sources said. The CIA classifies as "secret" the names of officers whose identities are covert, according to former senior agency officials.

Anyone reading that paragraph should have been aware that it contained secret information, though that designation was not specifically attached to Plame's name and did not describe her status as covert, the sources said. It is a federal crime, punishable by up to 10 years in prison, for a federal official to knowingly disclose the identity of a covert CIA official if the person knows the government is trying to keep it secret.

Prosecutors attempting to determine whether senior government officials knowingly leaked Plame's identity as a covert CIA operative to the media are investigating whether White House officials gained access to information about her from the memo, according to two sources familiar with the investigation.

The memo may be important to answering three central questions in the Plame case: Who in the Bush administration knew about Plame's CIA role? Did they know the agency was trying to protect her identity? And, who leaked it to the media?

Almost all of the memo is devoted to describing why State Department intelligence experts did not believe claims that Saddam Hussein had in the recent past sought to purchase uranium from Niger. Only two sentences in the seven-sentence paragraph mention Wilson's wife.

The memo was delivered to Secretary of State Colin L. Powell on July 7, 2003, as he headed to Africa for a trip with President Bush aboard Air Force One. Plame was unmasked in a syndicated column by Robert D. Novak seven days later.

Wilson has said his wife's identity was revealed to retaliate against him for accusing the Bush administration of "twisting" intelligence to justify the Iraq war. In a July 6 opinion piece in the New York Times and in an interview with The Washington Post, he cited a secret mission he conducted in February 2002 for the CIA, when he determined there was no evidence that Iraq was seeking uranium for a nuclear weapons program in the African nation of Niger.

White House officials discussed Wilson's wife's CIA connection in telling at least two reporters that she helped arrange his trip, according to one of the reporters, Matthew Cooper of Time magazine, and a lawyer familiar with the case.

Prosecutors have shown interest in the memo, especially when they were questioning White House officials during the early days of the investigation, people familiar with the probe said.

Karl Rove, President Bush's deputy chief of staff, has testified that he learned Plame's name from Novak a few days before telling another reporter she worked at the CIA and played a role in her husband's mission, according to a lawyer familiar with Rove's account. Rove has also testified that the first time he saw the State Department memo was when "people in the special prosecutor's office" showed it to him, said Robert Luskin, his attorney.

"He had not seen it or heard about it before that time," Luskin said.

Several other administration officials were on the trip to Africa, including senior adviser Dan Bartlett, then-White House spokesman Ari Fleischer and others. Bartlett's attorney has refused to discuss the case, citing requests by the special counsel. Fleischer could not be reach for comment yesterday.

Rove and Vice President Cheney's chief of staff, I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, have been identified as people who discussed Wilson's wife with Cooper. Prosecutors are trying to determine the origin of their knowledge of Plame, including whether it was from the INR memo or from conversations with reporters.

The Wall Street Journal reported Tuesday that the memo made it clear that information about Wilson's wife was sensitive and should not be shared. Yesterday, sources provided greater detail on the memo to The Post.

The material in the memo about Wilson's wife was based on notes taken by an INR analyst who attended a Feb. 19, 2002, meeting at the CIA where Wilson's intelligence-gathering trip to Niger was discussed.

The memo was drafted June 10, 2003, for Undersecretary of State Marc Grossman, who asked to be brought up to date on INR's opposition to the White House view that Hussein was trying to buy uranium in Africa.

The description of Wilson's wife and her role in the Feb. 19, 2002, meeting at the CIA was considered "a footnote" in a background paragraph in the memo, according to an official who was aware of the process.

It records that the INR analyst at the meeting opposed Wilson's trip to Niger because the State Department, through other inquiries, already had disproved the allegation that Iraq was seeking uranium from Niger. Attached to the INR memo were the notes taken by the senior INR analyst who attended the 2002 meeting at the CIA.

On July 6, 2003, shortly after Wilson went public on NBC's "Meet the Press" and in The Post and the New York Times discussing his trip to Niger, the INR director at the time, Carl W. Ford Jr., was asked to explain Wilson's statements for Powell, according to sources familiar with the events. He went back and reprinted the June 10 memo but changed the addressee from Grossman to Powell.

Ford last year appeared before the federal grand jury investigating the leak and described the details surrounding the INR memo, the sources said. Yesterday he was on vacation in Arkansas, according to his office.

© 2005 The Washington Post Company