Public Nuisance

Random commentary and senseless acts of blogging.

The first Republican president once said, "While the people retain their virtue and their vigilance, no administration by any extreme of wickedness or folly can seriously injure the government in the short space of four years." If Mr. Lincoln could see what's happened in these last three-and-a-half years, he might hedge a little on that statement.
-Ronald Reagan

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Tuesday, July 22, 2003
Spy Games

New reports seem to validate charges that White House officials intentionally blew the identity of a CIA covert operative, Valerie Plame, in order to discredit her husband, Joseph Wilson.

Intelligence officials confirmed to Newsday yesterday that Valerie Plame, wife of retired Ambassador Joseph Wilson, works at the agency on weapons of mass destruction issues in an undercover capacity - at least she was undercover until last week when she was named by columnist Robert Novak.

Although a CIA agent and the wife of a thoughtcriminal who has openly criticized Our Leader, Plame does not appear to be either gay or Canadian.

If true, this is vastly more serious than the original misstatement that the White House is trying to protect. It is at least as serious as the 'smoking gun' tape that finally forced the resignation of Nixon. And, so far, it is drawing little attention from the SCLM.

A look at Google shows that it is mostly blogs, actually mostly liberal blogs, that are following the story. Google gets 172 hits for Valerie Plame, of which it shows 43. Some of these are mainstream media, some are mentions in bios of Wilson. Most are references in generally liberal blogs. Oddly enough, the only right-leaning blogs showing on the search were seeming to hint at some sort of a vast left-wing conspiracy to discredit Bush, although they never really explained just what the conspiracy was. If any conservative bloggers so far have actually thought that exposing a CIA agent and weakening our defense against WMD might be an excessive tactic to score political points, Google hasn't yet heard about it.

Plame is described as working for a "private research group" which never seems to be identified. Such groups, if they employ a CIA covert asset, are often CIA fronts. Did outing Plame compromise more than one CIA operative?

Update: I missed earlier this piece, linked by Instapundit. It also criticizes the reporting about Plame but, more than the posts I linked earlier, does raise some meaningful issues.

MinuteMan's main point, which is correct and worth noting, is that neither of the two pieces which launched this controversy, by Time and Robert Novak, explicitly say that reporters were told by administration officials that Plame was a CIA operative. But Novak does say, "Two senior administration officials told me Wilson's wife suggested sending him to Niger to investigate the Italian report." Since Wilson stated in his NYT piece that he was asked to go by the CIA, that isn't quite pointing the finger, but comes pretty close. It at least is a clear statement from Novak that senior administration officials made statements which clearly implied that Plame had tight Agency connections. Time attributed the ID of Plame to "government" rather than "administration" officials, a distinction which MinuteMan thinks is clearly significant. He may well be right, but whether it is a difference in substance or merely wording seems ambiguous to me. Time's anonymous government officials do appear to have an anti-Wilson, pro-Bush agenda.

In all of this, nobody seems to have produced support for the allegation that Plame was behind the choice of Wilson to make the trip. In fact Wilson, who had served in both Niger and Iraq, was a rather obvious selection. Nor has anyone explained why it would be a problem, even if true. Wilson received no payment for his efforts. His expenses were reimbursed, but a free trip to Naimey is not exactly a plum equivalent to Paris or Hong Kong.