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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Monday, September 29, 2003
Clifford May's feeble defense of the outing of Varerie Plame is revealing, but not in any way he intended.

On July 14, Robert Novak wrote a column in the Post and other newspapers naming Mr. Wilson's wife, Valerie Plame, as a CIA operative.

That wasn't news to me. I had been told that — but not by anyone working in the White House. Rather, I learned it from someone who formerly worked in the government and he mentioned it in an offhand manner, leading me to infer it was something that insiders were well aware of.

According to May's biography, he has held a variety of positions with the Republican Party and right wing think tanks, after a career in legitimate journalism. He has never been in public service, so it may be assumed he does not hold, and has never held, any form of security clearance. Yet an unnamed former official casually disclosed to him highly confidential U.S. secrets, a fact which Mr May seems to consider quite ordinary.

In other words, Mr May thinks that since conservatives don't worry about silly notions like protecting secrets or obeying laws against disclosure of agent identities when chatting inside the family, it's no big deal if they adopt the same rules for talking to the public.

Mr. Wilson has said that his mission came about following a request from Vice President Cheney. But it appears that if Mr. Cheney made the request at all, he made it of the CIA and did not know Mr. Wilson and certainly did not specify that he wanted Mr. Wilson put on the case.

It has to be seen as puzzling that the agency would deal with an inquiry from the White House on a sensitive national-security matter by sending a retired, Bush-bashing diplomat with no investigative experience. Or didn't the CIA bother to look into Mr. Wilson's background?

If that's what passes for tradecraft in Langley, we're in more trouble than any of us have realized.

If endangering intelligence assets doesn't trouble Mr May, endangering George Bush's approval ratings clearly does. Mr May is troubled by the irresponsible decision the CIA made in inquiring into the Niger uranium story in 2002: they allowed Joseph WIlson's expertise and professional qualifications to trump the more important fact that he was no friend of the Bush administration.

Fortunately, this sort of dangerous misconduct hasn't spread to other parts of the Bush administration. Newsweek has just published an article showing how the group assigned to rebuild Iraq was carefully chosen to ensure that mere competence would never be allowed to trump partisan loyalty. The vetting was so thorough that "even doctors sent to restore medical services had to be anti-abortion." No doubt this wise decision played a large role in the many breathtaking successes of the post-war Iraq Administration. In fact, the results are so breathtaking that, just today, the 191st coalition soldier since Bush announced, "Mission Accomplished" stopped breathing.