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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Wednesday, July 27, 2005
Josh Marshall has pointed out an interesting new article on the Plame investigation. There are several points of interest, but what most strikes me is that it does reveal new information about Plame's role in arranging for Wilson's trip. The keyy portion quotes one Bill Harlow who was, in July 2003, in press relations in the CIA.

Harlow, the former CIA spokesman, said in an interview yesterday that he testified last year before a grand jury about conversations he had with Novak at least three days before the column was published. He said he warned Novak, in the strongest terms he was permitted to use without revealing classified information, that Wilson's wife had not authorized the mission and that if he did write about it, her name should not be revealed.

Harlow said that after Novak's call, he checked Plame's status and confirmed that she was an undercover operative. He said he called Novak back to repeat that the story Novak had related to him was wrong and that Plame's name should not be used. But he did not tell Novak directly that she was undercover because that was classified.

THere has been a lot of speculation on what role Plame played in arranging the trip, most of it uninformed. This is what happens when you're dealing with the CIA; plenty of people are willing to speculate, but they don't know what they're talking about. This seems by far the best evidence we have on the question; it comes from a named source, who was actually in the CIA in a position to know what went on, and he is stating on the record that what he says in this interview largely repeats statements he has already made under oath.

Harlow clearly says that the White House spin on the trip was false. He, "warned Novak, in the strongest terms he was permitted to use without revealing classified information, that Wilson's wife had not authorized the mission", then, "called Novak back to repeat that the story Novak had related to him was wrong". The story Novak related to him was, presumably, the story he had gotten from the White House and printed a few days later in his infamous column: "Two senior administration officials told me Wilson's wife suggested sending him to Niger to investigate the Italian report." That Plame instigated the Wilson trip was and remains the official Bush spin. To find it in its purest form we go as usual to noted spokesperson for untreated mental illness, Ann Coulter: "Wilson was sent to Niger by his wife, not by the CIA and certainly not by Dick Cheney."

What was Plame's role in the trip? We still don't know the answer. There appears to have been some, which was probably minimal. We should remember that this question is not and never really has been relevant. It's one of many quite unimportant talking points that have been tossed out by Bush surrogates to hide the basic reality of their indefensible conduct. What happened was that Wilson's article launched a White House offensive, "the White House responded with twin attacks: one on Wilson and the other on the CIA, which it wanted to take the blame for allowing the 16 words to remain in Bush's speech". The Bush media strategy violated truth and common decency; that was just another day at the office. In this case it probably also violated the law due to carelessness with vital national security information.

The point was to hide the underlying lie that was used to bring us into Iraq in the first place. Ari Fleischer illustrated it well in one of his last gaggles before he left Washington to spend more time lying to his wife: "A greater, more important truth is being lost in the flap over whether or not Iraq was seeking uranium from Africa. The greater truth is that nobody, but nobody, denies that Saddam Hussein was seeking nuclear weapons. He was pursuing numerous ways to obtain nuclear weapons."