An intellectual freedom blog with an emphasis on libraries and technology

Saturday, March 17, 2007

What the news forgot to tell us about the Plame scandal

The memory hole:

I have a podcast of an interview Al Franken did on Air America with Larry Johnson, a former CIA agent. Johnson "graduated" from the same training group as Valerie Plame. (7/21/05 Al Franken Show interview with Larry Johnson)

I have listened to this again and have a compilation of facts, all well established parts of the public record, that the mainstream news forgot to mention this week in the aftermath of Valerie Plame's appearance before Congress.

First, a quick re-cap:

Plame's husband, Joe Wilson, wrote an op-ed piece pointing out that he had determined, long before President Bush's 2003 State-of-the-Union address, that the evidence (the only evidence anyone has ever had) indicating that Saddam Hussein had re-started his nuclear weapons program, proved totally bogus. The letter in question has already had a thorough debunking*.

Shortly after the publication of the letter, right-wing columnist Robert Novak published an editorial which revealed that Wilson's wife, Valerie Plame, was a covert operative for the CIA and made the assertion that she recommended her husband for the task of meeting with the President of Niger, therefore she sent her husband on a junket, and therefore his information was "tainted" by the nepotism and misconduct of his wife in having him sent to confirm the "intelligence" in question.

The list of what I have not seen reported in the Mainstream Media:

1.) The CIA, and NOT left wing bloggers or liberals, took the matter of the leak to the Justice Department. The CIA collectively "wigged out" over the leak and insisted on an investigation. This is not some "liberal" plot against the White House.

2.) The leak of her identity as a CIA agent could have killed Plame. She was a "non-official cover" agent, meaning there was no "visible" link to the CIA. NOC: Non-official cover. For this and other reasons, Larry Johnson characterizes the leak of her identity as an act of treason.

3.) The damage extends well beyond Plame herself. Johnson points out that Plame acted as if a private citizen. The leak of her identity compromised everyone she worked with. The smear campaign that the right wing has raged for the last 4 years characterizes her as a "desk jockey" in order to minimize what Plame's job actually was. She worked in the CIA's Counter-Proliferation Division (according to a Senate Intelligence committee report mentioned by Johnson in the interview) working to detect and identify people offering to sell uranium, chemical agents or biological precursors of weapons. "She worked directly to identify individuals who were involved with those transactions or were offering to help us [The CIA] put a mole inside those transactions." Important work, is it not? And all of it blown to hell by the leak of her identity. Enemies can "follow a trail of bread crumbs" to her assets and contacts and possibly kill people who were trying to help the CIA interdict ingredients for weapons of mass destruction.

4.) Bush reversed his initial assurances that he would fire anyone in his administration who had anything to do with outing a CIA agent. When the investigation started to reveal direct involvement by his underlings he revised his stand and "lowered the bar" by saying that only if someone were convicted of criminal acts in connection with the leak would he fire them.

Additional background and interesting bits

1st time since 1948 when CIA established that an agent was outed within the government.

The CIA did not let recruits in training tell each other their last names. Johnson did not know her last name while in the CIA. Another former CIA agent told him shortly after the leak "this is our Valerie."

Johnson is (was at the time of the interview anyway) a Registered Republican. He worked on the gubernatorial campaign of Kit Bond and was recommended to the CIA by Orin Hatch. Johnson voiced his disgust with their continuing smear of Plame and Wilson. "To watch Hatch and Bond participate in this smear is one of the most sickening, disgusting spectacles I've seen," he stated bluntly during the interview, "Right now, in The Republican Party there is no honor."

Gratuitous Pop-Culture reference:

I recall the speech that Al Pacino gave in the recent movie The Recruit: [Addressing a group of CIA trainees, and I paraphrase] : "We do not hope for recognition. We will never have a parade. The best you can hope for is after you risk your life and nearly get yourself killed, they may take you to a damp, dusty basement, feed you stale cookies and warm lemonade, and then show you your medal - you don't get to keep it, they show it to you. Then they put your medal back in the vault and you go back to work."

Larry Johnson explains that Plame did her job, as most members if the CIA do, without expectation of any recognition, commendation or public accolades. Then someone in the Bush Administration betrayed her. And all of us, too.

* On the web site of the Federation of Atomic Scientists you can see a number of interesting examples: A Congressional Record enumeration of 237 misleading statements by the Bush Administration, and you can read in the Report on the Commision on Intelligence Capabilities that the the letter that formed the basis of the claim that Saddam Hussein had re-started his nuclear weapons program was forged. The letter in question, supposedly from a government official from the African country Niger, looks incredibly bogus on its face. The person(s) responsible for it flunked forgery 101. The letter has a form of the name of the government agency from 10 years before the date. The letter is signed by a government official who has not been in office for over 10 years. This constituted the "evidence" that President Bush used to convince the nation to go to war. If right-wing nuts think there's any other evidence I'd like to know what it is. Such would contradict a National Security Council document, declassified in 2006, which indicated that the NSC told President Bush 10 days before the State-of-the-Union address in 2003 that no credible, believable evidence existed that indicated Saddam Hussein had any capability to produce weapons of mass destruction at that time.

one last bit: If anyone has an exact transcription of Al Pacino's speech above, please send it to me.

[Note: updated for clarity on March 24, 2007]

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