Archive for July, 2005

Evening Rove/Plame Roundup

Thursday, July 14th, 2005

For a succinct list of links rebutting the Republican talking points on Rove/Plame, see The Left Coaster: Treasongate (Part VI): Response to GOP talking points. Also, for some juicy speculation about where Fitzgerald might be headed, check out Mark Kleiman: The Plame game: No, it’s not all about the Intelligence Identities Protection Act. Kleiman makes some pretty persuasive-sounding arguments that what Fitzgerald’s up to may not be tagging Rove for that special felony violation everyone’s been talking about (under which it’s a serious crime to knowingly out an undercover agent). He might be pursuing the less-sexy, but also much-more-provable, charge that Rove (and others) violated the Espionage Act. Whoever can be shown to have violated that act “[s]hall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than ten years, or both.” If Fitzgerald has evidence of a criminal conspiracy (and realistically, I think it’s possible that he does), those conspirators should take note of the following clause:

(g) If two or more persons conspire to violate any of the foregoing provisions of this section, and one or more of such persons do any act to effect the object of the conspiracy, each of the parties to such conspiracy shall be subject to the punishment provided for the offense which is the object of such conspiracy.

We’ll have to wait and see on that part. In the meantime, it’s important to realize that all the disgusting scattershot bullshit coming out of the echo chamber the last few days is at least partly designed to be disgusting scattershot bullshit. That is, it doesn’t have to be true, or even remotely credible, to accomplish its true purpose: getting the public to tune out by convincing them (as was done previously with Richard Clarke, and with the original response to Joe Wilson’s whistleblowing) that this is just a politics-as-usual partisan dust-up.

To counter that, it’s important not to get caught up in point-by-point refutation of the B.S. That just plays into the spinmeisters’ larger strategy. Instead, do like Digby of Hullaballoo does here, and just wave off the silliness, while focusing on the essential core of the story: Clearing the cobwebs.

A friend of mine asked me to give her a synopsis of Rovegate in easy to understand, non-insider language. Perhaps you will find it interesting too:

I did find it interesting; really interesting. I knew just about all of it already, but it really helps to get it all in one place, to cover the whole thing from start to finish with a focus on what’s really at stake.

Blumenthal on Rove/Plame

Thursday, July 14th, 2005

Former Clinton advisor Sydney Blumenthal has a detailed article on Rove’s ongoing PR counter-attack in the Plame-outing case: Rove’s war (one-day pass required):

Rove is fighting his war as though it will be settled in a court of Washington pundits. Brandishing his formidable political weapons, he seeks to demonstrate his prowess once again. His corps of agents raises a din in which their voices drown out individual dissidents. His frantic massing of forces dominates the capital by winning the communications battle. Indeed, Rove may succeed momentarily in quelling the storm. But the stillness may be illusory. Before the prosecutor, Rove’s arsenal is useless.

Blumenthal makes the same point I made a couple of days ago: At this point, everything depends on Patrick Fitzgerald, the special prosecutor investigating the case. I could see this easily going either way: Fitzgerald announces that he’s been unable to find evidence that a crime was committed, the Bushies crow, and we lefties are left to grumble about it. Or Fitzgerald comes out with indictments, and maybe not just under the narrow statute about knowingly outing an undercover agent, but perhaps going as far as alleging a high-level criminal conspiracy operating from within the White House.

It all comes down to Fitzgerald.

Within a few months I’ll know what happened. On some level I envy that me-of-the-future. He knows something about the world I’m living in today that I don’t know, and wish I did. Of course, it may be that that future self will look back on the me of today and envy my current ignorance.

Lizza on Luskin

Thursday, July 14th, 2005

Ryan Lizza of The New Republic with some interesting commentary on Karl Rove’s lawyer, Robert Luskin: Word blossom.

Your Morning Rove/Plame Roundup

Thursday, July 14th, 2005

More on my latest obsession.

Joshua Marshall is keeping track of the Republican pushback on the Rove story. I found this item pretty interesting: Too much hilarity! He quotes RNC chairman Ken Mehlman’s version of the Republican talking points I linked to yesterday, and points out how Mehlman used selective quotation of an appearance on CNN by Joe Wilson to set up a strawman regarding who it was that actually authorized Wilson’s yelllowcake-debunking mission to Africa.

In the appearance, Wilson said this:

WILSON: Well, look, it’s absolutely true that neither the vice president nor Dr. Rice nor even George Tenet knew that I was traveling to Niger.

What they did, what the office of the vice president did, and, in fact, I believe now from Mr. Libby’s statement, it was probably the vice president himself…

BLITZER: Scooter Libby is the chief of staff for the vice president.

WILSON: Scooter Libby.

They asked essentially that we follow up on this report — that the agency follow up on the report. So it was a question that went to the CIA briefer from the Office of the Vice President. The CIA, at the operational level, made a determination that the best way to answer this serious question was to send somebody out there who knew something about both the uranium business and those Niger officials that were in office at the time these reported documents were executed.

In his talking points, Mehlman whittled that down to:

Joe Wilson: “What They Did, What The Office Of The Vice President Did, And, In Fact, I Believe Now From Mr. Libby’s Statement, It Was Probably The Vice President Himself …” (CNN’s “Late Edition,” 8/3/03)

Therefore, claims Mehlman, Wilson was guilty of lying, because he asserted that Cheney sent him to Africa. When of course, Wilson made it crystal clear that that wasn’t the case.

Bad Republican liars! Bad! No cookie for you!

More good stuff on the Rove story comes (as usual) from David Corn, who gets into detail in rebutting the “Rove didn’t use her name, so he didn’t break the law” and “Rove didn’t actually leak any classified information” defenses: Rove did leak classified information, and his named-no-name defense is bunk.

According to Cooper’s email, Rove told Cooper that “Wilson’s wife”–not “Valerie Plame,” or “Valerie Wilson”–worked at the CIA. But this distinction has absolutely no legal relevance. Under the relevant law–the Intelligence Identities Protection Act of 1982–a crime is committed when a government official (not a journalist) “intentionally discloses any information identifying” an undercover intelligence officer. The act does not say a name must be disclosed. By telling a reporter that Joseph Wilson’s wife was a CIA officer, Rove was clearly disclosing “identifying” information. There was only one Mrs. Joseph Wilson. With such information in hand, Cooper or anyone else could easily have ascertained the name of this officer. (A Google search at the time would have yielded the name–and maiden name–of Wilson’s wife.) Revealing the name is not the crime; it’s disclosing information that IDs the officer.

[snip]

The Intelligence Identities Protection Act makes it a crime to identify “a covert agent” of the United States. The law defines “covert agent,” in part, as “a present or retired officer or employee of an intelligence agency or a present or retired member of the Armed Forces assigned to duty with an intelligence agency whose identity as such an officer, employee, or member is classified information.” (My emphasis.)

This definition clearly recognizes that the identity of an undercover intelligence officer is “classified information.” The law also notes that a “covert agent” has a “classified relationship to the United States.” Since the CIA asked the Justice Department to investigate the Plame/CIA leak and the Justice Department affirmed the need for an investigation and special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald, once handed the case, pursued the matter vigorously, it is reasonable to assume that Valerie Wilson fits the definition of a “covert agent.” That means she has a “classified relationship” with the government.

By disclosing Valerie Wilson’s relationship to the CIA, Rove was passing classified information to a reporter.

[snip]

George W. Bush took an unambiguous stand on the leaking of classified information when he was asked on September 30, 2003, about Karl Rove’s possible role in the Plame/CIA leak. Bush noted,

I don’t know of anybody in my administration who leaked classified information. If somebody did leak classified information, I’d like to know it, and we’ll take the appropriate action.

Well, now Bush knows. Rove, according to the Cooper email, did not leak a name but he did leak classified information. Much of his defense is in tatters. And where is Bush’s “appropriate action”?

Just as a small point of confirmation, MediaMatters.org has the details on how easy it would have been in July 2003 (when the leak took place) to go from “Joseph Wilson’s wife works for the CIA” to “and her name is Valerie Plame”: ABC News, Wash. Post, Newsweek highlighted Rove claim that he did not actually disclose Valerie Plame’s name, but a quick Google search would have produced it:

Anyone with Google access could have instantly discovered that “Wilson’s wife” was Valerie Plame. At the time, a simple Google search of Wilson’s name would have turned up his biography on the Corporate & Public Strategy Advisory Group’s website. The biography, which referred to his wife as the “former Valerie Plame,” appeared on the site as far back as February 8, 2003, according to the Internet Archive’s Wayback Machine.

Finally, Robert Parry has an excellent piece in Consortium News that points out how deep the rabbit hole goes: Rove leak points to Bush conspiracy.

Hawkins: Debunking Eight Anti-War Myths

Thursday, July 14th, 2005

I just got a comment on another post where the author wrote:

Lots of information, talking about all the lies, but I puzzelled. Only Rebublicans lie! Democrats are truthfull, sincere and upright.

Ach! His sarcastic arrows fly to my very soul!

Yeah, I’m pretty obsessed with right-wing lies, and Bush administration lies in particular, lately. But that doesn’t mean I don’t realize that the large majority of politicians in both parties, once they’ve bubbled up to the level of operating in Washington, have only a casual acquaintance with the truth. And as I said in my reply to the above comment, if you dig back far enough in the site’s archives, to pieces written during the Clinton presidency, you’ll find pieces discussing his lies, too.

But really, the view of reality that someone gets if he only consumes right-wing media (which I suspect might be the case with this commenter) is pretty warped. Many of those folks in fact operate under the fallacy he sarcastically accused me of using: That only the other side lies or is evil. Our own guys are absolutely true and pure. Which is a mistaken belief regardless of which side you’re on.

Anyway, in the interest of giving some time to the other side’s viewpoint, I hereby link to the following from John Hawkins of Right Wing News: Debunking 8 anti-war myths about the conflict in Iraq. Donald Sensing suggested that everyone should read it, so I did.

It’s mostly garbage. For example, its lead myth (George Bush lied about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq) is debunked mainly by asserting the “Democrats believed Saddam had WMD, too” line. He quotes Hillary’s statement from the October 2002 Senate debate over the use-of-force authorization — a debate that was conducted in the context of the infamous CIA white paper on Iraq’s WMD capabilities and ties to terrorism.

Nice logic: If Hillary says something is true, George Bush cannot possibly be guilty of lying about it! Um, okay.

Look: You can believe George Bush was an unwitting stooge of bad intelligence if you want to (though your implicit argument — that an unwitting stooge is the best we can hope for in a president — still has a few holes). But I, personally, do not believe that. Bush sexed up the intelligence on Saddam’s WMD bigtime. You were here at the time. You saw that process with your own eyes, heard it with your own ears. If you choose to ignore that now, that’s your prerogative. But I don’t have to give your conclusions any weight.

And I don’t.

Miniver Cheevy: The Irrationality of Terror Fear

Thursday, July 14th, 2005

Here’s an important thought from Miniver Cheevy: Nothing to panic about except panic itself:

Likewise, we could have a 9/11 every month and lose more Americans to automobile accidents every year. You probably don’t know anyone killed on 9/11, but you certainly know at least one person who was killed or severely injured in a car accident. We haven’t given up cars; we recognize that accidental deaths are an unhappy fact of life, we work hard to minimize them, and we live our lives. This is what John Kerry was talking about, back in the campaign, when he said that we should reduce terrorism to being a “nuisance.”

It’s understandable that our brains have evolved to focus disproportionate attention on new and unfamiliar threats, while ignoring known dangers for which we believe (perhaps incorrectly) that we’ve taken adequate measures to protect ourselves. But it’s also true, as Cheevy points out, that the conscious effort by government leaders to exploit irrational fears of terrorism for their own political gain plays best in the red states (which are not really targets of terrorism) while eliciting yawns (relatively speaking) in the blue states (where terror is much more of a possibility).

Maybe that’s because blue-state urbanites are better at doing the math. More likely, as Cheevy suggests, it’s just that they’re more familiar with the issue, and therefore less prone to the “Oh my God, what’s that lion that I’ve never seen before doing over there?” over-reaction.

Doolittle: Lies, Lies, and More Lies

Thursday, July 14th, 2005

In all the excitement over the Matt Cooper email, I neglected to follow through on my intention to link to this trio of articles from Jerome Doolittle at Bad Attitudes: Lies (on bogus arguments being used to push bankruptcy restrictions), lies (on bogus arguments being used to push caps on medical malpractice awards), and more lies (on bogus arguments being used to push the estate tax repeal).

Lies.com: reflexive supplier of link traffic. All you have to do is bait the trap properly.

Lies.com Podcast 5

Wednesday, July 13th, 2005

Now available for your listening pleasure: Lies.com podcast 5 (30 MB mp3 file). Lots of fun audio clips re: Karl Rove and Valerie Plame, along with material about Iraq war fatalities, the space shuttle, my trip to a rose farm, and my special pillow. Special secrets available only to podcast listeners! Well, or boring, unscripted chatter about my personal life, depending on your point of view.

This one also features some music clips from my new favorite Magnatune artist, Williamson.

GOP Counter-Spin on Rove

Wednesday, July 13th, 2005

So, the Republican party is doing its best to muddy the waters on Rove’s role in outing Valerie Plame. The Washington Post’s Jim VandeHei has a good summary: GOP on offense in defense of Rove.

Even more interesting (in the same way that a pustulant abscess is interesting, at least for a pathologist who specializes in such things) is this copy of the the Republican talking points on the story, as distributed by Carolyn Weyforth, director of television for the Republican National Committee: GOP talking points on Rove.

Most of the talking points are either outright lies or blatantly misleading, which I guess is not exactly a shocking state of affairs, but still. Gah.

McClellan on the Flypaper Theory

Tuesday, July 12th, 2005

Oh, hell. I’m sorry, but I have to offer a brief mention of this other exchange from today’s White House press briefing, in which McClellan gets to tapdance to a slightly different tune. Specifically, whether the rise in global terrorism generally, and the recent London attacks in particular, pose a challenge to Bush’s assertions that his aggressive taking it to the evil-doers is making the world safer from terror:

Q Scott, the President has said that invading Iraq has made the world safer. But the government’s own terrorism statistics show a dramatic increase in the number of international terrorist attacks since the invasion. And the London bombings have demonstrated that the flypaper theory was just a theory. Can you explain the disconnect between the administration’s rhetoric on this issue and the reality on the ground?

MR. McCLELLAN: First of all, the terrorism incidents that you bring up — last week there was a report released by the National Counterterrorism Center, and they explained how they have developed a new methodology to better track terrorist attacks across the world. So your characterization leaves the wrong impression for people who might be watching this briefing, and I would dispute that pretty strongly.

Now, in terms of Iraq, terrorists have chosen to make Iraq a central front in the war on terrorism. And the President made a decision after September 11th that we were going to take the fight to the enemy; that we were going to wage a comprehensive war on terrorism that included not only taking the fight to the enemy, but also working to spread freedom and democracy, because that’s the way you defeat the ideology that terrorists espouse.

Terrorists have been carrying out attacks for years — for a couple of decades at least. I mean, if you go back and look at the attack on the Marine barracks on Beirut; you can go back and look at the first attack on the World Trade Center; certainly the attacks on September 11th. Terrorists don’t need an excuse, and there certainly is no justification for the taking and murder of innocent human life. They have no regard for human life. This is a battle of — hang on — this is a battle of ideologies. This is a struggle of ideologies. The President recognizes that this is not a limited war on terror, this is not just related to Afghanistan and the Taliban; this is about an ideological struggle, and that’s the kind of battle that we are waging. But there’s a lot history of attacks by terrorists that pre-date anything that occurred in Iraq. So that’s just a misunderstanding of the nature of the enemy that we face in this war on terrorism.

Q The Rand Corporation also keeps track of statistics on international terrorism, and their data also shows that 2004 had the highest rate of international attacks in 13 years.

MR. McCLELLAN: The difference between 13 years ago and today is that we are on the offensive. We are taking the fight to the enemy. And the President has made it very clear that we are going to prevail, we are going to defeat the enemy. They are now on the defensive, and we’re going to keep them on the defensive. We’re going to continue to seek out those who seek to do us harm and bring them to justice, and try to prevent attacks from happening in the first place. We are fighting them abroad so that we don’t have to fight them here at home. The best way to win the war on terrorism is to stay on the offensive, and the ultimate path to victory is spreading freedom, because freedom — or free societies are peaceful societies.

If you go back and look at World War II and the Cold War, we defeated ideologies with the power of freedom, and we’re going to defeat the terrorist ideology by spreading the power of freedom, as well. And you may have a different view of the nature of the enemy we face and the war on terrorism, but the President knows that this is a struggle that is going to be a long struggle, it must be a sustained struggle, and we must wage it on multiple fronts. And that’s what we’re doing.

Okay. I’m done quoting McClellan. For now. Heh. But tune in tomorrow!

McClellan’s Silent Treatment on Rove: Day 2

Tuesday, July 12th, 2005

Here are my favorite parts from today’s White House press briefing:

Q Let me — let me just do what you did a few moments ago and step back from the context of the investigation to the President’s agenda. Does Karl Rove, with all the attention being paid to him now, become a liability to the President, an impediment to his pushing his agenda?

MR. McCLELLAN: See, you’re asking all these context in — all these questions in the context of the news reports relating to an investigation –

Q I’m talking about it now in the larger sense of Rove being the Deputy Chief of Staff.

MR. McCLELLAN: We’re continuing to move forward on our agenda, and the — we’re on the verge of accomplishing some very big things when it comes to the agenda. And –

Q But is Karl Rove an impediment now, with all this attention distracting from that push on your agenda?

MR. McCLELLAN: Everybody who is working here is helping us to advance the agenda, and that includes Karl in a very big way.

Q Has he apologized to you for telling you he is not involved?

MR. McCLELLAN: Helen, I’m not going to get into any private discussions.

Q He put you on the spot. He put your credibility on the line.

MR. McCLELLAN: And, Helen, I appreciate you all wanting to move forward and find the facts relating to this investigation. I want to know all the facts relating to the investigation.

Q You people are on the record, one quote after another.

MR. McCLELLAN: The President wants to get to the bottom of it. And it’s just not appropriate. If you’ll remember back two years ago, or almost two years ago, I did draw a line and I said, we’re just not going to get into commenting on –

Q You also made comments in defending Mr. Rove.

MR. McCLELLAN: We’re just not going to get into commenting on an investigation that continues. And I think you’ve heard me explain why I’m not going to do that. I do want to talk about this –

Q Do you regret putting yourself out on a limb, Scott?

MR. McCLELLAN: I do want to talk about this, and we will talk about it once the investigation is complete.

Q Do you regret what you said in 2003?

MR. McCLELLAN: Go ahead.

Q Do you regret putting yourself so far out on a limb when you don’t know the facts?

MR. McCLELLAN: David, you had your opportunity. I’ll try to come back to you if I can, but I think I’ve responded to those questions.

Q Well, you haven’t responded to that. Do you think you went too far two years ago?

MR. McCLELLAN: Go ahead.

[snip]

Q Does the White House have a credibility problem?

MR. McCLELLAN: Ed, these are all questions that you’re bringing up in the context of an investigation that is ongoing –

Q I’m not asking about that.

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, it’s clear that this is coming up in the context of news –

Q We could talk about WMDs, a whole range of issues.

MR. McCLELLAN: — in the context of news reports. And I appreciate those questions. And I think you’re trying to get at the specific news reports and wanting me to comment on those specific news reports and –

Q But they’re news reports that have been confirmed by Karl Rove’s attorney, Scott.

MR. McCLELLAN: John, you can keep jumping in, but I’m going to try to keep going to other people in this room, as well. And we can have constructive dialogue here, I think, but that’s not the way to do it.

Q It’s not my job to have a constructive dialogue, Scott. Sorry.

[snip]

Q Does the President believe that it is outrageous for a Los Angeles advertising man to be conducting a campaign to persuade the town selectmen of Weare, New Hampshire, to approve the building of a hotel on the land where Justice Souter’s house is located? Or does he regard this as an historic irony resulting from Souter’s vote in the case of Kelo versus the City of New London –

MR. McCLELLAN: I haven’t seen anything on it. Jim, go ahead.

Q You didn’t see anything on it? You’d like to evade this one, wouldn’t you.

MR. McCLELLAN: No, I haven’t seen anything on it, Les. I like to see reports before I comment on it.

Q No, it’s the other ones he’s trying to evade.

Q — on why you can’t answer Ed’s question about whether — generally speaking, whether the administration has a credibility problem. I think a lot of people are tuning in, wondering, can we trust what this White House says, can we trust what Scott McClellan says.

MR. McCLELLAN: Yes.

Q I’m not talking about the case. Can you just address — do you feel like there’s a credibility problem?

MR. McCLELLAN: I think you all in this room know me very well. And you know the type of person that I am. You, and many others in this room, have dealt with me for quite some time. The President is a very straightforward and plainspoken person, and I’m someone who believes in dealing in a very straightforward way with you all, as well, and that’s what I’ve worked to do.

[snip]

Q Scott, how long has the President known that Karl Rove spoke in 2003 to at least one reporter about Joseph Wilson’s wife?

MR. McCLELLAN: That’s a question relating to the investigation. You’ve had my response on those questions.

Q Was it like a big surprise to him this week and when the story broke about it?

MR. McCLELLAN: Again, it’s an ongoing, continuing investigation, and I think I’ve addressed why I’m not going to get into discussing it further at this time.

Q So I understand your reluctance to talk. Now, Mr. Rove’s attorney, Mr. Luskin, spoke to reporters a few days ago. Would you be willing to allow your attorney to speak to reporters about these matters?

MR. McCLELLAN: Next question. I’m not going to get into discussing the investigation at this point.

Q Scott, back on — to turn it back, the President has confidence in everyone who works for him –

MR. McCLELLAN: You’re making an assumption that I wouldn’t make either. So — go ahead.

Q That you have an attorney?

MR. McCLELLAN: Go ahead.

I guess the real question at this point becomes, what power does the press actually have? This story has a certain amount of sex appeal, but without official actors willing to move the story along, at some point the yapping in the briefing room is going to subside in the face of McClellan’s stonewalling. And with Republicans controlling the House and Senate, and no independent counsel law anymore, we’re pretty much left hoping that Patrick Fitzgerald, the Republican-appointed US attorney from Illinois who’s heading up the Plame-outing grand jury investigation, is a person whose integrity outweighs his sense of party loyalty, to the extent of being willing to pursue his investigation aggressively no matter where it leads.

I don’t know about you, but I find that hope to be a pretty slim reed.

Rove/Plame Omnibus Post

Tuesday, July 12th, 2005

It’s someting of a media feeding frenzy out there today. Some of the high points in the coverage of my latest obsession:

The Washington Post’s Howard Kurtz has a blog-style roundup of Rove reporting: Frog-marching time for Rove? Similarly, Dan Froomkin also does a roundup: Plame, by any other name.

Sticking with the WaPo, Dana Milbank has this: Spokesman holds tongue during intense grilling.

At the NY Times, Richard W. Stevenson: At White House, a day of silence on Rove’s role in C.I.A. leak. From the Associated Press, Pete Yost: White House won’t comment on Rove, leak.

Unsigned editorials/opinion pieces critical of the stonewall are available from the San Francisco Chronicle (The Karl Rove connection) and from the Seattle Post-Intelligencer (White House leaks: A serious security matter).

Finally, Billmon has a good round-up of relevant administration quotations during the history of the affair: Vouching for Karl.

Whew.

Corn: Let the Stonewalling Begin

Tuesday, July 12th, 2005

David Corn does a nice job summarizing the non-response that Scott McClellan gave at the press briefing yesterday, when reporter after reporter pressed him to respond to the news on Matt Cooper’s email identifying Rove as one source of the Valerie Plame leak: White House stonewalls on Rove scandal.

If you prefer your disgusting displays of hypocrisy straight, with no Bush-hater analysis, you can go to the original, including video: Press briefing.

Q Does the President stand by his pledge to fire anyone involved in the leak of a name of a CIA operative?

MR. McCLELLAN: Terry, I appreciate your question. I think your question is being asked relating to some reports that are in reference to an ongoing criminal investigation. The criminal investigation that you reference is something that continues at this point. And as I’ve previously stated, while that investigation is ongoing, the White House is not going to comment on it. The President directed the White House to cooperate fully with the investigation, and as part of cooperating fully with the investigation, we made a decision that we weren’t going to comment on it while it is ongoing.

Now of course, McClellan (and Bush) have discussed this issue at length with reporters before, affirming again and again that the White House doesn’t condone the leaking of classified information, and pledging to “take care of it” as soon as that gosh-darned leaker can be found. Well, we’ve found him (at least one of them), and suddenly the White House has nothing to say.

WaPo, Corn on Rove’s Plame-Outing Role

Monday, July 11th, 2005

The Washington Post has a page 1 story today on the evidence linking Karl Rove with the outing of undercover CIA agent Valerie Plame: Rove told reporter of Plame’s role but didn’t name her, attorney says.

It seems that Rove’s lawyer, Robert Luskin, has slightly altered the story he’s telling the media (or maybe the media was sloppy in handling the quotes he gave them over the past few days). In the LA Times article from July 3, we read this:

In confirming the conversation between Rove and Cooper, Rove’s attorney, Robert Luskin, emphasized that the presidential advisor did not reveal any secrets.

But in today’s Washington Post article, we read the following:

Luskin said yesterday that Rove did not know Plame’s name and was not actively trying to push the information into the public realm.

Instead, Luskin said, Rove discussed the matter — under the cloak of secrecy — with Cooper at the tail end of a conversation about a different issue. Cooper had called Rove to discuss other matters on a Friday before deadline, and the topic of Wilson came up briefly. Luskin said Cooper raised the question.

“Rove did not mention her name to Cooper,” Luskin said. “This was not an effort to encourage Time to disclose her identity. What he was doing was discouraging Time from perpetuating some statements that had been made publicly and weren’t true.”

In particular, Rove was urging caution because then-CIA Director George J. Tenet was about to issue a statement regarding Iraq’s alleged interest in African uranium and its inaccurate inclusion in President Bush’s 2003 State of the Union address. Tenet took the blame for allowing a misleading paragraph into the speech, but Tenet also said that the president, vice president and other senior officials were never briefed on Wilson’s report.

Um, right. But if Cooper’s notes are to be believed, Rove did tell him that Wilson’s wife worked for the CIA. And it sounds from this as if Luskin isn’t challenging the accuracy of those notes. So if both of these newspaper articles accurately reflect what Luskin said, he had to be lying at least one of those times. Rove could not have both discussed with Cooper that Joe Wilson’s wife worked for the CIA, and failed to reveal any secrets. Because the fact that she worked for the CIA was itself a secret. So as of this point I think I’ll be putting a big flashing asterisk next to anything sourced to Robert Luskin.

For a reality check, be sure to read what David Corn has to say on his blog today: Why Bush has to fire Rove:

But let’s put aside the legal issues for a moment. This e-mail demonstrates that Rove committed a firing offense. He leaked national security information as part of a fierce campaign to undermine Wilson, who had criticized the White House on the war on Iraq. Rove’s overworked attorney, Robert Luskin, defends his client by arguing that Rove never revealed the name of Valerie Plame/Wilson to Cooper and that he only referred to her as Wilson’s wife. This is not much of a defense. If Cooper or any other journalist had written that “Wilson’s wife works for the CIA”–without mentioning her name–such a disclosure could have been expected to have the same effect as if her name had been used: Valerie Wilson would have been compromised, her anti-WMD work placed at risk and national security potentially harmed. Either Rove knew that he was revealing an undercover officer to a reporter or he was identifying a CIA officer without bothering to check on her status and without considering the consequences of outing her. Take your pick: In both scenarios Rove is acting in a reckless and cavalier fashion, ignoring national security interests to score a political point against a policy foe.

This ought to get Rove fired–unless he resigns first.

Angels with Attitude — And Scarybig Eyeballs

Monday, July 11th, 2005

Via Boing Boing, check out the winners of this little-kid photographic beauty contest: Photo Contest Winners. Per the contest rules, “These should be professional pictures, but should not be extremely or overly retouched.”

Uh huh.

I’ve got news for the people running this contest: either your contestants are ignoring the no-excessive-retouching rule, or we are in the midst of a silent epidemic of little kids with ginormous eyeballs.

Clear Language Breeds Clear Thought

Monday, July 11th, 2005

Or I could say “the use of non-obscuring verbiage causes those who use it to clarify their internal dialogue”.

I’d never before read Orwell’s Politics and the English Language. It’s an excellent piece of perspective, as typical for Orwell. When we use language that lacks concreteness and relies on near-meaningless common turns of phrase, we begin thinking in those terms. Similarly when we allow politicians, leaders of business, or religious leaders to speak in poor metaphor or worn-out idiom, we can only expect to be misled.

The examples Orwell uses are often outdated, but look again at phrases like “freedom is on the march” and those who speak them after reading this. Reading and writing clear consicse sentences feels good and we all, myself absolutely included, could use some practice.

Sensing on Flypaper

Monday, July 11th, 2005

I took Donald Sensing’s One Hand Clapping out of my blogroll a while ago, when I decided that he’s too wedded to his biases to be consistently interesting. But sometimes he comes through with something that’s worth reading, as he did the other day with this: Mistaken about the “flypaper strategy”.

Bush has pressed the so-called flypaper strategy into service lately as one of the few remaining credible rationales for the Iraq war. He used it in his latest presidential podcast (excuse me, “weekly radio address”), when he said:

We are now waging a global war on terror — from the mountains of Afghanistan to the border regions of Pakistan, to the Horn of Africa, to the islands of the Philippines, to the plains of Iraq. We will stay on the offense, fighting the terrorists abroad so we do not have to face them at home.

Sensing begins his piece by quoting Kos of Daily Kos, who, in the wake of the July 7 attacks in London, wrote the following in Flypaper:

Bush’s latest rationale for maintaining the course in Iraq adventure has been the “flypaper strategy” — it’s better to fight the terrorists over there than at home. Nevermind that the Iraqis never asked to have their country turned into a dangerous den of terrorism, insurgency, violence and death. For war supporters looking for an excuse, any excuse, to justify the continued disastrous American presence in Iraq, the flypaper rationale was as good as any.

Except that it’s not working. The war isn’t making the West any safer. In fact, it’s creating a whole new class of terrorists. Today it was London. Next time it could easily be the United States. And waging the war in Iraq, rather than make us safer, is further motivating Islamic terrorists to strike at the West.

Sensing responds as follows:

I want to spend some time walking back the cat here because Kos’s criticism isn’t justified for a perhaps-surprising reason: the “flypaper strategy” was never a strategy of the Bush administration.

(Emphasis in original.) Sensing then goes on a long, but interesting, ramble through the history of weblogger, pundit, and politician statements on the flypaper strategy, culminating with his own posting of July 2, Compulsion, where he wrote:

Our fear should be not that the Islamist insurgency is continuing, but that it might end too soon.

If al Qaeda wakes up and discerns that Iraq is their graveyard, they may wisely abandon the battle there before they are lethally wounded. We do not want al Qaeda to vacate Iraq substantially intact in order to regroup, reorganize, retrain and re-equip to attack us elsewhere and elsewhen.

Sensing finishes his response to Kos with the following:

In fact, the London bombings neither confirm nor disprove the efficacy of the “flypaper strategy” concept. The administration didn’t intend such a strategy in the first place and only adopted it late in the game after it became evident that Iraq was indeed proving a magnet for al Qaeda. But no administration member has ever claimed that fighting al Qaeda in Iraq would ironclad guarantee there would be no al Qaeda terrorism in Europe or America. Such a criticism is nought but a straw man Bush’s opponents set up and knock down to serve their own purposes. They have confused outsider analysis by people such as Warren, Bay, Andrew Sullivan and many others including me as enunciations of official administration policy. But it has never been the intentional policy of the administration until very recently, if indeed it it now is at all.

This passage is pretty revealing, and it gets to the heart of what disappoints me about Sensing’s analysis generally. In fact, it is Sensing who’s setting up and then knocking down a strawman here.

The real question is whether or not the flypaper strategy is working, whether killing the foreign terrorists drawn to Iraq lessens the risks of terror in places like the US and Britain. In trying to answer that question, the July 7 attacks are clearly relevant, though they are also clearly insufficient to reach a final determination one way or the other. They don’t “prove” flypaper’s failure. But they are an important data point.

For Sensing, though, the idea that killing bad guys is a good thing, a viable strategy that will ultimately lead to success, rather than simply escalating a cycle of violence that makes things worse, is axiomatic. For Reverend Sensing, it constitutes something akin to religious faith. (My guess is that this is a legacy of his indoctrination by and long service in the military, though that’s only a guess.)

Because of this, Sensing is disinclined to deal with Kos’s main argument (that “flypaper” isn’t working) head on. Instead, he creatively misconstrues it, saying that Kos is wrong for having mistakenly believed that flypaper was Bush’s actual motivating strategy. Flypaper, says Sensing, was merely a bolted-on after-the-fact rationale for the Bush team, one they may not actually believe in even today. But of course, that’s pretty much what Kos is saying, too.

The fundamental disagreement remains unaddressed: Is “flypaper” a viable strategy? Is it working? Or is it doomed to failure? Sensing can’t answer that question interestingly, because he doesn’t seriously entertain it as a question.

Ultimately, that constitutes a failure of imagination. It’s the same too-human failing that we all share, and that dooms most of our quests for truth. On this particular subject, though, Sensing has it bad. Which is actually kind of interesting in its own right, even if the analysis it results in isn’t.

Philosoraptor’s Iraq-Victory Timeline

Monday, July 11th, 2005

I liked this item from Winston Smith of Philosoraptor: When will victory be achieved in Iraq? A mostly speculative timeline.

Phase 5:
Human beings will not win the war against the insurgency. Intelligent robots created by the mega-multinational corporations that will soon rule the world will defeat the insurgency.

Rich: Plame Outing Goes Beyond the Watergate Model

Monday, July 11th, 2005

Interesting op-ed piece from Frank Rich in the New York Times: We’re not in Watergate anymore.

An excerpt:

Again following the Watergate template, the Bush administration at first tried to bury the whole Wilson affair by investigating itself. Even when The Washington Post reported two months after Mr. Wilson’s Op-Ed that “two top White House officials” had called at least six reporters, not just Mr. Novak, to destroy Mr. Wilson and his wife, the inquiry was kept safely within the John Ashcroft Justice Department, with the attorney general, according to a Times report, being briefed regularly on details of the investigation. If that rings a Watergate bell now, that’s because on Thursday you may have read the obituary of L. Patrick Gray, Mark Felt’s F.B.I. boss, who, in a similarly cozy conflict of interest, kept the Nixon White House abreast of the supposedly independent Watergate inquiry in its early going.

Political pressure didn’t force Mr. Ashcroft to relinquish control of the Wilson investigation to a special prosecutor, Patrick Fitzgerald, until Dec. 30, 2003, more than five months after Mr. Novak’s column ran. Now 18 more months have passed, and no one knows what crime Mr. Fitzgerald is investigating. Is it the tricky-to-prosecute outing of Mr. Wilson’s wife, the story Judy Miller never even wrote about? Or has Mr. Fitzgerald moved on to perjury and obstruction of justice possibly committed by those who tried to hide their roles in that outing? If so, it would mean the Bush administration was too arrogant to heed the most basic lesson of Watergate: the cover-up is worse than the crime.

Newsweek on Matt Cooper’s Email Linking Rove with the Plame Leak

Sunday, July 10th, 2005

Um, yeah. David Corn was right about the Newsweek story: Matt Cooper’s source.

Rove told Cooper that Wilson’s trip had not been authorized by “DCIA” – CIA Director George Tenet – or Vice President Dick Cheney. Rather, “it was, KR said, wilson’s wife, who apparently works at the agency on wmd [weapons of mass destruction] issues who authorized the trip.”

The part in quotes there was from Time magazine reporter Matt Cooper’s email, sent to his editors on July 11, 2003 — three days before the Robert Novak column that outed Plame.

So, the outlines of this, at least in terms of the political dimension, are getting clearer:

  • Rove has been parsing his public utterances really carefully from the beginning. For example, the above Newsweek article quotes him speaking on CNN last year, saying, “I didn’t know her name. I didn’t leak her name.” Well, right; that appears to be hypertechnically true, based on Cooper’s email. He didn’t leak her name. But he did blow her cover. And for the bad guys, the difference between learning that “Joe Wilson’s wife works for the CIA on WMD nonprofileration,” and learning that “Joe Wilson’s wife, whose name is Valerie Plame, works for the CIA on WMD nonproliferation” really isn’t significant. Once you have the first piece of information, it’s a very short step to the second.
  • It seems increasingly likely that Rove is going to seek legal cover in ignorance: The federal statue making it a crime to out an intelligence agent requires that you do so knowingly. So if Rove can raise a reasonable doubt about whether he knew Plame was undercover, the law can’t touch him. Note, though, that this defense requires Rove to basically assert a profound level of incompetence, reckless irresponsibility, and blatant misuse of classified information for political purposes. I mean, you’d like to think that one of the president’s closest advisors wouldn’t go around blabbing stuff like that to reporters, even on accident.
  • Speculation persists that the prosecutor, Fitzgerald, might be going after Rove on a perjury charge. Rove testified before the grand jury, and perhaps what he said can’t easily be reconciled with Cooper’s email. To the extent the appearance of consistency is a concern for the Bush-supporting set, their previous enthusiasm for pursuing perjury by political figures (e.g., Clinton/Lewinsky) could come back to haunt them.

So, where does this go next? Good question. One thing I’d expect is that if things start looking really iffy for Rove, in the sense that the media is running with the story and the public seems to be putting two and two together, we can expect some really spectacular piece of misdirection from the Bush team. Maybe that bombing of Iranian nuclear facilities they’ve been saving for a rainy day?