Urbin Report

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Getting back to the basics

Ok, so Scooter got his ass in a sling, not for what he did prior the the start of the investigation, but what did during the investigation.
The findings of the two year investigation, done with the cooperation of the White House (a nice change from "declaring war" on prosecutors), were actually predicted on the July 15th episode of PBS's "The Journal Editorial Report":

Paul Gigot: What kind of legal jeopardy is Karl Rove in, based on what we know now?

Taranto: On a scale of one to 10, Paul, I would say roughly a zero. Look, the allegation is that Rove violated something called the Intelligence Identities Protection Act. This is a 1982 law that's meant to shield the identities of covert CIA agents. In order to be a covert CIA agent under this law, you have to be stationed overseas or to have been stationed overseas sometime in the past five years. Joe Wilson in his book acknowledges that his wife's last overseas assignment was in 1997, six years before this so-called leak took place. There's no crime here.

Gigot: It also is true that you must have disclosed the CIA agent's identity maliciously and as part of your normal official government function.

Taranto: You have to have learned it through your government functions, and you have to have disclosed it knowing that the government was taking affirmative measures to conceal it. Now Robert Novak, who first reported this, said later that he had asked the CIA if it was OK to disclose this name. He said the CIA said we'd rather not, but made only--and these are his words--"a very weak objection." So it doesn't sound like the government was taking affirmative measures.

Gigot: Of course, we do have that independent counsel, the Special Counsel, Patrick Fitzgerald, who was appointed a couple of years ago, looking into this. Do we know what it is precisely he's looking at? Could he be looking at anything more than whether that law was violated? Something like perjury or lying under oath?

Taranto: Well, as Martha Stewart can attest, sometimes just being involved in a criminal investigation can get you into trouble if you do the wrong thing. So yes, there may be conceivably indictments based on something that arose out of the investigation, even if there is no underlying crime.

So the root cause of Plamegate is nothinggate. If Fitzgerald had something, he would have said it, even if he didn't press charges.
See Indepenent Council Ray's findings for example.

So, let's look at what happened back at the root of the issue.

Why was Joe Wilson sent to Niger in the first place? He said that the Vice-President wanted answers, but as we know that doesn't mean the the VP picked him. Wilson's qualifications are also suspect. He was low level diplomat to third world countries and briefly served in the US Embassy in Baghdad prior to Desert Storm. He had no background in WMDs or any intelligence training. It's been widely leaked that it was his wife who put his name up, but why? He did have some connections with the Nigerian Mining Ministry. A group of officials as honest as any in sub-Sahara Africa, which is to say at least mildy corrupt. From what I've read, Wilson asked them if they had violated international laws concerning the transfer of weapons grade uranium. Hardly surprising, they said no. Wilson in his NY Times Op Ed, said he found no evidence of the sale of Yellow Cake to Iraq. What he didn't say there, but did in his report to the CIA, was that there was a group of ranking Iraqi officals, including "Bagdad Bob" in Niger at the time. There isn't much besides Yellow Cake to interest the Iraqi government in Niger.

Glenn Reynolds points out that the CIA doesn't come out looking good in this affair no matter how you slice it:
THE BIG LOSER in the Libby affair, it would seem to me, is the CIA. At least it will be if anyone pays attention.

Consider: Assuming that Valerie Plame was some sort of genuinely covert operative -- something that's not actually quite clear from the indictment -- the chain of events looks pretty damning: Wilson was sent to Africa on an investigative mission regarding nuclear weapons, but never asked to sign any sort of secrecy agreement(!). Wilson returns, reports, then publishes an oped in the New York Times (!!) about his mission. This pretty much ensures that people will start asking why he was sent, which leads to the fact that his wife arranged it. Once Wilson's oped appeared, Plame's covert status was in serious danger. Yet nobody seemed to care.

This leaves two possibilities. One is that the mission was intended to result in the New York Times oped all along, meaning that the CIA didn't care much about Plame's status, and was trying to meddle in domestic politics. This reflects very badly on the CIA.

The other possibility is that they're so clueless that they did this without any nefarious plan, because they're so inept, and so prone to cronyism and nepotism, that this is just business as usual. If so, the popular theory that the CIA couldn't find its own weenie with both hands and a flashlight would appear to have found some pretty strong support.

Either way, it seems to me that everyone involved with planning the Wilson mission should be fired. And it's obvious that the CIA, one way or another, needs a lot of work.

Hmmm...that goes back to the theory that Wilson, a known opponent of the Bush Administration, be sent to Niger as part of the CIA's plan to keep the President off balance and not cleaning house at the CIA.