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This is why we call it "Jumping To Conclusions."

I have generally agreed with Dan Drezner's take on Plamegate, but I think he gives a little too much credibility to administration critics, such as Salon's Eric Boehlert. Drezner writes:

Eric Boehlert's Salon piece undercut Robert Novak's credibility just as badly as Joseph Wilson's exaggerations undercut his credibility.


  • Surprisingly Boehlert buries the lead with this graf from the story:
    [A] former senior CIA intelligence officer confirms to Salon that Plame is both an analyst and an officer who works undercover, and was undercover when Novak outed her. Now that her identity has been exposed she cannot again work overseas, and the network of agents she once oversaw may be at risk.
    I think this falls under the "unbelievably disturbing' category.
  • Well, I think it does too -- if it's true.

    Let me preface my comments by explaining that this is exactly why I don't like this story as a blogging subject: we don't really have any facts. We're discussing second- and thirdhand reporting using almost solely anonymous sources. We've got anonymous people commenting about news stories of other anonymous people, as if the first group knew the identity of the second when we have no way to know whether they do.

    Boehlert's version of the facts simply doesn't sound credible to me, in two aspects:

    1. Valerie Plame is "an officer who works undercover," who has a "network of agents she once oversaw."
    2. Valerie Plame "was undercover when Novak outed her."
    As to the first point, does it seem credible that a person would be "working undercover" under her own name, while at the same time openly being married to a U.S. Ambassador under that name? I may be overestimating foreign intelligence services, but a maiden name doesn't exactly sound like much of a secret identity. How hard would it have been for anybody to figure out that Valerie Plame = Valerie Wilson, given that the ambassador's own bio (*) mentions his wife's maiden name?

    Moreover, if someone is "working undercover," while pretending to be an "energy industry analyst" as a cover -- as some stories have noted -- does it make sense that she doesn't have a cover? I spent some significant time the other day searching the internet, and found nothing about a Valerie Plame, energy industry analyst. Wouldn't there be something out there to establish her bona fides if she were actually operating undercover?

    As to the second point, Novak has been explicit about the fact that, when he checked up on the story, the CIA didn't seem to care much about whether Plame was outed. If she were actively undercover, that doesn't sound right. Moreover, I would think their post-leak response would have been a little more aggressive, don't you?

    Additionally, how would a "former senior CIA intelligence officer" be in a position to know what Plame's current assignment was?

    And, in a related question, if she were actively undercover, how would anybody in the White House know, to the point where they could leak it to Novak? That sort of information isn't posted on bulletin boards. The identity of an undercover operative is, from what I understand, very closely guarded. It doesn't appear anywhere outside the CIA, not even in reports based on what that operative has found. It's not going to be something that a Karl Rove would even have access to.

    These questions I raise have been bothering me for a couple of days now. Now, this could be based on my misunderstanding of the way covert operations work. But it doesn't quite pass the common sense test to me.

    None of this means that the leaker didn't commit a crime and doesn't deserve punishment. But it does call into question the significance of the damage done.

    (*)By the way, this really bothers me, now that I pay more attention to it. Several pundits have, in questioning why on earth Wilson was sent to Niger, noted that Wilson is an anti-Bush, anti-war partisan. That's one thing. But now that I see that's he's affiliated with the Middle East Institute, I'm very disturbed. The MEI is one of those Saudi-funded propaganda mills that Matt Welch brilliantly exposed last year. Now I really want to know what the people who originally picked Wilson were thinking.


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    Comments (7)


    "anti-Bush"????? That's probably why he donated money to the Bush 2000 campaign, right?

    Why'd they pick Wilson to go to Niger? Let's see... (1) He swore an oath as a diplomat to represent and advocate the foreign policy of the United States government without prejudice, and for his entire career, he lived up to this oath; (2) He was the charge d'affairs to Iraq, so he probably knew lots about Iraq; (3) he had served in the U.S. Embassy in Niger, so he probably knew lots about Niger; and (4) he had served in *many* other posts in countries near Niger, including being Ambassador to Gabon, so he probably knew lots about the area.

    If you want to participate in "slime and defend" questioning why Wilson was sent, I've got a question that must be answered: who would have been a better choice to investigate whether Iraq had been trying to purchace nuclear materials from Niger and surrounding countries? In that, who knows more about: Niger, the area, *and* Iraq, and had had such a distinguished career serving the United States? Is there anybody?

    'Neo-conservatives and religious conservatives have hijacked this administration, and I consider myself on a personal mission to destroy both.'" -- Joseph Wilson


    How about a date for that quote -- and having it put into some sort of context.

    For instance, Was it said:

    (1) Before he went to Niger ('cause the issue of the original post was why he was the one chosen)? or

    (2) After some people apparently tried to destroy him and his wife's reputations?

    You know, if it was #1, David, you've got a point. If he held those views before he went, it was a horrible choice.

    If it's #2, you'd agree that what he said is kinda understandable that he'd be mad at those people, be fighting back, and you'd agree, I'm sure that it has *absolutely* no bearing on whether he should have been chosen to go to Niger.

    So, how about a date & some context?

    Wilson is a man of integrity who proved that through incredible service to his country. Sliming and defending isn't going to work on a man like him.


    And, while we're at it:

    David wrote: "As to the second point, Novak has been explicit about the fact that, when he checked up on the story, the CIA didn't seem to care much about whether Plame was outed. If she were actively undercover, that doesn't sound right. Moreover, I would think their post-leak response would have been a little more aggressive, don't you?"

    Novak is a moron.

    Novak is explicit that the CIA requested that they not reveal Plame's name. Novak's beef is that they weren't adamant enough in this request... they never told him that she was an undercover operative nor did they tell him that lives were going to be in danger. Novak is trying to blame the CIA.

    But, as we all know now, revealing the identity of a CIA operative is against the law. Novak is saying that the CIA should have volunteered to him that she was undercover... something like "Don't print her name sir, because she's undercover." If they had done this, they would have been breaking the law! So, they didn't. They couldn't be more adamant because, well, that'd be violating the law, too.

    They did tell him not to print the name. And, he didn't get the hint. Because he's a moron.

    Sam Hutcheson:

    I'm really waiting to hear your response here, David. Come on, son. Your audience is getting restless...


    Gee, I didn't know you cared.

    My position is that I'm not Robert Novak, and have no idea what was said. He says that they didn't put up much of an argument, and intimates that they have done so in the past and would have done so if they had cared. They didn't have to announce that she was undercover; they could have simply said it would be dangerous.

    I note that the whole "called six people and Novak is the one who printed it" story is falling apart, though.

    The CIA had an opening for an assassin. After all of the background checks, interviews, and testing were done there were three finalists - two men and one woman. For the final test, the CIA agents took one of the men to a large metal door and handed him a gun.

    "We must know that you will follow your instructions, no matter what the circumstances. Inside this room you will find your wife sitting in a chair. You have to kill her." The first man said. "You cant be serious. I could never shoot my wife!"The agent replies, "Then you?re not the right man for this job."

    The second man was given the same instructions. He took the gun and went into the room. All was quiet for about five minutes. Then the agent came out with tears in his eyes. "I tried, but I cant kill my wife." The agent replies, "You dont have what it takes. Take your wife and go home."

    Finally, it was the womans turn. Only she was told to kill her husband. She took the gun and went into the room. Shots were heard, one shot after another. They heard screaming, crashing, banging on the walls. After a few minutes, all was quiet. The door opened slowly and there stood the woman. She wiped the sweat from her brow and said, "You guys didnt tell me the gun was loaded with blanks. So I had to beat him to death with the chair."


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