Treason, no less. A leading Democrat, Henry Waxman, howls in Congress that “the intentional disclosure of a covert CIA agent’s identity would be an act of treason. If Rove was part of a conspiracy and intentionally disclosed the name–then that jeopardizes national security.” Liberal columnists like Robert Scheer of the Los Angeles Times join the Waxman chorus.
But suppose one of Valerie Plame’s covert CIA missions, until outed by Karl Rove, had been to liaise with Venezuelan right-wingers planning to assassinate President Hugo Chávez, possibly masquerading as a journalist and using her attractions to get close to the populist president and try to poison him, just as the agency tried to poison Fidel Castro. In an earlier incarnation Scheer would surely have been only too happy to jeopardize national security by exposing Plame’s true employer.
Thirty-eight years ago Scheer was one of the editors of Ramparts, and in February 1967 that magazine ran an exposé of covert CIA funding of the National Student Association, prompting furious charges that it had endangered national security, which, from the foreign policy establishment’s point of view, it most certainly had.
The CIA’s covert wing is not in the business of advancing world peace and general prosperity. The record of sixty years is one of uninterrupted evil. So we should drop all this nonsense about treason and clap Rove warmly on the back for his courageous onslaughts on the cult of secrecy. By all means delight in the White House’s discomfiture, but spare us the claptrap about national security and treason.
To thread one’s way through coverage of the Plame affair, the jailing of Judy Miller, the contempt citations of four journalists in the Wen Ho Lee case and the AIPAC/Franklin spy case is like strolling past distorting mirrors in a fun house. Go from one to the next and the swollen giant of “treason” in the West Wing of the White House shrinks to the dwarflike status of a “leak,” which is how AIPAC’s defenders like to categorize the transmission of a top-secret Presidential Directive on Iran from the Pentagon, via Larry Franklin, to AIPAC officials and thence to a spymaster, Naor Gilon, in the Israeli Embassy in Washington.
Judy Miller too has had an image makeover, from the warmongering fabricator of yesterday to today’s martyr to the First Amendment, with years of profitable speaking tours beckoning after she is released from the incarceration that has winched her reputation out of the mud.
But why is prosecutor Fitzgerald going after her? She wrote no story about Plame. Now, as prime propagandist in the war faction, Miller would have been as keen to discredit Wilson as was Rove. Suppose she was Waxman’s traitor, the one who relayed from her prime disinformant, Ahmad Chalabi, the news that it was CIA employee Plame who assigned her husband the Niger mission. Relayed to whom? Maybe to one of the State Department’s neocon warmongers, like John Bolton or Elliott Abrams, who duly passed the news on to Scooter Libby and Rove in the White House.
Stroll on to the next set of mirrors, apropos Wen Ho Lee’s suit, to discover who leaked the false accusations about his supposed acts of treason at Los Alamos, that he allegedly transmitted nuclear secrets to China. Four journalists, including James Risen of the New York Times and Bob Drogin of the Los Angeles Times, may join Miller behind bars for refusing to divulge their sources.
One can understand why Wen Ho Lee is unmoved by charges that he is sabotaging the First Amendment. His case displayed the FBI and the press that smeared him–primarily Risen and Jeff Gerth in the New York Times–in a disgusting light. He spent nearly a year in solitary confinement, with FBI agents telling him he might face the death penalty for being a traitor.
Who in fact was a prime betrayer of secrets, if one has to be found? On July 7 Steve Terrell reported in the New Mexican that the leaker so eager to disclose a top-secret government probe of Wen Ho Lee at Los Alamos may well be the current governor of New Mexico and possible White House aspirant, Bill Richardson, who was Clinton’s Energy Secretary at the time and who had spent a large portion of his political career nurturing the interests of Los Alamos as a nuclear research lab.
If you want to start waving words like “treason” around, the AIPAC spy case is surely a better target than Karl Rove. Here we have a four-year FBI probe of possible treachery by senior US government officials, as well as by Israel’s premier lobbying outfit in the United States. Yet compared with the mileage given to the Plame affair, coverage of the AIPAC spy case in the press has been sparse, and the commentary very demure, until you get to Justin Raimondo’s pugnacious columns on Antiwar.com.
Raimondo has been comparing the AIPAC spy case to the indictment of Alger Hiss in the 1940s, claiming that just as the foreign policy apparatus was allegedly riddled with Communist spies in the 1940s, the same apparatus is now riddled with Israel’s agents today. I’d reckon that when it comes to agents of influence, the USSR back then couldn’t hold a candle to Israel today (or then, for that matter though in that distant time Zionist and Communist were often hats on the same head).
One answer in the McCarthyite era to accusations of spying was that the Soviet Union had been an ally and the supposed transmission of “secrets” was just a routine exchange of information on such matters as the schedule for the Dumbarton Oaks conference laying the groundwork for the UN (in which Hiss was involved). Similar talk about “allies” and “routine exchanges” pops from the mouths of Israel’s supporters here, denouncing the FBI probe as some latter-day equivalent of the persecution of Dreyfus. It’s perfectly obvious that Israel exerts huge influence on US policy. Men and women working in Israel’s interest throng Washington. But here, as in the Plame affair, the left should be leery of words like “traitor” and “national security.” They cut both ways.