Washington: a city of denials, spin, and political calculations. The Nation's former DC editor David Corn spent 2002-2007 blogging on the policies, personalities and lies that spew out of the nation's capital. The complete archive appears below. Corn is now the DC editor at Mother Jones.
I remain on a vacation (well-deserved, if I do say so), but I did post the below item on my personal blog at www.davidcorn.com. If you're not a regular visitor there, please become one.
The spin never ends. In a New York Times op-ed piece published on Tuesday, former Senator Bob Dole, the hapless 1996 GOP presidential nominee, backs proposed legislation that would protect (to a large degree) a reporter's confidential relationship with a source. That's all fine and well, but Dole also takes the occasion to disinform about the Rove scandal. The piece opens:
Like many Americans, I am perplexed by the federal investigation into the alleged leak of classified information that exposed Valerie Plame Wilson, the wife of Joseph C. Wilson IV, a former ambassador, as a Central Intelligence Agency officer.
Why is he perplexed? Classified information was leaked. It was not an "alleged leak." The leak did occur. No one disputes that. And the CIA has repeatedly said the information that was leaked--Valerie Wilson's employment status at the CIA--was classified information. The Justice Department, which initiated the investigation, presumably agrees. (Otherwise, why investigate?) And we now know that Karl Rove (at least) twice shared this classified information with reporters Bob Novak and Matt Cooper and that Scooter Libby shared it (at least) once with Cooper. Yet Dole, following the lead of conservative spinners, diminishes the matter as an "alleged leak" and writes it off as oh-so-puzzling. There's noting perplexing about special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald's mission.
So far the special prosecutor, Patrick J. Fitzgerald, has achieved one notable result: putting a New York Times reporter, Judith Miller, in jail for refusing to break her promise of confidentiality to her sources in response to a grand jury subpoena.
Here Dole is pandering to his audience--or the editors of the Times. Prosecutor do not tend to achieve any "notable" result until he or she ends his or her investigation and brings indictments. There is nothing odd in that Fitzgerald has not produced any results yet. True, he has chased Miller into jail, and that does distinguish his inquiry from most investigations conducted by US attorneys. But again Dole is doing his disingenuous best to falsely portray Fitzgerald's work, which remains unfinished.
Next Dole writes:
The incarceration of Ms. Miller is all the more baffling because she has never written a word about the C.I.A. flap.
There is nothing "baffling" about Fitzgerald's pursuit of Miller. Sure, the public does not know exactly why Fitzgerald went after Miller. But Fitzgerald did make his reasons known to several federal judges, and they have each supported him on this point. Obviously, Fitzgerald has cause to believe that Miller had a significant communication with a suspect or a person of interest. Fitzgerald probably gathered evidence or testimony suggesting such a communication occurred. And Fitzgerald wants whatever information he considers critical. This is not at all baffling.
Later in the article, Dole misrepresents the Intelligence Identities Protection Act, which he cosponsored in 1982:
[T]he act was drafted in very narrow terms: our goal was to criminalize only those disclosures that clearly represented a conscious and pernicious effort to identify and expose agents with the intent to impair America's foreign intelligence activities.
I hope Dole paid more attention to the details of legislation when he served in the Senate. This is not what the law says. There is no intent to harm standard. Government officials who disclose identifying information about an undercover US intelligence officer can be prosecuted whether they leaked the information for such a purpose or not. There is a portion of the law that does apply to non-government individuals who engage in a pattern of exposure designed to thwart US intelligence efforts. But the provisions of the law that apply to government officials say nothing about intent or a pattern. Under these provisions, the reason for the leak is irrelevant.
Dole also maintains that the CIA was not taking "affirmative measures" to protect Valerie Wilson (a the law in question requires for a prosecution). How does Dole know what the CIA was or was not doing? He writes:
[W]e now know that Ms. Wilson held a desk job at C.I.A. headquarters and could be seen traveling to and from work.
Here we go again. It's the same old canard: Valerie Wilson was not really undercover. I've written about this plenty in the past. Suffice it to say that the CIA was indeed still preserving her cover--perhaps only to protect her potential to return to the field and/or to protect her past operations and contacts. But the CIA did try to wave Novak off the story, according to former CIA spokesman Bill Harlow. And by referring the matter to the Justice Department for criminal prosecution, the CIA indicated that it believed it was taking affirmative measures" to preserve he undercover status. Moreover, who saw her "traveling to and from work"? Her neighbors have repeatedly said they did not know she was heading to Langley when she left for work in the morning. And one cannot stand in front of the CIA compound and watch people coming and going. So who was spying on her? By the way, there are plenty of undercover CIA officials who work at CIA HQ. Are they also being watched by Dole's watchers?
Of all the misleading spin I've read recently on this case, this point--that Valerie Wilson could be spotted commuting to the CIA--is particularly absurd. It leads me to wonder: who wrote this piece for Dole? One does not have to be a CIA veteran to see that Dole is fronting for someone. It would have been rather informative if the Times had listed Dole's ghostwriter on the byline, for it is probably this person who is most responsible for the disinformation being transmitted to the public via this article. If Dole wants us to take his article seriously, then he should tell us who his source is.