I guess it’s the season for indictments. Recently, Republican Majority Whip Rep. Tom Delay was indicted in Texas, and now Vice President Cheney’s chief of staff, “Scooter” Libby, has been indicted by a grand jury in Washington D.C. for two counts of perjury, two counts of making false statements, and one count of obstruction of justice.
Let me state up front that if Libby is found guilty of these charges, I want to see him serve jail time. And speaking with other conservative types, I find this view is pretty common. I think this is a quality that separates conservatives from liberals. Do you remember the calls to “censure and move on” when President Clinton was impeached on his own charges of perjury and obstruction of justice? The liberals were willing to look away because he was their scoundrel. But we conservatives are willing to hang our people out to dry when they do something wrong. Liberals might call that a weakness, but I call it holding everyone to the same standards.
The Left has been jumping with glee that Libby was indicted. But there is some bitterness that the investigation didn’t shake out some indictments for Karl Rove or Vice President Cheney. Leftists have also been trying to make Libby’s indictment a rehash of the reasons why we originally went to war in Iraq, specifically the search for WMDs. This was brought up specifically during the press conference held by special counsel Patrick J. Fitzgerald. Here is a question by ABC reporter Terry Moran and the beginning of Fitzgerald’s response:
MORAN: Many Americans are opposed to war. Critics of your administration have looked to your investigation and hoped they might see this indictment as a vindication of their argument that the administration took the country to war on false premises. Does this indictment do that?
FITZGERALD: This indictment is not about the war. This indictment’s not about the propriety of the war, and people who believe furthering the war effort, people who oppose it, people who are — have mixed feelings about it should not look to this indictment for any resolution of how they feel or any vindication of how they feel. The indictment will not seek to prove that the war was justified or unjustified.
You’d think that response would pretty much put the idea to rest, but it’s insufficient for the Left, who desperately want this issue to be tied to WMDs and the war. So let’s consider why they would want to link the two. This all began during the ramp-up to the war in Iraq, intended to topple Saddam Hussein. Former ambassador Joseph Wilson was given the assignment to visit the nation of Niger in northern Africa and discover whether Saddam Hussein had attempted to purchase yellow-cake uranium from Niger in order to create nuclear weapons. The account he reported to the Intelligence Committee and the account he stated publicly about this trip were strikingly different. In other words, he lied to at least one group. One of these lies was about why he, and not someone else, was assigned to go to Niger in the first place. Publicly, Wilson stated the request came from the Vice President’s office — which the office flatly denied. But when journalist Bob Novak posted his suggestion that Wilson’s wife, Valerie Plame, works for the CIA and therefore could have been the reason Wilson was chosen, the Left went nuts.
Pundits on the Left rallied together to thump their chests and rend their garments. Novak had publicly revealed Plame as a CIA agent, potentially endangering her life and the lives of her fellow agents; this act was intolerable, beyond the pale. Heads must roll! But Bill Bennett shows how this Leftist stance is morally bankrupt:
Moral consistency may never have been a strong virtue of the Left or the Mainstream Media (Am I being redundant?). I suppose, then, we should perhaps thank Joe Wilson for getting the Left and the MSM to finally support and think of the value of the CIA and its agents, even its agents whose jobs are classified.
However, that support for the CIA, and that respect for secrecy in war and intelligence, lasted only as long as they thought it might bring down a high official like Karl Rove. Now they’re back to their old selves.
Item: Dana Priest of the Washington Post writes a front-page story on Wednesday headlined, CIA Holds Terror Suspects in Secret Prisons. Pay close attention to the second sentence of the story: “The secret facility is part of a covert prison system set up by the CIA nearly four years ago that at various times has included sites in eight countries, including Thailand, Afghanistan and several democracies in Eastern Europe, as well as a small center at the Guantanamo Bay prison in Cuba, according to current and former intelligence officials and diplomats from three continents.”
“Secret”! “Covert”! So after the press and the Left make a meal of the allegation that people in the White House might have leaked the name of a covert operative, and after we find out that Plame was indeed not a covert operative under the law, the Washington Post – by its own admission – can print classified information that involves covert CIA activity?
Power Line Blog also demonstrates that The New York Times is guilty of doing exactly the same thing with another CIA operation. And this was a truly clandestine one, not the equivalent of revealing the name of a CIA desk jockey like Plame. The Fitzgerald investigation seems to validate the idea that even if Libby were Novak’s source of information about Plame, it was not a violation of the law because the grand jury did not indict Libby on charges of revealing this information. And yes, I know that’s a rather thin thread to hang from.
Max Boot of the LA Times writes about Wilson’s lies. I’ll close with the tail end of his excellent article:
Pretty much all of the claims that the administration doctored evidence about Iraq have been euthanized, not only by the Senate committee but also by the equally bipartisan Robb-Silberman commission. The latest proof that intelligence was not “politicized” comes from an unlikely source – Lawrence Wilkerson, Colin Powell’s former chief of staff, who has been denouncing the hawkish “cabal” supposedly leading us toward “disaster.” Yet, in between bouts of trashing the administration, Wilkerson said on Oct. 19 that “the consensus of the intelligence community was overwhelming” that Hussein was building illicit weapons. This view was endorsed by “the French, the Germans, the Brits.” The French, of all people, even offered “proof positive” that Hussein was buying aluminum tubes “for centrifuges.” Wilkerson also recalled seeing satellite photos “that would lead me to believe that Saddam Hussein, at least on occasion, was giving us disinformation.”
So much for the lies that led to war. What we’re left with is the lies that led to the antiwar movement. Good thing for Wilson and his pals that deceiving the press and the public isn’t a crime.
Addendum (11/7/2005): I found the article by Victoria Toensing that I was looking for. She lists in the Opinion Journal some strange ways the CIA behaved in regard to Joe Wilson.
* The CIA sent her husband, former ambassador Joseph Wilson, to Niger on a sensitive mission regarding WMD. He was to determine whether Iraq had attempted to purchase yellowcake, an essential ingredient for unconventional weapons. However, it was Ms. Plame, not Mr. Wilson, who was the WMD expert. Moreover, Mr. Wilson had no intelligence background, was never a senior person in Niger when he was in the State Department, and was opposed to the administration’s Iraq policy. The assignment was given, according to the Senate Intelligence Committee, at Ms. Plame’s suggestion.
* Mr. Wilson was not required to sign a confidentiality agreement, a mandatory act for the rest of us who either carry out any similar CIA assignment or represent CIA clients.
* When he returned from Niger, Mr. Wilson was not required to write a report, but rather merely to provide an oral briefing. That information was not sent to the White House. If this mission to Niger were so important, wouldn’t a competent intelligence agency want a thoughtful written assessment from the “missionary,” if for no other reason than to establish a record to refute any subsequent misrepresentation of that assessment? Because it was the vice president who initially inquired about Niger and the yellowcake (although he had nothing to do with Mr. Wilson being sent), it is curious that neither his office nor the president’s were privy to the fruits of Mr. Wilson’s oral report.
* Although Mr. Wilson did not have to write even one word for the agency that sent him on the mission at taxpayer’s expense, over a year later he was permitted to tell all about this sensitive assignment in the New York Times. For the rest of us, writing about such an assignment would mean we’d have to bring our proposed op-ed before the CIA’s Prepublication Review Board and spend countless hours arguing over every word to be published. Congressional oversight committees should want to know who at the CIA permitted the publication of the article, which, it has been reported, did not jibe with the thrust of Mr. Wilson’s oral briefing. For starters, if the piece had been properly vetted at the CIA, someone should have known that the agency never briefed the vice president on the trip, as claimed by Mr. Wilson in his op-ed.
* More important than the inaccuracies is that, if the CIA truly, truly, truly had wanted Ms. Plame’s identity to be secret, it never would have permitted her spouse to write the op-ed. Did no one at Langley think that her identity could be compromised if her spouse wrote a piece discussing a foreign mission about a volatile political issue that focused on her expertise? The obvious question a sophisticated journalist such as Mr. Novak asked after “Why did the CIA send Wilson?” was “Who is Wilson?” After being told by a still-unnamed administration source that Mr. Wilson’s “wife” suggested him for the assignment, Mr. Novak went to Who’s Who, which reveals “Valerie Plame” as Mr. Wilson’s spouse.
* CIA incompetence did not end there. When Mr. Novak called the agency to verify Ms. Plame’s employment, it not only did so, but failed to go beyond the perfunctory request not to publish. Every experienced Washington journalist knows that when the CIA really does not want something public, there are serious requests from the top, usually the director. Only the press office talked to Mr. Novak.
* Although high-ranking Justice Department officials are prohibited from political activity, the CIA had no problem permitting its deep cover or classified employee from making political contributions under the name “Wilson, Valerie E.,” information publicly available at the Federal Elections Commission.
The CIA conduct in this matter is either a brilliant covert action against the White House or inept intelligence tradecraft. It is up to Congress to decide which.