Real story? Huge pile of partisan BS...
October 26, 2005
The Untold Story: Joseph Wilson, Judith Miller and the CIA
By Cliff Kincaid
The savage left-wing attack on Judith Miller from inside and outside of the New York Times completely misses the point. She is under attack for being a lackey of the Bush Administration when she failed to do the administration and the public a big favor. She could have done a potential Pulitzer Prize-winning story that could have broken the Joseph Wilson case wide open. It is a story exposing the Wilson mission to Africa as a CIA operation designed to undermine President Bush.
For 85 days in jail, Miller protected her source, Lewis Libby, Vice President Dick Cheney's chief of staff, but the fact remains that she never used the explosive information Libby gave her. Now we know, according to Miller's account, that Libby told her about a CIA war with the Bush Administration over Iraq intelligence and that he vociferously complained to her about CIA leaks to the press. But Miller decided that what Libby told her was not newsworthy. Why?
We were critical of Miller from the start because she went to jail rather than testify under oath and tell the truth before a grand jury. Eventually, she did testify, under questionable and mysterious circumstances. She claims she insisted that her testimony be restricted to her conversations with Libby. Clearly, Miller had a relationship with Libby as a source. On that matter, she is "guilty" as charged. But the media attacks on Miller really show her critics do not regard Libby as a source worth protecting. Libby, according to columnist Frank Rich, is a "neocon" who misled the nation to get us into the Iraq War. On the other hand, Wilson is supposed to be a hero and whistleblower. He came back from Africa, after investigating the Iraq-uranium link, and concluded that the Bush Administration was lying. His wife, CIA employee Valerie Plame, had her identity revealed by conservative columnist Robert Novak because Bush officials were upset that her husband had told the truth. At least this is their version of the facts.
But if Miller was too cozy with the White House, why didn't she rush into print with Libby's version of events and use him as an anonymous source? Miller couldn't even be counted on to do a story based on high-level information provided to her by the vice president's top aide. It was information that was not only true but explosive. Libby was letting Miller in on the real story of the Wilson affair--that the CIA was out to get the President, and that the agency was using Wilson to get Bush.
The fact that she didn't write a story has been cited many times, supposedly to prove that Miller should never have been called by Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald before the grand jury. If she didn't write a story, we were told, she shouldn't have to be ordered to talk about her sources. Fitzgerald obviously believed the information she had about her sources was relevant to the case. And it was. But Miller didn't write any of this up at the time. That's mighty strange behavior for a pawn of the administration.
In my recent special report on this matter, former prosecutor Joseph diGenova called the Wilson mission a CIA "covert operation" against Bush. Like the Novak column, a Miller story about this matter could have raised questions about the purpose of the trip and who was behind it. But if Miller had done such a story for the Times, the impact could have been enormous. After all, the Times was the chosen vessel for Wilson to write his column claiming there was no Iraq uranium deal with Niger.
Miller could have revealed that Wilson was recommended for the mission by his own wife, a CIA employee. His wife's role was critically important because a truly undercover CIA operative would not recommend her husband for an overseas trip and then expect to maintain her "secret" identity as he proceeded to write an article for the New York Times and become a public spectacle because of it. Her role in the trip means that she was not undercover in any real sense of the word.
As I have noted previously, Herbert Romerstein, a former professional staff member of the House Intelligence Committee, says that Plame's involvement in sending her husband on the CIA mission to Africa meant that when Wilson went public about it, foreign intelligence services would investigate all of his family members for possible CIA connections. Those intelligence services would not simply assume that he went on the mission because he was a former diplomat. They would investigate his wife. And that would inevitably lead to unraveling the facts about Valerie Wilson, or Valerie Plame, and her involvement with the CIA. Romerstein says that Plame's role in arranging the mission for her husband is solid proof that she was not concerned about having her "cover" blown because she was not truly under cover.
By any account, she was hardly a James Bond-type. Plame's "cover," a company called "Brewster-Jennings & Associates," was so flimsy that she used it as her affiliation when she made a 1999 contribution to Al Gore for president. She identified herself as "Valerie Wilson" in this case. The same Federal Election Commission records showing her contribution to Gore also reveal a $372 contribution to America Coming Together, when the group was organizing to defeat Bush.
If Miller had done some extra digging, she would have discovered that, contrary to what Wilson said publicly in the Times, his findings were interpreted by many officials as additional evidence of an Iraqi interest in obtaining uranium. This kind of story, if it had been published in the New York Times, could have completely undermined Wilson's credibility. It would have made it ridiculous for the Times to subsequently demand the appointment of a special prosecutor to investigate the Bush White House. The Times went ahead and made that editorial demand, only to have it backfire on the paper when Fitzgerald demanded Miller's testimony.
The CIA obviously knew the facts of the case. Nevertheless, with Wilson and the media, led by the Times, generating a feeding frenzy over the publication of his wife's name and affiliation, the agency pushed for a Justice Department investigation, on the false premise that revealing her identity was a crime. This is what started it all. It was the perfect way to divert attention from a much-needed investigation of the CIA, the ultimate source of the questionable intelligence that the administration used to make the case for the Iraq War.
Eventually, some members of the press caught up with some parts of the truth. Susan Schmidt of the Washington Post was honest enough to admit, when the evidence came out, that Wilson had misrepresented his wife's role. Schmidt reported that the Senate Intelligence Committee report found that he was specifically recommended for the mission by his wife, "contrary to what he has said publicly." By then, however, the media feeding frenzy was well underway and the facts of the case were being buried or shunted aside. And this takes us to where we are today--wondering whether Fitzgerald will indict Bush officials for making conflicting statements about the facts of the case. If the investigation was a real desire for truth and justice, Fitzgerald would drop the case and accuse the CIA of pursuing the matter for an illegitimate political reason. It's the CIA--not the White House--that should be under investigation.
If Miller deserves criticism, it is for failing to write the story when Libby handed it to her on a silver platter. She had the perfect opportunity to set the record straight about some misinformation that had already appeared in her own paper. After all, it was Times columnist Nicholas Kristof who had asserted, in a May 6, 2003, column, that "I'm told by a person involved in the Niger caper that more than a year ago the vice president's office asked for an investigation of the uranium deal, so a former U.S. ambassador to Africa was dispatched to Niger." We now know that Wilson was the source of this information, and that it was false. He whitewashed the nature of the CIA role in the trip because he wanted to protect his wife. Wilson wanted people to think that the Vice President's office was somehow behind his mission.
We also know, because of Miller's account of her testimony under oath, that it was because of this misinformation that Libby talked to Miller and wanted to get out the other side of the story. The Vice President's office, said by the liberal press to be at the center of the CIA leak "conspiracy," was justifiably outraged over Wilson going public with misleading information about his mission and blasting the administration in the process. Miller also testified that she thought Plame's CIA connection "potentially newsworthy." You bet it was. But she didn't write the story. This is where Miller failed her paper and the public.
Consider the record of the Times in this case. Editorially, the Times called for the investigation but didn't want to cooperate with it. The paper also published the misleading Wilson and Kristof columns. And yet Miller, who didn't write anything, is the Times journalist under fire in the press because she wrote stories about Iraqi weapons of mass destruction (WMD) programs before the war and later talked to Libby about how the CIA had gotten the facts wrong! Miller has become a target even though it's her colleagues who put the misleading Wilson column into the paper, published Kristof's erroneous account, and called for the probe that resulted in Miller serving jail time.
Miller's WMD stories are said by the hard left to be evidence of her reliance on the Bush Administration for information. In fact, it shows her dependence on the same sources that told the administration that Iraq had WMD. Those sources included CIA director George Tenet, a Clinton holdover, who told Bush that finding WMD in Iraq was a "slam dunk."
We are still left with the mystery of why Miller didn't write anything based on what Libby told her. She says she proposed a story. Miller and/or her editors may have been persuaded to drop it by other sources, who may have been in the CIA. It makes perfect sense. The CIA had been behind the Wilson trip from the beginning and, as Libby told Miller, had been trying to undercut the administration's Iraq policy and divert attention from the agency's poor performance on Iraqi WMD. The CIA did not want the full extent of its role uncovered and decided that the best way to divert attention from its own shabby performance was to accuse Bush officials of violating the law against identifying covert agents. This was one covert operation by the CIA on top of another. Miller watched the whole thing play out and refused to tell her own paper and the public what was really happening.
Miller says that she only talked to the grand jury about her conversations with Libby. She said she wanted to protect other sources she used on other stories. Miller's 2001 book, Germs, on "Biological weapons and America's secret war," has several references to her other sources. Some are unnamed "analysts" at the CIA.
My own recent special report on this matter struck a chord with readers, one of whom said it is a case of "the CIA undermining and eliminating a president." But Bush is still hanging on, dismissing the stream of stories on the case as "background noise." Staying above the fray, when he has come under assault by America's premier intelligence service, Bush is letting CIA director Porter Goss do the necessary job of cleaning house at this corrupt agency.
If some of Bush's aides now go down on dubious charges of having faulty or inconsistent memories about the case, they could try to blow the whistle on the CIA in court. The CIA would most likely try to censor the proceedings on grounds of "national security" and protecting agency "operations." For the sake of maintaining our democratic form of government and reigning in rogue elements at the CIA, the truth must come out.
Real story? Huge pile of partisan BS...
No man is free until all men are free - John Hossack
I agree completely with this Administrationís goal of a regime change in Iraq-John Kerry
even if that enforcement is mostly at the hands of the United States, a right we retain even if the Security Council fails to act-John Kerry
He may even miscalculate and slide these weapons off to terrorist groups to invite them to be a surrogate to use them against the United States. Itís the miscalculation that poses the greatest threat-John Kerry
More from the ever-reticent Joe Wilson, he who would shun publicity. What a media-whore.
Joe Wilson's 60 Minutes
Another media outlet falls to the Plame storyline without so much as a whimper.
by Thomas Joscelyn
11/02/2005 12:00:00 AM
EVEN BEFORE THE INDICTMENT of Lewis "Scooter" Libby last week, many in the mainstream media had already settled on a simple storyline. Valerie Plame's identity was blown, the story goes, by administration officials seeking retribution against her husband, Joseph Wilson. Wilson is often portrayed as a brave "whistleblower," who had the courage to stand up to an administration that "lied" its way into war.
There is, perhaps, no better illustration of how entrenched this misleading storyline has become than this past Sunday's episode of 60 Minutes. In a segment fronted by correspondent Ed Bradley, a host of Wilsonian memes were broadcast without even the slightest bit of skepticism.
THE SEGMENT BEGAN with a misleading question: "Would someone in the government go that far, leak her [Valerie Plame's] name to the press, in retaliation for her husband's public criticism of the war in Iraq?" But, Wilson was not merely "criticizing" the war in Iraq, a democratic right that should be protected, as this opening question implied. His "critique" was pure fantasy, a tale woven around his own classified trip to Africa.
As has been shown countless times, no substantive part of Wilson's story was true. A bipartisan Senate Intelligence Report made this clear in July 2004 (see, for example, here and here.) To hear 60 Minutes tell it, you would never even know that this report existed. The Senate Intelligence Report was not mentioned and Bradley did not ask Wilson a single question about his bogus charges. Instead, for the umpteenth time, Wilson was allowed an unchallenged opportunity to tell his version of events.
By ignoring the numerous deficiencies in Wilson's account, Bradley ignored one of the more salient questions in this story: Why was a CIA officer, Wilson's wife, complicit in his lies? The Senate Intelligence Report makes it clear that Valerie Plame orchestrated Wilson's trip to Africa and attended at least part of his CIA debriefing. She was, therefore, most certainly in a position to know that her husband's accusations were false.
Why did she not stop him from spreading his falsehoods?
In fact, much of the media's coverage of the war in Iraq has been shaped by former and current CIA personalities with their own, not impartial, motives. Countless leaks and anonymous comments have shaped front-page stories over the last several years. An ever-growing bevy of former CIA officials have also gone public to state their cases against the Bush administration and the war in Iraq. (See, for example, here and here.)
The 60 Minutes piece did not give the viewer any sense that perhaps the entire Wilson-Plame affair was part of a turf battle between members of the CIA and the Bush administration. Instead, in addition to Wilson, Bradley turned to two former CIA officials and a Democratic congressman for their assessments of "how serious was the damage done by the leak." The witnesses offered no real evidence of any further collateral damage done by the leak, but instead dealt with hypothetical examples.
THE FIRST OF THE FORMER CIA OPERATIVES was Jim Marcinkowski, who is now an attorney in Royal Oak, Michigan and who, 60 Minutes tells us, "was a covert CIA agent spying in Central America" in the late 1980s. Marcinkowski's attention was drawn to the faux CIA front company, Brewster-Jennings & Associates, which Plame listed as her employer when she and her husband contributed $1,000 each to the Gore campaign in 1999. "There is a possibility that there were other agents that would use that same kind of a cover," he explained, "So they may have been using Brewster-Jennings just like her."
But how difficult would it have been for a foreign intelligence service to discover that Brewster-Jennings was really a CIA front company? As it turns out, it was not very difficult at all.
The company's existence was entirely fictional and the CIA did not do a very good job making it look real either. The lone piece of data that Washington Post could find on the company in 2003 was a listing in the Dun & Bradstreet database of company names. But the Post's reporters found that the company's telephone number was not in service and when they contacted the property manager for the address listed, they found that no company with that name was located there. Robert Novak, the reporter who originally reported Plame and her firm's real identities, also quickly became "convinced" that no such firm existed.
Fooling family members and friends is one thing, fooling foreign intelligence operatives is quite another. Good front companies have at least a nominal existence and are not fictions easily revealed by reporters.
Wilson called the leaking of his wife's name and her fictional employer's true purpose "abominable." He further explained, "But when he [Robert Novak] published her name, it was very easy to unravel everything about her, her entire cover. You live your cover. And so you live Brewster-Jennings. So, she would have had business cards that said Brewster-Jennings on them. So, that was just insult to injury."
But if Wilson and his wife were so concerned about her cover, and possibly the cover of other agents, being blown, then why did he publish an editorial in the New York Times discussing a classified intelligence-gathering mission he went on? Why did he then go on to make many media appearances peddling his own fictional version of his mission? Did Wilson think that foreign intelligence services would not do a little background work on him, his family, and all of their ostensible connections? Ed Bradley was not interested in answering any of these questions.
The 60 Minutes segment further argued that the leak "gives America's enemies clues about how the CIA operates." Marcinkowski explained, "[Valerie Plame] is the wife of an ambassador, for example. Now, since this happened, every wife of an ambassador is going to be suspected. Or they'll know there's a possibility that the wife of a U.S. ambassador is a CIA agent."
But, it is doubtful that this affair revealed any new information about the CIA's tactics. This country's enemies have long known that covert operatives are seeded in the ranks of embassies and other diplomatic offices around the world. This has been the standard operating procedure for intelligence services as long as nations have practiced the art of espionage. In fact, one of the main reasons the CIA did not have better and more human intelligence assets in the Taliban's Afghanistan and Saddam's Iraq was that there was no formal diplomatic presence in those countries from which to operate.
It is a safe bet, too, that the family members of U.S. diplomats and ambassadors, especially those who write fictional accounts about their classified intelligence-gathering missions in the world's most famous newspaper, are immediately suspected as well.
For further speculation on the effects of the Plame leak, Bradley turned to Democratic Congressman Rush Holt, who serves on the House Intelligence Committee:
Bradley asked the leading question, "Is it possible that someone overseas, someone is going to jail because of this?"
Holt replied, "Sure, it's possible."
Bradley then led a little further, "Is it possible that somebody lost their life?"
Holt replied, "It's possible. I don't know."
Thus, according to 60 Minutes, not only did the outing of Valerie Plame destroy her career--an act of retribution against a man who dared to criticize the war in Iraq--it also possibly led to other agents being imprisoned or even killed. Such speculation is certainly designed to leave the viewer even more enraged over this whole affair.
None of this is meant to excuse any alleged wrong-doing on Scooter Libby's part. Nor should the outing of any CIA operative be taken lightly. But, behind the 60 Minutes version of events lies a host of unanswered questions.
Thomas Joscelyn is an economist and writer living in New York.
© Copyright 2005, News Corporation, Weekly Standard, All Rights Reserved.
Last edited by Bluesman; 02 Nov 05, at 17:28.
An oldie but a goodie:
Well, Joseph C Wilson IV's 15 minutes is now in its third year, and judging from the pass given to him by the major newspapers and TV networks there's no end in sight. Why would the media collude in this fraudulent buffoon's self-aggrandization? After all, the first folks he lied to were them. But they seem to have decided their investment in him is now so deep, they're stuck with him. This is what I wrote a year and a half ago, in the fond belief that the chapter-and-verse exposure of his falsehoods would finally drive Wilson from public life. If only.
Well, the week went pretty much as I predicted seven days ago:
BUSH LIED!! Not.
BLAIR LIED!!! Not.
But it turns out JOE WILSON LIED! PEOPLE DIED. Of embarrassment mostly. At least I'm assuming that's why The New York Times, MSNBC's Chris Matthews, PBS drone Bill Moyers and all the other media bigwigs Joseph C. Wilson IV suckered have fallen silent on the subject of the white knight of integrity they've previously given the hold-the-front-page treatment, too.
And what about John F. Kerry? Joe Wilson campaigned with Kerry in at least six states, and claims to have helped with the candidate's speeches. He was said to be a senior foreign policy adviser to the senator. As of Friday, Wilson's Web site, restorehonesty.com, was still wholly paid for by Kerry's presidential campaign.
Heigh-ho. It would be nice to hear his media boosters howling en masse, "Say it ain't so, Joe!" But Joe Wilson's already slipping down the old media memory hole. He served his purpose -- he damaged Bush, he tainted the liberation of Iraq -- and yes, by the time you read this the Kerry campaign may well have pulled the plug on his Web site, and Salon magazine's luxury cruise will probably have to find another headline speaker, and he won't be doing Tim Russert again any time soon. But what matters to the media and to Senator Kerry is that he helped the cause of (to quote his book title) The Politics Of Truth, and if it takes a serial liar to do that, so be it.
But before he gets lowered in his yellowcake overcoat into the Niger River, let's pause to consider: What do Joe Wilson's lies mean? And what does it say about the Democrats and the media that so many high-ranking figures took him at his word?
First, contrary to what Wilson wrote in The New York Times, Saddam Hussein was trying to acquire uranium from Niger. In support of that proposition are a Senate report in Washington, Lord Butler's report in London, MI6, French intelligence, other European agencies -- and, as we now know, the CIA report, based on Joe Wilson's original briefing to them. Against that proposition is Joe Wilson's revised version of events for the Times.
This isn't difficult. In 1999, a senior Iraqi "trade" delegation went to Niger. Uranium accounts for 75 percent of Niger's exports. The rest is goats, cowpeas and onions. So who sends senior trade missions to Niger? Maybe Saddam dispatched his Baathist big shots all the way to the dusty capital of Niamy because he had a sudden yen for goat and onion stew with a side order of black-eyed peas, and Major ****e, the then-president, had offered him a great three-for-one deal.
But that's not what Joe Wilson found. Major ****e's prime minister, among others, told Ambassador Wilson that he believed Iraq wanted yellowcake. And Ambassador Wilson told the CIA. And the CIA's report agreed with the British and the Europeans that "Iraq was attempting to procure uranium from Africa."
In his ludicrously vain memoir The Politics Of Truth, Wilson plays up his knowledge of the country. He makes much of his intimacy with ****e and gives himself the credit for ridding Niger of the ****e regime. The question then is why a man who knew so much about what was going on chose deliberately to misrepresent it to all his media/ Democrat buddies, not to mention to the American people. For a book called The Politics Of Truth, it's remarkably short of it. On page 2, Wilson says of his trip to Niger: "I had found nothing to substantiate the rumors." But he had.
That's what lying is, by the way: intentional deceit, not unreliable intelligence. And I'm not usually the sort to bandy the liar-liar-pants-on-fire charge beloved by so many in our politics today, but I'll make an exception in the case of Wilson, who's never been shy about the term. He called Bush a "liar" and he called Cheney a "lying sonofa*****," on stage at a John Kerry rally in Iowa.
Saddam wanted yellowcake for one reason: to strike at his neighbors in the region, and beyond that at Britain, America and his other enemies. In other words, he wanted the uranium in order to kill you.
The obvious explanation for Wilson's deceit about what he found in Africa is that his hatred of Bush outweighed everything else. Or as the novelist and Internet maestro Roger L. Simon put it, "He is a deeply evil human being willing to lie and obfuscate for temporary political gain about a homicidal dictator's search for weapons-grade uranium."
Technically, it's weaponizable uranium, not "weapons grade." But that's the point. Simon isn't the expert, and, as Ambassador Wilson trumpets loudly and often, he is. This isn't a case of another Michael Moore, court buffoon to the Senate Democrats, or Whoopi Goldberg, has-been potty-mouth to John Kerry. They're in show biz; what do they know?
But Wilson does know; he went there, he talked to officials, and he lied about America's national security in order to be the anti-Bush crowd's Playmate of the Month. Either he's profoundly wicked or he's as deranged as that woman on the Paris Metro last week who falsely claimed to have been the victim of an anti-Semitic attack. The Paris crazy was unmasked within a few days, but the Niger crazy was lionized for a full year.
Some of us are on record as dismissing Wilson in the first bloom of his unmerited celebrity. But John Kerry was taken in -- to the point where he signed him up as an adviser and underwrote his Web site. What does that reveal about Mister Nuance and his superb judgment? He claims to be able to rebuild America's relationships with France, and to have excellent buddy-to-buddy relations with French political leaders. Yet anyone who's spent 10 minutes in Europe this last year knows that virtually every government there believes Iraq was trying to get uranium from Africa. Is Kerry so uncurious about America's national security he can't pick up the phone to his Paris pals and get the scoop firsthand? For all his claims to be Monsieur Sophisticate, there's something hicky and parochial in his embrace of an obvious nutcake for passing partisan advantage.
Any Democrats and media types who are in the early stages of yellowcake fever and can still think clearly enough not to want dirty nukes going off in Seattle or Houston -- or even Vancouver or Rotterdam or Amman -- need to consider seriously the wild ride Yellowcake Joe took them on. An ambassador, in Sir Henry Wootton's famous dictum, is a good man sent abroad to lie for his country. This ambassador came home to lie to his. And the Dems and the media helped him do it.
The Chicago Sun-Times, July 18th 2004
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