March 16, 2007

The Plame Game

William Branigin of WaPo:

Plame said she wasn't a lawyer and didn't know what her legal status was but said it shouldn't have mattered to the officials who learned her identity.

"They all knew that I worked with the CIA," Plame said. "They might not have known what my status was but that alone—the fact that I worked for the CIA—should have put up a red flag."

Translation: No, I wasn't really a covert agent. But I'm happy to play the victim here—particularly if I can get a seven-figure book deal out of it.

She didn't know what her status was. Words fail me.

Posted by Attila Girl at March 16, 2007 10:33 AM | TrackBack

The thought of Saint Val of Arc, having her hair messed up after a good, thorough water-boarding, was enough to make me wonder about History. Good thing this was NOT barbarian France (when France was at war) and wont to burning gals at the stake.....

Posted by: mighty aphrodite at March 16, 2007 03:21 PM

I took that to mean that she did not know if she was covered by the very specific wording of the IIPA, but that she was still engaged in classified activity. I do not know the penalties for releasing classfied information, including identities, that is not covered by the IIPA, but it still comes across as being a bad thing.

Posted by: wanderingmoderate at March 18, 2007 09:59 PM

Thanks for dropping by. On another thread, a reader of mine has related a story about calling her at CIA headquarters, and getting her voice mail: "this is Valerie Plame . . ."

Granted, this was a few days after the story broke, but I doubt that it changed anything: "Oh, no: I'm a covert [or quasi-covert] agent, and my identity is now known. My career is over! My cover is blown! I guess I'll record an outgoing message for my voice mail."

I'm unable to buy the idea that her identity was any kind of a secret.

Posted by: Attila Girl at March 19, 2007 01:54 PM

Well, all I can say is that the CIA apparently agrees that she was covert. When she testified before Congres, Representative Waxman read a statement prepared by the CIA, and reviewed by the Director, who is a Bush appointee. Relevant quote.

"During her employment at the CIA, Ms. Wilson was undercover. Her employment status with the CIA was classified information, prohibited from disclosure under Executive Order 12958. At the time of the publication of Robert Novak's column on July 14, 2003, Ms. Wilson's CIA employment status was covert. This was classified information. Ms. Wilson served in senior management positions at the CIA in which she oversaw the work for other CIA employees and she attained the level of GS-14 -- Step Six under the federal pay scale. Ms. Wilson worked on some of the most sensitive and highly secretive matters handled by the CIA. Ms. Wilson served at various times overseas for the CIA."

Unless your definition of classified, undercover, prohibited from disclosure, covert, and highly secretive is different from theirs, I have to say it seems like she was indeed secret. As for your previous commentor, I can think of two possible explanations. One, that he was the benificiary of an accidental security breach, and got into a telephone exchange that he should not have been. The other is that he is not being honest- sorry but there really is no other way to say it. Again, the question of whether or not she was specifically covered by the very narrowly written IIPA may be open to discussion. But as for her employment being a secret, all I can say is that I would tend to rely more on an official CIA announcement that she was, than from a deduction made from an unverifiable claim on a blog.

Posted by: wanderingmoderate at March 20, 2007 08:46 PM

Fine. I get the notion that you're not going to trust every person you "meet" at the virtual cocktail party that is the World Wide Web.

But if her status was indeed "covert," why weren't any real charges brought in this case? I know everyone says, "it isn't the crime; it's the coverup." That's sunk into everyone's consciousness, post-Watergate. However: if an unlawful disclosure were made, surely someone other that Scooter Libby should have been charged . . . ?

The CIA is a bureaucracy, like the State Department is. I can't see why its circling of the wagons in this instance proves anything--particularly if Plame herself wasn't willing to rely on this "official" pronouncement in her testimony.

Posted by: Attila Girl at March 21, 2007 02:45 AM

The operative word is "reviewed" by. Such review only considers if classified information is being disclosed. The CIA doesn't proofread or fact check an author's work. In other words, if you don't have it right, they won't do your work for you. See the difference? And "prepared by the CIA"? Read your Wiki carefully.

"On March 16, 2007, Plame testified before the committee. Henry Waxman read a prepared statement that was cleared by the CIA."

"Cleared by" is not "prepared by". For that you would have to look for the little Democrat(ic) 'elves' in the hollow tree.

Posted by: Darrell at March 21, 2007 09:11 AM

Well, if I trusted everyone I met on the Web, that would have to include the person I found shortly after I discovered it, talking about the Nazi moon landings in the 1940s. A little bit of discretion is advised. :-)

As for the lack of more substantial charges, if Al Capone really did run massive bootlegging, narcotics and prostitution rackets, and killed dozens of people to do so, why did they just charge him with that penny-ante tax evasion stuff? Lack of more serious charges doesn't mean there was no crime committed. It may mean only that the prosecution isn't sure it can win a case. (A Few Good Men: "It doesn't matter what I know. It only matters what I can prove!") Or, to be fair, it may mean the investigation suggests more a combination of poor security and ineptness than a premeditated crime. (One of my favorite quotes: "Never attribute to malice that which can be adequately explained by stupidity." Don't ask me who said it.) Either way, though, it can be difficult to determine what happened, and specifically if a crime was committed, if people insist on lying to the investigators. And according to the jury that is exactly what Libby did. I must say, I am curious why he would.

On the prepared vs. reviewed bit- touche, I should have read that more carefully. That being said, I find it difficult to believe that the CIA director would not take the informal opportunity to correct Rep. Waxman. There is nothing in that statement that makes the CIA look good. If a classified agent's cover was blown, that is, if nothing else, terrible for internal morale. If she was simply an unimportant employee, it is in their interest to say so. For what it is worth, David Corn and Michael Isikoff, in their book Hubris, say that she was "operations chief for the Joint Task Force on Iraq, a unit in the clandestine Directorate of Operations that mounted spying operations in search of intelligence on Iraq's supposed WMD programs." If true, that sounds rather secretive to me, and suggests experience in covert affairs.

Posted by: wanderingmoderate at March 22, 2007 08:38 PM

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