Victory means exit strategy, and it's important for the President to explain to us what the exit strategy is.    The Honorable Governor of Texas, George W. Bush

I hate quotations. Tell me what you know.    Ralph Waldo Emerson

Sunday, October 30, 2005

The Day (or two) After Fitzmas

...At all relevant times from January 1, 2002 through July 2003, Valerie Wilson was employed by the CIA, and her employment status was classified. Prior to July 14, 2003, Valerie Wilson’s affiliation with the CIA was not common knowledge outside the intelligence community... From the Libby indictments

There is much debate going on whether or not this scandal has the gravity of that of Watergate (no), Iran-Contragate (similiar), or BJgate (give me a break). Since it became clear that some of the principals at the White House had been talking out of school enough to have exposed a cover-up, Bush administration apologists have been gearing up a defense of, "Oh, come on boys and girls. What's the big deal here?" To hear them tell it, Valerie Plame spent most of her time running around from one Washington cocktail party to another bragging about her top-secret job.

Fitzgerald, who wowed nearly everyone on both sides, appears to have shot this notion in the foot.

Few are better at this "aw, shucks" dismissal game than Bill Kristol. In this Weekly Standard article he co-writes:

...In today's Washington, as has been true for decades, classified information is leaked by many different players in any given policy fight in the government. The Bush administration has been replete with leaks of presumably classified information. Is the identity of Valerie Plame the most consequential leak of the last four years?...

Is such relativism what the neos and their gun boat diplomacy are looking to export to the "emerging" Iraq democracy?

Then there's ol' hot lips herself, Ann Coulter, as she stated the following on Hannity and Colmes on Oct. 26th:

...everyone in Washington knew she [Plame] was a CIA agent...

In view of the above, and by Ann Coulter's own standards, propagating this lie is treason. For such a treasonous act, by Ann Coulter's own words Ann Coulter should be gone after with a baseball bat.

What does Rush Limbaugh say?

...Everybody in her neighborhood knew who she was...

It goes on and on. This is old news already and you can Google to your heart's content if you want to learn more of the ineptitude of the Washington Post and the New York Times and how quickly the spin machine propels such careless reportage into public perception. The point of this post is more to the hypocrisy of this "common sense" defense that curmudgeonly wingnuts drag out whenever the specifics of a situation are indefensible―the old Reaganly "There you go again..."

Coincidently it was two Reaganites, Victoria Toensing and Bruce W. Sanford, contributors to the "outing" law behind this caper, writing this in a piece from the Washington Post on January 10, 2005:

...At the threshold, the agent must truly be covert. Her status as undercover must be classified, and she must have been assigned to duty outside the United States currently or in the past five years. This requirement does not mean jetting to Berlin or Taipei for a week's work. It means permanent assignment in a foreign country. Since Plame had been living in Washington for some time when the July 2003 column was published, and was working at a desk job in Langley (a no-no for a person with a need for cover), there is a serious legal question as to whether she qualifies as "covert."...

My question is, who is going around making these determinations? What kind of governing is it that political cronies are running around the White House deciding which career personnel in the CIA are really spooks and which aren't, and then running off their mouths to a pipsqueak like Robert Novak about it? What kind of War on Terror are we running over there that this "is it or ain't it a crime?" litmus test needs to be considered at all in the case of a classified CIA employee working on WMD issues being exposed, not in a casual conversation, but to a national publication? According to Toensing and Sanford:

...But Congress also did not intend for government employees to be vulnerable to prosecution for an unintentional or careless spilling of the beans about an undercover identity. A dauntingly high standard was therefore required for the prosecutor to charge the leaker...

This care appears to have fortunate consequences for certain named and unnamed (but possibly labeled) officials, yet the statement hardly seems to describe the situation we have here. This "spill" was neither unintentional nor careless (in the sense of offhandedness). Although these officials will undoubtedly slip through this crack, the intention was to protect innocent morons, not the variety we are dealing with here.

And so back to "common sense". Regardless of how many knew of Plame's position, for one more to learn is worse, and for millions more is like, way worse. This is absolute logic. This is an absolute value. While it is the neo-con think tanks like those Bill Kristol's mommy and daddy run churning policy docs bemoaning lack of absolute values, it seems their appointed torch bearers have a bit of trouble operating according to their own.

Even POTUS, who is not nearly the ringleader of this cadre, knew better. In characteristic confusion he mistakenly made a statement of virtue, that anyone in his administration known to have leaked Plame's identity would be fired. Very soon this was changed to anyone having been convicted. One trip down the hall was enough for W to be reminded of the difference between the rhetoric and the reality of the mission.

We expect more. That was the big deal in '74 and it's the big deal now. We expect White House officials to know better, or at least would like to think that they do. We expect people with security clearance to value national security over political gain. We expect a level of competence in our administration far beyond that which this thuggish hack job demonstrates. It was indefensible, as the current "boys will be boys" spin makes obvious. They did it anyway. We expect better minds.

That's the big deal.


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