The Plame Game

So, how did this whole Plame controversy start? The legend portrayed from the Left is that Ms. Plame was a hard-working honest servant of the U.S. Intelligence Community, made an innocent victim by the evil Bush regime, because her husband, the equally hard-working and noble Joe Wilson, caught the President in a lie. But it’s not as though she was an agent in the field; she commuted to Langley every day from her home in the D.C. suburbs. So, she was more or less “out” already.

The facts are very much a different story. To begin with, Joe Wilson was and is, a documented liar, and one known to have a large, mean grudge against the Bush Administration. For example, Wilson not only gave numerous interviews to the press about a confidential trip to Niger to investigate the question about whether Saddam Hussein’s regime attempted to purchase enriched uranium, but he also declared that Bush was lying when he said [correctly, as it turns out] that Iraq had been attempting to acquire uranium from Africa.

The evidence later showed that while Wilson focused on a single suspect document, which was never promoted by the Bush Administration, he withheld information known to the CIA and known to him personally, which supported the contention that Saddam had in fact been attempting to find sources of enriched uranium. Wilson also hid the fact that his wife was the major influence which arranged for his government-paid trip, to such a point that the CIA did not enforce its normal secrecy requirements, which allowed Wilson to spend his time with press interviews and photo ops, instead of a debriefing and balanced evaluation of the facts.

“What happened next was essentially a paranoid feud, the immature and egotistical Wilson representing both the paranoia and the malice in this instance. When the White House declined to respond in-kind to his taunts and insults, Wilson went to Capitol Hill, and found a willing audience on the Democrat side of the aisle, which colored the debate on pre-war intelligence and was poised to rewrite the history of the decision to go to war again in Iraq. The careful observer would have noted (and many did) that Wilson was unable to back up his claims with evidence, and that his screeds were actually no more than a bitter attempt to damage political enemies.

To hear it from the Left, the Plame issue was driven by a desire to punish Joe Wilson for criticizing the War in Iraq, which led to the exposure of his wife, an “undercover” CIA agent. The reality is different. First, Plame was not a field agent for the CIA, at least during the time in question, but a desk employee whose work was in no way related to field operations. Also, it is understood now that Wilson’s inadvisable trip for the CIA was made possible by his wife’s recommendation. And several intelligence reports have supported the fact, that reports of Saddam’s attempts to obtain nuclear material were true, which proved Wilson’s claims false. Further, two major intelligence reviews confirmed that the Bush Administration neither falsified nor manipulated intelligence data.

The facts, however, did not keep Wilson and his allies from pressing their hatred of the President well past the point of obsession. Liberal flack Bob Woodward – of Watergate fame [didn’t they make a movie about that – starring liberal Hollywood icons – the Media-Entertainment Complex in action] stepping forward to point another finger, again with nothing to show connection to the alleged “outing” of Plame, yet taken up eagerly by people enjoying the role of Grand Inquisitor. It’s one thing for Congress or the Justice Department to investigate known crimes and clear evidence, but quite another to pursue fishing expeditions for high-profile trophies.

Bear in mind, the difference between outrageous statements made on the Right and on the Left, is that on the Right the extremists do not hold office, while the most malicious and deceptive statements are repeated by Democrats in office, who know full well that the claims they make are neither truthful, nor do they serve the needs of the nation.

Bush writes in his memoir: “In my [February] 2003 State of the Union address, I had cited a British intelligence report that Iraq sought to buy uranium [yellowcake] from Niger. That single sentence in my five-thousand-word speech was not a major point in the case against Saddam. The British stood by that intelligence.… In July 2003, former Ambassador Joseph Wilson wrote a New York Times column alleging that the administration had ignored his skeptical findings when he traveled to Africa to investigate the Iraq-Niger connection.”

Wilson’s column in The Times resulted in the President being called a liar (a common occurrence since he “stole” the 2000 presidential election, in a grand conspiracy with the Supreme Court, from PLDC darling Al Gore), which caused people in the administration to wonder why Joseph Wilson, a Democrat critic of Bush, was sent to Niger by the CIA for this mission. Washington journalist Bob Novak wanted to write a column on the affair and managed to get an interview on July 8, 2003, with Deputy Secretary of State Richard L. Armitage [no fan of President Bush]. In his memoir, The Prince of Darkness, Novak writes:

“Armitage was giving me high-level insider gossip, unusual in a first meeting. About halfway through our session, I brought up Bush’s sixteen words…. I then asked Armitage a question that had been puzzling me but, for the sake of my future peace of mind, would better have been left unasked. Why would the CIA send Joseph Wilson, not an expert in nuclear proliferation and with no intelligence experience, on the mission to Niger? “Well,” Armitage replied, “you know his wife works at the CIA, and she suggested that he be sent to Niger.” “His wife works at the CIA?” I asked. “Yeah, in counter-proliferation.”

“He mentioned her first name, Valerie…. The exchange about Wilson’s wife lasted no more than sixty seconds. Armitage offered no interpretation of Wilson’s conduct and said nothing negative about him or his wife. I am sure it was not a planned leak but came out as an offhand observation…. Shortly thereafter, he secretly revealed his role to federal authorities investigating the leak of Mrs. Wilson’s name but did not inform White House officials, apparently including the President.”

Novak got Valerie’s last name from Wilson’s bio in Who’s Who. But after he used it in his column, the name Valerie Plame became big news in the media and caused quite a storm. On October 1, 2003, after reading a second column by Novak on the case, Armitage, alarmed by the clamor in the media for the name of the leaker who had outed a “covert” (a characterization made up by the liberal, anti-Bush press) CIA agent, revealed his role to his boss Secretary of State Colin Powell. They took up the matter with State Department lawyer William H. Taft, IV who then spoke with White House counsel Alberto Gonzales, who allegedly told Taft that he did not want to know. Gonzales has often refuted this allegation. But why didn’t Taft or Powell go directly to the President with this important information?

Wilson had taken a CIA-sponsored trip to Niger and found evidence that he said refuted President Bush’s information on Iraq’s nuclear weapons programs. Consequently, he hawked this story at a forum sponsored by the Democratic Senatorial Policy Committee in May 2003, which Plame attended. The next day he had a breakfast meeting with reporters from The New York Times and Washington Post about his speech that Plame said she attended as well. He later wrote a nationally-published piece for the Times that said intelligence on weapons of mass destruction had been manipulated to go to war with Iraq.

The Review of Intelligence on Weapons of Mass Destruction, widely known as the Butler Review after its chairman Robin Butler, Baron Butler of Brockwell, was announced on February 3, 2004 by the British government and published on July 4, 2004. It examined the intelligence on Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction which played a key part in the Government’s decision to invade Iraq (as part of the U.S.-led coalition) in 2003. A similar Iraq Intelligence Commission was set up in the USA.

The report indicated that there was enough intelligence to make a “well-founded” judgment that Saddam Hussein was seeking, perhaps as late as 2002, to obtain uranium illegally from Niger and the Democratic Republic of Congo (6.4 para. 499). In particular, referring to a 1999 visit of Iraqi officials to Niger, the report states (6.4 para. 503): “The British government had intelligence from several different sources indicating that this visit was for the purpose of acquiring uranium. Since uranium constitutes almost three-quarters of Niger’s exports, the intelligence was credible.” the Butler Review states (6.4 para. 497). The CIA “agreed that there was evidence that [uranium from Africa] had been sought.”

One can also look to the Financial Times for a report from the paper’s national security correspondent, Mark Huband. He describes a strong consensus among European intelligence services that between 1999 and 2001 Niger was engaged in illicit negotiations over the export of its “yellow cake” uranium ore with North Korea, Libya, Iraq, Iran, and China. The British intelligence report on this matter cited by President Bush, has never been disowned or withdrawn by its authors. The bogus document produced by an Italian con man in October 2002, which caused much embarrassment, was therefore more like a forgery than a fake: It was a fabricated version of a true bill.

Given the CIA’s institutional hostility to the Iraqi “regime change” case, the blatantly partisan line taken in public by Wilson himself, and the high probability that an Iraqi delegation had at least met with suppliers from Niger, how wrong was it of Robert Novak to draw attention to the connection between Plame and Wilson’s trip? Unfortunately, the Bush administration did not have the courage to confront Mr. and Mrs. Wilson in public with their covert political agenda. 

In the run-up to war in Iraq, the British Intelligence Services apparently believed that Iraq had been trying to obtain uranium from Africa.Nuclear expert Norman Dombey, a professor of Theoretical Physics at the University of Sussex, said the information relied upon by the Butler Review on the Niger issue was incomplete. “The Butler report says the claim was credible because an Iraqi diplomat visited Niger in 1999, and almost three-quarters of Niger’s exports were uranium. But this is irrelevant, since France controls Niger’s uranium mines”. 

Dombey also noted that Iraq already had some 550 tons of uranium compound sitting in its gutted Tuwaitha nuclear research center: “Iraq already had far more uranium than it needed for any conceivable nuclear weapons programme.” So, even non-political critics agree that President Bush was right about Iraq’s WMD intentions!

To the unbiased observer, the claim that Plame was somehow the innocent victim of a conspiracy must have seemed laughable. After all, the Wilsons built a cottage industry out of the matter. They held press conferences, a photo shoot with ‘Vanity Fair’ magazine, a book deal, and countless television appearances, yet they continued to claim that their privacy is precious to them, and that they are simple, unassuming people.

There is no question that while the President’s decision was supported by the available evidence at the time, Wilson’s motive for attacking the President was no better than a vendetta. The “evidence” not only does not lie, it has more than proven that Joe Wilson lies. But the Democrats and their fellow travelers in the press have done an effective job of keeping the character of the Wilsons out of sight, and alleging connections through innuendo and rumor.

The reference here is to an addendum to the Congressional reporta on the affair titled “Additional Views,” in which Republican Senators Pat Roberts, Christopher Bond and Orrin Hatch grumble about a number of conclusions that Senate Democrats moved to exclude from the bipartisan report. The trouble with this effort at partisan point-scoring is that Roberts, Bond, and Hatch didn’t simply pull that conclusion out of thin air; though the Republican senators were frustrated that this finding wasn’t emphasized in the “Conclusions” section, it was certainly included in the bipartisan report. (The relevant paragraphs of the bipartisan report can be found on page 39 – under “B. Former Ambassador.”)

The question of why Joe Wilson was tasked to go to Africa in the first place is another interesting “mystery” involving both Wilson and Plame. Plame denies any involvement with the tasking. Some intelligence agency officials could not recall how the office decided to contact the former ambassador, however, interviews and documents provided to the Committee indicate that his wife, a CIA employee, suggested his name for the trip. The CIA reports officer told Congressional Committee staff that the former ambassador’s wife “offered up his name”. A memorandum to the Deputy Chief of the CIA on February 12, 2002, from the former ambassador’s wife says, “…my husband has good relations with the PM [prime minister] and the former Minister of Mines (not to mention lots of French contacts), both of whom could possibly shed light on this sort of activity.”

Plame and Wilson both knew this; elsewhere in her testimony, she disputed these findings. Here’s more of her response, in which she disputes the email evidence:

“MS. PLAME: We went to my branch chief, or supervisor. My colleague suggested this idea, and my supervisor turned to me and said, “Well, when you go home this evening, would you be willing to speak to your husband, ask him to come into headquarters next week and we’ll discuss the options? See if this — what we could do.” Of course. And as I was leaving, he asked me to draft a quick email to the chief of our Counter-Proliferation Division [CPD], letting him know that this was – might happen. I said, “Of course,” and it was that email, Congressman, that was taken out of context and – a portion of which you see in the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence Report of July 2004 that makes it seem as though I had suggested or recommended him.”

And here’s how Plame answered when Maryland Democrat Chris Van Hollen asked if she’d spoken to the reports officer:

“MS. PLAME: Yes, Congressman, and I can tell you that he came to me almost with tears in his eyes (a rugged CIA man, at home in Langley, with tears in his eyes!!!???). He said his words had been twisted and distorted. He wrote a memo, and he asked his supervisor to allow him to be re-interviewed by the committee. And the memo went nowhere, and his request to be re-interviewed so that the record could be set straight was denied.”

But, it turns out that Valerie Plame was also questioned about these events during the investigation into the Niger uranium matter by the Senate Intelligence Committee, and Senator Chris Bond from Missouri, vice-chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, said in a statement that Mrs. Wilson didn’t tell his committee about any junior officer or the call from the Vice President’s office or the passing CIA official. “Friday was the first time we ever heard that story.” Bond said;

“Obviously, if we had it, we would have included it in the report. If Valerie Plame’s memory of events has improved, if she would now like to change her testimony, I’m sure the committee staff would be happy to re-interview her.” Of course, Congress is very upset when it gets misled, aren’t they? Like the US attorney story, very, very upset. I don’t think they’re upset here over the false testimony of Ms. Plame before one of these two committees.”

Sen. Bond issued a statement standing by the parts of the report that Plame disputes:

“We have checked the transcript of the comments made to the Committee by the former reports officer and I stand by the Committee’s description of his comments. If the reports officer would like to clarify or change his remarks, I’m certain that the Committee would welcome his testimony. We have also checked the memorandum written by Ms. Wilson suggesting her husband to look into the Niger reporting. I also stand by the Committee’s finding that this memorandum indicates Ms. Wilson did suggest her husband for a Niger inquiry…. I suggest that the House Government Reform Committee request and examine this memorandum themselves. I am confident that they will come to the same conclusion as our bipartisan membership did.”

There’s no question that in her testimony, Plame omitted inconvenient facts and put an inappropriate emphasis on others. If Bond’s characterization of the evidence is correct, she may actually have lied. Lying under oath before Congress constitutes perjury and a violation of the False Statements Act – the same crimes that accounted for three of the four charges that Scooter Libby was convicted of!

In January 2004, the Justice Department chose prosecutor Patrick J. Fitzgerald to investigate the leak of Valerie Plame’s identity. From the outset, he was made fully aware that the leaker was Armitage, who resigned from the State Department in November 2004 but remained a subject of the inquiry until February 2006 when Fitzgerald told him in a letter that he would not be charged – that’s twenty-five months later! 

In the end, Fitzgerald indicted White House aide to Vice President Dick Cheney Lewis “Scooter” Libby who had first mentioned to the State Department’s Richard Armitage that Wilson’s wife worked at the CIA. Fitzgerald himself has since admitted that Libby was not indicted in any direct consequence of the Plame investigation, but claims it was necessary to indict Libby, even though the facts suggest that honest error and confusion are more likely than malice or intent to deceive. No adequate explanation of what he meant by “necessary” has ever surfaced.

Libby was convicted of obstruction of justice and lying to the FBI as a result of an investigation triggered by the leak. George W. Bush commuted Libby’s sentence before the former aide served time in prison.

For context, in 1982, Congress passed the Intelligence Identities Protection Act. This law makes it a federal crime to knowingly reveal the identity of a CIA agent who has conducted covert roles overseas within five years of the disclosure. To violate this law, the person who disclosed the agent’s identity must have been aware that the agent was “covert” at the time of the disclosure. Additionally, in order to prosecute anyone who discloses the identity of a covert agent it is imperative that the government prove he or she was indeed “covert.” At no point, no one, least of all Fitzgerald, did this.

When she testified to the House Committee on Government Oversight and Reform Ranking Member of the committee Rep. Tom Davis (R.-Va.) asked Plame, “The Intelligence Identities Protection Act makes it a crime to knowingly disclose the identity of a covert agent, which has a specific definition under the act. Did anyone ever tell you that you were so designated?” Plame didn’t give a straight answer. She told Davis, “I’m not a lawyer.”

To clarify, Davis asked, “What I’m asking is, for purposes of the act — and maybe this just never occurred to you or anybody else at the time — but did anybody say that you were so designated under the act or was this just after it came to pass?” “No, no one told me that,” Plame replied.

Rep. John Yarmuth (D.-Ky.) asked her, “Without destroying or disclosing classified information, what does ‘covert’ mean?” Plame said, “I’m not lawyer, but my understanding is that the CIA is taking affirmative steps to ensure that there’s not links between the operations officer and the Central Intelligence Agency. It’s that simple.” [Huh?]

Washington lawyer Victoria Toensing, former chief counsel or the Senate Intelligence Committee and former deputy assistant attorney general in the Reagan administration testified to the committee shortly after Plame. Toensing said the definition of “covert” wasn’t as simple as Plame said it was. Toensing helped write the 1982 Identities Protection Act legislation and insisted “She [Plame] was not a covert agent under the Act.” “Nobody was ever charged with knowing that she was covert” Toensing explained. “Therefore, she wasn’t covered by the statute.”

The act defines a “covert” agent as one whose undercover status is classified, has been assigned to foreign duties within the past five years, and which the government has made a concerted effort to conceal the identity. As Toensing explained in a January 2005 column, “This requirement does not mean jetting to Berlin or Taipei for a week’s work (which is what Plame’s job occasionally required). 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.’”

Plame testified that she believed her covert status was more fluid. She said, “Just like a general is a general whether he is in the field in Iraq or Afghanistan; when he comes back to the Pentagon, he’s still a general,” she told the committee. “In the same way, covert operations officers who are serving in the field, when they rotate back for temporary assignment in Washington, they too are still covert.” [Dumb like a fox.] This, of course, was not a description of Plame’s assignment at the CIA.

Democrat Chairman Henry Waxman told Toensing he was “stunned” with her assessment that Plame was not covert at the time of Novak’s disclosure. Waxman told Toensing, “General Hayden, the head of the CIA, told me personally that she was — that if I said that she was a covert agent, it wouldn’t be an incorrect statement.” Toensing asked him, “Does he want to swear [before the committee] that she was a covert agent under the Act?”

“I’m trying to say this as carefully as I can,” Waxman said. “He reviewed my statement. And my statement was that she was a covert agent.” “So, he didn’t say it was under the Act,” Toensing clarified. “Well, OK, so you’re trying to define it exactly under the Act,” Waxman said. “That’s important,” she said. The thwarted Waxman didn’t permit Toensing to explain further the definition of a covert agent under the Act. He cut her off abruptly. “No, no, no. No, no, no” Waxman said. “I’m not giving you—I’m not yielding my time to you. So, that’s your interpretation.” Then, Waxman changed the subject.

So, neither Plame, nor Waxman, nor Hayden or anyone else has been able to show that – by law [or in any other manner] – Plame was a covert agent on July 14, 2003.

Valerie Plame isn’t a lawyer, but Patrick Fitzgerald and Victoria Toensing both are. And the incontrovertible truth of this case is that Fitzgerald wasn’t able to prosecute anyone under the law Toensing helped write, and Plame and her Democrat allies continue to exploit to this day, with the obligatory books and [2010] Hollywood movie starring liberal icons [Naomi Watts, Sean Penn] that followed. This became known as the “Plame Game” [an absolutely classic case of the PLDC in action].

The movie “Fair Game,” was based on books by Mr. Wilson and his wife, Ms. Plame and is full of distortions – not to mention outright inventions. To start with the most sensational: The movie portrays Ms. Plame as having cultivated a group of Iraqi scientists and arranged for them to leave the country, and it suggests that once her cover was blown, the operation was aborted and the scientists were abandoned. This is simply false – it’s a lie because the movie contends that it is based on true events! In reality, as the Washington Post‘s Walter Pincus and Richard Leiby reported, Ms. Plame did not work directly on the program, and it was not shut down because of her identification.

The movie portrays Mr. Wilson as a whistle-blower who debunked a Bush administration claim that Iraq had tried to purchase uranium from the African country of Niger. In fact, as we have seen, the investigation by the Senate Intelligence Committee found that Mr. Wilson’s reporting did not affect the intelligence community’s view on the matter, and an official British investigation found that President George W. Bush’s statement in a State of the Union address that Britain believed that Iraq had sought uranium in Niger was well-founded.

Fair Game” also resells the couple’s story that Ms. Plame’s exposure was the result of a White House conspiracy. As we have shown above, a lengthy and wasteful investigation by a special prosecutor found no such conspiracy – but it did confirm that the prime source of a newspaper column identifying Ms. Plame was a State Department official, not a White House political operative.

Hollywood liberals have a habit of making movies about historical events without regard for the truth; “Fair Game” is just one more example. But the film’s reception illustrates a more troubling trend of political debates in Washington in which established facts are willfully ignored. Mr. Wilson claimed that he had proved that Mr. Bush deliberately twisted the truth about Iraq, and he was eagerly embraced by those who insist the former president lied the country into a war.

 A federal court tossed out the lawsuit filed by Plame and her husband, which accused former, Vice President Dick Cheney and other former top Bush officials of leaking Plame’s identity to the media in 2003. Wilson and Plame argued the move violated their constitutional rights. Former Bush officials Karl Rove, Lewis “Scooter” Libby and Richard Armitage were named in the lawsuit. Armitage freely admitted to being the source of a column by conservative writer Robert Novak that identified Plame as a CIA employee.

The US court of appeals said the lawsuit didn’t meet legal standards for constitutional claims because part of the suit is based on alleged violations of the Privacy Act, a law that does not cover the president or the vice-president’s offices. The lawsuit was not revived by the US Supreme Court.”

The decision by the Supreme Court effectively ended any legal maneuvers Plame could pursue against the Bush administration. But, Valerie Plame, it turns out, has no objection with outing CIA agents now, despite what happened to her. That’s right: Valerie Plame went out of her way to publicize the outing of another CIA agent:

“Blogger Glenn Greenwald, a writer known primarily for hating America and loving [anti-American Russian collaborator] Edward Snowden, disclosed the identity of a CIA agent allegedly involved with the government’s enhanced interrogation program. And then Valerie Plame retweeted the article! And then she retweeted a tweet calling Sens. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) “***holes” for opposing Cuba’s communist regime while supporting the CIA’s enhanced interrogation techniques. Such a classy individual. Apparently, things are different now than they were in 2003.”

The critical point about this entire affair is that, much like the Alger Hiss controversy in the 1940’s and 50’s, the Valerie Plame controversy took on a life of its own, propelled forward by the nation’s progressive/liberal/ Democrat, intelligentsia, press/media and entertainment communities because one of their own was demonstrably shown to be a liar and they needed to have something with which to conduct political warfare against  a (truly) hated Republican – Nixon in the case of Hiss and George W. Bush in the case of Plame.

Although Hiss had been a spy – for the communists – and tried to deny it. Plame had not been a spy for the CIA but tried to claim she was. Plame has indeed become a modern-day Hiss for the PLDC. Though it was long ago established that neither Mr. Wilson nor Ms. Plame were telling the truth – not about his mission to Niger and not about her function at the CIA – the myth endures.

We’ll join the former president in hoping that future historians get it right but, with the ubiquitous power of the PLDC that is evident from this saga, it will be a long time coming.

Next time: I will re-post the prologue to introduce our new readers to our purpose.

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