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Balanced Fare: We Report, You Deride

Tuesday, July 22, 2003

It Takes A Big Man To Admit He Is Wrong

Fortunately, I am neither "big", nor wrong, so I can continue the battle!

Wait a minute! If Mark Kleiman said one thing, and you disagreed, and he was right, doesn't that make you..

Don't say it! And what are you doing in this blog? If I wanted my conscience to have a blog, I would set it up at "My Inner Torment", or some such darn site. Probably use Movable Type, too.

Why don't you tell people what happened?

I was just about too, thanks.

I'm watching.

I'll give you something to watch. Later.

Sorry, a bit of a problem with crowd control. Anyway, Our Story So Far: David Corn wrote a piece in the Nation last week alleging that White House officials had outed Ambassador Wilson's wife from her undercover CIA post. This was in revenge for the Wilson account of his trip to Niger which, said the Ambassador, debunked the White House uranium claim.

Mark Kleiman, and others, said, ah ha, the evil White House in action. I said, not so fast, the Corn story and the TIME follow-up are vague on sources, other explanations are possible. At that point, I was stilll on firm ground.

Mr. Kleiman then wondered (by e-mail) whether I had a theory of the case. I posted that I had several, but then picked one, and that won't happen again, believe you me. My pick - the White House would be vindicated, Ms. Wilson would turn out not to be undercover, and no crime has been committed.

Then, the ice cracked. Newsday certainly seems to have confirmed that Ms. Wilson was undercover.

Leaving me where? Well, clinging at straws, basically. A careful reading of the Newsday story does not confirm that Novak had White House sources for the news about Ms. Wilson's career. In that sense, we can re-hash my objections to his original piece. Speaking to Newsday, Novak said this - nothing. Everything Newsday has on Novak comes from the Corn article or his own column.

Newsday also contains some speculation:

Wilson and a retired CIA official said Monday that the "senior administration officials" who named Plame had, if their description of her employment was accurate, violated the law and may have endangered her career and possibly the lives of her contacts in foreign countries. Plame could not be reached for comment.

Well, they don't know what Novak heard from the "senior Administration officials" either.

Unless I have missed some money quote, the rest of the Newsday story is similarly full of caveats. For example:

A current intelligence official said that blowing the cover of an undercover officer could affect the officer's future assignments and put them and everyone they dealt with overseas in the past at risk.

Leaving us where? Well, I am abandoning any thought at all that this will not be a big scandal. The basic theme, as articulated by my go-to guy, is that the Adminsitration manipulated intelligence to drag us into war, and then compromised national security (by outing an undercover CIA agent) to preserve the cover-up.

The media loves cover-ups, they love spy stories, and if this story does not have legs, then I am wrong yet again. Furthermore, since Dean promoted it in his "16 Questions", score a point for Dean.

But do we know, at this point, that it was Administration officials that outed Ms. Wilson to Novak? I don't believe the Newsday story takes us beyond the Corn article on that point. Whether I am being cautious, or simply in denial, is an open question.

So, I was wrong about Ms. Wilson not being covert. I am in the oxygen tent (but alive!) on the possibilty that Novak's source was CIA, or even something else altogether. I had noted, in my posts, that if the CIA outed one of their own as part of an internal feud on the handling of intelligence, that is still a big story and bad for Bush. Bad in a different way then if the source was the White House, arguably not as bad, but still bad.

I am staying with "not proven" as to sources, Good luck getting that from Novak. The next step is a media firestorm, and some sort of investigation.

Watching my team in action on this, I feel like a Mets fan. But this is far from over!

Well, that is OK. But don't you provide links anymore?

Sorry. They are in other posts, and I have to run out to lunch. I hear the crow is tasty....

UPDATE: YES, my go-to guy mentions the Ms. Wilson Caper and is WRONG! We rely on Prof. Krugman to overstate even the credible charges. And NO, I was not having a Michael Lewis moment in my opening. Big-hearted!

BIG, SERIOUS UPDATE: TIME has moved the story to a new address, and the old links don't work. The new story also contains a parenthetical addition that strikes me as significant. Well, hugely significant, actually. Here we go:

...some government officials have noted to TIME in interviews, (as well as to syndicated columnist Robert Novak) that Wilson's wife, Valerie Plame, is a CIA official who monitors the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. These officials have suggested that she was involved in her husband's being dispatched Niger.

Whoa. You will recognize the quote from the original TIME piece, but the news is that the CIA types, sorry, "government officials", are admitting that they might be Novak's source for his bit that begins "The CIA says...". His only source? We don't know. Are they taking the fall for cronies in the White House? No idea. But this moves me a few steps along on the comeback trail.

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