Monday, July 18, 2005

As the dust settles...

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Now that the Karl Rove kerfuffle is finally coming out into the open, it is becoming much more clear what really happened. Despite constant headlines accusing Mr. Rove of disclosing Valerie (Plame) Wilson's status as a covert agent of the CIA, it seems clear that the only misleading statement in this entire ordeal is the one former ambassador Joe Wilson gave in his New York Times piece which began this.In July 2003, Wilson first wrote his piece in the Times. In this article, he distinctly implies to having been sent by the Bush administration, in particular the office of the Vice President, to Niger.
"The vice president's office asked a serious question. I was asked to help formulate the answer."

There, he came to the conclusion that they had not sold uranium to Saddam Hussein. He questions in the article why this advice was ignored, with the obvious implication being that as the White House had sent him, they surely would have given his findings some weight.
After this, Matthew Cooper and Robert Novack tried to do research on the story in order to understand the truth behind Wilson's claims. On July 14th, Novack published a story in which he claimed that he had verified that Valerie Plame, Wilson's wife, "an agency operative on weapons of mass destruction," was the one who suggested he go to Niger (and not the White House). He also stated that the CIA discounted Wilson's report, as most of it was based on claims made by Nigerian officials - who were likely to assert that they had not sold Saddam the uranium regardless of whether or not that was true.
In fact, the bipartisan Senate committee came to the conclusion that Wilson's report actually would lead one to believe there was a sale to Iraq, and further, that Wilson could not possibly have claimed that the "names and dates were wrong" on the [possibly fake] sale contracts between and Niger and Iraq, as the US only received them 8 months after his trip. It also showed that Novack was correct, and Plame had suggested her husband be selected to make the trip - despite Wilson's consistent arguing that this was not the case.
After Novack published his story, many on the left claimed that Wilson's story was accurate, and that Novack's sources were White House members who were orchestrating a leak to discredit Wilson. Novack refuted this in a later article, stating very plainly:
First, I did not receive a planned leak. Second, the CIA never warned me that
the disclosure of Wilson's wife working at the agency would endanger her or
anybody else. Third, it was not much of a secret.
What actually happened is far different than what was being reported all over, as Novack continues:

During a long conversation with a senior administration official, I asked why Wilson was assigned the mission to Niger. He said Wilson had been sent by
the CIA's counterproliferation section at the suggestion of one of its
employees, his wife. It was an offhand revelation from this official, who is
no partisan gunslinger. When I called another official for confirmation, he
said: "Oh, you know about it." The published report that somebody in the
White House failed to plant this story with six reporters and finally found
me as a willing pawn is simply untrue.

Cooper was trying to research the same story at the same time, and as he just told Time magazine, he went to both Rove and I. Lewis Libby, Vice President Cheney's chief of staff. The first thing Rove said to Cooper was not to get "too far out on Wilson." He then mentioned that Wilson's wife, a CIA agent, who worked in WMD, was the one who had suggested he go to Niger. Cooper testified that Rove never said her name or that she was a covert operative, and that Libby agreed the next day that Wilson had not, as he had implied, been sent by the Vice President, but agreed when Cooper asked if perhaps Wilson's wife had suggested he be sent.
In addition, Wilson, in his own book, states that his wife returned to the United States to stay in 1997 - 6 years before Rove and Cooper ever had a conversation. The 1982 Intelligence Identities Protection Act defines a covert agent as someone who currently is or has in the last five years served outside the United States. Plame had done neither - though it is possible the CIA still classified her as a covert agent. Either way, Rove had not violated the Act, because he did not seem to even know that Plame was a covert agent (if in fact she was); and was not trying to "out" her in any way. He also did not reveal her identity at all, and therefore is not, as the White House stated last year, responsible for the leaking of her identity. He was only trying to warn Cooper from running with Wilson's false story, as there was plenty of evidence that debunked his claims. It seems that Rove's biggest crime in the eyes of the Democratic leaders calling for his resignation or firing was terrible: Standing up for the truth.

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