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OPINION   October 26/05

(More accurately described here today as speculation).   

PLAMEGATE.  Questions: How far did the President's people go? Did they cross the line into espionage? And how does Judy Miller fit into this?    First, a story:

       Once upon a time; well, more specifically, during the second year of the twenty-first century, and during the second reign of Bush II Of The Magnificent Mandate, and of his official prompter Richard The Snarl Cheney, there flourished a shadowy coven of conspirators which stirred a boiling pot of dirty tricks.

       Now, this secret clique consisting of eight servants of the realm, worked their witchery in the bowels of the splendiferous white mansion from which Bush II ruled over his kingdom. Their names were:

       Chief of staff Andrew Card, Bush’s brain Karl Rove, V.P. chief of staff Scooter Libby, National Security Advisor Stephen Hadley, Mushroom Cloud Condoleeza Rice, W.H. Dir. Of Legislative Affairs Nicholas Calio, plus advisors Mary Matalin, and Karen Hughs.

       Okay, about the above--What were these eight conspirators intent on doing, with the approval of Bush & Cheney? Well according to the Washington Post, and in current jargon-- They were devising ways to “market” the war before it began. Thus commenced the selling of Weapons of Mass Destruction, Smoking Guns & Mushroom Clouds, followed by the stark reality of Shock & Awe and the fiasco of Mission Accomplished, followed by thousands of wounded G.I.s and a couple of thousand dead, plus many thousands of dead Iraqis, followed by a fanatic insurgency that would not quit, and an unending cost of billions and billions of dollars, much of it financed by selling U.S. bonds to places like China, Japan & South Korea; which means we owe them.  Talk about "irrational exuberance!"  And don't forget, we didn't catch Osama in Afghanistan because our major military force was diverted to Iraq.

      As we now know, in February 2002 retired diplomat Joe Wilson made his trip to Niger, returned and said that no weapons of mass destruction were made available to Saddam.    

       The nerve of this guy.  One can imagine Scooter's and Karl's reactions, not to mention Cheney and Bush frothing at the mouth, wanting to check out Wilson and look for ways to bring him down in case he was thinking of going public. After all, the coven had made such a successful pitch, even pushed the sterling Colin Powell  front and center to assist in launching their line of bull.  And off to war we go, everyone so excited, especially the media. All those bombs flashing in the night on television. WOW!  And all those happy correspondents being embedded, getting a chance to make their bones.  

 

 

And so Joe Wilson, apparently pissed about this monumentally arrogant deception, became a whistleblower in 2003 and wrote his disagreeable op-ed in the NY Times, telling the world in so many words (words like, no WMDS) that Bush/Cheney/Rove had scammed Americans into a costly war. Said op-ed leading to Wilson's appearance on numerous television interviews, causing, in the administration,  a seething hatred for the man. Now you don't want to cross these attack dogs, if you can help it. 

   

   

     

             

     

            Then came a trip to Africa on Air Force One with President Bush accompanied by staff, Colin Powell, and media.  And lo and behold a State Department memo magically appeared, regarding Wilson's wife Valerie Plame, which named her as a CIA operative; the memo passed from person to person, her classified identity no doubt later passed on to Cheney (though above it's pointed out that Cheney learned it from Tenet, take your pick) , and especially Libby and Rove, just in time for these two to launch an assault on Wilson by having their chats with TIME's Matt Cooper and the N.Y. TIMES' Judy Miller.  Let the leaks begin!  Of course Robert Novak beat everyone to the punch with his July 14 story revealing Valerie's I.D., and we can safely assume Novak's source was Rove since it's been noted they had a chat prior to the published story.

                            Cheney, known for his constant pressuring of the CIA to give him the intel he wanted to hear,  no doubt  believed Plame, like a few others in the Agency, wanted to prove the administration wrong. The object of the administration's leaks therefore being to suggest that whistleblower Joe Wilson was a malicious lightweight who needed  something to do, maybe a little junket at the taxpayers expense, and was sent to Niger by his supportive CIA wife, Valerie Plame. 

     

 

  •         The message: a bit of nepotism there, with Valerie being the powerful connected one, he the lesser needier one, and therefore why would anyone pay any attention to this non-entity Wilson? And let this be a friggin' lesson to Wilson and anyone else who wants to cross them. Of course, Plame didn't send him. She was not in a position to do this. She recommended him, an ex-diplomat,  as one who was quite experienced in this (Niger) part of the world. (Latest word is that higher CIA officials approached her to see if her husband was interested in making the trip.)

  •  

  •         The president  suddenly found a lot of flak heading his way and said he'd fire anyone leaking information to the press. (even Karl Rove? Nope, considering, according to the N.Y. Daily News, Bush knew about Rove's involvement as long as 2 years ago)  So Bush had to say, okay, let's have an investigation, but let's keep it close to the vest, boys.  Let's make sure it doesn't  develop too many legs. Trouble was, John Ashcroft as Attorney General, and part of the good ol' boy establishment, proved to be a little too close to the vest, and had to recuse himself.

            As a result, the major threat to the administration loomed

    into view: the relentless, obsessive, dangerously apolitical  special prosecutor, Patrick Fitzgerald. Here was an icy man who would not be controlled by Bush/Cheney, who obviously hated the very idea of W.H. staffers giving out classified information which could threaten national security, especially as it might involve an effort to destroy someone's reputation and stepping on his civil rights, and especially if this target was trying to right a wrong, or a whole set of wrongs.

           And Fitzgerald, spreading a wider net,  might turn out to be a man who suspects a treasonous conspiracy of deception and falsification in order to engage in an unnecessary and costly war, digging deeply into the White House coven, questioning the newly surfaced John Hannah, Libby's deputy and Cheney's advisor, and other unknowns.  Digging deep into State and the CIA, creating seismic tremors as he pokes into the administration's fault lines. 

           And remember the phony Italian document suggesting the Niger WMDs ("yellowcake" uranium), that the administration waved around to support their phony claims? A document that some still claim was produced by Ahmad Chalabi, the man they pushed front and center as legitimate?  And who, if ever, I

    wonder, will be found guilty of creating  this forgery? Well, maybe an Italian.  AP is reporting, the head of the Italian SISMI intelligence agency will be questioned Nov 3rd by an official commission.  Read it and think about who in the U.S. administration grabbed it and used it.

          

            Yes, Fitzgerald became the man who would have the authority to ask the questions that needed to be answered, and therefore this prosecutor decided to threaten Novak, Cooper, and Miller with Jail if they didn't give him their sources pertaining to the leaking of Plame's identity. 

     

           But Novak cooperated right away--off the hook.  Matt Cooper resisted but eventually received his waiver to speak, from Rove, and cooperated--off the hook.  Judy Miller, on the other hand, even though she had never written an article on the subject of Wilson/Plame, refused and went to jail "on principal" for 85 days.  At first most of us thought how brave that was, and how cruel of Fitzgerald and the nasty judge.  After all, she hadn't even written anything on Plame, for pete's sake.  And a reporter's source is sacrosanct.  Right?

         So Judy Miller said she went to Jail to protect her source, later saying it would be unethical to pressure him to give his waiver, yet still later saying "I owe it to myself," when she finally reached out to him and received  his permission to reveal him as Scooter Libby, Cheney's chief of staff.

            Yet she told Fitzgerald, Libby probably wasn't the source identifying Valerie Plame, written as "Flame," in her notebook.  She said it must have been from another source, the name of whom she couldn't recall.  (yet now it is said she claims to have heard the I.D. from Libby, take your pick) Mmm...either way, for a nervy, tough reporter who had been embedded with the military searching for WMDs in Iraq in 2003, and who has probably elbowed her way around the block more times than she can count on her fingers and toes, one would think it highly unlikely she'd forget the person who supplied the name (misspelled or not) of a  member of the CIA. 

           Additionally, Miller says, when she was asked by Fitzgerald if she could recall discussing the "Wilson-Plame" connection with other sources, she said she had, but could not recall names or dates of conversations.   For a lady who is known for her expertise in intelligence and security, she seems to have a lot of senior moments, don't you think?

     

        

           It has been suggested that a busy reporter speaks to a lot of people and  makes a lot of notes, possibly entering them hurriedly while not necessarily attributing  equal importance to each and every jot--maybe until later, at which time the note taker might not recall the source. 

     

           Maybe.  Anything is possible. But it seems to me that mentioning the I.D. of a CIA operative amounts to offering significant  information;  an offering, I believe, that would be impelled by a particular motive, not just some name tossed out at random, and would not be taken as such.  Misspelling the name as "Flame" doesn't necessarily indicate a lack of importance. To me

    it might simply indicate a degree of carelessness in the information given.  But I could be wrong.

           It has been speculated that Ahmad Chalabi was Miller's source for the name of Valerie Plame, (or was it Libby?) as it has been suggested that Chalabi is the guy who not only was the source of lies offered and eagerly accepted and broadcast as truths by Bush/Cheney, but possibly the source for Judy Miller and ultimately for the NY Times, when she wrote a series of articles before the Iraqi war, which parroted the Bush administration's blather about Saddam's WMDs, the articles later proven to be inaccurate but unfortunately given prominence by the NYT.   When these weapons were not found, Miller was accused by many of helping Bush's phony cause for invading Iraq.

          

           Of course, this was on everyone's mind: After having pursued the story, why didn't she publish "source" articles about Wilsom/Plame as did Cooper and Novak?  According to the NYT Public Editor Byron Calame, Miller said, she "made a strong recommendation to my editor" that she, Miller, write a story.  "I was told no" by the editor, Miller said.  Really? 

         Her editor at the time, Jill Abramson, denied Miller's assertion and could not recall Miller ever referring to source conversations with Cheney's chief of staff Scooter Libby.  When Public Editor Calame asked Miller the name of the editor who turned her down, Miller "declined to identify the editor she dealt with."  The result of this was, the NYT didn't have the hot articles other publications had, could not provide it's readers with important information, or at least some interesting suppositions about the administration's drive to intimidate critics like Joe Wilson.

  •      

  •         So, what does this mean?  One might conclude Ms. Miller was joined at the hip with Libby/Cheney and the administration, especially considering her published pre-war articles in support of WMDs, which essentially buttressed  Bush's "smoking guns" and "mushroom clouds," the latter of which had become one of Condoleezza Rice's favorite doom-and-gloom mantras.

           Fitzgerald has been questioning Cheney's advisor John Hannah, and on Miller's return to the grand jury, Fitzgerald

    agreed to limit his questions to her conversations with Cheney's Scooter Libby, which seems a major compromise for a man like the prosecutor, which in addition to Hannah, further tells me he's homed in on the Vice President: what he knew and when he knew it, and/or how much of a driving force he was in the Wilson/Plame leaks; Fitzgerald's interest in the V.P.s office being no big surprise considering Cheney and Libby are joined at the hip, as well;  in the same way that Bush's and Karl Rove's skulls (Rove being his boss' brain for 25 years) would be cemented to the point of sharing blood, never mind strategy.  Therefore the same question must occur to Fitzgerald:  considering the closeness of Bush and Rove, how much did the President know and when did he know it?

  •  

  •        Rove has gone before the grand jury four times, suggesting several additions, if not revisions, in his testimony; further suggesting a kind of "selective amnesia" which seems to improve with time, an amnesia which may be viral in nature when one considers how many others connected have manifested identical symptoms.

    The Washington Post reported: Rove said to the grand jury that in 2003 Libby may have told him Valerie Plame worked for the CIA days before her I. D. was revealed in the press, and said Libby may have learned of her from reporters.  Really?  What about the Plame memo being circulated on Air force One, which all  of the Bush/Cheney crowd would be privy to, before the Robert Novak article appeared?

     

           Fitzgerald has informed Rove and Libby that they might be "in jeopardy", and unknown others may find themselves in the same boat, which tells me that Bush and his vice president may have much to worry about. One wonders how many of their people will fall on their swords to protect them; or more interestingly, who might rat on whom to save his ass?

    Four thoughts:

           1--Republican strategists are saying, it's just politics, folks, everybody does it--trying to undermine opponents. True, but this is more than slinging a little mud.  Fitzgerald may decide the attack on Joe Wilson by revealing Plame's I.D. had very seriously crossed the line in regard to national security.

           2--Judy Miller in refusing to reveal her source was not protecting someone who blew the whistle in a worthy cause, but rather appeared to be protecting a possibly too close connection between herself, Scooter Libby and the administration.  But it's only my guess.

            3--Beyond perjury and obstruction of justice, revealing classified material of any sort could, when carried to the farthest rim of possible guilt, result in a charge of espionage.

            4--Don't you wonder how the mothers, spouses, siblings and children of the military dead and wounded feel about this?

  •  

  •         Of course, it may turn out that Fitzgerald might bring no indictments, and at the same time issue no reports, which after two years would be a great relief to the Bush gang, and a

    whopping disappointment to the rest who believe they were deceived.

     

           But whatever the result of all this, The President and Vice President of these United States, along with their hit men, were the ones in charge, the ones who deceived the American people in order to invade Iraq, the ones who created this climate of paranoia and mistrust, and in my opinion we don't deserve them.  And to answer my own lead-in question: Yes, they went much too far and crossed the line.  This all about Iraq, folks. Iraq.

     

    SAMMY

     

     

     

    Meanwhile, today, check out: "Judith Miller: 3 Decades Of Disinformation," from a July 08/05 post by Grand Moff Texan at the blog: Daily Kos.  And the  Newberry post: "Moment Of Truth For the Times" at Forum Truthout.

     

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