Politics » Politics Feature

GADFLY: What They Knew and When They Knew It

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It now seems beyond question that, at the very least, Karl Rove will be indicted for perjury, false statements and/or obstruction of justice in what's come to be known as "Plamegate" (the outing of a CIA agent to extract revenge against her husband, Ambassador Wilson, for challenging the President's assertion that Saddam was buying nuclear materials from Africa). The corporate media and the blogosphere are abuzz, speculating on the timing of Rove's indictment, and laying the foundation for such an indictment

I have been on record for some time as being convinced that the real crime involved in Plamegate isn't lying about it (though that, of course, is a crime), but the revelation of Valerie Plame's identity itself. For several months the pundits have been pooh-poohing the entire investigation, suggesting that since no crime was committed by outing Plame's identity, no foul was committed either, and that it's a feeble fallback on Patrick Fitzgerald's part to go after people for lying about something that wasn't a crime in the first place.

We now know, however, thanks to the reporting of David Shuster on MSNBC, not only that Plame was a covert operative, but that she was working on issues involving Iran's nuclear weapons program., a fact to which even the somnolent Congress has awakened, with Senator Frank Lautenberg requesting a damage assessment from the CIA regarding the effect of the Plame outing on our Iran-related intelligence efforts.

Fitzgerald, you may recall, was particularly outspoken at the press conference where he announced the Libby indictment about the damage to national security inflicted by the leak. He said:

The fact that she was a CIA officer was not well- known, for her protection or for the benefit of all us. It's important that a CIA officer's identity be protected, that it be protected not just for the officer, but for the nation's security.

The Libby indictment makes it clear that Cheney told Libby about Plame's status at the CIA. Paragraph 9 of the indictment says:

Libby was advised by the Vice President of the United States that Wilson's wife worked at the Central Intelligence Agency in the Counterproliferation Division. Libby understood that the Vice President had learned this information from the CIA.

And, as I said in one of my earlier stories,

Anyone with knowledge of the CIA's organizational chart (but particularly Cheney and Libby) knows that the Counterproliferation Division is part of the CIA's Directorate of Operations (i.e., where the spooks are), and not where the more benign employees (e.g., analysts) are assigned.

That view was confirmed by a former CIA operative during the course of the David Shuster report on Plame's Iran-related duties.

We also know that the original outing of Plame's identity, at the hands of Robert Novak, followed his (Novak's) conversation with a CIA official who warned him not to reveal Plame's identity. We also know that Novak was warned not to reveal Plame's identity by another CIA operative, who told him (Novak) that Plame was a specialist in weapons of mass destruction at the CIA. And, we know from the Libby indictment (Paragraph 11) that he discussed Plame directly with a "CIA briefer." 

Given the fact that Cheney learned of Plame's identity (and role) from the CIA, and that both of them were well aware of the sensitive nature of Plame's role at the CIA, is there  really any doubt that either or both of them knew she was covered by the Intelligence Identities Protection Act?

When you work at the CIA, you're either an undercover agent, or you're not, and anyone who knows anything about that entity's organization structure knows that the division Plame worked in was an undercover operation. If that isn't enough, there is no doubt that every contact between Libby, Cheney and the CIA (and between Novak and the CIA) about Plame included a warning, explicit or implicit, that Plame was a covert agent. So, Cheney and Libby either knew Plame was undercover, or they should have (i.e., they are chargeable with that knowledge). There is no "oops, I didn't know she was undercover" defense available here.

I remain convinced that Fitzgerald, who has, by now, spoken with whomever it was at the CIA that told Cheney about Plame (and her role), has got the goods on Cheney, and on Libby, with regard to the underlying crime. It still remains open to him, and to the grand jury, to seek a superceding indictment of Libby, and to indict Cheney, who, unlike the President, does't enjoy immunity from criminal prosecution. I think the reason he hasn't indicted Cheney, or superceded the original Libby indictment is because he's using the Libby indictment as a crow bar to get additional damaging information, and because he's using that indictment to get Libby to turn on Cheney and others (which he---Libby---already has started doing in some of the filings his legal team has made in the document-discovery-related controversies in the case, most notably the one where he reveals that the President, through Cheney, authorized him to reveal classified intelligence to debunk Ambassador Wilson's attack).

You may recall Fitzgerald's explanation for why he couldn't indict anyone for the underlying crime when he announced the Libby indictment:

And what we have when someone charges obstruction of justice, the umpire gets sand thrown in his eyes. He's trying to figure what happened and somebody blocked their view.

I think the umpire has finally cleared the sand from his eyes, and is about to call the pitch as he now clearly sees it, and at least two batters are about to be called out on strikes.

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