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July 21, 2005

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FYI, here's a link to the July 12th Gaggle. I don't know if this is the whole thing, but I think it's complete:

July 12

The INR memo relates not so much to the Plame outing, but to GOP efforts to discredit Wilson (in SSCI and elsewhere) ... and to the deeper backstory of the Sixteen Words and the war in Iraq.

It's not the smoking bag of poop that will cost Rove his job. It may be the one that will cost Pat Roberts his chair, and maybe even his seat.

What do you mean by that RonK. I'm not sure I understand.

"... given Novak's use of the name Plame, there is at least one more document out there that refers to Wilson's wife by her covert name."

Don't put too much store in the use of the name "Plame." I heard Wilson on Air America Radio the other day, and he said his wife has, since their marriage, gone by "Wilson," even at the CIA.

The use of "Plame" is instead a sign that the name was gotten by Googling Ambassador Joseph Wilson IV," or some such way, rather than thru the leak,

I agree with RonK on this one, though for different reasons.

Wilson goes to some length in his book (in various places) to describe the NORMAL reporting protocal in State, and also in CIA. Moreover, when he says he did not take the mission as a spy -- covertly, but instead openly, as the Diplomat that he is (ret,) that also means he reported the fruit of his trip in normal fashion.

This produced two sets of notes, one at CIA -- made by a reports officer within a few hours of his return, Notes that were probably then later incorporated in more "finished intelligence" that should have been sent upward to the Office of the VP, where the tasking was initiated.

The second set of notes originate with the Africa Desk, which was the responsibility of the Undersecretary of State for African Affairs. This is the normal reporting channel for any FSO. They may have just been filed, they may have been worked up into a report -- or they may have been shared with INR -- but this would be the choice of the Africa Desk and the Undersecretary for African Affairs. INR could have well received the notes or a Desk generated report and incorporated the information in memo sent up the stovepipe toward Cheney's office.

Questions I would be asking now:

We know that Condi received a Top Secret briefing book at some point during the Bush Africa Tour. It was faxed to her in mid trip. Did any of the original notes or reports appear in that Brief? (She had been selected as the administration spokesperson to appear on Sunday Talk -- and this was her background materials).

Second, the tasking to answer Cheney's questions about Niger and Uranium came from Cheney's office -- and that set this whole thing in motion. We don't need to know the content of reports that were returned to the Cheney Office -- but it might be interesting to know whether they were, and when they were returned. Both State and CIA. Did anyone, saybe someone from Bolton's non-proliferation office) keep the reports away from the NSC, White House, or Cheney? In fact did anyone from Bolton's office know of the Wilson Mission and reporting?

I think the Senate Report -- a piece of work done by a partisian committee where one of the co-chairs was apparently rolled by the White House is yes, of some importance, but as evidence it is at least three pointes remmoved from the action -- and I think a good case can be made for political bias coloring the work. Yes, Roberts ought to have to answer for this. In particular Kansas City reporters ought to know the issues if they don't already. In fact, Thomas Frank who knows a thing or two about Kansas is to blog next week at Josh's Cafe -- maybe he can open some channels. My take is that Roberts just got rolled by the White House and plaid partisian -- I doubt if he really understood the criminal nature of what he was asked to do.

To say the least, I was delighted with the Pincus piece in today's WP making clear the memo on the plane was indeed coded secret or above. That fact puts anyone on the plane who discussed contents in a legal bind. I think it is a nice felony to reveal classified material to anyone not cleared and with no need to know, and at a mionimum it costs clearances, but can also cost money and time in the pokey. That's delightful. If staffers are in legal jepordy, they have reason to tell some truth.

I agree with Ron that Novak is likelier to have gotten "Plame" by googling or otherwise looking it up once he knew she worked at CIA and had a particular relevance to the Niger story. He has said as much, including saying he had looked up her and Joe's campaign donations. How did Karl Rove know to say that Wilson was fair game because he was a Democrat? He had worked in several different administrations. Thatis why I suggested earlier today that Fleischer could have noticed the connection and told someone back in DC to look into the connection.

The Senate report does reference various DIA documents as early sources on Niger. There were several reports. How did Novak know it was Italy? Here is where it gets interesting. Perhaps from Libby, perhaps from someone else among the neocons, perhaps even those who thought it would strengthen the story if the Italians also came up with the actual transfer documents. Italy does sort of leap out here.

Who knows--maybe that is what Fitzgerald noticed too. BTW, would he have the security clearance to see an unredacted version of the SSCI report? Or maybe he just found it more than passing strange that the WH would go to such lengths to get someone who was just saying what various INR reports had been saying all along.

This whole thing makes my head explode, but Novak's use of "Plame" gets odder and odder. If she has normally used his name since her marriage, Googling via her husband would mostly just turn up "Joe and Valerie Wilson," etc., with only the occasional "nee Plame."

In fact, publicizing her as "Valerie Plame" must have maximized the potential damage, because that was certainly the name she used when she was most active abroad as an NOC. If the public discussion of her for the last two years had been as Valerie Wilson, people might not make the connection to the Valerie Plame they dealt with 10 years ago. Outing her as Plame made it that much easier for foreign intel services to walk back the cat.

I'm not saying this was deliberate, only that it is odd, and one more layer of mystery to this whole affair.

-- Rick Robinson

I also agree with most of Sara's points. Earlier I referred to Josh Marshall's post where he quoted someone as saying that they "just discarded" things that didn't support their conclusions. So maybe the CIA did send a report to someone in the VP's office but it never made it last the threshhold, because it wasn't what he would have wanted to hear. But I'm willing to bet someone over there received something from CIA, even if they did keep it in the bowels of the WH, as Condi said.

One more thing--exposing Valerie as "Plame" and Novak's later exp[osure of Brewster-Jennigs might constitute the requisite "pattern" for liability under the "Agee" part (subsection (c)) of the Intel Identities Protecion Act.

And it kind of has the political-mean hallmarks of a Rove attack.

Mimikatz - Josh Marshall has been pointing out for a while the odd black hole into which the forged documents passed via Italy have fallen, considering that they triggered the whole Niger angle to start with.

-- Rick Robinson

Mimikatz -- Rice's MTP "bowels" comment was "Maybe someone knew in the bowels of the agency", i.e., the CIA.

The whole affair leaves a lot of documents and recollections stuck in the bowels of a lot of agencies.

What did they know?
When did they know it?
How did they know?

It all comes out in the end, bowel obstructions or no.

And most of it is just sh*t.

Interestingly, Condi's comment to Russert was that no one know that the Niger documents were forgeries, not that no one knew the whole Niger business was bogus. By the time the documents surfaced (Oct 2002) they should have known from both CIA and INR that the whole thesis was bogus. Condi nicely dodged that by concentrating on the forgery aspect of it. The forgeries were only exposed in Feb 2003, b3cause the US held onto them. But that was well after the debunking by countless people of the idea itself, and was, once one knows that whole history, a poorly done effort to resurrect a thoroughly discounted talking point. And I think the most interesting point is who.

It is mysterious where Plame's name came up. The press were asking Libby about Plame on July 7th in DC (well before Novak talks to Rove), so this probably didn't come from Air Force One. The June 10th INR memo also discussed Mrs. Wilson rather than Plame as I understand it.

Wasn't it Seymour Hersh who reported back a couple of years ago that the documents were faked up by retired CIA types, that they intentionally did a bad job so as to embarass the DIA crowd whom they thought lacked document examiners. I don't remember the whole story -- was it a book or a New Yorker article??? Hersh as I remember reported it as a second person tid bit from one of his sources.

But I do want to know why the documents were not handed off to one of the professional document examiners we train and employ at some expense and which would be a normal part of the process of examining anything that came in over the transom.

When methods deviate from the normal in intelligence work -- you need to pay attention to that abnormality.

I must say with Mathews on Hardball and Oberman on his show doing ten minute segments or so on this -- the heat is on. I bet Bush is really looking forward to his Summer Vacation in Texas -- riding his bike, clearing brush, taking long lazy naps in the Texas Heat. Even the Editor of the Washington Times, Toney Blanklye, is taking pot shots at the holes in the story. We need to remember that many of those who signed the "retired" CIA officer letter that came out yesterday are Republicans, and probably good sources for the Washington Times.

In one of his books, "The Wars of Watergate" Stanley Kutler characterizes the "whole thing" as the "War of FBI Succession." (and that was long before Mark Felt was ID'ed.) This thing may well be something very similar. I note that one of the signers of the letter was the guy whose testimony derailed the Gates nomination to head CIA on the grounds that he had politicized the intelligence regarding USSR Military strength. (Goodman)

For those who went out and bought the Wilson book -- look at the story on pp 432-34 on the visit Pat Lang got from the Wohlstetters on the recommendation of Wolfowitz. Says it all, I think. As David Corn told the Editorial Board of "The Nation" this guy is from the establishment.

Seymour Hersh's article in the New Yorker in which he cites a source who claims the administration was "set up":

Who Lied To Whom?

I thought my sister, littlesky, said she had posted information here about Novak's citation of Italians as the source of the forgeries. She found a Walter Pincus WashPost article in March 2003 that talks about the forgeries coming from Italy. Sorry to say that I updated my browser and appear to have lost the link she sent. Maybe she cited this on a kos thread. But Pincus says Italy well before it's cited by Novak.

As for googling Wilson and whether that might turn up Valerie Plame... They hadn't been married for all that long, had they? I wonder if there might not have still been "social" notes on the web talking about the marriage. That would seem a likely possible source of the name, Plame.

Also, re: the July 9 gaggle that Aravosis says is now missing from the WH website. What struck me, reading that exchange with Ari, was how he seemed to be trying to change the subject to the forgeries. Another example of them turning the subject to what they want to say, not what you want to know. It reminded me of the way Condi seemed to be developing her own agenda in this story.

Found the link for the Pincus story mentioning Italian sources for the forgeries. Littlesky did post this reply over at kos where I see that emptywheel saw, and responded, to it.

This, then, is for those who might only see this thread.

Hersh's article is collected with others he wrote (including the "Stovepipe" one) into a book called "Chain of Command: The Road from 9/11 to Abu Ghraib" that came out last year and should be about to come out in paperback. It also includes some pieces he wrote about Afghanistan, some that were not previously published.

Apropos to our discussion, in the book (pp. 226-228) he fingers the Italians (SISMI) as the source of an intelligence report to the CIA shortly after 9/11 about Iraqi attempts to buy uranium from Niger. Hersh's CIA sources considered it amateurish. But it went to Cheney, who wanted more details. He was not satisfied with the CIA's response and, Hersh says, "It was the beginning of what turned out to be a year long tug-of-war between the C.I.A. and the Vice President's office."

Interestingly, he describes Elisabetta Burba, the Italian journalist who received the documents, as having approximately the same reaction as Joe Wilson when she heard the State of the union speech, as she had also gone to Niger to check it out.

This chapter is entitled "Behind the Mushroom Cloud" and is different from the New Yorker article cited above.

Sara--I did read those pages in Wilson's book describing a friend's unsuccessful recruiting into the neocon cabal. The whole thing is chilling.

Hersh interviewed Wilson, and has multiple sources at CIA, as well as INR. He may have additional angles in the book. What is clear is that the CIA report of Wilson's trip was floating around the gov't, but seems not to have gotten to the principals. But why would it, when Bush had made up his mind for war right about that same time, if Hersh is to be believed, and what they wanted was intel that supported their case?

Thanks kainah. The WaPo article is consistent with the way Hersh reports it in his book. I don't have a contemporaneous article of his like the material I quoted from the book.

It does make one wonder whether there is a connection to the recent flap over the kidnapping by the CIA in Italy of the suspected terrorist.

Sara,

WRT how this got sidelined, I'm pretty sure it got sidelined by WINPAC, which had a combo of people who were doing their job and those doing Cheney's job. Notably, that's where Fred Fleitz worked when he wasn't working with Bolton. WINPAC received Wilson's report. WINPAC made some fishy claims that were integrated into the NIE. And a few more things.

The best of all, though, is that when the INR analyst saw those forgeries, he knew they were forgeries RIGHT AWAY. And he sent an email out to a bunch of non-proliferation people saying he'd hand out the forged documents the next day at a non-proliferation meeting they were going to. Well, surprise. By the next day, he was "on leave" (must be the double super secret unplanned kind) and someone else handed out the forgeries to the other agencies. And somehow, the CIA people all claimed not to have received them, even though they were later found in CIA archives. That was back in October. The CIA "discovered" they didn't have the documents in January. They got them, then promptly sent them out to be translated. Translated. From French. I mean, I know these guys were Iraq guys and all. But French. We're not talking about a translation from Swahili or something. And it takes a full month for them to be translated.

New NYT story on the Rove conspiracy: Rove, Libby and Hadley with a knife. here

They were pushing back on the "16 words" story and Wilson got in the way.

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