I'm going to make some comments about the Wilsons' complaint below (meanwhile, check out their fancy new site, The Joe and Valerie Wilson Legal Support Trust). But before I do that, let me say, the most intriguing bit about it will be the way that the named parties--Cheney, Libby, and Rove--attempt to counter this without ruining the story they've been telling in the criminal complaint.
That tension, I think, explains the Novak bonanza this week. They sent Novak, not Rove, because Rove can't, yet, tell his side of the story without risking legal jeopardy. They sent Novak telling a story with a bunch of holes, because their stories do not logically cohere, even if they're enough to skirt the law. They sent Novak to try to get a jump on the politics of this thing. But if the press does a halfway decent job (a big if, I know), their public stories will start to crumble and they will lose public support.
That said, everything I've heard says that these kinds of cases are hard to win. So this may be more worthwhile for the way it exposes these thugs than any justice that will be done. This is not the only answer to this Administration's crimes, trust me. There are more appropriate answers we need to pursue. But in the interest of having some real discovery about how they smeared a CIA spy, I encourage you to donate to the Wilsons' Legal Support Trust.
Update: It strikes me that something that had long been discussed has not yet appeared in this discussion. A civil suit takes away one of the greatest incentives for a pardon. If Bush gets implicated as one of the 10 John Does, he's not going to have as big an incentive pardoning Scooter Libby in hopes Scooter won't reveal his role.
Update: Make sure you read Sebastian Dangerfield's legal assessment of the complaint.
I can't speak for the complaint as a legal document. But as a rhetorical argument, it's pretty effective. This is a story that places George HW Bush at the forefront, and uses it to shame his offspring's base attack. The entire complaint begins with Bush's Poppy, standing in front of the CIA building named for him, disdaining those who out spies.
...former President George H. W. Bush said: "[W]e need more protection for the methods we use to gather intelligence and more protection for our sources, particularly our human sources, people that are risking their lives for this country. . . . I have nothing but contempt and anger for those who betray the trust by exposing the name of our sources.
Then, seven paragraphs later, the complaint recalls Joe Wilson's heroism facing down Saddam Hussein.
From 1988 to 1991, [Wilson] was Deputy Chief of Mission at the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad, Iraq. In that position, he was recognized as "truly inspiring" and "courageous" by President George H. W. Bush after he shielded more than fifty Americans at the Embassy in the face of threats from Saddam Hussein to execute anyone who refused to turn over foreigners.
This complaint, then, is a story of two civil servants, people Poppy Bush has celebrated as heroes, who in return for that heroism got attacked with a vicious smear campaign.
If the complaint does nothing else, the prominence and stateliness accorded Poppy is sure to irk W.
What This Is About
The complaint also makes clear what this is about: lying us into war.
The audacity and malevolence of that campaign is compounded by the fact that at the same time the Wilsons were being attacked, the administration in fact was admitting the validity of Mr. Wilson's public statements. Specifically, the administration admitted that claims in the 2003 State of the Union address about Iraqi attempts to buy uranium from Africa were a mistake. But for Mr. Wilson coming forward, it is unlikely that the administration ever would have acknowledged its error.
Bush admitted he was wrong to use the Niger intelligence. But they went ahead and smeared Plame anyway.
Details about Plame
The complaint offers some details about Plame that we've all been wondering about.
On January 1, 2002, Mrs. Wilson was working for the CIA as an operations officer in the Directorate of Operations. Her employment status was classified and not publicly known until July 14, 2003, when a press report precipitated by leaks from senior government officials at the White House revealed her status and exposed her.
Later in the complaint, when discussing Novak's column, the complaint describes Plame as "classified" twice.
Ready wingnuts, the answer you've been waiting for? Plame was covert on January 1, 2002. IIPA covers covert operatives for five years after they leave covert work. Therefore, IIPA covers Plame (hell! she'd still be covered today, if it weren't for Cheney and his band of thugs). And her identity was still classified when Novak outed her.
John Does No. 1-10
The complaint also names John Does 1-10. They are described as:
persons who were either employed by the United States Government in senior positions at all times relevant to this Complaint or who were political operatives with close ties to such persons.
I presume this is CYA, to net up all the little secret squirrels who helped Cheney hatch his conspiracy. The only specific reference in the complaint suggests that a Doe might be involved in the July 11 meeting (let's just call this Doe "Hadley"). Some other possible Does:
- Fred Fleitz
- David Wurmser
- John Hannah
- Newt Gingrich
- Clifford May
- Ken Mehlman
Any others I've missed?
Update: This is why I ask these questions. I'll just elevate William Ockham's entire comment.
Most of the facts in the complaint comes right out of Libby's indictment. It starts with the Novak leak and the subsequent criminal trial. But then it repeats the chronology described in the Libby indictment. The additions are:
- Mention of the SOTU (while the Libby case may not be a case about the war, this surely will be)
- Mention of the Kristof column
- More details about the Wilson quotes in the Pincus article
- More details about the Wilson quotes in the TNR article
- A few more details from May 6
- Discussion about Cheney's annotated copy of Wilson's op-ed (boo-yah!)
- More details on the July 8 Judy meeting
- Two quotes from Fitzgerald's press conference at Libby's indictment, including:
In July 2003, the fact that Valerie Wilson was a CIA officer was classified. Not only was it classified, but it was not widely known outside the intelligence community. Valerie Wilson's friends, neighbors, college classmates had no idea she had another life. The fact that she was a CIA officer was not well known for her protection and for the benefit of all of us. It is important that a CIA officer's identity be protected not just for the officer, but for the nation's security.
Valerie Wilson's cover was blown in July 2003. The first sign of that cover being blown was when Mr. Novak published a column on July 14th, 2003. But Mr. Novak was not the first reporter to be told that Wilson's wife, Valerie Wilson, Ambassador Wilson's wife Valerie, worked a the CIA. Several other reporters were told [by Libby].
- A discussion of the 1X2X6 column
In addition, the facts correct the erroneous claims (for example, by Robert Grenier) that Plame was responsible for sending Wilson. And there are a separate set of facts addressing Rove's deeds, including:
- Cooper's two articles
- Cooper's conversation with Rove
- Rove's comment to Tweety about Plame being "fair game." The paragraph includes what might be new information (and note, I was defending Tweety's actions in this affair, which look all the more laudable):
Again, Defendant Rove attempted to make this statement targeting Mrs. Wilson off the record on the condition that he not be identified as its source, so as to avoid detection for the wrongdoing.
The bit on Tweety includes with this handy definition of "fair game"
"Fair game" is a hunting term used to describe prey (an animal that is killed and eaten) and is used colloquially to describe a person who may legitimately be attacked.
- Details about the White House covering up Rove's involvement in the smear
The complaint goes on to describe the injuries. I hate to be cynical, but I expect a number of these will be thrown out. But just in case they're not, here's what Dick, Libby, and Turdblossom will have to compensate the Wilsons for:
- Violation of First Amendment Right to Free Speech (both Wilsons are named)
- Violation of Fifth Amendment Right to Equal Protection (both are named)
- Violation of Fifth Amendment Right to Privacy (just Plame is named)
- Violation of Fifth Amendment Right to Property (both are named)
- Conspiracy to Deprive Persons of Their Civil Rights (both are named)
- Neglect to Prevent Ciivil Rights Violation (both are named)
- Disclosure of Private Facts
- Civil Conspiracy
Three things strike me about this complaint right away.
First, it obviously uses the work Fitzgerald has done already. I'm wondering if Fitzgerald's statements about Plame's identity will get beyond some of the classification issues. Just in case Hayden doesn't want to release the relevant documents, you know.
Second, the Novak leak has a curious small role in this complaint, presumably because of the role of Armitage (maybe) in it. I've got some thoughts about how the Novak leak will play in this, but I better save it for a future post.
Third, this is listed as a "non-employment" civil rights case, and the named defendants are all "sued in [their] individual capacity." And Joe Wilson is named on almost all the injuries claimed. Presumably this is an attempt to get around the difficulties of a Federal government employee suing her (former) employer. I'm not sure how well this will work. But that's the apparent strategy, anyway.