from a public HS teacher (Gov't, Religion, Soc. Issues), who is eclectic (Dem-leaning) politically and Quaker (& open) on everything else. Hope you enjoy what you find here.

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Wilson, Plame & Miller - some thoughts 

The following is a slight reworking of some thoughts I had in responding in a comment to a thread elsewhere.  The first part is to point out how parsing of language allows the Republicans to attack deceptively.   The rest is speculation on my part, but something I think might be worth considering.

Valerie Plame did SUGGEST that her husband be sent.  But she did NOT DIRECT that he be sent.  That is where I will start, below the fold.

There was a Newsday story which specifically mentions that Plame suggested her husband.  When the talking points used by the Republicans say that Plame suggested Wilson that is in fact an accurate statement, but if not put into context does precisely what they want -  it gives credence to their NOT accurate statement that it was for political purposes or a boondoggle.

Let's review.  People in CIA concerned with WMD are discussing the VP's request for clarification on whether yellow-cake purchase memo has validity.  As an expert on non-proliferation, Plame is present.  She note that her husband has experience in that region of Africa and knows both the landscape and the players, and that he might be an appropriate person to send and check it out.  The responsible parties in the CIA --  not including Plame -- agree and send Joe Wilson.

 Wilson goes -- he is debriefed in Niamey before returning, and his information coincides with both what they had determined on their own and what the General from the European command had determined.  Wilson returns, reports orally to the CIA.  One has to assume that his report -- as well as the other two assessments --  were either passed to the office of the Vice President, or that office was told that 3 different investigations had come to the same conclusion.    That the Vice President says he saw no report from Wilson does not in any way counter or disagree with what I said.  The VP or someone on his staff could have been briefed orally, someone on his staff (Hannah, Libby?) could have received a written report -- even one including Wilson's name -  and then briefed the VP orally w/o mentioning Wilson's name.  That would allow the VP to make the kind of statements he has made without technically telling an untruth.  Also, as Wilson recounts in his op ed, his evaluation made it highly unlikely that such an attempted purchase had occurred, but since it is difficult to prove a negative, did not flatly deny that it had, nor did it in any way address the issue of forgery of the memo.   Thus the VP still had wiggle room, even if fully briefed, to continue to push for accepting the 16 words -- after all, to that point no one had said it was forged.

Three separate evaluations of the allegation in the yellowcake memo determine that it is highly unlikely that it has any validity, and yet the administration continues to rely upon its contents.  

 When the insistence on including the "16 words" in the President's speech becomes an issue after the UN personnel conclusively show how the memo is forged, the White House tries to do damage control on that decision and its handling of the memo, as if they had not had information that clearly contraindicted relying on that memo, independent of the UN investigation.  Wilson then publishes his op ed, showing precisely that.  Remember -  the occasion of Wilson's op ed is NOT the speech, but rather the games the administration was playing AFTER the UN had exposed the forgery.  

 Now, whether the administration was prepared to go after Wilson and Plame before the op ed was drafted (about which more anon) is not clear.  Given the lead time between submission and publication of op eds, it is also possible that the administration either had a source in the Times which gave them the contents of the op ed (Judith Miller, perhaps?  I will come back to this too), or that the Times chose to inform the administration out of courtesy and see if they wanted to draft a response.  

 My reference to Judith Miller  --  if the Times editorial board was trying to determine if Wilson would have credibility to write such an op ed, who on their staff would be the most likely person to ask, and to ask to check it out?  If my surmise is correct, then one reason for her silence is that in the very process of checking it out she may have inadvertently or deliberately exposed either the role Plame played (which would thereby expose her identity) or even her actual role in CIA.  But I actually think that Miller's involvement may have come about because the Times asked her to check the validity of Wilson's claims before deciding whether to run his piece.  That would give them even more reason to want to protect her, because even if she were not writing a piece on the issue or on Plame's role or identity, she had been functioning as a journalist on behalf of the paper.

And if this were so, and I am not saying that it is, it might mean that she talked to far more than one or two officials in the White House in this process.  Remember, the Times did decide to publish Wilson's op ed.  If Miller were checking out that background, she is quite likely to have talked with people at CIA or at State or both.  She actually might in fact be protecting someone who gave enough information to warrant the Times going ahead, and who would therefore be in jeopardy from the administration and its current hatchetman at CIA, Porter Goss.

One other point  -- references to a statement from the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence are nonsense -  the only names on that statement are Republican Senators, including Pat Roberts, who has REFUSED to follow up on his commitment to examine the intelligence failures before 9-11.  There is never any mention of the Democratic response to that statement -- perhaps the press, or the blogosphere, should get the corresponding statements from people like Jay Rockefellar, and then we can talk about who approached this issue from a political perspective.

 This is all speculation on my part.   Just thought it was worth throwing out there.  And I'm sorry that this was not written more skillfully, but this is about all the time I have for this.

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