Thursday, August 17, 2006

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Friday, July 21, 2006

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Friday, June 30, 2006

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Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Luskin's Quandry

The revelation that the infamous “Niger Memo” from 2003 does not specifically identify Valerie Plame Wilson’s role at the CIA as classified is, well, a difficult subject for the Administration. It is not surprising, then, that the NY Sun’s article by Josh Gerstein today allows Rove attorney Robert Luskin to argue, unchallenged, that this somehow casts doubt on the charge Mrs. Wilson’s identity was revealed in deliberate retaliation against her husband. According to the Sun:

“With most, if not all, of the Niger-related documents marked "secret" in a host of places, there is no particular reason a reader would think the classification was derived from Ms. Plame's status or involvement.

An attorney representing a White House official under scrutiny in the investigation said yesterday that the broader context of the document undercuts the idea of a deliberate campaign to expose Ms. Plame.”

True – because most of the document, 6 of the 7 paragraphs including the one mentioning Mrs. Wilson, was marked secret, one would not assume that classification was given solely because the document contained the name of a covert CIA operative. A reader should logically conclude that most of the information in the document was sensitive. That’s why it’s all marked secret. The question remains, however, of why exactly the Bush administration decided to reveal her name, and in so doing leak information that had been classified secret.

Ironically, last week’s revelation that Bush “declassified” a lot of this information (you know, if he says it’s ok, it’s ok) only further complicates the issue and proposes a catch 22 for the Administration. If the Bush Administration cedes his “declassification” was really nothing more than a whim, an off-the-cuff decision, then he appears incompetent and unreasoned. No, in order to argue he declassified information to better serve the public debate, he would have had to have seriously and thoughtfully considered the facts, both public and secret, and consciously decided the information was a) useful in clarifying his position, and b) not so sensitive as to hurt national security. It’s this second point that seems to trip up Luskin’s argument.

The justification for this “no hint” being newsworthy rests on the idea that the entire Bush Administration is absolved of guilt because one memorandum, from the State Department, not even the CIA, failed to mention Valerie Plame Wilson’s covert status. It’s that they didn’t know she was covert, so they certainly didn’t see any harm in revealing her role. But, if the Administration was really acting in the desire to educate the public, then they would have, and certainly should have, followed a process for assessing the national security damage in revealing the information. Shouldn’t someone, at some point, have called the CIA and said the Administration was going to declassify the information?

Rather than verify facts and account for the risks involved, however, it appears as though the President looked at the memo, said “Yeah, lets get that out there” and they ran with it. This is exactly the kind of “leadership” Bush is known for, and the exact kind of incompetence that has caused his Administration troubles from the beginning. Even worse for Bush politically, though, is that this kind of rash judgment only reinforces the argument that the revelation of Mrs. Wilson’s identity was politically motivated. There was no time to think, no time to check, no time to analyze – just throw her out there and let the chips fall where they may.

But I’m sure I’m wrong. I’m sure all the President’s men did their due diligence before declassifying the information. And I’m sure, at some point, they came across the information that correctly identified Valerie Plame Wilson as a covert operative with the CIA. They just chose to reveal her name anyway.

Declassify Bush's Pink Slip


Well, the NYT has finally confirmed that Bush did, indeed, approve the declassification of prewar intellignece concerning Iraq/Africa/Uranium. Conveniently, declassification is at the President's discretion, and the mere fact that he says "oh I said they could do it" makes it legal. Even better, Cheney is the President's normal designee for declassification, so they can insulate the President from fallout in the declassification of a covert CIA opperative, Valerie Plame, by saying Cheney made that decision. There are 2 questions left, however:

1) Why did the President choose this very very unusual process for declassifying intellignece? Especially considering it would take a blind man to not see how this would be perceived as political retaliation against Joseph Wilson. Normally, if the President or his designee (currently Cheney), make the determination that certain information or intelligence should be declassified, it is referred back to the originating department or agency. It is then that department or agency that generates a non-redacted version of the document and makes it available to the public. Sending an assistant to the VP to meet directly with members of the press to reveal this intelligence, under the condition of anonymity, is beyond bizzare.

2) Why did the President, repeatedly and consistently, refer to this as a leak, and claim that whoever was responsible will be fired? In short, why did he lie to the press and the public? The White House will continue to try to distance the President from assertions that he knowingly declassified Plame's CIA status for political purposes. And what if they're right? What if when the President agreed to declassify the intelligence on Iraq's nu-cu-lar "program" he wasn't aware of the Plame connection? Given the way he was blindsided by the Dubai Ports World deal, it seems more and more probable. This could be yet another indication that the President exerts far less control over policy and politics in the White House than his take-charge, cowboy persona would have you believe.

There is, of course, the other, more likely possibility - that he knew of the connection between his decision to declassify the intelligence and the revealing of Plame's CIA status. Certainly, if he wasn't aware of the connection when Plame was first outed, he would have been told about it by an advisor at some point in the following months when he continued to call it a "leak" and promised varrying degrees of punishment, including dismissal. So why, then, did the President lie to the press and the public? Why did he play the fool when, all along, he was the originating point of declassification? Moreover, why did he continue to act as though the information revealed was leaked classified information when, as his defenders claim, he had declassified it? Why declassify information, pretend it's still a secret, then announce you'll fire the leaker - who happens to be yourself?

I guess the President can't fire himself over this leak. That's our job.

Monday, April 17, 2006

Welcome


Joining the ranks of millions, I'm throwing my hat into the "political commentary blog" pool. I hope all 5 of you that ever read something here enjoy it.