Sunday, November 06, 2005

CIA Bureaucrats: the US's Fifth Column

Opinion published a column by Victoria Toensing on the whole Plame-Wilson-Fitzgerald mess with this thesis: "The CIA conduct in this matter is either a brilliant covert action against the White House or inept intelligence tradecraft."

That conclusion deserves much attention.

Toensing concludes that the Intelligence Identities Protection Act was not violated, and she knows something about that statute -- she helped draft it. Here is the distilled version of her observations:

• The CIA sent former ambassador Joseph Wilson, to Niger on a sensitive mission regarding WMD. He was to determine whether Iraq had attempted to purchase yellowcake, an essential ingredient for unconventional weapons. However, it was Ms. Plame, not Mr. Wilson, who was the WMD expert. . .

• Mr. Wilson was not required to sign a confidentiality agreement, a mandatory act for the rest of us who either carry out any similar CIA assignment or represent CIA clients.

• When he returned from Niger, Mr. Wilson was not required to write a report, but rather merely to provide an oral briefing. That information was not sent to the White House. . .

• Although Mr. Wilson did not have to write even one word for the agency that sent him on the mission at taxpayer's expense, over a year later he was permitted to tell all about this sensitive assignment in the New York Times. For the rest of us, writing about such an assignment would mean we'd have to bring our proposed op-ed before the CIA's Prepublication Review Board and spend countless hours arguing over every word to be published. . .

• More important than the inaccuracies is that, if the CIA truly, truly, truly had wanted Ms. Plame's identity to be secret, it never would have permitted her spouse to write the op-ed. . . After being told by a still-unnamed administration source that Mr. Wilson's "wife" suggested him for the assignment, Mr. Novak went to Who's Who, which reveals "Valerie Plame" as Mr. Wilson's spouse.

• . . . When Mr. Novak called the agency to verify Ms. Plame's employment, it not only did so, but failed to go beyond the perfunctory request not to publish. Every experienced Washington journalist knows that when the CIA really does not want something public, there are serious requests from the top, usually the director. . .

• Although high-ranking Justice Department officials are prohibited from political activity, the CIA had no problem permitting its deep cover or classified employee from making political contributions under the name "Wilson, Valerie E.," information publicly available at the Federal Elections Commission.

In other words, the CIA's conduct in this whole affair stinks to high heaven. It is as if, instead of sending secrets to the Soviets, Kim Philby had worked actively to undermine Churchill and Attlee.

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