Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Ripping the Plameout investigators

Christopher Hitchens rips the Plameout investigators, Michael Isikoff and David Corn, in a column on discussing their book Hubris. This is sharp stuff:

. . . now we have the final word on who did disclose the name and occupation of Valerie Plame, and it turns out to be someone whose opposition to the Bush policy in Iraq has—like Robert Novak's—long been a byword in Washington. It is particularly satisfying that this admission comes from two of the journalists—Michael Isikoff and David Corn—who did the most to get the story wrong in the first place and the most to keep it going long beyond the span of its natural life.

As most of us have long suspected, the man who told Novak about Valerie Plame was Richard Armitage, Colin Powell's deputy at the State Department and, with his boss, an assiduous underminer of the president's war policy.

* * *
It was Corn in particular who asserted -— in a July 16, 2003, blog post credited with starting the entire distraction —- that:
The Wilson smear was a thuggish act. Bush and his crew abused and misused intelligence to make their case for war. Now there is evidence Bushies used classified information and put the nation's counter-proliferation efforts at risk merely to settle a score. It is a sign that with this gang politics trumps national security.

After you have noted that the Niger uranium connection was in fact based on intelligence that has turned out to be sound [see Hitchens' columns here and here -- TKM], you may also note that this heated moral tone ("thuggish," "gang") is now quite absent from the [book]. It turns out that the person who put Valerie Plame's identity into circulation was a staunch foe of regime change in Iraq. Oh, that's all right, then. But you have to laugh at the way Corn now so neutrally describes his own initial delusion as one that was "seized on by administration critics."

It gets worse. The Novak column ran in mid-July 2003. The CIA referred the leak to the Justice Department. The investigation stood still for more than two months after Justice swiftly identified the leaker. Here's the crux, from Hitchens:

. . . rather late in the day, at the end of September 2003, then-CIA Director George Tenet himself sent a letter demanding to know whether the law [Intelligence Identities Protection Act] had been broken.

The answer to that question, as Patrick Fitzgerald has since determined, is "no." But there were plenty of senior people who had known that all along. And can one imagine anybody with a stronger motive to change the subject from CIA incompetence and to present a widely discredited agency as, instead, a victim, than Tenet himself? The man who kept the knowledge of the Minnesota flight schools to himself and who was facing every kind of investigation and obloquy finally saw a chance to change the subject.

The Monk has blasted the CIA time and again since starting this blog. And with good reason -- it's role in the Plameout does it no credit.

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