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September 29, 2003

PEJMAN YOUSEFZADEH thinks that the air is going out of the Plame/Wilson affair as Robert Novak says it wasn't leaked by the Administration.

UPDATE: Daniel Drezner is skeptical, too, if not quite as skeptical as Pejman.

ANOTHER UPDATE: A reader sends this link to a story from July in which Novak seems to say that someone called him with the information, which would seem to contradict what he's saying now. So which Novak is telling the truth? The July Novak or the September Novak? (Is either?) Say, maybe his source was George Tenet. . . .

Maybe they should just subpoena Novak. Although Peter Jennings said tonight that courts have consistently held that journalists don't have to disclose their sources, that's not true. Novak has no more right to refuse to testify about a crime than anyone else does.

Yeah, I know, that's probably a non-starter. But that's because of the political power of the Journalists' Guild, not because of the First Amendment.

YET ANOTHER UPDATE: A reader who says he's a former CIA employee sends this:

Regarding Pejman Yousefzadeh's analysis of the Plame/Wilson issue, I thought some information from a former CIA analyst might be useful.

I was an analyst at the CIA from 1990-92 working in the Directorate of Intelligence (DI). I was in training for the first year and some of my colleagues were training to be case officers in the Directorate of Operations (DO: the real spies). As a result, my colleagues from the DI and the Directorates of Science & Technology and Administration (DS&T, DA) and I were required to be undercover. The idea was not to blow the cover of the DO folks by association with us during training.

Once I completed my training, I was allowed to drop my cover and be an overt employee. Other DI, DS&T and DA officers chose to maintain their covers. Some DI officers do that so it's easier to go overseas on Agency business--in which case you travel under cover. Others do it to preserve the option to return to a covert role.

My point is that Valerie Plame, while not in the DO or a traditional covert role, might still indeed have been under cover. On the other hand, the CIA spokesperson that asked Mr. Novak not to use her name may have been operating under standard procedures: CIA officers are encouraged--even if overt employees--to avoid revealing their employment. It helps reduce the chances of being targeted by opposing intelligence services or being the target of terrorist attacks (as happened in 1993 outside the Agency's gates).

Hope that helps. In keeping with standard procedures (even 11 years later!), please withhold my name.

I have friends who were non-covert types at the CIA, and they do tend to keep that quiet. Eric Kolchinsky has more on this subject.

Meanwhile Mark Kleiman writes that Pejman is wrong, in the item cited above, though weirdly Kleiman also seems to think that this post is my first on the Plame/Wilson affair, which it's not. In fact, I've even linked to Mark on this before. And there's this rather long post (1,860 words) from yesterday, too. If this is a "wall of silence," Mark, well. . . .

Unfortunately, that aspect of Kleiman's post, like the excessive gleefulness and point-scoring of the anti-Bush bloggers in general on this topic, only serves to make this matter look more political, and less serious, than it perhaps is. More and more, these guys remind me of the anti-Clinton fanatics of the 1990s. Which doesn't necessarily make them wrong, any more than the anti-Clinton fanatics were always wrong. It just makes them a lot less persuasive. (Kleiman also quotes Drezner's earlier post on this, but not his more recent, and more skeptical, one linked above. Perhaps he missed that one, too, but you shouldn't, as it offers some perspective.)

Helpfully, Henry Hanks emails:

Actually a close reading of Novak's statement doesn't really contradict what he's saying now...

"I didn't dig it out, it was given to me," he said. "They thought it was significant, they gave me the name and I used it."

versus:

Nobody in the Bush administration called me to leak this. In July I was interviewing a senior administration official on Ambassador Wilson's report when he told me the trip was inspired by his wife, a CIA employee working on weapons of mass destruction.

He never said he was called. The article says, without quoting Novak, that they came to him, which cannot be inferred from his words.

Hmm. Stay tuned, as we keep saying. (Hanks has more, here). One sure-fire prediction: some people will wish the Independent Counsel law hadn't been repealed, before this is all over.

And in a surprise come-from-behind move, Megan McArdle, who already said something like that, wins the pundit-of-the-week award with this McLaughlin-worthy item:

Question of the day: is the Plame affair good or bad for Wesley Clark?

You'll have to follow the link to find out. And there's lots of good stuff, generally, on this and related topics at Tom Maguire's blog -- he's been covering this for some time.

MORE: Reader Ed Paul emails:

I may have missed this but I have not seen anyone compare the Wilson matter to the disclosure of Linda Tripps personnel and medical records by her boss in DOD to the media. Although it could be argued that revealing a spy's identity is more serious, both cases involved allegations of a Federal felony. A Justice Department investigation just kind of petered out even thought the guy (Bacon?) admitted enough in public to at least create probable cause. I have too much Clinton scar tissue to be outraged at the hypocrisy but some Democrats ought to at least be made to jump through the hoop of explaining the difference.

I vaguely remember this, and it seems about right.

MORE STILL: Here's a roundup of the scandal to date. And here's another.

EVEN MORE STILL: Eugene Volokh responds appropriately to people who want him to blog more about the Plame affair.

Meanwhile, Doug Payton is unconvinced that this story has much to it.

And Charles Johnson links to a speech by Wilson that makes me wonder who thought he could be trusted with the Niger mission to begin with.

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