A Cautious Man
October 30, 2005
 
"I Woke Up Last Night Shaking From A Dream
For In That Dream I Died"

Before we move too far down the road discussing the indictments of high government officials, the mishandling of the war and the weather, or even a new Supreme Court nominee, let's take a moment to feel a little sorry for Harriet Miers. How must it feel, to know that when you come to the end of a hopefully long and productive life, the headline on your obituary will be - "Withdrew Nomination for Supreme Court". Your whole life, reduced to that one time you were on the wrong side of a political scrum ...

Even though she is a top White House official, she's really a victim of the drive-by governing style of the President. Face it, she was done in by the "conservatives" who didn't think she was enough of a firebrand. The Administration went ahead without gathering all the facts, without checking with the experts, and blindly ignoring the warning signs. Sound familiar?

Of course, as the "Plamegate" story reminds us, there are other victims of the Administration, some deliberately so. We're all interested in hearing why it was so important to destroy the career of a CIA operative, just to do political damage control. And to what end, to defend or to conceal how the Iraq War was initiated?

Having started this particular random thought, I realize that while Ms. Miers has definitely had a bad week, she'll get over it. After all, the publication of her obituary remains in the far future. On the other hand, there have been thousands of obituaries already published, of other victims of the deliberately ignorant (at best) and/or coldly venal (at worst) decision-making at the White House.

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October 29, 2005
 
Bad Scooter Searching For His Groove
If anyone tells you that the indictment of I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby is nothing, because he was not indicted for disclosing that Valerie Plame Wilson was a CIA officer, tell them to pay attention to what United States Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald had to say yesterday. First, it seems that "Scooter" himself thought that he had done something wrong, because he made up stories to deflect attention from himself, to blame other people, and to keep from disclosing that he had aggressively been "outing" Ms. Plame. He wove an elaborate tale, and he told it again and again, even under oath -
When it was clear that Valerie Wilson's cover had been blown, investigation began. And in October 2003, the FBI interviewed Mr. Libby. Mr. Libby is the vice president's chief of staff. He's also an assistant to the president and an assistant to the vice president for national security affairs.

The focus of the interview was what it that he had known about Wilson's wife, Valerie Wilson, what he knew about Ms. Wilson, what he said to people, why he said it, and how he learned it.

And to be frank, Mr. Libby gave the FBI a compelling story.

What he told the FBI is that essentially he was at the end of a long chain of phone calls. He spoke to reporter Tim Russert, and during the conversation Mr. Russert told him that, Hey, do you know that all the reporters know that Mr. Wilson's wife works at the CIA?

And he told the FBI that he learned that information as if it were new, and it struck him. So he took this information from Mr. Russert and later on he passed it on to other reporters, including reporter Matthew Cooper of Time magazine, reporter Judith Miller of the New York Times.

And he told the FBI that when he passed the information on on July 12th, 2003, two days before Mr. Novak's column, that he passed it on understanding that this was information he had gotten from a reporter; that he didn't even know if it was true.

And he told the FBI that when he passed the information on to the reporters he made clear that he did know if this were true. This was something that all the reporters were saying and, in fact, he just didn't know and he wanted to be clear about it.

Later, Mr. Libby went before the grand jury on two occasions in March of 2004. He took and oath and he testified. And he essentially said the same thing.

He said that, in fact, he had learned from the vice president earlier in June 2003 information about Wilson's wife, but he had forgotten it, and that when he learned the information from Mr. Russert during this phone call he learned it as if it were new.

When he passed the information on to reporters Cooper and Miller late in the week, he passed it on thinking it was just information he received from reporters; that he told reporters that, in fact, he didn't even know if it were true. He was just passing gossip from one reporter to another at the long end of a chain of phone calls.

It would be a compelling story that will lead the FBI to go away if only it were true. It is not true, according to the indictment.

In fact, Mr. Libby discussed the information about Valerie Wilson at least half a dozen times before this conversation with Mr. Russert ever took place, not to mention that when he spoke to Mr. Russert, Mr. Russert and he never discussed Valerie Wilson or Wilson's wife.
Now, you may ask, even if he was not indicted under the strict standards of the law against outing a covert agent, did Mr. Libby actually do something wrong? Again, listen to Mr. Fitzgerald -
Valerie Wilson was a CIA officer. In July 2003, the fact that Valerie Wilson was a CIA officer was classified. Not only was it classified, but it was not widely known outside the intelligence community.

Valerie Wilson's friends, neighbors, college classmates had no idea she had another life.

The fact that she was a CIA officer was not well- known, for her protection or for the benefit of all us. It's important that a CIA officer's identity be protected, that it be protected not just for the officer, but for the nation's security.

Valerie Wilson's cover was blown in July 2003. The first sign of that cover being blown was when Mr. Novak published a column on July 14th, 2003.

But Mr. Novak was not the first reporter to be told that Wilson's wife, Valerie Wilson, Ambassador Wilson's wife Valerie, worked at the CIA. Several other reporters were told.

In fact, Mr. Libby was the first official known to have told a reporter when he talked to Judith Miller in June of 2003 about Valerie Wilson.

...

I can say that for the people who work at the CIA and work at other places, they have to expect that when they do their jobs that classified information will be protected. And they have to expect that when they do their jobs, that information about whether or not they are affiliated with the CIA will be protected.

And they run a risk when they work for the CIA that something bad could happen to them, but they have to make sure that they don't run the risk that something bad is going to happen to them from something done by their own fellow government employees.
...

I will say this: To the CIA people who are going out at a time that we need more human intelligence, I think everyone agrees with that, at a time when we need our spy agencies to have people work there, I think just the notion that someone's identity could be compromised lightly, to me compromises the ability to recruit people and say, Come work for us, come work for the government, come be trained, come invest your time, come work anonymously here or wherever else, go do jobs for the benefit of the country for which people will not thank you, because they will not know, they need to know that we will not cast their anonymity aside lightly.
Come to think of it, is it really so surprising that an Administration official would violate the secrecy of a CIA officer, and lie about it? These people thought nothing of making things up, in order to precipitate a war in which thousands of Americans, and tens of thousands of Iraqis, have lost their lives. What's one more little fib?

To read Mr. Fitzgerald's full remarks, look here (Link to NY Times; you can log in as "Cautiousman" with the password "Cautious").

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October 25, 2005
 
Just Another Roll of the Dice
He’s been a losing gambler, just throwing snake eyes. Sitting at the craps table of the Iraq Casino for over two and a half years. Every day, every month, every year he tosses more and more bloody chips onto the table. But all of his elevens and sevens have been coming up sixes and nines. And as of today the house has collected 2000 of those chips, and they’re not coming back.

And what lesson has he learned?In other words, it’s never too late, America. Come on, the tables are waiting.

He tells us that we can win it all back, if we just keep on throwing down. You may think that this is classic addictive behavior, to continue on as the losses mount up, but of course he disagrees. He tells us that everything that we’ve lost so far will have been in vain, if we don’t keep putting more chips down onto the blood-soaked felt of this craps table. Every one of those chips is a person, with a family, but we can't pay attention to that now. We’re playing for all of the stakes, so all you high-rollers lay down your bets, and he’ll raise them.

Just another roll of the dice.

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October 17, 2005
 
If there’s something you need
That you just don’t have
Well just don’t sit there
Feeling bad

Okay, so I haven't posted a lot, lately. I've thought of a lot of clever, insightful, and interesting things to say (trust me on this), but I just haven't put fingers to keyboard that much.

So, today, I was chided by not one, but two different people, about the fact that if I have something to say, I better get up and say it. One told me directly, both electronically and in person. The other didn't say it to me personally, but told those of us who attended his talk this evening about the importance of getting up and speaking out.

The first is the Curmudgeon, whose reappearance I noted in my last post. That would be, that last post I made nearly three weeks ago. So, maybe he had a point when he visited the comments section of that last post and wrote: "What - I'm back, so you've taken a powder?" He repeated his chiding in person this evening, when we both attended a talk in our town, by Scott Ritter. That's the same Scott Ritter who was described as follows in a Time Magazine profile in September of 2002 (remember 'way back then?) -

Never mind the naysaying European heads of state, the anxious Arab leaders or the skeptical senators — the unkindest challenge to President Bush's plans to take out Saddam Hussein this week came from erstwhile true-blue American hero Scott Ritter. Familiar to Americans as the rock-jawed Marine intelligence officer who stood up to Saddam's bullies in 1998 while serving with the UN inspection team, and got himself singled out for expulsion even before UNSCOM was withdrawn, Ritter was back on America's TV screens this week, but with a dramatically different message: President Bush had no proof of any new weapons of mass destruction threat emanating from Iraq, Ritter says, and he was lying to the American people to get them to go to war. Once a favorite guest of hawkish Republicans who regularly invited him to testify at congressional committees about the dangers of turning a blind eye to Iraq's weapons programs, this week Ritter was instead addressing the Iraqi legislature, decrying his own country's claims — and warning that readmitting inspectors was the only way to avoid a war.
Mr. Ritter's talk did not just focus on the past, but he did point out that we have to learn from those mistakes of the past, in order to have a cear-eyed view of how to deal with the mess created by the Iraq invasion.

As part of that talk, he made it clear how important it is that we make our voices heard. After hearing him speak, I realize that there's nothing like having a complete grasp of your subject, an unshakeable belief in the need to speak out, and a steely glare that can face down any heckler (as he pummels him with more facts, of course). When asked what people should do, his answer was very simple - do something. Get out there. Make a statement. Don't wait for the Republicans, for the Democrats, for the New York Times, or for anyone else to talk straight. If more people did that, who knows what could happen?

Anyway, I bought a couple of copies of his new book (to read and to pass on), and took his admonition to heart. We all need to get out and make our voices heard - and no matter how many people we may reach, it helps to keep passing it on.

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