WaPo polls Iraqis
Juan Cole on polls (Shia only polled in Basra)
Tom Spencer suggests that it has to be Rove because of the WH’s non-reaction and the press’s as well.
Sometimes, I don’t post as much here as I would like because I spend so much time learning what’s going on (and double-checking information, then re-checking for the latest developments, and so on) that there’s no time left to write about it. Which is basically what happened this weekend with the Watergate-like scandal developing in the Bush administration regarding CIA employee Valerie Plame.
To recap for anyone who hasn’t been following along elsewhere, this all started when former U.S. diplomat Joseph Wilson went public in saying that the Bushites had distorted or ignored intelligence information in their PR campaign for war in Iraq, using information he had gathered on behalf of the CIA as an example. Within the following week, a couple of White House types decided it would be smart to smear Wilson and send a message to other possible whistle-blowers by telling reporters that Wilson had only gotten his assignment because his wife (Valerie Plame), a CIA operative, had suggested it.
Apparently these geniuses didn’t realize that exposing an undercover CIA employee is a felony, or that they might be messing with wrong crowd in escalating what had already been widely rumored hostility to the level of open warfare.
Wilson and the CIA knew it was a felony, though, and appear to have reacted accordingly. This morning’s Washington Post says that “CIA officials approached the Justice Department about a possible investigation within a week” after a newspaper column mentioned Plame, and Wilson made a now-somewhat-famous =http://slate.msn.com/id/2088471undiplomatic comment[/url] in August:
It’s of keen interest to me to see whether or not we can get Karl Rove frog-marched out of the White House in handcuffs. And trust me, when I use that name, I measure my words.
This is where the intrigue starts to happen. Whatever the nature of the CIA’s “approach” to the Justice Department about a criminal investigation, John Ashcroft’s department apparently did nothing for two months. (The official White House spokesperson reflected a similarly curious lack of curiosity
back in July.)
Perhaps annoyed by the failure of the WH and Justice dogs to bark, a “senior administration official” (most likely from the CIA, but that’s not certain) took the case to the Washington Post this weekend — saying that “two top White House officials called at least six Washington journalists and disclosed the identity and occupation of Wilson’s wife.” By adding that “The official would not name the leakers for the record,” the article implied he knew who the White House miscreants were (and in fact had named them off the record).
Even in the face of at least a half-dozen journalists and an apparently hostile department in their own administration knowing who the criminals are, however, the White House has continued to deny everything, saying that it knows of no wrongdoing and doesn’t intend to look for any. Why? Maybe they’re confident that John Ashcroft is corrupt enough to keep anything from ever happening at the Justice Department, no matter what is revealed by the papers. Maybe they just don’t know what to say, and are secretly terrified.
Or maybe they know, as Billmon points out, that investigations of leaks (illegal or otherwise) historically go nowhere. Even the journalists who have firsthand knowledge of the crime because Karl Rove, or whoever, called them with the information have a strong motivation to remain silent — regardless of the circumstances, reporters who spill the beans on a source are on shakier ground in dealing with future sources. And so the White House is depending on this code of silence to save their bacon.
But there’s one factor that hasn’t been accounted for, someone who may know all the details and has no reason to keep any secrets — and that’s Joseph Wilson himself. As today’s Post article notes, the reporters who got the details about Plame from the White House promptly called him for a reaction (“Wilson said in a telephone interview that four reporters from three television networks called him in July and told him that White House officials had contacted them to encourage stories that would include his wife’s identity . . . . Wilson identified one of the reporters as Andrea Mitchell of NBC News.“)
By naming these reporters, Wilson puts them in the awkward position of admitting that they are writing about a criminal investigation when they already know who the guilty party is, but won’t tell. How long will it be before Wilson names all of the reporters who called him? And what if one of them let slip exactly who in the White House gave them the information — and Wilson makes that public, too?
Update: This morning, Wilson said he doesn’t know who the leaker was:
“In one speech I gave out in Seattle not too long ago, I mentioned the name Karl Rove,” he said. “I think I was probably carried away by the spirit of the moment. I don’t have any knowledge that Karl Rove himself was either the leaker or the authorizer of the leak. But I have great confidence that, at a minimum, he condoned it and certainly did nothing to shut it down.”
I think, though, that it’s only a matter of time before he names all of the reporters who do
know, putting all of them on the spot.
But wait, there’s more: Wilson speaks again in an Associated Press phone interview:
“I did not mean at that time to imply that I thought that Karl Rove was the source or the authorizer, just that I thought that it came from the White House, and Karl Rove was the personification of the White House political operation,” Wilson said in a telephone interview.
But then he added: “I have people, who I have confidence in, who have indicated to me that he (Rove), at a minimum, condoned it and certainly did nothing to put a stop to it for a week after it was out there.
“Among the phone calls I received were those that said `White House sources are saying that it’s not about the 16 words, it’s about Wilson and his wife.’ And two people called me up and specifically mentioned Rove’s name,” he said.
Please revert to the originally projected scenario. Next installment: Wilson says who
mentioned Rove’s name . . .