Tuesday, July 19, 2005

State Dept. Memo Made Clear Plame Info Shouldn't Be Shared

The noose is closing tighter around the White House. They can run, they can hide, they spin and lie and miselad all they want on the cable news shows. But the evidence is beginning to mount that some high-level people at the White House learned Valerie Plame Wilson's identity from a classified State Department memo and knew that it was sensitive information that shouldn't be shared with anyone without a security clearance.

The Wall Street Journal
has the scoop. Since the article is behind a paywall, I will quote liberally from it:

"Memo Underscored
Issue of Shielding
Plame's Identity

July 19, 2005; Page A3

A classified State Department memo that may be pivotal to the CIA leak case made clear that information identifying an agent and her role in her husband's intelligence-gathering mission was sensitive and shouldn't be shared, according to a person familiar with the document.

A special prosecutor is investigating whether Bush administration officials broke the law by intentionally outing a covert intelligence operative. Investigators are trying to determine if the memo, dated June 10, 2003, was how White House officials learned that Valerie Wilson was an agent for the Central Intelligence Agency.

News that the memo was marked for its sensitivity emerged as President Bush yesterday appeared to backtrack from his 2004 pledge to fire any member of his staff involved in the leaking of the CIA agent's name. In a news conference yesterday that followed disclosures that his top strategist, Karl Rove, had discussed Ms. Wilson's CIA employment with two reporters, Mr. Bush adopted a different formulation, specifying criminality as the standard for firing.

'If someone committed a crime, they will no longer work in my administration,' Mr. Bush said. White House spokesman Scott McClellan later disputed the suggestion that the president had shifted his position.

The memo's details are significant because they will make it harder for officials who saw the document to claim that they didn't realize the identity of the CIA officer was a sensitive matter. Patrick Fitzgerald, the special prosecutor, may also be looking at whether other crimes -- such as perjury, obstruction of justice or leaking classified information -- were committed.

On July 6, 2003, former diplomat Joseph Wilson wrote an op-ed piece for the New York Times, disputing administration arguments that Iraq had sought to buy uranium ore from Africa to make nuclear weapons. The following day, President Bush and top cabinet officials left for Africa, and the memo was aboard Air Force One.

The paragraph in the memo discussing Ms. Wilson's involvement in her husband's trip is marked at the beginning with a letter designation in brackets to indicate the information shouldn't be shared, according to the person familiar with the memo. Such a designation would indicate to a reader that the information was sensitive. The memo, though, doesn't specifically describe Ms. Wilson as an undercover agent, the person familiar with the memo said.

Generally, the federal government has three levels of classified information -- top secret, secret and confidential -- all indicating various levels of 'damage' to national security if disclosed. There also is an unclassified designation -- indicating information that wouldn't harm national security if shared with the public -- but that wasn't the case for the material on the Wilsons prepared by the State Department's Bureau of Intelligence and Research. It isn't known what level of classification was assigned to the information in the memo.

Who received the memo, which was prepared for Marc Grossman, then the under secretary of state for political affairs, and how widely it was circulated are issues as Mr. Fitzgerald tries to pinpoint the origin of the leak of Ms. Wilson's identity. According to the person familiar with the document, it didn't include a distribution list. It isn't known if President Bush has seen the memo.

Mr. Fitzgerald has subpoenaed the phone logs from Air Force One for the week of the Africa tour, which precedes the revelation of Ms. Wilson's CIA identity in a column by Robert Novak on July 14. In that piece, Mr. Novak identified Valerie Plame, using Ms. Wilson's maiden name, saying that 'two senior administration officials' had told him that Ms. Wilson suggested sending her husband to Niger.

Mr. Novak attempted to reach Ari Fleischer, then the White House press secretary, in the days before his column appeared. However, Mr. Fleischer didn't respond to Mr. Novak's inquiries, according to a person familiar with his account. Mr. Fleischer, who has since left the administration, is one of several officials who testified before the grand jury.

In an October 2003 article on the memo, The Wall Street Journal reported that it details a meeting in early 2002 in which CIA officials discussed how to verify reports that Iraq had sought uranium ore from Niger. Ms. Wilson, an agent working on issues related to weapons of mass destruction, recommended her husband, an expert on Africa, to travel to Niger to investigate the matter.

White House officials had been warning reporters off the notion that the trip to Niger was ordered by Vice President Dick Cheney, as Mr. Wilson had suggested. Emails and a first-person account published this week of his grand-jury testimony by Time magazine reporter Matthew Cooper support this notion. The grand jury is set to expire in October in this case, though its tenure could be extended for six months.

It is possible that reporters learned Ms. Wilson's identity from government officials who hadn't seen the memo. Mr. Cooper has testified and written that he was first told of Mr. Wilson's wife by Mr. Rove, the White House deputy chief of staff. Mr. Rove didn't identify Ms. Wilson by name. Similarly, one of Mr. Cooper's other sources, I. Lewis 'Scooter' Libby, the vice president's chief of staff, said he had heard Mr. Wilson's wife worked at the CIA, but he didn't identify her any further, according to Mr. Cooper."

I find a couple of interesting tidbits in this article.

First, the person who leaked the information to the Journal, identified as "a person familiar with the document" must be former Secretary of State Colin Powell. A few days ago when revelations surfaced that Special Prosecutor Fitzgerald was looking into the classified State Dept. memo, word came that Colin Powell had been seen walking up and down the aisle of Air Force One with the memo. This word was from an "anonymous source" of course, and since most of the recent leaks in the Plame case have come from Karl Rove's defense team, it is not too big a leap to say that Rove was trying to send the investigation Powell's way.

Powell seems to be having none of it, however, which is why the Journal has this story today and why other information damaging to Rove/Libby/the White House could surface in the coming weeks if they keep trying to fuck with Powell. I bet the former General could tell us some very interesting things about the lead-up to war and the work the administration did behind the scenes to discredit Joe Wilson and his wife on the Niger story.

The second interesting tidbit from the Journal article is that whoever saw the information in the memo knows that Plame was classified. Even if Karl Rove didn't see the memo himself and got the info in it from another administration official or other officials, that person or persons would know that the Plame info was classified. So at a minimum, one person, even if it is not Karl Rove, broke the law by divulging Plame's name. But beyond that, if senior administration officials were passing this article back and forth around Air Force one while discussing ways to discredit Joe Wilson, or were talking to Karl Rove and others back in Washington about using the information against Wilson, there is a possible conspiracy charge pending that could destroy the Bush administration just one year into its second term.

Okay, Ken, Roy, Kay Bailey, and the rest of you Rove apologists - the ball's in your court. You want to try and spin the State Dept. memo info to make it all seem innocent and on the up-and-up? And remember, they're taping you every time you go on to bamboozle Wolf and Tweety, so they can make you eat your fucking lies later on.

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