Tuesday, October 25, 2005

At the heart of it

The Plame affair serves as a proxy for continued debating, raging and flailing about over the Iraq war. So writes the WSJ in a piece from yesterday:

All the more so because this entire probe began and has continued as a kind of proxy for the larger political war about the Iraq War. In July 2003, Joseph Wilson used his insider status as a former CIA consultant to accuse the Bush Administration of lying about Iraq WMD as an excuse to go to war. A political furor erupted, and Mr. Wilson became an antiwar celebrity who joined the Kerry for President campaign.

Amid an election campaign and a war, Bush Administration officials understandably fought back. One way they did so was to tell reporters that Mr. Wilson's wife, CIA analyst Valerie Plame, had been instrumental in getting him the CIA consulting job. This was true--though Mr. Wilson denied it at the time--as a bipartisan report by the Senate Intelligence Committee documented in 2004.

As it does many times each year following a press report with classified information, the CIA routinely referred this "leak" about Ms. Plame's status to the Justice Department for investigation. Only after someone (probably at the CIA) leaked news of this referral to the media in September 2003 was there another political uproar and calls for a "special prosecutor." Three months later, the panicky Bush Administration relented, and Mr. Fitzgerald was appointed.

Those opposed to Bush's policy on Iraq have seized on anything and everything in repeated attempts to discredit the war they believe shouldn't have been fought (in and of itself still an honorable position), and to damage politically a President they dislike- at best- or hate, at worst. It began with pimping stories of disaffected CIA employees being "pressured" and eventually moved to a lame attempt to force the Downing Street Memo to mean something it clearly did not.

In between and still continuing today, came the leak of Valerie Plame's name by Bob Novak and the furor of the Big Press fueled by anti-war and anti-Bush critics. First the angst was fueled by the surety that someone in the Administration had outed the woman maliciously to injure her husband.

When that was not borne out, next came the moral indignation over endangering this woman and her work as a political machination. All of it ignoring the facts as revealed in the SIC report and essentially corroborated in the much-less publicized House report into pre-war Iraq intelligence reporting on the issues of the CIA-Cheney dynamics and Joe Wilson's lies.

I have no qualms agreeing with the Journal's editorial position on this; I saw it everyday from this collection of big-brains. If you've kept up with the rhetoric, even in passing, it's a pretty clear dynamic and one easily spotted.

In a delicious bit of irony, the Journal begins it's close with this observation:

Media reports say Mr. Fitzgerald is also exploring violations of the 1917 Espionage Act, for leaking classified information. This law has rarely been enforced, and if leaking classified information was routinely prosecuted half of Washington would be in jail. That September 2003 story about the CIA referral to Justice to investigate the Plame "leak" was itself a disclosure of classified material. You could hardly pick up a paper in 2004 without reading selectively leaked details from classified documents leading up to the Iraq War--an obvious attempt to discredit the war and elect John Kerry. An indictment based on this statute would be an egregious case of selective prosecution.

Much like Michael Barone and others have commented, the Journal also wonders about the wisdom of criminalizing political disagreements and policy fights, concluding that "...Mr. Fitzgerald's larger obligation is to see that justice is done, and that should include ensuring that he doesn't become the agent for criminalizing policy differences. Defending a policy by attacking the credibility of a political opponent--Mr. Wilson--should not be a felony."

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