Friday, July 14, 2006

Snarky Kazoos

The always fun Just One Minute examined--what else--Novak and Plame again today. Starting with a quick discussion of the idea-devoid Firedoglake's commentary on Novak's statements from yesterday, we quickly get to the greater point:

So, let’s see, the spokesperson for the CIA checks out your journalistic call and gets back to you saying Valerie’s name is NOT to be used…and you blow it off because he doesn’t give you every detail of her covert status, her driver’s license number and do a tap dance to Mr. Bojangles while playing the tune on a kazoo? What, are you a journalistic moron (yeah, don’t bother to answer that…)? Harlow could not, under his SF-312 requirements, disclose any details because it was…wait for it…about covert status.

I like the kazoo concept. Regardless, this question was asked and answered last summer, and Novak repeated it Wednesday night - Ms. Hardin-Smith might not like the answer, but she ought to address it.

And Novak's answer is, Bill Harlow made no attempt to arrange a high level intervention by Tenet with either Novak or Novak's editors. In Novak's opinion, based no doubt on his decades of experience with this sort of thing, that was a sure sign of a lack of seriousness on the part of Harlow.

Here is Novak from
Aug 1, 2005:

I have previously said that I never would have written those sentences if Bill Harlow, then CIA Director George Tenet or anybody else from the Agency had told me that Valerie Plame Wilson's disclosure would endanger herself or anybody.

Here is Novak with Brit Hume Wednesday:

NOVAK: At that time I had no idea that she was in any way a covered employee. [Harlow had] never said -- if he had ever said to me somebody's life was in danger if you do this, if you got George Tenet come on the phone with me, I would not have written that. But as a matter of fact, her life wasn't in danger and he said it is very -- he said it is very unlikely she will ever go to Europe. That meant to me she was not doing any kind of work as an agent in Europe. So, all he was saying, and it might be embarrassing to her if she went on a vacation trip with her husband if she was identified as a CIA person and that wasn't a good enough reason for leaving the name out.

Now, if someone doesn't like that answer, fine. However, I think they have the burden of explaining why Novak is being utterly unreasonable in expecting that, if the CIA really wants to kill a story or protect an asset, they can't get the Director on the line for five minutes. And while explaining that, someone ought to provide some assurance that Novak had no prior experience of just that sort of thing - a high level call asking him to pipe down on something after the press flack was unconvincing. Finally, it might be instructive to compare and contrast the Harlow-Novak exchange with the secret prisons story, or the NSA wiretapping debacle, where multiple high-level officials, including the President, implored the press to keep quiet. As an alternative, ask some other reporters for their approach - do they just quash anything a press secretary asks them to quash, or do they like to hear the request from on high?


And worth remembering - Novak was not sympathetic to the neocons. He was much more likely to be chewing the fat with (non-neocon) Armitage in the context of "What about these crazy neocons, waddya gonna do" then to be involved in some grand conspiracy with Lewis Libby.

Indeed...lost in all this is the fact that Novak was on-record as against the war in Iraq and wouldn't seem a logical choice by the Administration to carry water on their behalf in an anti-Wilson campaign. Or is that just me?

Additionally, Maguire updates yesterday's post on the Wilson civil suit with yet more razor shop questions:

MORE: THE CRITICAL, MISSING LINK - did the defendants even know Ms. Plame's status was classified?

From the civil suit (at Smoking Gun), p. 16:

34. On information and velief, the principal means of punishing Mr. Wilson for his public statements, both oral and written, was to disclose to selected reporters the classified CIA identity of his wife, Plaintiff Valerie Wilson... An integral part of their scheme was the identification of Mrs. Wilson as a classified CIA employee.

That would be a bit more convincing if there was evidence showing that Libby or the others knew that Ms. Plame's status had been classified. None of the reporters who were leaked upon were told that her status was classified (we deal with Novak's use of "operative" here).

And per court filings the defense tells us (see "MORE") that Libby "testified to the grand jury unequivocally that he did not understand Ms. Wilson’s employment by the CIA to be classified information." If Special Counsel Fitzgerald had evidence to contradict that, that would have made a substantial perjury charge; no such charge appears in the indictment.

However, Fitzgerald did say this in explaining (in Aug 2004) the potential significance of Judy Miller's testimony:

To date, we have no direct evidence that Libby knew or believed that Wilson's wife was engaged in covert work.

Nor did he get that evidence from Ms. Miller.

Did Dick Cheney know whether Ms. Plame was covert? Murray Waas took us to this dead end:

Cheney told investigators that he had learned of Plame's employment by the CIA and her potential role in her husband being sent to Niger by then-CIA director George Tenet, according to people familiar with Cheney's interviews with the special prosecutor.

Tenet has told investigators that he had no specific recollection of discussing Plame or her role in her husband's trip with Cheney, according to people with familiar with his statement to investigators.

I'm sure Mr. Tenet remembers getting a Medal of Freedom. Regardless, it does not appear that Fitzgerald was able to conclude, after a two year investigation, that Libby knew Ms. Plame had classified status. It's hard to believe that in a civil suit, the Wilson's will have more luck.

CAUSE OF ACTION: I see a problem in the fifth and sixth causes of action - here is point 61 (essentially repeated at 67):

Pursuant to, and in furtherance of, this common scheme, defendants Rove and Libby unlawfully disclosed to members of the press Plaintiff Valerie Wilson's classified CIA employment.

Riddle me this - if they acted "unlawfully", what law did they break? And don't tell me, tell Fitzgerald, because he forgot to charge them.

IRRESISTIBLE CHEAP SHOT: Loking at the bio of Joe Wilson's attorney, I see that he is in the "ORDER OF THE COIF". That should serve him well with an important-hair client like Joe.

But seriously...

A VERY WEAK CASE: Stephen Spruiell catches lefty Lawrence O'Donnell with a pin for each Olbermann balloon.

A QUESTION: Can the Wilsons "file and forget" this suit, or do they actually have to start deposing witnesses and doing legal stuff? I ask because thay may have filed it just to beat the statute of limitations clock, rather than with any real hope of moving forward.

CAN'T BOTH BE RIGHT? Is there a lefty blogger worried about a Wilson lawsuit misfiring? A righty blogger not gleeful? One side is very wrong here. (It's the other side...)

I know where I've got my money. This goes nowhere and that's just what Joe and Val are banking on!

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