September 16, 2006


Toensing and WSJ: Corn Outed Plame (Here We Go Again) (David Corn, 9/16/06)

Throughout my years in Washington, I've debated a lot of conservatives and Republicans. There are some for which I have no regard. There are others whom--though I disagree with them on politics and policy--I've considered friendlies: not quite friends, but people who are smart and whose company I enjoy, who are fun to drink and argue with. Among that group has been GOP lawyer Victoria Toensing. [...]

So I am disheartened to see her embracing a rather idiotic conservative talking point and ignoring basic facts to tag me as the true culprit in the outing of Valerie Plame Wilson. It is an argument that defies logic and the record. But it is an accusation that pro-Bush spinners have used to defend the true leakers and columnist Bob Novak, the conveyor of the leak. By propounding this charge, Toensing leads me (regretfully) to believe that she cares more about scoring points than serving the truth. Here is what she wrote in today's Wall Street Journal:

The first journalist to reveal Ms. Plame was "covert" was David Corn, on July 16, 2003, two days after Mr. Novak's column. The latter never wrote, because he did not know and it was not so, that Ms. Plame was covert. However, Mr. Corn claimed Mr. Novak "outed" her as an "undercover CIA officer," querying whether Bush officials blew "the cover of a U.S. intelligence officer working covertly in...national security." Was Mr. Corn subpoenaed? Did Mr. Fitzgerald subpoena Mr. Wilson to attest he had never revealed his wife's employment to anyone? If he had done so, he might have learned Mr. Corn's source.

This is a canard that has been previously advanced by other conservatives--all to absolve Novak and the actual leakers (mainly Karl Rove and Scooter Libby, not Richard Armitage). And you see the suggestion: that Joe Wilson told me that his wife was an undercover CIA officer and that I then disclosed this information to the public. I've debunked this before. But for Toensing's benefit, I'll go through this again--though I doubt it will do much good.

Here's what Novak, citing "two senior administration officials," wrote on July 14, 2003:

[Joseph] Wilson never worked for the CIA, but his wife, Valerie Plame, is an Agency operative on weapons of mass destruction.

Novak's column is syndicated and is posted on the web. This information appeared, I assume, in hundreds of places. Other nations and foreign intelligence services now knew that Valerie Wilson was a CIA operative. At this point, her cover--whatever it might have been--was blown to bits. The fact that Novak did not state she was a "covert" operative is utterly meaningless. (Does the CIA employ non-secret "operatives"?)

A White House Smear (David Corn, 7/16/03, The Nation)
Did senior Bush officials blow the cover of a US intelligence officer working covertly in a field of vital importance to national security--and break the law--in order to strike at a Bush administration critic and intimidate others? [...]

The sources for Novak's assertion about Wilson's wife appear to be "two senior administration officials." If so, a pair of top Bush officials told a reporter the name of a CIA operative who apparently has worked under what's known as "nonofficial cover" and who has had the dicey and difficult mission of tracking parties trying to buy or sell weapons of mass destruction or WMD material. If Wilson's wife is such a person--and the CIA is unlikely to have many employees like her--her career has been destroyed by the Bush administration. (Assuming she did not tell friends and family about her real job, these Bush officials have also damaged her personal life.) Without acknowledging whether she is a deep-cover CIA employee, Wilson says, "Naming her this way would have compromised every operation, every relationship, every network with which she had been associated in her entire career. This is the stuff of Kim Philby and Aldrich Ames." If she is not a CIA employee and Novak is reporting accurately, then the White House has wrongly branded a woman known to friends as an energy analyst for a private firm as a CIA officer. That would not likely do her much good.

This is not only a possible breach of national security; it is a potential violation of law. Under the Intelligence Identities Protection Act of 1982, it is a crime for anyone who has access to classified information to disclose intentionally information identifying a covert agent.

As even Mr. Corn reconstructs the matter, it certainly appears that he intentionally wrote about her being covert while Mr. Novak simply outed her as a generic CIA officer--of course, it's all elementary since she was not in the event a covert agent after all, just an operative.

Posted by Orrin Judd at September 16, 2006 7:27 AM

Note how Mr. Corn is eager to pass himself off as a nice-enough guy to be "friendly" to conservative Republicans, but is likewise eager to assure his readers that he's not actually friends with those bastards.

Posted by: Matt Murphy at September 16, 2006 3:29 PM

David Corn is caught in the headlights, and he doesn't like it one bit - he is "reconstructing" his story and lashing out at those who merely quote his words of July 16, 2003.

When it was just the moonbat footlights shining on him, he was just fine, of course.

Wait until he has to give a deposition in the Plame suit. Joe and Valerie's iconic status in the media will disappear like the soft dew once all the journalists start getting subpeonas. Will any of them risk a lie? Perhaps we will see the "sources" and the reporters play 'duck, duck, goose' in court. Or (even better), 'red rover'.

Posted by: jim hamlen at September 18, 2006 8:01 AM