Jul 14 2005

Response To Leon @ Redstate

Published by at 5:13 pm under All General Discussions,Plame Game

Leon H has done an excellent job of trying to distill the Plame Game down to it essence and to sift the truth from the rumors. Tom Maguire and Leon and others have done a great job tracking this twisting, turning story of half truths and misleading statements. Our little old blog is hitting its 2nd month birthday so we have not been out in the blogosphere long enough to have a trail on this – but I have watched this from day one. Leon does a great job in establishing information as either “solid” and “shakey” or “burning question”, and I will use his standard in replying.

1. What was the genesis of the trip? (SHAKY). It is a matter of generally accepted fact that the trip originated when Dick Cheney asked during the course of an intelligence briefing, “What do we know about this?” in reference to the claim that Iraq attempted to purchase Yellowcake from Niger. After this general acceptance, the facts become murkier. Did Cheney specifically request that someone make a fact-finding trip to Africa? Cheney says no. Was it reasonable for the CIA to send someone to Africa on the basis of Cheney’s question? Yes. When the VP asks questions, you do what you can to find answers. However, the exact mechanism that led from Cheney’s question to Wilson being sent to Niger is still pretty much a matter of pure conjecture, with the exception of a few facts that shall be enumerated below.

Well, I would start with irrelevant, as well as shaky. Theoretically Ms. Plame and others were heavily focused on Saddam’s nuclear intentions since Saddam’s brother-in-law, Kamel Hussein, defected and spilled the beans on his nuclear program in 1995. So when VP Cheney asked ‘what about this report’ (assuming he meant the British intel which stands today) he was not asking Langley to send someone to Niger – they should have known. And they have lower profile people in the region better equipped to do it. That is why Tennent never authorized Wilson’s trip and no one knew about it outside the Proliferation division Plame worked in. Her job was specifically to monitor proliferation of WMDs! So no, it is not reasonable to assume the CIA would respond to the query by sending anyone, especially from the US, and especially like Wilson.

2. Did Iraq seek to purchase yellowcake from Niger? (SHAKY). Much of the left-leaning fury over this is that Wilson is supposedly being punished for debunking the Administration’s claim in the infamous “16 words” in the President’s SOTU speech.

I am not going to post the whole thing because this is where good people are following the red herring. The 16 words in the speech are irrelevant as well. They are a diversion. They were said well after the trip. Yes, it is absolutely clear, by Wilson himself, that Hussein was trolling for yellow cake as late as 1998, after or around the time he booted the UN inspectors. This is solid.

3. Did Wilson violate the law by leaking to Pincus and Kristof? (SHAKY).

Agreed, very shakey. But you have to understand that Wilson is a potential leak source, except since he lied about everything he reported he may be off the hook. What is the true classified leak point is more likely Plame to Wilson, who then relayed this onto reporters. Check out the second item of this GOP top ten list of Wilson lies. The one where he seems to have access to information he shouldn’t have access to, but which Plame could have had access to.

We agree on item 4

5. Did Wilson claim that Dick Cheney sent him on the trip to Niger? (SOLID) No. And this is probably the biggest mistake I have made in covering this story. I remember following this story through Maguire and the various talking head shows when it first came up, and to the best of my memory, that’s what he was going around saying. Now, in going back and looking at the actual transcripts, I realize that’s not exactly what he said. However, I leave it to you to determine whether he deliberately created the impression that Cheney sent him on the trip. Being that, a full week after the July 6th editorial, Wolf Blitzer shared in my confusion, I don’t feel so bad about it in retrospect.

Agreed, but it is also fairly solid that Wilson did deliberately imply Cheney made the request since he was obsessed with linking the WH house to his report, and that was the only way he could fabricate a theory, which is all he has ever claimed, that Cheney and Bush saw his results. Without the Cheney request their is no path for the results back to the WH for him to cling to.

6. Did Valerie Plame “authorize” the trip? (SETTLED) No. As Maguire noted, and I have attempted to clarify, Plame did not have the requisite authority to “authorize” the trip. Rove was likewise guilty of making this error in his communication with Cooper. What is clear, however, based on the findings of the SSCI, is that Valerie Plame was instrumental in the selection of her husband to go on the trip.

Shakey and unproven. Valerie Plame wrote a letter to the deputy director for FINAL authorization. But that means very little. You cannot get money to go on any government trip unless the cost account manager signs off as well, and they are not by any means doing anything more than checking the costs estimates. Unless someone has proof this memo was not simply the standard justification, paper trail of a normal bureaucracy I am not convinced she did not have the authority to send Wilson. There is a huge difference between authority and paper trail signatures in the government. Even the folks with the budget cannot sign for most things by themselves. Shaky.

We agree on 7 and 8. On 9 I’ll let it slide (was Plame’s identity known) because the truth is out there from more than Andrea Mitchell, and you still have the issue was she covert, etc. We agree on 10 – for sure – as well as 11, 12 and 13.

OK, that’s my two bits.

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