Mar 05 2007

Imagining a Covert Agent

Published by at 2:50 pm under Guest Bloggers,Plame Game

As the trial of Scooter Libby nears its end, the pundits on each side of the case have been fighting about one fundamental issue: was Plame a covert agent when Novak published her CIA credentials? Larry Johnson says yes, Victoria Toensig says no. I’ll admit up front that I am biased against Mr. Johnson, and would tend to believe anyone other than him. His many attempts to intimidate me, his (hollow) legal threats, and his (flamboyant) ad hominem attacks, all are signs to me that this man has a hard time dealing with the truth. Unfortunately for Mr. Johnson, it is not my personal bias towards him that drives my doubt as to whether Plame was covert, per legal definition; it is a collection of facts that seem to indicate that he is not being honest.

At the outset we must ask ourselves why this has become an issue at all. The answer to that is very simple and perhaps not all that surprising. Two days after Novak’s article was written, David Corn, after interviewing Mr. Wilson, indicated that Mrs. Wilson was a covert agent and that the disclosure of her affiliation with the CIA would possibly constitute a violation of the Intelligence Identities Protection Act. David Corn was the first person to disclose publicly that Plame “apparently has worked under what’s known as “nonofficial cover”” and in the same article insinuated that Plame was “a US intelligence officer working covertly in a field of vital importance to national security”. He then related the possible violation of law, not simply disclosing classified information but:

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.

Corn noted that it had been a whole two days, two days, without any public outcry or investigation. After Corn claimed, for the first time, that Plame may have been a covert agent protected by a specific statute, it became a hot issue. No one would have ever known whether Plame had “nonofficial cover” or that she was any kind of covert agent had it not been for David Corn writing this article, and we must assume he got this information directly from Mr. Wilson. If not, who else would have told Corn that Plame had nonofficial cover or that she was a covert agent? Enter Larry Johnson.

Larry Johnson has operated as the PR agent for the Wilsons since this whole thing began, covering for Jason Leopold when his Wilson-friendly “scoops” went sour, and consistently spinning for the Wilsons in the media or on his blog. Mr. Johnson, aside from Corn, has been the most conspicuous contributor to the notion that Valerie Plame was a covert agent covered by the IIPA. However, this was problematic because Johnson had known Valerie since their early CIA days together, why would anyone believe simply him or a journalist like Corn? That’s where Johnson’s group, Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS), stepped in. Johnson recently tried to defend his position against that of Mrs. Toensig by arguing that there were a lot of CIA folks who backed him up:

Ask Tyler Drumheller, Chief of the European Division ofthe CIA Directorate of Operations. Ask Robert Grenier. Ask me. Ask Jim Marcinkowski.Ask Mike Grimaldi. Ask Brent Cavan. Ask Gary Berntsen. Ask Mike Gorbel. instead of talking to CIA officers who know firsthand, you rely on Victoria Toensing, who has ZERO experience as a CIA officer. Hell, ask John McLaughlin. Ask Bill Harlow(oops, I forgot, he already told your reporters she was undercover and asked them ot to report it.)

You’ll have to forgive Johnson for not being a very good typist. You’ll also have to forgive Johnson for making things up, as he has a habit of doing. I checked the record to see whether all of these people have stated that Plame was in fact covert. Tyler Drumheller has never stated such a thing. Neither has Robert Grenier. Neither has Gary Bernsten. Who the hell is Mike Gorbel, does anyone know? Google sure as hell doesn’t. John McLaughlin and Bill Harlow, make a wild guess as to whether they have ever stated that Plame was covert. Johnson tries to pretend Harlow said so, when in fact the Libby trial has shown that he simply told Novak not to publish her name (something Novak disputes), and that it would cause “embarrassment” if she were named; nothing about her being “covert”.

So already Johnson has tried to inflate his own claim, that Plame was covert, by putting words in the mouths of six people! None of these people have ever stated this on record, as far as a search on their comments about the case shows. If Johnson would like to provide cites of these people saying this, I’d love to see them, since he has never done so. The remaining people are Jim Marcinkowski, Mike Grimaldi, and Brent Cavan. All of these guys are associated with Johnson’s VIPS group and are thus as reliable about this matter as Johnson.

In summary, the only people fronting the view that Plame was a covert agent protected under the IIPA are David Corn and VIPS, all of whom are closely tied to Wilson and cannot be seen as independent corroboration for this issue as a factual matter. Why would Johnson have to exaggerate the number of people who stood behind his claim if it was the truth? More importantly, why haven’t the Wilsons fronted this view themselves? If it’s OK for Johnson to parade around town saying she was covert, why can’t the Wilsons just say so themselves?

In the civil suit that the Wilsons filed, Plame’s job with the CIA is always referred to as her “classified CIA employment”. The word “covert” only appears once in the entire document, and is being used in the sense of her identity with the CIA not being publicly known, stating, “The disclosure of Mrs. Wilson’s covert identity…” Valerie’s job with the CIA was covert in the plain English sense, but that is not the matter at hand here, as David Corn and Johnson contend that she was a covert agent according to the law (IIPA). Should not the Wilson suit have stated “covert CIA employment” if that is in fact what it was? The Wilsons have never stated for the record what Plame’s actual status at the CIA was, aside from classified.

Something I have learned over the past few years is that those who are good at leaking information to the press know to leak information that they will most likely not be held accountable for, because whoever the information is about will be expected to deny it, whether it is true or not, and that they will not be likely to share any information that refutes it. Larry Johnson can claim that Plame is covert all he wants. He knows that the CIA is not likely to go on record with the truth in either case. Even if the CIA were to deny it, he could contend that they were simply denying it to shield the truth, because they would be expected to deny such a sensitive matter. Either way, Johnson wins. He knows this. This is exactly why it is Johnson, and not the Wilsons, who are claiming this publicly. The Wilsons play the “we can’t speak about this because it is a sensitive issue” card, while Johnson is given full freedom to claim whatever he wants.

In attempting to back up his claim, Johnson manages to contradict himself. After arguing that there are only two types of agents at the CIA, overt and covert, Johnson delivers this:

Here is the irony? If Valerie had been an overt employee or a covert employee not covered by IIPA then Scooter Libby would not have had to lie to FBI agents because there would not have been an investigation. But Valerie was a covert agent.

Back up the bus here, Johnson says here that it is possible for a covert employee to not be covered by the IIPA, and then says that Valerie was a covert agent. OK? But if a covert employee doesn’t necessarily have to be covered by the IIPA, according to Johnson, then simply stating that Plame was covert doesn’t resolve whether she was covered by the IIPA, does it? The IIPA itself states that a “covert agent” is only a person who is governed by the definitions laid out in that law. If those conditions are not met, they are not a “covert” agent. As Tom Maguire tried to relate to Johnson in the comments (to which Johnson characteristically responded that he was “thick as mule shit”), you are either an overt agent, a classified agent, or a covert agent. Only covert agents are covered by the IIPA.

The Wilson suit names her as having had “classified CIA employment”. The CIA referral to the DoJ, as reported by Johnson himself, stated that it was about a “possible violation of criminal law concerning the unauthorized disclosure of classified information”. Judge Walton, the presiding judge over the Libby trial, has stated that he has seen this referral letter, but still does not know what Plame’s exact status was at the CIA. If Plame were covert and thus covered by the IIPA, would not this referral have stated a possible violation of criminal law concerning the unauthorized disclosure of a covert agent’s identity?

So far, we have allies of Wilson being the only ones fronting the argument that Plame was covered by IIPA; Johnson trying to inflate his claim by pretending more people back him up than actually do; and the referral letter to the DoJ stating it as being a matter of classified information, not about leaking a covert agent’s identity. We have absolutely no independent evidence to suggest that what Johnson says is true. In fact, the facts that we do have, and Johnson’s behavior, seems to indicate the opposite. There is one final piece of evidence that would seem inconsistent with Plame being a super secret agent.

In last year’s Oscar winner for Best Picture, The Departed, the character played by Leonardo DiCaprio, William Costigan, is an undercover cop who infiltrates the Irish mob. He is employed by the Special Investigations Unit at the Massachusetts State Police. Matt Damon’s character, Sergeant Sullivan, works at this unit, and is a mole for the Irish mob. Now, it becomes apparent to the Irish mob that they have been infiltrated, but Sullivan cannot find out that it is Costigan for one simple reason: he was not allowed to know the identity of his own unit’s undercover cops. Costigan was handled by Captain Queenan and a sergeant played by Mark Wahlberg. No one else at the SIU was to know his identity.

With this in mind, consider the INR dossier sent to Marc Grossman, which included the meeting notes from the meeting where Valerie introduced Joe:

Meeting apparently convened by Valerie Wilson, a CIA WMD managerial type and the wife of Amb. Joe Wilson … Two CIA analysts seem to be leading the charge on the issue [redacted] the other guy’s name not available.

Now, for the movie The Departed, they hired a consultant who had worked with the Massachusetts State Police for 30 years to ensure that things were as accurate as possible. Thus I would expect that it was accurate that undercover cops were only known by identity to a very limited set of people within the unit they were operating for. This is state police we are talking about, now consider the CIA. If Plame was a covert agent, why would her name, position, and spousal relationship be related to counterparts from INR? More importantly, why was one of the analysts from the CIA not identified to INR, yet Plame’s details were passed on like a blunt at a rock concert?

These are the reasons why I do not believe Mr. Johnson’s self-inflated claims that Valerie Plame Wilson was a covert agent covered by the IIPA. If the Massachusetts State Police Special Investigations Unit would protect the identity of an undercover cop from people within their own unit, it would seem highly unlikely that Plame’s details would have been so carelessly disclosed to people from an entirely different intelligence agency if she was in fact a covert agent.

If there was anyone at that meeting between INR and the CIA that was covert, it was the unidentified second analyst, not Mrs. Wilson. Larry Johnson can come up with as many imaginary friends on this issue as he wants, but he cannot erase the evidence that seems to prove him wrong.

62 responses so far

62 Responses to “Imagining a Covert Agent”

  1. clarice says:

    Add this to the Litvinenko file, too–2 Americans suffer thallium poisoning while staying in a Moscow hotel.

    As for this covert nonsense again–It wasn’t even the basis for the investigation–it was simply bait for a fishing expedition.

  2. Soothsayer says:


    4 out of 5 ain’t bad.

    Time for some burnt ends.

  3. Bikerken says:

    I’m not surprised that they convicted him Soot. I’ve been saying for a long time that I don’t trust liberals to make a mature intelligent fair decision when it comes to a political trial and I could tell by their actions and stupid questions that these were liberals. I think this judge was way too obviously on the prosecutions side and that will play a part when the appeal succeeds. The main reason is that the defense was not allowed to defend itself with all of the facts. The judge would not allow the whole scope of the trial to be seen. He put blinders on the jury and they decided that inconsistantcies between memories was enough of a reason to convict. They decided this case purely on their political bias. I was right about the convictions and I’ll be right about the appeal!

  4. Bikerken says:

    Now watch the jury after the trial, they will be on every talk show with liberal talk show hosts fawning over their brave honest verdict in the case and asking them do they think the VP needs to be tried, etc etc. Once we see them on tv opening their mouths, we will see what a bunch of morons these people really are!

  5. lurker9876 says:

    Appeals and pardon time.

  6. Retired Spook says:

    Considering the nature of the questions the jury asked, as recently as this morning when they essentially asked for a clarification of just exactly what it was that Libby was charged with, I’m somewhat surprised with the verdict. Wells is apparently saying the same thing as I write this.

    Sooth, I don’t know whether or not I’ll be in KC before this is appealed or not. We normally go in April, but my daughter and her family will be home the first week of June for my youngest daughter’s wedding, so we may not make a trip out there until late this year. I’m not trying to weasel out of our bet, but I’m not going to make a special trip to KC just to take you to Arthur Bryant’s.

  7. lurker9876 says:

    Wells said that they will file a motion for an appeal. If that’s the case, then they need to file for a different venue.

  8. lurker9876 says:

    MSNBC says that Libby is free on bail until appeal, which may take at least a year. Good timing. The bets are high that he will not spend any time behind bars.

  9. lurker9876 says:

    Fitz said:


    No more charges. Investigation is dead. Good. Hope his role as a special prosecutor is over!!

  10. Soothsayer says:

    Wells said that they will file a motion for an appeal. If that’s the case, then they need to file for a different venue.

    Too late to bring up venue, dude.

    The chances of an appeal being successful on a criminal verdict are about 2% at best. Even if successful, it is unlikely the verdict would be overturned, so at best Libby would be looking at a re-trial.

    As for bond – he remains on bond, but his presentence report comes in May 15, and sentencing is June 5. Depending on the sentence, it remains to be seen whether or not Judge Walton will continue to allow him to remain at large. I don’t recall Martha Stewart getting that courtesy.

  11. lurker9876 says:

    I don’t care about the percentages and odds. This case is highly political and the jury appears to be highly political.

    I don’t care about being too late for venue but they should. Doesn’t mean that they would. Just a suggestion.

    Dan Reihl already reported that Libby will remain free on bail until appeal. He heard that from the news. Apparently, this is confirmed.

  12. lurker9876 says:

    Besides, Casberger’s case was eventually overturned as his innocence was finally proved.

  13. Bikerken says:

    I just heard this on Rush’s show so I don’t know it firsthand, but evidently the jurors are already talking to the media and one of the aforementioned idiots is already talking about he believes this was all a cover up over the outing of her name going higher in the VP’s office! Again, I don’t know exactly what the guy said because I didn’t hear it first hand, but if a juror said anything like this, they are already openly admitting jury misconduct! Nothing like that was any part of this case because of Waltoon keeping it out of the trial. That statement alone is clearly a basis for the convictions to get thrown out on appeal! I said it before and I’ll say it again, once these idiots open their mouths, we will see what a bunch of biased idiots they are!

  14. lurker9876 says:

    Make sure to make a copy of this tape so that it will be submitted to the appeals process.

    Looks like you’re absolutely right, Biker.

    There was NO cover up of the outing of her name going higher in the VP’s office. Fitz never proved that except he made a comment about Cheney being under the clouds during his closing argument. Fitz did not provide any evidence that this conspiracy came from the VP’s office and was not part of the indictment at all.

    Perhaps that alone convinced the jury to convict Libby?

    Strong grounds for appeal.

  15. ivehadit says:

    Evil has triumphed…for today. An American Tragedy.

    Nothing to be proud of, if I was a democrat global socialist.

    Joe and Valerie Wilson were trying to undermine a sitting President during a time of war. We will see what transpires from here.

  16. Soothsayer says:

    Total bull-bleep.

    The juror’s comments are not by any stretch of the imagination juror misconduct.

    What credibility does the whining drug dealer Mr. Limbaugh have? – his own brushes with the law show him to be about as clueless as O’Reilly when it comes to understanding legal process.

    So sorry all the strata-spheric experts have been proved wrong on this case, but c’est la vie.