Valerie, Valerie, bo Balerie...
The game has changed. Not so long ago we heard the outcry for a special prosecutor to investigate the Bush Administration. The crime: disclosing the identity of an undercover agent. When Valerie Plame was outed, the press were convinced it was the evil Karl Rove in a fit of revenge who was behind the revelation, and reporters thought it was pretty important to follow up. The Hartford Courant's David Lightman explained why in an article he wrote in October of 2003.
Rep. Rob Simmons left the CIA 24 years ago, but he still won't talk about what he did in the Far East for 10 years…
…when he sees reports of claims by former diplomat Joseph C. Wilson IV that the Bush administration leaked the name of his wife, a CIA agent, Simmons winces. While many others see political capital to be won and lost, Simmons, one of two former CIA agents in the House, sees lives at risk…
He remembers clearly Philip Agee, the onetime CIA agent who vowed "to expose CIA agents" and drive them out of the countries where they were operating. He still remembers vividly the Covert Action Information Bulletin, which listed hundreds of names, including that of Richard Kinsman. Kinsman, who worked in Jamaica, would be killed in 1980 when his home was attacked with a submachine gun and an explosive device…
His voice drops when he recalls what he regards as the fallout of this frenzy, how Athens station chief Richard S. Welch was gunned down in 1975 in front of his house when he returned from a Christmas party, a month after he was identified as an agent.
A little background for those late to the game. It all started when CIA operative Valerie Plame sent her husband Joseph Wilson off on an eight day trip to Niger in hopes that he would come back to report that George Bush was lying about Iraqi attempts to procure uranium in Africa. This was confusing because he also reported that an Iraqi official had been sent to Niger to discuss possibilities of expanded trade, which Joe's report said was thought to be for the purpose of acquiring uranium. Joe revealed later in a book he wrote, that Baghdad Bob was the Iraqi official who was making the overtures. Joe's accusation that George Bush was lying was said to be the motive for revealing that Valerie was a spy. You really had to want to believe the accusation in order to buy into it as a motive. And then...
In the midst of all the uproar Valerie and husband Joe posed for a cover shot on Vanity Fair. Follow the link and scroll down for the picture. Valerie's the one in the sunglasses. Hmmm. How under cover could she be? And the picture was taken after this dramatic statement from husband Joe on Meet the Press where he revelled in his celebrity status.
Russert: Will you yourself seek political office?
Wilson: I am a resident of the District of Columbia. We have no representation. Any goodwill that has come my way, and there has been an overwhelming support from Republicans who are highly indignant about this as well as some Democrats, but any goodwill accrues to my wife. Not to me. And my wife has made it very clear that—she has authorized me to say this—she would rather chop off her right arm than say anything to the press and she will not allow herself to be photographed. So while I believe she would make a wonderful politician, it is tough to run a campaign if you’re not talking to the press and you’re not being photographed.
You can't tell from the picture if she has both her arms, but I think it would have made the news if she didn't. Suffice it to say, the game took a turn on this picture. Wilson's credibility, which was on shaky ground to begin with, went right down the tubes. A faint hope remains that Valerie was truly under cover and that a crime has been committed, but as the special prosecutor churns through the evidence, the likelihood that the Plame case will cost President Bush his political scalp is fainter.
So, now the game is really different. Now Judith Miller and Matthew Cooper face jail time unless they tell the special prosecutor who told them about Valerie Plame. They are two of the journalist who were contacted and given the information. The press have been clamoring for the administration to tell who it was that revealed Mrs. Wilson's identity. Something the press very obviously already know but would rather not say, themselves.
Now, we all may as well just forget about it and go home. Dan Thomasson of Scripps Howard News Service says:
As most everyone knows, Valerie Plame was outed as a spy in contravention of an obscure, misguided and highly controversial 1982 law meant to stop that sort of thing even at the risk of criminalizing free speech...
Now it's "misguided and highly controversial" to protect the lives of under cover CIA agents by making it a criminal offense to reveal who they are. I guess the CIA tenure as honorary good guys is over. If they can't torpedo Bush, what good are they. Since no administration heads are likely to roll, the game is becoming tiresome. Mr. Thomasson just thinks it's time to quit and play something else.
Mr. Thomasson says,
There certainly are instances when reporters can't hide behind their First Amendment privileges, times when they must be citizens first and reporters second.
Odd that this isn't one of those times. I wonder why not. I wonder what crime might be under investigation at this point. According to Mr. Thomasson the special prosecutor already knows who contacted Judith Miller, and is now only looking for corroboration.
He doesn't need her testimony to identify the person but only to try to compare, apparently for perjury purposes, that source's statement to the federal grand jury with what Miller says she was told. She won't play his dishonest game and she shouldn't.
Spoken like a true Dan Rather or Eason Jordan. Somebody might be lying to the grand jury, so it's the special prosecutor, he says, who plays the dishonest game. Perhaps we'll find out soon. It's been a fascinating and highly entertaining story. But again, maybe it's some other crime we're talking about now. Maybe as he's worked his way through this weird story, the special prosecutor has uncovered a real crime.