September 30, 2003
Matthew makes two good points on Plame/Wilson. First:
Am I alone in thinking that the CIA is withholding some information on Plame -- in particular, exact details of her "undercover" status -- not because it would reveal secrets, but because the CIA as an institution feels slighted by the administration's cherry-picking of intel from various sources, and so is allowing the Plame scandal to play out in a way that's as embarassing as possible to the administration and their hawk supporters, including those DOD apparatchiks who will inevitably fall on their sword if and when the administration decides to cut its losses and finger someone to blame?
Here's another question that nobody seems to be asking: if Plame really was undercover at the time Novak's column was published, why would White House politicos/PR hacks know the identity of an undercover CIA agent? Does the CIA go around handing out booklets with the names of undercover agents to just anyone who works in the White House? The fact that leakers could so readily name Plame suggests either (a) that there are inter-administration leaks between the CIA and the White House, or (b) that her identity really was an "open secret," as some Beltway conservatives have alleged.
George Tenet could answer a few questions, but since he fell on his sword over the 16 words he'll just let the White House flail away for a while.
A question that hasn't been answered is who are the other reporters who were told about Plame yet didn't report it? Who initiated contact? What was said? This is news that the public should know. It would help the investigation, and help President Bush hold people accountable. It would also make one blockbuster story sure to boost the reporters' careers. There may be some qualms about compromising a source, but if accurate, this source broke the law.
"Still a Lot of Smoke, and Justice Thinks there's a Fire"
UPDATE: Today's Howard Kurtz column tries to answer my question about why reporters haven't come forward:
All good questions. Reporters who got these calls are now in the uncomfortable situation of having to honor their confidentiality pledge to the administration officials, even as Justice looks into who the officials are and whether they committed a crime. Not since Ken Starr and his folks were accused of illegal leaks during the Clinton impeachment have journalists, and their willingness to grant high-level people anonymity, become part of the story in this fashion.
It really doesn't answer my question, but it does get into the mind of these reporters. But if the leaker would be hung out to dry or forced to do the perp walk, why should the reporter care about their confidentiality pledge? Suppose the pledge is broken and the reporter outs the leaker. Future leakers would be disinclined to talk to that reporter. Is that a bad thing? It stops the flow of information, but the flow would never happened anyway because the reporter keeps quiet. Also, the leaker intends to use that flow for anti-social purposes.
"One Heckuva Leak"