Friday, October 14, 2005

The Forest, Not The Trees

Back in July, I linked to an informative Larry Johnson post discussing Valerie Plame's status as a "NOC" (a non-official cover officer) in the CIA. In Johnson's words:

A few of my classmates, and Valerie was one of these, became a non-official cover officer. That meant she agreed to operate overseas without the protection of a diplomatic passport. If caught in that status she would have been executed. [emphasis added]
Despite this reality, which is known to many inside the beltway types, there are still examples of craven dishonesty from this crowd like Richard Cohen's recent column pleading with Patrick Fitzgerald to pack up his tent and leave town. No crime was committed, says Cohen (he knows how?), or if one was, well nobody meant anything by it (he knows how?). But by God's good grace, don't indict anybody! That would be a travesty of justice. I guess.

Johnson is worth turning to again to remind us of one of the crucial facets of this case that can sometimes get lost behind the backstory of hyped up intelligence and deception about WMD used to goad a nation into a strategically disastrous war; the intrigue of Judith Miller's predicament and her six degrees of separation
connection to so much scandal; the schadenfraude-rich decline of Karl Rove; the off-putting incongruity of such rank tactics with people named "Scooter" - which just oozes David Lynchian themes ("something-dark-lurks-beneath-the-veneer-of-suburban-preppyism").

The whole point of this, the backbone of this story, is that national security was compromised for the sake of petty political vengeance. People's lives were put in danger. Despite the lies of some shameless partisan hacks, Valerie Plame was outed.
Larry Johnson reminds us of what this means:

Other mental midgets like Cohen, such as Victoria Toensing, continue to insist that no crime could have been committed because Valerie Plame, "worked at a desk job". Newsflash for these so-called Washington insiders who have proven they know nothing about the intelligence community--at least 40% of the people working at CIA Headquarters are working undercover. Just because they may physically go to the CIA building in McLean, Virginia everyday does not mean that their relationship with the CIA is acknowledged.

During my four years of sitting at a desk at CIA I was undercover. My position with the CIA was not even known by my own parents. Only my wife was privy to that secret. Many of the undercover folks still working at CIA are at headquarters on a temporary basis. Some travel overseas on temporary assignments that last less than a month. Others await a semi-permanent posting for a two or three year stint overseas.

The point that Cohen and the other White House hacks have missed is that protecting the identities of intelligence officers, whether they are working under official or non-official cover, is part of national defense. To compromise these identities is to commit an act of treason.

Patrick Fitzgerald understands that he must prosecute within the confines of the law. However, he also understands that what was done to the wife of Ambassador Joe Wilson was more than a rough game of inside the beltway hardball. Karl Rove told Chris Matthews that "Wilson's wife is fair game". Not only was she an unfair target, but in going after her the White House political crew unwittingly exposed several intelligence assets and caused the loss of intelligence assets overseas.

Richard Cohen is dead wrong to argue that the best thing Patrick Fitzgerald can do is leave town. To the contrary, the best thing Patrick Fitzgerald can do is
send a clear message to politicians in both parties that when it comes to political hardball intelligence assets must be kept out of the game. At the end of the day our nation's security is no game, it is a matter of life and death.
As I've said before, priorities people. Priorities. I mean, clearly the Democrats don't appreciate the importance of national security. Er...right? Mark Kleiman offers a personal account consistent with Johnson's description of NOC status.

Several aeons ago, when I was young and irresponsible and worked on drug policy at the Justice Department, I saw some work product from a first-rate analyst at the CIA and had a number of telephone conversations with him from his office in the CIA's counternarcotics center at Langley.

I noticed that the name he used on the phone -- let's say "Jim Smith" -- wasn't the name on the work product, which I knew from the restricted-distribution list attached to it was circulating to the very highest levels. I assumed that someone up his chain of command had stolen credit for the analysis, and commiserated with him about it. "Jim" delicately pointed out that people in his line of work used more than one name. Ooops!

One day I called his office and someone else answered the phone. "Jim" wasn't there, I was told. I asked if I could leave a message. No, "Jim" was out of the country and wouldn't be back for some time. "Where can I reach him?" I asked stupidly. The frozen silence on the other end of the line informed me of my error; I never saw or heard of "Jim" again.

So "driving to a desk job at Langley" and "being a NOC" are not inconsistent facts.
All partisanship aside, how can anyone defend this type of action? How can anyone justify the fact that Karl Rove, KARL ROVE, is still the President's closest advisor? And good ol' Scooter Libby - he still paces the corridors of power. What spectacular demands Bush makes of his supporters. You are forced to rationalize this destructiveness; defend crimes that probably make your skin crawl. I can say with all sincerity, I don't envy you for that.

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