Monday :: Sep 29, 2003

Discredited WMD Intel and Outed CIA Operative Cause More Damage for Bush


by Steve

While the collateral damage from their lies to sell the Iraq war are piling up all around them, the Bushies and specifically the NSA and Vice President continue to act like folks totally detached from reality. The weekend’s firestorm began late last week when it was reported that George Tenet formally asked John Ashcroft to investigate the outing of a CIA operative, the wife of former Ambassador Joseph Wilson. Wilson, for his part, is specifically putting the finger on the usual suspect himself, Karl Rove. It was further revealed that Ashcroft has sat on this for months without action.

After months of inaction, the Justice Department is now investigating the leak of the agent’s name at the request of the CIA, as NBC News and MSNBC.com reported Friday in an exclusive report.

At the center of the controversy is whether White House officials leaked the name of Wilson’s wife, Valerie Plame, in retaliation for Wilson’s public criticism of a since-repudiated claim by President Bush that Iraq had tried to buy enriched uranium in Africa as part of its alleged nuclear weapons program.

But two leading Democrats, Sen. Charles Schumer of New York and Rep. Richard Gephardt of Missouri, a Democratic presidential candidate, both called Sunday for an independent investigation of the charges.

Moreover, the rats are scurrying about on this issue inside the Bush Administration. Sunday’s Post revealed that an administration source had no problem telling the Post that two high-ranking administration officials called several Washington reporters to “out” Wilson’s wife, who as a CIA operative was supposed to be protected under national security laws.

Yesterday, a senior administration official said that before Novak's column ran, two top White House officials called at least six Washington journalists and disclosed the identity and occupation of Wilson's wife. Wilson had just revealed that the CIA had sent him to Niger last year to look into the uranium claim and that he had found no evidence to back up the charge. Wilson's account touched off a political fracas over Bush's use of intelligence as he made the case for attacking Iraq.

"Clearly, it was meant purely and simply for revenge," the senior official said of the alleged leak.

Sources familiar with the conversations said the leakers were seeking to undercut Wilson's credibility. They alleged that Wilson, who was not a CIA employee, was selected for the Niger mission partly because his wife had recommended him. Wilson said in an interview yesterday that a reporter had told him that the leaker said, "The real issue is Wilson and his wife."
A source said reporters quoted a leaker as describing Wilson's wife as "fair game."

That by itself sounds like Rove.

Then yesterday, there were signs that the typical message control that this White House craves is breaking down. While Condi Rice was defending the discredited intelligence used by Bush and Cheney about Saddam’s WMDs that got us into the war, some of Rummy’s own staff at the Defense Intelligence Agency were trashing the source of that discredited intelligence, the various defectors and the Iraqi National Congress of Ahmad Chalabi.

An internal assessment by the Defense Intelligence Agency has concluded that most of the information provided by Iraqi defectors who were made available by the Iraqi National Congress was of little or no value, according to federal officials briefed on the arrangement.

Intelligence provided by the defectors that could not be substantiated included information about Iraq's suspected program for nuclear, chemical and biological weapons as well as other information about the Iraqi government, the officials said.

Yet Rice and Powell yesterday defended the discredited intelligence, saying the intelligence community did the best it could with limited assets in place to verify the old data from 1998. Left unsaid of course is that the administration stopped the inspections that were underway to gather such on-the-ground intel earlier this spring in their rush to war, and knowingly relied on the now-discredited Iraqi defectors and Chalabi’s INC for their primary sources of intel, sources that Rummy himself may be trying to distance himself from. Also left unsaid is that it was Rummy and Cheney themselves who wanted to rely upon Chalabi and his tainted intelligence over that gathered by the CIA. But now staff inside Rummy's Defense Department are trashing their boss's golden boy.

And both Rice and Powell in their comments still pin the blame on the intelligence community, which will not go unnoticed by Tenet. It is also noteworthy the Porter Goss, a former CIA agent now the GOP head of the House Intelligence Committee is asking these questions about the reliability of the intelligence. Goss may not be so willing to accept the Bush blame game of tagging the CIA for the White House’s manipulation, especially if Tenet is feeding him information.

Today’s Post follow-up story indicates that Bush will not ask his staff whether or not they played a role. Probably because it involves both Rove and Cheney, and Bush frankly doesn’t care, as he thinks that Ashcroft will bury this for him. However, this issue has now become a topic within the campaign, as Joe Lieberman is running with it. Plus, it is not likely that Tenet will let this go, because if it appears to the troops inside the CIA that they can be outed by political types in this White House without consequences, Tenet will lose control of his own agency. And note the less-than-party-line comment from Powell about this, who himself cannot possibly mind any heat from this fiasco directed at Cheney or Rove.

After thinking this issue was dead for a while, the media has come back to it to generate more bad headlines for Bush. And in today's Post in a Page One story, Cheney basically gets trashed for continuing to make the charge without foundation that there was a Saddam/Al Qaeda/9-11 connection, even after his alleged boss said over a week ago that no such evidence existed.

Things have changed a lot since six months ago.

Steve :: 7:52 AM :: Comments (9) :: Digg It!