Environmental Ethics
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Ernest Partridge, Ph.D

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The Gadfly Bytes -- March 20, 2007


Valerie Plame and the Incredible 
Shrinking Cover Story

Ernest Partridge, Co-Editor
The Crisis Papers.

March 20, 2007

Valerie Plame Wilson was not a covert agent (so says Victoria Toensing), and furthermore the White House did not know that she was a covert agent (so says Rep. Tom Davis). It’s all the fault of the CIA for not telling the White House that she was covert.

That appears to be the essence of the Bush loyalist’s rebuttal to Valerie Plame Wilson’s testimony to Henry Waxman's Committee hearing. That this account is a flat-out contradiction is of concern only to elite nit-picking liberals and not to the aforementioned loyalists whose elaborate excuses transcend mere logic.

Like mariners stranded on an iceberg adrift in the Gulf Stream, the Bush apologists have less and less to cling to as, with time, the refuting testimony and evidence accumulate.

It has now come to the point that pro-Bush apologetics are so pathetically lame and absurd that their defenses serve only to strengthen the case against the Busheviks. Case-in-point: the testimony last Friday of Victoria Toensing before the Waxman Committee.

The “not really a covert agent” dodge:

This much can be stipulated: To the “outside world,” Valerie Plame was employed as an “energy analyst” by “Brewster Jennings and Associates.” (To distinguish husband and wife, I will use the names “Wilson” and “Plame” respectively). However, “Brewster Jennings” was a “front” for the CIA, through which essential information about weapons of mass destruction was gathered, coordinated and assessed.  Plame’s and Brewster Jennings’ actual work, intelligence gathering, was a closely held national security secret.

Accordingly, the Director of Central Intelligence, General Michael Hayden, stated for the public record:

During her employment at the CIA, Ms. Wilson [Plame] was under cover. Her employment status with the CIA was classified information prohibited from disclosure under Executive Order 12958. At the time of the publication of Robert Novak's column on July 14,2003, Ms. Wilson's CIA employment status was covert. [EP emphasis] This was classified information.

But no, says Victoria Toensing, Valerie Plame was not really “covert.” Not according to The Intelligence Identities Protection Act which, Ms. Toensing wants us all to know, she helped draft a couple of decades ago. Toensing contends that Plame qualified as “covert” according to all provisions of the Act save one, which stipulates that a covert agent is one “... who resides and acts outside the United States as an agent [etc]...”  This is Toensing’s “gotcha!”  Plame, she says, did not “reside” outside the US in the required past five years, so she was not, says Toensing, “covert within the meaning of the statute, which I am an expert on because I helped draft it.”  Never mind that Plame was employed by a CIA front organization, that she engaged in top secret intelligence gathering, that the information so gathered was essential to the national security of the United States, that her very life and that of her operatives abroad depended on the non-disclosure of her CIA association. And finally, no matter that the CIA Director explicitly identified Plame’s activity as “covert.” Never mind all that. Victoria Toensing points out that Plame did not reside outside the United States, as the law requires.

Ergo, Valerie Plame was not “covert.”

Committee Chair, "Hammerin' Hank" Waxman would have none of it, as he subjected Toensing to a withering interrogation.  You can see it here. 

Quibbles such as Toensing's are, no doubt, the reason that Charles Dickens famously wrote, “the law is an ass,” and the reason that some lawyers' three piece suits have Kevlar vests.

So what are we asked to make of this? That because Plame was not “covert” according to the exact letter of the law, therefore no damage to national security resulted from her “outing?”  That it was perfectly OK for Robert Novak to put an abrupt end to Plame’s enterprise and that of the fake company, Brewster Jennings, thus shutting off the inflow of vital information, and putting numerous courageous operatives at grave risk?

If that’s the best that the defenders of the Bushevik finks can come up with, then their case is reduced to absurdity.

But it gets much worse.  For Toensing is also defeated by the “letter” of her precious Intelligence Identities Protection Act. An alternative provision of the Act allowed that a “covert agent” may have “served” outside the U.S., as Plame clearly had done. Accordingly, we have the alternatives “reside” or “serve.” Thus Toensing is undone by the simple word “or”.  It therefore follows (as if it really matters) that Plame qualified as “covert” according to the exact letter of the law. (This point is brilliantly argued in “Daily Kos” by “Litigatormom,”  whose post includes quotations from the Intelligence Identities Protection Act).

Exit the “not really covert” excuse.

Next, the “African Junket” excuse.

We hear that “Joe Wilson’s trip to Africa was of no importance – it was just a “junket” arranged by his wife, who worked for the CIA.

I suppose by this we are asked to imagine the following conversation, chez Wilson:

Val:     “Honey, how would you like to get away from the house for a few days – take a little vacation on the CIA’s tab?  I’ll just stay home and take care of the twin babies all by myself.”

Joe:     “Great! Where shall I go?  Rio for the Carnivale?  Paris for the Opera?  The Riviera?  Moscow to see the Bolshoi Ballet?”

Val:     “No, this will be really special: an all expense paid luxurious “junket” to Niamey, Niger, the world-renowned “garden-spot of Africa.’”

Joe:     “Oh, Wow!  When do I leave?”

Don’t know about you, but I’d just as soon stay at home.  More so, if my wife were Valerie Plame.

Then we are told that Joe Wilson wasn’t really qualified for the job. No matter that he spoke fluent French, the official language of Niger, that he served as the U.S. ambassador to the neighboring country of Gabon, that he had spent twenty-three distinguished years in government service for which he was awarded citations from, among others, President George Herbert Walker Bush.

Finally, the “Who Knew?” Complaint.

Tom Davis, ranking Republican member of the Waxman Committee, expects us to believe that none of the many individuals who passed word of Plame’s CIA employment around the White House, the State Department and the Washington Press corps, knew, or thought to ask the CIA, whether or not she was a covert agent, and further, whether any harm might come from disclosing her name to the public. When word circulated among that select group that “Wilson’s wife works for the CIA,” did it occur to no one that it might be best to assume covert status, until and unless assured otherwise by the CIA?  Hadn’t they heard that “loose lips sink ships”?  Karl Rove apparently had, when he told Time’s Matt Cooper that “I’ve already said too much.” And when, in his infamous column of July 14, 2003, Robert Novak identified Plame as “an agency [CIA] operative on weapons of mass destruction,” and when the CIA begged him not to publish this information, could he have possibly believed that Plame was just a “desk jockey?” What on earth was he thinking?

And why is Robert Novak still at large?

What’s next?

With the official cover story on Plamegate reduced to ruins, what lies ahead? Full White House disclosure?  Appropriate firings?  Apologies to the Wilsons?

Don’t be silly!

There will be a frantic Bushevik search for new defenses. Here are some possibilities:

  1. Point out that as an experienced CIA operative, Valerie Plame is a skillful liar. And so, she lied to the Waxman committee, start to finish. Perjury? Not to worry, we’ll be told. The committee is controlled by the Democrats.

  2. Shift attention away from the crimes and misdemeanors of the Busheviks and the negligence of the mainstream media, to the personal shortcomings of the Wilsons, real or invented. Here’s one: Valerie Plame is a narcissistic cry-baby. That ploy just might be in the works. At Google News this morning (10 AM EDT), I found these, and only these, headlines about Plame’s testimony: “Wilson: Leak cut off path to career.” (New York Times). “Former CIA spy says betrayed by Bush Administration. (Xinhua). “Ex Spy says what leak did to career.” (SF Chronicle). We’ve already been told by the Washington Post editorialists that Joseph Wilson is a “blowhard.” Expect more of the same.

  3. Finally, take a lesson from the master, Josef Goebbels, and concoct a “big lie,” the more outrageous and fantastic, the better. Then repeat, and repeat, and repeat.

John Gibson of (what else?) FOX News is leading the way. On March 7, Gibson served up this astonishing hypothesis: “There was a cabal inside the CIA working against the president's policy and they wanted to hide behind their secret status while they did what was essentially an anti-war political hitjob.” (This is such a perfect example of pure, unadulterated malarkey, that I have subjected Gibson’s three-minute fantasy to a scrupulous analysis and running commentary. You will find it in my personal blog.  I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it).

Face it: the exposure of Valerie Plame and Brewster Jennings, was a crime against the state, that has caused enormous, if unknowable, harm to the security of the United States. Some dare call it “treason.” Quite frankly, I don’t see why not.

The Bush Administration is frantically trying to avoid just retaliation by the law, the Congress, the media, and the public for this crime.

As one defense after another is stripped away with new evidence and plain common sense, and as the public becomes ever more aware of the enormity of this crime, the Busheviks become both more vulnerable and more dangerous.

We must all, therefore, be resolute, wise, and cautious. But no American worthy of his or her political heritage, has any excuse to sit this one out.

For if this crime goes unpunished, what defenses remain against the oncoming dictatorship?

Copyright 2007 by Ernest Partridge





Dr. Ernest Partridge is a consultant, writer and lecturer in the field of Environmental Ethics and Public Policy. He has taught Philosophy at the University of California, and in Utah, Colorado and Wisconsin. He publishes the website, "The Online Gadfly" (www.igc.org/gadfly) and co-edits the progressive website, "The Crisis Papers" (www.crisispapers.org).  Dr. Partridge can be contacted at: gadfly@igc.org .