A new book by Michael Isikoff, an investigative reporter for Newsweek, and David
Corn, who writes for the far left wing magazine the Nation, casts many powerful
people in Washington in an unflattering light but not the people who Mr. Isikoff
and Mr. Corn wish to besmirch.
A brief review for those of you who have lives, and who consequently haven't been
following closely the details of the Plame Name Game:
In his 2003 State of the Union address, President Bush said: "The British government
has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium
First in leaks to reporters, and then in his own op-ed in the New York Times, a
retired diplomat, Ambassador Joseph C. Wilson IV, said the president was lying. His
claim to speak with authority was that in the spring of 2002, the CIA had sent him
to Niger to see if Saddam had tried to buy uranium there.
Mr. Wilson's charge was important because it marked the beginning of the "Bush lied"
meme about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. But investigations by the Senate
Intelligence Committee; the Robb-Silberman Commission on prewar intelligence, and
the British Butler Commission all concluded it was Mr. Wilson who was not telling
the truth. Saddam had indeed tried to buy uranium in Africa, as even Mr. Wilson
himself had acknowledged to the CIA officers who debriefed him after his Niger trip.
One of the false claims Mr. Wilson made was that he had been sent to Niger at the
request of Vice President Dick Cheney. In his July 14, 2003 column, Robert Novak
disclosed that he had been sent instead at the insistence of his wife, Valerie
Plame, who worked at the CIA.
Ms. Plame had once been an undercover operative. Concern was expressed that the
leaker had violated the Intelligence Identities Protection Act. Mr. Wilson blamed
the leak on White House political guru Karl Rove, claiming it was payback for his
"whistle-blowing." A special prosecutor, Patrick Fitzgerald, was appointed to
investigate the charge.
Mr. Fitzgerald eventually indicted I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, then the chief of staff
to the vice president, on a charge of having lied to a grand jury about from whom he
had learned of Ms. Plame's occupation. He is awaiting trial.
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No indictments have been brought on the charge Mr. Fitzgerald was appointed to
investigate, because it is clear there was no violation of the Intelligence
Identities Protection Act. The act applies only to those who are operating under
cover overseas, or who have done so within five years of the disclosure of their
identities. Ms. Plame had been manning a desk at CIA headquarters in Langley, Va.
for longer than that.
Mr. Isikoff and Mr. Corn disclose that it was then Deputy Secretary of State Richard
Armitage who disclosed Ms. Plame's identity to Bob Novak, which is not exactly news
to those who have been following the case.
But Mr. Isikoff and Mr. Corn provide details which reflect poorly on Mr. Armitage,
Mr. Fitzgerald, and the journalists who knew the truth at the time.
Mr. Armitage disclosed to his boss, Secretary of State Colin Powell, and to Justice
Department officials his role in the case in October, 2003, after a second Novak
column, Mr. Isikoff and Mr. Corn say.
For more than three years, Mr. Rove and Mr. Libby have been accused, falsely, of
being the source of the leak. Mr. Armitage, Mr. Powell, and Justice department
officials knew the truth, but said nothing. Clarice Feldman, a Washington, D.C.
lawyer, described Mr. Armitage's silence as "inexplicable and perfidious."
"Had he spoken out publicly immediately, could there have been a reason for the
press to have demanded the appointment of the feckless special prosecutor?" she
Mr. Fitzgerald knew in his first few days on the job that Mr. Armitage was the
leaker; that the leak was inadvertent, and that the Intelligence Identities Act
hadn't been violated. Yet he has persisted in a sham prosecution.
Mr. Isikoff and Mr. Corn write that: "the Plame leak in Novak's column has long been
cited by Bush administration critics as a deliberate act of payback, orchestrated to
punish and/or discredit Joe Wilson after he charged that the Bush administration had
misled the American public about prewar intelligence."
They add, lamely, that: "The Armitage news does not fit neatly into that framework."
They don't mention that Mr. Isikoff and (especially) Mr. Corn have been among the
journalists flogging this meme, and the time that it takes to research and write a
book indicates they've known for quite some time that it isn't true. They're only
willing to tell the truth, now, for money.