Free Republic
Browse · Search
Topics · Post Article

Skip to comments.

Who Exposed Secret Agent Plame?
National Review Online ^ | 7-15-05 | Clifford D. May

Posted on 07/15/2005 5:57:36 AM PDT by Renfield

This just in: Bob Novak did not reveal that Valerie Plame was an undercover agent for the CIA.

Read — or reread — his column from July 14, 2003. All Novak reports is that the wife of former Ambassador Joseph C. Wilson is “an Agency operative on weapons of mass destruction.”

Novak has said repeatedly that he was not told, and that he did not know, that Plame was — or had ever been — a NOC, an agent with Non-Official Cover. He has emphatically said that had he understood that she was any sort of secret agent, he would never have named her.

As for Novak’s use of the word “operative,” he might as easily have called her an “official,” an “analyst, or an “employee.” But, as a longtime newsman, he instinctively chose the sexiest term (one he routinely applies to political figures, too, i.e. “a party operative”).

Reread Novak’s article, and you’ll also see that Novak in no way denigrates Wilson. On the contrary, he talks of Wilson’s “heroism” in Iraq in 1991. And nowhere in his column does he say — or even imply — that Wilson was unqualified to conduct the Niger investigation or that Plame was responsible for getting him the assignment — merely that she “suggested sending him.”

Even so, it is unclear whether Novak’s sources may have committed a crime by talking to Novak about Plame. That would depend on a number of variables involving what they knew about Plame and how they came to know it. A prosecutor would have the power to compel Novak to testify regarding what was said to him and by whom.

Is this splitting hairs? Not at all. In Washington, plenty of people are acquainted with CIA operatives who are not working undercover. For example, when a CIA analyst wrote a book under the pseudonym “Anonymous,” it was widely known that Anonymous was the Agency’s Michael Scheuer. Before long, someone revealed that in print. No crime was committed or alleged — no classified information had been disclosed, no NOC had been exposed.

So if Novak did not reveal that Valerie Plame was a secret agent, who did? The evidence strongly suggests it was none other than Joe Wilson himself. Let me walk you through the steps that lead to this conclusion.

The first reference to Plame being a secret agent appears in The Nation, in an article by David Corn published July 16, 2003, just two days after Novak’s column appeared. It carried this lead: “Did Bush officials blow the cover of a U.S. intelligence officer working covertly in a field of vital importance to national security — and break the law — in order to strike at a Bush administration critic and intimidate others?”

Since Novak did not report that Plame was “working covertly” how did Corn know that’s what she had been doing?

Corn does not tell his readers and he has responded to a query from me only by pointing out that he was asking a question, not making a “statement of fact.” But in the article, he asserts that Novak “outed” Plame “as an undercover CIA officer.” Again, Novak did not do that. Rather, it is Corn who is, apparently for the first time, “outing” Plame’s “undercover” status.

Corn follows that assertion with a quote from Wilson saying, “I will not answer questions about my wife.” Any reporter worth his salt would immediately wonder: Did Wilson indeed answer Corn’s questions about his wife — after Corn agreed not to quote his answers but to use them only on background? Read the rest of Corn’s piece and it’s difficult to believe anything else. Corn names no other sources for the information he provides — and he provides much more information than Novak revealed.

Corn also claims that Wilson “will not confirm nor deny that his wife …works for the CIA.” Corn adds: “But let’s assume she does. That would seem to mean that the Bush administration has screwed one of its own top-secret operatives in order to punish Wilson …”

On what basis could Corn “assume” that Plame was not only working covertly but was actually a “top-secret” operative? And where did Corn get the idea that Plame had been “outed” in order to punish Wilson? That is not suggested by anything in the Novak column which, as I noted, is sympathetic to Wilson and Plame.

The likely answer: The allegation that someone in the administration leaked to Novak as a way to punish Wilson was made by Wilson — to Corn. But Corn, rather than quote Wilson, puts the idea forward as his own.

Keep in mind that from early on there were two possible but contradictory scenarios:

1) Members of the Bush administration intentionally exposed a covert CIA agent as a way to take revenge against her husband who had written a critical op-ed.

2) Members of the Bush administration were attempting to set the record straight by telling reporters that it was not Vice President Cheney who sent Wilson on the Africa assignment as Wilson claimed; rather Wilson’s wife, a CIA employee, helped get him the assignment. (And that is indeed the conclusion of the bipartisan Senate Intelligence Committee.)

Corn’s article then goes on to provide specific details about Plame’s undercover work, her “dicey and difficult mission of tracking parties trying to buy or sell weapons of mass destruction or WMD material.” But how does Corn know about that? From what source could he have learned it?

Corn concludes that Plame’s career “has been destroyed by the Bush administration.” And here he does, finally, quote Wilson directly. Wilson says: “Naming her this way would have compromised every operation, every relationship, every network with which she had been associated in her entire career. This is the stuff of Kim Philby and Aldrich Ames.”

Corn has assured us several times that Wilson refused to answer questions about his wife, refused to confirm or deny that she worked for the CIA, refused to “acknowledge whether she is a deep-cover CIA employee.” But he is willing to say on the record that “naming her this way” was an act of treachery? That’s not talking about his wife? That’s not providing confirmation? There is only one way to interpret this: Wilson did indeed talk about his wife, her work as a secret agent, and other matters to Corn (and perhaps others?) on a confidential basis.

If Wilson did tell Corn that his wife was an undercover agent, did he commit a crime? I don’t claim to know. But the charge that someone committed a crime by naming Plame as a covert agent was also made by Corn, apparently for the first time, in this same article. No doubt, the independent prosecutor and the grand jury will sort it out.

Criminality aside, if Wilson revealed to Corn that Plame worked as a CIA “deep-cover” operative “tracking parties trying to buy or sell” WMDs, surely that’s news.

And it is consequential: On the basis of Novak’s story alone, it is highly unlikely that anyone would have had a clue that Plame — presumably under a different name and while living in a foreign country — had been a NOC. At most, her friends in Washington would have been surprised to learn that she didn’t work where she said she worked.

But once Corn published the fact that Plame had been a “top-secret operative,” and once he quoted Wilson saying what exposing his wife would mean — and once Plame posed for Vanity Fair photographers — anyone who had ever known her in a different context and with a different identity would have been tipped off.

But they would not have been tipped by Novak — nor, based on what we know so far, by Karl Rove. Rather, it appears they would have been tipped off by Joe Wilson who, the publicly available evidence strongly suggests, leaked like a sieve to The Nation’s David Corn.

— Clifford D. May, a former New York Times foreign correspondent, is president of the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, a policy institute focusing on terrorism.

TOPICS: Government; News/Current Events
KEYWORDS: cia; cialeak; corn; may; novak; plame; rove; wilson
Navigation: use the links below to view more comments.
first 1-2021-4041-6061-72 next last
Good analysis that the MSM is ignoring.
1 posted on 07/15/2005 5:57:37 AM PDT by Renfield
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | View Replies]

To: Renfield

After reading this, you realize how ridiculously stupid this entire thing is, and that 98% of the country doesn't give a $hit about it.

2 posted on 07/15/2005 6:01:16 AM PDT by Josh in PA
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: Renfield
Valerie Plame was an undercover agent for the CIA

What's with all this "undercover agent" crap? This woman was a pencil pusher, not an undercover agent. She wasn't in the field.

3 posted on 07/15/2005 6:02:54 AM PDT by Puppage (You may disagree with what I have to say, but I shall defend to your death my right to say it.)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: Renfield
Wilson outed his wife.

Pray for W and Our Freedom Fighters

4 posted on 07/15/2005 6:03:50 AM PDT by bray (Pray for the Freedom of the Iraqis from Islam)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: prairiebreeze

A lot of us have speculated it was Wilson himself who outted his wife. This has some interesting analysis.

And Wilson admitted yesterday to Wolf Blitzer his wife wasn't covert at the time of Novak's article.

5 posted on 07/15/2005 6:03:53 AM PDT by Peach
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: Josh in PA

I didn't have to read it to realize that. It's ispso facto.......

6 posted on 07/15/2005 6:03:55 AM PDT by Red Badger (HURRICANES: God's way of telling you it's time to clean out the freezer...............)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 2 | View Replies]

To: Renfield

Valerie Plame and her husband are political activists and most likly gave themselves away by talking to the news people.

7 posted on 07/15/2005 6:03:56 AM PDT by Judge Roy
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: Renfield

I remember the late 70s and early 80s when a former agent (a leftist) went out and published the names of hundreds of covert agents and sources. I don't remember Kerry or any of the other dim honchos calling for his head despite the enormous damage to our intel. I think the name was Philip Agee? Anybody else remember?

8 posted on 07/15/2005 6:03:56 AM PDT by darth
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: Josh in PA


9 posted on 07/15/2005 6:05:36 AM PDT by Moleman
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 2 | View Replies]

To: Puppage
Please do not sully this story with facts. It only confuses those who depend on the MSM for the truth.


10 posted on 07/15/2005 6:06:41 AM PDT by small voice in the wilderness (Quick, act casual. If they sense scorn and ridicule, they'll flee..)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 3 | View Replies]

To: Josh in PA

Precisely. The issue is why are conservatives even dignifying this with a response? They should simply tell Schmuckie to screw off and go about their business. The entire affair is simply the dems throwing something at the wall to see if anything will stick ---- yet again.

11 posted on 07/15/2005 6:07:37 AM PDT by agitator (...And that no man might buy or sell, save he that had the mark)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 2 | View Replies]

To: small voice in the wilderness

I hate when I do that!

12 posted on 07/15/2005 6:08:51 AM PDT by Puppage (You may disagree with what I have to say, but I shall defend to your death my right to say it.)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 10 | View Replies]

To: darth

Okay, I know it's a stretch, but I wonder if Plame is just the tip of the iceberg. Meaning. could she be part of a much larger group of Bush-hating CIA agents whose own culpability in failing to predict 9/11, is the reason why they HAD TO wage war on Bush? Kind of a huge coverup, so to speak of their own failures? Could it be that many Clinton holdovers/liberals in the agency are just plain guilty of sleeping on the job (note Plame's principal job was WMD research)? This is quite possibly the number one focus of the grand jury. Not so much to hang the CIA operatives, but in finding the leaker (probably JW), the grand jury might be the impetus for doing what we've wanted for years: clean up the CIA!

13 posted on 07/15/2005 6:10:21 AM PDT by Galtoid
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 8 | View Replies]

To: Peach

yeah, and last week ann coulter said many people in washington knew that valerie plame drove her bmw over to the cia to work.

some "secret" agent!

only a tv moron would believe this story--and that's what this is about.

14 posted on 07/15/2005 6:12:27 AM PDT by ken21 (it takes a village to brainwash your child + to steal your property! /s)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 5 | View Replies]

To: Renfield
"Plame is the wife of former Ambassador Joseph C. Wilson IV. Wilson is her second husband. Plame met him at a Washington party in early 1997. She was able to reveal her CIA role to him while they were dating because he held a high-level security clearance. At the time Wilson was married to, but separated from, his second wife Jacqueline, a former French diplomat. Wilson and Plame are the parents of three-year-old twins."

My question is what did Plame put down on her hospital records at the time of her children's birth?
15 posted on 07/15/2005 6:14:12 AM PDT by tobyhill (The War on Terrorism is not for the weak.)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: Renfield
This is the best analysis of the L'affaire Wilson that I have seen yet. It has a ring of truth to it. I remember reading the Corn article. Time to go back and read it again if anyone can post a link.
16 posted on 07/15/2005 6:15:18 AM PDT by InterceptPoint
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: kcvl; NathanBookman; Howlin


17 posted on 07/15/2005 6:15:38 AM PDT by Alia
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: Howlin; Mo1; ravingnutter

This is interesting...round and round we go, where it stops, no one knows..

18 posted on 07/15/2005 6:17:14 AM PDT by mystery-ak (The real Supreme Court meets up here...God)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: Renfield
I'll go one step further with this. Here the paragraph from Novak's article that pertains to Plame:

"Wilson never worked for the CIA, but his wife, Valerie Plame, is an Agency operative on weapons of mass destruction. Two senior administration officials told me Wilson's wife suggested sending him to Niger to investigate the Italian report. The CIA says its counter-proliferation officials selected Wilson and asked his wife to contact him. "I will not answer any question about my wife," Wilson told me."

According to this paragraph, two senior administration officials told Novak that it was Wilson's wife that suggested him for the trip. It doesn't say those same two officials identified her by name, that she worked at the CIA or was even an Agency operative. So where did Novak get the info that she worked at the CIA and was an operative?

19 posted on 07/15/2005 6:24:50 AM PDT by mass55th (Courage is being scared to death - but saddling up anyway~~John Wayne)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: mystery-ak

And here's another point I'd like to make on this story.
Why is there not one (one!) so-called journalist who will drive over to Langley and ask someone in charge, what Plame's status was and is. Laziness by the press is one of our nation's worst threats. And if this isn't legal, it would be very nice of the CIA to issue a public statement about this whole thing as well. Instead, this Rove Rage will have DC is a tizzy for another week. Meanwhile, Bush and Rove continue to show up for work on schedule. Ha!

20 posted on 07/15/2005 6:25:25 AM PDT by Galtoid
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 18 | View Replies]

Navigation: use the links below to view more comments.
first 1-2021-4041-6061-72 next last

Disclaimer: Opinions posted on Free Republic are those of the individual posters and do not necessarily represent the opinion of Free Republic or its management. All materials posted herein are protected by copyright law and the exemption for fair use of copyrighted works.

Free Republic
Browse · Search
Topics · Post Article

FreeRepublic, LLC, PO BOX 9771, FRESNO, CA 93794 is powered by software copyright 2000-2008 John Robinson