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Last night on CBS, the respected news program 60 Minutes aired an interview with "outed" CIA analyst Valerie Plame and her husband, former ambassador Joe Wilson. Plame and Wilson allege the Bush administration revealed her status as a covert CIA operative as punishment for Joe Wilson's New York Times op-ed, which claimed the Bush administration lied about Saddam Hussein attempting to purchase yellowcake uranium from Africa.
Given the seriousness, sensitivity, and political ramifications of this issue, CBS assigned it's premier political expert and in-depth hard-hitting heavyweight investigative journalist to the story - Katie Couric (???). They would have used Andy Rooney, but he was busy with an important segment about umbrellas for this week's show (this is not a joke).
The first relevant issue 60 Minutes left out of the Plame-Wilson saga (and they left out a whole bunch) was whether or not Joe Wilson was correct in his allegation that Bush lied about Saddam's attempt to buy uranium in Africa. The 16 words spoken by Bush in his State Of The Union speech were these:
"The British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa."
It was true that the CIA was unsure about whether Saddam had attempted to buy uranium from Africa, specifically Niger, and CIA director George Tenet (a Clinton appointee, not a Bushie) accepted blame for not reviewing and removing the 16 words from the SOTU. However, the 16 words didn't say anything about CIA intelligence. The 16 words claimed it was BRITISH intelligence that made the find, so what do the British have to say about it ? Here are some of the conclusions, from FactCheck.org:
- A British intelligence review (the Butler Report) released July 14 calls Bush’s 16 words “well founded.”
- A separate report by the US Senate Intelligence Committee said July 7 that the US also had similar information from “a number of intelligence reports,” a fact that was classified at the time Bush spoke.
- Ironically, former Ambassador Joseph Wilson, who later called Bush’s 16 words a “lie”, supplied information that the Central Intelligence Agency took as confirmation that Iraq may indeed have been seeking uranium from Niger.
- Both the US and British investigations make clear that some forged Italian documents, exposed as fakes soon after Bush spoke, were not the basis for the British intelligence Bush cited, or the CIA's conclusion that Iraq was trying to get uranium.
So, those forged documents that Wilson claimed made a liar out of Bush had nothing to do with the British intel, which the British and our own Congress called well-founded, and the information Wilson supplied to the CIA about his trip to Niger actually SUPPORTED rather than disproved the notion that Saddam attempted to buy uranium from Niger. In spite of all this readily available information, 60 Minutes left the impression that the forged documents disproved Bush's 16 words, when in reality they had nothing to do with them. 60 Minutes knowingly misled the public to make Bush look like a liar about this, just like Joe Wilson did back in his dishonest 2003 NY Times op-ed. Either that, or 60 Minutes has collective amnesia. It was Joe Wilson's own lies about what he found on his Niger trip that initially fueled this controversy, and eventually led to his wife's "outing".
This leads me to the second glaring omission from the 60 Minutes Plame story. 60 Minutes acted like there were four leakers of Plame's identity: Richard Armitage, Karl Rove, Scooter Libby, and Dick Cheney. But only one of those four was the ORIGINAL LEAKER. In Plame's own words, which she used to excuse her high profile public behavior in the aftermath of Bob Novak's column exposing her identity, once her identity was leaked, "the damage had already been done." Indeed, and the original leaker in the Plame case was RICHARD ARMITAGE, a State department official who opposed the Iraq war. Armitage was the primary source for Bob Novak's article, and also leaked Plame's name to Bob Woodward in June 2003. Woodward described Armitage as "a government official with no axe to grind", and special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald, who investigated the Plame "outing" for 2 years, concluded Armitage committed no crime in revealing Plame's identity, because he did not know she was a covert CIA operative. Once Plame was outed she was outed, and Armitage was the outer. The rest of it was back and forth conversation between reporters and White House officials. Bob Novak has testified that he mentioned Plame to Karl Rove first, not the other way around. Somehow, 60 Minutes forgot to mention all that too, and instead created the impression that the Bushies were "out to get" Plame, when there is ample evidence to the contrary. Nobody in the Bush administration was ever charged with criminally leaking Plame's identity. Scooter Libby was charged and convicted for making false statements to the FBI during the investigation. There was a difference between Libby's recollection and reporters recollection of who spoke Plame's name to whom first. Valerie Plame claimed Bush was not a man of his word because Bush didn't fire anyone for the leak (Bush promised to fire anyone who leaked classified information), but Libby did resign when he was charged, and nobody else was charged, so who was Bush supposed to fire ? Was he supposed to fire people who Patrick Fitzgerald found no reason to prosecute ?
Another thing that always amazed me about the Plame story is this - Bob Novak (the reporter who actually disclosed Plame's identity in his newspaper column, who 60 Minutes referred to as "a conservative columnist" in their report) called CIA headquarters at Langley, Va to confirm Valerie Plame's employment after Armitage told him she worked there, and the CIA CONFIRMED HER EMPLOYMENT !!! Now, I'm no expert on secret agents, spying, moles, or covert operations, but is it standard practice to OPENLY CONFIRM THE EMPLOYMENT OF COVERT OPERATIVES OVER THE TELEPHONE, TO A REPORTER NO LESS ??? I mean, c'mon folks. The CIA wasn't THAT concerned about her cover.
Next, CBS' Katie Couric had Valerie Plame show all the redacted (blacked out) pages from her book, Fair Game (which, btw, is published by Simon and Schuster, who is owned by...drumroll, please...CBS). The redaction was designed to show the frustration Mrs. Plame has faced in getting her side of the story out to the public, though 60 Minutes sure didn't tell any other side of the story than Plame's. The heavy redaction of Mrs. Plame's book was done by her former employer, the CIA. Now, I ask you, WHY DOES THE CIA BLACK OUT PORTIONS OF MANUSCRIPTS ???? It's to protect national security, to protect CLASSIFIED INFORMATION. So, I must ask this. Why would Valerie Plame attempt to reveal so much classified information in her book (10% of her book was redacted), when Plame is SO VERY CONCERNED WITH KEEPING COVERT OPS A SECRET, when Plame knows how very dangerous it is to reveal that information ???????????????????????????????????????????????????
Finally, you'd think 60 Minutes might have mentioned the fact that Plame's lawsuit against Bush administration officials was dismissed five days before 60 Minutes aired their Plame story, but no, I guess that wasn't relevant either.
CBS might as well give Dan Rather his job back. Nothing much has changed over there.
And did I mention that Joseph Wilson became a John Kerry campaign advisor in May 2003, two months BEFORE he started this whole mess by falsely calling Bush a liar in the op-ed pages of the NY Times ?????? CBS didn't think that was newsworthy either, even though Valerie Plame falsely claimed during her 60 Minutes interview that she and hubby became partisans only in reaction to and FOLLOWING her outing by the mean old Bush administration, as follows:
"What about those who think you and Joe have become too partisan?" Couric asks.
"Again, that's how it's how the 'right' has chosen to frame us," Plame Wilson says.
"You have become very partisan though. Would you agree with that?" Couric asks.
"After what we've been through and how I've seen this administration react, not
just on this issue, but on others, yes," Plame Wilson says.
The truth is, the Wilson's were partisan before any of this even started, and partisanship was a large part of the reason it DID start. In spite of what Plame says now, it was the prewar conclusion of the CIA and CIA director Tenet that Saddam DID have wmd and was pursuing nuclear weapons. That's what it said in the National Intelligence Estimate the CIA forwarded to Congress before the congressional vote on the Authorization For The Use Of Military Force In Iraq. In fact, Tenet referred to the certainty of Saddam's wmd as "a slam dunk" to Bush.
My last question is this - If Plame and Wilson were such patriots who were only interested in setting the record straight, why did Joe Wilson wait until FOUR MONTHS AFTER THE WAR STARTED TO WRITE HIS NY TIMES PIECE CALLING BUSH A LIAR ? Why didn't he do his duty as any american would do to prevent his country from making such a huge mistake and air his warning BEFORE THE WAR, when it could have done some good (in a way other than attempting to affect the next presidential election, that is) ???? You don't have to answer this question. I'm pretty sure I already know.