On Friday Valerie Plame Wilson testified before a House investigative committee about her CIA work and how her husband came to be sent on a fact-finding mission to Niger. She asserted that she and her colleagues considered themselves covert, that she did indeed spend time abroad on assignment, and that her work could not accurately be described as a “desk job” as some have claimed.
Neither, she said, did she have the authority or the desire to send her husband to Niger but was asked by a superior to see if he would be willing to take on the task. Wilson was known to have had experience in Africa which she could verify without it being the case that she in fact proposed him for the trip. Much has been made of this particular facet of the whole matter with seemingly little relevance.
If the White House wanted to dispute Wilson’s analysis, if they still wanted to promote their own view of things even in light of what the CIA had determined were the forged documents that formed the basis of the yellow cake claims, they could certainly have made their case publicly; however they chose the sleazy way, the campaign-trail mode of attack that avoided real issues, sneaking innuendoes in through the back door.
That twisted way of dealing with perceived ‘enemies’ should have aroused more suspicion than it did at the time. When the strength of one’s argument is based not on questioning the efficacy of another’s conclusions but rather directed at matters quite beside the point it is a sign of a decidedly weak argument. Whatever mistakes were made by the CIA with respect to Iraq, the establishment of a secondary ‘intelligence’ resource with inexperienced ideologues operating in tandem with the vice president’s office was not a recipe for success and in fact relied on profoundly inaccurate reports from contacts who proved to be either totally unreliable or agenda-driven.
“Curveball” and exiled Iraqi administration darling, Chaliby, should have had a more conscientious vetting than was conducted, as became clear with the passage of time. But the White House was pleased when information jibed with its preconceived notions. CIA misgivings about some of these people were disregarded as was its warning that the yellow cake material should not be included in the president’s state-of-the-union speech. It was amateur time at the White House – – the rest of us and particularly our military have suffered the consequences.
Republican apologists have maintained it was appropriate for the White House to skulk around and try to undercut Joe Wilson’s credentials by outing his wife. But the facts are either the facts or they are not. There was absolutely no need to pursue the Plame connection except to muddy the waters of a false premise the White House was working hard to maintain. When people say that Congress saw the same intelligence the president did that certainly is not the case. When questionable material is presented as established intelligence that is a deception if not absolutely a lie. Forged documents do not form the basis of a solid case. Was Congress advised there were questions about those documents – – it seems not. Has anyone ever established who forged the documents and why – – not as far as we know.
Victoria Toensing, an always available Republican apologist testified before the committee on the issue of whether Ms. Plame was actually covert. Having written the statute, Toensing said when CIA operatives call themselves covert, or consider their status classified they were simply confused and unfamiliar with the law. Plame’s colleagues feel somewhat differently about Toensing’s opinions. On the other hand, Sean Hannity on his show pronounced her testimony brilliant. In addition to the statute defining “covert” Ms. Toensing wrote the FISA law, a subject of controversy at times. It may be that at some point Toensing will be called upon to define and explain the Declaration of Independence should that ever become an issue.
The point is who cares? Administration politics were obvious. It should also have been obvious that making Plame’s status public was probably not a good or patriotic thing to do regardless of any technical definitions. It was the triumph of politics over national security and public service.The right can argue the case forever, but in the end it will remain clear there was no real reason for her job ever to become an issue other than to undermine and punish Joe Wilson. Ms. Plame said she understood she would be at risk if the true nature of her work were revealed, she just never imagined her own government would be the one to blow her cover.
Mark Twain said there are lies, damned lies and statistics – – add to the list intentional deceptions, cover-ups and propaganda. Statistics are often misleading; as a society we are constantly bombarded with them. We are also assailed with false and misleading statements emanating from The White House. It is distressing that this administration is so comfortable manipulating the public with its flawed agenda, that they have been less than honest about the reasons for going to war and that they show so little respect for those, who like Ms. Plame, were employed, honorably, in service to our country.

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