The Plame-Wilson affair and the White House: What is happening?

"Wilsongate", as it is being dubbed by some wags, is getting a lot of attention around blog-o-land. Check out posts at The Agonist, The Agora, Eschaton, TPM, and Billmon for links to articles and discussion.

For what it's worth (not much), here is what I think about the whole deal:

1) One of Novak's two sources - who had shopped around the story to other journalists as well - is "Dr. Rice", as I suggested Saturday. I can't offer a similar suggestion about who the other "senior administration official" could be, but if I had to speculate (which is clearly what I am doing), I would say it was Rove or Cheney. I don't think that the Wonder Twins, Fleischer and McClellan, are involved, as some have suggested.

2) Billmon thinks the "senior administration official" for the WaPo article is Tenet. I'm not so sure. Tenet was behind the CIA request for the Justice Department to investigate the issue, as the WaPo article from Sunday makes clear. But the description of the source, identified as "a senior administration official" and a "Bush administration official", makes me wonder if it isn't someone appointed by Bush (and not Tenet, who was appointed by Clinton). Still, it's not impossible: since Tenet has basically turned on the Bushies, who prize Leninist-style orthodoxy and loyalty above all else, it isn't inconceivable that he is going all out against them. And it is even harder to imagine that there are two rogue elephants from the Bush administration at work - unless the pressure from Iraq has really started to get to them and people are more concerned with saving their hides than anything else.

3) Is it possible that the WaPo's "senior administration official" is one of Novak's two leakers? The source apparently knew the identity of the other journalists who were contacted by Novak's leakers. This means either that one of the original leakers is the WaPo source or that this whole episode was known by more than a few people in the administration.

4) Do Powell and the people at the Pentagon (Rumsfeld, Wolfie et al.) figure into this? I haven't seen any mention of them so far.

5) I don't think that Ashcroft has any choice but to have the DoJ pursue this fully. And unless he recuses himself from the investigation, this will not be possible. If it is not followed up in a serious manner, then this will become a scandal of major proportions and will bring down many more administration officials than it has the potential to do at the moment.

6) How does Bush figure into all of this? The WaPo article said there is "no indication that Bush knew about the calls". If this is true, then the fact that we have a sitting president oblivious to members of his administration engaging in criminal behavior injurious to national security is beyond troubling. It would be the clearest indication to date that we have a total patsy as president. This wouldn't surprise me, but I think that "W" does figure in somewhere. He has to come clean at some point. If a crime has been committed - and apparently it has been - and if people know details about it - and clearly Bush should at this point - then they are obligated to divulge these details to the proper law enforcement agency. Otherwise, they can be charged with being an accessory to the crime.

7) More on Novak and his journalistic ethics: It was an incredibly poor decision on Novak's part to publish Plame's name and blow her cover. It added nothing to the Nigergate story, and there wasn't an overriding public interest for her name to be released. While he apparently did not break any laws, Novak failed many of the standards of Society of Professional Journalists' Code of Ethics by publishing his article: clearly he did not "question sources' motives before promising anonymity", nor did he "show compassion for those who may be affected adversely by news coverage", among other failures. A reporter's pledge to keep sources' confidentiality, while one of the bedrocks of journalism, is not absolute. Novak should consider revealing his source in this instance.

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