Wilson/Plame and the White House: Who did it?

Here is a roundup of some of the recent developments in the case, commentary, and more Clue-like suspicions into the identities of the major players:

1) AP reports that the DoJ has ordered a full probe into the leaking of Plame's name. It's unclear whether this means that the DoJ will handle this on its own or not. If so, that's bad news for anyone who wants a real investigation.

2) According to the Times, the FBI will lead an investigation into the Wilson-Plame-White House case.

3) Some people are questioning the actual harm done by revealing Plame's name and identity. They wonder if she was an "operative" or just an "analyst". The CIA apparently thinks it is a very big deal:
Three weeks ago, intelligence officials said, the CIA returned to the Justice Department a standard 11-question form detailing the potential damage done by the release of the information. Officials said it may have been the first such report ever filed on the unauthorized disclosure of an operative's name.
According to an AP report, "... the CIA complaint two months ago that one of its agent's identities had been disclosed is only one of about 50 the Justice Department receives each year from the spy agency about leaks of classified information".

4) Andrea Mitchell was not one of the original 6 journalists contacted by the White House. NBC reported yesterday that Mitchell was contacted or held discussions about the issue after Novak's column appeared. What this does indicate, though, is that the responsible parties in the White House were interested in smearing Wilson as widely as possible. It would also indicate that the White House was not satisfied with Novak's column.

5) The WaPo article of 28 September stated that the whistle-blower would not name the original leakers for the record. In my opinion, this means that any administration names getting what appears to be prominent mention in WaPo stories - as Scooter Libby did in today's WaPo article - are less likely to be the original leakers. The WaPo will not do anything to appear as if it had divulged the identities of the original leakers in violation of its agreement with the whistle-blower. But the WaPo nevertheless knows the leakers' identities. So watch the WaPo for any inexplicable absences of names that might usually have appeared - these will be the leakers.

6) There is a discrepancy in Novak's original column that is not getting any attention: there are two different versions of who selected Wilson for his mission.
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.
So was the selection of Wilson done by his wife, as Novak reports the administration officials as suggesting, or by the CIA's counter-proliferation officials, as Novak reports his CIA sources as suggesting? This is important in light of the various motives the White House had for attacking Wislon and Plame.

7) Connecting Wilsongate to the larger world: Bush's present difficulties (including the House Intelligence Committee's findings and the DIA's assessment that pre-war intelligence from Iraqi defectors was useless) will make it much harder to get support from foreign countries for Iraq. No one wants to jump on a sinking ship.

8) Novak's statements yesterday were all smokescreens and red herrings. He is simply backtracking on his previous claims.

9) If anything, Andrew Sullivan and Glenn Reynolds are slower than left/liberal bloggers accuse them of being. Especially Sullivan - his graspings, logical errors and general denseness will leave you rolling in front of your computer in laughter.

Now for a little speculation:

1) The WaPo's whistle-blower, according to its article from 28 September, knew the identities of the original leakers and possibly the 6 journalists to whom the original two "senior White House officials" had shopped the Plame story before Novak published his article. This indicates that either a) the whistle-blower was one of the two original leakers, or b) that this was an "open secret" in the White House, and possibly in the administration at large, and was known in pretty good detail even to those who did not leak Plame's identity.

One problem with assuming that the whistle-blower was one of the two original leakers is that the other leaker would know exactly who it is and would have certainly ratted him/her out by this point. We would have already seen a departure from the administration. This assumes, of course, that the whole affair was completely an inside job and was kept secret.

2) Many people have speculated that Tenet was the WaPo's whistle-blower. While this is probable, there are some questions raised by assuming it was the CIA chief. In my opinion, the biggest one is how he would have known the identities of the leakers. Did one of the two original leakers, or someone associated with them, tell him? That doesn't seem possible at all, if we assume that this smear was an inside "senior administration" job, as Novak indicated that it was. Or did he find out some other way?

It also worth noting here that while the WaPo whistle-blower would name, albeit off the record, the names of the original leakers, he/she would not name the names of the 6 journalists at all. This might be because a) he/she didn't know them or b) another reason (e.g., the whistle-blower was simply trying to get the attention of, and not necessarily bring down, the administration). Would any of these scenarios make Tenet more or less likely as the candidate?

3) Some people have speculated that a lower-ranking administration will take a fall for the actual perpetrators/masterminds of this affair. This might work if Wilsongate blows over and if an actual investigation never happens. But if a real, independent investigator comes in, this won't be possible. Only a few people in the Bush administration would have been in a position to receive Plame's name and position. No one in a lower-ranking administration position would have access to this information. If lower-ranking people (e.g., Libby or Bartlett) "take one for the team", it will be clear that they must have had one or more minders or handlers higher up who were giving them orders and information. During a real investigation, the identity of this person will come out - unless we have a true fanatic who is willing to go to jail for the crime of unlawfully revealing a CIA agent and possibly contempt rather than ratting on Bush administration members.

In any event, in view of the fact that knowledge of Plame's name and identity would have required a reasonably high level of security clearance, it is clear that the upper echelon of the Bush administration is involved. Since Bush himself has known since late July, at the latest, there was a good possibility that at least two of his administration members had engaged in criminal activity, and since he did nothing at all to investigate the issue, Bush is, at a minimum, an acessory after the fact for hiding criminal suspects (this, of course, assumes that Rice and Card - his news commissars - even bothered telling him about the whole issue). We are quite possibly in the realm of criminal conspiracy at this point.

4) MaxSpeak has started a "dead pool" on which Bush administration official will be the first to take a fall. Go and join in.

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