Dateline: 13 September 2006
We can now, almost, put one of the most convoluted and irrelevant ‘scandals’ of recent years to bed. We now know who ‘outed’ Valerie Plame. Unfortunately, we have also learned things which put special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald in an even more unfavorable light.
What we now know:
1. British intelligence had two separate sources (one via the French) showing that Saddam Hussein tried to buy yellowcake uranium in Niger.
2. The CIA saw the British but not the French source and found it credible, but did not regard it as confirmed because they did not have a second source (but knew that the Brits did).
3. President Bush made a reference to this in a speech. This was procedurally wrong (for which he apologized) because the CIA did not regard the story as confirmed. Nonetheless, he referred specifically to British sources, so everything he said was demonstrably true.
4. Valerie Plame arranged for her husband, Joe Wilson, to be sent to Niger to investigate.
5. Wilson found no additional evidence.
6. Wilson began a media campaign claiming he had ‘disproved’ the story. This was a flat lie. It was different to the conclusions of his report to the CIA and he had not even seen, let alone debunked, the French evidence.
7. It emerged that he had got the Niger gig through his wife’s nepotism.
8. Wilson began a media campaign in which he claimed that his wife had not got him the job (a flat lie), and that she was a covert agent at the time her name was leaked (it is possibly true that this was her technical designation).
9. He accused Karl Rove of leaking her name for political reasons (pure invention, though it is possible Wilson believed it at the time) and that this was a breach of the Intelligence Identities Protection Act (IIPA). Since she would have to have served abroad in the preceding five years, and it appears that she had not, he must have realized this was untrue.
10. Patrick Fitzgerald was appointed to investigate breaches of the IIPA. He should have been able to establish in a few hours that no such breach had occurred.
11. Fitzgerald continued his investigation for months. During the investigation I Lewis (Scooter) Libby said some things which Fitzgerald alleges were contradictory.
12. Libby was indicted for perjury. Though this is a serious offence, it should be noted that, even if he is guilty, it is an offence that took place only because there was an investigation. Since Fitzgerald should not have been pursuing the investigation this is little more than entrapment.
13. Plame resigned from the CIA.
14. Wilson made a fortune from his book.
15. Wilson and Plame announced their intention to sue Libby, Rove and Vice-President Dick Cheney for ‘damages’. The damages, presumably, being the vast fortune they have made from Wilson’s book.
16. It emerged that none of the above was responsible for ‘outing’ Plame in the first place. Richard Armitage was, and did so not realizing she had covert status (if indeed she did). It seems that Fitzgerald learned this very early on, and that there was nothing illegal in it, but focussed his investigation on others, knowing they were innocent of putting Plame’s name into the public domain.
17. Armitage has apologized, but Wilson, Plame and Fitzgerald have not.
Quentin Langley is editor of http://www.quentinlangley.net an academic at the University of Cardiff and is a columnist with Campaigns & Elections. This article was first published in the Common Sense series for Lake Champlain Weekly.