Two more points

by Ted on September 30, 2003

Two quick hits:

1. Greg Greene makes a strong argument that the independent counsel statute was a bad law, and we shouldn’t be pining for it. I’m pretty sure that I agree; the general de-armament of US politics is good for all sides in the long term, and the independent counsel sure looked like bad government a few short years ago.

2. Tim Dunlop helps clear up the confusing question, “who thought (Wilson) could be trusted with the Niger mission to begin with.” (Answer: the office of the Vice President).

I’m starting to get very angry about attacks on Joseph Wilson. Even if he’s wrong about everything, it doesn’t justify going after his wife, and it certainly isn’t relevant to the criminal inquiry about the release of classified information.

But if this is how the game is played, it’s worth drawing a little attention to this:

(Wilson) had been a State Department officer (in Niger) in the mid-1970s. He was ambassador to Gabon in the early 1990s. And in 1997 and 1998, he was the senior director for Africa at the National Security Council and in that capacity spent a lot of time dealing with the Niger government. Wilson was also the last acting US ambassador in Iraq before the Gulf War, a military action he supported. In that post, he helped evacuate thousands of foreigners from Kuwait, worked to get over 120 American hostages out Iraq, and sheltered about 800 Americans in the embassy compound. At the time, Novak’s then-partner, Rowland Evans, wrote that Wilson displayed “the stuff of heroism.” And President George H. W. Bush commended Wilson: “Your courageous leadership during this period of great danger for American interests and American citizens has my admiration and respect. I salute, too, your skillful conduct of our tense dealings with the government of Iraq….The courage and tenacity you have exhibited throughout this ordeal prove that you are the right person for the job.”

UPDATE: Glenn Reynolds just put up:

THE REAL WILSON SCANDAL: Forget Valerie Plame, the big scandal is why anyone in the Bush Administration would ever have tasked a guy with Wilson’s views with an important mission.

Um, no. The big scandal is that someone leaked the identity of an undercover CIA employee, the CIA has asked for an investigation, and a senior administration official says that the source of the leak was two senior administration officials. Bob Novak, who published the leak, has confirmed that.

We’re talking about a criminal investigation of felony charges. There’s no doubt that there was a leak (again, Novak got Valerie Plame’s identity from somewhere). The only question is who did it. And we’re supposed to forget about it?

I hope that this is a joke.



Chun the Unavoidable 09.30.03 at 6:59 pm

I think it’s pretty clear at this point that Wilson should be the democratic candidate with either Dean, Clark, or his wife as his running mate.


scott h. 09.30.03 at 8:25 pm

Personally, I’m getting sick of the “You could find out Valerie Plame was married to Wilson with google, so ipso facto she’s a spy.” (I think of it as the Rumplestiltskin argument.) Jon H. in this thread says it best: “Barbara Bush is married to a guy who is not only a former Ambassador, but is also former head of the CIA. And that doesn’t automatically make Babs a spook, does it?”


PG 09.30.03 at 9:11 pm

The only thing to do now is call for a solid investigation. Everything else is fruitless speculation; too much smoke and not enough fire.

A dogged insistence that we see seomeone take responsibility for any crime that was committed will serve all of us better than a lot of hopeful dancing around at the possibility that Rove will be out.
They took Lott out of the majority leader position, but he’s still got plenty of power. I doubt that Rove will go gently into that obscure night.


Reg 09.30.03 at 9:58 pm

“it doesn’t justify going after his wife”

What evidence is there that the purpose of the leak was to “go after” his wife? Maybe it was a charge of nepotism, or an explanation of why this partisan hack was sent on this important mission. I think the only evidence that it was revenge is Wilsons statements, which haven’t proved to be very reliable so far.


epist 09.30.03 at 10:24 pm

“. . .or an explanation of why this partisan hack was sent on this important mission.”

22 years in the foreign service, including 4 DCM and 2 Amb spots. Personally commended by Bush pere for his work in helping to evacuate thousands of people from Iraq before the Gulf War in 91, where he was DCM. Was point man for the NSA on Africa.

I can only hope to one day be such a partisan hack.


Kristjan Wager 09.30.03 at 10:25 pm

Who cares what the purpose fo the leak was. It happened. It is a felony. The people responsible should be found and punished.

It really is that simple.


Ted Barlow 09.30.03 at 10:29 pm

I can’t speak with certainty about what the purpose of the leak was. I can say with 100% certainty that the effect of the leak was to harm his wife.

The whole world now knows that she was a CIA operative. At best, her career is over. At worst, her safety is compromised. And this is ignoring any harm that might or might not come to her connections and our national security. You don’t need to look at any of Wilson’s statements to realize that.


Zizka 10.01.03 at 2:34 am

You guys have just been blessed with Reg. His comment was characteristic of his contributions at Matt Yglesias. He has enormous stamina and throws up lots and lots of stuff. He can’t be defeated in argument because there’s no referee here and no scorekeeper either, and Reg has no shame. You will get to know him very, very well.


Nabakov 10.01.03 at 2:42 am

”. . .or an explanation of why this partisan hack was sent on this important mission.”

If this is true, it certainly fits with the Bush Adminstration’ standard operating procedures.


Keith M Ellis 10.01.03 at 10:26 am

I don’t think it’s accurate to assert that the office of the VP specifically picked Wilson for this job. In his interview with _TPM_, Wilson says that he thinks that someone from the VP’s office contacted the CIA about this question, and then the CIA brought him in. He pretty much confirms the likliehood that Cheney’s assertion is true (that he had no idea of Wilson’s involvement), including that the final report seen by the VP’s office would likely not have included his name.

Based upon Wilson’s own words, I really don’t think the WH had anything to do with his selection for the task and, indeed, likely didn’t think about or much care that someone was going to be sent to Niger to investigate. Wilson says that the way these things work is that someone asks an intelligence staffer a question they don’t have the answer to, and the staffer then sets in motion a process such that an answer is generated.

I really think everyone should read Josh Marshall’s interview with Wilson. It sheds some light on this, and also on whether or not Wilson merely “sipped tea with some government ministers” in Niger (he did much more than that).


raj 10.01.03 at 12:46 pm

Regarding (i), the problem with the special prosecutor statute was that it set a ridiculously low, and in any case vague, standard under which the AttyGen was required to name a special prosecutor. Special prosecutors had been named before without regard to a special prosecutor statute–the special prosecutor who had been named to investigate the Nixon administration in regards Watergate is the most famous.

Regarding (ii), it’s interesting that the spin now seems to be that Wilson’s bias affected his conclusion that the Niger documents were forgeries. His mission was, of course, to determine whether the alleged Niger documents were authentic. And, of course, the spinners do not provide any evidence that his conclusions were incorrect. In other words, spinners, either put up evidence that the alleged Niger documents were authentic, or shut up.

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