Looking-Glass Wars

Brad DeLong links to a long, troubling essay by Billmon expading on the theme that the Plame affair represents an all-out assault on the White House by the CIA. I don’t find it fully convincing, because I would have expected the CIA to have been able to penetrate the media wall of silence that kept this issue cloaked for eleven weeks, much to the advantage of Team Bush. For example, if you were the current DCI and wanted to wage war on 1600 PA., woudn’t you call, say, Stansfield Turner and suggest that he go public with a blast of outrage based on the original David Corn story? That would have forced the affair into the newspapers, and given the Bush crew a much harder damage-control problem.

So it seems more plausible to me that Tenet was reacting to outrage being felt at the career level within his agency than that he was (is) attempting a palace coup against Karl Rove.

What’s scary to me is that it isn’t quite inconceivable that this administration might have scared the intelligence community to the point where the folks there would be willing to try to do to Bush what British intelligence apparently did to Harold Wilson. (Update Major Barbara at OSP has a convincing meditiation on the wounds inflicted on George Tenet.] I keep thinking of Richard Neustadt’s comment about Nixon at the height of his power: “He has no sense of limits.”

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact: Markarkleiman-at-gmail.com