MS-NBC: Plame was working on Iranian nukes

Or so says MS-NBC, confirming an earlier report from Raw Story.
Will the warbloggers finally admit that the proposition “Joe Wilson is a blowhard” is not logically incompatible with the proposition “Valerie Plame Wilson was a covert operative working on intelligence vital to the national security, and revealing her connection with the CIA was damaging and unforgiveable”?

Larisa Alexandrovna reported in Raw Story last February that Valerie Plame Wilson was working on tracking Iran’s efforts to acquire nuclear weapons when her CIA connection was unmasked by Robert Novak, based on information supplied by Karl Rove and others in the Bush White House. Alexandrovna attributed that story to unnamed “current and former intelligence officials.”

Several intelligence officials described the damage in terms of how long it would take for the agency to recover. According to their own assessment, the CIA would be impaired for up to “ten years” in its capacity to adequately monitor nuclear proliferation on the level of efficiency and accuracy it had prior to the White House leak of Plame Wilson’s identity.

Obviously explosive, if true: a complete refutation of the White House/NRO/Instapundit/Clarice Feldman line that since Plame wasn’t actually doing anything important or secret, revealing her connection with the CIA did no actual damage to the national security. (That question is distinct from the question of whether she met the technical definition of a covert agent under the Intelligence Identities Protection Act.)

But was the story true? I didn’t know Alexandrovna’s work, and an unknown journalist reporting on the basis of unnamed sources isn’t exactly an ironclad guarantee of reliability.

Now comes David Shuster of MS-NBC to report substantially the same story, again attributed only to “intelligence sources.” The same sources? New sources? It’s hard to say. But Schuster’s account (video here) puts his own credibility, and that of MS-NBC, squarely on the line behind a story that makes Bush’s retention of Rove, and Rove’s retention of his security clearance, seem completely inexplicable and inexcusable.

[Transcript here.] Money graf:

Intelligence sources say Valerie Wilson was part of an operation three years ago tracking the proliferation of nuclear weapons material into Iran. And the sources allege that when Mrs. Wilson’s cover was blown, the administration’s ability to track Iran’s nuclear ambitions was damaged as well.

I guess the warbloggers had better start looking into whether Shuster’s grandmother ever contributed to a Democrat. So far &#8212 Shuster’s clip ran on Hardball just today &#8212 they’ve been eerily silent, as if the RNC fax machine was running slow. On the other hand, so far no other mainstream outlet seems to have picked it up.

Shuster also outlines a quite damning case against Rove on the false statements/perjury/obstruction front. Firedoglake has the key portion of the transcript:

Says Shuster:

Early in the case, Rove admitted to investigators that he outed Valerie Wilson’s identity to columnist Robert Novak — Novak was the first journalist to publish Wilson’s identity and the first to talk about it to investigators.

And last week, Karl Rove testified again he may have spoken about the Wilsons with Time Magazine’s Matt Cooper.

Rove said he denied that under oath for the first year of the investigation because of memory problems. A case of bad memory is Scooter Libby’s defense.

But in regards to Karl Rove, lawyers in the case say prosecutor Fitzgerald is still troubled by the timing of Rove’s rolling disclosures: it seems that Rove’s memory perks up with every new indication someone else will expose him. When Rove finally began to update his testimony in October 2004, it was just days after Cooper was first held in contempt for refusing to disclose confidential sources. And Rove did not give Cooper a clear waiver to testify until after Cooper’s appeals had been exhausted 9 months later.

Of course it’s possible that Shuster and MS-NBC would run a false or poorly sourced story implicating the President’s chief political adviser in crippling our ability to track Iranian nuclear weapons acquisition. And it’s possible that they would go on to lay out the case for perjury and obstruction charges without some good reason to believe that the prosecutor in the case was likely to file such charges. Bush is, after all, badly weakened, and the first rule of Washington life is not to kick a man who isn’t down already.

Still, given the well-earned reputation of Team Bush generally and Karl Rove specifically for taking revenge, it looks to me as if Shuster and his editors have decided both that they’re on solid journalistic ground and that Rove isn’t going to be in a position to strike back very effectively. My bets on Rove’s indictment are looking safer every day.

The bad news is that, if Alexandrovna and Shuster are right, none of this will ever be allowed to come out in open court. So the Bushite dead-enders will never be confronted with judicial proof that this administration blew the cover of a CIA officer working to keep Iran from nuking up.

Still, it will be fascinating to see how many of the politicians, journalists, and random pundits who have defended BushCo and savaged Joseph Wilson on the Plame affair will be willing to reconsider their position, at least conditionally, in light of the latest news. Most likely to finally decide that enough is enough: Tom Maguire.

If Maguire jumps, we then get to find out whether all the Red bloggers who have eagerly quoted him in Bush’s defense will be willing to quote him on the other side of the question. I’d say the odds were strongly against it.

Author: Michael O'Hare

Professor of Public Policy at the Goldman School of Public Policy, University of California, Berkeley, Michael O'Hare was raised in New York City and trained at Harvard as an architect and structural engineer. Diverted from an honest career designing buildings by the offer of a job in which he could think about anything he wanted to and spend his time with very smart and curious young people, he fell among economists and such like, and continues to benefit from their generosity with on-the-job social science training. He has followed the process and principles of design into "nonphysical environments" such as production processes in organizations, regulation, and information management and published a variety of research in environmental policy, government policy towards the arts, and management, with special interests in energy, facility siting, information and perceptions in public choice and work environments, and policy design. His current research is focused on transportation biofuels and their effects on global land use, food security, and international trade; regulatory policy in the face of scientific uncertainty; and, after a three-decade hiatus, on NIMBY conflicts afflicting high speed rail right-of-way and nuclear waste disposal sites. He is also a regular writer on pedagogy, especially teaching in professional education, and co-edited the "Curriculum and Case Notes" section of the Journal of Policy Analysis and Management. Between faculty appointments at the MIT Department of Urban Studies and Planning and the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard, he was director of policy analysis at the Massachusetts Executive Office of Environmental Affairs. He has had visiting appointments at Università Bocconi in Milan and the National University of Singapore and teaches regularly in the Goldman School's executive (mid-career) programs. At GSPP, O'Hare has taught a studio course in Program and Policy Design, Arts and Cultural Policy, Public Management, the pedagogy course for graduate student instructors, Quantitative Methods, Environmental Policy, and the introduction to public policy for its undergraduate minor, which he supervises. Generally, he considers himself the school's resident expert in any subject in which there is no such thing as real expertise (a recent project concerned the governance and design of California county fairs), but is secure in the distinction of being the only faculty member with a metal lathe in his basement and a 4×5 Ebony view camera. At the moment, he would rather be making something with his hands than writing this blurb.

13 thoughts on “MS-NBC: Plame was working on Iranian nukes”

  1. So you consider Chris Matthews and David Shuster to be real journalists carrying the full weight of MSNBC News? How about that. Does this mean the boycott of Matthews for being a Bush lap-dog is over?
    Anyway, I am giving this story about as much thought as I give Chris Matthews other rantings, which is to say, roughly zero. I have little doubt that somewhere in the intel community there is someone willing to repeat the story told to Raw Story's Alexandrovna Dostoevsky, but that does not make it true.
    And against David Shuster we have Bob Woodward and Andrea Mitchell.
    That said, I am gloomily expecting a Rove indictment (call it a 70% chance, but who knows?).
    Obviously, the indictment will tell an interesting story – from what we have so far it does not look like a strong case, but time will tell.
    Oh, in your post you say that "her CIA connection was unmasked by Robert Novak, based on information supplied by Karl Rove and others in the Bush White House."
    "Bush Administration" would be safer – there is a good chance that Richard Armitage, then Deputy Sec'y of State, was Novak's first source.

  2. Good grief… didn't anybody read Joe Wilson's book? (The Politics of Truth: A Diplomat's Memoir: Inside the Lies that Led to War and Betrayed My Wife's CIA Identity by Joseph Wilson (Paperback – April 10, 2005) The hardcover was out in April 2004. It was there to read. It's not too late to catch up. He isn't a blowhard, in my opinion. He was a commited foreign service officer who deeply (and appropriately) resented short timers who thought they knew more than he did after years of studying Middle Eastern, African and European cultures and languages. Certainly he had more experience and diplomatic savvy than Bush and his cronies. As 25 year Texas resident, I can tell you that most of the natives think Massachusetts is a foreign country, let alone Dubai, Niger or… France.

  3. Hmmm. Maguire would seem to be risking an awful lot. He's swallowed quite a bit up to this point and I'm not sure precisely what the reason this bit wouldn't be swallowed with equal ease. My pappy said to never underestimate the ability of our species for self delusion and rationalization of data which doesn't fit our preconceptions. Especially when precious links and hits are on the line.
    Still, it would be pretty interesting to see the fault lines reveal themselves so clearly. But I'm pretty sure we can already see their outlines with a high degree of certainty.

  4. Am I missing some special trick, or are my comments not being accepted for some reason?
    I have posted my thoughts on Shuster's dubious credibility.
    I also question this from the post – "her CIA connection was unmasked by Robert Novak, based on information supplied by Karl Rove and others in the Bush White House".
    A safer formulation would be "Bush Administration". There is a good chance that Richard Armitage, then-Deputy Secretary of State, was Novak's initial source, as well as Woodward's.
    Let's see if this takes.

  5. Apologies to Tom Maguire. A hyperactive spam filter caught his original comment, which I've now restored to its rightful place at the top of the queue. I'm also leaving up his second comment. Neither one convinces me that Shuster and Alexandrovna both decided to invent out of whole cloth multiple intelligence-community sources agreeing on the claim that Valerie Plame Wilson was working covertly on the Iranian WMD account when Novak's column put her out of business. Let's hope the journalistic heavy hitters who worked on the Plame story early on &#8212 Mike Allen, Walter Pincus, Timothy Phelps, Douglas Jehl, Mike Isikoff &#8212 will rattle the cages of their intelligence-community sources until someone known to them to be trustworthy says "yes" or "no."

  6. According to Tom we should believe the reporters who tried to cover up the leak in the first place. Yeah, they are the believable ones.

  7. So Andrea Mitchell – the person who "misspoke" about her assertion that she new Plame's ID, the one who said "The fact is that I did not know [Plame's identity] before the Novak column", she's somehow an unimpeachable source? And Woodward, the gentleman who's apparently hanging from a very thin thread at the Post because he didn't bother to tell his editors about his own involvement in the stinky mess, the guy who has been hiding his own information and involvement is again the more believable. Oky doky.
    Still, Tom had precisely the reaction to this that I expected he would have to this.

  8. On the surface, the idea that Armitage is the source seems implausible to me. He and the Cheney gang were not exactly close friends. Why would he leak Plame's identity for their benefit, and why would Libby take such steps to try to cover up for him?
    And — to ask another question that's been burning a hole in my pocket for some time — if, as the Senate Intelligence Committtee report insists, the CIA knew that Wilson's account of his Niger findings to them differed radically from what he said in his NYT column, then why didn't the White House simply discredit him by revealing that fact, rather than by taking the irrelevant and legally dangerous step of trying to do so by leaking Plame's identity?

  9. Going after any whistleblower as hard as possible ("..we will fuck him like he has never been fucked!") is both characteristic Rove and classic deterrent tactics.

  10. Why won't this come out in court? Plame has been outed and is no longer under NOC. There's no secret that needs to be hidden.

  11. Is it worthwhile going over to Tom's page, Mark? I gave up months ago, which was a year or so after it was clear that Tom was never going to accept reality on this matter.

  12. Shuster's credibility is on a par with Wilson's. Byron York reports in NRO today that at Friday's hearing Fitzgerald stated that he was not standinf by Wilson's credibility. That may be his only truly smart move in this ridiculous case.

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