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 — Shuster’s clip ran on Hardball just today — 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:
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.