The plot coagulates


Now we learn — according to Hosenball and Isikoff — that John Hannah of Cheney’s staff, whose fingerprints seem to have been found on the (figurative) knife in Valerie Plame’s back, was the conduit for “intelligence” about Saddam’s weapons of mass destruction and terrorist links from Ahmed Chalabi’s Iraqi National Council to the Vice President’s office, where it was converted into policy.

Now, perhaps, the story begins to make sense. Joseph Wilson’s finding that the Niger yellowcake story was a fabrication was somewhat damaging to Mr. Bush, but it might have been truly deadly for Hanna and his friend Chalabi if the INC was the source of the yellowcake story in the first place. Discrediting Plame, Wilson, and the CIA might have suddenly seemed to them an objective worth taking big risks for.

I wonder whether that’s the meaning of this otherwise puzzling passage in Tenet’s speech (emphasis added):

Six months ago, we also commissioned an internal review to examine the tradecraft of our work on Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction. And through this effort we are finding ways to improve our processes.

For example, we recently discovered that relevant analysts in the community missed the notice that identified a source that we had cited as providing information that in some cases was unreliable and in other cases fabricated.

We have acknowledged this mistake.

If that’s the real story here, the fact that the FBI has fingered Hannah may not be such good news for Mr. Bush after all. A criminal trial this summer and fall centering on hoked information about weapons of mass destruction wouldn’t be any fun for him — not even a tiny bit of fun — even if Karl Rove isn’t one of the defendants.

The one piece of the jigsaw puzzle I still can’t make fit is the Ashcroft recusal. There has to be some fact about this case that makes it a personal conflict of interest for Ashcroft to supervise it, without making it an institutional conflict of interest for his Department to conduct it. A personal tie between Ashcroft and a potential defendant — a tie not shared by the Deputy AG — would fit the bill, which is why I saw his recusal as such bad news for Rove, who worked on Ashcroft’s campaigns.

Is there someone in the VP’s office with whom Ashcroft has such a tie? If not, I’m willing to bet that the investigation doesn’t stop at Libby, or even at Cheney.

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: