Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Karl Rove and Valerie Plame

This is the first time I have posted on anything that happened in this century but last night I was watching Fox and they had G. Gordon Liddy talking about Valerie Plame. Liddy, of course, rightly did time in a federal prison, and hopefully Karl Rove will also. Liddy was saying that Plame was not a CIA operative and it was all no big deal and just politics. The CIA apparently disagrees according to this story from 2003 from the Detroit Free Press.

CIA leak undercuts U.S. spies
Naming agent endangers lives, experts decide

October 13, 2003


It's just a 12-letter name -- Valerie Plame -- but the leak by Bush administration officials of that CIA officer's identity may have damaged U.S. national security to a much greater extent than generally realized, current and former agency officials are saying.

Plame, the wife of former ambassador and Bush critic Joseph Wilson, was a member of a small elite-within-an-elite, a CIA employee operating under nonofficial cover, in her case as an energy analyst, with little or no protection from the U.S. government if she got caught.

Training agents such as Plame, 40, costs millions of dollars and requires the time-consuming establishment of elaborate fictions, called legends, including in this case the creation of a CIA front company that helped lend plausibility to her trips overseas.

Compounding the damage, the front company, Brewster-Jennings & Associates, whose name has been reported previously, apparently also was used by other CIA officers whose work now could be at risk, according to Vince Cannistraro, formerly the agency's chief of counterterrorism operations and analysis.

Now, Plame's career as a covert operations officer in the CIA's Directorate of Operations is over. Those she dealt with -- whether on business or not -- may be in danger. The CIA is conducting an extensive damage assessment.

And Plame's exposure may make it harder for U.S. spies to convince foreigners to share secrets, U.S. intelligence officials said.

Life-threatening disclosure

Bush partisans tend to downplay the leak's damage, saying Plame's true job was widely known in Washington, even if it wasn't spoken of. And, they say, she had moved from the directorate, the CIA's covert arm, to an analysis job.

But intelligence professionals, infuriated over the breach and what they see as the Bush administration's misuse of intelligence on Iraq, vehemently disagree.

Larry Johnson -- a former CIA and State Department official who was a 1985 classmate of Plame's in the CIA's case officer-training program at Camp Peary, Va. -- predicted that when the CIA's internal damage assessment is finished, the harm "will be huge, and some people potentially may have lost their lives."

"This is not just another leak. This is an unprecedented exposing of an agent's identity," said former CIA officer Jim Marcinkowski, now assistant city attorney in Royal Oak. He trained with Plame.

"We only used first names," he said of his CIA training. "But the bonds you make are similar to that in the military."

The leak of Plame's identity to columnist Robert Novak and other journalists is the subject of a Justice Department investigation that has rattled President George W. Bush's White House. Knowingly revealing the identity of a covert agent is a crime.

Critics say the leak was meant to intimidate critics such as Wilson, a former ambassador who traveled to Niger to investigate claims that Iraq was seeking uranium ore for nuclear weapons. Wilson found no basis for the claims and later publicly criticized Bush's description of Iraq's nuclear weapons program.

One mystery is how one or more officials at the White House knew of Plame's work, since the CIA and other intelligence agencies guard the identities of their covert officers, often even from their political superiors.

Much about Plame's career remains a mystery, and probably will stay that way. The CIA refuses to acknowledge her employment or anything else associated with the case.

Born in 1963, she graduated from Pennsylvania State University and was quickly recruited by the CIA, attending training classes in 1985.

In 1990 and 1991, Plame was attached to a U.S. embassy in Europe.

In April 1999, Plame, using her married name of Valerie E. Wilson, donated $1,000 to then-Vice President Al Gore's 2000 presidential campaign. She listed her employer as Brewster-Jennings & Associates.

A June 2000 listing in Dun & Bradstreet for a Boston-based Brewster Jennings & Associates names the company's chief executive officer and only employee as Victor Brewster, and says it had annual sales of $60,000.

While that might seem like flimsy cover, former intelligence officials say that meticulous steps are taken to create a lifelike legend to support and protect CIA officers operating under nonofficial cover.

Never spy again

The corps of officers using nonofficial cover is small, said former CIA analyst Melvin Goodman, a critic of Bush's handling of intelligence. The program was the subject of an internal battle, he said, opposed by traditionalists, who favored the orthodox method of having spies pose as U.S. diplomats or military officers.

On a personal level, if Plame's covert career wasn't over already, it is now.

"My wife's career will certainly change as a consequence of this, but my wife is a star in her business," Wilson said Oct. 5 on NBC. He added: "I have every expectation that her culture will embrace her and that she will continue to be a productive national security officer. But clearly her responsibilities will have to change as a consequence of this."

Wilson has said his family is taking unspecified security precautions. His wife won't talk to reporters.

"The bottom line is: She's lost her career," said former classmate Marcinkowski. As a CIA officer operating overseas, "there's only one entity in the world that can identify you: that's the U.S. government. When the U.S. government does it, that's it," he said.

Marcinkowski, 48, of Oxford said his relationship with Plame has spurred a flurry of media appearances, including a segment on CNN, a Time magazine interview and an appearance on ABC's "Nightline."

Marcinkowski left the CIA in 1989 after four years with the agency.


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