Friday, September 30, 2005

[Daily Brief]

Valerie Plame Edition

I'll probably regret this, but the theories are so rich and lustrous that I can't avoid a full briefing on them. Today's version will be about the grand conspiracy to out Valerie Plame, as seen through the lens of yesterday's juicy news that Judy Miller is out of jail. I recognize we have a new supreme court justice, and that Bill Bennett has set the blogosphere on fire. They'll have to wait.

If the names Miller and Plame rattle off your pate like summer rain, you may want to cut your losses. If, however, they inspire grassy-knoll like delight, read on. At the end of the post, I'll include a thumbnail sketch of the issues for those of you wishing to disappear down the rabbit hole.

Okay, to yesterday's news: Judith Miller was released from the slammer, freed by the source she was protecting, one Lewis "Scooter" Libby, who apparently gave her permission to reveal his name a year ago. So why did Judy sit in jail for three months? Let us first turn to the ur-source, Tom Maguire, who suspects that she's protecting her own arse, having inadvertently slipped Scooter the news that began the whole affair. (This may exonerate the White House, which conservatives like, but also doom Miller, which liberals will applaud.)

Needlenose is not convinced. Swopa sees a noose tightening around Scooter's neck that Miller can't loosen: "By admitting (through his lawyer the Post's anonymous source) that he was trying to get information from the CIA -- and then passing details to Schmidt -- he's provided all the circumstantial evidence needed to convict himself of leaking classified information."

If the NY Times is trying to polish their reporter's incarceration with Bernsteinian sheen, the WaPo is not. Froomkin shares my skepticism: "The least charitable explanation is that going to jail was Miller's way of transforming herself from a journalistic outcast (based on her gullible pre-war reporting) into a much-celebrated hero of press freedom." Froomkin follows it up with a nice rundown of the relevant MSM commentary and news.

Arianna Huffington has taken a keen interest in the Plame affair, and predictably weighs in this morning. It's a bit of a broadside, but there is this interesting question: "And so we don’t forget what this story is really about, and given that the aluminum tubes crap that Miller put on the front page of the New York Times was being heavily promoted by Cheney, how much of that bogus information came to Miller via Libby?"

David Corn weighs in with his own thoughts at the Nation, at length, and I find no sentence pithy enough to quote. You're on your own.

Finally, Liberal Oasis steps back for a bigger picture look, and concludes on this note: "It is indisputable that both Karl Rove and Scooter Libby have violated their national security clearance agreements. They have yet to be punished by their boss."

And there you have it.

We will apparently know more soon. Miller is scheduled to testify this morning on the case. Having given you the main courses, I now alert you to the table scraps, should you wish to keep sifting. In no particular order: John Friedman | Laura Rozen | Middle Earth Journal | Murray Waas | Media Nation | Left Coaster

A Primer on the Plame Affair
In the lead-up to the war, the administration was sifting through a variety of dubious leads about the existence of Iraqi WMD. The most dubious was a document that appeared to show Iraqi efforts to buy low-grade uranium from Niger. Dick Cheney sent a former Gabon ambassador, Joe Wilson, to Africa to find out what the story was. With little effort, Wilson exposed the document as a forgery, found no evidence that Iraq had tried to buy uranium, and reported back to the administration on this point. The case might have been closed there, except that the evidence re-emerged in Bush's 2003 State of the Union speech, claiming the Niger link. Wilson, appalled at the lie, wrote an Op-Ed in the NY Times disputing the evidence cited in the SotU.

Everything's clear to this point, right? Now comes the cloak-and-dagger bit. In apparent retribution, someone at the White House started leaking the identity of Wilson's wife, Valerie Plame, to the press. She was a covert CIA operative at the time, and "outing" her constituted a felony. The WH spoke to several journalists, including Robert Novak, who wrote about Plame. Following the leak, the Deputy Attorney General appointed a independent counsel, who began an investigation. As a part of that investigation, Patrick Fitzgerald, the prosecutor, subpeonaed various journalists, and two refused to appear before a grand jury. One, Matthew Cooper, was released by his source and revealed him: Karl Rove. The other, Judith Miller, did not, and ended up in jail. All of which takes us to yesterday, when she was released.

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